No. 519 crossing Front Street
Dave Honan/Flickr (2012)

This is an open thread.

84 Replies to “News roundup: not all the way”

    1. In some ways it is good luck that various parts of our infrastructure are following apart now, instead of a few years ago. There would be a hit to tourism with the pier out, but right now it doesn’t matter.

  1. The last roundup had the Yesler cable car story.

    I would replace the cable car story with yesterday’s news that REI is selling it’s newly-completed Bellevue headquarters located next to the 120th/Spring District station, and will shift to multiple Seattle-area sites and remote work, instead.

    1. Interestingly enough, REI expects to make a profit with the sale:

      Although the company declined to say how much it has invested in the Bellevue project, “we anticipate that the potential sale of our property would bring a positive return on our four-year investment,” Knigge said.

      It is basically a financial move, to make up for the big hit in sales (a 30% drop in revenue). Hopefully the move will avoid big layoffs. Potential buyers include Facebook.

      1. Profitable sale make sense simply because they held the land for several years, given how hot the market has been. Also, getting the new buildings through the permitting and construction process always unlocks value. A tech company might need to spend some money on rework, but since it’s never been used it’s pretty much turnkey, which also boosts the sale value.

        I agree, this feels like a play for cash in the short & intermediate term. They’ll probably stand-up a new HQ post-pandemic somewhere else.

      2. I agree that this is probably driven by lagging sales more than disillusionment about having a new building.

        I also suspect that a list of warm buyers also exist — and a deal may already be in the works. The site and location in the tech-rich Eastside labor pool are too ideal to not have interest. If nothing else, an investor may grab the site and wait out the virus for a year.

      3. Yeah, and the fact that the market is still “hot”, suggests that companies expect people to work in urban office buildings when this is all over. Otherwise, the property would be worth a lot less than it was five years ago.

        In contrast, I imagine factory space in Everett, Mukilteo and Renton isn’t worth as much, because Boeing’s short and long term fortunes in the region don’t look that good. People will still make stuff, just less aeronautical stuff.

      4. I think they are going have seller’s remorse in a few years, when East Link is open, and the virus and recession is behind us. But, they may not have a choice.

      5. they are going have seller’s remorse in a few years, when East Link is open

        Unless the current real estate bubble bursts in which case this will be absolute genius. We are in a bubble. SF has experience with this cycle but Seattle has only been through it once.

    2. I was going to mention REI’s dispersal. But didn’t Sam say companies would be dispersing from downtown Seattle to places like the Spring District, not from the Spring District.

      1. As this article points out, “Several corporations have been weighing drastic changes to their footprint in the wake of the coronavirus and success with employees working from home. ” In the REI statement,REI Co-op to pursue sale of headquarters, embrace distributed work model the emphasis is on multiple locations in the Seattle metro region. It’s not a move back to DT although I’m sure their flagship store will be a major location. They may very well include an agreement in the sale to lease back some of the Spring District space which would broaden the pool of potential buyers.

      2. Yes, I knew it’s being distributed to smaller locations. Sam’s contention is that there will be a stampede from downtown Seattle. Yet the first dispersal is not in downtown Seattle or even downtown Bellevue, but the Spring District.

        I could see companies with more than a couple hundred workers having offices in Bellevue, north Seattle, and Kent or Federal Way, for workers spread across King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties.

      3. Companies have been jumping back and forth across the Lake for decades. Eddie Bauer was originally in DT Seattle. It moved to Redmond and then sold that HQ to Microsoft and are now in Bellevue. Expedia moved to Seattle but Amazon took over the space in Bellevue. Seafirst tried moving to Spokane; that didn’t work so well. What makes this unique is that I think it’s the first time a company has bailed on a purpose built HQ campus right before moving in. I wonder if they own or lease the current building in Kent?

      4. What makes this unique is that I think it’s the first time a company has bailed on a purpose built HQ campus right before moving in. I wonder if they own or lease the current building in Kent?

        Yeah, and that is because they can no longer afford it. Or rather, management doesn’t want to lay off a bunch of people, or reduce the dividend just to build that office. A 30% drop in revenue will do that to an organization.

        I’m a bit surprised that Expedia isn’t doing the same thing. They must be getting hammered right now. Maybe they are sitting on cash, or have access to a lot of it (via Microsoft). Or maybe they figure that once the pandemic is over, they will thrive, as there is a large pent-up demand for recreational travel. I don’t think REI feels that way (rightly so).

      5. “[This year] we learned that the more distributed way of working we previously thought untenable will instead unlock incredible potential,” said CEO Eric Artz.

        REI is a co-op not a publicly traded company. People like their dividend because they can use it to buy more stuff from REI. I think you can turn it in for cash but everyone I know spends it back at the store. A 30% drop in someone’s dividend isn’t going to cause them to drop their membership.

        They’ve gone ahead with opening several new retail outlets. Even though they have a large online presence the stores are still popular; hard to get your ski bindings mounted or you bike fixed online. And people still like to try on clothing and handle equipment that their life may depend on. With restrictions on so many other sports activities like camping/climbing/cycling have seen a resurgence. Sales are recovering better than the original 30% drop in revenue. They’re making more than 70% of last years profit not going broke.

