Kitsap Transit Foot Ferry Waterman

This is an open thread.

145 Replies to “News roundup: more chatter”

  1. 1. 2035 and 2036 are fifteen and sixteen years away. Any reason we should worry about either THIS morning?

    2. Martin, while a lot higher income bracket openly “bill their time”, maybe good transit-thinking suggests that the rest of us take up the habit. Because from a seat aboard this morning’s Picture Boat, we see how bad the Tacoma-Seattle car-trip really ($)ucks. ($)tuck in traffic’s never very Scenic. Factor in car maintenance and repairs and the co($)ts speak for them($)elves.

    3. If “an elephant posed on a log as a blue heron sits atop its trunk” misrepresents Federal Way as alleged, might either a peacock or a duck better define the place? On-site in East Africa, once watched a baby elephant chasing its friend a giant white bird around a pond. Relax, Federal Way. A good time was had by all.

    4. Trains shaped the United States of America in the days it really counted. Can anybody say that Sprawl’s got any Shape at All? Whatever our country’s history has ever openly put in its Defense budget, might not America’s survival now require a “National Defense Electric Railroad Act?” A large amount of the civil engineering awaits only rail and catenary. Cars served their purpose, but Defense-wise, those “Ways'” traffic time’s away past being “Free”.

    5. An automated vehicle’s traction problem stems from the fact that they OPERATE in the real world. Whose most serious Railroadreality is that the smartest thing a computer knows is what the stupidest human programmer in the employ of whoever re-did those controls on the 737’s told it last.

    Sky Train provides an exception. Make your trackway as trespass-proof as an elevator shaft and you’ll get by. Last I checked, though, end cars on every train have a manual-control panel. And uniformed staff with an Operator’s license and a key.

    But let’s level with ourselves what this is really about. Of all things our ($)ystem gets enraged about, paying a home-owning wage to anybody whose work puts their hands on train controls, tops the charts.

    And that alleged safety differential? My DSTT time-in-grade tells me one thing. At the controls of anything on wheels, half-assed training cuts safety and efficiency by the self-same fifty percent. Or more. Sew the other half back on where it belongs and then let’s talk.

    And if you also factor in the operating time lost to fare disputes and general lack of passenger knowledge and understanding as well as inf… Conductors will be back again next week. The dignified ones in uniforms, not the ones from Fred Meyers’ electronics department. Which is out of them anyhow.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The galactic federation will be providing sound transit with localized teleportation technology to replace all rail and bus traffic – following planetary unification and acceptance into the federation.

      1. Do I remember an episode where a teleporter malfunction left several users scrambled? What realism! Now that we know what to face with the suppliers of our excalators, we need to start forming our necessary legal team. May he Force be with US!

        Mark Dublin

    1. What do you think, Sam- any chance those combat-trained mask-advisers I’ve been advocating can get us back our final twelve percent? Though completely gender-stellar and from respectful experience, I’d state a preference.

      The manner of a lady nurse carries the understanding that if you dishonor her request about a mask, she has the authority to take you to THE VET. Whose offices are not in the VA complex. Because even if you’re otherwise a GOOOOOD BOY, you’ve got no more quality of life.

      Mark Dublin

  2. Even if new West Seattle Link bridge did have a bike/pedestrian path, it’s not clear what the benefit would be over the existing path on the lower bridge. You’ve still got to get up the West Seattle hill either way. I’m having a hard time seeing how it would be worth the cost.

    A much better use of money would be a protected bike path through SODO to get to the lower bridge.

    1. I agree. It is really a silly idea meant to justify the bridge to those who don’t drive. We all know that light rail is being built, so you can’t argue it works for transit. So touting it as a bonus for bikes and pedestrians sounds like a nice idea, until you actually realize how silly it is. It doesn’t make sense as a way to get anywhere, and like walking across the Aurora Bridge, wouldn’t be that much fun, given all the cars zooming by.

    2. I know what to do! They could put a walkway underneath the train track level, and have a moving sidewalk the length of the span to help the pedestrians get up that hill. People would travel from all over to marvel at it.

      1. jas, you don’t know the truth you speak. Look up an architect named “Santiago Calatrava”. I’ve been messing with RossB to engage him for a beautiful pedestrian friendly drawbridge leading into Ballard Station.

        Nothing in ST’s any Arts contribution requires either elephant or stork at all. But as was the case in 19th century transit’s most beautiful station-work, the bridge you’re proposing could easily become a world-famous first stop for many a Sea-Tac arrival.

        One Link train-change at SODO, and somebody’s Bulgarian cousin will get your masterpiece on her cell-phone back in Berlin, Budapest, or Istanbul. BUT. Do everything you can to be in on Value Engineering!

        Mark Dublin

    3. How many new elevators be built for the added cost of building an elevation-challenged bicycle/ pedestrian trail addition to a light rail bridge — when that connection is already provided at a pretty flat profile?

      Rather than keep bicyclists off of a West Seattle Link train, wouldn’t be cheaper and faster travel for stations to instead facilitate bicycle and pedestrian use by having better vertical conveyances?

      1. There is a trail in SODO beside the Link tracks, but only to Lander. It doesn’t connect to the lower bridge.

      2. I’ve biked from SODO to Alki by bike, so I know there’s a bike trail that far going over a bridge. But the bridge is difficult to climb even on an e-bike and this “trail” uses sidewalks now and then.

      3. I walked by the Lander Street Overpass toda, whee there was much lament about a sidewalk only being on the north side. The sidewalk is actually really wide; it must be intended to be part of a multi-use trail.

  3. “The legislature really ought to do something about city permitting power”
    Meaning what?

    1. Personally, I would advocate the abolition of local government. Local media is a poor imitation of what it used to be, so voters are poorly informed. Of the few people who actually vote in local elections, virtually all of them vote based on national issues, which are usually irrelevant to local government.

      But I would settle for simply letting Sound Transit (whose board is already made up of local officials, picked by county executives who are already beholden to local voters) issue their own permits and build whatever they decide.

      1. RossB, light-rail’s major feature is its versatility. Same train can mind its manners among walkers and bicyclists, and then hit sixty on the straightaway.

        Some informative “Firsthand” from Oslo’s City Hall Plaza, which in Seattle would be called our Waterfront. Because trains can’t change their lateral location as buses do, walkers and stroller-pushers feel visibly
        both safe and comfortable around them. For the “stretches” that they have to share.

        Since rubber tires also kill salmon, Waterfronts should always run in grooves designed for steel.

        But Christopher Cramer, a question for you. Say you own machinery that’s been long-term essential to your livelihood. Whose control-seat you’ve long had access to. Some problems start developing.

        Which would it be wisest to do in response-junk it? Or get quotes on some repairs? And while your “tech” is reading you their estimate- any chance you would NOT be in the repair pit underneath the vehicle, checking out the problem for yourself?

        From Federal to State to Regional to County to Local, our Government is our own precision machine tool, to jointly run to get us results we can’t get individually. My suggestion to you? One election over means the next election coming.

        At any level, whoever you like least, run against them and see what happens. But first move in your campaign strategy, which you can start immediately, is to find some officeholders you respect and book some time with them.

        It’s true we’re Doomed To Zoom, but it beats our own company in the same bad mood as every other lonesome angry non-participator. And since issuing their permits and procuring their equipment are what ST’s already doing- see what you can do to help.

        They’re likely feeling sort of unappreciated.

        Mark Dublin

    2. The permitting authority should be included in the vote. The current system allows cities to triple-dip. First they lobby ST to get a station in their city, then they get the mitigation amenities that are automatic with EIS projects, then they can extract additional amenities by conditioning the permit on them. It’s like when Congress passes a budget but doesn’t include debt authorization for it, so when the debt ceiling is reached it can extract political concessions to raise it. Other countries raise the debt ceiling automatically when they pass their budgets, because the budget and the debt are the same thing.

    3. What is meant by “permitting”? There is a procedural and a substantive aspect to permitting, but I generally view it as a mere regulatory practice and not a policy change.

      The better word choice would probably be “do something about city ZONING power”.

      1. Objections to zoning regulation are the number one complaint of conservatives and libertarians.

        There are basically two types of zoning: 1. Use zoning which determines the use of the property (school, single family home, multi-family, commercial, retail, pot shop, gun shop, nude review, roosters, and so on); and 2. regulatory zoning which determines what can be built, i.e. height, yard setbacks, impervious surface limits, minimum lot size, house to lot area ratios, and so on. Building permits determine how it is built, such as fire sprinklers, energy efficiency, beam loads, electrical and plumbing codes, and so on.

        It is hard to eliminate building codes because they go to safety, although in large part they dictate the high cost of new construction, especially the smaller the housing gets because the poor need safety too. But something like GFI switches are to make sure a teenage girl blow drying her hair in a wet bathroom or a two year old boy sticking a fork into a kitchen outlet are not electrocuted, which is usually when the lawyers show up, or stair rise, plumbing lines etc. Of course now you have all the green building regulations driving up the cost of new construction.

        If you want to go big get rid of all use and regulatory zoning. Don’t nibble around the edges like most Urbanists do, hoping to not change the character of the neighborhood they want to live in but somehow make it affordable for them.

        Build whatever you want, and use it for whatever you want. Eliminate yard setbacks and vegetation/tree requirements. A nude review next to a school no problem. A 45 story tower on Capitol Hill, great. Zero parking because the builder shifts the cost of parking to the streets ok. A huge cluster of 200 sf tiny houses for the homeless in Ballard no problem. A used car lot in South Seattle where land is cheap. A prison in West Seattle. A shelter in Laurelhurst. If you want zoning controls move to a community with restrictive covenants, like Mayor Durkan’s (which of course is what every expensive neighborhood will do by adopting covenants).

        The rub is eliminating zoning controls will destroy the character of Seattle’s neighborhoods, Seattle’s crown jewel, so we go through this myth that “mild” upzones will maintain the character of a neighborhood like Ballard but make it affordable for those who don’t already own there, which by now we should admit is unrealistic. Seattle housing costs rose 11% in the last year during a pandemic with a 1.37% increase in the population of King Co., and thousands of more units having been built over the last several years.

        Even the Urbanist today has an article asking where the hell is all the affordable housing upzoning advocates promised us (and themselves).

      2. The new housing, itself does not need to be affordable. But, the law of supply and demand means that any increase in the total housing supply reduces prices in aggregate. Even if the new units cost more than average (because they’re new), their presence lowers the price for other units.

        I suppose if you want to make the argument that all new housing is simply being bought up as second homes of rich people, and sit vacant, then, yes, they aren’t doing anything to alleviate demand. But, that’s simply not the case.

      3. asdf2: Your definition of the Law of Supply and Demand may be commonly accepted as correct at STB, but it really isn’t how economic supply and demand works. Rental prices don’t exist in a vacuum, they exist in a marketplace. When the new apartment building down the street can get $2500 a month for a one bedroom unit, other landlords in the neighborhood are free to ask whatever price they want. A potential tenant might not want to pay for the $2500 unit, but they may be willing to pay $2100 for a unit a couple of blocks away. Even if that $2100 unit was renting for $1500 before the new building opened. That’s kind of the story of what has happened in Seattle.

      4. When the new apartment building down the street can get $2500 a month for a one bedroom unit, other landlords in the neighborhood are free to ask whatever price they want.

        Other landlords are always free to ask whatever they want. The problem is, they won’t always get it. If they don’t get it, the place becomes vacant. That forces them to lower their price. There is the balance, right there — between vacancies and higher rent. The more places there are, the higher the chance of vacancies, and thus the lower the rent — all other things being equal.

        It isn’t just “STB” that believes this. It is standard economic theory. The reason we haven’t seen a huge drop in apartment costs is simply because demand is so high. That, and the fact that zoning rules prevented most of the city from building anything. Relative to demand, we still haven’t built enough supply.

    1. Wow, that looks like a pretty strong step forward by Olympia.

      Looks like the kept the total size of the structures (2-stories) unchanged?

    2. The Olympians are great in that they talk about the racist history of SF zoning in the article.

      The technical definition of whether a building is one or two units is often whether or not there are two full-service kitchens, and two sets of keyed areas and legal addresses. It’s quite arbitrary and a very gray area since a second unit can be mostly created without any permits. It’s why there are so many “non-confirming” units and probably the most common issue for “zoning policing”.

      The irony is that 120 years ago (and extending centuries further), most people commonly accepted that houses could be divided into more than one unit. It is in the spirit of segregation (renters supposedly making “bad” neighbors) that created such rigorous desire to limit on number of units per lot. Now with extended families, caregiving needs and ways to supplement retirement incomes as concerns, it is increasingly arcane to hold onto the legacy regulations.

      Curiously, it’s never called up-zoning.

      1. Well said. +10

        Fwiw. My spouse’s family built their own house on Beacon Hill back in the early 60s as a multi-generational house and three generations lived there simultaneously. Hence, their home is essentially a two-story duplex (upper and lower flats) but technically cannot be operated as such due to the zoning. I suppose the lower flat could legally qualify as an ADU now though, so there’s that.

