Northgate Station

2020 was not… great, but 2021 will be a major year for transit openings and restructuring:

55 Replies to “What to watch for: 2021”

  1. Northgate Link “will revolutionize transit in North Seattle”? Only a shadow of the projected ridership demand ever will materialize. A green WFH wildfire swept through the local economy last year. That conflagration burned to the ground Sound Transit’s projection that Northgate Link would generate 42,000 additional daily boardings.

    Large employers will not demand the high daily commute levels to dense worksites near the (planned and existing) station locations that Sound Transit’s officials were counting on for their gargantuan ridership demand level projections. That sea change eliminated the purported justification for light rail in this region.

    What’s the weekday ridership figure for light rail now that the big downtown employers use remote-working employees? 15,000 boardings, maybe? There are a couple of bus lines with ridership levels near that.

    Light rail in this region is a colossal failure, and the massive sales tax costs are abusive to struggling households.

    1. This is a 100-year investment. You can’t judge it by ridership in the first few months.

      1. Projected ridership levels and tax costs are precisely the criteria that should be used to “judge” light rail here. What criteria do you think everybody should use to “judge” it?

      2. On what basis are you “projecting” ridership, anon? Speculation pulled wholly out of your ass that mass WFH will continue forever after the pandemic?

        Are you stupid, or do you think everyone else is stupid?

      3. Of course ridership matters, but you have to be patient. It’s the long term average ridership over the next 100 years that really matters, not short term ridership over the next few months.

        Your argument is the equivalent of arguing in 2008 that stocks are worthless investments because your portfolio dropped in the past few months. But, the for the long term investors who didn’t attempt to time the market, 2008 didn’t matter much.

        Link projects take years to build and operate for 100+ years thereafter. You have to focus on the long term, which is that we still have a city. COVID is short term.

    2. I sincerely hope that you too are enjoying the opportunity to work from home and are a strong advocate for your fellow workers, Q.

      That’s because managers are seeing the creative “spark” that occurs from random togetherness shrivel ever more quickly. Sure, introvert tasks like coding, accounting, and logistics support can be done well at home. You know, the “staff” activities than can be outsourced to Bangalore.

      But the “sizzle” in the company steak — the part that generates SALES — is being strangled on the gallows of Zoom, Webex and Teams. Creative people need to flock in order to collaborate, not stare into a square where a pencil drop causes the system to “lose focus”.

      Maybe it’s time to get back to monitoring those pizza parlors, eh? Leave modal split analysis and HR management to actual biological humans.

    3. A green WFH wildfire swept through the local economy last year.

      How many times are you going to make the same stupid argument? You must be up to 20 by now. Is your goal 50 or 100? We keep pointing out why it is flawed, and you keep making it again. Please stop — it is annoying.

      The “revolution in transit for the North End” has nothing to do with people who currently work at home. It has nothing to do with the people who will work from home in the future. If you can just get over your unsubstantiated, repeatedly dis-proven belief that the only reason people ride transit is to commute to downtown office jobs, this becomes obvious. Can you do that? I know it is hard, but try — just consider, for a second, that your assumption is wrong. Just assume that all those studies that on this blog are true, and that most transit trips have nothing to do with commuting to downtown skyscrapers. Once you wrap your tiny head around this very simple concept, it all becomes obvious.

      Northgate Link will revolutionize transit because it will make *other* trips much easier. Right now, it is trivial for someone to get from Northgate to downtown — they take the 41. In fact, for many in the Northgate area, commuting to downtown will be worse — they will be forced to make a transfer, while ten years ago, the bus just got on the express lanes, and kept going to the downtown tunnel. Likewise for the Roosevelt and UW area. That is the craziest part of your mindless diatribe. It ignores the purpose and benefit of Link. If transit really was about 9-5 commuting downtown, then Link would have been a huge waste. There would be no “revolution” with Northgate Link, but a partial return of what existed in the past.

      But that’s not what Link, or any other metro/subway is about. It is about getting *other* places. The revolution has nothing to with getting downtown, it about getting to places that *aren’t* downtown. For example, it is a pain to get from Northgate to the UW. It takes about a half hour, if there is no traffic. Link will do that in 5 to 7 minutes (depending on which station you want). That is revolutionary. The same is true for trips to Capitol Hill, or Roosevelt. Any combination *not* including downtown is suddenly much, much faster — any time of day.

      But there is still a huge benefit for those that go downtown in the evening. Going opposite the express lanes is terrible — worse traffic than going with them. So people who commute to the clinics at Northgate, or to the U-District or Roosevelt in the morning will be much better off. So will people who decide they just want to go out in the evening to downtown. For that matter, there are people who aren’t headed for downtown, but some other neighborhood that requires a transfer, let alone places people who simply stay on the train to go Beacon Hill or Rainier Valley.

      This is what is revolutionary about Northgate Link. All of that, put together. Working from home, or not working from home has absolutely nothing to do with it.

      1. RossB is correct again. A huge transit mobility gain will be travel in the reverse peak direction, opposite of the I-5 reversible lanes. (Among the large mistakes of ST was south first in 2001). Link will penetrate several urban centers with paid or scarce parking (e.g., Roosevelt, University District, Capitol Hill, downtown Seattle), making many trips easier. The ST piece notes eight minute Link headway. This seems misguided and a fallout from Covid; I hope they quickly return to six minute headway; the restructures will be more likely and successful with short waits.

      2. The plan has always been 7.5 min headways. There has never been a plan to operate Link at 6. The 6 min headways they did run were just temporary while they worked around some issues with rolling stock availability (IIRC).