        I have no reason not to take the CEO on his word that, “like many large companies, this forced experiment has opened their eyes to the significant advantages of remote work.” The timing is such that it makes a lot of sense to make the decision now. One, it’s uncertain when anyone would actually be able to start working at the new campus. Two, it’s worth the most now as a brand new building that needs minimal tenant improvements. Three, tech companies like Amazon and Apple are flush with cash right now. Four, they have the bargaining option to lease part of the space based on immediate requirement of the new owner.

      6. It’s not that bold of a prediction. Amazon is already planning to move a lot of workers into yet-to-be-built Bellevue office space. I just think the political climate in Seattle will increase what’s already planned.

      7. REI is a co-op, but they have long since decided to run themselves like a regular corporation. They didn’t start out that way. They were originally formed so that users of outdoor equipment could get equipment (ice axes). Now they sell what makes money (e. g. casual clothes) not what is unavailable for recreational users (e. g. a range of cross country skis). All of the statements sound like a typical CEO of a typical corporation:

        The new headquarters model offers REI both “a way of working that our employees can benefit from and the ability to strategically move [to a] healthy cash position or balance sheet,” Steele said.

        It is clearly more about the “healthy cash position or balance sheet” than anything else. You wouldn’t want your cash position to catch a cold.

        Three, tech companies like Amazon and Apple are flush with cash right now.

        That’s my point. If REI had more cash, they would just keep the building. But since they don’t — since their cash position or balance sheet is a bit under the weather — it makes sense to sell. Again, there is enough demand to actually make a profit! This is not like Sears selling a store or Simon selling a mall right now — in neither case will they make a profit. Because in those cases, those shoppers aren’t coming back. But in the case of the Spring District, the office workers are.

        Sam is right. It is quite possible that REI will regret selling the office building. But I think it is the right thing to do, given the current situation. They simply don’t have enough cash to ride this out — not without making other, much worse cuts. There best approach is the current one, and they can look into improving their office situation in the future. That likely means buying (or leasing) something when it is more expensive, but there are bound to be a lot of companies in that boat.

      8. I believe Expedia is sitting on a ton of cash, like most large tech companies, so it’s in a very different cash position than REI, a retail co-op.

        They’ve got a few billion in the bank (free cash) but they have more in debt. The only “wealth” Expedia has is it’s holdings in it’s own common stock. Start selling that to fund operations and it’s value plummets.

        “We have one mandate – to conserve cash, survive, and use this time to reconstruct a stronger enterprise to serve the future of travel,” said Barry Diller, the Expedia Group chairman

        I’d love to see RossB interpret what that really means but my read is “we’re screwed as are the airlines and cruise ship industry and it’s going to be a very competitive environment going forward where a lot of big names are going to disappear.”

        I don’t know of the plans for Expedia to buy more real estate close to DT but it wouldn’t seem out of character for the current boss to put buildings ahead of people.

        Looking back at the state of Expedia since Okerstrom departed, Simon believes that Diller “was not interested in the people of the company.

      9. Another sign the airline industry and associated business is in a tough situation:

        ‘The aerospace business just dried up’ : Boeing supplier in Kent shutters, hundreds of jobs to vanish

        There’s plenty of planes already built to fly people where ever they want. But if there’s large scale job loss, which I think there will be, the travel industry will be one of the hardest hit. But then the market seems to think everything is just grand and recovered almost all of the declines (corrections?) pre-pandemic. Nothing to see here, move right along.

        I’m OK with “losing out” on future gains. I’m with the Expedia CEO, cash is king.

  2. Since this is an open thread, have we heard anything yet about the opening dates for Northgate Link.

    1. I’m assuming September. That’s traditionally the biggest service change of the year for all the agencies, and when Metro would be restructured. Opening earlier would depend on everything being ready and ST’s willingness to do so. Some earlier Link segments have opened in the summer but ST hasn’t said it’s aiming for it this time. The construction schedule started with 9 months of float for contingencies, and U Link was ready early (per its 2008 schedule, not its 1996 schedule), but I think half or all of Northgate Link’s float has been used up. Link might start a few weeks before Metro’s service change to avoid losing the redundant service before the extension’s performance under crowds has been proven, but it’s looking less likely to open before August. If it were, ST would start making noises about it around now.

      1. All the Link openings so far have happened what they were ready – Sound Transit did not arbitrarily withhold the service until the next regular service shakeup.

        I would be really pissed if Northgate Link is ready to go in October 2021, but beurocracy says they can’t open it until March 2022, simply because the September service shakeup was missed.

      2. You don’t want to make the Metro service changes before Link is ready. But you don’t have to time the Metro changes either. You can keep the Metro routes the same indefinitely. I wouldn’t change the routes until Sound Transit commits to decent frequency on Link. Otherwise you are recreating the 255 debacle. I don’t think Metro will do that again.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if Metro delays the changes until well after Northgate Link is done.

      3. If Link doesn’t open by September, Metro will delay the restructure. It’s the “Northgate Link restructure”. Obviously Metro can’t live without either Northgate Link or a 41, and it made a strategic decision in 2016 to keep the peak expresses between U-Link and Northgate Link.

