The original webpage for this webinar is here.

This is an open thread.

18 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Planning in a pandemic”

  1. Jarrett Walker excellent, as usual. “Like” his view that transit ranks with national defense as “essential”, rather than being a consumer product. Since it worked for the freeways, I think a National Defense Transit Act is decades overdue.

    Also his thoughts on a regional focus, not necessarily on merging systems and agencies, but encouraging them to cooperate. To me, it’s a case-by-case “call.” Right now, I think Intercity Transit belongs independent, and that riders agree.

    But once again sharing ORCA, as was once done, should be should be no problem either. Same with regionally-shared passenger information and coordinated “interline” passenger collections. One ORCA stipulation, please: Interagency fare apportionment is for the accountants, not Superior Court.

    Would like to hear Jarett address this: I think the major problems we’ll face for a long time to come are not virological, but West Seattle Freeway-grade deferred maintenance on our country. Desperate symptom: most people, through no fault of our own, are forced to borrow what we’ve a right to earn.

    So I think even Dow will agree that it’s powerfully [ON] topic to recognize transit’s possible part in starting to deliver the living wage that’s our Number One survival need. Give those trade-mark orange towers tracks and catenary, and in Franklin Roosevelt’s memory, we can call it “Operation Golden Rails.”

    And since Reykjavik makes Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Oslo a two-seat and one-train ride from Seattle, no reason Boeing, or at least its workers, can’t learn first-hand how to build a Vertol that doesn’t suck conductive track dust into its motors. Tracks are still there on Marginal, wire easy to add.

    And also want Jarrett’s thoughts on this. For anything public, “Free” lately means “parasites only!” So, starting with student passes, let’s start accurately calling them “Employer Provided.” And, working with our community colleges, orient curriculum from kindergarten up to class as engineering internship.

    Mark Dublin

  2. Question for your presenter, Sam. What did you do with the car and all that other stuff? Here in Olympia, city pick-up is refusing to take a lot of the crap people are putting in the bins. Or at least they won’t pick up your drill-press if you don’t first put it in a plastic bag with a little wire “tie.”

    Could also be a flare-up of traditional class, gender, and ethnic “hangout” wars. Tough. I won’t be twitter-mailed into self-hatred. If your life’s only worth “Living” in a bar, it’s not Olympia Roasters’ fault you’ve got to walk half a block.

    Mark Dublin

  3. As a strong transit supporter, I find the views of “transit as a social service” very concerning, with regard to the long term political will to fund the system well enough to make it useful.

    One thing I see in this country over and over again – people are willing to pay for public services they use, or at least know others that use them (roads, parks, airports, public schools, social security, medicare), but, are generally less willing to pay for services they see as for the benefit of others, that they hope they will never need (food stamps, public housing, medicaid, unemployment benefits).

    Of course, this is a gross exaggeration and varies a lot depending on one’s political persuasion (e.g. the devaluing of “safety net” services is much less a thing among Democrats than among Republicans). But, even in a solidly Democratic area, there is still a difference between the extent that people are willing to fund services they envision themselves or their friends and family using vs. services they don’t.

    As much as I appreciate what Jarrett is saying in the video, I just don’t see how a county-wide measure in 2024 can possibly pass if the vast majority of middle-class suburban homeowners have neither ridden transit since 2020 nor know a single friend or family member that has (even once). (A Seattle-only electorate probably has enough of a progressive population to pass such a measure, anyway, but that’s much smaller than the whole county).