      2. Yeah, it does need a better verb. Up-zoning to me is a change that allows for larger structures (and presumably more units per structure). This is something different. What’s the right term?

      3. As long as the building footprint allows for it, I see it called “flexible low-rise residential zoning” rather than up-zoning. I could also get behind a moniker of “modern, low-rise residential zoning” since the adjustment is needed to reflect societal reality that most of us no longer have three children and a spouse living with us in a 3000 square foot house. Finally, I think a case could be made for the change to be called “home ownership expansion options through zoning”.

        In 2018, Seattle had about 160,000 single family homes, mostly in neighborhoods zoned for single-family according to the OPCD profile from the Census. Seattle added about 36,000 housing units in total between 2010 and 2018, most in apartment buildings or row houses.

        There is also an equity issue between the “comfortable” versus the “super wealthy” among us, as well as a time-lag issue. While apartment construction is great at serving the market of single-person households, the economics of building and owning apartment buildings are pretty much only available to very wealthy investors and their corporations. Designing and building apartment buildings is a complex, time-consuming endeavor that requires more rigorous building systems like elevators and fire escape and suppression systems. Expanding the single-family zoning definition to allow for a home to be divided offers investment strategies to a broader range of homeowners and could add housing in only several months rather than in three or five years from the date that an architect is hired to opening date as required for an apartment building.

    3. asdf2, I will politely disagree, and the evidence is unaffordability is increasing. I was very surprised but interested to see The Urbanist today question this assumption, that simply replacing the older and most affordable housing with more but more expensive housing, will make housing more affordable. Where in Seattle has that happened? Housing costs increased 11% during a pandemic according to the Urbanist. The most affordable housing is in South Seattle that has seen the least upzoning.

      Every time I ask where is the affordable housing I am told it will be here soon, we just need to upzone more. Well if that is true go to 40 stories in the residential neighborhoods, not 4 — 7, although steel framed buildings are expensive.

      The law of supply and demand is not accurate when it comes to affordable housing. When you build new, more expensive housing in a neighborhood the existing housing prices increase, not decrease. You are gentrifying the whole neighborhood.

      When you take a single family lot and upzone it you certainly increase the value for the current owner, and any purchaser must now compete with developers who would like to upzone the property, but it becomes more expensive, not less, so the cost of the new units has to be higher to cover the increased land costs to the builder/developer. The marginal affordability is very, very small between the new and existing units.

      The reality is new upzoned multi-family condo housing is being sold at very expensive prices. Existing housing that can now add legal dwellings to the property while not requiring the owner to live onsite is mostly going to absentee landlord trusts/LLC’s, which is why Seattle is now over 50% rental.

      I guess your argument that the new housing is slightly more affordable for already wealthy citizens — compared to a single family house on the same lot — could have some validity, but it isn’t remotely affordable, and THAT is the goal.

      I own so I benefit from increased housing prices and values, but at some point I would like someone to show me where upzoning has resulted in real affordability in Seattle. The reason I liked the article in The Urbanist is because the writer, a very progressive regular author on the blog, finally asked the critical question: where is the proof, and where is the affordable housing? Unless what Seattle has now is affordable.

      1. Daniel, might Libertarians and Conservatives support the means I’m advocating to create Affordability: publicly and privately, hiring people for necessary work

        At wages that will enable them to Afford things like their choice of homes. It seems to me that this will achieve the goal with the least complication and bureaucracy.

        Mark Dublin

      2. The reality is new upzoned multi-family condo housing is being sold at very expensive prices.

        So, based on your logic, I should pay roughly the same price for a condo as a house, in the same neighborhood. OK, let’s see if your theory holds up. Here are the houses in Seattle for under $350,000: https://www.redfin.com/city/16163/WA/Seattle/filter/property-type=house,max-price=350k. Well look at that — absolutely nothing. Not a single house for under 350K.

        OK, now look at the condos: https://www.redfin.com/city/16163/WA/Seattle/filter/property-type=condo,max-price=350k. Wow. Dozens upon dozens of condos, all priced for under $350,000.

        Obviously, you are wrong. I suggest you do a little research before trying out your theories next time. (Of course, I’ve said that before, so it probably won’t stop you from doing it again.)

      3. “When you take a single family lot and upzone it you certainly increase the value for the current owner, and any purchaser must now compete with developers who would like to upzone the property,…”

        Huh? You might want to reconsider what you wrote there.

      4. I finished studying Ross’ Redfin link. He has a point. There are 7 pages of condos for sale throughout Seattle for $350,000 or less. Although some might appear a little small or older, where is this affordability crisis in Seattle if you can buy a condo for $300,000? There is very little chance a new condo in any Seattle neighborhood would cost under $500,000 but there are plenty of condos for $350,000 or less.

      5. “When you build new, more expensive housing in a neighborhood the existing housing prices increase, not decrease.”

        The laws of supply and demand apply to housing, just like they do for everything else. The rate that a landlord can charge for existing housing is fundamentally limited by what renters are willing to pay. It does not magically go up because a new building, offering superior amenities to what they have, charges higher rents than they do.

        I suppose if the mere presence of the new building makes the neighborhood look more attractive, it can indirectly increase the rent someone is willing to pay to live in a neighboring unit, but that affect is relatively small and very local to the particular development.

        In the region-wide aggregate, as long as the new building offers more units than what it replaced, the housing demand has increased, so housing prices should be less than they would have otherwise been had the new building not been built. Of course, housing prices may still be much higher than what it was before the construction on the new building started. But, that’s because the development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Demand is always going up, independent of new development, and the new development is not satisfying anywhere near enough of that demand to blunt the resultant price increase.

        If you really want rents to go down, there are two ways. One is for the economy to tank to the point where no one wants to live here anymore, or has money anymore. The other is to build massively more housing so that supply and demand can balance out at a lower price point.

        Those are really the only two options. A third option that some people on the left push for is for the government to intervene. That is, a scheme where government buys housing and offers subsidized rents to people with below-average incomes. But, at long as the total amount of housing remains fixed, the government will never be able to buy enough. Even if it had an infinite amount of money in its affordable housing budget, the city would just end up getting into bidding wars with itself, and it would never be able to buy enough homes for all the low-income people because that number simply does not exist. Under any remotely realistic budget scenario, it is not possible to buy enough homes to fit more than a tiny fraction of the low-income people that want it. So, you end up with a system of decade long wait lists and lotteries, while the low-income people that don’t win the lottery or have decades to wait in a wait list end up not only getting nothing, but actually worse than nothing – not only are they paying into the affordable housing fund with taxes and getting nothing in return – they’re also paying a higher rent for what market-rate housing is left – because some of the available supply has been given to people that win the lottery.

      6. Right, adding affordable housing means adding additional units. If the government merely buys existing housing,it’s just reallocating a zero-sum pie, which gives an extraordinary benefit to the people who get the units, and makes things harder for those who would have otherwise lived there (who may be paying taxes to subsidize those who did get the units). Sometimes cities do by garden-apartment complexes or hotels to keep the buildings for subsidized housing, but this is only a short-term stopgap, not an ultimate solution.

        The great thing about the mutifamily development that has occurred is it usually increases the number of units significantly, sometimes three or more times what was there before. If it were just replacing them 1:1 with more expensive units, then it wouldn’t be worthwhile and it may be something to oppose. In fact, there is a case of 1:1 replacement: McMansions.

      7. So your answer is to pave the entire Puget Sound lowland up to 1000′ elevation? Because that IS the alternative.

        If middle quintile people want single family homes on large lots they have to go where there are flat uninterrupted plains with the concentric circle radial cities of modern America.

        The only examples of such radial design on the West Coast are in California where they’ve either grown to fill their plains and exhausted their water (LA and San Diego) or are located in the most valuable agricultural land in the world (Fresno, Sacramento, Bakersfield and several other smaller but squeezed urban places).

        The West Coast is far too beautiful, temperate, and productive to waste on low productivity residents. Yes, that’s snobby and cold, but as one who claims to prefer Republican economics, I would expect that you can admit the truth of it.

        Living on the West Coast in a city is one of the most valuable “goods” available to human beings. The re will never be enough of it to supply the demand for a landscaped yard surrounding a personal cottage.

      8. “When you build new, more expensive housing in a neighborhood the existing housing prices increase, not decrease.” I think the data show there are do different actions at work, at the local and at the regional level.

        At the neighborhood level, there is signalling. New development indicates that a neighborhood is more desirable and therefore local prices rise. Some of this is perception, but some of it may be real – the new development might contain jobs that people want to live close to or have nice amenities such as retail space, or the new development might have funded public infrastructure like new sidewalks & trees in the nearby ROW.

        The laws of supply and demand, however, function at the regional level. This is why people can correctly argue that new development can ‘gentrify’ a neighborhood AND correctly argue that new development is needed to lower* housing prices.

        *or simply reduce the rate of growth of

      9. “Living on the West Coast in a city is one of the most valuable “goods” available to human beings. The re will never be enough of it to supply the demand for a landscaped yard surrounding a personal cottage.”

        This is a very nice way to put it. Essentially, the debate then seems to be: if people who have sufficient wealth to have what is described above and sufficient political clout to preserve it, what will be done about the needs of the rest, who rightfully “want” something at least not “entirely” different from above? I say not “entirely” because I am looking at “living on the West Coast in a city” as the fundamental want here, for everyone else.

        I know a number of people spoke down on things like building larger communities in in-between places like Longview and Centralia, but it may not be the craziest way to achieve most of what everyone desires.

      10. AM, I think a larger Centralia-Chehalis Metro, a larger Kelso-Longview Metro and even a larger Castle Rock “metro” are baked in. They would be perfect for retired climate refugees because they are as yet quite inexpensive, so even as housing loses value in Southern California with water restrictions, they’ll be affordable for immigrants.

        I certainly have no objection; the relatively small amount of farmland around them can reasonably be sacrificed in order to keep the much more valuable Willamette Valley protected.

    4. Yeah, why can’t Seattle enact that symbolic gesture?

      – Sam. The most important voice in transit and land use in America.

      1. Are those new condos you list on residential lots in the desirable neighborhoods builders are building in under new upzoning? Because the point you seem to be unable to understand is a brand new condo can cost close to what an older single family house costs in the same neighborhood if the underlying property the house sits on had not been upzoned. The reason there are no houses $350,000 is because the LAND has been upzoned (and they are not in distressed neighborhoods).

        If we have so many sub $350,000 condos for sale why are you complaining about the lack of affordable housing in Seattle? Because white Urbanists don’t want to live where those condos are. They want a $350,000 condo on Capitol Hill or Queen Anne. Upzoning will never make that dream come true.

        If a house that is zoned single family can suddenly be torn down and replaced with several condos the lot becomes more valuable, and a purchaser who wants a single family house must compete with a developer who wants to build new, multi-family housing. So the price of the PROPERTY increases based on its most lucrative use, no matter what the purchaser wants to build. Then that new construction gentrifies the neighborhood, raising all property values and housing costs. Have you ever been to NY?

        It’s like chasing a tail. You argue upzoning will create affordable housing someday in the future, despite the constant steep increases in housing costs even during a pandemic, but then you argue there’s really plenty of sub $350,000 condos for sale. If there are so many sub $350,000 condos for sale why the need to upzone. To support transit? Because people who own single family homes might be “rich”? .

        Look, upzoning is great for property owners when they sell, although it tends to change the character of the neighborhood, and good for developers who can buy older properties and upzone, but you need to understand it won’t create affordable housing, and hasn’t. All the sub $350,000 condos you link to are OLD, and likely in distressed neighborhoods.

        I respect your knowledge of transit but you just don’t understand property development, and the fundamental concept no developer or builder wants to build affordable housing because there is so little profit after the cost of the land, time value of the money, and construction costs. You don’t make money off roofs and drywall. The money is in cabinets, appliances, fixtures and so on. A high end kitchen remodel on the Eastside is going to cost $500k. That builder is not interested in building $350,000 condos even if he could.

        I am starting to think this is just a reflexive hatred of single family homes, like cars even if they are electric. That is fine, after all upzoning profits existing house owners, but it still won’t create affordable housing, unless those on this blog want to buy one of the dozens of sub $350,000 condos you describe.

      2. A lot of people can’t afford a $350,000 condo. And that price is just a snapshot in time. Next year it will be higher, and the following year higher, etc. Wages won’t go up that fast, so those condos will gradually become less and less affordable. Which is whats happening to our entire housing market. Not just in areas that have upzoned, but in areas that haven’t upzoned too. Because it’s a housing shortage. The prices are going up because more people are competing for the same unit.

      3. By west coast I assume Tom means Pacific NW, because he is predicting a climate apocalypse for southern CA with millions of climate refugees streaming north, suddenly fulfilling ST’s crazy ridership projections.

        Many folks for a long time have predicted the southwest and CA would run out of water. What they really meant is run out of cheap water, because in the west water allocation was not efficiently allocated, and was based on first come first served priority rights. When air conditioning made hot areas pleasant then first come first served water allocation didn’t work.