        But the reverse is not true. Metro can keep the existing network for a while after Link opens. It would miss some feeder opportunities, but everybody is familar with the network and knows how to get around on it. That’s not the case if you make a Link-predicated restructure without Link and throw everything into chaos and unintended consequences.

      4. yes, in 2009, the initial opening was in July; the Metro restructure was in September. In 2016, U Link was delayed a bit for Link.

    2. How long do they need for testing? I remember hearing 1 year, but not entirely sure if this is accurate. If it is one year and is meant to open next September, we should be seeing trains doing the first test runs very soon.

  3. Following up on the dining in the street link, I just wanted to add a personal observation that one can add Edmonds to the list of cities temporarily converting some street usage. My spouse and I spent some time meandering around downtown last weekend and immediately noticed that several blocks around the fountain at Main and 5th have been closed to traffic to accommodate street seating from multiple establishments. Each place seemed to have a limited amount of seating set up, so I don’t know if that’s a function of the permitting involved or just individual business decision-making. We ourselves didn’t stop to eat there but there were handfuls of patrons at most of these new al fresco locations.

      1. Ha! That’s the ticket. Order your meal online, and then have a train deliver it. Or maybe a robot.

      2. Whenever it’s safe to travel again, folks going to Portland and wanting real sushi on real (model) trains should go to Sushi Ichiban (assuming they survive). That was one of the last outings we had before things shutdown!

  4. Thanks for the Issaquah Valley Trolley, Martin. Didn’t know it existed. Generator car carries a lesson: trailers, like also for bike racks, fit streetcars better than buses. Good example to keep in mind for, say, sending Tacoma Link back to Steilacoom. Or, Alki Beach along the shore to Fauntleroy.

    My own Streetcar Revival tribute? Trolleywire the Route 27 from First @Colman Dock to Third @ the Courthouse to Yesler to 32nd to Lake Dell Avenue to the Lake.

    Original Downtown Seattle Transit Project strung trolleywire from First and Cherry to Second to Yesler to special-work still hanging in the air on James below Third. One trail-in switch could make connect Colman Dock and King County Courthouse to Lake Washington. Westbound, Yesler to another trail-in to the northbound wire on First.

    Because…..San Francisco is proof positive that good cable cars become trolleybuses when they die.

    Mark Dublin

  5. And one more thing, Martin: Thanks to you and Erica Barnett for your signatures on the petition.

    A police department that, in addition to wounding clearly-marked law-abiding legal observers, hits themselves with their own blast-balls, needs to work on their professionalism before they subpoena Image One of mine.

    And since lifelong I sign everything I write, Officer…you ARE talkin’ to me.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I think Seattle has been told that it’s a “leader” by some planning influencers but still harbors some very parochial views . I find the Residential Urban Village designations to be mostly a great PR effort because most of those areas were already zoned for higher density residential or non-residential uses. If anything, the urban village idea held a quid pro quo that remaining single-family residential zoning would be protected.

      I will say that we do better than many other places including most cities in California and Washington.

    2. I hope this Portland plan can serve as an example for Seattle. It would be great to see some strides in allowing more missing middle housing.

    3. When was Seattle a leader? I must have missed that.

      Kirkland was the first to densify its waterfront with condos in the 90s. Bellevue had big downtown plans but it didn’t start appearing on the ground until the 90s. Seattle started building small urban villages in the early 90s. The urban villages became sizeable in the early 2000s when enough buildings had accumulated. Seattle’s zoning became stricter in the 1950s and even more stricter in the 1970s. And for a period downtown construction was limited to 40 stories due to the “Cap Initiative”. The city loosened zoning somewhat in the 00s and 10s, but I don’t know when it was a leader.

      1. Kirkland’s waterfront was transformed in the 80s, not the 90s. Kirkland was a density leader in the Eastside and the region. It didn’t keep that position for long. In the 00s and 10s central Kirkland and southeast Kirkland (108th) lagged behind Bellevue, Redmond, and Seattle. But it deserves praise for being an early pioneer.

    4. Vancouver, BC is a leader in housing inaffordability. In fact, the city recently ranked second to last in affordability (Hong Kong being the worst). Earlier this year, a CBC article showcased paramedics that commuted 6 hours each way because of housing affordability. Even with the recent “change” to Vancouver’s zoning laws, housing prices will be out of reach for the working class. The ability for one to own a domicile is out of reach for the “Average Joe.”

      CBC Article

      1. Vancouver is the Los Angeles of Canada so it gets a lot of interest from international tycoons looking for trophy houses pr a stable country to stash their money in that won’t arbitrarily expropriate it. It has the mildest climate in the country and nice views. It’s a favored destination for Hong Kongers fleeing China. And my Canadian friend suspects laundered BC Bud money drove the prices up.

        In the early 2000s Vancouver was cheap. You could get a condo with a 10th-floor view for $75K if I remember. Then in the late 2000s prices rose to insane levels, the highest in North America except maybe the Bay Area. It wasn’t because of dense mixed-use development and allowing missing middle apartments and ADUs everywhere or having rapid transit. That was all in place in the 1990s.