        But it hardly matters. After 2023 the E-Link will be interlined through the urban core.

    4. Anon, Anon, think like a passenger and you’ll understand why Northgate Link will revolutionize transit. And even more with the 522 being rerouted to Roosevelt and most Snohomish expresses being truncated at Northgate.

      1. A transit market between Snohomish and North Seattle will emerge. Currently there’s no way to get quickly from Snohomish County to Northgate, Roosevelt, Licton Springs (Meridian Ave N), Lake City, Sand Point, Greenwood, etc — because no express routes stop at Northgate or Roosevelt. It takes over an hour each way on local routes, so people drive. But with Link and the Northgate truncations, suddenly all those become much easier.

      2. The rerouted 522 will improve connections between Lake City and other parts of North Seattle. It will be more frequent than the current 522, and faster than the existing local routes (65, 75).

      3. Travel time from the U-District to Northgate will go from 30 minutes on the 67 to something like 6 minutes. That will be great for people living at Northgate, shopping at the future mall or surrounding stores. The pedestrian bridge across I-5 will make it easier to walk from Northgate Station to North Seattle College, the office buildings north of it, and the medical facilities north of that.

      When U-Link opened in 2016, Capitol Hill Station immediately became one of the most-used stations. Suddenly there was an express way to get from Capitol Hill to UW and downtown that never existed before. The same thing will happen at U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. Don’t think of just downtown 9-5 commuters, but people going between all these stations for all kinds of trips. Especially people who don’t have cars or don’t want to drive.

      As to whether the $X billion cost of Northgate Link is worth it, that’s a higher-level issue. What is the threshold for a light rail line to be worth it? Different people have widely different answers. But look at the metros in Chicago, DC, New York, and European cities, including German cities as small as 200,000. They’re so widely used all day that the cities can’t even think of not having them. How much money is that service worth? The regon has decided the cost of Link is worth it. And while transit fans are divided over whether Everett and Tacoma is worth it, everybody who has studied transit agrees Northgate is highly worth it.

      If you want to argue against something, argue against the Lynnwood and Everett extensions. With the Northgate bus restructure, ST/CT Express will gain many of the advantages of the Lynnwood and Everett extensions: there will be a run every 5-15 minutes all day between the later-phase Link stations and Northgate, something that has never existed before. The remaining advantages of Lynnwood/Everett Link are bypassing I-5 traffic and collisions, having more capacity for whatever future demand emerges, and being more environmentally-friendly than buses. Even if buses switch to 100% renewable carbon-free electricity, trains use a quarter the energy of buses, and fewer drivers. And hundreds of buses per day will be truncated.

      1. I think one underanticipated consequence of Northgate Link is the changed access issue. Whether it’s Uber/ Lyft, drop-off and pick-up, hide-and-ride for appointments and evening trips (dining, nightlife, sporting events, performances) and bicycle and scooter and pedestrian trips where there haven’t been before, new spot issues will emerge and may need to be addressed. Many of these will be issues not a peak hours but at other times of day or on weekends.

        The metamorphosis of Northgate itself is a whole other effect that will become more obvious in 2021 but will probably take a few more years to fully emerge.

      2. @Al — I agree. For example, if the buses from Northgate are not frequent, then it will be a very popular taxi-cab place. Traditional cabs will be there, ready to pick up a rider, as will Uber/Lyft drivers.

        Another potential problem is the planned low frequency of Link. Running the trains every 8 minutes during rush hour means that all those commuters who used to have an express to downtown are much worse off. From a political standpoint, this is terrible — it encourages Metro to keep the old routes, or go with the alternative routes to downtown. For example, the 361 will get riders to downtown via South Lake Union. Thus it will be slower to the main part of downtown than Link. But if you have to wait 8 minutes for Link, and deal with getting up to the high platform, it will be worth it to just stay on the bus, even if you end up transferring to a surface bus going down Third.

        Things will get better after East Link, as they run twice as many trains. But by then rider patterns may be ingrained. It is crazy to think that ST is running a lot of buses to mimic Link, in what appears to me like a silly attempt to generate future ridership (given the speed differences) while at the same time neglecting the powerful effect that low frequency will have on travel patterns. If you get used to taking the 361, then it will be hard to switch over to the train (unless the 361 goes away).

        Speaking of which, it is quite possible that Metro will learn the wrong lesson from these express buses. They will assume that the bus is popular because of riders going where Link isn’t (South Lake Union) when it is largely a matter of getting to downtown without a really long wait. The 41 would be popular too — that doesn’t mean keeping it is a good idea.

        If there is anything that will quell this potential revolution in transit for the North End, it is infrequent buses and trains.

  2. We’re happy to entertain various points of view here, backed with real numbers, Anon.

    In order to make a good comparison, we need to see what’s behind decisions for spending for all modes.

    Taken to it’s logical conclusion, there’s no point in creating more road capacity due to all the work being done at home either.

    So, what goes into the decision?

  3. May I sneak in, and wish everyone a Happy New Year, and a prosporous Transit recovery?

    1. +1

      Everyone, keep wearing your damn mask even after getting a vaccine, booster, and tested for antibodies. No vaccine is fully effective. But wearing your mask and having antibodies will reduce the odds of your body being a vessel for the virus to infinitesimally small.

      And since some keep comparing this virus to the flu, maybe we could finally wipe out some flu strains by continuing to wear our masks during spring flu season (at which time the pandemic will still be around, sadly).

      The new variant strain is more contagious. Let’s hope we can win this war before even worse strains evolve, and they will if we don’t get the virus under control.

