Using a city builder game to tell a story about the impact urban freeways have on the communities they run through (more on this at Strong Towns)

71 Replies to “Weekend open thread: every urban freeway has a story”

  1. The mysterious financial planning for the ST3 rail extensions now is getting a serious makeover. Gone is the estimate for 2041 as the completion date. Now construction timelines will extend even further into the misty future.

    We now are told the financial estimates provided to voters via ST3 render the board’s plans unaffordable. More taxing will be coming to secure more bonds.

    Tax backed bonds are a double-edged sword. They provide mountains of cash for the boardmembers to pay each other in the near term (“Seattle needs an eight-figure contract to administer Sound Transit’s Ballard extension planning? No problem – Rogoff will give us the resolution to rubberstamp!”). However, they require the board to hide the duration and amount of taxing so Sound Transit’s officials don’t create “optics problems” for themselves.

    The authoritarian regime in the USSR was undone by Glasnost (roughly translated, a policy of “more open consultative government and wider dissemination of its information upon it.” Rogoff promises the upcoming realignment will be open and transparent. Will Sound Transit’s toying with Glasnost not just reveal details of the extent and duration of its grandiose taxing plans but bring that authoritarian government down as well?

    1. In the first paragraph, you could subsitute St3 with Highway 99 tunnel, and 2041 with the year it was actually completed. To me they are the same.

      1. They appear “the same” to you? The SR 99 capital costs were covered by the state using motor vehicle fuel tax revenues. Those essentially are a user fee: drive more, pay more. The capital costs that exceeded the pre-construction estimates didn’t increase the amount or duration of those user-fee revenues.

        The Sound Transit projects’ capital costs are mostly paid for by decades of new sales taxes securing debt. That kind of taxing targets people who are the poorest for the worst financial impacts, and those impacts are entirely unrelated to using the trains and any other benefit from Sound Transit. In addition, the magnitude of the additional taxing the new schedules will entail can’t even be estimated now. Tell us how much additional taxing you think the new schedule will entail. Then we’ll drill into your “it’s the same” argument.

      2. WSDOT bonds against gas tax, which is very simillar to ST. ST actually bonds against Sales, MVET, and property taxes together, not just sales tax alone. The bonding of MVET revenue is one of the main reasons ST was able to overturn the car tabs ballot initiative.

        “The capital costs that exceeded the pre-construction estimates didn’t increase the amount or duration of those user-fee revenues.” I’d rate this mostly false. One project going over budget displaces money available for subsequent projects. Both WSDOT and ST have signaled they are reacting to lower revenues by delaying or descoping projects, not by raising fresh revenues. ST may end 2041 with a higher debt balance, but the plan remains to levy no additional taxes to retire the full balance of debt; the only reason for ST to ask for more revenues is if there is a desire to add new projects or to accelerate the project schedule. “higher taxes” will occur in the 2060s, insofar as it will take longer to retire the full balance of debt before rolling back some of the taxes.

        “Sound Transit projects’ capital costs are mostly paid for by decades of new sales taxes securing debt. ” False. Even with the current recession, the Finance Plan has debt providing only 18% of total funds 2017—2041. This includes the use of cash to cover debt interest & principal.

      3. “ST may end 2041 with a higher debt balance, but the plan remains to levy no additional taxes to retire the full balance of debt”

        Stop making things up. Staff only indicated it might have the board issue several additional billion of dollars of long term tax backed bonds. Staff didn’t indicate which subarea’s debt capacity would be increased, nor did staff indicate how many additional years it would take to reach the revised rate rollback dates.

      4. “The bonding of MVET revenue is one of the main reasons ST was able to overturn the car tabs ballot initiative.”

        This is an incorrect conclusion. Earlier this year, initiative 976 was held to be unconstitutional in Garfield County Transportation Authority (et al) v. State of Washington (et al) on two points:

        1. Article II, section 19 single subject requirement

        On this first point, the court wrote:

        “Similar to the initiative at issue in Pierce County I and II [ed.: these cases pertained to the challenges against I-776], here, we conclude
        that the subject expressed in the ballot title is “limiting vehicle taxes and fees.”
        The challengers contend that several provisions in I-976 are not germane to
        each other or to the general subject. Without reaching all of their arguments, we
        agree that section 12, which requires Sound Transit to retire, defease, or refinance
        bonds, is not germane to limiting vehicle taxes and fees, and the provisions of the initiative that carry out that subject. Thus, section 12 is an unconstitutional second subject.”

        After discussing the similarities and differences with the two aforementioned cases (as well as the dissenting opinion), the court continues its analysis on this first point:

        “I-976 suffers from
        the same flaw. Simply put, section 12 is a separate subject in violation of article II, section 19. It is not mere “policy fluff” as was the similar provision in I-776. [Id.
        at 48.] Section 12 is a specific directive to retire, defease, or refinance existing bonds, if possible. This is a separate subject from “limiting vehicle taxes and fees.” Accordingly, I-976 violates article II, section 19’s single subject rule.”

        The court then goes on to explain that while the Pierce County II case is dispositive [ed.: again, this is the second case related to the I-776 challenge], there are other nondispositive section 19 constitutional concerns wherein a bill or initiative combines general and specific provisions in a single measure, writing:

        “While Pierce County II is dispositive, there are other difficulties with combining a requirement to retire, defease, or refinance existing bonds that secure
        a specific existing project with more general statutory changes. We have regularly
        found two subjects in violation of article II, section 19 when a measure both
        contained a one-time required action (for example, building a toll road from
        Tacoma to Everett) and a broader systematic change in the law (for example,
        empowering a state agency to establish and operate a system of toll roads). [Wash.
        Toll Bridge Auth. v. State, 49 Wn.2d 520, 521, 523-25, 304 P.2d 676 (1956).]
        Similarly, we found two subjects when an initiative combined a one-time refund of taxes with systematic changes to the property tax assessment system. [Kiga, 144 Wn.2d at 827.] We also found two subjects when an initiative set car tabs at $30
        and required voter approval for tax increases. [ATU, 142 Wn.2d at 217.] A specific
        direction to Sound Transit to retire, defease, or refinance the bonds is akin to a one-
        time refund of taxes, the setting of car tabs at $30, and the building of a single toll road; the larger changes to the motor vehicle excise tax system are akin to the
        systematic changes to the property tax system, the change to the requirements for tax increases, and the creation of a toll road authority, rendering it unconstitutional. While not dispositive, combining such general and specific provisions in a single
        bill raises article II, section 19 concerns.”

        Finally, the court restates its opinion on point 1 thusly:

        “Consistent with our opinion in Pierce County II, we find section 12 creates a
        separate subject from the main subject in the initiative, limiting vehicle taxes and
        fees. We do not reach whether the other challenged provisions of I-976 create unconstitutional separate subjects.”

        2. Article II, section 19 subject-in-title requirement

        I won’t bore the readers here by rehashing the court’s entire analysis on this second point. Instead I’ll just highlight the critical section and conclusion. The court wrote:

        “We read ballot titles as the average informed lay voter would. [WASAVP,
        174 Wn.2d at 662 (quoting W. Petrol. Imps., 127 Wn.2d at 424).] The average
        informed lay voter would not think that “[t]his measure would . . . limit annual
        motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges” would mean charges previously approved by voters would be eliminated. [CP at 1131.] As the League of Women Voters notes, many voters have voted on such measures in the past, and “the average-informed voter encountering the phrase ‘except voter-approved charges’ would expect that these earlier votes were the reason for the ‘except’ clause [and] would have no reason to anticipate that I-976 would implicitly repeal their votes while telling them that ‘voter-approved charges’ were ‘except[ed].’”…

        “Similarly, the average informed lay voter would not think the initiative eliminates the statutory mechanism for voters to approve charges in the future. We are unpersuaded by the State’s argument that this clause is not misleading because
        future legislation could create a new mechanism to permit voters to approve taxes. The ballot statement of an initiative concerns the effect of the initiative. It is not the place for truisms about legislative power. We hold that the initiative violates the subject-in-title rule because it is deceptive and misleading since the average informed lay voter would conclude voter approved taxes – such as those used to fund local and regional transportation projects across our state – would remain.”

        So, in conclusion, I-976 was ruled unconstitutional because of section 12 of the initiative violating the single subject rule of article II, section 19, as well as the ballot title being misleading. Justice Madsen concurred with the majority on the first point but dissented on the second, hence the reason for her separate opinion.

