This is an open thread.

78 Replies to “News roundup: slipping”

  1. The Rainier Valley land donation article has very little info, including nothing about which land is being donated, to whom it will be donated, what sort of TOD might be allowed, etc. Any better sources?

      1. The article says up to 150 units could be built, but that presumably would be with the current car-oriented zoning. Most of the parcels are directly on MLK. With more reasonable zoning, a lot more than 150 units could be built.

      2. I’m pretty sure that the zoning for all of these parcels is not Single Family. It is for much of Rainier Valley, but not along the light rail line.

        There is a total of 71,000 square feet. In comparison, the “Station at Othello Park” apartment building at Othello is 81,000 square feet, and has 351 units. So I would expect more units (somewhere around 300 or so). Maybe it is because these are chopped up, and it is tougher to build that way. Maybe there will be more of a mix — some townhouses, some apartments. Maybe not all of it will be low income housing (it is common to have a mix of low income and market rate housing). Hard to say — I think it would make for an interesting article if someone dug into it.

    1. The housing could be handled as I’ve been advocating, especially in places on the verge of expanding development.

      Instead of following the leading edge of growth, have both transit and the people it serves already be there when the rest of the action arrives.

      “Streetcar Suburbs” will not lose anything if they call themselves “Light Rail Suburbs” instead. Last time it was tried, it definitely worked.

      And as a Transit blog, we can be honest about something else. With every passing year…..

      Fewer negative votes. And since Lake Washington Institute of Technology already has a funeral services program, both Engineering Graphics and automotive maintenance should have shop space to pioneer a truly classic revival.

      Mark Dublin

    2. These are, by and large, the awkward fenced triangle lots next to MLK, though a few are sizable. They’re intended for homeownership opportunities, targeted to 65-80% AMI (so $50-60k for a single person or $70-88k for a family of four). The sites are being transferred to Seattle’s Office of Housing, who will issue an RFP for the sites sometime in Spring 2021. They’re mostly zoned LR3, allowing apartments and townhomes up to 4 stories, but some are NC-55, allowing mixed-uses and up to 5 stories.

      Though spot rezoning for affordable housing in the Rainier Valley is pretty darn easy (unlike Greenwood), most of the sites are not really large enough to be feasibly redeveloped at a significantly larger scale than the current zoning. And, at any rate, the public dollars available for affordable homeownership are extremely limited, so it’s going to take roughly a decade to develop all the sites.

      If you went for all condos, the community engagement report indicates you could fit ~220 units on the sites collectively. But there’s an inherent trade-off between maxing out the number of units and building homes with more bedrooms, which might hold a comparable amount of people.

      Here’s the community engagement report, with more details:

      1. The best value for some of the triangle lots is if they can be developed alongside adjacent parcels. Hopefully the RFP process can unlock that value by enticing developers to bundle these parcels with privately owned ones to create some mixed income development. May not increase the number of affordable bedrooms but should increase the total number of bedrooms created.

      2. If you went for all condos, the community engagement report indicates you could fit ~220 units on the sites collectively.

        Yeah, that’s not a lot more units. I think what they are building is a reasonable balance, especially given the historic economic demographics in the area.

  2. Yohan refers to Measure-RR at “1/8 cent sales tax,” which matches Caltrain’s PR verbiage, and Seattle’s TBD as “1-cent” … but isn’t Measure-RR 0.125% and Seattle TBD is 0.1%/0.15%. So would it be more accurate to refer to Seattle’s as “0.15 cent tax”?

    1. ARCH is an eastside affordable housing cooperative most of the eastside cities partner with, both for an annual administrative contribution (non-discretionary) and a contribution to the affordable housing trust (discretionary), based on various factors like size and commercial revenue, because many of the cities are too small and have too little in house experience or affordable land to create meaningful affordable housing.

      Mercer Island for example contributes anywhere from $83,000 to $125,000 each year. Unfortunately the contribution formula benefits small but wealthy cities like Medina or Hunts Point which contribute less than $10,000 annually.

      One of the goals of ARCH was to subsidize affordable home ownership so lower income individuals could build equity (apparently forgetting 2008–2014 when markets went down), and build pride of ownership in multi-family buildings.

      The first problem was state law on warranties on new condo construction had a very long tail and so it was very difficult for builders to get insurance (negligent condo boards would ignore capital maintenance, and when a large assessment was needed turn around and sue the builder 15 years later, who would then tender the defense to their insurance company). Under the state law a developer could rent out the units for three years and then sell them as condos and avoid the warranty on “new” construction.

      This led to a flood of apartments being built to avoid the warranty, and priced out a lot of smaller and local developers/builders who could not afford to hold onto ownership of the units for three years before they were sold. So mostly very large REIT’s (and Chinese) were the developers. For more expensive areas the new construction was lower end than many residents wanted — especially to downsize — because they had to be rented out for three years. No one puts a Viking range and refrigerator into a rental, and more importantly sound proofing of walls was often poor which is a big deal for someone moving from a single family house.

      One of the statistics that bothers me is over 50% of all Seattle residents are renters, and will never realize any gain from property (which is why I support a limit on the number of rentals any individual can own in Seattle, like the restrictions for Airbnb’s, although the recent residential zoning in Seattle went the opposite direction). Usually large multi-family complexes that have at least a mix of owners and renters are better run and better places to live, and of course many private condo associations restrict the number of renters.

      State Rep. Tana Senn led the move to change the warranty law, which was done in 2019, to remove the long tail, ostensibly to create affordable home ownership although she is from the 41st.

      The second issue is ARCH’s home ownership program was very poorly run. For example, restrictions were not placed on the deed, so if the house/condo were sold or foreclosed upon ARCH lost the entire investment. Second if the property appreciated but the owner was limited in the gain they would receive when refunding some of the gain to ARCH they chose to rent out the unit rather than sell, which meant very little turnover in the residences, but ARCH had no oversight program to make sure the owner was living in the subsidized unit. Third the determination of who got a home became something of a lottery. Fourth many argued affordable rental housing for those trying to move from street to shelter to subsidized rental housing was a much more critical need. Some also complained that the owned units were sometimes trashed when returned or foreclosed upon, which shifted the repairs and rehabilitation to ARCH (especially if the unit had had a meth user and needed a hazardous remedial action which can affect all the nearby units).

      ARCH claimed it remedied its poor oversight after some eastside cities withheld their discretionary donations to the affordable housing trust fund, by ironically raising the administrative fee for each city.

      So the hope now is more affordable home ownership will be created because smaller builders can build condos and get insurance without the long tail of the warranty for new construction, maybe even without public subsidies.

      As usually happens, something unanticipated happened.

      King Co. eliminated its exemption from its new fire code for older multi-family housing, which is where much of the existing affordable housing exists, because as I have repeated a thousand times new construction is always the least affordable if not publicly subsidized. But it isn’t economical for these older multi-family buildings to bring them up to code, and if they were brought up to code the rent increases or assessments would displace the residents/tenants.

