King County Metro 2015 New Flyer XDE35 3713
Zach Heistand/Flickr

This is an open thread.

34 Replies to “News roundup: do better”

    1. “I thought light rail was supposed to hurt Surrey Downs property values.”

      Nah. Sound Transit simply didn’t want to pay for the real value of those deed covenants restricting the parcels’ land uses. Whatever happened to that litigation anyway? I lost track of the case(s).

      1. Looks like the case number is 16-2-02235-9 SEA.

        If I’m reading the Clerk’s office search correctly, it looks like, after all that, the homeowners got… $300 each (plus interest).

      2. Yeah, the partial takes was one of the biggest BS things ST ever did. “We’re only using a couple square feet of your quiet residential lot so we’ll pay you per sqft of current value.” This from an agency flush with cash to fund huge overruns of budgets presented to voters. If you’ve got something good to offer why the lies? Although I support some of the projects I’ve always voted no on ST measures because they have less credibility than Tim Eyman.

      3. Why should they buy out the entire property if all they need is a couple feet of the back yard? Obviously, at some point, you have to draw the line. Taking half the house and telling the homeowner to live in the other half is not reasonable. But, a couple feet is not half the property.

        It seems in the “we need two feet” case, ST gets blasted no matter what they do. Either they buy the whole property and be called irresponsible with taxpayer money, or they buy the two feet and get criticised for screwing over the homeowner.

      4. @asdf2 It seems like a fairer option might be to reimburse the property owners for the difference between the old property valuation (as assessed most recently by the county, not their purchase price) and a new property valuation (again, as assessed by the county). Ideally, this could have been done in such a way that the property owners could appeal the assessments (both old and new) through the normal channels prior to the final reimbursement being made.

        Not saying this is necessarily easily done, and I can imagine reasons why it may not even abide by current case law or other statutes – but in terms of having a more “fair” option for the homeowners, from a moral/ethical sense, this might fit the bill.

      5. “This from an agency flush with cash to fund huge overruns of budgets presented to voters.”

        You want your tax money to go to one household instead of enhancing a transit line benefiting thousands of people? Especially when it was the transit line in the ballot measure, not the household.

      6. Why should they buy out the entire property if all they need is a couple feet of the back yard?

        Exactly. If it turns out the relevant law requires them to buy and pay more, OK, but that’s a matter for the courts. Until it’s clear they have no choice but to do so, it would be irresponsible to use the money we authorized to support building new transit infrastructure to stuff the pockets of wealthy homeowners. They should pay fair value for the land they need, in accordance with the law.

        (I very much expect that a solid majority of the people critical of this would *also* be critical of profligate, wasteful irresponsible spending if they were going above and beyond what the law requires; a situation like this is going to be fodder for critics either way. Might as well focus as much revenue on transit as possible, rather than appease unappeasable critics.)

      7. And, of course, if you think this is grossly unfair, your remedy is legislative: demand revisions to the laws governing takings to compel more generous payments under these circumstances! The idea that ST should waste our transit $$ by giving it away above and beyond what a legal taking currently is is absurd.

      8. “The idea that ST should waste our transit $$ by giving it away above and beyond what a legal taking currently is is absurd.”

        That’s pretty much a straw man argument as I don’t believe anyone is suggesting such a course of action. The issue at stake here is the compensation for this small group of property owners for extinguishment of the restrictive covenant that is appurtenant to their parcels by deed. In the state of Washington, this is compensable property right in a condemnation action. Determining the value of said covenant, and hence the compensation owed, is where the matter gets complicated and ultimately where the conflict between the two sides has to be adjudicated, either by negotiations or a civil proceeding.

        The normal process for determining compensation in a partial taking, i.e., the before and after valuation method alluded to in AM’s comment above, isn’t as straightforward with a restrictive covenant extinguishment. If Jason’s statement above is correct, that the Surrey Downs’ property owners only received $300 (plus interest), which was the amount that ST offered to begin with, as a result of the action, then they must have had some woeful representation.

