Yesler Cable Car #20, 3rd and Yesler, Seattle, 1940

This is an open thread.

72 Replies to “News roundup: President Amtrak”

  1. Speaking of Amtrak:

    I saw somewhere that WashDOT plans to join the Amfleet replacement order for the next round of Cascades equipment.

    So, we’ll be stuck with overweight, high floor equipment with stairs and slow wheelchair lifts for the next 30 years or so.

    1. You think that since Inslee and the Democrats get all hot & bothered whenever they talk about electrification of ferries, buses, and cars, they’d realize that EMU technology already exists for trains. Should be straightforward to purchase trains that run on either batteries or fuel cells.

      But no, let’s spend millions on a HSR project that is, at best, 30 years away, while keeping our existing Cascades stuck 30 years in the past.

      1. In reply to both of you:

        The Series VI Talgo equipment was worn out. It looked like crap if you got up close to it- missing panels, rust streaks, and odd smells. Not to mention, it had a habit of cropping up with issues on inspection, usually right before the train was due to be sent over to King Street and sent on a schedule.

        Compare this to the Horizon equipment- freshly refurbished, better riding, and yet still somehow able to cover the Talgo schedule. We have a case here where somehow even with Talgo itself having a presence the equipment was shabby compared to the Horizon cars.

        As for EMU’s, that is in my opinion a pipe dream. You want the State of Washington to string wire over the 466 mile PNWRC at $3,000,000 a mile? Good luck finding the 1.4 billion dollars for that.

      2. Have they been able to cover the schedule? They can take every curve at the same speed and comfort level?

      3. The plan is NOT to replace the Talgo cars with Horizon cars. The Horizon cara are 30 year old tech that doesn’t have the speed or operating advantages of modern Talgo equipment.

        The use of Horizon equipment is only an interim solution that is intended to allow the immediate retirement of the Talgo VI equipment while a permanent fleet replacement plan for Cascades is developed.

    2. The speed question is a good one. The tilt technology is an advantage when the route has many curves. I don’t believe the SEA to PDX segment really has that many places where the Talgo equipment is as big of an advantage.

      I know from observing the speed limit signs on the SEA to VAC run, that Talgo is always shown as 5 mph faster, so some advantage there, and there are lots of curvy bits on that segment.

      If they’re retiring the Series VI, will WSDOT keep the Series 8 trainsets, along with appropriating the Wisconsin trainsets, and increase the frequency of the northend service? We Kraken hockey fans have to have a way to harrass the Canucks after all, and a midday train would be perfect.

      The other question is, can they fit wheelchair lifts to the Amfleet cars?
      (or will they need to rely on the strong arms of the staff with the manual lifts?)

  2. One simple and essential thing for the Leg to do this session is to allow ST to include junctions to potential lines included in the Long Range Plan. It’s pretty easy to mine and encase a divergence shell when a tunnel is first excavated. Although doing so is by no means cheap it’s roughly an order of magnitude less than back-fitting one.

    I like this idea of using the relatively limited scope of Monorail funding to “future-proof” the new system in useful ways. Well done, Seattle Subway and legislators.

    1. It’s good that the legislation broadly includes all sorts of transit modes including funiculars and trolleys, as well as station access.

      1. But it’s a very silly think it doesn’t allow bus investments. If it can be used to fund bus priority investments wherever KCM runs trolley buses, that would be nice. If it also funds trolley expansion – such as extending the J back up to 65th as originally intended – that would be helpful.

        SDOT has demonstrated it is most effective when it is executing a steady diet of small, tactic improvements. They levy should be funding $10~15MM/year of SDOT spot improvements. Over 10 years, those improvements are more valuable than a single $100MM megaproject.

      2. I agree, AJ. It is nuts to allow funding for transit, but not include buses. There are plenty of capital improvements that can be made (like fully funding this: as well as just improvements to service (which we know increase ridership). Focusing on mode just increases the chance that we will waste money — it is crazy that this is being to done to avoid the stupid monorail legislation debacle, and yet they are ready to make the same mistake all over again.

      3. Ross, “improvements to service” will never get the legislature’s OK for bonding, which is what this is all about. I agree that it would be great if ETB overhead and separated busways were included; they’re both forms of “fixed guideway transit”. But service? No way. That must be paid for within the fiscal year it’s provided, either by taxation or farebox collections.

        Anything else is insanity.

      4. Ross, “improvements to service” will never get the legislature’s OK for bonding

        Fair enough, but at a minimum, we should be able to pay for bus infrastructure, and the buses themselves. That is what Move Seattle was supposed to build. It hasn’t, for the same reason that West Seattle to Ballard Link is in trouble: it costs too much. Yet it remains a very good value (likely a better value than West Seattle to Ballard Link).

        The point is, there is no reason to specify mode. If this only covers capital projects, so be it. But trying to list out every possible project type is a really bad idea.

      5. The bill is limited to grade separated transit. It could be a mechanism for Seattle to pay for Link enhancements. But it seems it should also allow Seattle to invest in less costly modes. The early aughts were a time of modal wars; the Rs had more power in Olympia; ST was in trouble; the monorail was rival and separate; there were also freeway dreams; most of those have been funded. What parts of Link could Seattle accelerate through funding? Better stations, earlier stations, earlier WSBLE, better pedestrian connections. But new alignments might require new bases. The costs get astronomical, as they did for the monorail. Could MLK be elevated while existing line was in service? Sounds very difficult.