  6. I found this paragraph in the linked Yesler cable car article interesting:

    “ MOHAI curator Kristin Halunen confirmed earlier this week that the cable car remains in storage at MOHAI’s research facility in Georgetown, and there are currently no plans to bring it back on display.”

    My mind races about ways to re-introduce its visibility. Frankly, the floor slopes of cable cars are not good for ADA suitability. It could be a great centerpiece of a history-focused Link station art project, for example.

      1. I believe that the next Link station in Seattle without a designated artist is 130th St. After that, it’s going to be quite a wait. Even West Seattle Link and Graham St seem delayed for several additional years given the current funding challenges — and SLU/ Ballard seem even more distant.

      2. Given the potential delay in West Seattle link, it might be advantageous for the peninsula to go through with a cheaper repair to the bridge that will last about 15 years, which will take some of the heat off the crowded back road bridge options and the low bridge and serve as a “bridge” of sorts to the eventual link line that may compensate for the lack of a far more costly permanent replacement.

      3. I agree; I like that idea of Al’s quite a bit. Of course art is a subjective thing but I’m not a big fan of a lot of what constitutes large public space art projects. Perhaps ST will now rethink its 1% of construction costs policy for its STart program given the financial constraints it’s going to be facing in the near future. The 2020 financial plan update had $38.7 million (YOE$) slated to be spent for the next six years on temporary and permanent art installations, plus another $2.6 million for maintenance of existing and planned artwork over that same time period. It’s not a big expenditure in the bigger scheme of things but consider the types of penny-pinching efforts the agency has engaged in recently with some of its budget-challenged capital projects, e.g. Lynnwood Link. Personally I’d rather see the funds go toward SOGR projects than some large abstract sculpture that is largely ignored by the public a la “Moses” at Seattle Center.

      4. I think San Francisco has a transi museum although I haven’t been to it. What could Seattle have along those lines?

        We could put a streetcar on display in the sculpture park, if SAM is willing. It would blend in as art, although it’s not abstract like most of the pieces.

  7. ST contractors have been installing the contact wire for NG Link over the last few weeks. It won’t be long before they go power on and then do the envelope check. Progress is being made!

    The recent announcement of Link frequency increases probably has as more to do with NG Link coming on-line than it does with current demand. NG Link opening is only about a year away, potentially earlier depending on float. ST will want the higher frequency when NG Link comes on-line.

    Additionally, ST will want to start the FTA demonstration period about 6 months before the potential opening date. So that places the start of the demonstration period as only about 6 months away, potentially earlier. And theywill want to run the demonstration period at actual, anticipated frequencies.

    ST is the only local transit agency that will be adding any significant new service over the next few years. It’s at least one bit of good news in an otherwise bleak situation.

    1. “The recent announcement of Link frequency increases probably has as more to do with NG Link coming on-line than it does with current demand.”

      How full do you think 15-minute trains have to be to justify their existence?

      I’ll remind you that Link had a 10-minute minimum since it opened in 2009, even with one-car trains. Do you think Link’s current potential demand is less than it was in 2009? That was even before the major draws of Capitol Hill and UW Stations.

    2. The recent announcement of Link frequency increases probably has as more to do with NG Link coming on-line than it does with current demand.

      Why do people think that transit service is based on demand? I ask that honestly. I don’t mean to pick on Lazarus in particular — [ad hom]. To a certain extent I get it. If you are unfamiliar with transit, then you might think it is like cupcakes. There is a finite demand for cupcakes. Any more and they just get thrown away. But you would think that before commenting on a public forum about such things, writers would stop and consider whether transit is like a cupcake. It isn’t. Running the trains more often is not providing more supply. It is making a better cupcake.

      Again, I don’t want to pick on you Lazarus — [ad hom]. I just find it irritating that people don’t bother to think it through. Transit is a public service. Better frequency is critical to that service. Spending billions on a light rail line and then running it infrequently is not matching supply with demand, it is reducing the value of the service you spent a fortune on.

      Perhaps an analogy would help. It is like Spotify with a dozen songs in the catalog. Or Netflix that only streams Gilligan Island episodes. After a while, you would conclude that demand is just very low, and that you should reduce it even more. But the problem is that you are providing something that is crap. That is ST right now — although it looks like it will be just a little bit better.

      1. “If you are unfamiliar with transit, then you might think it is like cupcakes.”

        Exactly. I have to admit that, until I worked in the NYS Legislature after law school for a representative who was heavily involved in transportation and transit matters, I probably would’ve made the same incorrect assumption. My boss got it, though that didn’t necessarily translate to successful legislative campaigns since it was a constant battle of breaking down these preconceptions held by other legislators.

        Btw, I guess you updated your analogy from donut shop to cupcake shop. (At least I think you were the commenter using this analogy a few weeks ago.) I guess that’s fitting given that there are so few donut shops around today (sigh).

      2. As to improve discourse on the forum, it may be better to phrase comments as “this post does not seem to align with transit fundamentals”, rather than “you obviously don’t understand transit fundamentals”.

        Thanks a lot for an otherwise fairly thoughtful post, as always.