        You can read the entire decision at the following link:
        https://law.justia.com/cases/washington/supreme-court/2020/98320-8.html

      5. There you go again, Q. With its exemptions for food, pharmaceuticals, services and rent, Washington’s version of the sales tax is actually rather progressive. Buying a yacht? Pay DOR a pretty penny. Buying a toy boat for your kid? Pony up a few bucks if it’s a model yacht.

        But you — and your greedy, lying allies — don’t really give a Tinker’s damn about poor people anyway except to beat them with your strawman arguments.

        Stick to staking out pizza parlors.

      6. “””
        “We read ballot titles as the average informed lay voter would. [WASAVP,
        174 Wn.2d at 662 (quoting W. Petrol. Imps., 127 Wn.2d at 424).] The average
        informed lay voter would not think that “[t]his measure would . . . limit annual
        motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges” would mean charges previously approved by voters would be eliminated. [CP at 1131.] As the League of Women Voters notes, many voters have voted on such measures in the past, and “the average-informed voter encountering the phrase ‘except voter-approved charges’ would expect that these earlier votes were the reason for the ‘except’ clause [and] would have no reason to anticipate that I-976 would implicitly repeal their votes while telling them that ‘voter-approved charges’ were ‘except[ed].’”…

        “Similarly, the average informed lay voter would not think the initiative eliminates the statutory mechanism for voters to approve charges in the future. We are unpersuaded by the State’s argument that this clause is not misleading because
        future legislation could create a new mechanism to permit voters to approve taxes. The ballot statement of an initiative concerns the effect of the initiative. It is not the place for truisms about legislative power. We hold that the initiative violates the subject-in-title rule because it is deceptive and misleading since the average informed lay voter would conclude voter approved taxes – such as those used to fund local and regional transportation projects across our state – would remain.”
        “””

        Yaay! This was the biggest problem I had with I-976. No other initiative was so ambiguous you couldn’t tell before the vote what its major impacts would be. The “except voter-approved taxes” provision, according to most legal analyists in the media, meant that voters could reinstate car-tab funded transit taxes. But Eyman said in interviews that they couldn’t: they could only vote for non-transit purposes. That’s a contradiction that could only be resolved by the courts later. So people had to vote without knowing what the initiative would allow. Such ambiguous provisions shouldn’t even be allowed on the ballot.

      7. “Yaay! This was the biggest problem I had with I-976.”

        Yeah. As I wrote previously on this blog before the 2019 election when this thing was on the ballot, this initiative was a mess structurally. I said then that it wouldn’t survive judicial review on these constitutional grounds and that’s just how it played out. A skeptic might conclude that the poor drafting by Eyman (with an assist from the AG’s office) was intentional so that Timmy can just keep doing his thing.

      8. Yeah, I had the same reaction (and I’m not a lawyer). My first thought was that the wording was vague (except what now? Does that mean …). The other was that it sure appeared to be doing more than one thing. I’m not surprised at all it was tossed out.

    2. It is not reasonable to blame Sound Transit for not considering COVID back in 2015 when they planned their budget. Of course, timelines are going to slip.

      1. I blame Sound Transit for hiding the projected expenses and revenues figures for each subarea. The voter approved ST3 financial policies require those be prepared, updated annually, and disclosed to the public each year by the board. That authoritarian regime’s officials are failing to comply with those terms the public specifically imposed as part of the ST3 ballot measure.

      2. I have to disagree with the assertion that the fact ST had already bonded the MVET REVENUE — because ST knew there would be a challenge — had nothing to do with the supreme court’s decision to overturn I-976. I have argued several times before the Supreme Court and it is a political body.

        The AG’s office wrote the heading the court found unconstitutional, but really from the beginning ST argued the revenue had been bonded and had to be paid back, and the state AG’s defense of I-976 was luke warm at best.

        Obviously ST could not foresee a pandemic, or worse working from home, but from the beginning ST 2 and ST 3 had questionable projects and funding due to subarea equity, and some subareas — particularly North King Co. — we’re going to have problems delivering on its promises. The reserves for cost overruns were low for such massive government projects.

        ST hoped to get closer to 2030 before announcing it either had to postpone the West Seattle and Ballard lines, or pass ST 4. However the financial hit from the pandemic forced ST to make that admission now, and for many reasons a ST 4 looks very unlikely. So do the lines to Ballard and West Seattle which is why each neighborhood is demanding no loss of car capacity for a new bridge.

        Ironically due to subarea equity the one line that could be built today is Issaquah to Kirkland, at a cost of $4.5 billion, probably the least economical line, although the fact is there was never the density to run rail south of SeaTac, north of Northgate, or east of Lake Washington to begin with.

        This is just transit for transit’s sakes. All the talk about upzoning or TOD’s to create the necessary density for these basically suburban lines simply proves there never was the density to support light rail outside the city core to begin with, and you can’t”manufacture” the necessary future density, certainly based on King Co.’s 2019 1.37% population growth rate.

        Transit advocates believe transit determines housing and density, but really transit — mode and frequency — should follow housing and density. Seattle is very large geographically, and has grown around the automobile, and the density isn’t there for such expensive rail lines to outer neighborhoods, especially when those residents are not willing to give up their single family homes.

      3. some subareas — particularly North King Co. — we’re going to have problems delivering on its promises.

        What is it with you and your hatred of Seattle? I get it — you love the eastern suburbs. But why do you keep insisting that North King County subarea, made up mostly of Seattle, is any way in trouble? You provide no evidence, other than outdated rhetoric about the death of cities.

        Snohomish County may struggle, with the loss of Boeing related jobs (see that — I actually cited a real fact to support my case — something you should try sometime). South Sound areas may struggle, as they have struggled in the past during downturns (Again! Amazing how easy it is to find some fact somewhere to support your case). But there is no reason to think that Seattle and Shoreline will struggle, given their past, or their current relatively robust present.

        The truly amazing part is that apparently you are still working in (or if nothing else visiting) Seattle. You hate it so much, you can’t leave. It is like the guy who keeps standing in line, buying those tacos, while complaining about how much better they were back in the day. That taco truck is going to go out of business any minute now, right?

      4. Ross is exactly correct. North King is actually under the original ST2 budget for Westlake to Northgate. The Great Recession helped with that, but so did tunneling.

        Yes, the Lynnwood extension is badly over the projected and authorized budgets. This is mostly, though not entirely, the result of the ban on ST buying land in advance of voter approval. Once that approval is received any idiot can buy land in the agreed path and hold out for a king’s ransom. ST is loth to use eminent domain and real estate speculators know it.

      5. Was there a ban on ST buying land in advance of voter approval? My understanding of the ROW issue was more of an execution issue – ST wasn’t fast enough acquiring property once the I5 alignment was set, exposing it to a 10% annual inflation rate we’ve had recently, well above the ROW inflation assumed in forecasts. Lack of use of eminent domain shouldn’t be an issue; regularly using eminent domain rather than amicable transactions would probably slow down, not accelerate, ROW acquisitions

        Daniel – North King has financial issues with added unfunded alignments, like tunnels in WS and Ballard, but the representative alignment is still above water wrt subarea equity. The subareas that will struggle to afford their current project portfolio are South King and perhaps Pierce.

        Funnily, the subarea equity issues in SK and Pierce will likely help sustain the coalition for an ST4, as those subarea will want another levy to finish delivering ST3 commitments*, which then creates additional capacity for new/expanded projects in North and East King. If it was North King that had subarea equity issues, I could see the suburbs telling Seattle to figure it out on its own … but, that’s currently not the situation we are in.

        *Sequentially, this will likely end up being additional Sounder capacity.

      6. “All the talk about upzoning or TOD’s to create the necessary density for these basically suburban lines”

        Are you talking about Bellevue/Redmond/Lynnwood/FW or Everett/Tacoma? Rail to the Eastside was planned in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and `1990s, when the Eastside’s population and density was far lower. Germany has light rail in cities as small as 200,000. All major metropolitan areas should have a robust central circulation system that doesn’t get caught in traffic, runs every ten minutes, and doesn’t have to detour to freeway entrances to get to stops. That provides a robust alternative to driving and can scale as the population rises. Bellevue/Redmond is where the county planned its job growth in the 70s and 80s. Lynnwood is reasonably close and central and can be a cachement for the entire north. Federal Way is a bit far but it can serve the same purpose for the south.

        When you get to Everett and Tacoma, that’s very far for a light rail line and may be questionable. But don’t through the baby out with the bathwater. The Eastside deserves rail now and already deserved it in the 1970s. Lynnwood and KDM deserve rail now and started deserving it in the 1990s. That’s with their current densities. TOD helps make it better. TOD allows more people to live within walking distance of stations, and to walk to more station-area destinations. The fact that the floating bridges are full rush how (now both directions), and ST and CT send hundreds of express buses a day from Snohomish County that Link can truncate — is enough reason for light rail in itself.