        For example when the Colorado River Compact was renegotiated farmers were growing rice in Death Valley. Almonds have become a $6 billion market for CA farmers because they are prized in Asia, pretty easy to grow once established, realize high profit margins, but they are incredibly water intensive. The vast majority of water is used for farming in these areas.

        Increase water prices and efficiency gains will cover population gains, and water price increases have realized enormous water savings already. Same with certain citrus crops that grow well in the desert but are water intensive, but bring high prices in the north. If water really did become that scarce in CA then piping the Columbia river south to the reservoirs in Northern CA would be lucrative enough to convince OR to allow the pipes (this idea has been proposed in the past but OR balked, in part because the price was very low).

        Even in the Pacific NW we have had very dry summers that called for water conservation and even quasi-rationing, but that had nothing to do with running out of water, mostly low snowpack that year. It had to do with the fact the water from the Cedar River Watershed does not go through a very expensive filtering system because there isn’t one, as long as water levels don’t drop below certain levels. Seattle and Bellevue (they have separate water systems with water from Seattle much more expensive) don’t want to spend millions on filtering when it really isn’t needed. We just waste a lot of water in the PNW, which most of the time is not an issue. So jurisdictions now tier price water.

        When we talk about “sprawl” it is important to understand that every piece of private property from Bellingham to San Diego is already privately owned and zoned for some use. Even federal and state forest lands are harvested for timber or used for livestock. This isn’t like the early 1800’s with settlers moving west into vast new lands. There isn’t some vast pristine nature preserve between Everett — Seattle — Tacoma. There are a lot of trees and vegetation, but that is because of the lack of density and lot vegetation on single family homes.

        The other issue often lost in this urban/suburban/rural climate debate is urban lands usually are the ones that pave most if not all of the property. For example, a single family house on Mercer Island can only have 40% of lot area be impervious surface including the driveway no matter what it is made out of; the rest must be pervious and vegetation. When you upzone you necessarily convert that green space into impervious surface for the housing, which is why Seattle has a much lower tree canopy ratio than eastside cities. Eliminating trees and vegetation is simply the flip coin of carbon emissions since they convert CO2 into oxygen.

        If you really thought zoning could solve global warming you wouldn’t upzone residential lots that have maximum impervious surface limits and trees and vegetation into 3-7 story multi-family housing with no pervious surfaces or vegetation, you would create a very defined urban area for housing and build very, very tall buildings. Except most citizens don’t want to live like that. But if you live in dense apartment complex remember you are doing nothing to capture and convert CO2 into oxygen because your housing has no trees or vegetation.

      4. Daniel, scoff if you will at the drying up of the Colorado River, it’s still happening. Lake Meade is approaching the level at which the latest “drain” for Lost Wages will be sucking air not water.

        Whether the gathering drought is a 1000 year anomaly or, as tree ring data more commonly insist is the long-term normal, it is going to have a profound effect on Alta California and its residents. Dude, there are fewer than eight million people in all of Washington, of which roughly 55% live in the Puget Sound lowland. There are 17 million in the five most southern counties of California, or two and a half Washingtons. There is almost another Washington in Arizona.

        And do please remember, Daniel, that if water can be piped from the Columbia over the Siskiyou’s and then the Grapevine to Southern California, it can for far less be piped from Longview to Puget Sound.

        Now, sure, ALL those people are not going to move here — probably not even a quarter will and those replaced by immigrants from Mexico for whom water limitations are old news. But it’s close to a certainty that a large number of them will. They’re not going to move to the Midwest and put up with all the MAGA-Hats.

    1. Tangential, mdnative, but I think still pertinent: a State law that if an employer demands a college degree as a condition of hiring, they should also be required to prove that whatever the degree certifies is essential to the performance of the job.

      Because I get the sense that too often, the degree becomes the title of inherited nobility that our country was born to rid the Earth of. And also, more of a tool to weed out who DOESTN’T get hired, than to hire who does.

      And intrusion of “Artificial Intelligence” into to the selection process is worse than corrupt. You’re judged by someone who knows nothing about you, except how you multiple-choice answers accord with those of another set or unknowns.

      Would like to see this one trashed before professional for-profit polling. Read my work record, check my tool-handling, and tell me to my face where I’m deficient. At least I’ll walk away with something that might get me my next job someplace else.

      Mark Dublin

  4. Why would SDOT want a new J Line approach to the University District Link station? The Route 70 pathway and the already planned westbound overhead on NE 43rd Street would work better. The Route 70 pathway better serves NE Campus Parkway, the UW campus, and the heart of the business district. Building new costly overhead on the couplet and the western segment of NE 43rd Street gets the buses stuck in more traffic, misses existing markets, imposes a longer walk between northbound buses and Link, and requires new pavement and a new traffic signal on Roosevelt Way NE at NE 43rd Street. SDOT must still think funding is not limited and riders like to walk. The Roosevelt couplet has traffic.

    1. The current pathway uses 15th NE and turns at a horrible intersection. However in general I’m concerned about cutting the link between Eastlake and Red Square where most students are bound.

      Having the last northbound stop at 43rd and 12th is a LONG WAY from Central Campus. Even getting off at the 41st Street stop is four blocks.

      Since this line is to remain trolley, it can’t just be a speedy overlay on the 70. The RR’s wouldn’t be able to pass a stopped 70. So we can conclude that this is the end of local service on Eastlake.

      It would be better to turn the RR north on The Ave with a northbound stop right at the stairway to the pedestrian bridge, as the 7X’s used to run. Then turn west on 43rd to to a final northbound stop next to UDS. Isn’t the plan to have the 44 use that stop, continue on to 12th and jog up to 45th there? Two pair of wires could be hung from University Way and 43rd to 12th and 45th, allowing full speed turns without overhead switches. The RR’s would still layover on 12th between 43rd and 45th.

      1. This seems like a really nice proposal. Thank you for making it. Thank you also for speaking out on behalf of the student ridership (another pet category of mine, since they are strong users who are often politically unengaged on transit issues – not disengaged overall, but unengaged on this specific one).

      2. “It would be better to turn the RR north on The Ave with a northbound stop right at the stairway to the pedestrian bridge, as the 7X’s used to run.”

        I agree. Your proposal makes a lot of sense to me.

      3. the J Line would replace Route 70; there would be no Route 70 coaches to pass. the two agencies do not have enough operating hours for both.

      4. Thanks folks.

        I forgot to talk about the southbound route. Remember that the RR overhead would be streetside from 43rd and Brooklyn through the layover section with the 44 overhead to its left (they’d swap at Brooklyn with the 44 stop nearside between Brooklyn and The Ave and the RR stop farside Brooklyn.

        Leaving the layover area the buses and overhead would turn right onto 45th and serve a stop nearside Brooklyn, then turn right on the Ave and go south. There is the potential for conflict between the 44’s and the RR here, because you want to have a farside Brooklyn stop for the 44’s so they can also have direct access to the Link station. It seems like the best thing is for there to be a scissors in the overhead, with two crossings — not switches, diagonal “through” crossings. The RR overhead would be streetside on 45th between 12th and Brooklyn, with the 44’s to its left. In the middle of the 45th and Brooklyn intersection they’d reverse the order with the 44 going streetside and the RR to its left. Then at The Ave the RR would cross the 44 again and make the turn. The 44 would then already be in streetside for its turn down 15th.

        If and when the 44 becomes RR(?) and goes out to Children’s the overhead at 15th would be changed to straight through.

        The RR would run down The Ave to a southbound stop directly across from the stairs. That’s pretty close to the big dorms.

        To continue serving the southwest corner of the U District northbound stop just at the end of the ramp to Campus Parkway should be retained as should the one in the southbound onramp to the University Bridge.

      5. I guess everyone has a different take on the new J (which will obviously replace the 70). First of all, I would hope that the buses would run off wire to their layover if they deviate from the existing pathway. Spending extra money on the wasteful, misguided deviation of the 44 is bad enough — to spend money on something similar for the 70 would be nuts. Unlike the 40, this is the end of the line, which means the bus could go off wire, layover, then get back on wire before they pick up the first rider.

        Second, the campus is large, like most major universities. If you have trouble walking a couple extra blocks to campus, then how can you walk on campus, when you have to get from class to class? You just aren’t going to lose many riders — nor will you have a lot of riders transferring to the 49 so that they can get just a little bit closer. It is worth pointing out that the neighborhood to the west has grown — it has a lot of people and businesses that want to be connected to the rest of the city. It isn’t all about the UW campus. That being said, it is worse for serving the campus, especially Red Square.

        I would say, though, that the main goal of a bus route in that neighborhood is avoiding big delays. It isn’t worth spending a lot of extra time getting people a couple blocks closer to their destination, for the same reason that buses don’t zig-zag downtown (your bus serves one avenue, and if you don’t like it, you walk, or find a crossing bus). In this case, you can make that transfer at the same bus stop.

        To me, this has a very strong emphasis on Link. If you are outbound (northbound) on the J, and transferring to Link, then this is about as fast as you can get. You have to walk one short block and across two intersections, neither of which have traffic lights. It should take around a minute. Your walk inside the station will be much longer. In contrast, the 70 makes a quick right onto Campus Parkway, but then has to make a left before it gets anywhere near the Link station. If it followed the path eddie recommended, it would have to make that left, go up a couple more blocks, take another left, then get the rider to the station. The other bus would get the rider to Link much faster.

        What about getting back? I think it is a wash. This bus leaves the station and takes a free left onto Roosevelt. The 70, in contrast, would meet riders at 45th. From there, a rider would wait for the bus to turn right on 15th, and right again on Campus Parkway. From there, the bus takes advantage of the underpass to merge onto Eastlake. The 70 does have an extra turn, but you don’t get a huge number of pedestrians at that second turn (because east-west walkers have the overpass). The new route is probably a tiny bit faster.

        There are other transfers, of course. The 44 is a big one. From Ballard to Eastlake it is OK. You get off at 45th, then ride the J as it loops around. Not especially fast, but about as good as you can get. The problem is the other direction — from Eastlake to Ballard. So far as I can tell, there is no bus stop close to 12th. They could add one, but I don’t think that is a good idea. So now you really are walking a considerable distance (https://goo.gl/maps/PX3RxNgJgNQgZazs9). Not horrible, but unnecessary, in my opinion (as I’ll get into later).

        I think the strongest argument against this route (other than the point Tom mentioned) is the transfer to the hospital or Montlake. Right now you can get off the bus on Campus Parkway and catch the 48 on the Ave, or walk a block and catch a bunch of buses to the hospital. Now you have to go further north (on both buses) and if you are going from Eastlake to Montlake (or the hospital) you have to walk further.

        These are trade-offs, but I’m not sure they are worth it. One of the more confusing things is how the bus turns around. It will do this sort of thing, before continuing on 43rd: https://goo.gl/maps/bBJ8AH2JtbQf38oB9. Much of that will be off service, but it still takes time. It would make more sense to do this: https://goo.gl/maps/hBS6TKb8Zc331MWYA. That would save two turns.

        The bus would layover next to the station. My guess is that the problem was layover space (with other buses laying over there). Either that, or they really are going to run wire, and have to deal with the 44 on wire as well (yuck).

        Overall, it seems neither here nor there. It improves the connection to Link, but sacrifices other connections. It gets rid of some turns, but adds some new ones. It is neither a speedy bus, making minimal turns, nor a slow one, focused on the most popular areas. With the 65/67 retaining its old route , it can’t even be justified as a coverage route for the Roosevelt couplet. I have a hard time seeing why it is worth the effort (especially if they move wire).

      6. A couple things. One of the big issues is the lack of right-of-way in the U-District. This is nuts. Compare it to downtown. Columbia has had a major makeover, as it now serves as the primary way for SR 99 buses to get downtown. Imagine if they took the same approach as with the U-District. Buses would zig-zag back and forth, hoping to avoid the worst traffic. 45th should have bus lanes (or BAT lanes) in the U-District. That would solve many of these problems.

        Second, the original RapidRide plans avoided many of the issues with the new routing. A route straight up the Roosevelt couplet would have many of the same trade-offs, but at least it would be a straight-shot (avoiding all of the messy turns). It would cover the corridor well, while connecting well with Link and some additional buses (67, new 522). That would allow the rest of the buses to run on the Ave, or terminate at Green Lake Park and Ride.

        If a bus goes from the Roosevelt neighborhood to Eastlake, it is a detour to get over and back.

        It really makes the most sense for buses from the north to cut over. There is very little cost (in time) to using Ravenna as the dogleg. In contrast, it takes more work to get over to the Ave (or 15th) from the south.

        That is why the best combination is what they had before. Run the bus straight up the main corridor past the Roosevelt Link Station. Have buses from the north use the Ave.

      7. @RossB: I think the issue is that it specifically ends up underserving a population that is prone to using the service in a very specific, quantifiable way. “Quantifiable” because the vast majority of students, I believe, use ORCA :)

        Your point about the neighborhood to the West growing is well taken, certainly. And it may well be that by running the 70-replacement over there would lead to new ridership, possibly at the expense of some of the student ridership. It’s a trade-off. It’s not unlike the trade-off you and I were discussing a few weeks ago on the SE side of campus. My fear is still that student voices are not well represented in the decision-making process, and this is why I try to represent them here to some extent (even though this is just a place to spitball, not actually decide anything ;) ) and I am grateful for others, such as @Tom Terrific, doing the same.