      3. It may be a better cupcake but there’s still a very real cost with increased frequency. Bakery shops go out of business if they only recover 25% of the cost of selling each cup cake. Faced with this the baker has two choices; increase quality and cost or decrease cost by sacrificing quality. The later is bound to fail as there is a limited demand for cupcakes (even if they are free). Increasing cost, if you actually had to increase cost (fares) it reduces demand. So there’s a chance the baker could be financially solvent producing boutique cupcakes but it will be to a very small niche market.

        Increasing frequency on Link is going to result in a larger subsidy. Transit loses money on every trip and you just never make it up in volume. The fare recovery ratio may get better but bottom line it’s still going to cost more to operate.

      4. Link’s subsidy has decreased over the years as ridership has grown. Its fare was set at the beginning and hasn’t had to be increased. Its fare is now lower than Metro for distances up to Westlake-Rainier Beach.

      5. In case you guys missed it, Link is actually going to 8 min frequency on peak. Ya, peak is narrowly defined, but 8 mins is 8 mins. It might not fit your chosen narrative, but it is a fact.

        Regarding service planning, matching service levels to demand is at the very core of everything a transit agency does. Such calculations infuse every decision a transit agency makes, including setting service levels, route planning, grant applications, and funding agreements. It is key and it is core.

        Metro does seem to be operating on a different model right now though. There reluctance to install operator protection and the resulting need to maintain free service is totally misplaced. The resulting increase in demand is not transit related and will disappear once Metro is forced to reinstall fares.

        I suspect Metro is counting on a big, fat government bailout once their coffers go completely dry. But mismanagement is not justification for more funding, and the powers that be should insist on changes before pouring more money down the same old rat hole.

      6. “Link is actually going to 8 min frequency on peak.”

        I know. I focus on off-peak because that’s what transit agencies and politicians tend to neglect, and it’s what we need if we want to make a carless life viable and attractive.

        “Regarding service planning, matching service levels to demand is at the very core of everything a transit agency does.”

        How do you define demand? It’s not just people entering the door. There has to be a robust network to entice people to come in the door. The last run of the day is always pretty empty, but that’s because people take the second-last one in case they miss the bus and have to take the following one. If people know or suspect the route is infrequent or all routes are infrequent, they’ll make other transportation choices or forego trips. A good transit manager keeps all these factors in mind. And a good politician recognizes that frequency may be a public good even if the buses are relatively empty, because of the mobility choices ant flexibility it gives to people.

        “There reluctance to install operator protection”

        Sam’s investigative reporting found that Metro has been trying to acquire cabin shields but its first attempt didn’t meet quality standards so it’s trying a second alternative. Even if all the shields were delivered today, Metro has thousands of buses and it would take time to install all of them.

        “The resulting increase in demand is not transit related and will disappear once Metro is forced to reinstall fares.”

        The biggest factor by far is slashing the occupancy limit by three quarters. Buses with fifty seats now have a 16-person limit. That’s what’s causing buses to be full and pass people up. I ride several routes in central, south, southeast, and northeast Seattle in the daytime and early evening, and I see hardly any non-destinational riders. Almost everybody gets on and off in the middle of the route or at major stops. Why would they do that if their only goal was to remain on a bus? I’ve heard that on night owls non-destinational riders are the majority, but I can’t stay up that late any more so I wouldn’t know. Even if there is a problem late nights, that’s only a tiny fraction of the service hours.

        “I suspect Metro is counting on a big, fat government bailout once their coffers go completely dry.”

        Metro and the county council recognize it’s an essential service. Do you think the electric utility should just shut off the power or stop sending workers to repair wiring if its revenues are low in a recession? The county needs to find ways to replace the revenue, and the federal government should be giving aid to the states because it’s a national emergency. That’s not a bailout; it’s recognition that basic transportation is a necessity. Oh, and fares cover only 20-30% of operation costs (the council sets the fare within a window of costs).

        “But mismanagement is not justification for more funding, and the powers that be should insist on changes before pouring more money down the same old rat hole.”

        What mismanagement? I hear vague right-wing allegations that Metro is poorly managed or has too many administrators, but they never have any concrete evidence.

      7. @Bernie — You missed my point. Increased frequency is not about capacity, it is about increasing the quality of the service.

        Increasing frequency on Link is going to result in a larger subsidy. Transit loses money on every trip and you just never make it up in volume. The fare recovery ratio may get better but bottom line it’s still going to cost more to operate.

        Not necessarily. Consider an example from this post:,

        taking fixed costs and elasticity into account, cutting service by 1% only reduces the public subsidy to rail service by 0.1%. A 2% cut in subsidy in a recession requires a brutal 20% cut in service, cutting ridership by 8%.

        Thus it is quite possible — with slightly different numbers — that cutting frequency ends up costing more in lost fair revenue than they gain in savings. That probably isn’t the case, but Sound Transit, so far, has refused to share the numbers. How much are they saving by having low frequency and how does that compare to the lost fare revenue. In other words, what are the net savings by providing inferior service. This is a number that they should be looking at, and should be sharing with the public (to justify this cutback in service).

      8. Regarding service planning, matching service levels to demand is at the very core of everything a transit agency does.