      1. Your last thought is very important. When people were fatalistic about dying of AIDS and ignored safe-sex practices, some very lethal strains were generated. People died rapidly.

        But once transmissibility was attenuated by large-scale adoption of the suggested protocols, the vicious strains burned themselves out. The disease weakened and it became possible to control its course.

        Fortunately Covid-19 is relatively benign at this time, but if higher transmissibility gets established, it’s entirely plausible that lethality may rise to take advantage of the more rapid spread.

        Everyone needs to do exactly as Brent suggests.

  4. Ought to know better, Mark. Especially where a simple [CTS] for “Consider The Source” should be all that needs to be said.

    Throughout history, numerous world-wonders have gone down to floods, earthquakes, and acts of war. In addition to just plain human mistakes and misjudgment.

    The massive regional rail project whose perennially targeted cascade of criticism is bugging me this dark and gloomy Friday morning, really has no existential need of me to defend it.

    The new rolling stock looks really good. And the escalators? Still think there’s nothing wrong that more than one of our region’s community colleges can’t give students course credit for fixing.

    Honest, a really Happy New Year for everybody.

    Mark Dublin

  5. What big decisions are due in 2021? These seem like 2021 topics:

    1. How to restore service in concert with returning demand.

    2. Metro, ST and CT final restructuring of service for Northgate Link.

    3. Big restructuring ideas coming for East Link (and getting serious about the Mercer Island resolution).

    4. Grant and dedicated funding progress and timeline requirements (Madison? CCC? Other RapidRide?)

    5. Link East OMF opening.

    6. Link planning decisions (Stride on 405 and 522/3, OMF South location, more West-Seattle/ Ballard decisions, more Tacoma Dome decisions).

    7. Revisiting Sounder expansion like longer platforms and more parking.

    8. New Link paid-fare zone design rollout.

    9. ST branding rollout (Lines 1, 2, S, N and T).

    10. Shelf-ready projects that will be good if/when FTA offers new funding opportunities (like more elevators in Link stations, pedestrian overcrossings near many new Link stations and in other places, new bus technology).

    Do these seem reasonable? What did this list miss?

    1. Are there monorail integration changes or decisions coming in 2021? The Kraken is coming!

      1. The Kraken practice facility will take up a chunk of the footprint for a new light rail station. What an ingenious use of the station’s walkshed!

        I get a feeling whoever came up with that name for a sportsball team did not see the movies.

        Spoiler alert for both editions of Clash of the Titans:
        Releasing the Kraken did not end well for the Kraken.

      2. Good list — I can’t think of anything else (and you thought of things I had forgotten about, like the monorail).

      3. The Kraken practice facility ice will only be used by the pro team a small fraction of the time. Most weekends it will be dawn to dusk junior hockey games. I imagine the pros will practice during the day so early mornings and afternoon evening will be junior hockey practice and rec league adult games. And if that doesn’t book the the rink they can open it for public skating. I expect Sno King and or Highland will soon be transformed into multifamily housing as the old Lakewood rink was years ago. Both facilities are very dated. I’m surprised at least one didn’t fold when Olympic was opened but the demand for junior hockey ice time seems to be boundless.

        Malls need to transform from being primarily brick and mortar retail. Crossroads is successful because it has live music, on going open challenge chess, rock climbing, movie theaters (if they’re still in business) and a bunch of restaurants.

  6. Your feedback convinced ST to restore Link’s frequency sooner than it would have otherwise.

    “A draft Service Plan was presented for public comment from September 4 through September 25. After receiving a significant number of comments and coordination with partner transit agencies, changes were made to improve off-peak frequencies on Link, continue operating Route 586 and continue the suspension of Route 555, which would have dup”

  7. I would say 2021 will be very much like 2020. It will take at least 6 months (and probably more with the logistics in actually administering the vaccines despite the volume of vaccines manufactured) to vaccinate more than 50% of the population, plus around 25% to 35% say they won’t get vaccinated anyway, and testing is just beginning on those under 16. I just don’t see any chance citizens will truly believe we have reached herd immunity before 2022.

    The two biggest keys for 2021 will be returning K-12 students to in person learning because society is built around that calendar (and this includes summer 2021 recreational programming for K-12 kids so mom and dad can return to work), and resuming air travel and tourism for those willing to travel. We just got back from 8 days in Hawaii and it was safe and a wonderful respite.

    After 2021 who knows. A good general rule is citizens will return to doing what they enjoy (socializing, sports, going out) and if possible avoid what they dislike (commuting to work). I remember when it was predicted DVD’s would end movie theaters. Turns out people go to the movies for other reasons (like you are 16 and have a girlfriend and don’t want to be around mom and dad).

    Here are a few specific issues I think will be important:

    1. Transit is not going away. Transit advocates might dislike cars, but if you like driving a car you should love transit. Congestion will return, although maybe not as bad during peak hours, which as noted above calls into question some of the massive road projects. Just like electricity we spend all our money meeting peak demand, when during non-peak times traffic congestion is tolerable. Revenue will be reduced in the near term and so cuts to transit frequency and some routes will be necessary, but if riders and tax revenue return so will frequency and routing including ST 3. If there is one truth it is everyone should pray for a strong economy which creates all that tax revenue progressives need for their visions.

    2. Housing prices will continue to soar, and it will become more difficult to live or rent in the Seattle/Eastside region. Although downtown Seattle is having issues the rest of the region is quite attractive. Population region wide will not significantly increase or decrease over the next five years, and will average around 1% growth per year. Right now the hottest housing markets are in Spanaway (yes, Spanaway), Puyallup and Tacoma, and areas between Kent and Auburn, because those are the last areas not in Snohomish Co. with semi-affordable single family homes. If the pandemic has reinforced anything it is the desire for a “nest”, and nest means a single family home in the new world. Urbanism depends on living your social life on the streets, and Covid-19 has replaced that with a desire for a nest. ADU’s will not alleviate these price increases.