      7. “So do the lines to Ballard and West Seattle [look unlikely] which is why each neighborhood is demanding no loss of car capacity for a new bridge.”

        My analysis is there are just some people who always demand 100% car capacity, no matter whether we have Link or not, or BRT or not. They’re the ones who are saying “no loss of car capacity”. It’s like how transit measures pass in Seattle because many people generally favor transit, regardless of the specific projects. The size of these factions changes slightly over time, as people change their minds or new people move in. But they’re not going to change precipitously in a few years.

        By and large, the people who insist on 100% car capacity are the same ones who have always insisted on it. The ones who think Link is a waste, or ST3 is a waste, or cities should be able to opt out of ST’s taxes, or they their city can’t afford transit tax increases and don’t need the transit that much, are the same ones who’ve always thought that.

      8. AJ, Yes, Sound Transit has consistently said that they cannot purchase land until they receive voter approval for an improvement in the corridor in which the land lies. They use the same excuse not to include possible junction points in original construction.

        It is prudence taken to a fault.

      9. There are restrictions on transit projects that receive federal funding dollars in regard to early ROW property acquisitions (prior to completion of the environmental review, i.e., the NEPA documentation) for corridor preservation and/or protective buying of real property for such projects. For example, see the FTA’s Nov 2012 presentation labeled “NEPA and Early Real Estate Activity”*. Additionally, the FTA put out guidances a few years later to assist with the regs persuant to USC Title 49 Section 5323 that further explain some of these restrictions. Of course, there’s also the needed compliance with the Uniform Relocation Act.

        In other words, acquiring the needed ROW for an approved transit project early in the process (to avoid market price escalation) isn’t as easy as one might believe at first glance.

        *The following info appears in this presentation:

        “Allowable Activities during NEPA Process

        •obtaining right-of-entry or other easement in order to conduct land surveys, site
        assessments for
        contamination, archaeological investigations, geological
        investigations, or testing of vibration propagation;
        •performance of land surveys;
        •subsurface investigations by non-ground-disturbing techniques;
        •subsurface investigations by ground disturbing techniques, provided that right-of-entry or easement has been acquired and that the ground disturbance is limited to that necessary to determine the impacts or the presence of protected resources;
        •performing title searches;
        •preparation of a relocation plan including interviews with potential displacees to
        whom the exact project status and future process for finalizing project plans and decisions have been explained;
        •preliminary appraisals and reviews of preliminary appraisals; and
        •a site assessment for potential contamination of the soil or buildings on the
        property (e.g., asbestos insulation or lead paint)”

        “Activity not Allowed during NEPA Process

        •Actual closing on the property, or
        •Making an offer for the property
        •Actual relocations”

    3. Covid is a convenient scapegoat for the flimsy financial and schedule assumptions of ST3. The assumed low contingencies don’t leave room for dealing with relieving impacts and disruptions that are inevitable with any big project. Even now, ID and West Seattle concerns are expensive and will create years of delay — and the issues around new stations Downtown and SLU have yet to be fully rolled out.

    1. Sam, thank you for the romantic footage from Ireland. The train looks like a beautiful piece of equipment. Also the pigeon. I think I have pigeon memories from at least the end-stations of the DSTT. Seem to recall cats too.

      And to Fare Enforcement for not ticketing these extremely low-income creatures over the years. I know they really appreciated Sound Transit’s help to relieve their homelessness as best it could. No force stronger than an example. For life, they’re always definition of ESSENTIAL!

      Our own Fare Enforcement news is very welcome. Especially the time we’ll now have to finally take advantage of a technology that will finally let us pay our fares in full at the first of every month.

      And never again have a ride ruined with anxiety over the “correctness” of a card-tap on an aging piece of equipment, when we’re in a hurry under stressed conditions. Take apportionment in-house. I completely trust ST’s internal accountants to be able to take care of every instance with justice.

      In reward for which, every one of them will get unlimited espresso drinks of their choice at a mandatorily splendid cafe in beautiful Union Station. For the occasion, I’ve invented my own “caffe” drink called “The Stride of Pride.”

      A Caffe Umbria triple-mocha infused with fresh-ground ginger and brown sugar, with syrup containing “a hint of mint.” And to honor the numerous worldwide security providers hailing from the lands of the Northern British Isles…..Dewar’s can travel legally contained in syrup too.

      Little flag-of-your-choice, especially the one that licked Secession, stuck into the whipped cream on top. Thanks to Generation 2020, age zero to ninety, who includes so many of my readers. Thanks to whom these times will not only pass, but leave memories more powerful than the bad ones.

      May Auld Acquaintance Long Outlast Whatever Tries To Kill It.

      Mark Dublin

  2. “Mark, ironclad rule of martial arts. In any serious confrontation, regardless of style or technique, whoever loses his temper first, loses the fight, and shortly afterwards his life.”

    -Viktor Sirotin of Siberia. Martial Arts practitioner and inventor. Poet, sculptor, prize-winning scholar, former Russian Navy “SEAL”.

    This posting’s reference to a certain church is exhibit A for Viktor’s point. The Lord MY God tells me constantly that anybody claiming His authority to tyrannize and threaten, is a lying blasphemer who’s going straight to Hell on a jet propelled bullet train of.

    But the video’s frightfully correct caricature of the church name is not only obscene to hear and contemplate, but guarantees a large and permanently hostile reception for every single thing the source puts out, does, says, or thinks.

    Vast majority of everybody seeing this morning’s “Clip” is going to turn aside, spit, and either sympathize with the freeway builders or at least never again ally with the issuers at all, if not reflexively oppose.

    Oran, you’re better than this. The one thing you will never be is the kind of exhausted angry loser who’d go public with such a pointless piece of hate. Will give the late Joe Hill a break from the chairs, and leave him with his true most precious quote.

    He last words before they shot him were “Don’t mourn for me. Organize.” As you, Oran, and everybody to do with Seattle Transit Blog, have steadfastly been doing all along. For decades.

    39 years of hands-on work at the wheel, the laptop, and myriad public meetings, of the world’s best self-made transit system tell me that on this one, I can leave the bitterness to those who like the flavor.

    Mark Dublin

  3. Once we get through 2021, and we have a clearer picture of the lasting effects of covid on transit use, the country should take a good look at all its P&R properties, and start thinking about selling some of them. And they should stop renewing leases on church P&R lots. I’m sure the county pays for those spaces. First large P&R on the chopping block, I believe, should be the Houghton P&R. It’s so big, and so unused. It’d be a great place for housing.

    1. Leasing of church parking lots costs almost nothing, so little reason to stop. Agree, though, that Houghton park and ride would be better off converted to housing.

  4. The video hearing this post does a good job talking about the situations impacted by building massive freeways. The many stories about property owners reflect elk about what happened.

    There is another lesson though that also relates to the enthusiasm of urban redevelopment though. That is that any massive policy change or project — even rail lines or upzoning for 6-10 story apartment buildings — creates a situation that concentrates wealth and adds to absentee ownership.

    Too often, we rush to say “let’s densify” or “let’s build a rail station closer to our favorite boutique and restaurant street” — and not realize that we are displacing owners actually living in neighborhoods in favor of absentee global banks and billionaire investors.

    I’m reminded at how idyllic many public housing projects were reported to be magical gardens in the early 1950’s when they opened, only to deteriorate into huge problems within 20-30 years. I have concerns that we are setting up our new urban neighborhoods to repeat the same fate.

    It’s not enough to say that a policy or project is inherently “good” land use. We really need to apply the lens of how these things help the neighborhood stay financially sustainable when the newness wears off.

      1. Neighborhoods have this in common with streetcars, trains and buses, Al S. They don’t keep themselves clean and in good repair over the years. Somebody constantly has got to care about them enough to maintain them.

        Having driven buses with some glaring maintenance problems designed and installed into them at the factory, it ought to be written into the rules that fleet mechanics have the last word whether or not to buy the bus at all. Should also have a say about land-use. What you can’t fix fast, you dare not run. Or build either.

        On this score, the bus we should have bought for the DSTT fleet was from Neoplan. Mechanics loved it. Fact we ended up with the one that scored the worst wasn’t the fault of anybody in a coverall. MAN was expensive, but would more than saved their cost with their quality.

        Probably a co-incidence that the trade calls it “The Low Bid.” Sounds like the title of a really harsh blues song, about a chain gang, doesn’t it?