      Now all those older, affordable multi-family projects can be torn down and replaced with brand new condos. But where have all the builders gone? To expensive eastside cities and high end areas zoned multi-family, which is why there is such a push by the Master Builder’s Assoc. and developers to rezone the eastside — which is primarily single family house — to multi-family because there isn’t enough high end multi-famliy zoned property on the eastside, and in commercial cores like Bellevue and Kirkland only the big players can afford the land and huge towers. And not for “affordable housing” but for multi-million dollar condos. The huge new condo towers in downtown Bellevue are all presold at very high prices, with a few “affordable” units thrown in with reduced minimum square footage requirements.

      Not surprisingly real estate agents and builders are looking at ways to get into the eastside residential neighborhoods for multi-family development because they can’t afford the commercial cores and play in the 5-7 story zone.

      (Ironically Kevin Wallace is a former Bellevue council member who adamantly fought ST on behalf of Kemper Freeman and extolled the single family neighborhoods, until he needed the money).

      So there you have a history lesson for the property in MLK, and a history of why upzoning by itself rarely creates affordable housing, in part because a rezone requires new construction.

      Ownership or rental, oversight, amount of subsidy, amount of gain allowed to the owner, amount of ownership vs. rental, and so on are the issues. I highly doubt a private developer will build affordable housing without some public subsidy even though the hope 20 years ago when ST 1 was planned was this neighborhood would see more development and gentrification, but alas all the builders want to build where the land is the most expensive so they can build high end condos.

      This land is ideal for affordable housing because the underlying property is inexpensive (can you imagine what this same property would have sold for on the outskirts of downtown Bellevue). But generally public agencies have not a good job of creating holistic affordable housing projects with a mix of rental and home ownership, especially in tall buildings. I think keeping the buildings 7 or fewer stories would help, although it creates fewer units.

      1. “upzoning by itself rarely creates affordable housing”

        That’s because it’s too small, you’re looking at the short term, housing pressure has been building up for 18 years, and the pressure has made baseline prices unaffordable.

        In the 1980s even people making the minimum wage could afford an apartment. In 2003, my 1 BR apartment in north Ballard was $700, and nine months later my studio near Harborview was $450. In 2005 my Summit studio was $550, and by 2010 it was $750. In 2010 I moved to my current 1 BR in Pike-Pine. It was nominally $1275 but I got a $1175 due to the recession. The same unit is now $1895.

        Rents didn’t go up much in the 80s and 90s; then they accelerated 2003-2008; then went into overdrive 2012-2019. Why is that? Clearly it’s because the vacancy rate was high in the 80s, and by 2012 the all slack was squeezed out of the market and the vacancy rate was low. That’s the pressure that drives up prices. We see it at the macro level this year: high-end apartments and houses have fallen further in price than low-end, because the pool of people who can afford them is lower, and they’ve moved to houses/condos in larger numbers — thus creating the higher vacancy I’m talking about.

        A vacancy rate of 5-10% leads to stable prices, so that should be our goal. But in the 2010s the vacancy rate was 1-3% — the same period that prices accelerated. The same happened in San Francisco but worse, because its vacancy rate was persistently around 2% through much of the 90s, 00s, and 10s.

        For owned houses/condos the equivalent is inventory (number of active listings). The normal situation until 2008 was a medium inventory, so it took an average of six months to find a buyer. The market halted during the recession, and when it restarted in 2011 there were much fewer sellers. So inventory was tight, the average time on market was a month or less, and prices accelerated. People were more reluctant to sell because their mortgages were underwater, they couldn’t buy as much house as they already had, and there was no guarantee they could find something that wasn’t much smaller than they had. That situation has more or less continued ever since.

        To solve this problem you need to upzone a much wider area so that supply can keep up with demand. And you should do it before prices accelerate to nip it in the bud. Seattle should have done that in 2003.

        What has happened is that because Seattle didn’t do that, the market price of housing has risen from affordable to unaffordable. One spot upzone can’t roll it back so far. Even a citywide/suburbwide upzone at this point would only flatten it. Calling this a “failure” of upzoning misses the point and is misleading. The problem is the low vacancy rate and inventory. The cause is restrictive zoning. If we hadn’t upzoned partially, prices would have still gone up, and they would have gone up faster given San Francisco’s example. So claiming that the long-term solution is the problem is false. The problem wasn’t that upzoning is bad, but that it wasn’t large enough. It’s like how right-wingers say social programs cause poverty because poverty increased. No, poverty increased because the social programs were too small and kept having their legs cut out from under them.

        So what about affordability? The market rate crossed the unfaffordability threshold in the 2000s. That is, affordable to the middle class and workforce (e.g., teachers, nurses). It would have to be rolled back 50% to become affordable again. That’s implausable, even with or without upzoning or a severe recession or population loss. In the 2008 recession rents went down around 10% and houses around 20%. So governments must fill the gap with subsidized housing. It should be enough for the entire workforce, so that everybody can get housing at 33% of their income. That means at least tens of thousands of units. The total backlog in 2019 was 150,000 units, although I think that included the market-rate shortage. So somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 subsidized units are needed now. Then we could solve both the homeless problem and the workforce-housing-affordability problem.

        Another factor is single-family vs multifamily units. Over 65% of the land is single-family. The modest upzone you mentioned last month is only to the duplex/rowhouse level. But for 150,000 units, we clearly need to expand urban villages substantially. I would prefer allowing 7-story buildings everywhere, but a suitable compromise might be 25% of the single-family land. And it should be the parts closest to urban villages and transit arterials. I’m not concerned about outer Magnolia or Broadmoor or even Mercer Island (outside the station area), because those are geograpically isolated so the worst places to have more people.

        If we did as I suggest, multifamily prices would stabilize. Single-family might still rise because the population is increasing and there’s no more room for more single-family houses. But some of those people would take a multifamily unit, so that would reduce pressure on single-family prices. And there’s no reason we can’t have 2000+ sq foot condos like New York’s co-ops, for rich people who want a lot of space. That would take some pressure off the single-family market. Another way to reduce pressure would be a lot more rowhouses and close-together houses. But those can’t solve the problem alone because they can’t generate 150,000 units.

  3. “I am opposed to the elephant structure in its current rendering as it reflects an animal in a non-natural position. Rather, the elephant is in a position that is usually forced upon it — as a trainer would “force” it to perform in a circus. This is a portrayal of animal abuse and has no place in our city, county or state.

    I also echo Federal Way City Council President Susan Honda’s concern of the “dead tree” on which the elephant is perched. The only way this “dead tree” would be appropriate is if the Sound Transit Art program (STArt) was trying to represent the devastation of the forest fires that our state recently endured. I can only hope that is not the case.”

    The Karen energy in this letter is strong.