    3. Working from home will continue and become embedded because no one likes commuting to work. Employees often like work, and the society of work, but not getting on a packed bus or train (or both). As a lawyer I can tell you Zoom and Teams are great tools, and a lot of unnecessary travel has been avoided, and now everything is automatically videotaped. Commuting won’t go to zero, and it won’t grow as estimated by ST, and in fact it will probably decline 20% to 40% as most employees go into the office 20% to 40% of the time. Executives and partners might go in more often, but they usually drive.

    4. Revenue. This is probably number one. How much more deficit spending can the federal government continue with? The state is talking about a 9% capital gains tax but that would be repealed with a referendum. 2021 is going to be a tough tax revenue year for all levels of government. Right now economists are predicting a year for each month of being closed down to recover post-pandemic, which is close to 2025.

    5. Downtown Seattle. Even committed Urbanists are abandoning the downtown core, and moving to a neighborhood paradigm without any real core. The homeless situation is out of control, and I think the downtown retail core may not recover. Retail and restaurant competition today from malls north and south, and the eastside, is tough. The loss of commuters will hurt restaurants and retail. This is a big issue because tourism is a cash cow, or has been, and Seattle needs the convention center completed and hotel rooms filled so all those service industries come back and for the easy tax revenue.

    6. Eviction moratorium. It is silly to discuss 12 million subsidized government owned units when more than 12 million will be evicted in 2021 unless something isn’t done, and it can’t be free rent forever. All those evicted (because their livelihood was taken away) will not have first/last months rent plus damage deposit, and will have a negative rental record. Plus in this region once the moratoria are lifted rents will rise based on the market. The fundamental rule is prevent homelessness first. That means jobs, and keeping folks in their current private housing. This is probably the first and most immediate issue, and where stimulus funds need to go first.

    7. Two specific transit related issues are: 1. closing the lower W. Seattle Bridge to cars until 2022-23 when the bridge reopens. This will be a good primer for neighborhoods and busineeses about how easily they can live without cars or reduced car capacity. My own guess is the closure to cars will make W. Seattle residents (and those in Ballard and Magnolia) even more adamant that new bridges not reduce car capacity, even if they increase transit capacity; and 2. the opening of East Link, and how big a change that makes. The line to Northgate is different because that is very urban and necessary, whereas East Link is, IMO, more discretionary, like W. Seattle and Ballard. ST will never reach its estimated 50,000 riders/day by 2030, and East Link will highlight how eastside commuters whose commute just added a transfer and seat feel about spending billions on rail, and will highlight how eastside ridership on transit that is heavily commuter oriented will be maintained. Someone mentioned the dispute with Mercer Island over the bus intercept, but some are starting to wonder if that issue won’t resolve itself with the loss of the commuter.

    8. The wealth divide. The pandemic has only exacerbated this issue. Those who own their homes have seen a steep appreciation whereas many are looking at eviction. The area is becoming more unaffordable and I don’t see that changing no matter how much zoning and new construction you throw at it. Those who own stocks and passive investments are at records high, but the service industry has been wiped out. I really don’t know how to address this issue, especially at the state level when so many states like FL, TX and AZ have set up tax systems that exempt inheritance, income or other taxes, and don’t have the huge legacy retiree costs older east coast and Midwest states have.

    9. Global warming. Well carbon emissions are down 7% and the earth actually cooled, although at the great cost of a worldwide recession. Unfortunately every special interest has hijacked global warming, including transit, when the structural reforms have to do with generating electricity and transportation, including transit. I think the EV is arriving. Batteries are much better, it is basically all the same advantages of a car/SUV with less maintenance and requires no sacrifice on the part of the consumer (we are talking about folks who won’t even wear a mask during a pandemic), but subsidies will be necessary, and some mandates, but unlike some transit advocates I don’t see any connection between cars/EV’s and the need for transit. You need both. Getting rid of one won’t benefit the other, and cars are never going away.

    10. Finally on a policy issue look for the division between east and west King Co. to become deeper, especially when it comes to homelessness and crime, plus pressure to amend zoning. I think east and west King Co. would do well to split since Seattle dominated west KC is going in one direction and east KC is going in the other, and east KC has learned it has the money to go it alone.

    11. The Seahawks win the Super Bowl in 2021 and Wilson is MVP, or the league and the Super Bowl.

    1. 1a. While traffic is down, accident rates will still go up. Driving will become more dangerous. Stick to transit.

      11a. Regardless, there will be no Super Bowl Champions Parade.

    2. I just don’t see any chance citizens will truly believe we have reached herd immunity before 2022.

      I disagree. The forecast for a very long time now has been to have herd immunity roughly autumn of 2021. Everything that has happened has been remarkably on schedule (including multiple vaccines available now). A new administration should help immensely, given that the old administration was chiefly interested in optics for the president. We don’t need a New York Times article to make this clear, but here is one anyway:

      As far as you specific points are concerned:

      1. Agree.

      2. Yeah, probably. Predicting housing prices is tough — not unlike predicting the stock market. But I don’t see any reason for a downturn in any region, except maybe Everett or Renton (because of Boeing). There may be a return to apartments/condos, although houses (as always) will be more expensive (in the same neighborhood).

      3. Some people love working from home. Some people hate it. Some bosses like it. Some hate it. There will be more people working from home, but nowhere near as now.