        Based on our experience, Oslo’s, and Goteburg’s fleets all belonged fed into the shredder at Nuremburg. The UN ought to have it down as a crime against humanity.

        “This is not a Breda”. The young Breda foreman’s words stay with me, recalling some really intolerable political harassment leveled at his co-workers by some county politicians just out to scape a goat. The South African granite they condemned as racist was not only world-class top quality, but came out of a black-owned quarry.

        There is right and there is wrong. Win or lose, whatever your position, keep that first in mind. It’ll at least put you in better shape to finally straighten things out when it once again comes around your turn.

        Mark Dublin

    1. I really like how the “live map” shows trains as a darker shade of the line color. It is a spatial representation of frequency that’s visually cool!

  5. In my own mind, to the best of my abilities, I really do my best to “call out” abuse of authority, and incompetence that materially damages the transit system I’ve worked on for so long. Thing I hate worst about police who abuse their authority is the danger they present to police who don’t.

    And these last years and months, I try to be less hard on “the far right” than I am on people of my own side who let the right have its way because fighting them is just too much trouble.

    In that Oakland University TV-lounge back in 1964, I watched Lyndon Johnson lie us into the Viet Nam involvement that may in fact prove itself the death of our country. Because he was afraid that Barry Goldwater would accuse him of being “Soft On Communism.” Personal, maybe, but I doubt Goldwater at his worst would’ve done that war at all. Or at least kept it “Advisory”.

    But in so much of the criticism leveled at Sound Transit now, I sense a determination to devaluate and disempower public transit itself. Truly, though, I’ve got no time for the blame-game.

    What’s needed is a Movement, nod to BLM, that can start to develop an electorate who not only favors its endeavors, but understands how to step in, sit down, and make it run. With a permanent presence in the community colleges who all have at least one transit stop near campus.

    What happened to Transportation Choices Coalition? Is it still in operation? Do they need to be re-funded and re-started? This afternoon’s distance from my former Ballard home, I truly do regret. That San Francisco book called “The People’s Railway.” I’m really on the lookout for a copy.

    Mark Dublin

  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_Area_Rapid_Transit#Current_Fleet

    Those Irish trains seem both attractive and solid too. Thanks for the pictures of them. Over the ages, Ireland has endured a lot. With a lot of pertinence here on the subject of what authoritarian government really looks like.

    Look up “The Black and Tans.” If a beverage comes up, follow the instructions, make one, and drink it. And then get down to Wikipedia. Too bad, though, if an employment application is what you’re really seeking. That office has been closed for awhile.

    Alas, but there’s sure to be a vacancy for you somewhere in the world. Hungary or Texas, choose your flag.

    Mark Dublin

  7. That is just a silly post Ross. You need to discuss the issue, not make wild accusations.

    There is nothing to support the idea I hate Seattle. I worry about it’s current governance and future tax revenue — especially with the state auditor’s report on bridges, and that tax revenue will affect ST funding.

    I am not sure if you noticed but Metro is planning deep service cuts through 2040. Does Metro hate Seattle? If course not. But revenue affects service, both routes and frequency. You need to understand that basic fact.

    Too often transit advocates think transit is the most important thing in the world and everyone will spend tens of billions on gondolas and high speed rail to Portland and so on. Rail lines to Issaquah, West Seattle and Ballard are stupid enough.

    The other subareas except the Eastside will likely see less revenue but the scope of their projects is so much smaller they can manage that better. If the Eastside subarea had to fund the project list the N. KC subarea has to fund it would be in financial trouble too. Plus the other subareas don’t have to pay 1/2 of the second bus tunnel.

    Working from home will not affect their tax revenue transit fare revenue like it will the North KC subarea. That is why ST is beginning to extend the completion dates for the WestSeattle and Ballard lines. Unlike East Link where the delay was engineering this delay is financial based.

    Yes I travel into Seattle five days/week to work. I know what commuting is. Maybe because I am a lawyer I tend to not look at thing with rose colored glasses. I am a realist. I understand how money works.

    Most of the world never thinks about transit. Many on the Eastside don’t hate Seattle, they just like going there anymore, and like me they have as much or more connection to Seattle than you do.

    Transit isn’t worth insulting others over, or claiming they hate Seattle but have worked in it for 30 years, and lived in it for decades. See how silly your statement sounds when you look at the facts.

    If you think ST 3 makes financial sense and the N. King Co. subarea will have the revenue to complete those projects just say so. We should have a good idea of post pandemic revenue in 2021 or 2022. But whether someone loves or hate Seatttle — or neither is not the point. If anything I get the impression you have some preconceptions and hang ups with the Eastside you should resolve.

    1. “You need to discuss the issue, not make wild accusations.”

      Here’s a wild accusation: “ST hoped to get closer to 2030 before announcing it either had to postpone the West Seattle and Ballard lines, or pass ST 4. However the financial hit from the pandemic forced ST to make that admission now,” Do you have evidence of that? How do you know what ST hopes or when it planned to propose ST4? Do you know somebody on the board or staff who told you? Or is it a kind of wishful thinking, projecting your assumptions onto ST and insisting that’s what ST intends?

      1. Yes Mike I do know folks on the Board although none specifically told me this. But if you attend the Eastside transportation meetings the concern over the N. King Co. subarea to complete its project list in ST 2 and 3 with pre-pandemic funding estimates was a concern. Now it is a real concern. Board members regularly spoke at these meetings. Eastside board members have funding concerns about the other subareas. This is no mystery.

        These are not transit advocates, and look at eastside transportation as a whole. They have grave misgivings about spending $4.5 billion on light rail from Issaquah to Kirkland simply.because the Eastside subarea has the funds due to ST 3, and don’t want a ST 4 to fund North KC, which would result in another boondoggle like the Issaquah-Kirkland line on the Eastside they don’t think is the best use of transportation dollars. From the beginning they questioned ST’s estimates of 50,000 riders per day on East Link.

        These are transportation engineers mainly, some retired from WSDOT, and rather than look at transportation as what they wish residents would do when it comes to transportation they look at what they do do, and plan for that. For example congestion on 405 is a bigger issue than a rail line to Issaquah. If the vast majority of eastsiders drive then plan for that. If the only effective first/last mile access is park and rides insist those are part of ST 3.

        They also have concerns about adding a transfer for commuters going to Seattle who live south of I-90. It was at one of these meetings when Steve Marshall who was with Bellevue spoke with some ACES experts and noted commuters will rarely take three forms of transit to go anywhere, and the first seat is to the park and ride in the perfect alternative to transit: a car.

        These meetings and newsletters have been a real education for me, especially when it comes to ST and subarea equity.

        The difference with south KC and Pierce Co. is their funding needs — or shortfalls — are pretty modest to complete a line to Tacoma. I disagree with Mike these possible funding issues will make them more likely to vote yes on ST 4. South KC usually votes no (in large part because many need to drive for work, not because they have free parking. Work drives the need to park a truck, not the other way around), and Pierce Co. has openly questioned its membership in ST. Still the remaining cost to complete theline to Tacoma is not high for each subarea. After that each subarea can do what it wants.

        At this time it might make sense to disconnect taxing rates in the different subareas and let each subarea place whatever levy it needs on the ballot. The funding needs are different. The revenue would still stay in the subarea but each subarea could have different taxing rates for what they need to complete.

        When it comes to Metro on the Eastside the ETA has its concerns there too, in part because of the geography, lack of density, desire to drive, and the fact transit is mostly commuter driven. Hence the desire for express buses on 405 to Bellevue. Good use of funds, but had to be funded out of ST. Current concerns in newsletters are how pressure on Metro in Seattle to allocate service based on “equity” will affect Eastside service (if your Eastside community even has Metro service), and whether Metro subarea equity makes sense, except Metro is so heavily subsidized county wide and service really should have some equity component.

        But the car is still king at the ETA because right now that is how the vast majority of eastsiders prefer to get around, especially during non-peak times. You might hate cars, but traffic engineers don’t have the luxury to plan based on ideology.

      2. Daniel, you just do not get it. There is not enough room in the Puget Sound Lowland for everyone who wants to live in a single-family house and drive to work with a commute of less than 30 minutes. No matter HOW MUCH money those residents may make, that model won’t work in a region that’s not replaceable flat land with existing agriculture.

        Houston works because it’s flat has three concentric limited access ring roads and a limited access highway on each of the cardinal points of the compass and on the halves between them. Puget Sound is massively constrained by water and steep hills.