    1. The Karen energy in this letter is strong.

      Ha. Yeah, no kidding. The fact that it reminded someone of a circus elephant, despite standing on a tree, means it is good art. You can interpret it many different ways, of course. One is as a statement on how wildlife hangs in the balance, barely surviving. With a tree and a Heron, it seems quite appropriate for Federal Way if that is your message.

      Of course the most likely way to interpret it is that it is just whimsical. The big blue bear made by Argent is not a statement on habitat encroachment. It is just cute (

      Personally I like the elephant, but I probably will never visit the station, so I don’t care. Maybe they will settle on pieces of metal in various angles.

    2. Again, it’s a big heavy animal that’s miraculously touching the ground at only one point. Like the Kirkland Puddle Jumpers, five children holding hands that touch the ground at only three points. It reminds one of Elephant & Castle station in London, a more sophisticated subway system we’d do well to imitate. These may be the only two stations with elephants in the world. We should have unique and interesting art, and this is unique and interesting art.

      It’s sad that the name Karen has been so attacked that parents are avoiding it.

      1. The Karen I have in mind wouldn’t have even bothered calling the police until her dogs were done with Donald.

        But the outbreak I fear is our country’s every police and emergency response being helpless to avoid call after desperate call about a helpless elephant whose owner has left it on top of a pole to correct his neighbor’s politics.

        Kind of a one-party problem, though. If instead of a donkey you use a mule, good luck even getting it on the hoist. Rural Marylander told me those creatures won’t pull one more pound than they feel like.

        Mark Dublin

      1. I just think it’s refreshing to know that East Coast artists can create mediocre public art just as well as locals! Why let the Sound Transit art mediocrity be provincial?

    1. Does anyone here own a camera drone? Any chance of you do doing some East Link station-area photos? You don’t even have to do any cinematic slo-mo videos, like the one above. Even pictures would be great.

  4. San Francisco soaks the rich ($). “San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved several tax measures targeting property owners and big businesses with CEOs paid far higher than their average workers. Under the new law, any company whose top executive earns 100 times more than their average worker will pay an extra 0.1% surcharge on its annual business tax payment [increasing by 0.1% for each 100 times]…. Voters also agreed to sweeping business tax changes that will lead to a higher tax rate for many tech companies, and a higher transfer tax on property sales valued between $10 million and $25 million.”

    Expect a comment about tech companies leaving San Francisco for the suburbs in ten seconds, nine seconds, eight seconds….

    1. What I’m actually expecting is companies will find creative accounting maneuvers to work around the law. Like moving low-paid employees to subsidiaries, leaving the CEO as the only official employee of the main company. Or, converting some of the CEO’s compensation to some form that’s exempt from the tax trigger calculations, like use of the company’s private jets for unlimited personal trips.

      Ultimately, I think it’s a dumb law, even ignoring the above. When you’re talking about a trillion dollar company, the difference between $10 million and $100 million in CEO compensation is chump change, but the difference in the company’s bottom line between having a very good CEO vs. a mediocre one is huge. There aren’t many people capable of running a business that large and those that are are sought after by multiple companies and sell their services to the highest bidder.

      By all means, tax large companies, but having CEO pay be the trigger smells like more jealousy than an actual need for revenue.

      1. but the difference in the company’s bottom line between having a very good CEO vs. a mediocre one is huge.

        Says who? And besides, if that is the case, why are the mediocre CEO’s paid so well? For that matter, why are the bad CEO’s paid so well? To quote this article:

        Carly Fiorina lowered HP’s stock price by 50% while firing thousands of employees, paying herself handsomely, and touring the lecturing circuit. Stan O’Neal’s reckless risk-taking sunk Merrill Lynch, yet he still managed to walk out the door with $161.5 million in severance.

        That same article mentioned narcissistic CEOs. Does that remind you of anyone?

        There aren’t many people capable of running a business that large and those that are are sought after by multiple companies and sell their services to the highest bidder.

        Right, except that is not how it works. There are probably thousands upon thousands of people who could run these companies better than the former CEOs that companies hire. But the CEOs that are hired are essentially glorified salespeople, for themselves. They may know very little about the company, but a lot about talking “CEO”, and selling themselves. They may have done a terrible job at their last company, but it doesn’t matter, because being CEO is special. They will gladly take a new gig and drive the company into the ground while profiting handsomely.

        For example, go through the list of CEOs at Boeing. Consider the ones that operated in a “mediocre” way, which is to say, kept doing things in keeping with the company culture, which was all about engineering and manufacturing excellence. Now think of the “innovative” CEOs — the ones that pushed for mergers, or moving jobs to where the labor costs were cheaper. The first group built a great company. The second destroyed it. Which one do you think made the most money?

        Buried deep in your comment is the idea that excellent CEOs should be paid a lot more because they lead to better companies, which then benefit society. It is an assumption that runs counter to history. When the U. S. was the world leader in both productivity and overall prosperity, our CEOs weren’t paid that much. Japan pays their CEOs a lot less than we do, yet the average Japanese citizen lives a better (and longer) life than the average American. (That was clearly not the case a few generation ago). It is easy to assume that we are doing things right from an economic standpoint in this country, but we aren’t, and this is just an attempt at fixing it. (Whether it does anything in that regard is another story).

      2. I agree. This law basically tells the market to outsource low wage workers until you fall under an arbitrary benchmark, or structure your exec compensation over more years.

        Should be very easy for tech companies to meet this metric, as they already outsource everything but high end talent. More interesting could be banks. Wells-Fargo has a ton of lower wage workers in retail banks; will be curious to see how they react to this tax.

  5. So Uber and Lyft, instead of paying their workers better wages, instead spent hundreds of millions of dollars to convince California voters to carve out contractor exceptions for app based gig companies…so they don’t have to pay their workers better wages.

    I just can’t comprehend how people can willingly vote away employee protections, but kudos to Uber and Lyft for being evil enough to pull off such an undertaking. It’s almost as evil as the Reagan administration convincing a bunch of previously pro-union Americans that unions are bad for them.

    I can only wonder how long Washington’s historically pro-organized labor sentiments can hold out against such systematic and well funded attacks.

    1. There seems to be a strong anti-union sentiment even among some strong transit supporters on this blog and comment threads. So we should not be surprised that a well-funded campaign was able to sway opinion in a state like California, which is generally left-leaning on social issues but has a strong tech worship leaning and libertarian mythos.

      It is very unfortunate, though, and a terrible precedent for the rest of the country on this specific issue.

      1. The construction unions. Not “unions” ganerically or categorically and particularly, not the transit operating unions.

      2. RapidRider and AM, I’m wondering if it isn’t time that Lyft and Uber start looking at some good old capitalist COMPETITION in the form of driver-owned cooperatives.

        Which in other parts of the world have also long included both city and intercity buses. Maybe hesitation owes to the sad fact that if you’re an owner, not only is your name on all the legal papers, but you’ve got no union protection.