      4. How much more deficit spending can the federal government continue with? Most economist would say “a lot”. Way more than we have in the past. That goes for both types of deficit spending (by the federal reserve or government). The former always seems to be ignored, and started well before the pandemic. Anyway, it all depends on the Republicans. Will they allow the government to recover under a Democratic president, or will they make up a bullshit reason for why they don’t want to do that? They don’t have a good record of listening to economists; maybe because they don’t care.

      The state is talking about a 9% capital gains tax but that would be repealed with a referendum. Given all the exceptions, I seriously doubt there will be enough political will to overturn it. Very few people would pay it, so it is hard to see who would sign the petition to repeal it.

      In general you are right though, revenue will be a big issue, and a lot depends on what happens on Tuesday in Georgia.

      5. You are one of the few that think downtown Seattle is in trouble. I think the folks that think the earth is flat outnumber you.

      6. Yep. The moratorium bought us time — what to do after that depends on the government, and largely the federal one (see 4). This is not a local problem, but a national one.

      7.1 — I don’t see the West Seattle situation changing anything in a big way. Those that take transit will continue to take transit, while those that drive will go around (until they build a new bridge). I doubt it will change the approach from other neighborhoods. Magnolia will be largely suburban, while Ballard will be largely urban, as has been the case for quite some time.

      7.2 — East Link won’t happen this year, but a couple years from now. The vast majority of transit riders are not the folks you are worried about. People commuting from Seattle to downtown Bellevue, Factoria, Eastgate and Redmond will be better off, as will people headed to BCC. Only a small subset of riders will have an additional transfer (it isn’t like there were a bunch of buses going downtown from the East Side) and it is likely the increase in frequency will more than make up for that. Basically a lot of people will be better off, but a handful won’t (not that much different than Northgate Link, although Northgate Link will have a wider margin).

      8 and 9. Yep, neither the pandemic, nor the rise of Trump has changed the two biggest problems in the U. S. (and the world). Global warming and wealth stratification.

      10. I don’t know about that. In my opinion, the biggest divide in the county is between urban areas and suburban ones. Suburban areas in Seattle largely support an urban agenda. Suburban areas outside Seattle do not. That leaves parts of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond (and to a lesser extent Issaquah) more aligned with Seattle than places like Kent or Auburn.

      You also have a wealth divide. South King has very little money, while the East Side and Seattle have plenty. Meanwhile, Renton goes from struggling to being hit hard (from the Boeing downturn) making it more aligned with South King.

      Given all that, I just don’t see a movement for splitting the county gaining steam. You would get opposition from urban parts of the East Side. You would also get opposition from low income/low wealth parts of South King claiming it is nothing more than a money grab — an attempt to isolate a wealthy community from the folks who helped establish that wealth. That, in turn would lead to left wing opposition from Seattle, and a proposal like that would go nowhere.

      1. I wouldn’t be too sure that a 9% capital gains tax – if enacted – would survive a referendum. 9% is a very high jump from 0%. The $25,000 exemption isn’t really that much if you’re selling appreciated stock to fund a down payment for a median-priced Seattle home. And a lot of people will be afraid that, over time, it will trickle down (either due to more tax legislation or simply allowing the $25,000 exemption to erode from inflation).

        The Republican party would certainly be motivated to gather the signatures, and would probably campaign heavily on it in 2022 to try and flip some of the suburban legislative seats they recently lost. Any referendum would start with all of the Republicans voting in lockstep to repeal – that’s about 40% of the electorate, so they’d only need crossover votes from about 1 in 6 Democrats to win. Looking at the results from income tax ballot initiative in 2010 and I-976 in 2019, I think they’d get it. Especially with the referendum being voted on in an off-year election. Lots of people that are willing to vote for local taxes on the city/county level for a specific purpose might be more reluctant to vote for state-level taxes that are further away and for a more vague purpose, especially the more moderate Democrats that voted for Joe Biden, rather than Bernie Sanders, in the 2020 primary.

      2. The $25,000 exemption isn’t really that much if you’re selling appreciated stock to fund a down payment for a median-priced Seattle home.

        Right, but very few people do that (for good reason). There are people who tap into their retirement account (401K or IRA) but those are exempt from this tax. That means that the few that do invest in stocks for this purpose would just do so with an IRA (which has a special provision for first time home buyers).

        But let’s say you did decide to take this approach. You buy stock to save up for a house and just put it in a regular brokerage account. You put in a thousand dollars a month, and earn the average for a stock (around 10%). After six years, you have put in $72,000, and earned a bit less than $25,000. That means you can take it all out and not pay a dime in state capital gains. That would give you around $97,000 to use as a down payment. If your spouse does the same, that would give you around $200,000 to buy a house. At a 20% down, that means you can buy a house for a million dollars, well outside the vast majority of residents in the state.

        But assume you don’t have a spouse, but want to buy a million dollar house by yourself. Your goal is to save that 200 grand (again, somehow ignoring IRAs). It takes you ten years, you’ve contributed $120,000, and earned $80,000. OK, now a substantial amount of the money is a taxable capital gain. You sell half the stock one year, the other half the next. You pay no (state) capital gains tax.

        The point is, to have $25,000 in gains, you need to have invested quite a bit of money, typically over a long period of time. Very few people do that when buying a house. They put their savings into the bank, where it is a lot safer. They stair step there way up; first they buy a condo, with a shorter term loan (e. g. 15%). Then they pay that off, and use that as a down payment for a house.