        I say that based on my own personal experience dealing with a condemnation action for property I own in Snohomish County. A road improvement project created a partial taking for my parcel for which I was duly compensated. On top of that, the county paid all impacted property owners $300 for temporary construction easements that were needed to execute the ROW takings. So, a similar offer from ST for a permanent change altering the restrictive covenant attached to the deeds for the properties in the Surrey Downs neighborhood is not only insulting but simply an unfair level of compensation. One’s opinion about the purpose of said covenants isn’t relevant to the determination of fair compensation, just as one’s opinions about the highly valued properties and “paying off wealthy property owners” isn’t applicable.

        I could cite a bunch of case law, both in Washington as well as other jurisdictions, but I doubt few here would be interested enough to get that far into the weeds on the topic. Let me just conclude by asserting that it sounds like ST played hardball here and screwed over these property owners if all they received was $300 for extinguishment of the restrictive covenant at stake. The agency has the right under their staturorily granted eminent domain authority to make the ask/demand, but that ask comes with obligations ($$$) as well.

    2. “Current best practices for circulating air on buses“

      Open the f’ing windows (all of them) like we always used to do. Ever since metro started having busses with AC (and even some with non-operable windows, I believe), I’ve been irritated when I’m on a bus that is using AC rather than just simply having the windows open. That frustration is now 100x greater when we are dealing with this pandemic. Super easy solution folks.

  1. I can think of three bike/car fatalities that have happened within the last twelve months. At NE 8th and 132. At NE 8th and Northup Way. And SE 8th and 145th. But, Bellevue’s high tech vision zero project is a success?

    1. My question for the trail opponents is: would you rather we keep riding in the street as we do today?

      These safety concerns feel rather disingenuous when I see certain business vehicles tailgating and aggressively passing bikes on Shilshole.

      1. Why not do the underpass idea? Seems like a decent one.

        I’d also be okay with Leary Way. It’s a wide street that should be able to accommodate a bike trail without too much trouble. You could either switch to Leary and Market just for the missing link, or take Leary all the way from Fremont (where the trail breaks from the ship canal). In my roughly 30 years of experience riding the trail, the section that goes through the industrial area between Fremont and Fred Meyer is the least safe anyway (curious if there is data on this). On the other hand, that specific section of Leary can have some pretty high-speed traffic (although adding a bike trail could be designed to mitigate that).

    2. The safety complaint about moving the track is a little rich as that track already runs with traffic for several blocks and goes through 3 intersections with zero lights or gates. When the train does use it, it has to crawl at about 5mph and blast its horn none stop.

      So moving it will not change the safety factor at all.

      looking at the map of the tracks it doesn’t appear they’d even be moving the tracks as just before Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel it actually breaks out into 2 tracks. Of which only 1 is being used. The other one appears to be employee parking.

      There’s also a 3rd track that appears and disappears at certain sections. Presumably its been partially paved over in places but not fully removed.

      Looking at the current parking and the way people are parked I’m not sure any parking spots would even be lost. If they are it looks like it would be a dozen potential spots at most.

    3. First thing we need to know is how necessary those tracks will ever again be to industry between the railroad main line and Fremont. COVIDIA or the balance sheet, it’s no longer Ballard’s grandfathers’ economy. Next thing’s a tape measure’s “take” on possible joint use.

      Because, along with the railroad that became the bike-and-hiking trail connecting South Kirkland Park & Ride and Totem Lake, streetcars of same caliber as FHS and SLU(T)- sorry, Dolly Parton, I know it’s “Tramp”- might be able to provide a rolling ride for tired exercisers. Stuttgart trams have long hauled bike -rack trailers.

      Possible ally and asset could be the National Nordic Museum, as its name now seems to be. Because for the museum, the car-line’s next stop east could be West Seattle Link’s Ballard Station, at the Downtown Ballard end of the drawbridge that 2020+ techniques and materials will render into a lasting tribute to its earliest and most steadfast proponent, STB’s own Ross B.

