Along the Waterfront
Peter Lewis/Flickr (2011)

This is an open thread.

97 Replies to “News roundup: blowing it”

  1. Well San Francisco shut down their muni metro service , yet again, after a five month shut down. This time with no expected return to service date. San Fran has eliminated dozens of bus routes , what May be permanently, on top of the muni metro debacle. Transit is falling apart there, much more so than Seattle. At least we have more frequent link service to look forward to in September.

    1. The Muni Metro lines are replaced by buses; they aren’t gone. People can still get around. I assume congestion in SF is below normal. It cites an infrastructure component and a covid-related personnel shortage. The electric-power component is not unlike the West Seattle Bridge closing due to cracks, and the personnel shortage due to a temporary quarantine is like the Washington State Ferries reductions. Link has also closed once or twice due to electrical failures, although the duration was hours not weeks. But it depends what part of the infrastructure is affected. Link’s infrastructure is either brand-new (UW) or relatively recent (initial segment). MUNI had a renovation in the 80s, but has it had one since?

    2. Jeff Tumlin made a successful career as an outside consultant saying what cities and transit agencies should do. Now that he’s head of SF MTA, he has to prove whether his lofty ideas are implementable or not.

    3. Rainier was the original assumption but it was rejected as too narrow and congested for a surface train. At the time the existing US light rails were 90+% surface (Portland, San Jose, San Diego), and ST intended to do the same to keep capital costs at that level. ST knew it would have more tunnels/elevated than those cities because the DSTT already existed and it had to cross the Ship Canal, hills and hills those other cities didn’t have, but it aimed for at least 50% surface. It said underground/elevated was unjustified in Rainier Valley because the terrain is flat and has no barriers. It intended to go surface from Mt Baker to SeaTac, and presumaby later Federal Way and Tacoma Dome. And maybe even from Little Saigon: an early proposal went around Beacon Hill rather than under it. It was moved because Paul Allen wanted a stadium station, and for SODO industrial jobs.

      After the Rainier Valley segment was designed, the next segment was Tukwila. The city of Tukwila objected to a surface alignment because it didn’t want Tukwila Internaltional Blvd dug up for construction (it had just been beautified) and it didn’t want the track crossing a corner of Southcenter’s property. So it became elevated, and it was elevated all the way from Rainier Beach in order to cross five highways without excessive inclines.

      Then Roosevelt went through design. The original plan was to daylight at 63rd and run along I=5 to Northgate. Roosevelt insisted it wanted an underground station at the neighborhood center and that taxpayers were willing to pay for it. ST agreed. Rainier Valley cried foul but was ignored.

      After that the presumption became that everything would be grade-separated, and all of ST2 Link was at one point. (Some parts north of Northgate and south of Angle Lake are surface along I-5, but they’re in the freeway right of way with no level crossings so the normal objections to surface don’t apply.) Then the Bellevue City Council wanted a tunnel in front of City Hall and asked ST to economize elsewhere in East King to pay for half of it. That led to the surfacing of Link in the Spring District and parts of south Redmond. But ST2 is 80% grade-separated or freeway-running. ST3’s representative alignment is 100% grade separated I think, although the concrete alignments haven’t been chosen yet.

      MLK is within three blocks of Rainier Avenue between Judkins Park and south Columbia City. It widens to a half mile at Othello and Rainier Beach Stations, so it’s no longer interchangeable with a Rainier Avenue bus and makes 2+ seat rides more difficult there. That and the larger number of businesses and housing units on Rainer is what we lost with the MLK alignment.

  2. Recently I’ve been looking into moving back into Seattle from the Eastside. I was specifically trying to find a neighborhood which has (or in the near future will have) a light rail station, and also have a number of amenities (supermarket, library, bank, pharmacy) within easy walking distance.

    I will spare you my station-by-station inventory of nearby amenities (to sum up: everywhere is lacking, except Capitol Hill now, and the U District and Downtown Bellevue in the future). What struck me most during this exercise was that Link would be far more useful if it went down Rainier Avenue. In fact, just putting the Columbia City station on Rainier would go a long way toward making Link useful in South Seattle. It’s a huge missed opportunity.

    Can anyone tell me why MLK was chosen?

    1. One the ROW was wide enough to accommodate the tracks. Two, it needed to get back to I-5 to continue on to the airport.

      As far as amenities near the station wouldn’t Roosevelt fit the bill? Northgate should too if you count the college library. And if you get on the train you can access the DT library.

      1. Well, I certainly remember that tunneling was ruled out for Rainier Valley due to cost. And the airport… ugh. I wish it had gone to Renton instead of Seatac.

        This would be OK if the areas around MLK were improved. But I just looked at the zoning map and… I am so angry after looking at that, I want to punch every member of the city council in the face. It will never be walkable.

      2. Yup. I’d be far more upset about current zoning than any decision about Rainier vs MLK.

        It’s the same thing with BART … most of the BART alignment wouldn’t be terrible, if only they up-zoned around all the stations

      3. MLK and Ranier aren’t that far apart. You just need to be willing to walk over.

        If Link ran on Rainier, you would have either ended up with trains running in mixed traffic or all of the businesses that make Rainier worth visiting torn down to make room for it. Better to just walk to MLK.

    2. If I had to move, and wanted to live within a few blocks of a Link station, I think the station I would want to live near is the future Redmond station. Great parks, bike trails, schools, library, walkable downtown, low crime, one seat ride to Bellevue and Seattle.

      1. Downtown Redmond (along with some others: Beacon Hill, Westlake, International District, Roosevelt) is not terrible, I agree. But while it has everything, everything is spread out so much. There’s quite a lot of surface parking to slog through.

        To take one example of an amenity that is not so easy to get to, the nearest gyms are 24-Hour Fitness (on the far east side of Redmond Town Centre) and Eastside Gym (on the other side of the Sammammish River).

        And the local frequent bus service is limited to the B (which takes a weird northern detour before going anywhere useful) and the 545 (which I expect to disappear entirely when Link comes).

        I think it’s only practical if you’re planning on biking for a lot of trips. Which is less than ideal, as (despite Redmond’s pro-bike pretensions) the streets have poor bike facilities.

      2. Surface parking within a few blocks of the station should mostly disappear over the next few years as Redmond continues to work through a robust pipeline of infill development.

      3. Beacon Hill has always seemed like the kind of place where, if I lived there, even if most of what I needed to do was in my neighborhood, I’d be thinking up reasons every day to get off the hill. It feels very cut-off from everything. And I don’t want to live in a neighborhood that makes me want to escape it on a daily basis, great transit or not.

      4. Downtown Redmond is not bad. But, I agree, once you get outside of a couple blocks, there is way too much surface parking everywhere.

        They do have the Sammamish River Trail, though, which is nice. If you work at the Microsoft campus and want and urban areas that combines Link access with a short commute, downtown Redmond makes sense.

      5. The 545 might be going away, but it’s all but a given they’ll be expanding the 542’s runs to pick up a lot of its slack. So there’ll still be frequent service out of Redmond (whether or not it stays at the TC or not).

    3. If Seattle was more focused on vibrant TOD and less opposed to gentrification in the Rainier Valley, there would be plenty of amenities around all Link stations in 2020. Instead, we constrain new development to ensure the station areas are less desirable and therefore naturally affordable. If you want to live in a neighborhood with nice things, you are pro-gentrification.

      Unless the Red Apple has closed, doesn’t Beacon Hill have everything you are looking for? Bank, stores, library, restaurants, are all right there around the station.

      1. It depends on your definition of the word “gentrification”. If people can stay in the neighborhood, but in newer residential spaces, nobody is forced to sell their house, and the various minority populations living in the neighborhood grow, but so does the per capita wealth in the neighborhood, is that still “gentrification”? More importantly, who is against that?

      2. Hilltop Red Apple was open for business the last time I went by there. Fwiw, I love Beacon Hill. My spouse grew up there and my mother-in-law still lives there in the house her family built. Of course, like much of Seattle, folks are being priced out of living there. One of my mom’s neighbors sold their modest, unremodeled, mid-century house last year for just over $800k.

      3. One problem with the assumption that people can freely move to newer development (and I say this as someone who has and will continue to support increased density) is the pernicious racism in the real estate industry. If you’re Black and trying to sell your home, it’s more likely that your property assessment will be lower, that it will be more difficult to get a favorable mortgage, and that your real estate agent will steer you away from particular neighborhoods. I don’t think that this is a reason to avoid up-zones, but it is something that we all need to be aware of so that we can advocate for policies that are just for everyone.

      4. Brent – exactly. Displacement and gentrification are different things, though unfortunately the latter can drive the former. The best way to avoid displacement in a high cost city when a new public good is provided, like a rail station, is to allow for sufficient new development to ensure space for both current and new residents. Building nice things and then blocking new development is a recipe for displacement. Instead, we should be seeking gentrification without displacement, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, because it brings prosperity to those in need, through real improvements like more jobs and better infrastructure plus more intangible goods like ‘higher quality of life.”