        My wife and I used to live in Houston from which we would regularly escape to the Hill Country. We quickly learned that a few miles west of Katy, at the Brazos River, was the first (and coming home the last) topography we were going to see other than four level interchanges.

        In Seattle, with the exception of Wallingford and directly north from Green Lake, there’s some sort of geological barrier within two miles in any direction. There’s a nice and much bigger plain between Lynnwood and South Everett and of course the Green River Valley is a perfect place for one arm of a radial city. Unfortunately, it’s already filled up with big box warehouses. Uh-Oh!

        Cars just don’t scale in a city like that. Of course everyone wants one to go camping or general motoring and to bring big stuff back from Target. But they can’t all get to work if they only use cars. There aren’t enough “pathways” to meet the demand with SOV’s, petro- or sun-powered.

        It’s clear that you — and probably a lot of other East Side voters want out of ST. If you want to do that, then make a NICE BIG CONTRIBUTION to each and every rural legislator who, like you, has it in for any independence Seattle might evidence. The “string” is that they have to vote to give Seattle the right to tax itself and workers there as it sees fit.

        Without East Link and the Everett and Tacoma extensions there is absolutely no need for a second tunnel. And since you’re certain that downtown is dead, there’s no need for Ballard-Downtown or the West Seattle Spur, either. Since ST2 is paid for and massively under construction the end result will be Midway to Lynnwood with a lesser branch to Overlake. I think that’s fine with most Seattle residents as would be splitting “North King” into its own county. North King gets to keep the County name, though. You guys can be Wannabe County (pronounced Wuh-Nah-Bay with the accent on the middle syllable for a bit of chic “Asian” flavor).

      3. Does Houston “work”? I’ve visited a few times, and the traffic can be horrendous. It’s not as congested as Seattle, but when you combine the massive distances that need to be covered and the routine congestion, average commutes and trip times end up being longer.

    2. Metro is planning deep service cuts through 2040

      Metro covers all of King County. So why single out Seattle?

      Oh, and it turns out that Seattle won’t be hit as hard as other parts of the county because it eagerly taxed itself extra to pay for transit.

      Many on the Eastside don’t hate Seattle, they just like going there anymore, and like me they have as much or more connection to Seattle than you do.

      First of all, you have no evidence to support your idea that “many on the Eastside just [don’t] like going there anymore”.

      Transit isn’t worth insulting others over

      I’m simply pointing out that your statements lack reason as well as any factual basis. If that is an insult to you, then maybe you should check yourself. You can’t keep writing about how Seattle is falling apart, and will never be visited by the people who really matter (those on the Eastside) and expect to see your outdated, anti-urban ideas remain unchallenged.

      You spent 13 paragraphs and not one gave a reason why Seattle would suffer more financially than any other region. You have no facts to support your case. None.

      As for thinking Seattle is falling apart, it is a theme of yours:

      * Too bad Seattle’s downtown retail core is diminishing in walkability. IMO the two most important parts of walkability are safe streets, including at night, and retail density. I don’t think this critical part of Seattle is doing well for walkability. (https://seattletransitblog.com/2020/12/16/news-roundup-seamless/#comment-865520).

      This is complete bullshit, of course. Seattle streets have never been more walkable — even by your definition. There have never been more sidewalks, and more retail than now. The streets are about as safe as they’ve ever been. We are in the middle of the viaduct replacement project, but when it is done it will transform the greater Pike Place area and the waterfront (which used to be empty). Of course retail is taking a hit because of the pandemic (that is true everywhere) but it will rebound, and rebound strong, given the fundamentals (lots of businesses and people downtown). By the time the waterfront connection work is done, downtown will be stronger than it has ever been.

      * 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.* https://seattletransitblog.com/2020/12/09/news-roundup-more-chatter/#comment-865125

      Seattle downtown businesses are doing as well as any in the country. The downtown housing core is as well. We are in the middle of a pandemic, you can’t expect a lot of night life, or Pike Place being mobbed in the middle of the day. A lot of things that people normally do — that they really, really want to do — are not only a bad idea, but they aren’t allowed.

      *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. *

      Total bullshit. Prior to the pandemic, the Ave was way busier than University Village. The shops are more compressed, with less space given over the car. It is a more urban experience — something the vast majority of students prefer. The people who typically visit University Village are well-to-do; it is the favored choice for a conservative parent to take their kid if they are scared of big cities. (Especially if they are overly concerned about their daughter’s safety.)

      * 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. *

      Speak of the devil. Just out of curiosity, what scares you about the Ave. All the Bubble Tea shops? The restaurants that are now almost all Asian? I get it — kimchi is pretty scary.

      *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.*

      OK, well then. That defines retail strength — Nordstroms. Heaven forbid we have a street dominated by independent businesses catering to a largely student population. We want Nordstroms — make The Ave safe for paranoid suburbanites again!

      Look, the property is valuable. The only reason those small stores can afford the rent is because they are small, and they do (or at least did) do a lot of business. This is exactly what you want for The Ave. You are basically proposing the modern equivalent of urban renewal.

      Thousands of people prefer the Ave as it is now, and would hate it if it was dominated by Olive Gardens, Cheesecake Factories, and the occasional Van Maur. We prefer having three independent Thai restaurants, all on the same block on the same side of the street. This is cool. This is fun. This, is boring. Oh, and look at all those young women, walking around the Ave. Such courage.

      I could go on. It is a theme of yours. It is anti-urban sentiment that you think is universal, but isn’t.

      You think that Seattle is dying — that will not only struggle, but struggle more *than every other region* — even though, in the past, it was the opposite.

      So forgive me if I assume your distaste for urban living, your exaggeration of the economic importance of the homeless problem, and the unsubstantiated claims about an economic downfall in Seattle are somehow related. I think they are all tied together. You see Seattle as the next Detroit, and the East Side as the next, I don’t know, Gross Pointe. Careful though. If Seattle really does collapse as you fear, then the East Side will soon follow, along with everything north and south. Cities don’t just move to the suburbs. They either thrive, or collapse (from the inside out). If you are betting against Seattle, you are betting against Bellevue and Mercer Island as well.

      1. And looking over this long-overdue piece of writing, RossB…..thanks in every language on this Earth. Wish COVIDIA would just go ‘way and let me once again defend my long-time home on-site. You’ve earned your name on whatever takes the Link-trains into Ballard. Station or whole line, your choice.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Ross, I think you and some others see all these issues through class warfare (although choose to live in N. Seattle or Olympia ). The fundamental point I try to make — and I didn’t make the “Seattle Is Dying” documentary — is transit service is subsidized, and so levels of general fund revenues and fare box revenues will determine levels of service (and equity to some degree will determine allocation of bus service). Transit is playing with other people’s money.

        Working from home and tourism are two unknowns post pandemic, and both are big revenue generators for Seattle, and transit too. You believe total tax and fare revenue will rebound, and so will transit funding, and ST will have adequate funding to complete ST 3, albeit with extensions to the completion dates. I have doubts about that. So do Metro and ST, which is why they are begging for federal stimulus.

        I do have concerns about the direction and retail activity of downtown Seattle, and this pre-dated Covid-19. Some on The Urbanist simply post Seattle is a “trash/shit city”, which is concise, and interesting for such a progressive blog although not unlike what I read on Eastside blogs, without the vulgarity.

        I am not alone in this concern, and the Seattle Times has consistently raised this concern (although maybe you read The Stranger), and many of us spend five days/week in Seattle. I am not sure how often you visit downtown Seattle.

        If I were to give you one data point it would be commercial lease negotiations and vacancy rates, that are down throughout the U.S. Commercial development is a lagging indicator, whereas leases are a semi-leading indicator. Another key indicator to watch is tourism.

        The real issue for Seattle is there are competing alternatives for businesses, restaurants and retail. You could love Seattle, but if the experience is better some place else people will go there.

        Some think the world revolves around transit. I don’t. It is a public need which is why it is subsidized, but a car— if you can afford it — is far more convenient, which is why transit advocates want to disadvantage the car. There is a reason the Cascadia line from Seattle to Portland serves 829,000 riders per year and the I-5 CRC serves 300,000 cars per day, and as Dan Ryan noted (which you refused to believe) car traffic dwarfs transit ridership on the West Seattle Bridge. Those are just facts. Until transit solves first/last mile access in such a non-dense region —including Seattle — transit can’t compete.

        Personally I wondered if the recent post asking whether a trip from Ballard to Tacoma on light rail in 2045 would take two hours one way wasn’t a spoof. Are we going to spend $74 billion as a region so someone can spend two hours on transit from Ballard to Tacoma when I can drive it today in 45 minutes? Is that how limited our imagination of the future is. I doubt it.