        Kind of thing I’d like to start bringing up at public comment in the Ruth Fisher Room when CO-VID’s agreed to GO-VID. Because ZOOM’s even worse for this kind of thing than it is for school-teaching.

        Saddest thing, though is how cruel it is to heap any more criticism on the political party I voted for just because. So much not only left unsaid, but also left lying around for the dog to tear up.

        But just because it’s been forgotten, it’s not any less true. The last time the average worker could fight homelessness by buying a HOME cash-down was when they belonged to a UNION.

        Which tragically resulted in maybe twenty of them sacrificing one night a month at a (gaaahhhhhh!) MEETING! And even worse, paying DUES (OK, mark, no [obscenity] here!

        Luckily, the Bill of Rights is not a static thing. Work-Around can be Found.

        Mark Dublin

      3. @AM — Yep. If you’ve worked in software, you will be well aware of (as you put it) the tech worship and libertarian mythos.

        I also think the fact that we are in a terrible recession with little governmental support doesn’t help things. Given the choice of living in their car, or being underpaid to drive people around, the fear that more people would be forced to the former would probably sway a few votes. That is why anti-union groups call themselves “right to work”.

      4. Transit fan here, union fan no. Why would they go together. They don’t. Less artificially high union pay equals more $ for transit.

      5. My feeling about unions, particularly public-sector unions is mixed. On the one hand, I generally tend to sympathize with teachers’ unions, as teachers have always been working long hours for low pay, with the union preventing it from being even worse. I am also keenly aware, as a result of having a teacher as a parent, just how much unpaid time planning lessons and grading papers the job requires. This is especially true during the coronavirus, where a teacher’s union is about not only pay, but making sure that proper precautions are taken so teacher’s don’t get COVID trying to do their job (many of them are elderly, putting them at high risk, if they do get it).

        On the other hand, I have also read about many instances where unionization has been abused and, with public sector unions in particular, there is often a direct conflict between giving the union members what they want and being a good steward of the public’s tax dollars. In some cases, you can even have outright conflicts of interest. Normally, the way union negotiations work, management tries to keep labor costs down, the union wants to keep labor costs up, and the two sides have to agree on a compromise. But, with public sector unions, the “management” is often an elected official who needs the votes and campaign donations from the very union they’re negotiating with in order to be re-elected, so the “manager” is no longer negotiating on behalf of the taxpayers in good faith, but is simply working with the union to drive costs up in order to get re-elected. This has direct consequences for transit, and has been blamed as one reason why the construction for New York’s 2nd Ave. Subway has been so expensive compared to similarly-scoped projects in non-US cities. Another case where unionization has been abused, of course, is police unions, where an officer can shoot and kill someone with minimal provocation, taking comfort in the fact that the union makes firing the offender almost impossible.

        So, overall, my attitude towards unions is not a straight-up “good” or “bad”, but rather “it’s complicated”.

    2. Maybe yes on Prop 22 voters own Uber stock? It’s up 16% since it passed. I bet a lot of you have in mutual fund and don’t even know it.

      “Well now wait a minute, Sam! Are you suggesting that someone that holds Uber as an investment is just as culpable as someone who voted for Prop 22?”

      Yes, I am.

      1. Any mutual fund investing in Uber or Lyft is commiting financial malpractice. They are exceedingly poor investments.

    3. I can. Anybody that rides Uber and Lyft as a customer gets cheaper fares as a result, and likely better availability in low-demand areas. A lot of it (at least among Democratic urbanites) could be just people voting for their own mobility.

      For drivers, the benefits of being classified as employees are unclear. For those still employed, it’s a clear win, but many drivers will become unemployed as fewer customers are willing to pay the resultant higher fares. So, for a driver, your vote becomes a gamble as to whether or not you’ll end up one of the lucky ones. And, of course, the unlucky drivers are still saddled with their existing loan payments for the car that they can no longer carry paying customers in.

      1. This is a good explanation. I think it is similar to why a lot more minorities in the South may have voted in unexpected ways in the current election. When you are out of a job because the economy was shut down, the risk of getting infected by the plague has to be balanced by the risk that you won’t be able to feed your children, and to any single person, the risk of serious side effects from the plague is still pretty low. If you could rely on the authorities to take care of you, you could do the right thing for society, but it’s every woman and man for themselves, so you may as well vote in your personal self-interest, which is to vote for the guy claiming he’ll reopen the economy today, even if it might potentially hurt you more in a week. Or, in the Uber/Lyft case, the company which will pay you some money today, even if it might put you out of a job in a week.

        The breakdown of societal support structures is the underlying problem in both cases.

      2. “When you are out of a job because the economy was shut down, the risk of getting infected by the plague has to be balanced by the risk that you won’t be able to feed your children, and to any single person, the risk of serious side effects from the plague is still pretty low.”

        I could see that if the Democratic solution was to just shut everything down, like we did in April. But, the science has now established that most businesses can safely reopen if people would just wear masks. It’s the anti-mask attitude I just can’t understand. If people would just wear their masks, we don’t need to choose between a good economy and public health; we can have both.

        My theory is people want to feel reassured that the COVID crisis is over, whether it actually is or not. And attending packed Trump rallies with no masks, rightly or wrongly, provides them with that comforting reassurance.

      3. @AM
        “…the risk of serious side effects from the plague is still pretty low.”

        We don’t know this yet. There is some evidence of long-term cardio and pulmonary effects related to scarring based on what I’ve read. And if the Cons are successful in destroying the ACA with Barrett now a Supreme, then health insurers could certainly scew us all by reverting to their former practices regarding preexisting conditions.

        I do agree with your larger points nonetheless.

      4. @TIsgwm:

        Just to rephrase: I am not suggesting that the side effects are low. I am suggesting that when the choice is between taking a chance on the risk of serious long-term side-effects from COVID vs. losing your house and being unable to feed your kids, and cannot rely on the government to help with the latter, it is not surprising that people vote to re-open.

        @asdf2: I think that what you indicate is also true. However, the issue is one of trust in the institutions and the fellow men. Speaking for myself, I do not go out hardly at all except in my local neighborhood when people are not around, because I do not trust others to maintain safe practices. Essentially, since you can’t trust others to wear masks, you may as well act in your own self interest and minimize exposure. What I am suggesting is that others do the same but with a different issue in mind. If your risk of harm is higher from the economy being closed than from COVID, then you vote to reopen the economy, even if it hurts others more.

      5. @AM
        Yes. I understood your point in your first comment and, as I indicated in my first response, I’m in agreement with you on it. :) MY point, and perhaps I didn’t make it totally clear in my response, is that many folks facing such personal decisions regarding their jobs/income and their own/family’s health and safety don’t always have all the information as to how potentially dangerous this particular virus can be. There are a lot of reasons for this of course (it is a novel coronavirus after all) and I think most readers here are aware of why this is the case.