        But yeah, ‘gentrification’ is a pejorative term so it kinda means whatever you want to weaponize it against.

      5. So you’re in favor of hard rent controls? Because that’s the only way gentrification doesn’t lead to displacement. Otherwise with new construction and infrastructure in an area landlords will inevitably raise prices, and people will be driven out because they can’t afford to pay more.

        And don’t talk about home ownership when it’s a pipe dream to most young people these days.

      6. Rents are rising because the vacancy rate is below 5 or 10%. So more people are competing for the same number of units, and landlords can raise the rent and take the cream of the crop without having the unit stay empty for weeks until somebody willing to pay that level comes along. When the vacancy rate is at 5 or 10% (I’ve heard conflicting opinions on which one), rents are stable. When they go above that rate for more than a few months, landlords everywhere start offering sales (first month free, 10% off first year, free TV or microwave or Alexa) and then start lowering rents to fill the units. Otherwise they end up with empty units for more than 4-8 weeks, and then they’re getting no income on the unit.

        So we need to build enough units to keep the vacancy rate at 5 or 10%. We should have done this in 2003 when rents started rising, because it’s easier to stave off increases than to roll rents back. Rents like other prices are sticky on the way down because nobody wants to take a loss. That’s why it’s critical to nip a shortage in the bud before it spreads. Seattle failed at it, most of the US failed at it, and San Francisco and Silicon Valley spectacularly failed. Only places like Houston and Dallas and Chicago that allow enough infill or sprawl housing to keep up with population growth avoid the price spikes.

      7. Germany has statewide rent control in all its states. Rents are set to allow a modest but steady profit and rise with inflation. Private developers still build apartments in order to get that steady profit, and because they can’t go just beyond the municipal boundaries to avoid rent control in the same metropolitan area or state. Tenants don’t rush into homeownership because they know their rent will remain predictable and they won’t get priced out in their old age when they can no longer work. So it’s not uncommon to rent an apartment for thirty or fifty years and never have a desire to buy a condo or house. Vienna at least also keeps up with subsidized housing so that nobody is cost-burdened by the gap between their salary and market-rate rents. A third of Vienna’s population lives in subsidized housing.

        So Germany has the good kind of rent control. There’s also a bad kind, which cities like New York and San Francisco and other northeastern cities implemented in the 1970s and 1990s. The rent was not allowed to rise enough for maintenance and a modest profit. It only applied to buildings built before it was enacted, or certain kinds of buildings, or in certain neighborhoods, and only within the municipal boundaries. So as the population continued increasing, and new buildings were not rent-controlled, and controlled buildings were torn down and replaced by non-controlled buildings, an ever shrinking percent of the population had access to a rent-controlled unit, far below the number of people who were cost-burdened. And as market rates went up, more and more people were cost burdened. So those who had or could get a rent-controlled unit were very lucky, and they would never leave it because they couldn’t get a comparable unit. Even if they moved away they’d keep the unit, and some would sublease it, probably in violation of some of the leases. They’d keep the unit in case they ever wanted to go back (and the unit was in a walkable, transit-rich neighborhood they might want to go back to), and maybe some charged more on the sublease than they were paying in rent.

        The solution is to build enough housing so that everyone can have a unit and they won’t bid each other up, and to have rent control in entire metropolitan areas and states so that suburbs can’t evade it. And to make it apply to all apartments no matter when they were built or what kind they are, so that developers can’t evade it by building a different kind of building or at a different time. And to allow a high enough rent that landlords can get a modest profit and pay for maintenance.

        Big Wall Street investors won’t be interested because they want a hedge-fund sized profit and they want the principal repaid in 19 years, and if they don’t get that they’ll leave. Well, good riddance. Smaller and more local developers will take their place, people who are being outcompeted now for parcels.

        There’s also the value of the land. Most of the cost of real estate is in the land. The land’s value is based on how many people want it, since not everybody can be within a half-mile of the Space Needle or have a water view or be close to an urban neighborhood with nightclubs. Especially when the city and suburbs keep failing to build large urban neighborhoods and nimbys get the heights clipped and parking minimums gobble up space, and the city doesn’t allow multifamily housing or row houses on 70% of the residential land, or missing-middle housing and microhousing.

    4. Not criticizing your choices but if I took the criteria as written, living East of the Northgate station seems to fit the bill.

    5. MLK did allow for easier TOD, particularly with Rainier Vista and Holly Park. While Rainier Ave has lots of commercial buildings, most tenants are local-serving — better for a rapid bus or streetcar route with closer stop spacing. Routing light rail on, above or below Rainier Ave would also have been wildly disruptive.

      The current transformation of Rainier Ave between Mt Baker and Judkins Park Stations is major. With a nice hub already at Mt Baker and literally thousands of new units (some with great views) north of it, Rainier Ave will be radically different by 2023 when East Link opens. I see it as the most changed new village in Seattle by then.

      1. I agree, the “North Rainier Urban village” has done well, and will have much better transit access once Judkins opens. To follow Christopher’s criteria, though, there’s isn’t a library within the village.

        My frustration on Rainier TOD is directed further south to Columbia City and Othello; the TOD along MLK doesn’t extend more than a half block away from MLK.

      2. I’ve generally longed for a light rail station concept that includes a high-activity public building incorporated into the design. Libraries, post offices, community centers, museums — even a ballot drop-off box — seem like such a natural fit, especially since most new stations require taking property for construction staging. Imagine a library being the “roof” over a station!

      3. It is possible to ride Link uphill to Beacon Hill library from Mt Baker and easily walk home downhill. It’s much less than a mile away. It’s also not too far from the library at 23rd/ Yesler. Of course, it will be a quick train ride on Link Line 2 (East Link) from Judkins Park to Central Library. A library doesn’t seem that inaccessible.

      4. “I’ve generally longed for a light rail station concept that includes a high-activity public building incorporated into the design…..seem like such a natural fit, especially since most new stations require taking property for construction staging.”

        I so agree. For example, the Roosevelt Station alone resulted in 50% of the property taken ending up as surplus property. If the agency is going to abuse its eminent domain authority in this way, then at least incorporate other public facilities and amenities into the mix.

      5. It’s not abuse. You can’t build anything without a construction staging area that’s larger than what’s being built.

        And, if you don’t want ST doing partial takes, then there’s going to be even more surplus property at the end.

      6. “It’s not abuse.”

        Lol. I expected someone to respond with that sort of nonsense. Taking EXCESS private property for temporary use that ultimately ends up being owned by another private party is abuse of the intent behind our eminent domain statutes. I grew up in NYC and I’ve seen numerous large projects built there in the tightest of quarters. ST is simply lazy and likes to spread out their construction sites akin to how highway projects are often built.

      7. “ST is simply lazy and likes to spread out their construction sites akin to how highway projects are often built”

        It’s called being efficient with taxpayer money. Being more compact means more money and time to build the station, since it’s harder to move stuff around. Expanding the footprint, the cost of the land is immaterial because they’ll eventually get their money back when they sell.

        When the surrounding area is 50 -storey buildings, there’s no choice but to be compact and eat the extra time/construction costs. But when the demolition is just a couple of single family homes and one storey retail, the calculations are different.

      8. No one seems to talk about the construction staging for five DSTT2 tunnel stations through SLU and Downtown. The only significant discussion I’ve seen is around the lower-density International District. I expect a huge issue to emerge about this.

      9. The 2nd tunnel will require ST to be more much efficient about space, and therefore more expensive. I’m guessing that ST has baked some of this into their cost estimates. but as parking lots get converted into towers, ST’s options will get limited and likely will drive costs up.

        NYC has the highest costs of subway construction in the world. There are many reasons behind this, but one of them is a high priority on avoiding real estate takings. The 2nd Ave extension was entirely bored, whereas in most cities around the global at least the station area would have been excavated. A good rule of thumb is that when you are looking at best practices on how to do subway construction, never point to NYC or the MTA.

        ST is explicit about using construction staging to support TOD. This doesn’t necessarily have to involve land taking – at both U District and Montlake terrace I’m aware of lots where ST is leasing the land for several years for staging, paying for the prior structure(s) to be demolished, and then handing the parcel back in a condition to be ready for new private development.

        I understand Tlsgwm concerns about abuse and support them at a conceptual level, and I support what ST is doing … space is needed for construction staging either way, so we might as well structure our construction staging such that parcels are easily

        The point that I object to, and Tlsgwm likely agrees, is that ST will purchase land for construction staging and then surplus it out for affordable TOD, not only subsidizing affordable housing development but guaranteeing affordable housing. I’d rather ST lease the land, persevering scarce transit dollars, and let the market decide how that land is used … if we want that land to become affordable housing, there are other tools aside eminent domain.

      10. “ST is explicit about using construction staging to support TOD.”

        ST changed its policies on TOD, desired footprint size, and surplus property. When Rainier Valley was built during ST1:

        1. ST was neutral on TOD and density. It didn’t want to be pillored by one side or the other if it chose a side. And choosing a side would bring accusations of getting into non-transit issues or being political.