        I think this whole “urban” thing you raise is interesting since you are the one who keeps complaining West Seattle does not have the density to support rail (and ironically there is no first/last mile access to a gondola). Don’t you live in a non-dense outer Seattle neighborhood? Seattle is one of the least dense mid to large cities I have ever seen spread out over an enormous area. It is a series of suburban, or Ex-urban, neighborhoods with a decaying core. If you think Seattle is “urban” you haven’t travelled much.

        Sure I am disappointed with the direction Seattle is going. You should read Eastside blogs. Or the Seattle Times. If the revenue returns in full I suppose Seattle can do whatever it wants, although a city with 22% of K-12 students in private school (those who can afford it) and over 50% renters is a sick city to me.

        It all comes down to revenue for transit. If there is more than enough revenue post-pandemic we know the plan for ST 3 and future transit levies won’t be necessary, and the main issue for Metro transit allocation will be equity, and my city knows how that goes. If there isn’t enough revenue then either the region taxes itself more, the feds bail transit out, or cuts are made like in ST 1.

        Here is the thing: it makes no sense to make transit something it isn’t. Transit has been around a long time in many large cities, and it hasn’t changed society or inequities in society. Light rail was hardly about transit equity or changing society. I think everyone on this blog should read Nathan’s article on the 7 on The Urbanist to remember who transit serves and how little it changes their lives.

      3. The fundamental point I try to make — and I didn’t make the “Seattle Is Dying” documentary — is transit service is subsidized, and so levels of general fund revenues and fare box revenues will determine levels of service (and equity to some degree will determine allocation of bus service). Transit is playing with other people’s money.

        We all know it is subsidized. That is no way explains why you decided to single out Seattle as an area that would struggle more than other subareas.

        You have mentioned several times that you are a lawyer. I seriously doubt you do trial work, as you would no doubt get tired of judges saying “get to the point, counselor!”. Anyway, I’ll let you spend several paragraphs rambling on about issues that have nothing to do with the item at hand, until you make your argument:

        Working from home and tourism are two unknowns post pandemic, and both are big revenue generators for Seattle

        As they are for every subarea. Continue:

        You believe total tax and fare revenue will rebound, and so will transit funding, and ST will have adequate funding to complete ST 3, albeit with extensions to the completion dates.

        OK, again, that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. It is irrelevant. It is also not true. It is a straw man argument meant to obfuscate the overall weakness of your argument. No one thinks that ST is in great shape. We are all concerned. But you are the only one who thinks that Seattle will be worse off than every other subarea.

        I do have concerns about the direction and retail activity of downtown Seattle, and this pre-dated Covid-19.

        Ah, finally you make your argument. Took you long enough. So, basically:

        1) Seattle is extremely reliant on downtown retail for taxes.
        2) Downtown retail is in trouble, and this was the case before the pandemic.
        3) This will cause Seattle to suffer financially more than other subareas.

        Forgive me if I’ve misrepresented your argument. But you could save us both a lot of time if you just clarified your thoughts, and laid it out like that. Before I offer a rebuttal. Let me see if you have any other arguments to support your case:

        I am not alone in this concern, and the Seattle Times has consistently raised this concern (although maybe you read The Stranger), and many of us spend five days/week in Seattle. I am not sure how often you visit downtown Seattle.

        As someone who regularly reads the Seattle Times (and The Stranger, and Crosscut, and Publicola) I don’t recall anything that painted such a broad brush. I can’t remember one article about South Lake Union, for example, or the Denny Triangle. I do remember articles about the areas around the courthouse, a relatively small part of the downtown area. Oh, and the area around the McDonalds on Third that has been a problem for maybe thirty years. Anyway, kudos for bringing up an argument that is relevant to your case. Anything more:

        The real issue for Seattle is there are competing alternatives for businesses, restaurants and retail. You could love Seattle, but if the experience is better some place else people will go there.

        Of course. That is obvious. There is, and has always been competition. Some people like going to the aquarium. Others like looking at a fish tank. There is no reason to state something so obvious.

        Some think the world revolves around transit. I don’t.

        Nobody thinks that. You are rambling again. Stick to the point, counselor. Every paragraph after that was similar — nothing at all about your argument, which I will now address:

        1. The area of downtown you are concerned about is a relatively small part of downtown.

        2. Downtown retail within that area was always relatively small.

        Very few people have expressed concerns about Seattle rebounding in any way, shape or form. Oh, there is concern about Amazon leaving (the same way Boeing left) but in both cases the city rebounded. But the region isn’t as dependent on Amazon as it was Boeing back in the day, and the city rebounded quite quickly.

        The problems you are concerned about have existed for years. There have always been drunks and hobos downtown — hell, the term “skid road” originated here! Crime is actually down from its peak (somewhere in the ’70s). Books (like Still Life with Woodpecker) focused on the rundown, sleazy nature of First Avenue. There was grave concern that downtown would dry up, and that people would all flock to the malls back in the 80s. It rebounded, and was as strong as ever before the pandemic. There are way more people living downtown then there used to be (downtown used to essentially close up after dark — a terrible situation for retail). You can cite all the articles you want about “the problems downtown”, but you can’t find one that says it will cause a major revenue problem. Because it won’t.

        All of the problems you mentioned are problems for other areas, too. The entire country has suffered because of the pandemic. Everett is being hit by both the pandemic and the Boeing downturn (which is huge). Unlike Seattle, they don’t have a strong tech base. For that matter, neither does Tacoma. Neither does South King, which has struggled in the past. While North King and East King seem fairly robust (in comparison to the other subareas) both will be hit by the Boeing downturn (especially East King, since it includes Renton). Everyone will be hurt by the general move towards online retail. But there is no reason — other than a distaste for Seattle (as it exists now) which you’ve cited many times — to believe that Seattle will suffer any more than any other region.

    3. The difference between the Ave and U Village comes down to different stores, different parking policies, and different target clienteles. U Village is like an open-air Bellevue Square. It’s both the past and future of enclosed malls. It has the same kinds of affluent-targeted chain stores as Bellevue Square. So people who like that kind of thing, and want to drive to it and park in a garage, and don’t want to see panhandlers, go there.

      Meanwhile, people who want a pedestrian-oriented area; with small, independent stores; and narrow storefronts; and dozens of small ethnic restaurants; and rich and poor mixed together rather than shoving the poor under the rug; go to the Ave.

      U-Village’s success simply means it has been able to draw people from other suburban malls, and there’s a large (and perhaps increasing) number of Seattle residents and UW students who want that. And as U-Village gets larger, even non-fans go there occasionally for things like Apple products, Storables containers, and Williams-Sonoma kitchenware that isn’t available elsewhere in Seattle, or one of Ba Bar’s two locations.

      The Ave has gone through several generations of retail. It used to have department stores back when the department stores themselves were more local. In the 80s it was full of the used-record shops and used bookstores I went to, and The Last Exit cafe with big round tables that people shared tables and played chess on, and Arnold’s hamburger-and-video-game parlor the kids went to. In the 90s and 00s it went through several variations of a small Nordstrom’s, and more apartment density, and didn’t/doesn’t it have a Target somewhere?, and even more ethnic restaurants. It has had a problem with empty storefronts since 2000, partly because some landlords would rather keep a space empty in hopes of snagging a high-paying chain store someday rather than going with a lower-paying independent tenant now. And now it needs a new vision, as does downtown, because online sales have replaced retail sales to some extent. That doesn’t mean it’s dying or is dead; it just means it needs to try some new visions.

      1. Remember the pie a la mode late at night at the Last Exit. I used to go there after studying late at the law school which at that time was off campus.

        Otherwise I think your comparisons of The Ave and U village today nails it.

      2. I agree with everything you wrote, Mike. My biggest concern about the Ave is that it was going to evolve into an area similar to a mall. Nothing but chain stores and chain restaurants. That could still happen (unless they put some sort of restrictions on it). To me, I would take a dozen bubble tea shops over that (even though I don’t like bubble tea).

        I don’t see downtown as being similar, simply because it is so much bigger. Pike Place is already protected (something similar could be applied to The Ave). If a chain store opens a couple blocks away it is no big deal.

        In general, I think retail for clothing is transitioning. Middle class stores are dying out. That leaves shops catered for low income people (which are typically in low rent areas, like Aurora) and high end stores which are usually found in high end malls and a few downtown areas (or, in the case of Bellevue, a downtown mall). The other trend is more and more stores catering to one company. Eddie Bauer, Patagonia, North Face, Black Diamond and so on.

