Making the Strong Towns financial case against suburban style development.

44 Replies to “Weekend open thread: Traditional vs suburban development”

  1. Wow! This is a very insightful video!

    I’ve long felt that overly-restrictive single-use zoning has been a problem. This harkens back to being envious of every prior generation of my family living somewhere where they could walk to the corner store when they were kids — yet I was “trapped” in a residential district where the nearest store was over 3/4 of a mile away. Or limited because my cousins and prior generations had neighborhood sidewalks while I didn’t.

    Sadly, much of America remains locked into the myth of single-use, low-density zoning. Ironically, some of the least restrictive zoning laws are in more rural areas that usually vote more conservatively while the most restrictive are in these new “planned” gated communities in swing-state big city suburbs. It really comes down to how we regulate fear and opportunity in our land use regulations.

    1. Single-use zoning, also called Euclidean zoning, came out of an abstract ideology in the mid 20th century. Zoning had already been around for a couple decades, to separate housing from polluting industries, and exclude exclude minorities and working-class people from the better neighborhoods. Euclidean zoning was something different on top of that. It was a belief that housing, retail, business offices, theaters, and government buildings should all be clustered with their own kind — a kind of apartheid. That people would somehow feel better if they drove from the neighborhood to the shopping district or theater district and found only shopping or theaters there. Why would people feel better with that? I don’t know, it’s an abstract ideology, seemingly arbitrary. It also has a clear resemblance to left-brain thinking going overboard: reducing everything to abstract categories, and trying to make reality match those categories, rather than accepting what reality is. There was a lot of that in the 20th century. And still is, although we’ve gotten a bit more balanced since.

  2. I want to listen in on ST’s Link austerity workshop January 21st. The last time I tried to listen in on a board meeting or hearing, I went to the page and it wouldn’t let me in without an insider login. Has anyone else had success or failure listening in on ST meetings in the covid era?

    1. Mike, since your name’s familiar in this connection, any chance you can “take the point” in forcing the agencies to re-open public meetings?

      Because if exclusion is not against the law, it ought to be. You might want to put your statement on Seattle Transit Blog. Because government-wise, this is a real bad habit for anybody connected with public transit to get into.

      Mark Dublin

    2. I just did put it in STB. :) There are ST boardmembers and staff who read STB, including Dow Constantine. They may not notice every single comment, but they get the substantial bulk of the articles and comments. Inspired by you, I might write to ST and tell them I coudn’t get in last time and how can I ensure I can get in this time. When board meetings were in person, I used to attend a few of them in Union Station. That was easier than using these websites where you never know whether it will work. But such is covid life.

  3. “Crushingly depressing, dystopian car dependent suburbs”. Could the video be any more condescending, or unfamiliar with suburbia?

    The video’s sole point for more density was greater tax revenue per square foot. Awful rural towns in North Dakota are depicted. Why don’t these folks extol the virtues of Urban living rather than misleading attacks on suburbia or rural America.

    If you want Urbanism move to downtown Seattle, because rents have dropped 22% there,, not Seattle’s residential neighborhoods where rents have not declined. Or Brainard No. 1 in the video.

    Downtown is the new Seattle for renters. Of course everything is closed and the streets are unsafe and filled with homeless, so I don’t know how much walking you will be doing, certainly at night. Not unlike the woman who posted that the only things wrong with the 7, other than speed, were masturbation, defecation, and general insanity on the bus. Gee, why would anyone want to live in the suburbs and drive.

    The reality is suburbia was born by a great desire to escape density, and all the issues of large cities, including transit. The noise, smell, crowding, disease, crime, lack of space, depression. Of course suburbia couldn’t really thrive until the car. Is the video suggesting we return to horses and horse shit and tenements in cramped cities? Was that a good living experience? A car is freedom, to live and go where you want, with no wait.

    The pandemic is amplifying that desire for a “nest”. The video forgot to mention dense cities have a much higher cost per resident than smaller or suburban cities. Of course people don’t travel to suburbs for vacations. They flock to suburbs to LIVE.

    Let’s look at this region rather than Brainard. Suburban cities like Issaquah, Bellevue and Redmond are the wealthy cities with astronomical land values and tax revenue per citizen. Based on my observation people in the suburbs are much happier than Seattleites. The schools are better, and so are the restaurants today. The streets are safer and cleaner. There is much more green space and vegetation in the residential neighborhoods because of the larger lots, and lower house to lot area ratios.

    The people in the suburbs made the conscious decision to leave Seattle for very valid reasons, and they are not going back, or adopting Seattle’s lifestyle. Seattle isn’t getting closer to Bellevue.

    Yes, this makes these houses expensive, which I am guessing is the main complaint of those who cannot afford one and so dislike suburbia. But then they can’t afford a penthouse in downtown Seattle either, or a brand new condo on an upzoned Seattle residential lot.

    As the Seattle Times noted, Seattle now leads the nation in percentage of renters. Along with the fact Seattle is second in the nation with 22% of K-12 students in private schools this to me means Seattle is sick. It is not a good place to raise a family, which is the whole point of suburbia.

    If you want to know why Seattle is unaffordable it is because of a wealth gap that can’t be fixed (ask Black residents in South Seattle), upzoning which increases land prices and rents even if not redeveloped, the concentration of rental property ownership, and , the fact few owners sell rental properties in a rising market, or when future upzone are possible. You will never build yourself into affordable, new housing. The reality is you move someplace cheaper.