        2. ST kept the construction footprint as small as possible to minimize parcel takings.

        3. ST sold surplus parcels to the highest bidder. This was both to get the maximum return on tax dollars, and because state law required it.

        In the run-up to ST3 it made some changes. This also affected ST2 stations because their station areas hadn’t been set in stone yet.

        1. ST became an advocate for TOD and station-area density. It accepted the transit best-practices argument that station-area density is integral to a more effective transit network, so that more people can live near it and have their destinations near it. It began encouraging cities to upzone. It acknowledged that parking was a worse use of the land than housing and businesses, and it started designing parking garages and lots so they can be converted to housing in the future.

        2. ST allowed a larger construction footprint. The small footprint in MLK resulted in several surplus lots that were too small or irregularly-shaped to be effectively built on, and became useless empty space.

        3. ST lobbied the legislature to change the law on affordable housing, and it did. Now ST is free to choose a less-than-highest bidder if it builds affordable housing, or to donate the land for affordable housing. The ST Board and state and local governments recognized that the most acute problem the state faces is the housing shortage, and prices were continuing to rise, and more and more people were being displaced or becoming homeless, and being forced to live in places far from Link or even a good feeder to Link. (E.g., many people are being displaced to Kent, Renton, and Auburn, and those residents even if they get excellent feeders will still be an hour or more away from downtown even with Link. And those cities are becoming more expensive too, displacing people further to Pierce County. And Pierce County has even worse transit access to the rest of region or its own county, and even after ST3 it won’t be much better.) And it benefits the transit network and the goal of citizens’ mobility if more transit-dependent low-income people can live near Link. So all that led to ST declaring that its first priority for surplus land is getting affordable TOD on it. This affected Capitol Hill Station, which has a significant amount of affordable housing in its four lots. That might not have happened without this change.

        And, you can say 100 or so units is a drop in the bucket compared to the 150,000 unit backlog and years-long waiting list, so only 0.06% of the eligible residents will benefit, but we have to start somewhere, and maybe this can be the first in a lot more affordable housing in Link station areas.

      11. @asdf2
        “It’s called being efficient with taxpayer money…”

        That’s not a legal argument in the context of the agency’s use of its eminent domain authority. The cost efficiency of the underlying project isn’t particularly germane to the central issue of the proper legal exercise of said authority by the condemnor. Our courts here in WA have made that quite clear in multiple cases over the last several decades. Such considerations, while they may be espoused in filings, and even find themselves in the background and/or factual narrative contained in the court’s final opinion, are not relevant to the standard of review the court employs in these kinds of matters, i.e. ones requiring constitutional review.

        I draw your attention to one such case in point, The City of Seattle, Appellant, Sherman Clay & Co., Et Al, Respondents, Case No. 47556-3 (1981). (I would encourage you to read the opinion in full. Spoiler alert: the appellant, Seattle, did not prevail here.)

        In this case, the court made several important and salient points concerning a municipal condemnor’s exercise of its eminent domain authority that are worth reviewing in the context of this discussion.

        Firstly, the court reiterated the key section of our state constitution pertaining to eminent domain:

        “Const. art. 1, § 16 (amendment 9) provides:
        § 16 EMINENT DOMAIN. Private property shall not be taken for private use … Whenever an attempt is made to take private property for a use alleged to be public, the question whether the contemplated use be really public shall be a judicial question, and determined as such, without regard to any legislative assertion that the use is public: …”

        The court then went on to stipulate the standard of review, writing in part:

        “In order for a proposed condemnation to meet the constitutional requirement of Const. art. 1, § 16, the court must find (1) that the use is really public, (2) that the public interests require it, and (3) that the property appropriated is necessary for the purpose. King County v. Theilman, 59 Wn.2d 586, 593, 369 P.2d 503 (1962).”

        The court then discussed these three essential elements, again writing in part:

        “It may be conceded that the Westlake Project is in ‘the public interest’. However, the fact that the public interest may require it is insufficient if the use is not really public. A beneficial use is not necessarily a public use. State ex rel. Oregon-Washington R.R. & Navigation Co. v. Superior Court, 155 Wash. 651, 657-58, 286 P. 33 (1930); Hogue v. Port of Seattle, 54 Wn.2d 799, 825, 831, 837-38, 341 P.2d 171 (1959).

        “Only the constitutions of Arizona, Colorado and Missouri have provisions similar to the Washington State Constitution. Like the Washington Constitution, the question whether the contemplated use be really a public use shall be a judicial question and determined as such without regard to any legislative assertion. Cases from other jurisdictions holding that a legislative pronouncement of public use is controlling, are not helpful.”

        Continuing in their review of this three-prong test, the court then wrote:

        “If a private use is combined with a public use in such a way that the two cannot be separated, the right of eminent domain cannot be invoked. State ex rel. Puget Sound Power & Light Co. v. Superior Court, 133 Wash. 308, 233 P. 651 (1925).

        “Therefore, where the purpose of a proposed acquisition is to acquire property and devote only a portion of it to truly public uses, the remainder to be rented or sold for private use, the project does not constitute public use.”

        In the end, the court rejected the appellant’s argument and affirmed the trial court’s decision.

        While there are certainly differences between the case cited above and ST’s condemnation actions directly related to staging areas-surplus property-TOD takings, the underlying constitutional issues are quite similar, particularly when the condemnor knows that the takings are for expediency and temporary in nature from the outset. The real reason that such condemnations actions are so infrequently challenged by property owners, particularly residential parcel owners, is simple: it’s expensive to litigate and it’s a gamble. Condemnors know this and use it to their advantage time and time again.

        Two final points. Firstly, when I mentioned large projects operating in tight confines in NYC I wasn’t really even thinking of Manhattan (though the point applies there as well) but rather my original home borough of Queens. Secondly, please do let me know what price concessions ST has received on construction contracts, for providing the associated contractors plenty of staging space through additional takings, to back up your previous assertions. I await your response.

    6. Contrast the desire to have light rail next to these amenities, as they existed before light rail, with the need to plan as if the population will grow, and need another really important amenity: housing.

      But the housing planning is based on the idea that there will also be single-family neighborhoods a few blocks away, until the end of time or homo sapiens, so we have to keep the housing height-limited, for shadow reasons, view reasons, “character” reasons, automobile traffic reasons, anti-displacement reasons (which make no sense when the debate is between low-rise and towers), concern trolling about how nobody should have to live in a tower reasons, and well-we-just-built-this-single-story-library-next-to-the-station-so-it-is-too-late-to-build-housing-on-top reasons.

      The stories at the bottom of the post apply just as well to land-use planning as they do to transit planning.

    7. I’ve mostly given up on living within a 5-minute walk of Link, so I’m focusing on areas with a frequent bus feeder. The immediate station areas either have limited housing options or $2000+ rents. I’d put the walkable neighborhoods into tiers:
      1. Large urban villages where you rarely have to leave the neighborhood at all. I see only two: Capitol/First Hill and the U-District.
      2. Villages with all the basics but a more limited choice: Ballard/Fremont, Northgate.
      3. Villages with most of the basics but maybe not all: Lake City, West Seattle Junction, Roosevelt.
      4. Villages with a lot of Asian basics but not as much others: Othello, Rainier Valley.
      Only some of these are near Link.

      I’d want something within 30 minutes of northeast Seattle, so I’d choose Capitol/First Hill, the U-District, Roosevelt, or Northgate. If I didn’t have that preference I’d consider Rainier Valley more. I’m not as interested in Ballard/Fremont or Lake City because of their distance from ST2 Link. I lived in north Ballard and it was a 30-minute overhead to get to a regional transit junction (U-District, Westlake) and I often went outside the neighborhood to my gym, etc. Since then south Ballard has grown so maybe i wouldn’t leave it as much.

      Downtown Bellevue and Redmond have a wide range of amenities but they feel very suburban, as if non-drivers are second-class citizens. You can walk there but it’s not a place you’d want to linger, at least if you’re like me. The Spring District might end up with a variety of amenities; I’m not sure how much it will branch out from its housing-and-offices emphasis.

      My current amenities list (at least what I can remember off the top of my head) is: library, large gym, supermarket, natural foods store, housewares store, hardware store, maybe a wooded park. Twenty years ago i would have added a bookstore, record shop, cafe, and nightclub, but I don’t go to those as much now so I don’t need them in the neighborhood. And it should have frequent transit, preferably 10 minute or better frequency, in multiple directions.

      1. Mike Orr, just a bit curious here. Are you including my old neighborhood of Wallingford in #2 on your list? How about Green Lake?

      2. It depends on whether you consider Wallingford and Greenlake on their own or in the periphery of the U-District and Roosevelt. On their own they’d be at #5: not much beyond a supermarket and library. As part of a larger district they’re in the outer fringe of the walkshed. Asdf2 would happily walk to the station from them every day but 80% of Americans wouldn’t.