        Thus, some of the assumptions being made in that decision-making process* may be faulty, such as thinking that even if one does contract the virus and get sick, he will fully recover and have nothing to worry about going forward. But obviously lots and lots of people, even if they are fully informed of the risks involved, just don’t have the luxury of choosing to not go to their jobs. And of course that was your larger point and that is indeed a sad indictment of our social safety net.

        *At the end of the day, this “process” turns out to be a bit of a Hobson’s choice for millions of workers and family providers.

      6. For drivers, the benefits of being classified as employees are unclear.

        Sure. Ask someone working at a low wage trade to work “under the table”, instead of paying FICA taxes, unemployment insurance and all that, and most will. Roll the dice and hope you don’t get sick or injured, and have enough money for retirement. But for *society*, it is much worse.

        Making them employees is also a lot easier (if not essential) if they want to form unions. Perhaps that was the mistake with this proposal. Maybe they should have focused only on the ability to form unions, whether they are contractors or not. Normally contractors can’t do that (because it is a form of price fixing) but this would be an exception (applying only to those drivers). It would clearly benefit the drivers. They could form a union, or not — hard to see this hurting drivers. New York has considered that.

        My guess is that would pass, and hopefully be a first step in giving drivers a chance at decent compensation.

      7. @TIsgwm:

        Thank you for confirming :) Yeah, I think we are in pretty strong agreement. Mostly I rephrased it as to not make it clear that I am not minimizing the possible side-effects. And you are right that many people may minimize the deleterious outcomes, partly due to lack of information, partly due to biology (young people are, as I understand, more prone to ignoring possible negative effects of their decisions due to literally how a young person’s brain operates), etc. But discussing these further felt like editorializing with a strong possibility of sounding judgmental, and I did not want to risk going there (also to be clear, I do not think your comment fell in that category, either, it was just a risk I was not willing to take for myself, though I appreciate your explicit statement of the risks involved, as well as the broader discussion as a whole).

        Thank you for the discussion. I always appreciate your insights.

    4. My theory is because taxi service was not very good in San Francisco before Uber, and no one wants to go back to that. Normally California is progressive. Part of the problem was they wouldn’t give out more medallions for taxi service in SF.

      1. There’s also a fundamental problem that guaranteeing drivers a minimum hourly wage, just by being on the app, regardless of customers, is that low demand areas become simply unprofitable to serve. With the gig economy model, even in areas where customers aren’t expected, drivers can leave the app running while they watch TV at home. If nobody wants a ride, they haven’t lost anything, and if somebody does, they make a quick buck.

        But, when every driver signed into the app is guaranteed minimum wage (plus employer share social security taxes), the companies become forced to restrict where and when drivers can log into to avoid losing money, essentially paying people $15/hr. to watch TV. The result becomes a service pattern reminiscent of the old taxi industry, where nearly all the drivers congregate downtown and at the airport, and if you want a ride from anywhere else, you have to wait (and pay for) somebody to drive out from downtown or the airport to come and get you.

        Those who live in Capitol Hill might not see much difference, but for people who live in the suburbs, the effect would be huge. Imagine every ride requiring a 20-30 minute lead time vs. the 5-10 minutes people are accustomed to today.

      2. Taxi service in Seattle was absolutely abysmal pre-Lyft. I’m not saying Lyft/Uber are honorable companies but the old amalgamation of Puget Sound taxi companies were undoubtedly worse. I used to call three different cab companies and just take whoever showed up first because it could be 15 minutes or 45 minutes – and forget about ever hailing one on the street.

      3. The silly thing about cab companies is that they could have been Uber. The technology for app based hails and payment had long been available It would have been potentially way better service with prices we were used to at the time. It would have been much harder for Uber to break onto the scene, even with more competitive rates.

      4. @RapidRide — Right, except the biggest innovation for Uber and Lyft is not that you can call a ride using an app on your phone. The biggest innovation is in the labor market. They avoided the regulations involved with taxicabs and normal employment. They also asked drivers to provide their own cars (copying the pizza delivery model). This is why they call it “ride sharing”, and not “e-taxi” or something like that. It is quite likely that Uber and Lyft would have still entered the market.

      5. The biggest innovation for Uber and Lyft is they claim not to be a transportation company at all but simply a bulletin board to match riders with drivers. (I know mostly about Uber but I assume Lyft is the same.) They want all the profits from taxis but none of the costs and responsibility — they shift those to the drivers, whom they claim are independent contractors. That’s just to get out of paying them living-wage benefits, because independent contractors have less leverage to demand those unless they’re in unusually high-demand positions like tech workers.

    5. I’m also mixed about unions. They’re the only way we’ve found to guarantee a good baseline of income and working conditions. But some people do abuse the advantages. Still, we need to focus on guaranteeing everyone a decent baseline. Focusing on the abusers when many more people are falling through the cracks into poverty is just wrong — we should be focusing on eliminating the cracks. That implies we should have strong unions. And we should consider other union-related policies like Germany’s industry-wide wage negotiations, because they’re working there.

      1. What costs and responsibilities do taxis comply with Uber/Lyft drivers don’t?

        According to one poster all Uber/Lyft drivers pay their taxes as independent contractors so that is pretty much the same as taxi drivers, who are also listed as independent contractors, or were in Seattle when we sued a taxi company a few years back.

        Uber/Lyft drivers just tried harder, probably because there was a rating system. Plus they had the advantage of knowing the rating of the customer, which helps determine safety. Cars were clean, drivers were groomed and polite, cars were on time, rides were cheaper, it was done by app without a long hold on the phone waiting for a mean taxi dispatcher, it was everything a taxi was no longer because taxi’s got arrogant, and had restricted the number of taxis to create a monopoly. It was virtually impossible to get a cab in San Francisco. I couldn’t believe the difference between a taxi and Uber in Las Vegas a year ago.

        As someone wisely noted above, if taxis had cared like Uber/Lyft drivers there would be no Uber/Lyft. Poor taxi service left the door wide open. Even then it took years for taxis to go online. You never want to be the second app on a cell phone. Or the third. Taxi companies had deservedly earned the same reputation for service as Comcast.

        I don’t know what the furor is over minimum wage. When I drove a cab you paid your nut for a 12 hour cab and gas, got dispatch, and the taxi company didn’t care whether you earned anything more, and certainly didn’t collect payment for you. If you got stiffed you ate it, and no one told you in advance the rating of the fare you were picking up. We were all independent contractors. The rest was up to you. I haven’t ever met an Uber/Lyft driver who wanted to be a taxi cab driver.

        If an Uber/Lyft driver is not making minimum wage, or what they consider a high enough wage, don’t do it. I don’t think most do it as their main job, and at least in my experience the majority of drivers are immigrants. Or switch from Uber to Lyft. Obviously thousands of other drivers find the income worthwhile. Right now most of the job is delivering food.