    Now everyone wants to upzone South Seattle and gentrify it like the Central District, and are shocked the Black residents who were forced out of the Central District when it was upzoned and gentrified object. Nothing is more dangerous for a Black citizen than a white progressive (who have a fit when their transit is reallocated)

    A great many regional citizens prefer to live in the suburbs, and even Urbanists are abandoning downtown Seattle for Seattle’s residential exburbs. One should learn from this video that the focus should be on fixing downtown Seattle (the place tourists used to go) before heading off to the the suburbs like Latter Day Saints trying to convert perfectly happy suburbanites into a lifestyle even Urbanists are fleeing.

    Determine the lifestyle you want, or need (wife, kids) and then move there. You will probably find that lifestyle changes during your life, which is why the average age of the writers on The Urbanist is around 21, the age of my son.

    If you want density move to downtown Seattle, or even Bellevue. It isn’t as if suburbanites are demanding you adopt their lifestyle, although to me it is much more functional and pleasant than the “Urbanism” I see around here, especially in downtown Seattle, and if anyone spends more time in downtown Seattle — around 40 to 50 hours/week for the last 30 years let me know.

    What I would like to see is a video showing me why someone prefers their (truly, not Seattle residential light) dense urban lifestyle, not why other lifestyles are bad, considering you don’t have to live there if you don’t want. (Unless you are Black in South Seattle).

    1. This is one Strong Towns video out of hundreds of their articles/videos. This particular one focused on retail tax base and Minneapols (the organization’s hometown, as it said) Others focus on different aspects and locations.

      “If you want Urbanism move to downtown Seattle, because rents have dropped 22% there,, not Seattle’s residential neighborhoods where rents have not declined.”

      What’s really happening is the most high-end apartments declined the most, and older low-end apartments have decreased little if at all. And landlords are heavily using sales and rebates to postpone lowering the base rent, as they always do. High-end apartments are always the hardest to fill because only 10% of the population can afford them. Low-end apartments haven’t declined as much because lower-income people are competing for them and sometimes higher-income people want them too. The Times article didn’t get into this, it focused on the average rent in the area, as if people can get an average rent rather than a particular unit’s rent.

      The taco shack in Minneapolis is exactly similar to the Chick Fil A next to Bellevue’s future Wilburton Station, the Wendy’s and Baskin Robbins in Rainier Valley, chain stores in southeast Ballard, and probably parts of Mercer Island’s downtown. It’s not only in Minneapolis.

      Everything in downtown is not “closed”. I went to H-Mart, the Pike Place produce shops and Market Spice last week. Many businesses have boarded windows but are still open. The library offers contactless pick up three days a week.

      “Suburban cities like Issaquah, Bellevue and Redmond are the wealthy cities with astronomical land values and tax revenue per citizen.”

      Price per square foot or acre isn’t that great compared to inner-city lots. Except downtown Bellevue, which is the closest to a big city downtown the Eastside has. The price per square foot or acre shows that many people are willing to pay a premium to live in or near Seattle’s urban villages, in a way they’re not willing to do in Lake Hills or Factoria.

      “As the Seattle Times noted, Seattle now leads the nation in percentage of renters.”

      it did? That’s hard to believe. New York City must have a far higher percentage of renters. What has happened in Seattle is renters went above 50% last year. And in a long-term trend, Seattle has fewer children per capita than any city besides San Francisco. That could affect the percentage of renters (and apartments and small households, etc).

      “Along with the fact Seattle is second in the nation with 22% of K-12 students in private schools this to me means Seattle is sick.

      I thought it was 50%. In any case, Seattle’s public schools are average compared to the nation. It’s just that the Eastside and Northshore schools are among the best in the country, so Seattle’s look worse in comparison. I know a Seattle family who put their daughter through private school, and they did it not because the public schools are particularly bad but because they wanted to give her a top-quality education. The quality of public schools is based on how much their communities invest in them. The Eastside and Northshore invest a huge amount; Seattle is average.

      “shocked [that] the Black residents who were forced out of the Central District when it was upzoned and gentrified object”

      Gentrification came before the upzones. Whites started moving back into Rainier Valley and transforming the Columbia City storefronts in the early 1990s. They were also moving into the midle CD (16th to 23rd) during that time. I lived for few couple months in a duplex at 19th & Union. The Columbia City upzones occurred two decades after the neighborhood had become whiter and more expensive. The mid central district is still not upzoned: the only significant changes are on 23rd itself. And I don’t know that those rowhouses and lowrise apartments there weren’t allowed before; developers just weren’t interested and Seattle’s vacancy rate was higher so there was less market incentive to densify them.

      “even Urbanists are abandoning downtown Seattle for Seattle’s residential exburbs”

      You have a strange definition of urbanism. Ballard, Capitol Hill, Greenlake, etc, all have substantial urban villages that urbanists favor. NE 65th Street is getting like that in a smaller way. Columbia City is a “strong town” of the kind that organization recommends. Downtown Mercer Island could be one of those too, without raising its heights more than a story or two.

    2. It is possible to build suburbia that’s walkable. It just require a little bit of thought and effort on part of the developer. For instance, every street needs sidewalks on both sides, ideally with a grassy space between the sidewalk and the street that can be used to plant trees. Dead-ends need pedestrian pathways connecting them, and these pathways need to be lit at night, since the need for walking doesn’t magically end when the sun goes down. If there’s a significant elevation gap, the “pathway” should be a staircase. Residential streets should be narrow to discourage speeding and contain vehicle barriers every couple of blocks to discourage cut-through traffic. Arterial streets need crosswalks at every block, in addition to sidewalks. Arterial sidewalks need to be wide enough to adequately protect people walking on them from crazy drivers. Shopping centers need pedestrian entrances on multiple sides, and should be sprinked so that you can walk a half mile to a grocery store, rather than 3-5 miles. Apartment complexes also need pedestrian access on all four sides, rather than just one. Greenbelts should have trails in them, so people can get out and enjoy nature without having to get in a car and drive 45 minutes. Etc.