      8. it is a choice. SDOT proposes to shift the J Line (Route 70) to the couplet and NE 43rd Street. They will pay for new pavement, overhead, and a signal; this capital would not be needed otherwise. You discussed transfers. If the current Route 70 pathway was retained, transfers would seem easier: NE Campus Parkway, 15th Avenue NE has Routes 44 and 48 and SR-520 routes; Link is better northbound and the same southbound as with the SDOT proposal. both the UW campus and the U District business district are closer to the Route 70 pathway than the SDOT pathway on the couplet. Roosevelt Way NE is the arterial with traffic delay. Battery life is an issue for running off wire.

      9. Campus Parkway was not a significant bus corridor until it became a quasi transit center. That occurred with the DSTT restructure and the subsequent growth of U-Village/northeast routes. It has always been a bit away from the pedestrian center of the U-District and campus. It has several UW dorms, but those are not the majority of the U-District’s population

        So it makes sense to consider moving the bus corridor a bit further north for the post U-District Station) future. I think there’s a good reason for that, although there arguments both ways. A few blocks of trolley rewiring is appropriate for a new station that will be a major transfer point. Metro is doing the rewiring anyway for other routes, so why not add a bit more for the J? SDOT/ST/Metro have designated 43rd as a multimodal, park-like corridor for non-car mobility, so why not move buses there?

      10. I see two advantages for Campus Parkway in its current form:

        1. It is sort of equidistant from the main “commercial” part of the U District (the core Ave blocks), the central part of the UW campus, and the hospital. I say “sort of” because they are all a few blocks away. If we add the western part of the U District to the equation, it’s still kind of true – a few blocks from that, too (though perhaps a few “more” than a few).

        2. There are wide sidewalks, space for large crowded bus stops (have you seen how busy Bay 1 and Bay 2 get whenever the 372 is about to come? Let alone when 372 _and_ 65 are due at the same time…) and for layovers.

        It’s really not clear to me where the layover space will be if they do the 43rd option. There’s usually at least a few buses along Campus Parkway at any given time – at least one 372 and one or two others. The 70 lays over farther North, the 271 does it on campus… but if those are supposed to change to better align with the new station, they may also contribute to the layover space problems. And I really do think the sidewalk space for bus stop waiting is a problem along 43rd.

        Having said that, from a personal perspective, I don’t mind moving the “transit center” duties to 43rd and Brooklyn from Campus Parkway, and I expect that the medical center staff/visitors would just take Link for a stop at that point (annoying to transfer for just one stop, but eh). UW students would suffer the most, again, since the stop is really not well located for this. RossB pointed out that campus is large – true, but we know where most classroom activity is, and it is generally near Red Square, the Quad buildings, and the buildings near the Fountain. Center of mass is probably Odegaard library, and I think that moving more of the transit activity to the Bookstore does add a few minutes to a lot of students’ commutes now. Not a big deal, but not ideal, and student schedules are often quite tight so every minute can count, especially in the morning (this is why there are about three or four 372 runs within 2-3 minutes of each other each that all arrive at Blakeley around the top of the hour to 10 after, each hour… most of the ridership is on those.)

        Long story short, don’t ignore the practical aspects of the street layout, and don’t ignore students, when planning these changes :)

      11. Adding a couple blocks to Odegaard is mitigated by avoiding the stairs up and down the bridge, or having to walk around a block to avoid the bridge. That walking around a block is the same distance as walking to 43rd Street, and the hassle of going up and down the stairs is equivalent to one or two extra blocks more or less.

      12. Ross, I’d like to point out that — according to Teh Google’s Map Thingy –the distance from the proposed RapidRide station just north of Campus Parkway on 11th NE to Red Square — which nearly everyone not going to the Law Building would pass through on the way to a class — is 0.4 miles. The distance between 14th NW and NW Market Street to 20th NW and NW Market Street it 0.3 miles.

        You have bemoaned that onerous walk as a deal killer for a station at 14th NW. How come, then, is a walk 33% longer for the vast majority of mid-day riders not a deal killer for Rapid Ride J? Inquiring minds want to know.

        There are no stop signs on University Way between Campus Parkway and 43rd. It makes a lot of sense for traffic to be separated between buses plus commercial vehicles on The Ave and cars on 15th NE. The 44 could probably be improved as well by being re-routed up University Way from Pacific to the 43rd/45th couplet.

        Yes, students using the 44 (and 48?) would all walk two blocks farther per day (one block each way), but the buses would run much more quickly on The Ave than they do on 15th. It would also remove difficulty the drivers would face moving over a lane from the stop just south of Campus Parkway to turn at 43rd.

        You mentioned the lack of bus priority in the U District. Here it is. Dedicate University Way to buses and commercial vehicles between Pacific and 50th and you have what is largely a busway.

      13. Mike, Campus Parkway was THE bus corridor for decades from even before the original Blue Streak project with its 7 Blue Streak routes (7 15th NE, 7 Lake City and 7 View Ridge). Even before the 9 (now 49) was extended, all the versions of the 7 used Campus Parkway between The Ave and 11th NE/Roosevelt.

        The southbound expresses (“Blue Streaks”) used the convoluted path via Campus, 40th, and 8th NE to the final stop between 7th and 8th on 42nd then used the express entrance in the morning or turned north on 7th and went round the horn to the main lanes via 45th in the afternoon. That was later replaced by “express” running along Eastlake because it was just as fast and more reliable.

        The northbound expresses in the morning got off at 45th using one way northbound 7th, turned right on 45th then immediately right onto 8th NE to run back down to 42nd. Then they turned left to a stop just east of 8th and on to Roosevelt. The turned right onto Roosevelt and almost immediately turned across traffic onto eastbound Campus Parkway. The afternoon northbound expresses used the express ramp and then went straight east on 42nd to Roosevelt. Again, when the afternoon southbound expresses were rerouted via Eastlake the northbound morning equivalents were also. By that time they had been promoted to the 70 series.

        The southwest corner of the U District had superb transit service in those days, at least insofar as commuters were concerned. The stops cater-corner at 8th and 42nd were at most five minutes from the stops on Fifth by the Court House.

      14. “You have bemoaned that onerous walk as a deal killer for a station at 14th NW. How come, then, is a walk 33% longer for the vast majority of mid-day riders not a deal killer for Rapid Ride J?”

        UW and Ballard are not comparable. UW is much larger, the size of a small town. People are willing to walk further to it, walk further between classes, and walk to a lot of other destinations and apartments all around 43rd. The U-District upzone is centered on Roosevelt, so there’s a lot of western development coming. So the walk from 43rd to Odegaard is a smaller portion of people’s total walking or the size of the district, so it seems less significant or excessive.

        Ballard’s biggest draws are a point and a line: Swedish and Ballard Ave. The walk from 14th is a large part of the total walk and the district is smaller, which makes it obvious you’re walking across at least half the district, and why isn’t the station closer to the center? Density drops off preciptiously east of 14th (or at most a couple blocks further with the zigzag upzone boundary), so there’s not much of a walkshed east of the station to explain why it’s so far east.

      15. Mike, that is some pretty strong special pleading. The stops “for the U-District upzone centered on Roosevelt” are to be just north of Campus Parkway. Grant that a northbound stop at the end of the ramp from the bridge to Campus Parkway would be about 200 feet farther away, the southbound stop in the loop up to the bridge would be about 50 feet away.

        The other U-District stops would be at 12th both ways which yes is a block closer to Roosevelt than one between Brooklyn and 12th. So the upper part of the neighborhood would be better served by the SDOT plan. But students would be much less well-served.

    2. RapidRide is not an overlay. That was decided early with RapidRide A, B, and E. This line effectively an upgrade of the 70, as is appropriate for the busiest routes. The “Roosevelt” terminology was misleading: the original vision was to terminate at U-District Station. So the truncated line is going back to the original vision.

    3. Any particular reason for the 70, J, or whatever you want to call it to take Fairview instead of Westlake? Other than inertia and “that’s where the trolley wire happens to be”, it seems like Westlake gets closer to the neighborhood center and also a shorter walk to Seattle Center. For going downtown, the two pathways seem about equal. Westlake also has existing bus lanes and with the combined frequency of the 70, 40, and C-line, maybe that’s good enough to justify killing off the SLU streetcar.

      1. They probably looked at it as Eastlake vs Fairview. Historically Eastlake had the most service, but then there was so much development on Fairview the 70 was created on Fairview. The J is really an upgrade to the 70 so it inherited that. It makes sense if the goal is to serve the same walkshed the 70 serves.

        If the J were on Westlake it would have to make two turns on Valley Street like the streetcar does. That makes sense for the streetcar, which is trying to get to Lake Union Park and Fred Hutch. It doesn’t necessarily make sense for a route that primarily serves Eastlake and the U-District; it would slow the bus down.

      2. Any particular reason for the 70, J, or whatever you want to call it to take Fairview instead of Westlake?

        My guess is it’s faster, once they add the bus/BAT lanes on Fairview. Westlake itself is fine, but my guess is the turn to get over to Fairview would be murder. I don’t know if any C riders want to comment on that, but I assume that is a slog. Very little can be done about it, unless they want to make the Mercer Mess messier. By using Fairview (and taking lanes on it) it avoids that mess.

        If we got rid of the streetcar, then they could make Valley wider by taking the space to the north (which now includes exclusive rail track) and replace it with bus lanes (on either side of the street). That would probably be ideal, as it would avoid the Terry dogleg of the streetcar, while retaining the (relatively fast) travel on Westlake. Other southern routes could do the same thing as the C (e. g. the 101) and go though downtown, more than making up for the streetcar. Getting rid of the streetcar was not part of this project (unfortunately).

        Even if the Westlake to Fairview approach was faster than it is now, I would probably still have the 70 do what it does, just because it makes sense to have at least one bus on Fairview (and it will always be as fast, if not faster).

  5. Martin is correct to be skeptical about passenger only ferries. They are quite costly. Funds are scarce.

    1. As someone with a high school senior filling out college applications I can tell you the safety around the UW, especially the Ave., is a big concern among parents. Just sending an 18 year right out of high school to an urban city like Seattle to attend college causes angst, just like sending them to USC, especially a daughter, when many college campuses are in rural, safer areas. When they see the Ave. that scares them. Even the most ardent progressive is not very progressive when it comes to the safety of their child.

      Granted most freshman and sophomores will live on campus, or on Greek Row, or east of 17th, and most of the student activity has moved to the University Village Shopping Center. Still, the Ave. is not what most parents envision when sending their kids off to college. There are few more “urban” folks then students, because most don’t own cars and must walk everywhere. So my suggestion is any bus service to the west side of campus drop off students on 15th, right next to the university, to avoid crossing the Ave.

      Former President Emmert once considered having the UW buy all the property to the west side of the Ave., and fencing it off. The property is not very valuable right now in its current situation and so the cost would be low, and if somehow secured as university property devoted to retail would skyrocket in value. I remember when there was a Nordstroms on the Ave.

      It is a shame our flagship university borders the Ave., and the city thinks the condition on the Ave. is acceptable next to a university. One of Seattle’s former police captains once lamented the huge amounts of city property the city had conceded to lawlessness, from the Ave. to anything west of 3rd, including 3rd Ave.

      Although my wife and I attended the UW, and I attended law school there, and it would be the best fit school wise for our daughter (and by FAR the cheapest option) we are seriously looking at out of state colleges because our daughter (as opposed to her older brother) has the grades to go just about anywhere, although USC won’t be one of them although she might not know that yet.

      The UW is probably the biggest economic engine in this region. Applications for next year are down across all colleges. It is a great university, and it shouldn’t have a dangerous area called “University Ave.” bordering it on the west.

      1. I think there’s a certain perception of safety at rural colleges but I don’t know if they really are safer. I know drunk driving is an especially higher risk and every college town, even the rural ones, have unfortunately high levels of sexual assault. The best way to make sure your daughter is safe is by teaching her to stay close with friends she trusts.

      2. Vice-Presidential election, 1988. One candidate:

        “I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.”

        His opponent:

        “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

        So tonight, here’s how I’ll put it. “Daniel: I watched urban industrial collapse firsthand. And nothing about Seattle and environs will ever get anywhere close to being IT!”

        From what I’m seeing of her generation at this writing, your young lady will be among the ones that make sure that wherever she stations herself, that place will never be 1998 Detroit either.

        It will be good if Transit can ever create a strong attachment for her. Because, details aside, if her average assignment reads like one of your submissions, she’ll be a formidable consultant.

        Who helps Rachel Smith unite the South Lake Union car-tracks with the First Hill ones via the Connector. The Seattle Chamber IN CHARGE! Under these ladies’ joint rock-like control. Better get used to not crossing her!

        Incidentally, have you and she possibly considered trade school for her? To me, that’s where we’ll start the Real Recovery of all our nation’s industries.