        What I see is an effort by transit systems and cities to disadvantage Uber/Lyft any way they can because they are taking business away from transit, because they are faster, cheaper, safer, cleaner and provide door to door service for a competitive price for short trips. That is just the market, because transit like taxis left the door open, and in part why we subsidize transit with general fund tax subsidies. Uber/Lyft had indicated they would leave the CA market if Prop. 22 failed, which is exactly what the taxi companies and transit hoped for, although a lot of hard working drivers would have lost a lot of income.

        Transit, especially bus operators like Metro, have to see the writing on the wall from driverless Uber/Lyft (or whoever will run the system). The one advantage non-grade separated transit has — cost — will be gone (along with the commuter), and already a large percentage of citizens think the cost differential between Uber/Lyft with drivers and transit is worth the extra convenience and safety.

        The irony is if we raised income levels one of the first things the workers would spend the money on is a car, or Uber/Lyft, because they hate having to take transit. You don’t see a lot of rappers in videos riding the bus.

        It’s too bad the Uber/Lyft drivers will be the ones who get screwed with driverless technology, but at least we won’t have to hear about how unfair their job was. Metro and transit just have to come to grips with the future of driverless Uber/Lyft, and the loss of the commuter, and figure out how they will survive in a world of declining general fund tax revenues for urban cities when they won’t have a cost advantage. That is the big picture, and I get the idea Metro sees it, but doesn’t know what to do. I don’t think spending a fortune converting to electric buses and cutting service at this time is the right choice. They need to face the future, and either fade away like taxi companies or find a way to stay relevant.

      2. “What costs and responsibilities do taxis comply with Uber/Lyft drivers don’t?”

        It doesn’t have its own cars or drivers so it tries to get out of the regulations for those things, saying that it’s just a tech company, an evolution of the ride-matching classified ads in newspapers. The only costs of cars and drivers it has accepted are those forced on it by local laws; e.g., drivers’ insurance, minimum wage, size of fleet, access to parking spaces in various neighborhoods, etc. This whole thing about treating drivers as independent contractors is an example; it’s a case of a local law that failed to pass. Uber is shocked, shocked, that drivers need a living wage that pays all of the car’s depreciation expenses, and unemployment insurance and health insurance and paid sick/vacation time, etc. Some say contractors can demand a wage that covers all those; i.e., twice the base salary, but that only applies in a few very high-demand fields like tech workers. Other workers, including Uber drivers, can demand only what their base salary would have been if they were an employee, so they have to pay the self-employment tax and all the other things out of that. That’s not fair to the workers.

  6. Speaking of monorails… has there been any update at all on the monorail upgrades that were planned for the NHL arena opening? Last I heard they’re doing some minor electrical and signal upgrades but there’s been no movement on the big station redesigns.

  7. Vividly recalling the time when the sleep-disturbance on the ballot under the title of “Monorail” wasted so much time and ($) in my home town of Ballard, here’s my word to my old home state of Maryland.

    One rail or two, rubber tires or steel wheels, rolling along on steel or cement, leave the technical decisions to the engineers, not the ideologues. Just look at the massive presence of what’s proposed here.

    And tell me that, especially when what’s elevated will have to include storage and switches, steel wheels on steel rails won’t leave a system mechanically, aesthetically, and ($)ly superior in every single way.

    Personally, one exception I would’ve been glad to vote in as the solution to Ballard-UW:

    Accompanying YouTube videos show that car-cosmetics aside, what worked for 1902 works as well or better in 2020. Because of the key resource the Ballard-UW route possessed.

    The convenient canyon called Ship Canal. All we would’ve had to do was “lid it”, like the Germans did with theirs, and Job Well Done. One mistake, though, we probably could’ve avoided.

    Legend has it that in the days of the line’s first cars, pet-animal rules were relaxed to include an elephant. Structural strength no problem. And doubt it was required to either go under the seat or climb up on anybody’s lap.

    But for some reason known only to the animal, it got scared and jumped out the door into the canal. Maybe it saw a mouse. Which possibly resembled a forebear of Kamala Harris. And having made its point, swam ashore. Just sayin’, just sayin’, JUST…sayin’.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Uber/Lyft fit a niche in a capitalistic society, and really are the future: door to door service without having to park, own a car, or get a DUI. Safe and convenient, two things transit can’t compete with. For short trips the cost for two is the same as transit without the hassle, and with driverless technology the cost for one rider will be close to transit for shorter trips. There is a reason Uber/Lyft skyrocketed to 96 million miles in Seattle in 2018 I believe, and 175 million miles in King Co. in 2019. If you don’t want carbon emissions then incentivize electric Uber/Lyft vehicles.

    As noted in a post above, taxis became a monopoly and their arrogance killed them. It use to cost over $100,000 for a single taxi license, and now you can’t give them away.

    What is not said in Prop. 22 is many if not most drivers don’t pay FICA, income or workers’ comp. taxes/premiums, the lesson being that in this country we tax good things (labor) but not bad things (carbon emissions), which helps keep the costs down for the users. CA’s decision to require Uber/Lyft drivers to become employees was as much about blunting their competition against transit to helping the driver. Seattle planned to do the same.

    Anyway, within five years Uber/Lyft (or some competitor) will move to a driverless service, and this issue will be moot, and if we keep increasing the cost of employment pretty soon we will have no employment. That is the future competition for transit so I hope Metro is taking it seriously (rail especially at long distances has advantages Uber/Lyft don’t) , and competition for many of the ideals of Urbanism and the recently adopted PSRC 2050 Vision Statement that was obsolete before it was adopted because it was written by politicians and builders and green advocates and Urbanists with no imagination.

      1. barman is right. In fact, the very article you cited (which is a great summary of the issues) specifically notes:

        Independent contractors only submit taxes on a quarterly basis.

        Thus Uber/Lyft driver pay income tax (as long as they make over the minimum). Unemployment taxes are a different matter.

    1. If transit is very frequent, it can beat Uber and Lyft on convenience. As an example, once I was with someone in Fremont who wanted to go downtown. They were going to order an Uber out of habit. I pulled up OneBusAway and convinced them that it was a waste of time and money to wait for an Uber when the #40 was coming in two minutes. At the same time, the Fremont Bridge was up, so it would have been physically impossible for any Uber car to get there faster than the bus. I also knew that, it being a weekend, the extra time from stops along the route would be minimal, and the walk to the bus stop, also minimal. So, we rode the bus. And it worked out exactly as expected.

      So, instead of declaring transit obsolete, let’s fund it properly to increase the number of trips where transit can compete with Uber on pure convenience, on top of saving money.

    2. Daniel, by “The Cost of Employment” do you mean “Getting paid enough to afford a life worthy of the name”, or how little you can get away with paying somebody who’s got not choice but to work for you?

      Because from what I’ve seen throughout my working life, the only cure for the conditions that threaten our country’s life is, whether by “Government” or any other entity, to hire, train, and pay people to fix what’s wrong and build what we need.