        There are still a few stores selling stuff on The Ave. There are selling used records (and CDs). But the ratio has changed. There are a lot more restaurants, and this is to be expected. Restaurants, bars, clubs — you can’t get that experience delivered. Obviously you can get the same stuff, but you don’t get a pint at the Big Time just because the beer is great. You get a pint because it is such a cool environment. Those sorts of places will be popular again, once this pandemic wanes.

        The ratio actually benefits the few places that do sell stuff. You get a lot of people on the street going out, just for fun, and they happen to walk by the store and see something interesting. The more independent and funky looking, the better chance they have of survival.

  8. Easy, RossB. On anything to do with the politics of transit, Daniel and I don’t seem to agree very much at all either. As far as I know, I’ve never met him.

    I’m also nowhere near able to complain about the amount of transit-blog space his comments occupy attacking transit. Reason I gravitated to things like quarrying and transit driving was that I did not want to be a writer. Some day there’ll be a cure for verbiage.

    Anybody net-savvy: Has somebody invented an automatic editor that can cut word-count without violence to the message? Meantime, ’til STB can get the feature working, along with [OT] and [AH], could the feature just stick in [JCTS] for “Just Consider The Source?”

    A lot of years of first-hand Transit-Advocacy do take some of the edge off these exchanges. Especially to do with Mercer Island, a certain amount of whose people keep treating the gift of a first-rate rail and bus system the same as letting a dog trespass and leave his business card.

    I don’t think they’re anywhere near a majority, but do think a lot of business-people and their employees may be facing intimidation if they do stand up and say they’ll welcome both the patronage and the presence of its passengers.

    And who also appreciate a fast ride to their own job on the Island. RossB, I’m not kidding about that sweeping draw-bridge bringing Link across the Ship Canal to Downtown Ballard. I can see it in my mind’s eye.

    And the same many times over for a really-class cafe in the station. Partnered with the temporarily disused one two minutes walk to 550’s and Link right downstairs. Week ago I called the City of Mercer Island, who’ve posted a sign claiming ownership where another good cafe used to be.

    Also something else I wish we would start doing:

    https://www.urban-transport-magazine.com/en/the-disappearance-and-return-of-the-trams-to-essens-city-centre/

    There are some picture-links on YouTube alongside it. Recalling that conversation between our Employee Advisory Committee and DSTT’s chief engineer, I know we came close to having 4000-series Route 7 sharing tubes with trains.

    Letting me visualize some future planned communities that’ll let buses co-OPERATE with Link trains as we face down pro-sprawl developers to liberate this region’s every car from its worst enemy. Two-mph SOV traffic. Any advice, Ross, I’d appreciate.

    Mark Dublin

  9. I drove east on 520 the other day to downtown Redmond, and saw lots of heavy equipment activity on the right side of the highway, all the way from the top of hill where Microsoft is, and along the northern edge of Marymoor Park. So there’s now a swath of exposed dirt where Link Downtown Redmond Extension will run. Kinda cool.

    1. Thanks for posting this. I remember that day like it happened just a few months ago. Every time I travel across the Aurora Bridge and I see a large truck or other vehicle straddling the narrow lanes, I find myself still thinking about that tragic incident. I lived in lower Wallingford at the time and frequently rode those 359/360 Metro routes, mostly in the afternoon northbound direction.. A day or so after the accident, my spouse and I walked over to Fremont to get dinner and went by that building where the bus landed (and still laid for the time being). Seeing that really hit home. We got incredibly lucky that more passengers weren’t killed in this horrific incident. I can’t even imagine the sheer terror they went through plunging off that bridge.

      1. The guy in the video made a good point, if the bus had gone off the bridge just 10 seconds later, in the middle of the bridge, everyone on board would have died.

        Also, I once talked to a lady who claimed she was on that bus. She said the shooter, after shooting the driver, grabbed the steering wheel and purposely steered the bus to the left and through the guardrail. I have no way of knowing if she was really on that bus, or if that’s what happened, but that’s what she said, for what it’s worth.

      2. Sam and Tlsgwm, thanks for the memory, because it really fortifies a need for mode-change as I see it. Aurora Bridge, or every curving lane on, say, I-90 near North Bend….

        Even with the presence of the gunman, a situation the airlines also had to answer for 9-11-2001 in regard to cockpit bullet-proofing, that Aurora crash would not have happened had that line been run with rail. With every driver, someplace bullet proof.

        And Daniel, any resentment of mine over helping who-all-else’s line with what, disappears when I consider how much service my ORCA card entitles me to. Employment? Community College course-work? Doctor’s visit? Change of residence?

        One more piece of pressure my ORCA payment can relieve me of. When time comes to report for work or class regionwide, I will definitely have my fare already paid. And my car left purring in her port.

        I-405, I-90, and wherever elsewhere east, could really be a toss-up with fairly wide appeal. Which ever road gets rail, the other could get bus service specially designed for mode conversion.

        Look up those electric Swedish semi’s with the pantographs, give me a bus-body over that motor, and catenary over head, and I’ll happily cross that Pass at seventy every morning with a fresh load of workers and customers headed straight for Mercer Island. Been told I wouldn’t be ST’s or Metro’s oldest. Can also lie a lot.

        ‘Til the time finally comes to switch the line to rail. And as a general rule here’s my own ironclad metric about the need for rail. Regional rail’s whole purpose is to cure Dwight D. Eisenhower’ fantastic highway system of the ailment that’s going to kill it:

        Left to fate and vision near-sighted, there are too many cars going past those shields at what Army maneuvers would call a “Low Crawl”. At time and place where incoming artillery should really make the order “CHARGE!” A command that I would gladly sound in person.

        Mark Dublin

      3. The design of the Aurora Bridge is a classic case of prioritizing car capacity over basic safety. They squeezed in three lanes in the space for two, an it’s an accident waiting to happen. A safer design of the same bridge width would have had just two car lanes per direction, with the extra space going towards shoulders and a concrete center barrier, plus each lane being a foot or two wider.

        Given that there’s only two car lanes anyway in the approach to the bridge (the 3rd lane is a bus lane), there isn’t even a good traffic flow reason why the bridge “needs” three lanes. Even from a transit perspective, the difference between 3 lanes and two is meaningless if the bus has to straddle two lanes anyway.

        Even after the tragic Ride the Duck crash, the city has still not fixed it. Another crash on that bridge will happen again; it’s a matter of time.

  10. Since it’s completely included in STB’s mission statement, I should really show some more respect for Land Use Planning. Which still leaves plenty of room for my own observation that, exactly like trains and buses, “LUP” cannot be handled in abstraction.

    These last few decades, seems to me the average buyer’s choice is just the worst. Acres and shrub-less tree-less acres covered with giant houses indistinguishable from each other. With crawl-space in between that they call lawns. Threaded through with incomprehensible cul de sac’s.

    It’s just like with a vehicle category. Performance and cost-wise, buses and trains have varieties in quality. And so does housing. I’ve been in places where properly-positioned smaller houses give a lot freer and less cookie-cutter life than wall-to-wall suburban single-family mansions.

    Might be good to mandate public meetings where newly-filed designs can be seen by would-be neighbors. Ninth Amendment time again. Considering their experience with hereditary aristocrats, they certainly VALUED other people’s RIGHTS to keep their homes de-WALLED.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Asdf2, I thought the same when WSDOT proposed narrowing lane width on I-90 to 11’ to increase the number of lanes to 4, called RA-8. In fact lane width on the Aurora bridge was exhibit A. Actually there has been no increase in either accidents or congestion from the narrowing of lanes or shoulders.

      The issue with the Aurora bridge was identified decades ago: the lack of a hard barrier between lanes in different directions

      But I don’r quite understand how you equate a madman shooting the driver of a bus and driving the bus off the bridge to cars, car capacity, or increasing lane width that benefits buses as much as cars. Wouldn’t a more logical argument be that lack of bus security and allowing a madman on a bus is the true proximate cause, when really neither cars nor transit are the proximate cause.

      1. The issue with the Aurora bridge was identified decades ago: the lack of a hard barrier between lanes in different directions.

        Yeah, that’s the crazy part. I rarely drive in that middle lane, and when I do I feel like a guy on a motorcycle going fast — just staring death in the face, baby. As long as everyone stays in their lane, I’ll survive.

  11. And I also just this minute noticed. Just go to “Issaquah Valley Trolley” and look at the images. Perfect local partners for newly-electrified service in its bus phase on its way to the Summit and maybe Ellensburg.