      The more walkable form of suburbs definitely exists, and in fact, comprises the majority of the land area in the city of Seattle, plus parts of the Eastside. Even neighborhoods as far out as Snoqualmie Ridge have very good local walkability, in spite of a private car being a virtual necessity for every trip out of the neighborhood into the broader region.

      The biggest problems with suburbia come from places that were built by people who believed that the car made walking as obsolete as the horse and buggy. The space that should have been a path between cul-de-sacs is behind a fence and in somebody’s back yard. The space that should have been a sidewalk – or street trees is, instead, just used to make a wider street, so drivers can go faster and pedestrians have no safe place to walk. Streetlights – didn’t bother with them, since all of the cars have headlights. Shopping centers have fences surrounded on 3 out of 4 sides, so a person living right behind the fence who wants to walk to the store has to go all the way around. Arterial streets that combine high speeds with mile-long gaps between crosswalks. Etc.

      In many cases, it is possible to retrofit unwalkable suburbia into walkable suburbia, but it is nearly always more difficult and expensive than if the original developer had just done it right the first time. For instance, sidewalks cost much more to build standalone than at the same time they’re building the street. Pedestrian cut-through paths face much more opposition if you have to take the land via eminent domain, or relocate somebody’s garden vs. having just set aside the land for them from the beginning.

      1. You raise many of the issues we face on Mercer Island (MI).

        The two issues with sidewalks are they are incredibly expensive, and they use space for dedicated bike lanes. MI has a small but very influential bike group. Plus even with a three stall parking mandate (two covered) for houses there is overflow parking on the streets.

        MI is also very steep. It does have stairs from upper elevations to the town center, but few elderly or unfit persons can use them, especially if they are carrying something. Plus most paths run through green belts that are densely vegetated and many citizens (women) feel uncomfortable using the stairs alone.

        Then you have the fact many shoppers are shopping for families. We are talking ten grocery bags. If you have a family jogging through the forest for a baguette that won’t do it. Try walking a block or two with a gallon of milk sometime.

        Residential lighting on MI is a sensitive issue, and there are many studies on light pollution and its harmful effects on wildlife. Citizens and neighbors don’t want lighting in the parks, or behind their houses (especially with strangers walking there). They like dark neighborhoods at night.

        Parks and open space are two different things. Some green belts are very steep, and citizens often don’t want these wildlife habitats disturbed with trails when there are several large parks. On the other hand Pioneer Park which is part open space has trails.

        When it comes to entrances and exits — especially for multi-family residents — occupants want one entrance for safety, not four. Many are elderly as MI is a nice place for elderly who live alone, with a lot of social services.

        There are two commercial zones, one on the north and a small one in the south. Very few citizens can walk to either except for those who live in the north end center. What is hurting our retail the most right now is lack of street parking because of commuters and overflow parking from mixed use residential developments that built inadequate onsite parking (claiming everyone would take transit). and then began charging tenants for parking. MI plans to implement a parking management plan, and use newly purchased license plate reading cameras to force this street parking back to its source.

        Then we have the fact we effectively have no intra-Island transit, and little first/last mile access to the bus stop that only 10% of Islanders used pre-pandemic.

        What I think some on this blog don’t get is residents on MI and other Eastside communities think their community is perfect as is. The number one political rule on MI — especially when it comes to residential zoning and parks — is do nothing, especially if you want to pass a levy because the property levy is capped at 1%/year and public service unions have very generous COLA’s.

        It isn’t as if people don’t want to move to MI, or Issaquah, or Clyde Hill, or housing prices are declining. So why should we change if we are happy? I would never presume to force you to change your neighborhood to what it hunk is best.

        The other thing misunderstood is people like to drive. It doesn’t bother them to go from garage to wherever. My wife is a foodie and will visit speciality food stores from the ID to Issaquah, ferry the kids around (who are now old enough to drive)! get groceries or dry cleaning, pick up her mother, previously drive to Factoria for work, etc. She would never consider taking the bus, (and her employer prohibited public transit on work trips for safety reasons), and not because of elitism as she came from a poor rural family. Her car is safer (for her and the kids) faster, more convenient, and can carry all the stuff she couldn’t.

        So many posts on this blog or the articles on The Urbanist begin with an assumption something needs to be fixed in suburbia, or folks don’t like living there, except property values are sky high. Just the opposite. And they prefer to drive, unless traffic congestion is terrible at peak times (cost is not an issue for most).

        Home Depot and Costco don’t put in large parking lots because of zoning. They do it because their best customers leave with huge shopping carts.

        Personally I wish downtown Seattle were safer and nicer, because it once was really vibrant if a little funky, and a place a real Urbanist would want to live, not in an upzoned condo or DADU on 145th or in Lynnwood, although I am too old to return to that lifestyle. Why in the world would an Urbanist want to walk around rural, dark MI when they could walk from Pioneer Square to Belltown, if it were safe and vibrant. You will never create your Urban vision in the suburbs or exburbs. Fix Seattle

        As Rogoff is learning, and knew all along, all the TOD and upzoning in the world won’t cover the cost overruns and declining general fund revenue, and all he did is make ST the one entity hated more than Comcast, although Comcast doesn’t have to sell another levy. It will be declining transit that will force Urbanists back to the true core, downtown Seattle, although there is a lot of work to be done.

      2. You would probably be horrified to know that I’ve led walking trips in the past were we rode the 550 to Mercer Island, walked all the way to the south end of the island, using trails and cut-through paths when possible (and, yes, even at the super-wealthy south end, a cutthrough path does exist), had lunch at Clarke Beach Park, and walked to the 204 for the return trip.

        Cuthrough pedestrian paths don’t invite criminal activity (criminals use cars for getaway, not feet). They simply invite walking. I live right next to a cutthrough path, I use it all the time, and consider it an important asset to my neighborhood, which makes it more desirable and improves property values.

    3. “Of course everything is closed and the streets are unsafe and filled with homeless, so I don’t know how much walking you will be doing, certainly at night.”

      Can you provide any actual evidence for any of the above screed? Because prior to COVID-19, I could walk from The Mercury to the Night Owl 124 unaccosted while dressed to the nines. That’s a fair chunk of walking, at night, right through your unsafe and homeless ridden zone.

      1. Honestly I used to walk from the ID along 2nd Avenue to the old Columbia St C/120 stops downtown to get back to West Seattle right past all the bars and the shelter late at night, and no one ever bothered me. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s significantly less common than people like Daniel would like to fearmonger.

    4. The video wasn’t comparing big cities to suburbs. It was comparing two parcels on the same street in the same town. You’re way off topic unless you are comparing two areas less than a mile apart.

      I’m not doing research, but I see similar situations that exist in Bellevue, Renton, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville and even North Bend. I would also bet that many or most would find the “main street” storefront small building parcels more likable than the fast food joints surrounded by parking a few blocks away. It would be interesting to see how many advantages mentioned in the video applies to the business districts in these communities.

    5. So basically your 20 paragraph (or so — I lost count) rebuttal consists of “I like the suburbs and downtown Seattle sucks”.

      OK, fair enough. The authors on the other other, pointed out several reasons why traditional development is preferable. These include the obvious advantage, which is being able to walk to your destination. But they also make the point that a more traditional development style leads to more valuable development, especially in the long term. Essentially, much of suburban development is disposable. This is the way a lot of capitalism works (the tragedy of the commons and all that). The irony here is that rather than the state trying to reduce the problem, it has actually encouraged it.

      The reality is suburbia was born by a great desire to escape density, and all the issues of large cities, including transit.

      Right, and don’t forget Black people — a lot of White folks were trying to avoid Black people.

      But the point is, this desire to avoid all of the problems of the city — this desire for segregation — simply made the problem worse. That is the irony of the suburbs. Folks wanted to avoid issues involving racial tension and poverty, and by running away made it worse. They were trying to avoid congestion, so instead they put more cars on the road. They were trying to get more greenery and avoid the dirt and grime of a city, so they mowed down acres of open land and spewed pollution into the air.

      Based on my observation people in the suburbs are much happier than Seattleites. The schools are better, and so are the restaurants today.

      Bullshit. I will take Seattle schools over any suburb any day. Adjusted for income it isn’t close. As far as restaurants, I can walk to an Ethopian, Thai, Mexican, Italian, Colombian or Indian restaurant. Can you? If so, you live in exactly the type of neighborhood the author promotes. If not, can’t you see the problem?

      Your whole premise is that everyone would just be better off if they were rich, and lived in a very large house in the suburbs.

      What I would like to see is a video showing me why someone prefers their (truly, not Seattle residential light) dense urban lifestyle?

      You seem so infatuated with your own little anti-urban attitude that you completely ignored the reasoning in the video. They weren’t suggesting that Brainerd is a model community. They simply were making a comparison between two very similar property developments in the same city. As the video pointed out, they made the same comparison in several other cities. If it works in Brainerd, it will work in Walla Walla, or Kalamazoo, or Seattle. That’s the point.

      Look, dude, I get it. You hate downtown Seattle. You love your (wealthy) suburb. But it isn’t about that. This has very little, if anything, to do with density. It has everything to do with land forms. How land is developed, and the role of the government in that process. It doesn’t really have anything to do with a place being a suburb, or being in the city. You can look at a town like Naperville, for example, and see how just about the entire redeveloped downtown area follows the author’s model. Closer to home, you can see the same thing in Kirkland, or downtown Bellevue.

      The reason someone likes living in, say, Tangle Town is not because it is so much more dense than southern Mercer Island, it is because they can walk everywhere. They walk to the grocery store. They can walk to get coffee. They can walk to get sushi. They walk to the park, which includes a great playground. In normal times, this meant they could take their kids and play with other kids, who come from very different socio-economic backgrounds. Society benefits — the kids benefit — by mixing with other kids in this manner. This is only possible if you allow a lot of cheaper, smaller properties along with the big ones.

      The problem isn’t the suburbs per se, it is the land form of the suburbs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you have never been poor in the suburbs. I have. It isn’t great. It really sucks to be so dependent on a car. You can’t walk to the grocery store, so you have to wait for that very infrequent bus. You take a job on Aurora, but it ends so late that you have to hitchhike to get back home. Your driver assumes you are a male prostitute — flattering, but not exactly fun. This is reality for huge numbers of people in the suburbs, and it isn’t the lifestyle they would choose. But it is the only one available to them, because the city land form — in places like Wallingford — ends so abruptly. Wallingford is great, and preferable, but most can’t afford it.

      It is very to easy to say “well, it is what people wanted” but that isn’t true. It isn’t even what people with money wanted. It is what people in power wanted. Someone may want to open a nice little coffee shop in a suburban lot. They can’t, because the zoning doesn’t allow it. They may want to replace the old house on a big lot with three small houses, but they can’t. They may want to build a tiny apartment, the type that existed not that long ago, but they are prevented from doing so. Developers are left with only a handful of places to build apartments — usually on busy streets — and only a handful of places to build commercial property. Then they are forced to follow the same rules the author explained — lots of parking, some greenery, etc. The consumer — the person looking for a place to live, or someone looking to open up a new business — is stuck with those land forms. They can’t operate in a place like Wallingford — unless they move to Wallingford.

      That is only because Wallingford, for the most part, was built before those rules. You find that interesting mix of shops, apartments and houses in much of Seattle for that reason, and that reason only. Much of Seattle is restricted as much of the suburbs are restricted, it is just that so much of it is grandfathered in.

      [Just so we are clear — I’m not talking about just Wallingford, any more than the author was only talking about Brainard. I’m using “Wallingford” as an example of a land form that existed prior to zoning — a land form that the author pointed out existed more or less since antiquity. ]

      All of this seemed to go over your head while you went on the fortieth (I’ve lost track) rant about how downtown Seattle is a hell hole, full of homeless people. You completely missed the point. This isn’t about your pet peeve. It is about land forms — in Seattle and even in your favorite suburb. Land forms that are dependent on cars are a bane to the poor, bad for the environment, inconvenient for many, and end up costing taxpayers more money.

      The last point is a bit of a surprise, and the point of this particular video.

      1. You miss my point Ross. I believe local jurisdictions should control their own zoning. That is one of the five principles of Sound Cities Assoc., which includes Seattle.

        I am not arrogant or presumptuous enough to tell you how to zone your community or neighborhood, although you think you are an expert on all housing, except you just don’t understand the nuances of development and zoning. This idea of just upzone and build new construction to create affordable housing is so naive, and has been terrible for the poor, and displaced the Black community from the Central District that was 85% Black in 1970 and is 15% today.

        Ironically the two times I have been poor were when I lived in NY and London. Have you been to either and checked out their housing prices? Do you think density makes poverty better? I would take poverty in suburbia over that any day.

        I get the video, and I am a fan of Roger Brooks’ style town center development that is also car oriented in video one, of Brainard, of all places. Low heights, commercial only zoning, retail density, free street parking that is easy to access and find, a “third place”. These concepts have been around for decades. We have been demanding that for years on MI, but the money is in housing.

        But if you think suburban development patterns are contrary to what the residents want you are really naive. Those in the suburbs don’t care what Ross B, who lives in a Seattle exburb, thinks, and a Home Depot knows exactly what it is doing in its design.

        Brooks isn’t what the PSRC or HB 1923 are proposing. They are proposing large mixed use developments primarily focused on housing that end up marginalizing retail and turning residential neighborhoods into large absentee landlord rental neighborhoods. Another distinction for Seattle is it now has the highest percentage of renters in the country. None of the new housing is affordable.

        When I first started posting on this blog I stated I did not think the North King Co. subarea had the revenue to complete its ST 3 projects, and project estimates in ST 3 were suspect, which was common knowledge. Preposterous you claimed. Then I suggested the obvious, Metro service — routes and frequency — depended on general fund revenue that would permanently decline due to working from home. Preposterous you claimed, Seattle general fund (and transit) revenue would fully recover and cuts were not necessary. Then Metro cut future service levels 25% through 2040, and ST is extending completion dates when it is clear rail to West Seattle and Ballard are unlikely.

        When I posted steep topography, lack of density, and first/last mile preference on the Eastside made park and rides the most acceptable (only) first/last mile access in East King Co. you posted preposterous, until Eastside cities forced ST to begin building the large promised park and rides. Finally you understood how ST subarea equity determined ST 2 and 3, and how that influenced taxing rates and total revenue per subarea.

        If there is one aspect you really don’t understand when it comes to transportation and transit it is how women think, and since women buy most of the stuff In America retail follows women, and the vast majority of women prefer cars and don’t read transit blogs.

        Now you claim you would take Seattle schools over Eastside schools any day, although you have no kids in K-12, and Seattle has the second highest percentage of K-12 students in private school in the country. The figure would be much higher if more parents could afford private schools in Seattle. Seattleites have not been moving East since 1970 due to racism, they moved for the schools. Visit the Eastside someday and you might see the many different races and nationalities who live on the Eastside because … drum roll …. the schools.

        Since you ask, I can walk to the Mercer Island town center from my house. Of course there are Thai, Mexican, Sushi, French, Italian and American restaurants. Does that make you or me “woke”, because we can walk to ethnic restaurants?

        I spend most of my life in downtown Seattle. For 30 years I have lived it, while you speculate from some exburb. It should be a utopia for Urbanists, and yet today’s Seattle Times has an article and chart noting rents and vacancies are declining the deepest in downtown. and “Urbanists” have moved to the exburbs. Those rents and occupancy rates aren’t coming back. That doesn’t affect you because you never go downtown, but it directly affects me and my firm.

        We are all swayed by emotion, but you need to deal with facts. Too many of your posts are rants. Because someone (most) people familiar with downtown Seattle’s issues think it will threaten general fund revenues from tourism, shoppers and diners doesn’t mean someone hates Seattle,, anymore than a female transit user posting she finds masturbation, heroin use, assault, and “riff raff” on buses and in the stations that influence her choice of transit makes her a Seattle hater.

        Look, it’s just transit. Calm down. In the end revenue and costs will determine what is affordable. I agree a second bus tunnel makes sense because a single seat commute for a worker on an express bus is preferable to a transfer to a train. When I pointed this out when it came to all the commuters who would gain a seat and transfer when East Link opens you stated preposterous.

        My humble suggestion is to stop correcting others, and your ridiculous quotes of other posts in italics followed by “corrections”, and simply post what you think. You are no more correct or knowledgeable than most on this blog, although I do read your posts.


      2. Replying to Daniel:

        “…how women think” – Please don’t stereotype and claim to know. I am a woman who loves transit and a mixed-use urban environment, and so do many women I know. I don’t think that inherent preference for transit is a gender thing; what is your evidence? I do think our society has made many roles that women need to fill difficult without a car.

        On land use preferences, I would say you can love yours and I can love mine, except for two problems: (1) There are more people who prefer to live in an urban mixed-use environment than there are available spaces to live in those places; and (2) cars are killing our planet.

      3. I believe local jurisdictions should control their own zoning.

        Right, and that is a prescription for wealth consolidation, and modern economic redlining. Oh, they’ll let in the colored folks, but you better have the big bucks.

        Consider, for a second, how you become a member of the local jurisdiction? Do you apply, and fill out a form? No, you have to be resident. This is a catch 22. You can’t ask the board to build affordable, market rate housing, because you don’t live there. You don’t live there because there isn’t affordable housing. It is essentially a cartel, with each home owner acting as a member. Of course people don’t view it this way. If you think of it in terms of income, not race, then it is essentially redlining. An exclusionary zoning process that limits smaller lots and apartments hurts the poor. It is usually favored by people who are wealthy, and take that wealth for granted (most of whom started out with similar wealth). There may be various reasons that people give, but any way you look at it, it hurts the poor.

        I remember back in the 60s, hearing someone in suburban Chicago (and to be fair, this could be any northern city) saying “I don’t mind the Blacks, I just don’t want them moving into the neighborhood, and pushing the property values down.”. This was a common sentiment. The person could just be oblivious to the harm done to Black people, or uncaring. The same can be said for those who support exclusionary zoning.

    6. Convenient is better than inconvenient. More mobility choices are better than fewer. That’s what makes walkability, a small street grid, and no excessive setbacks so good. It gives you a choice between driving, walking, and transit. You may not want the non-car modes now but you might need them someday. It’s also easy to overlook children — people who can’t choose where to live, they live where their parents choose. Having stores and services within walking distance, and not having to walk around three sides of a block to get to a building entrance, and having transit available means they can get around on their own without somebody having to drive them. And future inhabitants of that house may want these things, but they can only have them if the neighborhood is built flexibly and multimodal in the furst place.

      The freeway interchange in that video is interesting. The movie clip is from Futurama, an exhibit in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. At the time freeways like that didn’t exist. The proto-freeways then were like Aurora. General Motors sponsored that exhibit to get people imagining a vision of of Jetsons-like traveling in GM cars. The motorway (the word freeway wasn’t common yet) would have adjacent lanes going 40, 80, and 120 miles an hour. Freight and transit would run at separate subway levels.

      What’s interesting is the clip actually shows how large the right of way would be, and how the interchange and slip ramps would be surrounded by no man’s land. Did people actually like this? I bet they were so focused on speeding through in their car that they didn’t notice that part. An earlier commentator, John Bailo, claimed he liked modern freeway infrastructure and strip malls, and shopping malls with large parking lots like Southcenter, and shopping centers like Kent Station and suburban Safeway plazas. Maybe they give some people joy but I find them depressing, and many people just put up with them because they think nothing better is possible. We’ve now had several generations who grew up with the Futurama vision, and people who have grown up knowning nothing else, and zoning laws that prohibit any other kind of construction. So oftentimes when they say that’s what they want, it’s a failure of imagination because they don’t think an alternative is possible, feasible, would work, or would be allowed.

      But other countries just do it. Including Vancouver, which has highly sought-after neighborhoods of duplexes and small apartment buildings on grid streets (Kitsilano), and highrise clusters and self-contained shopping mall villages at outlying Skytrain stations (Metrotown, New Westminster, Surrey).

  4. Excellent point, asdf2. Include transit-usability into the plans from the beginning, and nobody will complain about the results. Cemetery streetcars may be a bit much.

    But it’s no accident I keep the words “Streetcar Suburbs” in my descriptions. Also in my book-keeping. There’s nothing that angers me as much as the car I’m so fond of, trapped by the hour by other cars who leave her nothing but stuck.

    Somehow my insurance company doesn’t think her value increases with her inability to move.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Metro cancelled the 204 so there is no transit along the perimeter of Mercer Island anymore. The 201 only serves the north/south spine and not frequently.

      There are many formal and informal cut through paths because it is fairly heavily wooded, and as a kid you know them all. MI is lovely to walk if you like parks, woods and treed residential neighborhoods. It is also very popular with the bicyclists because of the perimeter roads and Roanoke Tavern.

      I thought you meant lighting the cut through paths or walking them at night. MI’s elderly population is at an all time high of 43% and it seems they have placed cameras everywhere. A PSE repairman in a neighborhood will light up our Nextdoor with grainy photos of a …. PSE repairman, and frantic questions about a stranger.

      1. Daniel, have any former Route 204 passengers gotten politically active to just plain put the bus back and be done with it? Looks like a long, beautiful ride.

        Which kind of makes my point. A few quick motor-visits suggest to me that nobody on the Island should have any problem “Chipping In” for it. Any estimate how much money this really comes to?

        Mark Dublin

  5. Daniel Thompson I recommend you watch Pretend It’s A City on Netflix. I am a generation older than you and beg to differ that bringing up kids in homogeneous, unwalkable neighborhoods is good for kids.
    Many are latchkey kids not allowed out of the house until a parent comes home from work. I was a school social worker and all is not well in your imagined paradise.

    1. Deborah, I am not sure you understand the definition of a latch key child. It is a child who returns from school to an empty house, usually because a single parent has to work, or both parents. Hence the child has their own “latch key”. A school counselor should know that.

      I am not sure if you are familiar with Mercer Island. Although I am sure there are some latch key students, my guess would be far fewer than most communities. One because so many households are two parents with one stay at home, and two because there are so many extracurricular activities including sports our kids often get home after I do (my wife does not work). There is also an extensive program for those kids who need supervision before or after school.

      No one I know leaves small children locked up all day until they return from work to “let them out”. Certainly not on MI. We are not talking about dogs. MI provides full time kindergarten beginning at age 5 with school buses, and there are several excellent preschools. What you are describing is child neglect.

      Mercer Island is infinitely walkable and bikeable for kids because it is safe. Unlike parks in Seattle kids can go to parks with friends without a parent. Generally the streets have slow speeds. It isn’t very interesting to walk as an adult because it is pretty rural without much commercial areas. If you like big parks and open space then you would enjoy walking on MI.

      I think I understand my community I moved to in 1970. I have lived all over the world. I would say Mercer Island is probably considered the best city or community in the region to raise a kid, and is the prime motivation people pay so much to live there. I did not say it was a paradise, but I do think it is probably the best area in the region to raise a child, although Issaquah and Bellevue are nice too.

      While MI is likely privileged and that is a concern for many parents (although many families rent to access the schools, especially one of the leading special needs programs), it is a lot less homogeneous than you think, with many Asian and Indian children, although there are few Blacks. MI students have very high degrees of volunteer work throughout the region.

      I think you should visit Mercer Island before denigrating it. None of your comments were accurate. Is there a local city or community in the region you believe is a better place to raise a child. Where do you live, and what do you like and dislike about your community and schools?

    2. For kids, I would mention the benefit of walkability on a kid’s physical health (child obesity is more significant now) as well as the resulting mental health benefits.

      Children need a safe place to learn how to be in community. The isolation coming from living in non-school seclusion leads to children becoming adults with really warped and dangerous and hostile ideas about how other people live. Frankly, it’s societally dangerous to promote land use that leads to childhood isolation in the long term. Wednesday could be a testament to that.

      1. Motor vehicles are the leading cause of death for children in America. Auto-dependency is dangerous.

      2. A personal example of this:

        Around the time when I was 10 years old, my parents’ work schedules sometimes required that I be dropped off at school 30-45 minutes before school actually started in order for them to get to work on time. The school was half a mile from my house and I knew I could walk there in 10 minutes, but there was one busy street to cross and my parents didn’t feel comfortable allowing their 10-year-old to cross it alone. So, I had to wake up earlier only to sit at the school for half an hour waiting for it to actually start, all to avoid one busy street crossing. If the neighborhood’s pedestrian environment was designed for all ages and all abilities, I could have slept in later and walked to school on my own. (Later, when I was old enough to cross that street on my own, it was time to switch to a different school that was further away, so I was never really freed from my parents’ work schedule until I was old enough to get a drivers license).

        The situation has nothing to do with access to a car – my family at the time had three cars. Nor does it have anything to do with quality of public transportation – when a trip is half a mile, you don’t need public transportation, you can just walk. It’s simply about wanting a neighborhood that puts walkability ahead of impatient car drivers.

    3. Mark, Metro cancelled the 204 due to low ridership. As you note it was Slooooooow, with little density.

      Second, the driveways and access roads to the perimeter roads the 204 travelled on are so steep it was hard for anyone except very fit individuals to walk up and down them to catch the 204.

      Buses that have been popular are like the 630 that made a few stops on MI and then went to SLU, an area not served by the 550 (when it was in the tunnel) and 554. I think Microsoft had its own shuttle. A lot of Amazon employees live on MI.

      Like most commuters Islanders don’t like taking a bus to a bus to get to work. For many reasons eastsiders prefer to drive to a park and ride for a one seat commute.

      I think Eastsiders from Kirkland to Issaquah would rather take a one seat express bus than a two seat bus/rail commute, which is why I agree with Ross’s analysis on a second tunnel that can handle buses. I think “truncation” will have its limits, especially for commuters, and the North KC subarea won’t have the funding to run rail to West Seattle and Ballard, so the tunnel needs to recognize that (although I am not sure four of the subareas have the funding for a second deep tunnel under 5th Ave. that I doubt will end up costing the estimated $2.2 billion.

    4. “Many are latchkey kids not allowed out of the house until a parent comes home from work.”

      Deborah, I am not sure you understand the definition of a latch key child. It is a child who returns from school to an empty house, usually because a single parent has to work, or both parents. Hence the child has their own “latch key”. A school counselor should know that.

      [Ah] She literally gave the same definition of “latchkey” (in a phrase, not four). Not only do you assume that she doesn’t know what it means, you have the arrogance to imply she misspelled it to boot. You are wrong by the way — it is one word, not two.

      Oh, and then you claim that there are no latchkey kids in Mercer Island, because everyone is rich. Wonderful. Isn’t that lovely. If only the other communities could follow that same model.

  6. Daniel,
    Actually I had a friend who lived on MI and her house was bought by the State as it was in the way due to the widening of the I 90 freeway. This was the early sixties.
    I live in Belltown because, obviously, I don’t have school age children. I do have seven school age grandchildren, attending public schools in Bainbridge Island, Lake Oswego, and a Northshore Catholic school.
    I grew up in Kent, England, in what’s known as the Green Belt, the SE London outermost suburbs. I have had a long, colorful life, I wish you the same.