      At wage levels that will provide them with a living worthy of all six letters of that word, including the Home that so many people now indict them for not being able to afford.

      In my opinion, the performance of an automobile that does not have a skilled human being sitting at its controls the whole time it’s in motion, is only as safe as the least accurate information the most flawed designer programmed into its manufacture.

      Like with every other public thing, people who believe that a freely-steered car is worth the risk it generates, have every right to vote to allow these cars to operate where people can get hurt or killed by them.

      But those of us who think their flaws render them unacceptably dangerous have every right and total duty to work and fight to make sure these machines are never allowed where they can threaten us and ours.

      So face it. No matter how much I’d like to design, build, and drive an electrified Route 27 from Pike Place Market to Leschi, and along the lake from there to Seward Park, and along Seward Park Drive to Rainier Beach and up to 62nd and Prentice…..

      I’ll never make the “call” it’s going to happen and everybody’d better just get used to it. Or order anybody at all to pay any attention to me if I do. The work of MY hands, I’ll never pretend is IN my hands at all.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mark, as an employer I can tell you the wage the employee receives is not so much the issue, although that gets trickier with minimum hourly rates. It is FICA taxes (7.65% for the employer), head taxes, unemployment insurance, paid leave, unpaid leave, and most of all health and dental insurance. I didn’t include workers’ compensation insurance because that really insures the employer against the risk of the employment. Add it all up and it is like a 25% or 30% premium on employment.

        What this does is incentivize automation (e.g. driverless cars), and for large employers offshoring.

        Minimum wage is different because by definition you are requiring an employer to pay a higher hourly rate than the market. In Seattle anyway, this decimated the receptionist. Everyone has gone to automated answering services. This is too bad because a receptionist was a good entry level job for a woman with a high school degree in a white collar industry, and if a good employee usually led to something higher up with benefits despite the lack of paper qualifications, and sometimes an education subsidy. Now that job basically doesn’t exist anymore, and that same person will never get an entrée into these white collar firms. Her next option is usually waitress without benefits. This wasn’t the intent of the minimum wage, but too often progressives don’t understand employers or employment, or the market.

        Same with union drivers. Their overall packages are too expensive, and there is an incestuous relationship between public service unions and politicians that is leading some cities and states to bankruptcy. If (when) private transit like Uber/Lyft is driverless how can Metro compete? Like another poster noted, from receptionists to union drivers these industries die by attrition. You talk about safety but planes all fly by automation. It is just passengers are not yet ready for a pilotless plane, but they are coming for cargo where all the money is in flight.

        I am not saying these are unworthy benefits, I am saying don’t tax employment to achieve them. Tax carbon, or cigarettes, or something else you want less of to afford these things, not labor. You want more employment? Go to a single payer system not funded based on employment, an anachronism of WW II, or turn minimum wage into a wage subsidy because by definition you are asking employers to hire an employee at higher than the market would support.

        When you hire someone, say a plumber or mechanic or painter, do you voluntarily pay higher than the market rate or competition? No, you get several bids to get the best deal. Same at the grocery store, and everywhere else. But you want someone else — employers — to pay more than the market rate.

      2. I definitely like your wage subsidy rather than a mandated minimum. Europe uses them widely.

        There are obvious pitfalls: employers are going to try to off-load as much of the gap to government as possible, so there has to be some sort of employer pain to limit the abuse. Perhaps income taxes can be stepped more steeply or less steeply depending on the employer’s or company’s use of the top-up.

      3. We already have a wage subsidy; it’s called the Earned Income Tax Credit. I think a few states do a top-up.

        Aside from some complaints about fraud, it’s generally popular on the right.

      4. I think, in theory, a Universal Basic Income would make a minimum wage a lot less necessary than it is today. Not only would it act as an effective wage subsidy, reducing what the employer has to pay so the employee doesn’t live in poverty; it also raises the amount that an employer has to offer to make the incremental employment income worth it. So, even if the minimum wage were reduced from, say $15/hr to $10, McDonald’s might have to continue paying $15, anyway, in order to find enough workers willing to work enough hours to keep their restaurants open.

      5. Yes, universal basic income would cover basic living expenses or at least a substantial part of them, so work would be less critical and the government could be less involved in it. Ideally UBI would be enough to cover an apartment, food, utilities, medical expenses, and education. Then work would be optional. AND entrepreneurs could try out their ideas without fear of failure, because UBI would cover their living expenses even if they failed.

        In practicality, UBI couldn’t be that high because housing costs are so extreme, and medical and educuation costs are also high. So UBI can cover only part of living expenses. Then people would have to work, but they wouldn’t have to work as much or demand such a high wage. Right now people pour into engineering/tech/doctors/lawyers because they pay the highest, and you can’t make enough to live on at Walmart or picking apples. But if people didn’t have to earn so much just to survive, they’d be more willing to take a wider variety of jobs, wouldn’t be so insistent on expensive college education, and even a bad job is not so bad if it’s only for 20 hours a week instead of 40 or 80.

        The 18th and 19th centuries had a proverb, “He who doesn’t work doesn’t eat.” That’s wrong for a 21st-century economy. We shouldn’t make people work 80 hours at two or three jobs without benefits just to partly scrape by. There are ways to have a decent baseline yet still have a robust amount of working and entrepreneurship and capitalism. Finland, Sweden, and Norway are doing it. New Zealand, Germany, and Canada less so but still better than us. They haven’t gone all the way to UBI but they have a robust baseline so that they don’t have 30% of their population desperately poor and another 30% living paycheck to paycheck.

    3. Uber/Lyft fit a niche in a capitalistic society, and really are the future: door to door service without having to park, own a car, or get a DUI.

      You mean like a taxi-cab. Yeah, they’ve been around a while.

      As noted in a post above, taxis became a monopoly and their arrogance killed them.

      Taxis aren’t a monopoly in the sense of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, the NBA, NFL, etc. It is government regulation that limits them. They were designed for several reasons, one of which was to limit congestion (think tragedy of the commons). But a lot of the regulations (and limitations) flowed from the unions, as a way to keep existing workers well paid. In many ways this is a return to the gilded age, as we transition away from the principles and policies that created the greatest middle class in the world (ever) during the post war era. It is an overreaction to the flaws within those policies (e. g. their should be way more taxicabs, and they should be way cheaper), along with a libertarian mindset and of course, tech worship (“this is totally different than a taxi, since, like, you can get a ride with a smartphone”). Uber and Lyft are designed to get around regulations. Not only those that apply to taxi-cabs, but those that apply to employees. I used to deliver pizzas, and I sure as hell wasn’t an “independent contractor”. I was an employee, just like when I worked fast food.

  9. asdf2, world news suggests that our own political and medical systems are not the only ones in trouble with The Virus. We’re seven months into the sudden onset of a worldwide infection. Period.

    For me the authority matter’s simple. Any lapse in mask-diligence and my lady nurse will Take Me To The Vet. Whether that doctor has ever been in the Armed Forces or not. Or even got all his own distemper shots.