    Could probably share a substation, and maybe even some maintenance facilities.

    Some people who doubtless also vote obviously want these things bad enough to pay for them. When CO-VID’s O-ver, fair number of Islanders and Mainlanders might find a trolley-sparking day up-mountain to be well worth the cost in both taxes and ORCA money.

    Electric semi’s? Why not? Somehow, don’t think either wolves or the big cats would find these presences anything they can’t handle. Ravens? Any road-kill this transit delivers, doubt they’d feel slighted. Mind your manners and they’ll let you have some dinner.

    Mark Dublin

  12. Tom, I am not sure what you are talking about. I am just an individual posting on a transit blog. Are you sure we are not saying the same thing?

    What is this “Puget Sound Lowland” you are talking about? Virtually none of the land from Everett to Tacoma is zoned truly rural. It has all been platted, and it will never have the population density to support the urbanist utopia you desire. You stat that yourself. This region was platted and the infrastructure designed for single family homes long before you moved here from Houston. You need to move to a truly dense location like Manhattan or Shanghai for what you want, but you better be rich to live there. One thing Seattle Urbanists don’t understand is the greater the density the greater wealth determines your life. NY is real mean if you are poor.

    Of course cars “scale” in this region. What are you talking about? Look at our road infrastructure. The vast majority of citizens own cars and prefer to drive, which is why there is peak hour congestion. But the other 20 hours/day driving is much more convenient and faster. Otherwise there would be no light rail, which is primarily designed to deal with commuter congestion. If the only concern was non-peak travel—especially for equity reasons — we would stick to buses. Is anyone in 2045 going to spend two hours on light rail to get from Ballard to Tacoma for a concert?

    Did you read what I wrote. I specifically wrote ST subarea taxing rates should be separated so each subarea could place a levy on a ballot for the amount it needs (although Ross states the N. King Co. subarea needs no additional funding).

    I agree that if a separate line is not run to West Seattle and Ballard — or as you recommend Tacoma and Everett — we could probably get by with one transit tunnel, especially with working from home. ST’s ridership projections for East Link were always fantasy. But I didn’t promise West Seattle and Ballard light rail, and luckily I won’t have to tell them they are not getting it. Or how about a street level second line through Seattle like the rest of the region?

    I am not sure you comprehend the distinction between ST 2 or 3 and subarea equity. Just because the North King Co, subarea may not have the funding under ST 2 to complete its projects that has nothing to do with the Eastside subarea that will have $5.5 billion left over from ST 2 alone, after ST is complete, because our taxing rates are based on what N. KC needed.

    Why in the world are you threatening me with the threat of not completing light rail to Everett, Tacoma, West Seattle or Ballard because the N. KC subarea might not have the funding for its 1/2 of the second transit tunnel? Are you advocating those lines not be completed? I never thought they made sense. Seattle — let alone the Puget Sound region — has such little density I thought rail should follow the little density there is, not dream of creating density where it is not.

    What are you arguing for? Separate taxing areas and taxing rates for Metro and ST which I agree with, or not completing the lines to Everett, Tacoma, West Seattle and Ballard so the second transit tunnel doesn’t have to be built which I can live with based on the actual future ridership on East Link and 8 minute intervals.

  13. asdf2, thanks for keeping this discussion going. Probably the healthiest and most productive use of all our time these dark and dismal hours. Hope somebody’s archiving STB for sheer Transit History.

    2020-1932=? The Aurora Bridge opened 88 years ago. Am I right that Seattle had a somewhat smaller ridership for transit and cars alike? And the whole idea that the average working-class family could ever own a car at all would’ve been laughed down as Utopian.

    But does my readership this morning include a single bridge-engineer? Since I’m not one, I need a professional opinion whether that bridge can ever hold railroad track, heavy or light. I’d believe it either way.

    Thing I like about streetcars as a mode is their flexibility. What’s minimum curve radius? 42 feet sticks in my mind. Glenn, what’s tightest curve in the system for Portland MAX? And the highest speed for a railcar after pulling out of that curve?

    Know that “The Electroliner” gets old just thinking about. But it did see to it that as the automobile came in, streetcars died fighting. An antique tool, maybe, but no harm keeping them in the kit. Perfect transitional measure for modes and places there’s no rush about.

    Mark Dublin

  14. “Of course cars “scale” in this region. What are you talking about? Look at our road infrastructure. The vast majority of citizens own cars and prefer to drive, which is why there is peak hour congestion. But the other 20 hours/day driving is much more convenient and faster.”

    A car is much larger than a person. It needs space around it to avoid collisions. A parking space is the size of a small bedroom. Each car needs 2 1/2 parking spaces: one at home, one at work, and a shared one where they shop/do errands/recreate. Each parking space needs a shadow space around it so the car can get in and out of it. All those cars need ten-lane highways, four-lane arterials, and no-man’s-land spaces around the highways, entrances, and interchanges. So when you double the number of people, you have to add several times more in land for their cars. That’s why cars don’t scale. American cities devote half their buildable land to car infrastructure. That pushes everything apart, which makes it harder to walk between them, and makes the in-between land so unpleasant.

    In cities where less than half the people own cars, or a 4-person family has one car as in the 1950s, cities don’t take as much space, people don’t have to buy so much expensive land, it’s easier to walk to things, and the city is more pedestrian-friendly and pleasant.

    The US has 5% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the worlds energy. A lot of that is because of individual cars, and the materials needed to build such and infrastructure, And now the Chinese and Indians want what the Americans have, and are building a second and third frankenstein, because we’re setting a bad example.

    People without cars have one major monthly expense: housing. With a car they have two, because cars need fuel, maintenance, and insurance. When you switch from a society where most people get around by walking and transit and only a few people have a hobby car or working truck, to one where you can’t walk anywhere and transit is so sparse that everyone needs a car just to get to work or the grocery store, it forces people to take on an extraordinary annual expense. That’s especially cruel to the low-income. When you build entire car-dependent suburbs like in South King County, which were intended for middle-class people with a family-wage job, and then make working-class and poor people live in them because they can’t afford more convenient housing elsewhere, that’s a major problem.

    Then there’s the problems with fossil fuels, which pollute the environment, increase carbon emissions, trigger asthma, and prop up centralized dictators who oppress their own people.

    There are plenty of alternatives in industrialized Western countries. In cities where less than 50% of people have cars, or one car per family is the norm, and there are robust alternatives to driving, the cities don’t need as much land. They can devote some of the land they’re not using for cars, to pedestrian amenities and parks. Their residents don’t have this large expense to maintain a car just to participate in society. There are still roads and delivery trucks and emergency vehicles and taxis and working trucks (e.g., a gardener and their tools) and some amount of hobby cars, but you don’t need ten-lane freeways and four-lane arterials just for that. Instead you can have a more normal streetcar-suburb kind of city.

    When you say Americans want cars, that’s the same as saying Americans are selfish and unsustainable. Which the are, on average. City/county leaders — both in Seattle and the suburbs — sympathize with them and their voting power, but they’re also responsible for other aspects of urban areas and can’t just pretend this is a Futurama utopia, because cars don’t scale, and cause a lot of exernalities, and impose a cost burden on lower-income people. That’s why you see on the one hand, keeping parking minimums and widening highways, while on the other hand supporting Link and Sounder and Stride and a more robust local bus network. Because most leaders have some sympathies on both sides, and different leaders lean different ways.

      1. True, but at the same time supposedly they’ve done all this work in the impacted corridor to mitigate these sorts of incidents. With that said, as an Edmonds resident I can attest to the fact that we got absolutely drenched up here yesterday afternoon before the precip changed to snow flurries. (The vast majority of the patio I have in the backyard of my property had temporarily become a very large bird bath. Lol.) Paine Field recorded some 1.8 inches of rain in the 24-hour period when I checked the NWS website this morning. So, yeah, it was a good soaking up here yesterday and thus I’m not surprised to hear about this latest landslide incident.

      2. Are you anywhere near the Dayton Lake?

        For the most part, the work they did kept mud from sliding by changing drainage.
        That means there might be situations of washouts, but those are manageable.

        Most people don’t realize that the mud still slides, the other part of work that was done creating better catchment walls to contain the average slide. It’s only when the slide is large enough to over-top the wall that things get shut down.

        The upgrades work well.

      3. “It’s only when the slide is large enough to over-top the wall that things get shut down.”

        Yeah, I assumed that is indeed what happened in this recent incident, though I haven’t actually seen any photos of the slide area.

        I live in the north Edmonds (unincorporated county) area. Dayton Lake?

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