    1. The last two countywide measures failed so it was always going to be an uphill battle. Metro Connects in the suburbs is more to focus aspirations on consolidating corridors than a certainty. In the end the more transit-minded cities — e.g., Bellevue, Redmond, and Kent — may have to fund their own upgrades as Seattle is doing. Bellevue and Kent are at least open to funding their own improvements even if they haven’t done so yet, while Renton and Kirkland keep expecting somebody else (Metro, ST) to pay for and plan them.. Renton did finally release some ideas on what it would like, so that’s a step. But no suburb has committed to funding even a fifth as much expansion in service hours and RapidRide lines proportional to what Seattle has. This gets back to their voters and councilmembers being more skeptical on transit. They see it as a positive but they’re not ready to commit to a bold vision, and they aren’t inclined to move on it until somebody else pays for it. With Kent it’s more understandable because it has a low tax base, but the Eastside doesn’t have that excuse. Metro has started talking about shifting hours from the Eastside to South King County where ridership is higher and there are a larger number of transit-dependent essential workers. That might be a third way to get more service into South King County, but it won’t be able to do a lot.

      1. fact check please. the King County TBD measure failed in April 2014. The most important factor was probably the date and low turnout. What was the second countywide failure you cite? Metro countywide measures have passed several times; the most recent were in November 2006 and 2000. ST district measures failed in April 1995 and November 2007 (when tied to the RTID); ST district measures passed in Novembers 1996, 2008, and 2016.

      2. I don’t keep a list of when elections were; I just remember two experiences where I wanted a Metro levy to win and it didn’t. They were within a couple years of each other, so maybe 2012.

    2. It is a social service that benefits even those that don’t use it. I realize to many Americans, that seems crazy. They don’t want to pay for something they don’t use. But of course there are many examples of this, the obvious one being the military. Most Americans aren’t in the military, but we pay for it. A well run military can preserve our security.

      Another example are schools. You don’t have a kid in school, but you benefit from a well educated populous.

      The same goes for the police and social spending. The two are tied together. When people talk about “defunding the police”, the really mean having a smaller, more effective police department, and more social spending. This is the Scandinavian model, and the result is less crime.

      In all cases the focus should be on spending the money wisely, not whether it benefits us more than the other guy. Likewise with transit.

      But that gets into the old ridership versus coverage debate. Does it benefit society more if you maximize ridership or coverage. I personally am somewhere in the middle. Every person who chooses to ride transit over driving is good for society. At the same time, there is a social benefit to having transit available. There are those that can’t afford to drive. They need transit to survive (just like they need other social services). So there are two social benefits from good transit that need to be balanced.

      Regardless, you don’t need to actually use the service to understand the public benefit.

      1. yes. many public goods have both a private use and a public good factor. they are merit goods. education is a public good with a private aspect. we all benefit from an educated citizenry even if we do not have children.

    3. Mayors and councilmembers understand the need for coverage transit better than many voters do because they’re responsible for the entire well-being of the city, and it’s their problem if people can’t get around, cars are gobbling up space, people can’t access essential services, tax revenue and employment is down because people can’t get to the store in a reasoable way, mental health is down because people can’t see their families and cultural activities, etc. The last one is less of an issue now during the pandemic where we want people to see their families and gatherings less to limit the spread of the disease, but it will come back when people can safely do those activities again.

      So politicians prioritize transit more than the broad public does, because it benefits aspects of the city they’re responsible for. Still, they’ve only endorsed mild improvements that don’t fully solve the problems, and they haven’t put their money where their mouth is to fund them. Much of the public is more myopic. They support peak service and light rail because they use it, but they’re less supportive of all-day frequency and coverage service because they drive for those trips. At their worst, they don’t support coverage service because they perceive it benefits people of a different color, whose views are more progessive than theirs are, who need to be threatened with destitution to keep up their work ethic (because god forbid that a minimum-wage worker shouldn’t work when there’s no such expectation for millionaires), and who are less well-behaved so we don’t want them on the bus. So the myopic voters are influenced by messages to slash car tabs to $30 and vote no on Metro expansions because they won’t fund things they use or they want to get simething for nothing and are in denial about it. Since transit levies require a majority of voters to pass it, this is a problem.

  4. Which surveys are still open for feedback? I still need to get to the 522/Bothell one, the 145th one, and the Bellevue 405 one. Are there other important ones I should get to?