        Lake Washington Institute of Technology. A short fast Link ride from your home. Creating precision machines on her screen. Fascinating and danger-free for miles around. And safest of all…They’ll never put me on faculty.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Gee, how did myself and my nine siblings ever survive growing up in NYC (for myself, that was the 60s and 70s), all of us public school graduates, eight of us college-educated (thank you SUNY), and two of us getting our higher education in the city itself along with another sibling who completed nursing school there? That’s a rhetorical question of course and it’s in response to your oft-repeated theme about the big and scary city of Seattle. Give it a rest, please.

      4. You really are paranoid. At least 18,000 women attend UW every year, and 5,200 of them live on campus or in the U-District. Should they all switch to another university because UW isn’t safe in your opinion?

        The Ave is one of the unique things that make the U-District such a successful urban center. Students go to campus. Non-students shop on the Ave, and enjoy its wide variety of businesses and restaurants, and narrow pre-WWII storefronts (a commercial area done right), and the convenience of having buses right there and being able to walk across the entire district.

        I started going to the Ave in junior high; it was a kind of youth hangout. Then I lived on campus for four years and the Ave was my local shops. Then I lived in an apartment on the Ave for 14 years. Then, after a year gap, I started transferring buses on the Ave on the way to work for 15 years. So I know the Ave pretty well. If you destroy the Ave, you’re destroying the village in order to save it.

        The Ave is one of only a small handful of highly successful pedestrian centers. Others are Broadway/Pike/Pine and Ballard Ave. There’s nothing else like them in the state. Many American cities don’t have anything like them at all. As such, they’re tourist attractions. If you destroy the Ave, you’re destroying the village in order to save it. You may not think much of the current mix of businesses and empty storefronts, but these change over time. Destroying the Ave would prevent it from ever becoming better.

        It’s sad to see your daughter’s choice of colleges limited by your paranoid fears. You might ask why she’s scared of the Ave. It’s probably because her father taught her to be. Again, over five thousand women live in the U-District when in-person classes are open, and eighteen thousand women attend the U.

      5. Wow, just wow! You want to run “Urban Renewal” [aka “Negro Removal”] on the U District? Send your daughter to U of Idaho in Moscow. Lots of protection from “urbanist thugs” there.

      6. This is pretty ridiculous paranoia. I doubt the Ave is any more dangerous than Broadway or Pine or 15th Ave E or Ballard Ave or similar in Seattle or other American cities. Sure, it would be nice if there weren’t so many homeless around, but you could say the same about anywhere in Seattle. A college student (male or female) is at way more risk of getting alcohol poisoning at a party than of getting mugged on a Seattle street.

        Cities, small towns and suburbs can all make good or bad places for someone to attend college, depending on one’s personality, goals, finances, and the culture of the institution. The street conditions on the Ave would be very low on my list of priorities in making such a decision.

      7. You should run for mayor, Daniel. You would get … hold on here … 8% of the vote. Make Seattle Great Again!

      8. I too have a senior daughter at MIHS. I have a freshman too. On the list of things I worry about when I think of sending them to college, neighborhood crime is not high. I worry far more about things like sexual assault by fellow students, drunk driving, and alcohol poisoning [And, especially by MIHS standards, my kids are not party animals]

    2. eddiew, jet-boat-wise, while Time is indeed Money, if it’s spent stuck in traffic, that counts as Aggravated Grand Theft Cubed.

      Know you think I’m just being pro-Mercer Island to bug Mercer Island, but since the Roanoke Landing’s been waiting patiently since 1938, “Hydro-Shilshole” should be worth its weight in ($)!

      But here’s the main thing. If you do your procurement with a BRAND-ing iron, your system’s gonna end up riding a non-Express Route 4 up to the BURN ward at Harborview.

      Where’s it anywhere written that we can’t “spec” out a bus that can both make stops and pass them, whatever time, location, and traffic require? Can’t “BRT” he a category of service, not machines?

      Whole selling point of a bus is its versatility. Can you name me any mandatory hostile trade-offs? Our BRT’s are red, and Eugene’s are green.

      Since theirs are the ones with the extra doors, no reason we couldn’t borrow one for the J-line and just keep one side shut no matter how hard somebody rings the bell. Just so the “J” over the windshield stays attached.

      But here’s some serious Electrosimplification. Invite those Swedish truckers over here on a pantograph contract. Which no for-sale Boeing plant in either Everett, Renton or on East Marginal should have any problem filling. Go online to YouTube for “Swedish Electric Trucks.”

      Done right, no reason Route 70’s every standard two-wire “artic” can’t share copper with a “pan” mechanism fitted for Eastern Swedish trucking without anybody losing either a minute or a “pole.” Or “taking down” Wire One.

      Any Special-Work conflict, if Worse Comes to Worst, those rigs can just “drop pans” and switch to battery without losing a single mph at sixty. Let alone thirty on Eastlake/Roosevelt.

      I do think the Mercer Island business community, as well as far-East-side people they employ, might take well to a blue and white 550 Ellensburg cresting Snoqualmie pass at seventy. FlixBus is private and shouldn’t be in the way.

      But as a business move, ($)herself might get them a pantograph or two if they want to join our consortium. Great thing about these “pans” is that, without making a sound, they really can Make Their Point!

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mile when was the last time you were on the Ave? Students don’t go to the Ave unless it is the Bookstore, and most materials are online.

        When it’s your daughter you can do whatever you want. I get a kick out of the progressive urban machismo on this blog when I have worked in Pioneer Square for the last 30 years.

        My daughter can go wherever she wants, and some of the schools she is looking at are better undergraduate schools than the UW. She can make up her own mind. She doesn’t need your advice and has many friends at the UW so knows the scene. She thinks the Ave. is filled with old pervs and creeps.

        But thanks for the advice on where my daughter should go to college. A little presumptuous don’t you think?

      2. “Students don’t go to the Ave”

        Sure thing, Mercer Island Man. All the people packing the sidewalks and patronizing the cheap restaurants and bars there are just young people who happen to live in the U District and have no affiliation to the UW, is that right? They just stole their UW branded sweatshirts from some paranoid suburban kid like your daughter, because they definitely don’t go to UW, huh?

        When’s the last time you were there, 1975?

      3. There’s a noticeable increase in Chinese, Korean, and Indian restaurants on the Ave in the past five years. Over half a dozen in the past five years, including some higher-end than the older ones. Whom could these be targeting but the increase in foreign students at the U, and the increasing interest among the general population for these foods (and service and prices). But by your assumptions, this increase can’t be happening, or students are having it delivered to their dorm room because they’re afraid of the Ave, or they’re somehow getting it zigzag via U-Village in a way that inflates U-Village’s numbers. But if this increase weren’t happening, the new restaurants wouldn’t be there or would have closed soon after opening. (They may close now with covid, but that’s a nationwide issue.)

        I myself developed an interest in Korean food over the past two years and have visited several of these places to see which ones I liked best.

      4. I mean no disrespect toward your family, and I normally wouldn’t mention it, except that you cited it as a core reason to convert the Ave to university buildings, and said most students feel the same way and shun the Ave. That is a complete overgeneralization. 35,000+ students don’t all think the same way or have the same adversions and shopping patterns.

        You persistently say Seattle is so unsafe that people are avoiding living there or spending time there, that jobs are moving to the Eastside, and people are moving out of Seattle. You say your most direct recent experience is Pioneer Square. Well, Pioneer Square is the worst in Seattle in terms of a large homeless concentration and related problems (e.g., crime). I’ve seen the tent clusters you mention at the 15th & John park, Industrial Way, Cal Anderson Park, along I-5, and you know what? They’re small. They’re one minor problem among the whole of everything Seattle has. We should eliminate them by giving the residents temporary housing on the way to building enough permanent subsidized housing for all who need it. But that’s a long-term issue, the politicians haven’t gotten their act together yet, and it’s not unique to Seattle but common among American cities.

        I’ve heard about covid-era tent growth on the Ave and I’ll go look soon to see if it’s larger than the others. I doubt it is. In any case, it’s a product of the covid-related job losses and increasing personal expenses, and will presumably retreat when the pandemic does. The Ave businesses are struggling because the large number of UW students and staff aren’t there for in-person classes. We should not make long-term decisions about the Ave based on a temporary pandemic situation.

        The reason the biggest homeless concentration is in Pioneer Square is that’s where the most shelters and services are. For over two decades there were hardly any services elsewhere so people concentrated there. Now the suburbs have started recognizing their own homeless problem and adding some housing and services, but they’re still not doing their share. Most of the homeless aren’t coming from other states; they’re people who couldn’t afford a rent increase, lost their job, or had an unexpected medical expense. People who previously lived in Seattle or suburban house or apartment.

      5. I can’t run for mayor of Seattle, Ross. I am not a resident of Seattle, although I have worked in downtown Seattle for 30 years.

        I can’t imagine anyone who would want to be mayor of Seattle over the next four years with the division and vitriol, but I am sure dozens will sign up to run, despite some huge structural problems from homelessness to bridges.

        I do know this time the voters of Seattle have to get it right, and elect a mayor unlike past mayors, someone who can work with shrinking revenue, and I wish them well. I find it ironic you state I would get 8%, which could be true, but you have also posted you think the best Seattle mayors have been Norm Rice, Paul Schell and Wes Uhlman I believe, and my guess is each of these past mayors would get 8% if they ran today. Seattle is different now.

        I have spent my entire living or working in Seattle, or going to school here, and I think this is the worst I have seen Seattle (pre-pandemic). The 1970’s — 1990’s were gritty, especially downtown although the neighborhoods were lovely then, but there wasn’t the tribal hatred between groups, or the stark wealth divide. Public schools were generally better too, a huge issue if you are a parent. If there is one statistic that really bothers me it is 22% of Seattle parents send their kids to private K-12 schools, because those are the 22% who can afford to.

        Personally I thought Durkan was that person, but I was wrong. I am not sure there is any person to fit the requirements. I think the residents of Seattle simply love division and tribal warfare.

      6. Hi William, wow two Islanders on this blog. Do you take transit? If so how do you get to the bus stop?

        I think every parent worries about the issues you raise. I have a sophomore in college, a nephew at the UW, another nephew at Oregon, and a son at University of Arizona, and colleges for the most part are pretty good at moderating behavior, even in the Greek system, especially compared to when I attended college. Kids are more conscientious and serious than when I was a kid, but also more vulnerable. I think parents today are much more protective than when I was young in a large Catholic family.

        But there are some good schools like the University of Chicago, Columbia, Washington University, Yale, and USC that are in distressed high crime areas, and for us that is a concern. Even Tucson has iffy areas. So surrounding neighborhoods is one factor we consider, although we try to give our daughter as much say in the choice as possible.

        The reason most UW students favor University Village over the Ave. is because all the retail is there, because it is safe and clean. Retail depends on the street and so always follows safe streets.

        At the same time some colleges you would think would have the safest on-campus atmosphere like Baylor in Waco had issues.

        The relevance of this to transit is transit relies on safe streets, especially if you are a woman. When the 550 was kicked out of the transit tunnel it became difficult for our firm in Pioneer Square to hire staff from the eastside because the return bus is on 2nd and S. Jackson. If I would feel uncomfortable having my wife or daughter wait for a bus in the dark at S. Jackson, I feel hesitant to ask staff to do the same, and not surprisingly pre-pandemic ridership dropped 1/3 when the 550 was removed from the tunnel.

        Personally my advice to my son and daughter is undergraduate college is more fun at a large not-too-urban campus, and graduate school is the time for more urban universities, including Europe, when you are 22 and not 18, but maybe that is just my experience.

        I hope your daughter gets the choice she wants and has a fabulous time. I would say my undergraduate years at the UW were my favorite. Graduate school is too competitive.

        But I would still like to see the city of Seattle address it’s street scene because that is so critical to revenue from shoppers, tourists, diners, et al. At the same time, after 32 years we have decided to leave Seattle when our lease expires in 2022 so I will be mostly a spectator on Seattle’s issues, although we pay a lot of Seattle taxes. Nothing like switching from MI’s Nextdoor to STB. Two different worlds.

        The race for Seattle’s mayor will definitely be interesting. I hope Seattle figures out what it wants, and what it can afford, because the latter determines the former although I am not sure some Seattleites understand that. No money no frequency.

      7. And Mike, what hassle using the bridge? The uphill approach from the west is across the enormously wide staircase in front of the Admin building. Two steps horizontal, one step up, two steps horizontal, one step up. That’s not much of a grade. Then, yes, there are the stairs up to the bridge itself. They total about 30 of which the first ten are fairly normal rise/run gradient. However, the second, longer case has a relatively low rise per step.

        Westbound there are only five steps up to the bridge level and then it’s all downhill.

        I get it, for northbound departing users of the 44 (the 49 is only a shuttle at this point) have great access at the bottom of the spiral ramp. But the arriving passengers are all either taking the bridge already or are walking down to 40th.

        So centralizing the buses on The Ave would largely be an improvement.

  6. The transit-only northbound lane on Rainier Avenue from Henderson to (almost) Orcas Street is complete and operational. Northbound Routes 7 and 9 (if re-instated) now have a dedicated bus-only lane in deep south Seattle.