      Mark Dublin

      1. How necessary are the tracks? All you had to do is read the article.

        “In a complex latter-day deal, the city acquired the short Ballard spur and granted a 30-year franchise to the small rail company in 1997. It’s used to deliver material to Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, via a connection to the BNSF Railway north of the Ballard Locks.”

      2. They’re not necessary at all, as trucks have made them obsolete. The only reason they’re there is to bolster the legal case against completing the Burke Gilman.

        I once saw somebody driving a train engine back and forth, about 100 feet over and over again a few times. This is pure token track use that exists for no other purpose other than being able to argue in court that the tracks are in active use.

    4. The city should block off all of the free street parking around these businesses until they are willing to play ball on the trail. The parking is all they care about.

  2. Sam, with the word on Surrey Downs, thanks for alerting us to one more instance of Sound Transit’s failure to deliver as promised. Like our poor region NEEDS another improvement in property values? It was one of those that not only ran me out of Ballard but, judging by the ominously expensive look of everything newly-built in Downtown Olympia, could any day inflict my residence on…..Centralia!

    Thanks also to Mercer Island for the reminder as to the true value of a parking lot. Perfect place-holder ’til money becomes available for everything from dense residence to an entire art institute. Since asphalt tarmac is easy on the jackhammer, one phone call can literally start construction. Only threat? Anybody plants Tree One, run for the chainsaw! Death-color for Space is Green.

    But Martin, this morning’s prize is yours for Zach Heistand’s striking head-on action view of this morning’s replacement for West Seattle’s every Bridge. While we can’t see if 3713 is hybrid or battery (anybody know by the coach number), should be easy to fit the Washington State Ferry fleet with plug-ins.

    And come to think of it, there’s no reason these boats can’t also connect Downtown Seattle with Tacoma, Southworth and Olympia without a foot of those freedom-killing liberal diamond lanes! Though equally timely is a piece of information in the air-circulation piece:

    The stately and respected award from the World Anarchist Association to Authority Itself, for the myriads of instances in which it has furthered the Cause by issuing orders that are not only chaotically contradictory, but universally a precise one hundred eighty degrees wrong. Shame, though, on the workers who are ruining Authority’s efforts by disobeying and getting it right.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Thanks for the alert about one thing, Max. In the wake what happened south of Dupont on December 18, 2017 that was as preventable as it remains unforgivable, it’s worth some serious political and legal activism to make sure of one thing:

      That before Passenger Train ONE clears Tacoma southbound on the Bypass. that literal murderer of a curve gets replaced with track that’ll handle at least sixty mph. with no brake wear between Dupont and the Nisqually River. The rail passengers’ association two of whose members were killed should picket every departure ’til the work’s finished.

      And please do me and the good name of railroading the courtesy of not mentioning Automatic Train Control. Which being computerized means is subject to sudden failure. As integrity, managerial competence, and good training are not. I know there’s at least one train engineer close to Seattle Transit Blog. If I’m wrong, set me straight.

      Mark Dublin

    2. This is really the worst outcome for everyone. We don’t get the bypass, and now they replace the Talgo VI trains with crappy surplus Horizons that will take 15-30min longer on every trip between Seattle and Portland. Go check out the OTP for the Horizon trainset this past week:

      7/10: 505 delayed 25m into EUG, no cause given.
      7/11: 500 delayed 30m due to congestion south of Centralia.
      7/11: 505 delayed 55m due to mechanical issues between PDX and ORC.
      7/12: 505 delayed 25m, likely due to the cancellation of 500 same-day, which was due to mechanical issues.
      7/13: 505 delayed 30m due to rail congestion/speed restrictions
      7/14: 505 delayed 2h10m due to trespass incident @ TAC
      7/15: 505 delayed 30m, no cause given
      7/16: 505 delayed 30m due to mechanical issues @ TUK

      I’ve been on a lot of Talgo trips, and we definitely weren’t 30+min late 100% of the time. I have a feeling this is going to be disastrous for ridership, once Covid fears are over. I think a lot of people will just take the bus.

  3. I saw a couple of signs on different Metro buses today in regard to the virus crisis.

    On two #372 buses it said “Masks Required” while on a #62 bus it still said “Essential Trips Only.”

    Interesting about the different signs.

    So I like the masks required sign but from what I gather it is not enforced. If so what is the point of the sign. It should be enforced but you don’t want to put the drivers into a position where they would get the wrong reaction from riders similar to what has happened at stores around the country where they tried to enforce the mask policy.

    1. Could somebody in a position to know tell us how long it’ll take to “program” that really IN-essential message of the front of all the buses? Sense I get is it’s just like that PA message I recall announcing that next northbound Link stop out of Westlake is Angle Lake followed by Sea-Tac Airport. Whoever’s job it is to fix it is either on furlough or sick call.

      Glad I’m not the one responsible for assigning the work- who’s probably off-work themselves at this writing. But effect on the morale of the ridership bears some attention. Worse than having nobody in charge is the “feel” of their absence to the average rider who’s also risking something by even being aboard.

      The masks are a lot more serious matter. Every reputable medical assessment puts mask-evasion is in the realm of at least threatened assault and battery, tending toward negligent homicide. Which definitely takes enforcement swiftly out of the job description of either drivers or fare-enforcers and firmly into the hands of police officers. Chief Best and Sheriff Johanknecht, am I right that, in Seattle this afternoon your officers would throw down their badges rather than accept this duty on a bet?

      So somehow I don’t think that Governor Inslee has anything to lose by assigning uniformed combat nurses from the Washington National Guard, gender-correct work for women because in my experience they tolerate less crap from patients, to see to it nobody boards a bus or train without one if not glued on then with real tight strings, at least at every major regional stop.

      So in the meantime, Jeff, I’m pretty sure all your transit-related officials at least have e-mail and an answering machine. And Guard involvement would put your concerns in your State representatives’ job description too.

      Mark Dublin

  4. I only caught a quick glimpse, but yesterday I could have sworn I saw a route 560 bus with an improvised driver shield/sneeze guard made of a clear shower curtain liner. Part of it was folded back. To improve vision? Anyway, maybe it’s ST installed, but my gut told me the driver brought it with him and put it up himself.

    1. That was in a newspaper article somewhere yesterday. Or at least a shower curtain was, not necessarily Sound Transit or the 560. It may have been in New York. A bus driver installed a shower curtain as a stopgap, and I think he was initially reprimanded but later they allowed it.

      As our lead investigative reporter, you should interview Metro on when it plans to install plexigrass screens or other driver-safety barriers, and if not, why not. If the problem is solely money, you can publicize it so we can rally the politicians to raise the money.

  5. I got a political ad postcard from Jessi Murray, who’s running for state legislature against Frank Chopp and Sherae Lascelles. The icon next to her name is a train, and on the back is a light rail icon. Her listed priorities are “housing is a human right”, “healthcare for all”, “climate justice”, and “public transit”. Well, I agree with all these, but I’m wondering whether she’s pragmatic or a left-populist. Many people who list these priorities spend their time on “Soak the rich” rhetoric and unrealistic demands rather than sensible incremental improvements. So which kind is she? Or does she manage to do both? Does she have enough experience to be effective in the legislature? Chopp hasn’t been great for transit, although he hasn’t been an outright opponent. (Although some of his support for various bills have been so weak it’s indistiguishable from opposition.) But would losing somebody with Chopp’s seniority and attitude tilt the legislature in a worse direction, and would Murray be effective in holding ground and possibly moving it in a more transit/urban direction?

    1. She’s also endorsed by Seattle Subway, so that’s a good sign. I was surprised to see a candidate who thinks Seattle Subway is important enough to list on a postcard. That’s a good sign, both for her and for the pro-transit movement in general.

  6. Trying to watch the I-90 movie but can’t. I registered with UKTV using the postcode I found on the site but the movie won’t start. Looks like lots of cool shows.

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