        Wallingford has an advantage in being half as far to the U-District as Ballard, or a 10-15 minute bus ride. Its disadvantage is it has a small range of destinations, much less than Ballard. Or jobs for that matter.

        Wallingford does check the box in having an ultra-frequent route to the U-District and Ballard, and a frequent route to downtown/SLU/Rooseveit — that’s all four directions. We can partly add Aurora although the stop is on the periphery, and Northgate via the infrequent 26. (Some have suggested having the 26 and 62 exchange tails, which would give Wallingford 15-minute access to Northgate.)

        65th & Roosevelt is an interesting place, with future Link, the convergence of the 45, 62, and 67, and a variety of eclectic businesses including stereo shops (although Speakerlab and Magnolia have closed) and the Monkey Pub in its periphery. I’d put it high on my list except there’s so little old housing and the new housing is too expensive. If only the six-story buildings had been built twenty years ago, then there would be more housing choices at a more reasonable price.

      3. “I’ve mostly given up on living within a 5-minute walk of Link, so I’m focusing on areas with a frequent bus feeder.”

        Personally, I think it’s better to have a 15 or even 20 minute walk to Link than to have to depend on a bus to get to it, even a frequent bus. Bus case, 5-minute walk, 5-minute wait, and 5-minute ride adds up to 15 minutes to reach the Link Station anyway, and no bus route will ever exceed the reliability of walking. Plus, walking gives you the option to run if you’re short on time, whereas, with the bus, there’s nothing you can do.

        Not to say that frequent bus service isn’t important, but I tend to think of the bus service as something you take to go to different parts of town, where Link doesn’t go, not something you ride for one mile to get to a Link Station to begin every single trip you make out of the house.

        I do think, when choosing a home, that it is critical to pick a location that has, not just one bus route, but multiple all-day bus routes running in different directions, so you have the ability to transit north, south, and east, and west (assuming there isn’t a lake in the way). In some cases, if the local neighborhood and bus service is good enough, you can get away with a bus connection to Link, providing that it’s a trip you make only occasionally, rather than every day.

        For example, I think Fremont/Wallingford would be just fine places to live. If you want to go downtown, you just ride the bus downtown, with bus to Link being only for special cases like going to the airport or (eventually) Northgate/Lynnwood. What you do get in Fremont/Wallingford is lots of shopping and recreational opportunities within a 15/20-minute walk, plus bus service in all four cardinal directions (to the extent that it’s possible without driving through the lake).

      4. “Personally, I think it’s better to have a 15 or even 20 minute walk to Link than to have to depend on a bus to get to it, even a frequent bus. Bus case, 5-minute walk, 5-minute wait, and 5-minute ride adds up to 15 minutes to reach the Link Station anyway, and no bus route will ever exceed the reliability of walking. Plus, walking gives you the option to run if you’re short on time, whereas, with the bus, there’s nothing you can do.”

        I’d want both: a 15-40 minute walk to the station and a frequent bus to it. That way I have a choice between walking and busing, and different days I’d choose different. When I’m energetic, not in a hurry, and want to stop and smell the flowers, I’ll walk. When I’m carrying heavy groceries, tired, or bored walking the same route every day, I’ll take a bus. If the bus is half-hourly, it’s a pain to wait for it, schedule my life around it, or walk because it’s not coming soon enough. It’s fine a few times a year, but not every day twice a day or more for weeks on end. And it severely limits the number of things I can do in a day.

        You used to live contentedly in a transit hole at 25th Ave NE & NE 55th Street, where the nearest full-time routes were all ten blocks away at 15th Ave, 35th Ave, 45th Street, and 65th Street. And going up 15th was up a steep hill. I even saw you riding a push scooter on Rainier Vista to the Montlake freeway station, two miles away. Near the end of that time the 372 became full-time, and frequent only daytime and Saturdays. 55th went from half-hourly to daytime-only to peak-only to no service to daytime-only again. I wouldn’t want that. I’d want to live on 15th Ave, 35th Ave, 45th Street, or 65th Street, or at most a few flat blocks from them.

      5. “Downtown Bellevue and Redmond have a wide range of amenities but they feel very suburban, as if non-drivers are second-class citizens.”

        Northgate Station Walkscore: 81
        Roosevelt Station Walkscore: 89
        Redmond Station Walkscore: 96

      6. Walkscore doesn’t count aesthetics, just physical distance. And it takes a bird’s eye view, even though you can’t walk straight through buildings or blocks or lakes. By “suburban” I mean it’s designed for drivers, has garage entrances everywhere, the exterior features are often oversized, and the entrances are often not in the shortest straight line from the transit center or bus stop but require walking around a corner or through a parking lot. it gives the impression that 80% of the clientele are drivers and it will always be that way, and it’s a place for higher-income people only.

        Compare University Way to downtown Bellevue or Redmond. University Way feels like a pedestrian place were cars are secondarily allowed, and it feels like at least half the people walk in or take transit in. The buildings are small and narrow; there are many storefronts on each block; and the entrances are right on the sidewalk where pedestrians want them. This is like New York, London, and other European cities where less than 50% of the population have cars. In downtown Bellevue and Redmond, buildings are larger-scaled. The parking minimums require more indoor-garage entrances and outdoor garages and parking lots that pedestrians have to walk past with no destinations there. There’s more underused open space, without a bioswale to redeem it. It’s so boring and car-centric most people drive to it and don’t want to linger there.

      7. “I mean it’s designed for drivers, has garage entrances everywhere, the exterior features are often oversized, and the entrances are often not in the shortest straight line from the transit center or bus stop but require walking around a corner or through a parking lot.”

        This describes Northgate quite well, yes. The new developments past 5th Ave are better in that sense, but the area closest to the mall is terrible, that Northgate Landing or whatever it’s called (the one where Target is) is terrible for a pedestrian, what with the only way to enter any storefronts in the back or in the middle of the parking garage, and the mall itself was crazy to navigate around (not through) on foot. And let’s not even talk about how the transit center was at the far end of the area from anything useful, other than I suppose Chipotle and the newest buildings South of the Mall. Crossing I-5 to get to the medical stuff is a nightmare, too, in the same way that crossing 405 is. So let’s not pat ourselves on the back for how much better we urbanfolk are compared to those nasty uncivilized suburbaners. Northgate was the original US mall, after all, it made all the same mistakes Bellevue did.

        For my side, I actually prefer walking around downtown Bellevue vs. Northgate, but mostly because I find the streets a bit better lit (other than 108th South of 4th, which is terrible in that way). The bigger entrance features actually help a bit in that way at night, there’s more light cast on the sidewalks, and most of the parking lots are behind the buildings nowadays, I think. Anyway, at that point it becomes a matter of preference :)

        Having said that, I strongly agree with two points:

        1. Roosevelt area is much more walkable than both Northgate and DT Bellevue, in practice, regardless of what the walking score says. To be fair, what I consider “Roosevelt” is also much smaller than both Northgate and DT Bellevue, but that’s a separate issue.

        2. Being a pedestrian in DT Bellevue at night is potentially very dangerous. I’ve gotten almost run over a couple of times at the intersection of Bellevue Way and 4th, and 108th and 4th isn’t a whole lot better. When I’m in DT Bellevue I’m usually south of 8th so I can’t speak for the North end of downtown, maybe it’s a little better in that sense, but people driving on 4th seem incapable of paying attention to pedestrians when it’s dark and rainy. Strangely, Main St. seems better in that sense, even Main and Bellevue Way which is also a large intersection. And 8th and Bellevue Way is also much better, perhaps because there the traffic patterns are different, I don’t know.

      8. This started out as Christopher Cramer asking where is a good place to live near a current or future Link station, that is close to things like a library, grocery store, bank, pharmacy, gym, etc. I came up with Redmond Station. And Mike, you are honestly suggesting he live on The Ave in the U District? You can’t be serious.

      9. No, I’m saying that I’m disappointed in Redmond and Bellevue. Christopher may be perfectly happy with Redmond. But he said he’s looking into moving from the Eastside to Seattle, so that sounds like he’s not interested in Redmond. In case he overlooked Redmond’s walkable amenities, other commentators have pointed them out. Redmond also has a lot of trails, both to Issaquah and Bothell and smaller ones.

        What most annoys me about Redmond is the number of one-story buildings just two blocks from the transit center, and the low-slung office parks a half-mile west of it (where the 545 turns). I hope the office parks get densified, but they look so recent and well-used that I’m pessimistic. The suburbs have worn me down my entire life and made me pessimistic because it takes so long to change, and even when they do densify they don’t adopt the best practices of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

      10. Northgate is bad like Bellevue of course. Superblocks, large wide buildings, excessive height restrictions. The mall lot is the only one zoned for 200′, and the mall owner doesn’t intend to use all of it, so the neighborhood and the city just lose out on having a New Westminster or Metrotown station area.