        WRONG. How many times must we be over this. Did you even read the links I referenced? You can’t base service on demand, because demand depends on the service.

        Here is a simple example:

        A bus company has buses that can carry 100 people. They decide to run a bus along a corridor. They figure about 1,000 people will ride along that route. So, to be efficient, they a bus every hour, for ten hours. They notice that only 700 people ride the buses. “Well then, I guess we were wrong. I guess there isn’t that much demand. OK, let’s run 7 buses a day”. They do that, and ridership drops to 500. They run five buses, and it drops to 300.

        Again, it isn’t cupcakes! This approach would make perfect sense if you were selling cupcakes (or donuts :)) but you aren’t. You are providing a service, and demand for that service varies largely on how frequent that service is.

        Agencies don’t base their service on demand. That would be stupid. They base it on cost, as well as balancing ridership with coverage:

        In this case, it is the same thing. Link has high ridership, and high fare recovery rates. ST bus routes do not. ST cuts to Link service likely saved them very little compared to other cuts. But again, we don’t know, because Link refuses to show us the reports. Either they haven’t bothered with producing a simple spreadsheet that should be the focus of the agency, or they refuse to share it with the public.

      9. Ross & Bernie – isn’t it both/and? You need to establish a base level of frequency to achieve the desired quality of service, and therefore desired ridership. But then in the short term, frequency is adjusted to deal with capacity/crowding issued, perhaps by reducing frequency on other routes with lower ridership/crowding metrics. Additionally, beyond a certain point (10 minute frequency?) the only reason to boost frequency is to meet higher ridership, while on the other hand you never want to drop frequency even with anemic ridership to ensure sufficient coverage (say, 30 minutes for a off peak local).

        Seems y’all are talking past each other.

      10. @AJ — Capacity is an issue, but not in this case. To be clear, in some cases, you gain little by increasing frequency. But that point is not 10 minutes. More like 3 minutes. In Jarrett Walker’s brilliant discussion on streetcars, he writes the following, as a reason to run a streetcar:

        Capacity. In other urban contexts, rail transit is important for its ability to carry large number of riders per vehicle, and hence per driver, usually by combining cars into trainsets. European streetcars are often huge trainsets with capacities of 500 or more. This capacity advantage can be relevant in high-volume situations, particularly when frequencies get down to the three-minute range.

        (Emphasis mine). The point is, for a user, it really doesn’t make much difference if a train is running every 3 minutes, or every 2 minutes. The main reason agencies run more often at that point is to deal with crowding. But it makes a big difference to the rider if the trains run every 10 minutes, or every 5 minutes.

        For Link, capacity doesn’t matter. We aren’t there, and will probably never be there. The trains can’t run more often than every six minutes. They should do so, all day long.

    3. I agree that opening Northgate Link will require months of testing. However, I think the service change to do that is probably not needed until this winter. I think the current change is a result of pressure to improve frequencies beyond the ridiculously infrequent levels that currently operate. After all, Route 7 riders are getting passed up due to overcrowded buses these days — because many don’t want to wait for Link.

      I’ll add to Mike’s point that today’s suppressed Link usage is still higher than 2011 when the trains were only running every 10 minutes.

  8. Ross B, I once had a Boston “T” mechanic tell me that Boeing Vertol streetcars worked about as well as a Brill helicopter- though I still think I solved the problem of power collection with a standard workman’s safety-line buckle.

    But if Boeing is now going to have factory space to spare, if being The New Flying Pullman is not their thing, I still don’t see why the “shops” could not deliver “The New PCC’s” instead.

    Retrograde prejudice, maybe, but I think an economy that actually makes things imposes on local political thinking an implicit conceptual demand that two and two not require a consultant to calculate.

    And Mike, I recall some design thinking on the First Avenue Streetcar, not yet called “The Connector” to start investigating a museum fleet like San Francisco’s. They’re not only rugged and functional, and teach a lot of lessons in industrial design.

    But AJ, the DSTT’s employee advisory committee wasn’t my only pertinent “detail” time. Also had the privilege of sitting in with some of the world’s top pubic artists to allocate that One Percent.

    Of all the “tough-guy” work groups I was ever among, was never in company more workaholically able and honest. Look up “Jack Mackie”, but best don’t mention the bronze dance steps on Broadway. For artists, the past is an annoyance.

    Another calculation. If the walls were all cement, a lot fewer people would’ve even been able to stand to be in the Tunnel. Remember average Seattle-ite’s experience with any subway at all.

    At one of these meetings, I witnessed first-hand when artist Vickie Scurri, who’s about four feet tall, faced down Chief Engineer Vladimir Khazak, who in addition to being Russian is a lot taller, and told him those embroidery patterns were on that Westlake tile to stay!

    Every single piece, every single station, our Once Percent has so far paid itself back a hundred times over. However. As a citizen, a taxpayer, and a transit advocate, start insisting on public inclusion on transit art.

    In the design and execution of the piece, artists take orders from no one. But the work included a strong, healthy dose of Value Engineering from…architects and engineers to be sure nothing fell off the wall and killed anybody. Both literally and financially.

    And in every single case on DSTT….the changes they specified produced a better work of art. For the realms of art, engineering, and transit, Lake Washington Tech and its fellow instructional institutions should from here on be strong ongoing participants in the work.