    I find all the 522/Bothell alternatives about equal so I don’t know what to say. I can see arguments both ways for a Woodinville peak express to either Bellevue or UW. UW would connect them to Seattle Link better, but I think Eastsiders are more interested in connectivity within the Eastside, and a route to Bellevue may address latent demand and grow ridership there. I definitely feel the all-day Woodinville-405 shuttle is too short; it should really go to at least downtown Bothell so that there’s a one-seat ride between Bothell and Woodinville. Otherwise the two urban villages are disconnected and miss out on synergy, and that just encourages driving and sprawl.

    In the 145th station survey, again all the arlternatives feel about equal and I don’t know the area well enough to predict future trip patterns that would favor one alternative or another. I wish Stride went straigt west to Aurora and Greenwood, but ST has decided pretty heavily against it and hasn’t scoped the budget high enough for it.

    1. Let’s call this “A Tale of Two Tickets”, Sam. My total moving violations since 1961. Three years ago, exited I-5 NB headed for Kent DesMoines WB about noon. Three minutes earlier, a “spot” snow-storm out of a sunny sky left about two feet of snow on the steep, sharply curved off-ramp.

      Had slowed to ten before entering the slope, applied my “dynamic”- all my 2001 Prius lacked was catenary, but put small dent in the red plastic bumper of the car ahead of me. State Patrol arrived in five minutes, and ticketed me, and about five others, for “Too Fast For Conditions.”

      Requested the officer’s presence at my trial. I like the State Police. Their motto “Service With Humility” should get them the Congressional. But main thing was that, as a professional driver, I wanted him to show me, and secondarily the Court, the last point where I could have prevented the accident.

      Showed up with an aerial photo I found online of that exact exit, clearly showing over-short deceleration lane, tight curve, and progressively steepening grade. Seeing which, a passing public defender suggested I go for “Deferred Finding.”

      So great to create Happiness. Taking a look at my driving record after a morning of divorce-continuances, the judge was almost dancing on his podium. $150 court-cost? To me, fair wages for the trooper. Would still like to know. Also, for a year, couldn’t crash into anything else. Something I never thought worth the effort anyhow.

      Year or two later, Ticket Two came in the mail. Week previous, driving my usual scenic shoreline route to Seattle including a lot of SR 509, didn’t slow down for a school camera on 16th Avenue South and 268th just south of Des Moines.

      Since the picture failed to include the fact that the flasher was blocked by leaves, I could’ve done one or both of two things beside pay in person. Take the court a photograph of the leafy sign. Or at least perform a public service with my tree-trimming hook. But as Des Moines had always made me welcome, on a beautiful route, same as paying for my espresso a couple miles farther.

      Point of the story? Both times, I felt I was dealing with people I respected over a matter I considered professionally critical, rather than cameras and punishment both equally automatic. Which, sorry, may be the way a bad card-tap is handled in transit-perfect Germany, but just not how we do things in America.

      My word to my Electeds? Since in a public vote, cameras in general would lose worse than the vote that elected Trump, win-win all around if we pay sworn police officers to observe and cite the violation. Paired with the tax increase to finance it, could be an interesting election. Also KNOW Tim Eyman will get me a real break on an office chair for my campaign chairman.

      Mark Dublin

  5. asdf2, every time I drive or take the IT bus downtown, I go by the Capitol Lake-side tent and battered-RV encampments containing middle class people who, whether they’ve ever ridden transit or not, may never work again in their lives.

    And from the Olympia city line to the Oregon state-one, and the Cascades, and the Pacific Ocean, for quite awhile this has been the kind of territory where the last lumber mill shut down years ago, leaving crystal meth to take up the slack. Opioids, really unfair competition. Now that marijuana’s legal, employment nightmare.

    One thing I’ve got in common with a lot of these people: “Welfare” (except in the context of children and animals) is a worse swear-word than “Free” regarding transit revenue.

    What we WOULD accept so fast it’ll break your wrist is the chance to EARN a lifelong income whose only debt will be voluntary, temporary, and never for anything we really need.
    And to the letter, we’ll settle for the exact same medical program enjoyed by the Congress of the United States.