    For transit and particularly our own regional system, we’re lucky in the amount of work already done these last years, and also in the amount of information we can still gather and collate for future action.

    Yesterday, the “power” readout on the dashboard of my own hybrid-powered quarantine chamber showed me proof-positive that if the Route 27 had been wired, the 60′ hybrid I was following from “Top of Yesler” to the lake, it could’ve powered Seattle.

    Ironclad precedent, too. In San Francisco, obsoleted cable-cars were replaced on the same hills by….Guess What! Though Google Map even names a little Cable Car trail headed down into the woods from Jackson and 32nd.

    Colman Dock visit also confirmed that the wire which the Downtown Seattle Transit Project intended to connect the walkway’s opening at First and Marion with King County Courthouse and also Seattle’s whole trolley system was not only still in place after 30 years.

    But keeping company in the air with other wire connecting First, Cherry, and Second Avenue. With sufficient still-hangin’ wire on First, Yesler, and James to complete the intent. Proof that of power’s every “gadget”, trolley overhead can last years maintenance-free.

    Conversed with nobody. Bought no food or coffee. One quick no-contact bathroom break at Columbia City Co-op. OK Governor Inslee? Thought so.

    Now stop teasing poor Loren Culp because his own non-Seattle-istic REPUBLIC Washington police force defunded itself when he wasn’t even looking! Sad. Really sad. OK, five points for who says THAT all the time?

    Incidentally, though, my own San Francisco source tells me that the Lyft-Uber ordinance was not history’s best-written piece of law. Which doesn’t mean “Don’t Ever Do It.” But rather, “Don’t Not Give It Another Try and Do It Over.”

    Mark Dublin

  10. Daniel, what it sounds like to me is that you’re insisting on the right to pay skilled and well-motivated people less money than they need to live. Enforced by how bad your product will become.

    My question’s not why why should they do good work anyway, but how CAN they do it? And I don’t mean as a matter of pride, but of not falling into a machine and getting crippled. Which like being forced to live in a parking lot, will be their fault, won’t it?

    Am I wrong that the wealth-distribution in this country, along with the stagnant social mobility, is far and a way the industrial world’s worst? And same in spades for it’s unapologetic political dominance.

    Tell me again why it’s so recently that campaign contributions have become such a valued a piece of personal secrecy. Lifelong, I’ve been proud of mine. Or maybe I’m just not rich and powerful enough to be scared. Could go to night school to learn, though.

    And one thing that infuriates me even more: the endless hours of news coverage on how much every cause and candidate is SPENDING! Paid to multimillionaires for ads.

    This week’s crescendo of sorrow over about how little the various Democrats got for their MONEY kind of tells me we had it coming. Our opponents are what they are, but there’s no way it’s what we should let ourselves become.

    What this is about, Daniel, is the point I keep making about “The Market System” as our core concept of a country. “Are we buyers or sellers?” is healthy normal discussion.

    But at this point, the number of us who are the creatures dying slowly on the hook means that if it weren’t for bribery, the final battle won’t be The Revolution, but the Raid by the health authorities.

    For salacious inbreeding, BTW, the similarly unprintable relations between the authorities and billionaires, would surpass the time in Maryland when I chanced into a pet-shop that deliberately inbred generations of cats for a joke. A lot less funny when hereditary rule routinely made the results Chiefs of State.

    For single-payer health-care- with copays forbidden by the Bill of Rights- I think we could be on the same page. How many less-wealthy countries in Europe have done that for decades?

    But for employers like you and for whatever work-life my life next hands me, our taxes are the percentage of our income we agree to pay in return for having a country at all. Let alone one that provides us all with so much freedom, comfort, and safety.

    As I’d swear our Founders intended, what’s needed is a system of education that’ll make Governing a necessary skill for graduation from Kindergarten. And anybody grown-up that makes history BORING…..have the National Guard impose a thousand push-ups and ten cleaned-latrines for the whole school board?

    Though one point that lifelong I’ve “got” on you. Having been forced to spend the peak of my dream career in transit at the wheel of a bus that should’ve been dumped off Palermo to grow mackerel in tomato sauce, I hate bad liberalism worse than you hate the good kind.

    Promise I’ll do my best to see to it that Mercer Island Station has espresso that’s either Caffe d’Arte, Caffe Umbria, or Olympia Roasters’ Big Truck Blend. We’ve got to talk a lot more often.

    Mark Dublin

  11. Wow. Portland rejected a Transit measure?? I’m quite astonished. I would love to see the demographics and stats behind who voted.

    1. It was pretty unpopular for a few reasons:
      1. Payroll tax increase during a pandemic. The “no” campaign was heavily funded by Nike and Intel. Non-profits were going to be taxed as well, and many are suffering right now.
      2. SW Corridor light rail is no a great project. Very expensive for fairly small ridership gains.
      3. Some liberal voters didn’t like the road/highway spending (including really stupid things like an overpass for Airport Way that is not needed).

      Yes votes were heavily clustered in the inner-city area. Even my close-in neighborhood (with a transit score of 95) voted no:

  12. Regarding the EIS delay for the OMF South project, I have to say I just don’t get the vague, stated reason for the delay. Is Covid-19 now going to become the go-to excuse for all ST failures to meet expected deadlines? (RQ) ….

    ” “COVID-19 has impacted both Sound Transit’s finances and our ability to advance environmental review internally and with our planning partners,” according to a project update emailed Tuesday, Oct. 27 by Sound Transit. “Consequently, the environmental schedule for Operations and Maintenance Facility South has been affected as a result. We now anticipate publishing the OMF South draft environmental impact statement in early 2021. Once published, the public will be able to review and formally comment on the draft environmental impact statement during a public comment period.”

    “Sound Transit had expected a draft statement to be out in November for public comment.”

    Have there been any furloughs (in the relevant project groups) at ST since Feb of this year? I don’t believe there have been so I guess ST will now shift responsibility for the delay to their “planning partners”. Give me a break. Yes, I know things take longer in our current Covid-19 working environment. All entities, both in the public and private sectors, have had to make adjustments and adapt to our current circumstances. I work for a national concern and we’ve made such changes, including some layoffs, and the work is still getting done and we are meeting deadlines. I think ST needs to offer more than this rather generic explanation and give us further details as to what has been happening here over the last ten months or so. One can’t help but wonder if the draft EIS delay is an intentional one to push out the entire schedule for this project because of the financial challenges ST is facing within its capital program. Hopefully the members of the System Expansion Committee will be inquisitive enough to actually ask for more information and not simply settle for the status quo.

    On a related note, the U-Link Before-and-After Study, an FTA grant recipient requirement, is now more than a year overdue. ST promised delivery of the report in Sep 2019, then the fall of 2019, and then by the end of the year. This was all in the “before days” of course, so what’s the holdup?

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