        The building Target is in is called Northgate North. I like it. It’s ugly and has huge parking entrances, but it effectively stacks big-box stores on top of each other. If we’re going to have big-box stores, this is the best way to have them. I preferentially go to Northgate North for shoes, computer parts, and sports accessories. And it’s right on the frequent 41! it’s not as easy to get to Southcenter or Alderwood Mall or Factoria. i also like the multistory car dealerships in SODO and the U-District (on Roosevelt/11th) for their same compact footprints.

        The best new news in Northgate is that N 100th Street is one of those closed healthy streets and a greenway. The pedestrian bridge will connect right to it, and the greenway goes all the way west to 1st Ave NW.

        My list of places I might want to move to includes Northgate, along with Roosevelt and the U-District. Northgate does have most of the basics, including a library, community center, 24 Hour Fitness, supermarket, Target-like store, a couple parks, and it also has an unusually large number of shopping choices, and offices you might work in, and medical clinics. All of that is within walking distance of the station. (Except maybe the supermarket. But people won’t come on Link to that QFC when they can go to another QFC that has the same things, like the two near Capitol Hill Station.)

        What I don’t like about Northgate is how these are designed, or the missed opportunities above the buildings. And especially the superblocks.

      11. The reason Northgate isn’t as bad as Bellevue or Redmond is it’s not the largest urban center in the city. In Seattle if you don’t like Northgate there are two larger ones, and several other smaller neighborhoods that have the intimate pedestrian ambience Northgate lacks. In Bellevue and Redmond if you don’t like their downtowns there’s no other choice. The Spring District and Overlake are more of the same, Crossroads is no better, and everything else is car-dependent strip-mall suburban hell.

      12. I cannot speak for Redmond as I never go there, but in Bellevue, I might argue that Old Bellevue/Main Street at least is an example of exactly that smaller neighborhood feel that Roosevelt or Greenlake have. What it misses is a grocery store – closest one is Safeway, about 3 large blocks away. In Green Lake you have PCC nearby, and Roosevelt is anchored by Whole Foods. But if you extend the neighborhood to the southern part of the Downtown Park, the Old Bellevue neighborhood feels very similar to me – just more expensive and with different stores (and yes, that is a non-trivial difference – I can find interesting things in Roosevelt more easily than in Old Bellevue). Also, I agree that the extended downtown Bellevue is not like that, though. And no, there is nothing akin to Capitol Hill in Bellevue, at least. Not entirely surprising as to an extent you need that sort of development to happen organically over a long period of time.

        I feel like in general that’s something we tend to forget in Western US. People often compare Seattle to London or NYC, but NYC is much older than Seattle, and London of course has a couple of millennia on both cities. Even Montreal (another very nice, European-like city) is much more walkable than Toronto in some ways, and that two century difference in age really shows through, IMHO. In comparison to all of those, the West coast is just a toddler, and toddlers need time to develop and mature.

      13. I forgot about Old Bellevue. I used to live a few blocks from there. Yes, it’s smaller scale, the closest to what I’m recommending. Old Bellevue itself doesn’t have the variety of everyday things you need, but downtown Bellevue as a whole is physically walkable and has a lot of amenities. You can live in downtown Bellevue and not have to leave it much.

        Bellevue’s youth is just a lame excuse. It’s policies and design choices that make a neighborhood what it is. Developers can successfully restore old buildings, so the can build new buildings following similar principles. Large-scale, modernist, pedestrian-challenged buildings exist because zoning has outlawed some of the older practices, developers/politicians/citizens don’t understand what they’ve lost, big awe-inspiring buildings express a sense of power and authority, developers think buyers want geometric modernist buildings, banks are only willing to fund what they consider the safest building types and styles, etc. Somebody needs to turn it around and the most effective person would be a mayor with a vision, because they can change the zoning laws and policies and use their bully pulpit to build more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and prioritize pedestrians and independent businesses.

        One issue is narrow storefronts and apartment buildings. These do a lot to create the pedestrian ambience, and five shops on a block means more choices within walking distance. This is the opposite of what large chains and banks want. They want a wide storefront, ideally on two sides, to maximize visibility and minimize competition. So developers and cities that want to attract those kinds of high-paying corporations, that’s the kind of buildings they build, and some of the specs may be written into law. Parking minimums exacerbate it. In mixed-use buildings interior garages are often right behind the first-floor storefronts, so that prevents them from being deep, and that in turn prevents them from being narrow.

        An eclectic set of businesses and bars/clubs also depends on busineses willing to come and fill the storefronts. You can’t just replicate that everywhere, and older neighborhoods have an advantage since they’ve been doing it for so many decades, or did do it before the rise of one-car families and then two-car families. But still, new cities have barely even begun to explore what they can accomplish building new buildings and plazas and parks according to old scaling principles. If they do that, it might take a few decades, but they might succeed in creating their own Capitol Hill or Ballard. And then people who want that kind of thing would have more choices where to live.

        Downtown Redmond does have a lot of small independent businesses I’ve heard (and been to a few of them), so apparently it has emphasized that. Cities have some influence over whether their neighborhoods are full of generic chains the same everywhere in the US, or independent businesses that make the neighborhood unique. (And that people will ride regional transit from another city to go to.)

      14. You can also make a wide building look like multiple narrow buildings with vertical dividers, window spacings and groupings (e.g., 2x2x2 windows across), detailing, etc. Even if it’s still obvious it’s one building pretending to be three, the vertical orientation of each one makes a better atmosphere and gives some of the benefits of narrow buildings, the kind that somebody in the age before automobilies would step out of onto the sidewalk and walk somewhere.

      15. I do not disagree with most of the points you made about it being _possible_ to do. I am simply stating that in practice, the things that you are describing happen organically, not by design, and organic growth of that sort takes time. Sometimes there are leaps forward, like with zoning changes, but even those zoning changes will not drive huge actual changes right away, they will still happen over time. So I am not trying to make an excuse for Bellevue, only to analyze the status quo. I would be interested in seeing examples where planned major infill changes happen quickly and well – even Spring District is a long-term plan and even it will not go as far as I think you would like to see. But if it did happen somewhere quickly (e.g. under a decade), can you provide an example? Since I at least would learn a lot from it.

    8. More on MLK, following on what I wrote above about why MLK and a surface alignment were chosen. Rainier Valley was divided on MLK being surface, underground, or elevated. Some like me wanted it underground so it could run at maximum speed and avoid the inevitable collisions of a surface alignment. Others wanted it surface because the stations are closer to the sidewalk and smaller. Others — the “Save Our Valley” coalition — didn’t want Link at all. They asked ST to build north first and come back to Rainier Valley last. They thought the existing buses were perfectly adequate, and Link would just bring gentrification and displace businesses with no benefit. Never mind that it took 45 minutes to get from Columbia City to UW on the 48, or almost as long from south Rainier to downtown on the 7 or 106X.

  3. Bad habit here: Over-Blowing the amount of things getting Blown, especially if the “B” word translates into “Forever Doomed.” Definition of “Alas!” should also be limited to the Scottish word for “A girl!”

    A better way to look at current SF events might be some transit-oriented walks along the N Judah to see if any “STOP” signs might become preemptable signals when COVID’s OVER. Present delays could be tailor-made for serious hands-on real-world planning on many fronts.

    Has a single foot of MUNI grooved rail been paved over? Has the Central Subway Expansion been “canceled,” either for real or twitter-wise? San Fran’s a big transit-positive city, and not a poor one. Like Joe Hill said before they shot him, “Don’t mourn for me, Organize!”

    And Erica, you’re a powerful force for non-automotive good here. But scooters needing business plans, law-enforcement, and getting chucked into dumpsters by people that trip over them, sort of defeats the purpose of something a kid can make with a board, some pipes, and a roller skate. Probably a battery too now, but don’t Fred Meyer’s or Target have those?

    Ferry news, though, makes me proud I used to live in Skagit County. With historic precedent already in mind because my car so often gets traffic-trapped on I-whatever, let’s make the National Defense Public Transit Act include electric jet-boats. Joe, promise I’ll vote for you if you leave this one to Kamila. Nasty’s sometimes Necessary.

    Mark Dublin

  4. KAMala. Who at this point in time is UNBELIEVABLY necessary, and not just for transit.


  5. I’m seeing commuting on rail transit as an important backdrop for the Biden campaign. Are there interviews or other videos from any local or state Washington elected officials that include presenting regular transit use? I want to know which elected officials regularly use transit rather than merely talk about it.

    I often rue that our state capitol is not within walking distance of a rail station like our national capitol is for that matter. Solving that isn’t easy — involving massive rail construction or a capitol building relocation — but it remains a concept that has merit for democracy.

    1. Biden talks about an infrastructure bill to rebuild our “roads and bridges” but forgets to mention transit. He did commute on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, but how much will that translate to a major increase in transit funding and making federal regulations more transit-friendly?

      And “Buy America” needs an exception for rail/trolleybus/bus vehicles or some other bright idea so that we can get world-class transit vehicles at world-standard prices. Right now the North American transit market is too small for companies to build the range of products available in the rest of the world at economy-of-scale prices.