        The idea that this will hit the middle class is absurd. Very few Americans have money in the stock market outside of retirement accounts (which again, aren’t covered with this tax). Even fewer have enough to earn $25,000 grand in a year. This tax will effect only a handful of people — so few that it seems like it wouldn’t be worth bothering. Except those handful of people have huge amounts of money. There are people who earn well over a million dollars a year in capital gains. I really doubt they will gain much traction when it comes to a referendum, although we should never underestimate the ignorance or stupidity of the American voter. I’m sure they will spin bullshit tales of hardship. That has been the Republican approach for a long time. The party of Lincoln is dead. The party of Eisenhower is dead. But the party of Grover Norquist is alive and well.

      3. Not every home purchase is planned years in advance, with frequent consultation with financial advisors. People who don’t bother to think about tax avoidance until it’s too late and simply fund their down payment by selling their RSU’s when the time comes are going to be ensnared by this. Especially those that choose to make a down payment in excess of the required 20%.

        Looking at my own tax records, I would have been hit by this myself in 2017, simply from shifting money from an ETF into a mutual fund in a taxable brokerage account, without thinking to first vet the transaction with a financial advisor.

        In many ways, it’s the “gotcha” aspect of this that bothers me more than the amount, itself. Shuffling money around without talking to a tax advisor should not be a “crime” with $10,000+ in “fines”. If the threshold were based on your average capital gains over the last 10 years, I’d feel more ok with it.

      4. People who don’t bother to think about tax avoidance until it’s too late and simply fund their down payment by selling their RSU’s

        and end up with over $25,000 in capital gains make up a very tiny amount of the population. As in practically zero. Saving 25 grand is relatively common. Having $25,000 in *gains* is not. I’m sorry if you didn’t realize that capital gains exist, but that seems like a very good problem to have. Instead of thinking the money is going to be taxed like income (as is the case with short term gains) you get a huge tax break. Only now, your tax break isn’t as high, because the state takes their share. Sorry, that is rare, and I really don’t have that much sympathy.

        In many ways, it’s the “gotcha” aspect of this that bothers me more than the amount, itself. Shuffling money around without talking to a tax advisor should not be a “crime” with $10,000+ in “fines”.

        Huh? If you sell something that is worth more than you bought it, you pay either a short term or long term federal gains tax. You can call that a “gotcha”, but it has been that way for a very long time. The numbers have gone up and down, but there has been a capital gains tax since 1913 (

        The financial world is full of “gotchas” like that. Let’s say you buy stock at the beginning of the year, and 11 months later, need to sell it because you lost your job. The stock went up, and whatever gain you made is treated like income. You thought it would be taxed at a lower rate, but it isn’t. If you only knew, you would have held onto a month longer.

        All of this can be found on the web, of course. So you really don’t need to talk to a tax advisor — you can just figure it out yourself. It is too bad they don’t teach this stuff in high school, but if they did, this would be way down the list of things they taught. Paying off your credit card every month and just avoiding big debt is far more important. It is sad to think of all of those folks who paid a fortune to go to school, instead of starting out at community college, and then finding a cheaper four year university. They bought the hype, and now are stuck with a big debt.

        Of course I’ve even sadder for folks who get payday loans, or get ripped off by financial institutions that prey on the poor. The point is, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for someone who thinks they can make a lot of money in the stock market but not pay any taxes. I have some, just not a lot.

    3. That’s one of the most reasonable and balanced commentary you’ve posted, thank you.

      1. Transit will not go away. And off-peak, non-downtown, and non-work trips matter. They’re a large percent of the ridership. And they would be significantly higher if off-peak transit were more frequent, and went in all directions from all the urban villages.

      2. Pugetopolis’s runaway housing prices are because of artificial supply scarcity. Prices rise relative to demand, and it happens that Spanaway has the highest imbalance right now. But in absolute numbers, Spanaway is much lower than Seattle. Because fewer people want to live there, and it’s far from the Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond job centers. The markets for single-family houses and apartments are quite distinct. They rise at different rates at different times, and sometimes go in opposite directions, and then reverse. Only one segment of the population can afford a single-family house at all. The segment that can’t afford a house or doesn’t want to waste $600K on a house is the one we should be concerned about.

      3. There’s a wide variety of office sizes, commuting lengths, exposure to packed buses, and workers’ attitudes. Imaging that everybody rides a packed peak-hour express on the freeway for 45-60 minutes each way is incorrect.

      4. The federal government needs to spend more to shore up the social safety net, address our infrastructure backlog that has stagnated since the 70s, and provide full-scale covid relief like other countries are doing. Then it can worry about the deficit. Much of the deficit would evaporate if Congress simply reversed the Trump tax cuts.

      5. Urbanism is more than just downtown. I’m an urbanist and I prefer Capitol/First Hill, because I feel downtown and Pioneer Square have “too much concrete”. But I’d rather live in a highrise than a quarter-acre house surrounded by only quarter-acre houses, where you can walk ten minutes and pass only ten houses and nothing else. The problem of office underuse, people fleeing downtown apartments/condos, and the retails that depend on them — are specific to downtown and SLU. On Capitol Hill most of the retailers’ clients live in the neighborhood, and are happy to remain there. And I’ve seen no evidence that a rush out of SLU/downtown apartments and condos is occurring. The current hotel rooms were built before the Convention Center expansion so they aren’t predicated on it.

      6. Rent moritoriums are a symptom of our screwed-up housing and other policies. In Germany the government pays people’s salaries if their job has been suspended or reduced during the pandemic, so they can pay rent as normal. If there’s a flood of evictions when the moritorium is lifted, that will increase the vacancy rate, which will drive down rents. But we’ll have more homeless people than we currently have, so we’ll have to do something about that. If we don’t, they’ll live in larger tent clusters downtown and in other areas, and that seems to bother you a lot.