    I doubt this improvement will result in much of an overall speed improvement for the 7. Most of the major sticky spots on Rainier Avenue are still just as they were before. The northbound bus-only lane may actually work to slow down the southbound 7 buses. In some spots, the southbound lanes have been reduced to only one lane for both buses and cars. So, for every minute saved on the northbound trip, the southbound trip may be several minutes longer.

    Also, the traffic speed limit on MLK has been lowered to 25 mph, but Link trains still seem to be rolling along at 35 mph, as are most of the vehicles in the traffic lanes.

    1. “In some spots, the southbound lanes have been reduced to only one lane for both buses and cars.”

      Yeah, I agree with your analysis. We noticed this recently when my spouse and I dropped off some food for my mother-in-law (who lives on south Beacon Hill) and we drove through that area. It seems counterproductive to the say the least. We also had the same observation about the speed adjustment on MLK when we went to pick up some dim sum from one of the restaurants down there.

      1. Tlsgwm, and GuyOnBeaconHill, two recent visits to Rainier Valley leave me with exactly what you said. Tell me one thing. The prosperity I see in Columbia City, is it real? Very different from my driving days so long ago.

        Two suggestions. One, does the Historical Society have any period photographs from the last time street rail itself served the Valley all the way to Renton? In the past, definitely fewer people living there.

        What I’m wondering is this: did The Valley ever have enough room to not be Country- with an interurban on a rural lane for an arterial?

        Or to put it another way, did space-discipline inevitably have to be stricter than usual to make anything “fit” enough to “MOVE?” So right now, experience again, but what I think we’re looking at is Value Engineering.

        Yes, like Public Art, for similar reasons. Someone who Knows: Does the Seven still have any enthusiasts among the workforce? Because like any moving work of art, trunks, storks or not, this work will take a “hands-on” feel to handle. Re-requisite for a year or two on “Detail.” To design a railroad.

        Something DSTT should’ve tried but didn’t. Buses or troops, platoons are there to move things through close quarters. Speed-capable, but only in motion, Whatever stops becomes a plug.

        Requires absolutely the worst thing DSTT never got. Platoon discipline one end to the other. Except ten miles instead of 1.3.

        Twelfth and Jackson to Rainier and Henderson. “LCC” controllers actively signaling discreet platoon after platoon, turning lights green as each group enters, all the way down. And back up.

        Possibly the lead-up to The Real Thing: Streetcars, called light-rail if you want, the same passenger capacity. Coupling buses certainly saves platoon length. Though standard buses don’t couple and survive. Critical linear strength not there.

        Uncoupled bus platoon has to “accordion”, more speed more space. Making coupled railcars what we really need,

        What the Interurban did. The Link We’ve Got? Why not? Though my eyesight doesn’t tape-measure well. What’s rail-side think? Will they fit? If they do, could be it’s also what we NEED to do.

        First order of business…..KCM, ST, can ANYBODY we elect stand transit, except for targeted denunciation? For DSTT, I think we had three. With enough motivation, one or two will do. And some hired engineering advice on labor’s own. Union dues? For drivers’ own good, worth ($)t.

        Find that 1892 Kroll map where the tracks show and the catenary looks like clotheslines. We’ve got an Interurban to build.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Mark, I can remember the days when Columbia City was just a bunch of boarded-up storefronts. How long was the gap between the time that Grayson & Brown closed and the grand opening of La Medusa? It might have been a few years or maybe just a few months, but it sure seemed like Columbia City had disappeared forever.

        The northern end of Rainier Valley is getting a ton of new apartments and condos. There doesn’t seem to be much planned for grocery stores and street level commercial, however. I expect it will follow, although the notion of the 10 minute neighborhood doesn’t seem to be what’s happening in the north end of the Valley.

        The slice of land between Rainier and MLK located south of Alaska Street is seeing a lot of growth, too. These neighborhoods have grocery stores and small shops–much more of a 10 minute neighborhood feel.

    2. No problem Mike, my daughter’s decision will be made on the same factors most kids choose college: 1. where they get accepted; 2. the quality of the undergraduate education (although the UW has some of the highest rated graduate schools undergraduate is mediocre due to the size of classes); 3. cost; and 4. location (some kids want to go someplace new, some don’t).

      Re: safety that is a consideration too. There are a zillion Facebook pages and online chat groups for parents to discuss safety, both at the school and in the surrounding town. For example here is a common link on these sites about crime in Seattle.

      https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/wa/seattle/crime

      Here is one on the Ave.

      https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-ave-seattle

      Then there are recommendations for the UW from the Frat and Sorority organizations, and Freshman orientation for Dorms.

      As you can imagine every parent who doesn’t live in Seattle constantly mentions “Seattle is Dying”, and now a sequel is coming out. If you live in a smaller or rural town with virtually no crime or street people that documentary is terrifying. Why not send your kid to the University of Indiana, which is a fabulously rated school, very safe, and actually has pretty good weather for most of the year (fall and spring are very nice) which is why it is so expensive for out of state. Graduate school is the time to go to an edgy city.

      As can be imagined local residents tend to take these sites with a grain of salt. For example, if I haven’t been to or lived in another city where my daughter is thinking of going then I tend to believe statistics or hyperbole more. But I am way more concerned about safety for my 17 year old daughter than I am for myself when it comes to level of safety. My wife is Uber sensitive about safety and would NEVER go to The Ave. alone (or at all).

      There are these links for every university. I wasn’t the one who suggested to Emmert the UW buy the property to the west of the Ave. It was the boosters and Board, because it was a negative for recruiting. It was an interesting idea. The UW has more money than God and owns half of downtown Seattle. I kind of wish Emmert had pulled the trigger on that idea. But there is always University Village Mall and that is quite popular.

      Re: transit I just thought it made sense to run buses along the west side of the UW to avoid requiring students to cross or get off on The Ave.

  7. Bruce Nourish and mdnative (Bethesda, Eastern Shore, Baltimore or Frederick by any chance?) I think the housing-density problem will solve itself the same way as will jam-doomed traffic.

    From what I’m seeing of the Class of 2020 and their likely room-mates, co-workers, fellow-passengers and jam-sick drivers, what’ll also kill MSF (Malicious-Single-Family) will be that the average cookie-cutter mansion is as BO-RING as it is overpriced. And its maintenance owns you.

    Know Europe’s long had truth’s own “Handle” on this. Oslo, Gothenburg, Helsinki….Your streetcar ride will take you past places you can’t hit the bell fast enough to stop, get off, go see and beg to buy. Here? The Curse of 2008 still leaves its grave and walks. Buying houses to be “Flipped”, not lived-in.

    Those Covenants, we Jews out of old Austria-Hungary De-Stricted like this. Since a lot of those houses’ main inflated selling point was that they were Jew-free, ($) her own sweet self gave us the go-ahead to Just Go Live Elsewhere/Nicer.

    And this same hateful mechanism worked even better for Country Clubs! Since our persecutors’ religion often taught that flavored food was even more sinful than non-reproductive sex, their faith required their clubs to serve its opposite at stratospheric prices.

    And same in spades, hearts, and queens for Entertainment. People named Bernie Sanders came from Galicia (Ga-LEETZ-ia.) Sam Goldwyn came from Warsaw. Hollywood was founded by Jewish refugees from the New York theater scene.

    The way I think it’s already “Going Down” with Traffic is that increasingly, it’s gotta be jelly ’cause Jams don’ Move AT ALL. Whether your Bracket bills your time or not, your car bills her fuel and brake-linings. But mainly being long-time lifelong monkeys, what we cannot be is BORED. We start to eat our tails! Seen a scared bored “Vervet” actually do it.

    Which will really finally deliver Transit’s own Box Office Gold. Whatever its other identifying attributes, the Demographic that’ll “Make” Link Big-time will be kids who love their train-rides. Of all ages and ethnicities. Once a rider, for life a voter. Uber’s beneficiary, go Automate that!

    Since bribery-laws don’t cover, no reason our every bargain ORCA card can’t count as Rail’s own little hard-core Campaign Piggybank-Stuffer. And one more implacable little hand snatching her Daddy’s card out of his hand to TAP! so the Courts can just go “CURSES!”

    Though buses, fear trains not. Not everything on rubber has to kill fish. And a foot on the pedal that understands dynamic braking can make the 27 even more fun down Lake Dell Avenue than Link inbound past Tukwila International. Though you did not hear that from me!

    Mark Dublin

      1. Creed? Wish I even THOUGHT I could do something for him, but Apollo-Mifflin Paper won’t take my calls. Any plans of theirs to relocate to Mercer Island?

        They just need to be careful about parking in that roundabout between the disused cafe and the transit center that really will workout all right. Sign says they’ll get towed at their expense.

        But THINK the Island up a parking lot or two, and it could be the beginning of a THOUGHT-full relationship.

        Mark Dublin

    1. Bethesda. (I still have a condo that I rent out near Friendship Heights Metro station– I only raise the rent when a tenant moves out).

    1. As I’ve commented before – suburban sprawl turns red House/state leg districts blue, whereas smart growth merely makes already blue districts even bluer.

      In 2018, Democrats owed a lot of their House majority to the fact that suburban sprawl happened at a faster pace than Republican gerrymanders in 2010 anticipated.

      1. I think that is an interesting point you have raised before. But there is a wide difference between suburbs, especially in Western Washington, and rural areas. Upzoning urban areas won’t influence who moves to the suburbs — which is mostly driven by schools and kids— or how the suburbs vote.

        Historically every President loses big in the midterms, no one like Obama. It didn’t mean the suburbs suddenly went red in 2010–2016, or there was a mass migration to the suburbs in 2018. The suburbs actually change their mind.

        The suburbs voted for Trump in 2016 and against him in 2020 because he botched the pandemic and was seen as immoral to suburban women. Trump would have won in a landslide without the Coronavirus with a 3.5% unemployment rate, and Trump got historic Hispanic and Black votes for a Republican. Go figure. Biden is hardly a progressive, and neither is Harris. Biden’s cabinet is pretty mainstream moderate.

        Biden is the first Democrat president since I think 1892 not to hold both houses when first elected.

        But despite it all Trump almost won, which astounds me. Defund the police was a disaster in the suburbs, and the suburban vote narrowed the Democrat margin in the House, probably kept control of the Senate in Republican hands despite three times as many Republican Senators up for re-election, and handed 60% of state legislatures to Republicans in a census year. Plus we now have a super majority Uber conservative supreme Court.

        Republicans also learned that when they run women candidates they sweep the suburban vote. Suburban women tend to like Republican policies but don’t like immoral men. Suburban men are much more conservative — socially and fiscally — than their wives. Look for a lot of female Republican candidates in 2022.

        The suburban voter tends to be a social moderate and fiscal conservative. They are some of the last swing voters in this polarized country. Urban Progressives tend to ridicule the suburbs, but the suburbs don’t listen or care. At all.

        If history is any clue Republicans will take the House in 2022, and Republicans will search for their next Reagan and Democrats their next Obama, but both will be disappointed. After all, are there any Progressives exhilarated at a Biden presidency except he isn’t Trump. This is the guy who co-sponsored the 1994 crime bill and told Obama to not repeal it because the suburbs liked the 1994 crime bill (but did support gay marriage although Obama did not) and Biden has wanted to be president since the early 80’s. He got there in the end.

        What does this have to do with transit? Not much. Biden isn’t a transit advocate. He rode the train because he had to. Now he doesn’t have to. There will be an infrastructure program but it will prioritize cars because roads are job creators with prevailing wage requirement, Mark Dublin’s dream.

    2. That’s interesting, but it seems to have little to do with suburban density. Instead, as cities sprawl but county boundaries don’t move, a previously rural county gradually becomes a city county. I’d wager it has little to do if the new development is low, medium, or high density, but rather that a growing share of a county’s population is ‘city’ culturally & economically.

      So to asdf2’s point, if the goal is to take over as many county government’s as possible, I suppose suburban sprawl helps. But it’s urbanization in general, up or out, that is driving growth in Democratic votes, or am I misreading those articles?

      Democrats have been selling demographic inevitability for decades, and the American political system seems to keep figuring out new ways to keep the split 48-48.

      1. the American political system seems to keep figuring out new ways to keep the split 48-48

        That’s because African-Americans and Latinos are more culturally conservative and entrepreneurial than most Euro-American Democrats. A non-racist Republican has to convince them that he or she is not like the Dog Whistlers, but those who are genuine like George Bush can win a significant portion of the votes of People of Color.

        Until and unless the 19 Brumaire caucus learns to keep their mouths shut there will be little progress to be had.

      2. A large part of the Cuban, Venezuelan, and to a lesser extent other Hispanic communities seemed to be swayed by the Republicans’ knee-jerk rhetoric about “socialism”, as if there’s no difference between a Western European social safety net and the Cuban and Venezuelan dictatorships. If this is accurate, it means they were swayed by disinformation, not just by a general cultural conservatism. Any objective view would be that the most dangerous Castro/Maduro-like dictator wannabes are the ones the anti-socialist rhetoric promoted. And that the misinformation and hyperbole is the same kind of technique pumped out in Soviet Russia and probably Cuba and Venuzeuela. So the way to avoid catastrophic socialism is to vote for the most dictator-wannabe candidates in the US and embrace their totalitarian-like propaganda strategy, that under their rule could be come the majority of news media?