    Also… that Depression-curing “employment” thing again. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration financed a lot or art, in addition to the Golden Gate Bridge

    Mark Dublin

  9. Oh, and…PRECEDENT! On the Jackson end of the IDS plaza, fare machines have elementary school tile work. Widen the program and the budget might read better if those “Free” student passes were re-classified as “Employee.”

    Mark Dublin


    Sound Transit is looking for volunteers to serve on the Citizen Oversight Panel (COP) representing North King County and Snohomish County. The COP was created in 1997 to independently monitor Sound Transit and make sure it meets its commitments to build and operate a regional bus, light rail, and commuter rail transit system. The 15 COP members represent a variety of interests, professional expertise, and experience.

      1. That’s strange as I re-posted what was sent out by the Kirkland Green Trip list I’m still on even though I don’t commute to Kirkland anymore. Probably time to attempt to unsubscribe from said list.

  11. Some scatter-thoughts:

    a) Many thanks Martin for co-signing that letter. Much appreciate. I’ve testified TWICE to the Seattle Council demanding that subpoena go away.

    b) Good news: Uber may have to close up shop in California, they’re threatening it. This would be a good day for public transit and I am sure nobody here is shedding genuine sad tears.

    c) I’m sure the only thing we want more is PRESIDENT Joe Biden and VICE PRESIDENT Kamala Harris! TAKE. AMERICA. BACK. Even if that means some Timmy gets a dang par-don or something like that… ;-). Yeah I’d say Timmy in jail is priority number five or four for this group.

    Try: First, conquer Covid. Second, new leadership for the nation. Third, hold Uber accountable.

    1. SPD’s constitutionally questionable subpoena is just the tip of the iceberg. A British journalist was arrested outside the CHAZ/CHOP, and had a miserable experience with his treatment in jail, in spite of repeatedly informing the police he is a journalist. Granted, he is one among many journalists who suffered violence from the police during coverage of protests this summer.

      The actions of SPD, as a department, that appeared to be insubordinate to clear and direct orders from the City, especially regarding weaponry they were ordered not to us, are just as troubling. In America, the press is supposed to be free to do their job and the police are supposed to follow orders from the elected officials in charge of their unit of government. I can’t recall ever having seen or read about a US police department having its own personhood and rights to go to court to be able to do something the government forbade it from doing, until now. I’m also happy to see the City Council taking some action to protect journalists. It would be bizarre to see SPD go to court again and get a restraining order against the City telling it to leave journalists alone.

      Policing is usually a taboo topic and meta discussions on journalism are usually avoided her, so thanks, Martin, for speaking up on behalf of all the journalists who volunteer here.

    2. I have to note the irony in talking about Biden/Harris and police overreach in the same Comment. Politicians are largely responsible for the creation of the police/prison industrial complex as it exists now. Some of those politicians are Democrats, and running for the highest offices in the land.

      1. Mike, I can tell you didn’t read the article. The protesters mentioned gentrification and being priced out of neighborhoods. Those are much-discussed topics on this blog. And me giving the link to what is now the lead story on the New York Post is cannot be considered trolling. It’s simply relaying the news.

      2. I read the article. They don’t have a legitimate demand, so why should I spend time debating whether alternative A or alternative B of an illegitimate demand is better. I’m sad to see they’re taking it out on homeowners. The article says “a group of Black Lives Matter” protesters, not all of BLM. I looked at BLM-Seattle King County’s “Our Demands” page and it says nothing about white homeowners in formerly black neighborhoods having some obligation to sell or abandon their houses. (And the Central District was white before it was black.) And it’s in the New York Post, a right-wing news outlet that probably overinterprets events and stirs up conspiracy theories. Has it been reported in the Seattle Times or other local outlets that could confirm it?

        Gentrification and displacement is a society-wide problem and a structural problem in our regulations. That doesn’t mean individual homeowners should have to sell or give away their houses.

      3. Gentrification was in part steered to the RV by the selection of the route “to the airport” making that detour. If it had gone straight south I think TOD from Georgetown to Tukwila would have resulted in a lot more working class housing being built rather than a net loss. But somehow it was spun at the time as being a type of racial equity.

      4. I don’t think transit had anything to do with gentrification in Seattle. That had more to do with the end of redlining, and the gradual economic improvement in the urban areas of Seattle.

        In this case, I’m curious as to how many people in the Central Area owned houses, as opposed to renting. In other words, if I was feeling snarky (and if I was a tone deaf idiot) I would reply to such demands by saying “Sure, I’ll sell my house, and I’ll make a good size profit, just like the African American family did when they sold it to me.”

        Complaints about gentrification are rooted in more broadly felt frustration with lack of economic progress amongst various ethnic/economic classes. Just when African Americans were allowed to be part of the great postwar American prosperity experience, it ended (in part because of their participation). So while the Irish, Italians, Germans and other ethnic groups assimilated into the great melting pot of America, they also saw their economic fortunes improve dramatically after the war. (These go together by the way — economic and social progress are often tied together). But economic progress stalled during the late 70s (during the Oil Crisis) and then ended with the election of Ronald Reagan. The government programs that enabled that progress were dismantled (in large part because African Americans were finally allowed to use them) and with that went the economic progress it enabled. The middle class has essentially stalled since then, and the lower class has actually gotten worse. The only group that has fared better since then is the upper class, and boy, have they ever.