      7. The two floating bridges have been full for decades, so that right there is a reason for light rail across the lake. As the politicians said in the 1980s when they designed the I-90 bridge for future rail. Back when the population was much lower. If it was justified then, surely it’s justified now when the population is significantly higher. And the Bellevue-Spring District-Redmond axis is a promising new corridor, and the densest part of the Eastside. (With honorable mention to Crossroads.)

      I noticed recently that it’s much faster to get from Seattle to 51st (Microsoft/Bridle Tails), Redmond, and Avondale (a certain store/trails) than it is to get to them from downtown Bellevue. How can this be? It’s because there’s a missing link in the transit core, between Bellevue and Redmond and the areas in between. There’s a but of ST Express service, but only peak hours. Otherwise it takes 30-60 minutes on the B or 250. That’s ridiculous. East Link will address that. The biggest problem is that East Link (and Northgate Link and Lynnwood Link and previous U-Link) took so long to build that people had to get along without them for so many years.

      I have little opinion on the West Seattle situation so I’ll skip that part.

      8. The wealth divide is another way of saying rising inequality. That’s a long-term problem in the US. It started in the 1970s when taxes were lowered on the rich and corporations, and wealth started being funneled to the top. And the minimum wage lagged behind inflation, and the already-skeletal social safety net frayed. We could fix the extreme inequality, or we could improve the social safety net so that at least the poor would have a better floor. The voting against capital-gains taxes (or income tax or car tabs or inheritance tax or company-head tax) is another way of saying the well-off don’t want to pay to improve the situation for the lower-income and are happy to squeeze them dry, even if it leads to tent cities.

      I have to go so that’s it for now.

      1. Agree – The lack of fast transit options between Bellevue and Redmond is a huge hole today, and perhaps the largest transit hole on the Eastside. In fact, I’ve found that a reasonable athletic person can actually get from downtown Redmond to downtown Bellevue faster by riding the 545 to Yarrow Point and running the remaining 2.5 miles to Bellevue Square than by taking the B-line.

        Light rail will be a welcome addition, making transit far more competitive. I’ve been to Bellevue Square in a car and know firsthand that the process of getting in and out of that parking garage, alone, can easily rival the time needed to wait for a train and serve a few intermediate stations.

      2. If a very wealthy individual were going to exercise a large number of stock options why wouldn’t they simply change their state residence? Right now Washington seniors do it all the time because AZ has no inheritance tax. I know lawyers who specialize transferring state residency for tax purposes. You can still live anywhere in the country despite state residency.

        Another option is to simply borrow against capital holdings or stock options, especially when interest rates are at historical lows but the stock indices are rising. Right now you can buy Chevron or AT&T and earn a 5% dividend, but borrow for a mortgage at 3%.

        Another unanticipated consequence of a capital gains tax — or any tax with exemptions — is investors will move investments into real property to avoid the capital gains tax, and that will inflate the price of housing.

        Another fact that bothers me about the tax is its selling point is it will lower more regressive taxes such as the sales tax, but I don’t see any promised reductions. Is the capital gains tax really revenue neutral? No. It is about increasing revenue, not tax equity.

        I agree it would be repealed by a referendum. Over and over the citizens have indicated they don’t trust this state’s politicians with an income tax, along with sales and property taxes. The only way I could see an income based tax passing a vote (which might be a constitutional requirement anyway) is if the law capped total state tax revenues from all sources based on state GDP like CO does, and I don’t see the Democrats ever agreeing to that, which is why they will likely never get an income tax.

        I would also add I hope the recent recession highlighted how much less volatile a property based tax is compared to an income tax. The state’s revenues are not that much lower than in 2018.

      3. Is the capital gains tax really revenue neutral? No. It is about increasing revenue, not tax equity.

        Either some other (more regressive) taxes get reduced, or the state spends more money on the poor. Either way, the vast majority of the citizens of the state come out ahead. Either way it reduces income stratification (item number 8 on the list). That sounds like a good thing to me.

        If a very wealthy individual were going to exercise a large number of stock options why wouldn’t they simply change their state residence?

        Yeah, sure. It is common in California, although it isn’t that simple ( But despite that option, California still gets a fair amount of money out of the (quite high) Capital Gains tax. To quote the last annual budget report (

        For 2018, capital gains are forecast to contribute$15.7 billion to General Fund revenue—the highest amount ever.

        The point being that California has dealt with this issue for some time. We wouldn’t be unique, nor would our tax be especially high.

    4. DVDs were predicted to end movie theaters? Uh, no they weren’t. Just like VHS, Betamax and laser discs (do you know what those are) weren’t predicted to end movie theaters either.

      Ease up on the hyperbole.

      1. Good catch. DVDs were intended to replace VHS, and they did. Part of it was the video quality, and part was a dramatic price reduction. In the VHS era prerecorded movies cost over $100 so most people rented them at video stores. But many DVDs cost $20 or less, and $5 discount DVDs appeared at convenience stores. So more people started collecting movies.

        It was thought that home movies might replace movie theaters, but audiences kept going to theaters, and it wasn’t really the intention. The intention was to increase the market, and to get people to buy movies again on DVD that they’d previously bought on VHS or otherwise seen. The same thing happened with the switch from records to CDs.