      3. Democrats have been selling demographic inevitability for decades, and the American political system seems to keep figuring out new ways to keep the split 48-48.

        White people just won’t disappear. Here is the Black vote up to 2012: https://twitter.com/futureusrefugee/status/1267145572496138243/photo/1. Hillary Clinton took the Black vote 89 – 8. Biden took it 87 – 12. It isn’t just Black voters, it is all voters of color. It would have been a huge landslide if not for all those White voters (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1184425/presidential-election-exit-polls-share-votes-ethnicity-us/). Likewise, if Trump got his wish (and only White people voted) it would have been a huge landslide in the other direction (57 – 42) https://www.statista.com/statistics/1184425/presidential-election-exit-polls-share-votes-ethnicity-us/.

        It is only White people (and the racist electoral college) that keeps Republicans competitive in presidential elections (a white vote is worth more — https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/11/22/13713148/electoral-college-democracy-race-white-voters). You have a similar problem in the Senate (four votes for the Dakotas, two votes for California) while gerrymandering alters the makeup of the House.

      4. Following up on RossB’s comment, here’s a more recent piece from vox.com concerning the structural problem (for both Democrats and democracy) stemming from an outdated Senate premise.

        https://www.vox.com/2020/11/6/21550979/senate-malapportionment-20-million-democrats-republicans-supreme-court

        North and South California? Welcome to the club Puerto Rico and DC? Lol. Of course it will never happen unless the Dems have a unified government period, which is the catch-22 to that strategy.

      5. AJ, arguing about why 19 Brumaire came about — e.g. why did La Révolution fail so miserably by falling into Napoleon’s hands — was a favorite pastime for the Old Revolutionaries of SDS and similar groups back in the ’60’s.

        They are the intellectual (and sometimes biological) grandparents of the “Democratic Socialists” now at the ramparts.

    3. Yes, the most reliable distinction between liberals and conservatives is that liberals live in cities and denser suburbs, while conservatives live in lower-density exurbs and rural areas. Even in areas where all three are conservative, the largest city is less so than its surrounding area. I don’t know of any exception in the US.

      It also seems that cities actually make people liberal, or at least more liberal than they’d otherwise be. This is probably because you see a larger diversity of people, and you can’t ignore their problems or the injustices against them. This probably has an effect on people over time.

      The US population is growing, so cities and suburbs are growing.

      1. Exactly. Since hyper-mechanized corporations have taken over the task of farming and imported immigrants to drive the ten foot tall tractors, there’s little left for rural people to do except sell souvenirs, candy and gas to visiting urban tourists and truck drivers. It’s a sweet, genteel decline, but it’s an inevitable decline nonetheless.

      2. It’s also because for people who actually live in the city it becomes clear(er) that very nearly 100% of humanity desires a peaceful life. Since lead has largely been removed from the environment of cities, the crazy crime scene of the 1980’s and early 1990’s has also ended. Grant, there’s a spike in homicides this year, presumably because of lockdowns and social distancing requirements, but violent crime is on a long-term decline everywhere.

        So “cities make one liberal’ not only because of empathy for people who suffer but also because they teach us that those who suffer are not by and large a threat.

      3. Eh. IMO, it has more to do with historical accident. Democrats were originally the party of rural farmers and the Whig and later the GOP were the party of the urban establishment, and it’s evolved over time. People prefer whichever party is culturally dominant in their immediate community (which may or may not be their immediate neighborhood). I’m pretty skeptical that one party has the ‘natural’ policy bundle for a given built environment.

        The most obvious one is on social issues, but it’s plausible to imagine a civilization where urban life is very traditional, rigid, and slow to change, while rural life is where free spirits can ignore social conventions and explore different lifestyles not permitted in the city.

        The fact that one’s view on abortion can indicate one’s view on transit policy makes no sense outside the context of a 2-party system.

        Laughing at Tom’s farming comment. If you grow food that’s hyper-mechanized, you’re more likely to drive the machine yourself because the mechanization has made your labor more productive. It’s the non-mechanized crops, such as most fruits, that require immigrant labor because the hourly productivity is low and therefore requires imported labor willing to work for lower wages. You do realize the decline of rural economies has far more to do with lost mfg and mining jobs, not agriculture?

      4. Rural areas also have an increasing number of small-scale organic farmers, artists, Internet-based workers, and people who want a few acres for a hobby farm or personal woods or whatever, and prefer living in a small-town community. There’s a bright future for that potentially, if the economic issues are addressed.

        The problem with people migrating to rural areas is not that rural areas are bad, but that they often bring their suburban high-consumption lifestyle with them. There has got to be an alternative to driving sixty miles a day to Walmart or a city/suburban job, or driving to music shows scattered all over the state. Another issue is that exurban/rural houses use more resources per capita than inner-ring suburban or city residents. Not only energy but materials. This is a problem when the US has 4% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the energy resources.

    4. Five Thirty Eight had an article about that subject before the election. If nothing else it explored the subject in depth (lots of links).

      It is very easy to read too much into it. There are always multiple factors in an election. Race, religion, age, sex — they are all big factors, just like density. As Mike said, it is quite possibly the combination, and how Republicans have been able to more easily suppress voting in rural areas. It is one thing to try and discourage voting in Atlanta — it is another to do it 50, or 200 miles away. As we’ve seen in Georgia, getting voters in rural areas to show up and vote Democratic is often the difference between a win and a loss (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-georgia-turned-blue/).

  8. A recent thread about Monroe brought up the lack of off-peak Monroe-Bothell service. I looked in CT’s long-range plan to see if it would be addressed, and was surprised to see it isn’t. The only thing it says is, “As demand warrants, expand commute hour services operating along the SR-522 corridor.” (p. 28 of the PDF, 23 of the report.)

    I have only been to Monroe once, precisely because of this lack of transit. I’ve thought a couple times about going again to see how much it has grown, but the fact that it would take almost two hours each way going through Everett has always deterred me. (1 1/2 hours traveling, plus transferring to an hourly route.) When we went there in the early 80s (to visit a ministry in the prison), there was 10 minutes of nothingness and then a small cluster of buildings, the biggest being a Safeway plaza. Yet now I hear of people commuting from Monroe and Maltby, so it sounds like it’s a growing car-dependent commuter area.

    So how big is Monroe now, and what’s between Monroe and Bothell? Are there six-story apartment buildings like on the Bothell-Everett Highway?

    The LRP is from 2011, and I think it’s being updated now. So if all-day Monroe-Bothell service would be worthwhile I would urge CT residents to write to CT and ask them to put it in the long-range plan.

    The LRP has a few other routes for Bothell.

    1) Swift Green extension. (p. 19) The plan includes this in the original Swift project. This wasn’t done because of budget limitations, but I believe CT plans to extend it when feasible.

    2) An Edmonds-MT-Bothell-228th to Highway 9 route. (p.24)

    3) A 35th Avenue Bothell-South Everett route.

    4) Arlington-Bothell peak express. (p. 28) “When demand warrants, provide commute hour express services linking Arlington and Bothell, with intermediate stops at nodes of development along the corridor.”

    #2 seems to almost serve part of the Monroe-Bothell corridor but it’s on the other side of a park so it looks like a long walk. #3, well, where is 35th in relation to this? Google Maps wasn’t very helpful. My intuitive sense is it would be west of 522, but the avenue numbers seem to be much higher there.

    1. What page numbers are you referring to? I’m looking at the LRP and they don’t seem to line up?
      https://www.communitytransit.org/docs/default-source/projects/long-range-transit-plan.pdf

      Monroe has a great downtown, the historic area south of US 2 was really vibrant last time I was there (pre-pandemic). I would often stop for dinner on the way back from a US hike. At a bit under 20K population, it’s larger and denser than most of the other large exburbs in the region (Sno-NB, Enumclaw, Snohomish all in the ~10K range). However, I don’t think there is anything over 2-stories aside from some smokestacks and the main jail building.

      Maltby and Woodinville have a bunch of industrial lots, so plenty of jobs but likely nothing that can be well served by transit. 552 is a closed access freeway, so very different than 527 (Bothell-Everett Hwy).

      Monroe transit to King County has several structural issues
      A. Monroe mostly a traditional grid, but it’s also mostly SF, so a good express bus service likely need P&Rs to collect ridership without meandering through the town. A logical option is the fairgrounds, which work great for US2 service heading to Everett, but it’s poorly situated for Bothell (i.e Seattle/Bellevue) oriented service. Ideally a route would take the first 522 exit and follow main street straight into downtown. Perhaps the State can cede some of the frontage of the correctional facility for a lot right there; would also create a bus stop for people working or visiting the jail, which would be good. Monroe is small enough that simply creating a high-quality bike parking facility for riders could be a compelling investment to anchor express bus service. (Shoot, handing out 500 electric bikes with free bike parking would be cheaper than building 200 car parking spaces)

      The LRP notes Monroe as ‘emerging P&R needs’ (pg 31 in my link) so opportunity for action there.

      B. 552 is a closed access freeway, so it’s difficult for a bus to serve on-the-way destinations. If a bus stops to serve Maltby, it needs to exit the freeway and thereby comes uncompetitive with driving. I’m skeptical 522 is a big enough corridor to merit HOV investments like 5, 405, 16, or 167. Tolling would help, and might be politically possible as there is a ‘need’ to expand the highway to 4 lanes the entire length (currently a 2-lane pinch point that creates massive backups during rushhour) and pairing tolls with hwy expansion is good policy.

      C. Jurisdictional lines. The key destinations are outside the CT service territory so are not prioritized by CT (unlike the US2 corridor). The solution we normally have for this is Sound Transit service, but Monroe is outside the district. Here. I think the right solution is to mirror what Gig Harbor is going – remain outside the taxing district but contract directly with ST for STX service. I believe Gig Harbor pays for this directly, not through PT?

      I think Gig Harbor is the best model for Monroe. At that distance, the bus ride doesn’t even need to be faster than driving as long as it is frequent-ish and dependable (good span of service), b/c people will be happy to not be behind a steering wheel that long. If you live in Monroe, you are already at peace with a long commute, so a 1-hour bus ride is a plausible alternative.

      And Monroe will gain one big structural advantage once the Stride lines open. Currently, terminating the Bothell isn’t that compelling because the limiting options to transfer onwards to the real destinations in Seattle and Bellevue, particularly off-peak. But with all-day, high frequency Stride routes and a good transfer environment, CT can focus on getting people to Bothell quickly, where riders will have several good options to head further onwards.

      1. “What page numbers are you referring to?”

        I’m referring to the physical pages in the PDF. The page numbers in the report TOC are different. Using the physical pages allows people to jump to them in their PDF viewer.

      1. But Monroe itself is in the district. As I said above, a Monroe-Bothell express bus doesn’t want to get off the freeway until Bothell, so I don’t think it matters?

    2. Ah, you were referring to PDF page numbers, not the listed page numbers.

      I don’t think there is a Bothell-Monroe ‘corridor.’ There is a bunch of stuff north and east of downtown Bothell that CT needs to figure out how to serve, like the UW Campus, the business park, and connections to Woodinville. Separately, there’s the Bothell-Everett Hwy corridor, which is penciled as Green Swift. Swift + 228th corridor (your #2) creates a nice grid at node Canyon Park.

      Connecting Monroe to Bothell (and onwards) is an entirely different problem to solve. With the Snohomish River and Lords Hill park, Monroe might as well have a large lake between it and Maltby.

      For #3, I think 35th is a local corridor parallel to the Swift Green. 35th turns into 39th before terminating at 228th east of Canyon Park. So to me that’s more Mill Creek local service than Bothell, but I don’t know that area well. Nowhere close to Monroe, or even Maltby.

      For #5, I read that as the SR9 corridor. On the Commute Transit Emphasis Corridors map, that’s the north-south red line that’s not I5. To me, “nodes of development ” would be like a stop at 180th SE, or a stop at Cathcart Way with a trail connection to the middle school. If it’s Arlington commuter service, you probably don’t divert to serve Maltby, let alone Monroe, on the way to Bothell.

    3. So how big is Monroe now, and what’s between Monroe and Bothell? Are there six-story apartment buildings like on the Bothell-Everett Highway?

      Monroe grew out, not up. There are a handful of low slung apartments in the old city, but most of the population growth occurred because of new single family housing tracts northeast of 522 (and southeast of US 2). There is basically nothing close to 522, which operates like a freeway. Even the housing developments scattered along the way are off to the side (this includes most of Woodinville as well).

      It is an extremely difficult place to serve with transit. There is no reason to stop between Woodinville and Monroe. That is a very long way to go without picking up any riders. Oh, and that involves stopping in Woodinville, which is a detour for anyone who wants to go to Seattle or Bellevue. It is just a very long trip (https://goo.gl/maps/MeyaXCoqBTBuLuym8) and that is without traffic.