      1. If Buy America is viewed as a long-term investment in rebuilding manufacturing infrastructure in the US, then the investment opportunities (for society) may be worth the up-front cost.

        I make no claim of this view being likely to pan out, but it is worth thinking about the balance between the two competing approaches to improving society. One might argue (quite convincingly) that we do need both.

        To make the case for the other side, yes, it is unlikely we will get both, and this being a transit blog, we should fall on the side of getting good transit. I am not sure I buy it though. Transit is a means to an end, more so than manufacturing infrastructure is, IMHO of course.

      2. If the transit policy (well the train part) he outlined came to be AND all sections of it agree to buy the same models then I could see passenger train manufacturing return to the US.

        But if it continues to be everyone buys their own slightly different models in small quantities then it makes no sense to build a factory in the US to build them.

        It’s a classic chicken or the egg problem. Either we build enough new routes to justify manufacturing in the US or we build manufacturing in the US and hope localities build new routes.

        Its arguably easier and faster to build new routes first, buy the trains from Europe or Japan for the first set. Then hopefully their will be enough routes running to justify opening a factory in the US to service the new fleet and eventually add/replace trains as we go forward into the future.

      3. J.S., thank you for the thoughtful comment.

        Just to make it a little more explicit: if the goal is to rebuild the manufacturing industry in the US because this leads to less hollowing of the middle class, then doing so at the cost of more expensive transit may in fact yield better overall results with respect to the target of improving the standard of living for the below-upper class (i.e. growing the middle class to where those who are in levels of income below it get the chance to have a better life again).

        My argument is that both an improvement of manufacturing in the US and improved transit can help achieve this goal, and my sense is that manufacturing improvements are more likely to contribute more in the long run, though it is just intuition and not based in any study or analysis. The intuition is that it is better to make tangible things (i.e. something that can be sold for profit to others who have more money) than to provide the tools to get to other places that may make tangible things or not, because the money exchanged is more directly associated with the people performing the production. But this is also predicated on other assumptions, like good/robust organization of the workers, co-ownership/ownership interest in the manufacturing, etc. So there are a lot of obstacles along the way. But that is the argument I was trying to make, in any case, so hope that that clarifies things a little better.

      4. “He did commute on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, but how much will that translate to a major increase in transit funding and making federal regulations more transit-friendly?”

        That’s a great question. As I sit here today, I can’t help but ask where is the Con’s (and their leader in the Oval Office) big national infrastructure bill? They’ve had control of the Senate since the 114th Congress and control of the WH since the start of the 115th Congress. We are now in the entering the final months of the 116th Congress. (I guess Moscow Mitch has hidden it away in the Senate bunkers along with the Con’s ACA Replacement Plan.)

        A good starting point for a new administration, absent an actual big infrastructure stimulus bill, would be to level the playing field a bit with regard to the regular transportation funding portion in the annual THUD appropriation. In other words, let’s see a transformational shift to funding transit modes at a significantly higher level than the current status quo. However, we won’t get to see such a change in approach, at least from the point of view of the executive’s proposed budget, until a new administration is starting its second year.

      5. “If Buy America is viewed as a long-term investment in rebuilding manufacturing infrastructure in the US, then the investment opportunities (for society) may be worth the up-front cost.”


        Both foreign and domestic manufacturers say the US transit market is not large enough to build a mainstream factory. This is a barrier we hit again and again with metro rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, and trolleybuses. They will only build special-purpose factories scaled for the trickle of contracts they get, with has-been technology and high prices. Then there are the networks that aren’t even considered because the companies won’t build large-scale factories for potential work and cities won’t pursue the projects because the factories aren’t there, and going outside the US disqualifies them from federal grants.

        The Portland streetcar company tried to buck the trend by setting up a local factory for the Portland and Seattle streetcars and, it hoped, a larger streetcar revival. It licensed an obsolete Czech model, which the Czech company was happy to license because it was out of date and wouldn’t get other orders for it anyway. That Portland company, after several years of a vailant attempt, went out of business so I heard. (The way Portland and Seattle stunted their streetcars with mixed traffic and short stations didn’t help; it meant they couldn’t run at their potential.)

      6. I do agree that Buy America should have an exception for transit projects. It is basically an unfunded mandate that makes transit projects all over the country cost far more than they should.

        I get the justification – that you need the votes of the steelworkers who have disproportionate representation in the “swing states” that decide presidential elections. (And, by contrast, not enough people in swing states care about transit to matter). But even then, most of the profit from “Buy America” likely goes to the steelworkers’ bosses, not the steelworkers, themselves.

        As much as I distaste “buy America” rules, I’m willing to accept it, for now, as a necessary evil in order to win elections. If we could just get rid of the electoral college, getting rid of arbitrary rules like this would be much easier.

      7. If we could just get rid of the electoral college, getting rid of arbitrary rules like this would be much easier.

        Yep, if we fundamentally change the system that created the “United States” it would be much easier to push thru an agenda of the most populous States. Basically NY and CA tell everyone else how to think. And if that doesn’t work you pack the Supreme Court.

      8. “Basically NY and CA tell everyone else how to think.”

        New York and California do not more a majority of this country, and not anywhere close. They would not be able to dictate policy to the rest of the country.

        In any case, a system that represents everybody equally means one vote per person, not one vote per square mile, or giving special out-of-proportionate weight to people that happen to live in one of a handful of “swing states”.

        The electoral college is an antiquated system, albeit enshrined in the constitution and almost impossible to change. The only reason it continues to exist is that the Republican party depends on it to overcome their status of being a permanent minority and win elections.

      9. The United States is fundamentally a republic and a democracy. The Electoral College was a compromise to get the small and rural states on board. It’s unfair because it gives equal votes not to people, who experience the pleasure and pain of the laws and policies, but to “states”, which are an abstraction, and the people who ultimately benefit are the few in each state’s government. The founders’ concept of democracy was clearly incomplete, as the same constitution counted slaves as 2/3 of a person and denied them and women and non-landowners voting rights. Today we have a more complete concept of democracy and extend the constitution’s rights to all of them, and nobody who should be taken seriously suggests we should revoke voting rights from blacks or women or non-landowners because the founders didn’t extend it to them. So by the same token the Electoral College should evolve into a more complete democratic system.

        California has a quarter of the US population. New York City is the largest city but it has only 9.3 million people out of 328 million, or 3% of the population. Its metropolitan area is split across three states, which dilutes its influence in the Electoral College.

        To reach 5%+1 of the population you’d have to take the nime most populous states, which are, in order: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina. Three of those are blue states, three red, and three swing. And the top three states are blue, red, and swing too.

        The Electoral College temporarily benefits Republicans, but it permanently benefits small and rural states. Party platforms change, urban residents’ values change, rural residents’ values change, the parties sometimes exchange viewpoints and members with the other party, but through it all, the Electoral College’s beneficiaries of the Electoral college are small and rural states. And that’s offensive to the principle of “One person, one vote”, which is a pillar of a complete democracy as it’s currently understood.

      10. The Electoral College is really not that hard to reform. It was reformed when the “other people” were given suffrage, so no longer giving voters in slave states automatically more voting power per capita. Okay, that was hard and bloody. Let’s not ever have to do that again.

        But the compact among the states for direct popular election of the president? A small group of advocates is making it happen, and they just need states controlling another 84 electoral votes to get there. Colorado’s entry is on the ballot in November as a referendum. The vote will probably come down roughly along party lines.

        Will it empower any state? Not really. It will empower people. One person. One vote. What a concept! Washington voters will finally be relevant.

      11. I have read about the National Popular Vote Compact and, unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hope in it actually happening. The simple reason why is that politics is a zero-sum game, so politicians are for it or against it based on whether it would help or hurt their party in the short term, not out of sense of fairness regarding what is right for the long term. You can’t get to 270 with only states under the control of one particular party. Even if the political winds someday shift so that the national popular vote benefits the Republicans, you’ll just see Democratic states that previously opted in opt out and it still won’t get to 270.

        It probably won’t happen, but the only way I can think of to switch to a national popular vote, in a way that is both durable and takes all the politics out of the decision would be to do it via constitutional amendment, but have it not take affect for a minimum of 150 years. The idea of such a long delay being that, by the time the amendment would go into effect, everybody alive today would be long dead and that the political winds over a 150-year timescale would be so unpredictable that guessing who would come out ahead or behind under such a system would be nearly impossible.

        But, even something like that, I don’t think would stand a chance against today’s political gridlock. If whoever proposes it happens to be from party X, the people in party Y will be suspicious that it’s an evil plot to subvert their electoral power. If somebody from party Y proposes it, people in party X will be suspicious. Either way, it would never get the support of 2/3 of the house and senate and 3/4 of the states.

      12. Hey guys! The “Buy America” and electoral college topics are interesting — but I’m specifically asking about whether candidates have a visible user familiarity about transit. Understanding how transit operates is basic to many public policies that affect it.