        Movie theaters found new audiences for growing genres like sequels, computer-generated animations, comic-book heroes; as well as new formats like IMAX, 3D, high-end speakers, and dinner and booze. DVDs may have contributed to a change in the kinds of movies in theaters: from a wide variety of types to mostly schlock sequels. That drove away the former audience, and people who like schlocky sequels replaced it. Theaters also drove away people with $12+ ticket prices, more intrusive ads, and shrinking screens. But the demise of movie theaters may end up being not DVDs and streaming video, but coronavirus and the post-coronavirus fear of crowds

    5. EVs to fix the climate impact of cars is a lot like saying replacing human chefs with robots will negate the climate impact of eating steaks every day, because the human has to fart and release methane and doesn’t have to commute daily while the robot–hey, it’s all electric and stays on site overnight.

      The main climate impact of cars is the lifestyle and consumption choices that go along with them. There is really no silver bullet to address this. Not to mention we are a long ways away from having a carbon neutral power grid–2050s by the most optimistic “goals” under the Paris climate pact and that’s in countries that have already done more in this direction than we have.

  8. The Point Defiance Bypass restart is planned for 2021, right?

    That should probably be an additional bullet.

  9. Depending on who controls the Senate, a non-trivial amount of help may be coming to all the transit agencies from the Federal Transit Administration. Pray that the pandemic insider trading profiteers get voted out.

  10. Link will revolutionize transit in North Seattle just like it did in the Rainier Valley. Will North Seattle also require Via to shuttle Link riders to stations?

    1. Non sequitur. They’re two distinct phenomena. Revolutionizing is because many trip pairs will become much more convenient. Via is a substitute for last-mile coverage routes to the lowest-density, most isolated blocks. Or Via is a useless fad that will burn money that could have been used for more comprehensive local transit.

    2. Will North Seattle also require Via to shuttle Link riders to stations?

      I’m not sure how to answer that question — have you stopped beating your wife?

      Nobody requires Via. It is (or was) a stupid experiment, and a waste of money, as are all similar uses of transit funds. It is perfectly reasonable to have an access van, but for able bodied riders, it is a much better value to just use fixed route transit. The best article about the subject, which includes an outstanding flow chart:

    3. Rainier Valley has changed quite a bit since 2009. You suppose any of that was due to having a light rail line?

  11. I will be taking the 40 from Ballard to Northgate to transfer to Link. But on the map I can’t make out where the 40 ends. It seems to peter out before arriving at either the station or the college. And it doesn’t appear in the listing of bus routes on the route information page.

    1. It will terminate at the station via its current route. There are only two streets that cross I-5, Northgate Way and 92nd, so it has to choose one of those. Metro is choosing to have it serve the college’s front door and wrap around to the station. It has done that with a lot of routes over the years.

      Metro seems to be taking an intermediate position between maximum and minimum reorganization. The ped bridge will be there so people can walk from the station to the college, but Metro is hedging its bet that it won’t be popular enough, or too far for disabled riders, so it’s having the 40 loop around. Likewise, Metro is hedging its bets with the SLU and First Hill expresses, in case a Link transfer isn’t reasonably fast enough to get to those places. It’s the opposite of what it did with the 10, where it rerouted it to John Street, but people ended up switching to the 11. In the end people will vote with their feet, and that will reveal whether the SLU/First Hill expresses are popular, and whether people will thank Metro for keeping the 40’s “U” or clamor for it to go straight east on Northgate Way so they can get to the station faster.

    2. I don’t know what that little orange thing in the blue area is but I think it’s the 40. I assume it’s some kind of new turn in a small street or the parking lot. It could possibly be a turnaround, if the 40 won’t cross I-5 after all. But I highly doubt that, because I haven’t heard anything about routes terminating on the west side, or there being station bus bays there.

    3. It ends at the Northgate Transit Center. The map seems pretty clear to me, although I’ll admit I’ve familiar with the route: It is possible you got confused because of the zig-zag nature towards the end (which is understandable). But the black line is the route, which means it goes on Holman Road, then 105th, then Northgate Way, Meridian, College Way, 92nd, finally ending at 100th, where there is a little arrow pointing out that the end point is the Northgate Transit Center (served by lots of other buses).

      As Mike pointed out, it does all this so that it can both serve the college, and the transit center. This requires going to the other side of I-5, and the only good way at that point is 92nd. Thus it loops around.

      1. Transit should avoid steady congestion, as that found on Northgate Way, unless it is really needed to reach an activity center (Seattle NE 45th Street). North 92nd street is free of congestion and also serves the college and medical clinics. Transit increased use of the back door in 2003.

      2. Good point. If it went straight on Northgate Way it would lose some of the travel time savings of not looping around.

      3. My guess is that going via Northgate Way and 5th is faster more often than not. Once they add the bus lanes (for the Snohomish County buses that will terminate there) it will definitely be faster.

        The main reason to go the other way is to serve the college, as well as other high performing stops on Meridian/College Way. That is a reasonable trade-off. I have other thoughts about the area, but I think it belongs on an open-thread.

  12. I’m just happy transit is moving forward and we’re able to keep building out the transit network we needed like by… 2016. The delays I blame on our state’s dysfunctional politics that proclaim environmentalism but vote Eymanism.

    No seriously. Remember when we had buses to Seattle stuck in traffic and standing room only? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have a light rail bypass to all of that congestion with more frequency? Of course!

    So I wouldn’t worry too much. If I was a fellow Northerner, I’d be happy some Joe (wink, ME) put forth the sweat equity to get transit planners at two agencies to listen to connect to Northgate Link. Becuz the original schedule for us Northeners was 2024-2025 with Lynnwood Link… food for thought.

    Joy DOES cometh in the morning. GO SOUND TRANSIT!

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