      Just about all of the ridership would be commuter based. Unfortunately, there are no carpool lanes until you get to 405, which means there is little advantage to taking a bus. Even for an agency like CT, which spends a lot of money serving hard to serve areas, it would be a bad value. As noted, from their perspective, it only benefits Monroe (Woodinville is in King County). In contrast, by going on Highway 2, you get to swing by Snohomish (which is about half the size of Monroe) and cover areas that are not much of a detour. Then you go Everett Station, and provide a connection within Everett (downtown Everett to Seaway) which you couldn’t possibly do if on SR 522. Either you end in the middle of nowhere (hoping Metro or ST will pick up the slack) or spend a fortune getting riders to downtown Seattle or downtown Bellevue.

      It is one of those routes that Sound Transit could pick up, although it really should be intercity bus service. I think Greyhound stops there (but again, you would go through Everett). Basically you are asking for good intercity bus service, and I’m afraid you are on the wrong continent for that. Monroe really isn’t much of a city, either — only 20,000 people.

      1. Yeah I landed on Sound Transit also. Seems like Gig Harbor is a good template? Gig Harbor is also outside the ST taxing district but contracts with ST directly (which in turns contracts with PT for operations), so Monroe could pay for STX service, operated by CT.

        Distances seem comparable: Monroe to Woodinville, 12 miles; Gig Harbor to Tacoma Dome 13 miles. Monroe to Bellevue 26 miles, Gig Harbor to Seattle 44(!) miles. So the 595 already tackles a much more ambitious distance.

      2. What I’m looking for is off-peak service. CT already had peak-hour service and plans to increase it eventually, so there’s not necessarily any reason to get ST involved. The Gig Harbor model is peak-only.

    4. I was going to respond earlier but then had a work-related fire to put out, so I’m finally getting back to replying to your comment. Most of what I was going to say has already been stated by others, so I’ll just add a couple of points/observations.

      I go out to Monroe only a couple of times a year at most. (It’s kind of a pain to get to from where I am in north Edmonds as it’s essentially due east from me but I have to either drive north to Everett and take US2 or drive south on I-405 to Woodinville to get to SR522.) It’s essentially just another exurban community and doesn’t have much of a draw for me. It’s old downtown reminds me of Issaquah’s old town center. It’s quaint and all that but it’s frankly not worth the time getting out there (imo). I usually just stop in Monroe if I’m already going out that way to do something else, like going out to Stevens Pass, Leavenworth or the fairgrounds there in Monroe. But to each his own, as the saying goes.

      I know a guy who lived out there for a while and commuted to Seattle for work and it was a total grind because of where his employer was located in the north end of the city. Needless to say, he drove since it was his fastest option by far even with the congestion on 522. He did that for a couple of years before ultimately changing jobs. (Honestly, I don’t know how he lasted that long.) He had purchased a new home out there in one of the newly constructed large subdivisions, having been priced out of the Seattle market for the type of home he was looking for. As RossB mentioned in his comment, Monroe’s population has grown by expanding out and not upward. (Big surprise, eh?) In addition to the developments Ross included in his comment above, there are many new residential properties that have been built north of US2 and that’s where this guy purchased his new home. If you look at aerial maps of the Monroe area over the last 15 years or so you can clearly see where these developments have gone in.

      “C. Jurisdictional lines. The key destinations are outside the CT service territory so are not prioritized by CT (unlike the US2 corridor). The solution we normally have for this is Sound Transit service, but Monroe is outside the district.”

      AJ is on point here. All-day service from Monroe to the Bothell area is a low priority for CT and rightly so. The demand outside of peak commuter hours is not there and the agency has way higher needs elsewhere. I am a district taxpayer and I would push back heavily against any plan to dedicate more resources to this corridor while other more pressing needs remain unfulfilled. Imho, such corridor improvements fall within the purview of ST’s mission.

      1. My original thought was to pay for the service by scrapping service to Sultan and Gold Bar. I would not add new service hours to Monroe, for obvious reasons. A quick look at Google Maps shows the number of service hours for Monroe->Bothell and Monroe->Gold Bar to be essentially the same. But, Monroe has a larger population than Sultan/Gold Bar, so I’d expect relatively better (but still not great) ridership potential. The hourly service of the existing Gold Bar service is about all the corridor would justify, but it’s a whole lot better than having to go all the way around.

        If the service existed, I’m sure somebody would find a way to use it. For instance, you might catch some UW Bothell students living out there because the rent is cheap, and a transit option to avoid the grind through traffic – even if just once an hour – would held make the commute more viable.

      2. @asdf2, the analysis seems sound, but that doesn’t change the purpose of the route going to Gold Bar – last resort coverage. I at least hope that CT will not go back on providing such coverage, and as you said, the difference in ridership is not going to be huge, so it’s not like it’s going to really provide a significant societal benefit to change it. But it’s a judgment call, and I certainly respect your viewpoint – I just disagree with it, and would advocate against it should it come to that.

    5. AJ, the only farmers still driving their own tractors are the current version of “small farms” — e.g. one square mile instead of twenty. Sure rural areas have lost mining and forestry jobs, but agriculture consumed half of the labor force as late as 1910. It is about 2% now. There is not 96% unemployment in rural areas precisely because those 48% of the labor force moved to the cities.

  9. Do we CARE if 19 BRUMAIRE ever had a caucus? The mention of it could carry some lessons, though. On November 19, 1799, a coup put an end to The French Revolution and installed Napoleon Bonaparte as a dictator.

    Illustrating the truth that If you want your revolution to end otherwise, your mandatory first-line defense consists of kindly, tolerant, educated, trained, and above-all determined….POLICE!

    Tell us, Tom Terrific. Are you warning our country that this is going to Happen Here, saying it already has, or advocating it? Warning for warning, though. My mouth-control’s got a little quirk, or a kind of nervous “tic”.

    Anybody suggesting I’ve got a Learning deficit is just going to have to come shut it for me. And be ready dig the shreds of your teaching certificate out of the nearby dumpster in which you’ll soon reside.

    But since this really is still Seattle TRANSIT Blog, let’s honor its purpose by discussing this paragon of True Transit History: The founder of the much-revered New Electric Railway Journal was Paul N. Weyrich. Who in one issue declared his own Spanish Inquisition in favor of streetcars.

    I don’t think he ever said “Light Rail”. “Light” compared to “WHAT?” From what I can gather, a Link car weighs more than the BART-style “Heavy Rail” consists that were supposed to violate the Constitutional Rights of Mercer Island in two lost elections. But whatever THIS makes me:

    A strong preference for a solid, economical, versatile vehicle that’ll let me enjoy a same-car ride offering countryside speed of 90mph, a loop-shaped ride through the center of a major city, and a drugstore stop for a chocolate malted milk on the main street of someplace like Monroe Washington…..

    As far as the pages of the Seattle Transit Blog are concerned, consider me that too.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I mentioned it because extreme leftists often discuss it heatedly. It was a metaphor.

      The less heard from extreme leftists in the next two years, the better for the Democratic party and therefore the nation. This is a center-right country and it’s not going to vote them in.

      1. How is this country, in which the center-right party is incapable of winning a majority of the popular vote and only clings to power through archaic anti-majoritarian institutions, in any meaningful way a “center right country?”

      2. As you said, the median voter that actually determines the balance of power is to the right of the mean citizen. The choices are to either cater to them or lose elections.

        Is it fair? No. But the way our constitution, state boundaries, and political boundaries happen to interact, that’s how the system works. And running far to the left of the voters that matter, and losing elections, won’t change that.

  10. And since we’re talking Superheroes here, Tom, your own education requires at least this set of historic references to be complete:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amazing_Adventures_of_Kavalier_%26_Clay

    In the buildup to The Second World War, a Jew who’d changed his name to John Sloan and become the head of General Motors, once jumped over his desk to greet a real live Nazi. Lot of that going around in our country’s business community. Put those Reds in their place!

    But another Movement was also in Action….Tom. Your own creator Eugene Merril Deitch was the exact kind of JEWISH superhero-creator who gave us virtually all the ones whose blazing pages showed us how to be the Heroes who were there at Normandy to take down Germany’s own Prince of Ninth Brumaires.

    A proud history is yours. Do transit and us a favor and start living up to it!

    Mark Dublin

  11. Should Manhattan’s underused office buildings become apartments? ($) Midtown Manhattan has a 14% vacancy rate in its office buildings, and long-term use may decline if teleworking becomes more established. Some real-estate leaders are arguing some buildings should be converted to apartments. They’re asking the city to loosen zoning and regulations to make this easier.

    “The real estate group estimates that converting even just 10 percent of that office space to residential would create 14,000 apartments citywide, including as many as 10,000 in Manhattan — a significant amount in a city routinely short of enough housing, especially affordable homes…. Changes to zoning rules needed for any conversions would require that some portion of new housing be set aside as affordable, the board said….. They cite the success of Lower Manhattan, which in recent decades has turned from an almost exclusively office district into a vibrant residential neighborhood.”

    1. Just to follow up, the article does mention converting hotels, that structurally makes more sense, but what would the monthly rents have to be to replace the revenue from a hotel room that is rented out 20-30 days/year at $400 — $500/night? These hotels all have large mortgages on them (and are often leased by the hotel from the property owners, and have very high operations and maintenance costs. Can you imagine the monthly common fees for each unit to maintain a converted hotel? Those alone would be unaffordable in many cases.

      Plus I am not sure I see the hit to hotels — at least in vibrant cities — like I do to commercial space from working from home. I would worry more about Airbnb if I were a hotel.

      What this slightly hysterical NY Times article is trying to do is promote affordable housing, while not quite realizing it is predicting the end of Manhattan as we know it, and Urbanism in general. Why create more housing in an urban core if it is going to be unpleasant to live in. Kind of sounds like Seattle right now, in which our neighborhoods are fine but the downtown core is not, either from a business or housing point of view.

      We want vibrant urban cores. They are fun to visit, but expensive to maintain for local jurisdictions unless they create a lot of revenue. I think cities will just have to work harder to attract both commuters and shoppers/diners. I live on Mercer Island and I certainly don’t want that to be my entertainment life, or even work life, but I want Seattle to do a better job of creating an environment that entices as many commuters as possible to work in downtown Seattle, and a safe (for my wife and me) street experience with lots of people on the streets, shops, restaurants and so on.

      Most citizens and business owners, and commuters, are not political activists (or don’t even live in Seattle). They take the usual NW passive-aggressive approach and just stop coming into Seattle, rather than trying to fix Seattle.

  12. There are several issues with converting an office building to housing. Some of that is plumbing capacity, insurance, fire suppression, and of course the cost of tenant improvements. These becoming bigger issues the older the building, which are the more attractive commercial buildings to convert. For example, the Seafirst Black Box in Seattle is unattractive to most large businesses as a commercial space because it is old and its amenities are old and tired.

    Then you have the loan covenants that are based on a certain occupancy rate that affect the interest rate on the loans. I doubt housing would pay as well as commercial office leases, and so once you convert a commercial office building to housing you have undercut the assumptions for revenue to repay the loan, and a lender likely will accelerate repayment on the loan. I don’t know of any tall commercial office buildings at this time that also provide housing.

    I would think for any conversion to happen the underlying loan on the property would have be paid off, or refinanced, and who would refinance the building at an equal rate. So the owners take a huge hit, and the new owner would be buying a big risk. A bunch of affordable apartments, or even moderate apartments, will never replace the commercial lease revenue even if those lease rates were renegotiated. For the current owners some kind of Chapter 11 reorg would be better to extend loan payments to see if commercial tenants return.

    If you are in a rent control jurisdiction like NY converting a commercial office building to residential would be dangerous. Plus for any buyer to be interested the units would need to be condos to recoup as much capital up front as possible, not apartments, especially if rent controlled or with affordability mandates.

    Then you have to ask yourself who would want to buy a condo in an urban core that will receive much less revenue from working from home, and will not have the high valued commuter coming into the city every day. That will negatively affect street retail, and perceptions of street safety with so fewer people on the street. Maybe a city like NY that has an international performing arts scene and other attractions will remain attractive, but then NY has rent control and the original cost of the commercial buildings was probably very high and can’t be replaced with residential housing.

    It is an interesting idea that hasn’t been implemented yet. Basically it is predicated on the current owners of the commercial office getting wiped out, and they would prefer to avoid that. Most developers don’t build tall commercial office towers with affordable housing as a goal.

    The bigger picture is the loss of revenue for urban centers, including Seattle. The commercial development and the tens of thousands of daily commuters who come into the city create significant tax revenue and jobs, and create the vibrant street scene and retail/dining vibrancy.

    Without both of those large urban cores could hollow out and become unattractive places to go, like Detroit in the past, although that is an extreme case. But many, many large cities like Seattle have budgets and social programs including transit that rely on a high level of future revenue, greater than pre-pandemic 2019. They can’t afford for the merry-go-round to stop, or even slow down.

    The reality is working for home won’t end commuters or working in urban cities, but it will likely reduce commuting, and the problem is most cities are not ready for that decline in revenue.

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