        How many local elected officials prominently claim “I ride Link every day” or “I ride Metro every day” as part of their advertising? How many have made campaign videos with them using transit? How many have spent a few hours meeting constituents at transit stations? These kinds of experiential qualifications are what I’m interested to know.

      13. No, not enough voters care about transit. When Joni Earl was CEO of Sound Transit she commuted on Sounder from Puyallup and talked about it. No other local politician has talked about their transit commute or how they ride transit a lot that I’ve heard. The closest is Rob Johnson, Mike McGinn, and Logan Bowers (who lost in the 3rd district); they prioritized transit in their rhetoric but I didn’t hear much about them using it. Claudia Balducci and to a lesser extent Dow Constantine also talk up transit, but I haven’t heard them talk about using it themselves. In the 43rd district legislative primary somebody prioritized transit; I forget his name, but again he didn’t talk about using it.

        One of the New York mayors rode the subway to work. There was some flack because his limo dropped him off at the station so he could be seen riding the subway part of the way, rather than a 100% carless commute. And somewhere, I don’t remember if it was New York or London, a pastor vists his parishoners on transit. I wish transit here were at a level pastors could do that, and that cars had a <50% mode share so that transit seemed like a natural thing to do, and one that voters would reward you for riding it in a campaign message.

  6. Suggestion for you, Christopher. If you’ve got a car, follow Rainier Avenue through Rainier Beach, continuing past where the Route 7 trolleywire turns uphill toward its Prentice Street terminal.

    And from there, along the lake shore all the way to Renton. The way the Route 7 used to go before it had tires. In DSTT’s early days, on its original routing, Route 107 was one of my favorites. Not only pretty along the lake, but its route into Renton via 84th Avenue took it through a very nice neighborhood that’s surely still there.

    Link’s choice of light rail, which to me means “able to handle street-rail curves” means that a switch onto Henderson just north of Rainier Beach station and a couple others through Rainier Beach itself, could put every other Link train on the route of its roots. For a hundred years, streetcars always neighborhood-friendly.

    Or, with its own lanes signals and wires, Route 7 Renton could replace “Essential Only” on the front sign. Because, remember:

    No law an “artic” trolleybus can only have one accordion.

    Sea-Tac Airport? Can’t prove it, but pretty sure ST’s “Original Intent” called for straight-shot south from SODO Station, with major stop at King County International Airport AKA Boeing Field. If short-runway jetliners come current, could be a lot of call for six-minute Link headways to change airlines between those airports.

    Same as for COVID and the rest of whatever follows…we’re just barely getting started.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The thing about transit lines along a waterfront, especially at the foot of a hill is this: Amazing awesome views! Itty-bitty walkshed.

      Of course, a coastal route at the foot of a hill also has an itty-bitty NIMBYshed, so you get some of the most chaotic land uses, but also lots of mid-rise condos. To the extent the neighbors get involved, it is so that they all have places to park their cars on the public asphalt, for free… and often with the sort of parking lots they would not want close to their own houses. Either way, none of the players in suburban coastal land-use chaos tend to be a good source of ridership.

      One exception, though, is Alki Beach. During non-pandemic times, the 30-footer route 50 buses just didn’t cut it. Alki Beach was by far the most popular stop on the line. Metro proposed having route 128 go there instead, and backed down for some reason. I hate to think that it was because some neighbors thought that bus would bring the “wrong” people to Alki Beach… like kids who would like to get jobs working at the Alki Beach restaurant row, or hang out at the beach, because it is public property.

      1. Brent, I’m not talking about just any Waterfront. I’m talking about the one whose excellent streetcar connection with Pioneer Square, and Sea-Tac Airport via IDS, I watched get erased from reconstruction plans literally rendering by rendering. With no public input whatsoever.

        So just for that, Mike, since in their healthy days the world’s waterfronts generally make close presence of operating machinery their main tourist attraction, that’s exactly where I want our PCC-Revival plant to locate.

        Sending its every new car off the production line and into service where passengers can board it and head for the world via IDS and Sea-Tac, bell, whistle and all. What in Perdition’s name were we doing with all that overcomplicated (redundancy) European junk in the first place?

        No chance that, especially in places like Oslo and Gothenburg that knew better but had to buy Breda anyhow, Old World peoples would be down on their knees for the chance to buy the civilian steel-wheeled update on the WWII jeep?

        Business-Plan Planning? Same as I said for scooters. What Government programs are FOR in a democracy like ours is that what nobody can make a profit manufacturing, We (the People) all form a worker-owned cooperative and produce locally at cost!

        Pretend its a weapon or a “Woo Hoo!”-free WAMU, and let the balance sheet speak for itself. His dedicated support for streetcars was probably the only item in his treasonably royalist politics that was enough to earn the late Paul N. Weyrich the right to call himself “Conservative.”

        Like NPR always says, though….”We’re required to state that the late The New Electric Railway Journal did print an article by Mark and another Employee Advisory Committee member in (I think) Spring 1993.”

        Guilty as charged. If I drop my whole Chinese portfolio, can I not get “canceled” and be found floating in the Yangtze River?

        Mark Dublin

    2. No law an “artic” trolleybus can only have one accordion.

      Back in the day, Mark, how much extra would they have had to pay you to drive a double-articulated bus?

      1. Brent, let me put the wage issue it this way. I’ve mentioned that Metro’s DSTT engineers seriously considered putting Route 7’s single accordion 4000-series sixty footers in the tunnel, with wired ramps out of IDS to “trail in” at Rainier and Dearborn.

        DSTT is all single-wired now at railcar voltage. But if the current Convention Center addition has room in the basement for a turntable with a retractable roof-top battery charger for the bus and wiring “pans” to raise poles at Rainier and Dearborn….

        Since everybody knows what happens to people who get things for “Free”, it’ll be my fault when Dow and the whole King County Council cause fare increases and service cutbacks to control their ridership by becoming homeless.

        So my only hope for driving “Route 7 Prentice MD” will be to crowd-source my wages. Erica, if you can talk me through this doing this, I’ll also use what I collect to reimburse you for that $124 ORCA tap-crap. That I’ll pay Tim Eyman to steal a you a chair to get even for.

        Mark Dublin

    3. Forward Thrust would have gone through the industrial district to Renton. (SeaTac airport was not considered a major destination yet.) So the presumption in the 80s was the same. But in the 1990s with Link, ST routed it through Rainier Valley in order to make it more competitive for a federal grant because it was serving a lower-income, diverse area. This was at a time when most major transit projects bypassed such areas, so it would make Link unusually competitive. Rainier Valley was already starting to gentrify, so it was clear that in twenty years it would no longer be working-class or as diverse, but that’s a catch-22. Either you build the infrastructure and it’s no longer lower-income, or you don’t and people have to suffer with minimal transit and lack of access to jobs.

  7. Christopher Cramer’s comment gave me an idea for a future blog post. Link Station Walkscores. Put the addresses of all current and future Link stations into Walkscore, then rank them, from best to worst.

  8. It takes some guts to talk about race when it comes to transit planning and models. After a Title VI lawsuit in LA, their suburban-focused rail program was called into question as the whole planning and analysis process rewarded white choice riders over minority captive riders (forced onto overcrowded buses) in many ways — public input, metrics to value choice riders more, projects packaged to get majority voter support rather than productivity, even the concept of “geographic equity” with property tax and sales tax revenue tracking.

    Our most pronounced example is with ST3. Even within the artificially designated subareas, rail is getting built to serve white choice riders over minority captive ones in most of each subarea. Then ST3 pawns off an equity analysis for WSB saying that low-income neighborhoods won’t be negatively affected by construction — which is a complete contradiction of the issue! Low-income neighborhoods SHOULD be affected by construction — of new rail stations!

    1. Al S., about the racism, no argument. But from what I’ve been seeing since COVID’s onset, I think there’s a good chance that across racial lines, inequality will take care of itself when everybody’s reaches zero. And when debt’s factored in, a lot less.

      While it’s easy to suspect that the Democratic National Committee is afraid to mention Franklin Roosevelt for not being a Moderate….I think it’s mostly because nobody on staff is old enough to remember him. Also no accident how much “ideology” and “idiocy” sound alike. If worker-owned cooperatives are socialist, worldwide a lot of bus owner-operators, fishing boat captains, and farmers are working too hard to either notice or care.

      Probably real reason our country has so few of them. Customers sweat less than owners. Only way credit unions survived was by adopting private banking’s generosity. Used to be, your credit score counted for a lot less than the assessment of six of your fellow factory workers on the Credit Committee as to what you could afford.

      So by the balance sheet itself, we the taxpayers paying people to perform work that our whole country desperately needs is Heaven’s own definition of…… “Conservative!” And liberals should be proud to say so.

      Here in STB-land, what could better empower the people you’re defending than a chain of ST’s that can pay them good wages to build and operate? And if that’s bad-balance sheet for Automation Inc….