    There’s also the little matter of how many of the demographic you mention, while technically they didn’t “lose” their homes, since 2008 they’re no longer rent-free. Instead, evicted, like by a Washington financial institution who bragged about inventing the Liar’s Loan, and for a company motto, in all their commercials showing manic loan officers : “WOO-HOO!” Whom a bi-partisan Federal Government not only “Made Whole”, but a WHOLE LOT FATTER.

    So Hell No Do Not Call transit WELFARE. That’s worse than saying “DEFUND” when you mean “re-assign police to the duty they were trained for and start considering mental health as much National Defense as Public Transit.

    In her own demonic defense, “COVIDIA” has forthrightly proven to us that she’s just getting started. But like her sister Kali, who’d make Kamala Harris look un-nasty, her dagger’s got one non-evil edge. Destitution and homelessness have just joined transit as the latest untried formative experience.

    Mark Dublin

  6. The interview was March 30th, and I’ve seen it before. There’s an upcoming interview tomorrow with Jarrett about urbanism and how Democrats can support it.

    The March interview was at the beginning of the pandemic when states were still in phase 0 lockdown and less was known about how the virus spread and the effectiveness of cloth masks and the concept of essential wokers was still new, and many counties hadn’t even started mandating masks and were telling people to stay home except for trips for food or medical appointments. I didn’t ride transit for two months between March 10th and mid June except one trip to Bellevue. Now most urban counties are in phase 1 or 2 and ridership is coming back. So the situation is different than it was then, and if the interview were done now there would probably be less emphasis on coverage as the only thing worth talking about. Then the issue was propping up coverage service so that stores and hospitals and supply chains would continue to function. Now there’s more recognition that this is the minimum baseline and the minimum service is achieving it so it should continue.

    I agree with most of Jarett’s recommendations in the interview. He calls 15-minute all-day frequency and coverage service “essential infrastructure”. That’s a good way of looking at it. We don’t say that parks and highways are unnecessary in a recession; we recognize that they still need to be maintained and open. We should view transit the same way. We shouldn’t drastically reduce it as some have suggested to hourly between 7am and 6pm weekdays only. That’s a level that’s more appopriate in Skagit or Kittitas County than in King County.

    The fear that people will stop supporting transit because they view it as a social service for other people, will not change much relative to the status quo. A lot of people believed that already, and in many cities that’s the only service that existed, so you couldn’t commute to work on it even if you wanted to. The concerns about long-term ridership loss, mainstream teleworking, and further population dispersal to the suburbs and exurbs will only have limited impact on people’s attitudes toward transit. Either they didn’t support transit before, or they still support it. The ones who say 80% of the workforce will telework and there will be a mass stampede to the exurbs and rural areas will be proven wrong. Some people will do that, but most of the population won’t. You can say, “But they did in the 20th century.” Yes to some extent, but that was a brand-new movement of switching to the suburbs. Now the suburbs are already the majority and that sentiment is built in to society. It’s easier to get people to go from 10% suburbanizing to 50% suburbanizing than from 80% suburbanizing to 85% suburbanizing. And there aren’t a lot of empty houses in the exurbs and rural areas waiting to be filled, and there are urban growth boundaries now. The housing demand has already outstripped supply in the exurbs and rural areas and those governments are very resistant to relaxing single-family zoning, so they can’t absorb a lot more people and any mass migration wold spike housing prices sky-high there. “If I can’t afford to live in the exurbs, why should I leave the city or inner-ring suburb? I might as well just stay here, and this is where the jobs are anyhow.”

  7. Oh and also, suggestion for Uber and Lyfft drivers who want to be employees who can also set their own work schedules:
    Form one or more worker-owned cooperatives.

    The world of buses has enough international experience with these that it might be worth members’ money for ATU Local 587 to send a couple Executive Board members overseas to check it out.

    OK- ’til COVIDIA gets her bargaining terms met, which I know include “Mask Up Like You Mean It!” the local will have to do its research online. But pretty sure that in this day and age, Mozambique’s got websites.

    Mark Dublin

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