        Which is to say that while the complaints are understandable, they are misdirected. That home owner, or tenant, that moved into the neighborhood when most people were racial minorities did not “push you out”. Right wing Republicans did, with the help of voters in completely different (suburban) neighborhoods.

        Now of course, those suburban neighborhoods are far more ethnically diverse and open minded, and are probably our only hope (assuming Trump doesn’t steal another election — this time by destroying the post office).

      5. Gentrification in Rainier Valley was already happening and would have come with or without Link. Georgetown is mostly industrial; there isn’t much room for housing, and we need industrial companies too. Also, a lot of housing would require changing the zoning, and Seattle and Tukwila have only been willing to do a little bit of that. So the result would have been a rail line without the housing.

      6. I would have been surprised if the Boeing zone would have gotten turned into TOD. Much of it is Superfund sites. Now, it is storage for an armada of 737 Max’s that aren’t going anywhere. Allentown is too well-to-do to be turned into multi-story housing. But Tukwila is building a chunk of TOD in the Foster District in spite of light rail not going down International Blvd.

        The best opportunity for TOD in Tukwila was wasted with cul-de-sac carport apartments that don’t have straight walking access to the station, and a couple giant parking lots, some of which is used for the cars being driven by the “Live at Light Rail” residents. There is an older apartment complex across from the station, and an immigrant-oriented strip mall that won’t be torn down just to replace it with low-rise residential. There is still some space that could be converted, but the biggest opportunity is to replace the parking with multi-story housing. Maybe keep a basement parking garage to keep the car commuter lobby happy.

      7. Yes we need industry but that isn’t mutually exclusive with housing. Building housing next to industry is what turned NYC into a dense city. Of course the original blue collar housing was called tenements and wouldn’t be acceptable today. Any industry in south Seattle has huge parking lots because that’s pretty much the only option. There’s a lot of space intensive businesses that employ relatively few people and could relocate with a nice profit (assuming they own the land). The fact that there’s little housing in that area now means that the development would be a net gain rather than displacement. Gentrification would still have happened given the huge tech labor force that has moved to Seattle. But housing in this area would have been a transit rich alternative to Kent to Auburn valley.

        Yes of course it would require zoning changes which has been one of the brakes on building near Beacon Hill and the rest of the RV route. It’s easier to rezone and develop large industrial tracts. That’s why the Spring District exists. One 25 acre Safeway plant and boom, instant urban village.

      8. (And the Central District was white before it was black.)
        Yes, my mother-in-law was a proud Bulldog class of 39. The school was virtually all white. At some point it became predominantly black. Here’s the current racial profile:

        Garfield HS – 38% White, 30% Black, 23% Asian, 8% Hispanic
        Franklin HS – 53% Asian, 34% Black, 7% Hispanic, 4% White

        The area has become more racially diverse but gentrification is actually a smaller factor than other minorities moving into the area. But that doesn’t fit the narrative of the radicals that have co-opted the movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

      9. If Seattle and Tukwila had, twenty years ago, committed to building a lot of housing between downtown and Tukwila along the Georgetown Link alternative, then ST would have come along. Especially if it included a lot of affordable housing so that the lower-income people in places like Rainier Valley could participate. You’d also need the kinds of retail businesses and jobs that the valley has, not just housing. Otherwise people would lose something if they moved there: they’d lose access to that variety of retail (including immigrant-owned businesses offering things not available elsewhere) and the ability to walk for a significant number of errands. There are two or three big hurdles.

        1. Seattle has been protective of its industrial land, and repeatedly refused to allow housing there. Residential developers have deeper pockets and would outbid industrial companies and they’d have to leave. That would make Seattle’s economy less balanced and more vulnerable to shocks, reduce industrial jobs, and push the jobs out to transit-inaccessible areas. There are arguments on both sides of Seattle’s industrial policy, but it would be a major policy reversal and not one you could easily convince the city to do. And all Seattle’s industrial districts should be evaluated as a whole, not piecemeal in SODO only.

        2. New York’s industrial/residential/subway mixed neigbhorhoods would be great, but that would also be hard to convince the city of. New York built those things before separated zoning became fashionable, and when it builds new ones it can point to the success of the old ones. Seattle has never had that tradition, and more completely believes that industry should be separated from housing.

        3. Seattle’s industries have a lot of large trucks on wide streets. How could you fill in a lot of housing without squeezing the truck routes and creating truck/car congestion. There’s probably a sweet spot somewhere but I don’t know where it is.

        4. Developers have repeatedly failed to build new neighborhoods as walkable, inviting, and human-scaled as pre-WWII neighborhoods like Rainier Valley, University Way, Ballard Ave, Summit, etc. They build excessively large buildings, windswept plazas that look orderly on a map but alienate people, etc. It’s not at all clear that they can create something as good as Rainier Valley in SODO, because they keep making the wrong decisions.

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