      From what I can see, a lot of really good workers are being hired now, however bad the benefits, wages, and protection, because in the face of COVIDIA herself, a lot of systems, programs, and apps finally fell the rest of the way apart.

      Oncoming generation, whatever we can GIVE them, they’re already more than EARNING.

      Mark Dublin

    2. A lot of the problems with race and transit planning stem from the history of segregation. Every particular bus route is going to inherently be more useful to those that live along the route, so the segregation makes every bus route a “black” route or a “white” route, leading to these zero-sum funding battles.

      The article argues that suburban expresses are racist because they tend to serve mostly white neighborhoods, while getting less ridership per dollar than all-day service running back and forth in the inner city. However, that assumes the premise that the “fair” outcome is distributing county-wide service among the entire county to maximize ridership.

      One could just as easily argue that the “fair” outcome is that every neighborhood deserves service in proportion to the tax dollars its residents pay into the system, with ridership maximization happening only within each neighborhood’s service. Under the latter system, you end up with a lot more suburban service, and the type of suburban service that achieves (assuming no COVID) the best ridership is peak expresses.

      Which version of service is the most “fair” is ultimately a subjective question subject to debate, and I don’t think it’s fair that if one of the two service patterns happens to result in better service for more people of color, that automatically makes the a decision in favor of the other one racist. I can say that many suburban neighborhoods, if their transit tax dollars simply paid for local bus routes in the inner city that they’d never ride, they would ask their leaders to simply secede from the transit district altogether, so some system that ties service to each subarea with the tax dollars the subarea pays in is probably necessary to generate the political will to keep the system funded and running.

      Going back to the race issue, the root cause for most of these problems if the legacy of segregation. In an ideal world where people of all races live in all neighborhoods proportionately, any allocation of transit service is inherently non-racist because, wherever you choose to run it, the racial composition of its riders would be exactly the same. Unfortunately, we don’t have that ideal world today, but we can at least try to get closer to it by ending exclusionary policies like parking minimums and single-family zoning.

  9. Re: Jefferson Transit not cutting service, I see this in the article:

    “As the COVID-19 pandemic forced a partial economic shutdown in late March, Jefferson Transit responded by closing in-person customer service, cutting on-the-road service by 60 percent, mandating backdoor boarding for most passengers and stopped collecting fares to reduce its drivers’ exposure to the virus. ”

    I took to mean “on-the-road service” as actual transit service, not ancillary services. So the article does suggest they had major cuts. Can anyone help me understand what I am misinterpreting?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. What does Mercer Island want?

      “the council is in contention about the new curb cuts to accommodate bus layovers along North Mercer Way that fail to meet the terms of the settlement agreement, according to the letter….”

      I’ve heard of curb cuts as in the rounded corners at intersections. Pugetopolis’ curves are moderate, while some city have curves so deep that pedestrians have to walk sideways to and from the crosswalks. This is so that fire trucks and drunk drivers can turn the corner at 50 mph without hitting anything. It makes local streets like freeways, which completely ignores pedestrians’ needs. Are these curb cuts something like this, or does it refer to an in-lane or out-of-lane bus stop somehow? If so, what’s wrong wit the design, or what’s allegedly wrong?

      “… There’s also the safety issue once light rail is up and running with a multitude of bicyclists and pedestrians intermingling with cars and buses next to a packed park and ride.”

      What’s the problem? Pedestrians getting in front of cars or cars getting in front of pedestrians? Is it worse than an average station P&R? What does Mercer Island want? A pedestrian bridge? Is this intermingling really as bad as Mercer Island makes it out to be? I catch buses at the Northgate, Renton, Kent, and other transit centers with large P&Rs and I haven’t had a problem with being able to cross the street or the sidewalk being too thick with people or whatever the concern may be. The parking structure is depressing and offensive and takes time to walk around, but other than that it’s not a significant impediment or safety hazard. As for cars having to wait for throngs of pedestrians and bikes crossing the street, boo hoo.

      1. Mike, any figures on the oncoming age-range of the average Mercer Islander? Because Evolution’s got a cure for impacted seniority. It’s called Natural Selection.

        Maybe it only seems like a lifetime, but the amount of wear that electorate’s attitude to our region’s most generous gift has inflicted on my temper tells me that, like in that beautiful song, “A Change Is Gonna Come!”

        What do you think, Christopher? If that Renton-bound trolleywire along the lakeshore is going to spoil your view, any chance a nearby island would solve your problem? Since Mercer Island really did once have ferry service, a jet-foil in ST livery could be in your future!

        Mark Dublin

      2. Well, several things are going on here:
        1) Mercer Island wants strict adherence to the 2017 settlement agreement, namely:
        1a) No pickup/dropoff of passengers on the north side of N Mercer Way. So all buses would have to circulate through the roundabout first, then drop off on the south side of N Mercer Way.
        1b) No bus layover except during peak, and then only for 15 minutes or less
        2) There are also more generalized concerns not really related to the settlement agreement
        2a) Bicycle wayfinding and safety at the roundabout at 77th Ave SE and N Mercer Way
        2b) Generalized pedestrian and bicycle safety concerns, some of which are related to ST’s preferred configuration (north side dropoffs, for example) and others that aren’t (bicycle access to the station entrances, present conflicts between pedestrians and bicycles at the existing bus stop on the north side of N Mercer Way adjacent to the P&R)
        3) A fundamental difference in view on the utility and benefits of the light rail station. This manifests in the various discussions about station access, parking, safety, who uses light rail, etc. This isn’t everyone on Mercer Island (most likely it is a very vocal minority), but it is enough to make a lot of noise and get the attention of both the City Council and (sometimes) the media. Some people would call it concern trolling at best, or a blatant expression of white suburban privilege at worst. Others would call it sticking up for legitimate concerns of the community. YMMV.

      3. @Mike Orr
        Here’s some background on the issue with the bus integration plan for MI.

        There are some important embedded links in this article to check out as well, particularly the link to the 2017 settlement agreement and Metro’s letter to ST from May 2019 raising their operational objections.

        This is the big one that MI says is in direct violation of the settlement agreement:
        “4.2 The Elimination of Layover, Pick-up, and Drop-off on the North Side of North Mercer Way is Unworkable….”

        Metro was not a party to the agreement and hence ST messed this up by not consulting with them before signing off on the agreement. Hence, we have the current impasse and pending litigation.

      4. Oh, another related document that readers may want to check out is
        “Mercer Island Transit Connection Area
        Summer 2020 online open house response and comments”. I don’t have a direct link but one should be able to find it online easily enough.

    2. I’m often left wondering how much of the MI controversy is driven by ST hard-headedness about design tweaks, how much is driven by lingering resentment of losing their express lane, and how much is driven by an irrational generalized fear of transit riders (noting that the bus riders using the station will be from affluent Eastgate and Issaquah and not some residents’ “feared” low income POC riders from SE Seattle). I’m sure each is a factor and it probably varies from person to person.

      Arguments that a few buses are destructive when delivery trucks and construction vehicles are acceptable unfairly demonizes certain large vehicles, especially when Routes 550 and 554 are getting removed from MI streets when East Link opens. The “bad vehicle” argument is embarrassingly bogus.

      I’m also not sure what a lawsuit would gain. The first question of any dispute is “what do you want?” rather than merely suing. If MI just wants to remove buses off their commercial district streets, they should take that stand and reveal themselves to be the closet racists — a term appropriate when local transit-riding residents are considered “safe” but anyone else who rides transit are considered “suspicious” — that they are!

  10. Well, Jason and Al, considering how close that spectacular mountain looks from I-90, I think this is really a very personal matter of view appreciation. An early Chicago childhood aboard electric rail both light and heavy made me really fond of seeing the world out the window roll by at seventy.

    But I can also completely understand how someone could truly love sitting awestruck gazing at Rainier through a completely stationary car windshield for a couple of hours at a time. Either way, though, still curious about my original point here.

    Both sides of this particular argument have one thing in common. The longer they’ve been fighting with each other, the less time they have left to keep on doing it. That mountain belongs to a universe whose views on term limits are a lot stricter than those of Speaker Tom Foley’s opponent who upon defeating him, stayed forever.

    Sooner rather than later, the officials for whose departure the pandemic is holding the door will be replaced by the graduation-free graduates who through no choice of their own are already writing their life’s whole syllabus and PhD thesis.

    “Demographic” sounds to much like “Demagogue”, one of which on the National scene is currently enough. So let’s just cut to the chase. What I want to know is what their present electoral statistics show about how soon Mercer Island can have its historic ferry service restored, aboard a skimming low-altitude electric jetliner.

    Mark Dublin

  11. The 11 is on a long-term reroute on John Street between Broadway and 15th. This is the same routing as the temporary reroutes during the protests. Pine Street is closed between 11th and 12th, although pedestrians can still go through on the north side. The sidewalks in front of the precinct building on two sides are closed. When I was walking past I saw somebody sweeping up what looked like broken glass in the middle of the street. (I was walking my rolling cart full of plants from City People’s Garden Store.)

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