      6. @AJ,

        Thank gawd the legislation doesn’t allow for bus improvements or diversion of tax dollars for continuing operational subsidies of our bus system. The whole point is to allow funding for something better than what we have currently.

        We have spent decades investing the bulk of our transportation dollars in roads, and investing the bulk of our transit dollars in rubber tired vehicles to operate on those roads. But operating in mixed traffic is what has got us where we are today – basically nowhere.

        Ya, you could add some signal priority here or there. And you could paint the buses red and orange and call them “rapid”, but at the end of the day the gains are slim and the economics basically unchanged. This legislation is aimed at doing better than that, and it should be.

      7. The legislature hasn’t really considered city bus purchases, so it might be open to a small or one-time expansion of that to support Seattle’s TBD bus services. The TBD has only been in effect for five years, and its proven success is more recent, so the legislature may be only recently aware of it. So Seattle can argue it needs the authority to buy a few more buses for Metro, either as part of or separate from its RapidRide expansions. That would seem like an easier lift, because it’s less money involved, and it’s buses, which suburban/rural legislators have less of a knee-jerk reaction to than trains.

    2. Honestly, the modal definitions in the bill are rather contradictory and unusually specific. It specifically excludes gondolas and suspended cable technologies but specifically includes other cable technologies if they are merely on a track.. It excludes elevators and stairs outside of stations specifically, even though funiculars work as diagonal elevators and are specifically included. It excludes anything requiring FRA compliance, yet specifically includes other rail modes normally operated under FTA compliance — so that a USDOT reorganization could render the distinction useless.

      Further technical editing is badly needed.

  3. Big legislative hearing Tuesday, 10 AM, House Local Government.

    HB 1329, the open public meetings act (OPMA) reform bill is on deck.

    Why should anybody here care?

    Well HB 1329 will enshrine public comment in law and require online public comment options even if the public body meets in-person after the pandemic.

    That means if you care about an issue, you can comment from home. No commute. You can just mute any trolls. All good. Figured you’d want to know.

    There’s also language in the bill the intent is to steer public bodies – like transit boards – to meet online if possible post-pandemic. I figured you’d want to know.

  4. The last item in the roundup appears to have the wrong link. It directs to the TNT piece about Sue Dreier’s retirement.

  5. US city with highest per capita rate of homelessness: Eugene, OR. Interesting. No big tech. No greedy billionaires. No evil Republican mayor or governor. Single-family zoning is banned statewide.

    1. If a city offers more generous homeless services than its neighbors, it gets rewarded by homeless people coming over from nearby cities to take advantage of it. In our region, people who fall into homelessness from Everett to Tacoma all show up on Seattle’s books because Seattle offers better services than its neighbors do. Similarly, there could be people from Portland, living out of their cars, choosing to drive down to Eugene for better services. Eugene has a relatively small population to begin with, so it wouldn’t take that many of them doing that to drive up the homeless-rate-per-capita.

      The only way to avoid cities getting punished for doing the right thing is to spread out the services across the entire region.

      1. Or states getting punished for doingthe right thing, and require each state to fund services adequately.

      2. “In our region, people who fall into homelessness from Everett to Tacoma all show up on Seattle’s books because Seattle offers better services than its neighbors do.”

        This is untrue, part of what is known as “the magnet myth”. Not even the Seattle Times could find a disproportionate number of Seattle’s homeless population coming from outside the city/County.

      3. asdf2, Since the Bible would’ve referred to the Entity you mention as a “City,” its Author is in every sense on Earth as it is in Heaven far ahead of you. Resulting in the the pertinence of its Message.

        “Be good to the poor or the Lord God of Hosts won’t take the blame for what happens to you. Starting with, five thousand percent certain, getting not only poorer but hated for being that way.

        So in reverence to that Presence, Martin, I’m going to request a long-overdue courtesy among its readers. Anybody seeking mention in these pages, please do your readers the courtesy of all of us signing our names as Truthfully as we do the Lord’s.

        And real personal, Glenn. With the best will in the world over a good many years and a lot of ridership, you of all people need to be careful that even justified aggravation (remember the profession, for Heaven’s most Distant Sake) can be lethally contagious.

        Of the generation of anybody specking out a single piece of equipment for Portland’s fine system, you need to be extra-certain- careful that words out of your mouth never fall on ears holding up a Tri-Met hat, delivered in a tone of bitterness or criticism.

        By just being you, among those who most need to hear you, just being who you are COUNTS!

        As, for instance and for what it’s worth in every sense……You just won the war, damn it! Whatever’s still burning, at least it isn’t Portland! Who cares what’s sitting on a siding drying its paint while arguments rage over what’s purple and what isn’t. You don’t even need to re-paint it. Just re-name it and keep moving.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Eugene seems surprising. A discussion on Reddit (which quickly degraded to Neo-Nazi style rambling) had some good theories, such as:

      1) Liberal attraction. Eugene is known as a liberal outpost, unlike, say, Spokane.
      2) Geography. The last sizable city between Portland and California.
      3) Relatively warm.
      4) Surprisingly expensive. