29 Replies to “Podcast #97: Cancelling raises”

  1. 1) Frank, the constant mouse clicking heard during this podcast is quite distracting.

    2) Concerning Black Seattle and Upzoning. The problem with Seattle is that as services have been improved to some of these former impoverished communities (Transit, improved walkability, upgraded utilities), these areas have become desirable to developers. With upzoning and increases of property taxes and rents, many families are being pushed into suburbia where rents/taxes are more affordable. It was a claim brought up by representatives in the SDOT’s Equity Workgroup.

    A two bedroom apartment is far cheaper in East Hill Kent than in Rainier Valley these days. The argument made was to build more housing. But, if the housing being built is out of the price range of residents, folks are still going to be priced out of the neighborhood. Subsidizing rents costs money and I’m not sure if we want to further increase taxes on residents.

    1. People were already starting to move back into Rainier Valley and the Central District in the early 1990s before any transit improvements were made. The most that they got was the DSTT, which the 106 ran express to and the Central District routes were adjacent to (although it takes forever on the 2, 3, 4, and 12). At first they just filled the vacancy glut from when the population was higher in the early 1960s, but by the late 90s they had filled that up and prices started rising. Link had a minor impact on bring people, accelerating prices, and the TOD buildings adjacent to stations. But the rest of it would have happened anyway. And it’s also happening in neighborhoods that won’t get significant transit improvements in the medium term or even long term, including lower-income areas like Lake City, Aurora, and Broadview.

      We need to understand that prices are rising because of larger reasons, and transit alone is not the primary cause of it or solution to it. But we need transit anyway so that people can get around and have a viable alternative to SOVs, regardless of their income or which neighborhood the live in or whether their neighborhood is gentrifying.

      1. We need to understand that prices are rising because of larger reasons, and transit alone is not the primary cause of it or solution to it.

        Yes, exactly. Gentrification of formerly redlined areas is happening for several reasons:

        1) Crime in general has gone down.
        2) People are thus less afraid of the areas with high numbers of people of color.
        3) Jobs are increasing rapidly in several cities.

        Seattle happened to have all three.

    2. Another factor that may not be apparent is that new six-story buildings are highly visible so people assume they contain most of the neighborhood’s population, but they don’t. They only contain a small fraction of the neighborhood’s population. People see the new buildings and transit improvements and blame them for killing affordability, but the rest of the buildings in the neighborhood are also getting more expensive, and they would regardless of whether the TOD or transit line is built. Because the population is increasing but the housing supply isn’t keeping up, so more people are competing for units.

      And because 90% of the population can no longer live between Lake City, Redmond, and Renton, people are living further out and further from amenities, and that makes the advantages of living in Seattle bigger because you don’t have to travel as far to the old traditional amenities, which some people prefer. That is creating a price premium in Seattle too. There are two ways to address it: (1) build a lot more housing in Seattle, (2) make other cities as convenient and aesthetically pleasing as Seattle so that more people will be satisfied living there.

      Subsidizing rents cost money but there aren’t many other choices. We should have gotten ahead of the problem in 2003 when rents started accelerating, and saturated the market with beaucop housing to stop it from increasing. But we neglected it for almost twenty years until it became extreme. We now have a backlog of 150,000 units. Developers can’t build that many in five years even if they wanted to because construction workers are maxed out on existing jobs, and if we try to import workers from other states, well, they’re trying to import construction workers from our state for their own needs. And if rent acceleration slows down, flatlines, or reverses, some developers will go away and some buildings won’t be built.

      The only way to bridge the gap between here and sufficient market-rate affordable housing is with rent subsidies, government-sponsored housing construction, and other possible things like public-private partnerships, a land tax, etc. So either you support those subsidies or you’re saying we’re not going to solve the problem. Unless somebody can come up with a better solution, but to date nobody has.

    3. A two bedroom apartment is far cheaper in East Hill Kent than in Rainier Valley these days. The argument made was to build more housing. But, if the housing being built is out of the price range of residents, folks are still going to be priced out of the neighborhood.

      Failing to build new apartments will push up existing rents even higher. It is simple supply and demand. Unless you build enough supply, demand (which is high, for the reasons I mentioned) will continue to grow.

      But you are looking at only one area. Rainier Valley rents are still a lot cheaper than, say, Magnolia. Yet Magnolia isn’t building many apartments. There are three reasons for this: zoning, zoning, zoning. There is no way we can get a handle on the housing crisis without building a lot more apartments (and other types of housing). There is no way we can do it if we keep drawing little circles, and saying “build here, and only here”. There needs to be widespread growth, or else we will continue to have these same tired and misguided arguments 20 years from now.

      Just think, five years from now someone will move into the neighborhood, and fifteen years later, be pushed out because of increased rent. There will be new apartments being built, but only in a handful of places. They will be expensive, because all apartments are expensive (why charge a little when you can get away with charging a lot?). So this person — who doesn’t even live here yet — will complain about displacement and gentrification, and blame it on all the new apartments being built. Like you, they will have it backwards.

  2. Get with it, Frank! Youth fares pay themselves back with beaucoup lifelong interest! The bank kind, not just those little nose-prints on a train window. Just look at kids on trains! Upstairs from Westlake Station on Pine Street, when they hear a train bell I’ve seen them demand a Link ride before they can talk!

    They also get used to looking out a train window at stuck cars. I’ve seen them jump up and down, thumb their little noses, and wave! ‘Til at 18, they become not only lifelong pro-transit voters, but also of age to be same kind of State legislators!

    Metro personnel compensation? Local 587 has both the right and the duty to condition every single concession on the formation of a permanent Employee Advisory Committee on Transit Operations. This period of transit history requires this exact kind of input a whole lot more than when we designed and built the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

    Because from both my own time behind the wheel and what contacts tell me now, in addition to direct personal experience and observation before fact-finding travel became inadvisable, the Balance Sheet at its stingiest makes it Management’s Prime Directive to do what its drivers, supervisors, mechanics, and communications people have been pouring into deaf ears.

    And gentlemen, face it and be glad that that we’re none of us forced to live in a village anymore. We’ve got Freedom’s own gift to be living our lives in a REGION. Tell me why somebody living in Snohomish County should NOT be able to take a job in Ballard! And if their employer requires, every day spend a couple hours’ in precision machining class part-time at Lake Washington Technical Institute.

    Because (some devil music here) the weapon Henry Ford’s evil spawn murdered the streetcar with was his car’s ability to let the average person do all those things! Subarea boundaries, county lines, those millions of tires were nothing but the people’s own ERASERS! Also freed millions of workers to owe their soul to their credit union instead of some mine-owner’s Company Store. Or at least Fred Meyers’.

    Good run, Henry, and our gratitude’s yours. America is now so full of cars that nobody can move. So for gifting us with the constriction that’s heretofore made transit so natural in Europe, we’ll Cancel The Protocols of The Elders of Zion from your every online mention.


    See anybody’s front tire that can’t handle grooved rail?

    Mark Dublin

    1. “Youth fares pay themselves back with beaucoup lifelong interest!”

      We’re facing an acute service-hour shortage and limited resources to prop it up. I believe that free student passes are worthwhile, but the benefits of future transit-devoted adults won’t manifest for fifteen years and it’s uncertain how much it will really be. In the meantime, people can’t ride buses that don’t run or are full, and they won’t ride buses if they might have to wait a long time for them or schedule their lives around infrequent runs. We have limited tax sources and tight caps on rates due to the legislature. So we need to put service hours first and make sure we’re adequately funding that before we get into longer-term or more uncertain issues.

      1. Mike, thanks for calling me back to my campaign to free transit finance discussions from the word “Free.”

        What we need to do is convert those student ORCA cards to employee passes for the transit operations and management internships that’ll revivify an education which this year’s events have proven to be hopelessly obsolete.

        Have we ever gotten an accurate calculation on the lost operating cost of a vehicle standing still for one minute when it should be moving? Whether it’s air or outlook, freshness breeds energy. Well-assisted and -informed passengers need less operating time to haul. For instance.

        But given the general condition of the country to which my generation is leaving those school kids who’ll one way or another have to carry our sorry carcasses the rest of their lives, let’s pay the earnings my program proposes out of the place where the money actually is.

        For top management, immediate pay cuts as progressive as any income tax. Bonus will consist of two words. “Thank” and “You.” And except for cases of proven hardship, every green and white ORCA card gets replaced with a blue one and priced accordingly. Right out of school if not before, these kids are going to be CARRYING US!

        But most rewarding saving of all is how much wasted time King County Superior Court will be spared by the one phone call it’ll take to create the understanding that a pre-paid monthly pass is prima facie blanket defense against any evasion charge. Did I get all the Free out?

        Mark Dublin

    1. Ben, would it be wrong to say that just by being there, transit pays for itself in ways that might take some time to appear on the balance sheet? And that far and away, the most regressive result would be to lose it completely?

      Mark Dublin

    2. People are arbitrarily sensitive to car fees, disproportionate to other things.

      1. Perhaps so, but if replacing a $60 VLF with a 0.1% Sales Tax and maintaining the current 0.1% Sales Tax, it’s a win for many low and moderately low income people. I don’t have a car, but certainly don’t spend $60,000 a year on things besides rent and groceries.

      2. That’s just it; people have sticker shock because of how it’s charged, the fact that the entire year comes at once, the cultural insult to their car-driving lifestyle, and fear that they won’t be able to commute to work and provide for themselves. They fume about an annual $100 or $200 car-tab bill but don’t notice they pay $100 for gas every month or two, or for just one car repair.

        As for sales tax, people don’t notice it when they pay it gradually but they notice it on a ballot measure when it’s 0.1% or 0.2% and they think that’s a lot. But 0.2% on a $100 purchase is 2 cents. If they can afford a week’s worth of groceries at $100, they can afford 2 more cents. They might even find a penny or two on the sidewalk on their way there, and that will cover their tax.

      3. But as asdf2 pointed out, some people in non-STB comment sections think the .2% increase means the total sales tax is going from 10% to 20%. That’s completely false but it may deter some voters, either due to an honest mistake or a misinformation campaign.

      4. Ben is right. It isn’t just the sticker shock. In this case, the more progressive tax is the sales tax. Who is poor, and spends 60 grand on stuff? Remember, we aren’t counting rent, or food. It just doesn’t make any sense.

        On the other hand, there are plenty of poor people in Seattle with a car. The cars may be junky, and barely running, but they are still taxed at a flat $60, just like a Lexus.

        Which is why the “regressive” tax argument is bullshit. It ignores the fact that old tax was *more* regressive. A 0.2% sales tax is way more progressive than the old tax. No, of course it isn’t as progressive as an income tax, but it is actually better — it is a step in the right direction. In that sense, it is progressive in more ways than one.

        (I should drop the mic on that one, but I can’t). It begs the question. Would the people opposing the bigger sales tax also oppose simply renewing the old tax? If so, you are saying you are comfortable with a more regressive tax. If not, you just want to cut transit funding.

        (Now I’m dropping my mic.)

      5. But as asdf2 pointed out, some people in non-STB comment sections think the .2% increase means the total sales tax is going from 10% to 20%.

        So you are saying we should base our tax policy on people that are really bad at math? I think a simple ad campaign should solve that problem (“That $100 dollar dress will cost you an extra dime… “).

      6. Mike, how much truth or justice is there to the claim that on the car tabs, the State is assessing more money than the car is actually worth? And given its collective proven world-wide performance lately, could Authority itself be justly charged with overcharging?

        Mark Dublin

    3. I agree. That is one of the crazy things about this discussion. Car tab taxes are regressive. Much more regressive than a sales tax. I’m not saying I oppose them, but it is delusional to think otherwise.

      I also think the city isn’t thinking long term. The city has some pretty big roads projects that it must fund. It makes the most sense to pay for them with a car tab tax. This is quite sensible, and appeals to voters who think in those terms. You drive a car, you benefit from fixing the roads and bridges. Again, I’m not saying I oppose a car tab tax. But using it to pay for transit is a bit weird — you might as well have a car tab tax to pay for parks, Medic One or Harborview.

      1. How ’bout if I can prove that my car tabs pay for themselves by keeping miles of road-lanes clear cars whose owners are relieved to be able to leave safe in the garage at home?

        Not to mention the mileage by which my car does not depreciate every time I leave it in the car-port and walk out my door to the bus-stop next to it. My insurance premium indicates State Farm also agrees.

        Comfy in my tool-kit, my socket wrench doesn’t feel left out when I use my screwdriver. But something else I’d like to see more discussion about. Now that my Breda-qualification’s expired, life’s lacking without a wheeled machine in my hands. 2013 Prius could’ve been designed for me personally, and same for SR 162.

        So as long as I can afford the car at all, I’d be willing to pay taxes for a nationwide system of highways designed not for transportation, but driving.
        Look up “Architect Grant Jones” – Seattle home-town boy- and “Paris Pike”, a highway he created in Kentucky. Though in my plan, permission to use will be conditioned on proven driving skill. With “breaks” for a low income.

        Chief demand of such a road is public transit attractive enough that nobody is forced to use it by the need to get to work or anything else necessary but unpleasant. Might even give it a “Big Brother” that’d let me drive alongside truckers. Also, the successors the Greyhound of the 1950’s has so long deserved.

        Mark Dublin

  3. You don’t want to buy your own home or condo. You should move into subsidized government housing, instead. It will cost you less. The type of generational wealth that home ownership provides isn’t for you. Don’t even think such crazy thoughts. Compassionate people such as myself are working to get more and more of you into subsidized housing, because we care about you.

    Isn’t that the definition of gaslighting?

    1. Only if you ignore everything about the current system preventing marginalized people from buying their own home and keeping it in the family.

    2. The waiting list for subsidized housing is years long. If you can buy a house or condo you won’t qualify. Subsidized housing comes with more inspections and restrictions and paperwork and intrusiveness than regular housing. You have to live where the subsidized unit is, in whatever kind of unit it is, because there’s not going to be more than one or two at a time to choose from. There’s nobody choosing between living in a subsidized apartment or buying a condo: there’s such a wide gap between the income levels. You would know this if you weren’t just trying to troll. Having subsidized housing means you’re poor, and it’s no fun to be poor, even with a subsidized apartment.

    3. Sam, how about if we make housing affordable to everyone by making sure everybody has a job at wages that will allow them to buy a home free and clear?

      Mark Dublin

      1. There’s an old saying. If they want to be the party of the poor, they have to keep people poor.

  4. Let’s just put it this way, Sam. Whatever the chronological age of that saying, it certainly smells old. And in your book who’s the “They”? Hitler and his whole “stripe” right up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this morning, it’s always same story.

    The richer and more powerful the founders, leaders, and main beneficiaries of a totalitarian party, the louder they appeal to people who are at society’s bottom. Not even necessary to “buy them off.” What makes a Base, well, “Base”, is that what it wants most of all is an enemy poorer and weaker than themselves to take it out on.

    Mark Dublin

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