    1. What about people with disabilities who can’t climb stairs? How are they expected to cross the street?

      1. I think it’s a ramp. But, even if there were stairs, I don’t see why someone also couldn’t cross at street level.

      2. Also, didn’t you once say you want the automated stop announcements on buses turned off so it wouldn’t wake sleeping passengers? Where was your concern for people with disabilities then?

    2. That’s Gostini Dvor metro station. At the bottom of the underpass is an entrance to the metro and a passage with retail. The long building on the left is Gostini Dvor, a czar’s palace turned into a shopping center. Nevsky Prospekt is St Petersburg’s main street. The trains her run east-west (you’re looking west). The station has an underground transter passage to Vosstoyanaya Station, which has a north-south line and the main train station to Moscow.

      I liked the underpass; it allows you to cross the street without a traffic light, and it’s convenient to have the station entrance at the bottom. It is a ramp if I remember. Other underpasses have stairs but if I recall the ones on Nevsky Prospekt are ramps.

      The underpass is so popular partly because the street is blocked off. In England underpasses have parallel crosswalks, so people use the crosswalks and don’t use the underpass, and they become havens for drug dealers and violent people. The underpasses in Russia aren’t like that at all: everybody uses them and they’re often busy.

      1. Excellent explanation, Mike. Thank you. I know you said you went to Bellevue HS. They had a very good Russian language program taught by Olga Penrose, who took some of her students to the USSR during the summer break.

        Then, tying Bellevue HS back Bellevue development … On the corner of NE 10th and 106th NE there used to be Sanglier Cadillac back in the 1970’s. The son of Mr. Sanglier went to Bellevue HS. The former car lot now has two 15 story towers that will be leased by Amazon.

      2. Olga Mikhaylovna was my teacher. When I went to a foreign-language open house, the Russian teacher was the only one who showed up. She passed out a brochure, “The Russian alphabet is not scary.” I never went on the USSR trips but I heard stories about them. Pepsi was the only western soda in Russia at the time. One student got into an argument with a local when he said “Pepsi is an American product” and the other said “Pepsi is a Russian product”. They didn’t know Pepsi wasn’t indigenous. Another time somebody wanted a student’s frisbee and offered to trade his bicycle for it. Another time the teacher took a group to Taskhent in Uzbekistan, and at first she didn’t understand why she couldn’t understand the people’s Russian. Then she realized they weren’t speaking Russian; they were speaking Uzbek. I didn’t go to Russia until later, in the 90s during the Yeltsin years.

        I don’t recognize that Cadillac dealership or the Sangliers, but it must have been a block east of the Wendy’s I worked at. Almost everything was one- or two-stories then, so one car dealership wouldn’t stand out.

      3. Mike, if I remember correctly Pepsi was introduced to the USSR after they paid for the soda with warships. Pepsi had one of the largest navys in the world. I don’t know why they wanted a navy though.

  7. San Francisco rents fall 25%, but still average $2600 a month. (The Guardian)

    The California housing department calculates the Bay Area will need 441,000 more units over the next decade. “In the last cycle, the Bay Area issued permits for only 9% of the low-income housing the agency said was needed and roughly 71% of permits for market-rate housing.”

    1. Interesting. Only about 20 years ago, Europe was the second most populous continent. Now it is fourth. If India had not separated (if Pakistan was part of India) then it would be the biggest country right now. Instead, it will have to wait a few years (assuming those projections come true). China and India are bigger than any non-Asian continent (right now), and that is true even if you count North and South America as one continent (as the chart does).

  8. The Seattle PI has an article today listing U.S. World Reports for local school districts: “Seattle neighborhoods with top-rated K-12 public schools” .

    “According to the U.S. News & World Report’s current ratings, the top three school districts within Washington state for college readiness are Mercer Island (58%), Bellevue (55.8%) and Lake Washington (35.6%). While these three are standouts, a few other school districts deserve additional attention. These include Shoreline (20.9%), Issaquah (19.3%) and Seattle Public Schools (14.8%) specifically.

    “Niche recently published it’s comprehensive list of Best School Districts in the Seattle Area for 2021. Niche found the Mercer Island School District and Bellevue School District rate first and second with Bainbridge Island School District at third. Rounding out the top five are Lake Washington School District and Issaquah School District. Seattle Public Schools is 12th with two other districts that deserve attention. These are Northshore School District at sixth and Shoreline School District at ninth.

    “At the top of the list of neighborhood decision factors is the question about local public schools. In general, the Seattle area is fortunate in its number of high-quality school districts”.

    “While a lot of public attention focuses on high schools and college readiness, for many, it’s more important to consider elementary schools as this is where the process starts”.

    “Again, Mercer Island deserves special attention. West Mercer Elementary, ranked the best elementary school in the Seattle area, is also considered top-rated in the state”.

    My kids went to West Mercer Elementary and it is a very good elementary school, especially for gifted students (which mine were not). As noted in the article I don’t think Mercer Island High School is as good as the elementary schools, although the district does have the best funded special needs program that attracts a lot of parents.

    In my opinion, the primary reason people have moved from Seattle to the eastside since 1970 is schools, not racism, and that decision is usually made when the child is in elementary school or getting ready to start elementary school.

    Granted I have friends who live in Seattle and sent their kids to private schools that were highly rated (and 22% of all Seattle kids attend private K-12 schools), but those private schools are very, very expensive, and in my opinion spread a child’s friends throughout the city which makes free play time difficult.

    If you are looking for a reason people move to the suburbs schools are it, even if they have to commute to Seattle.

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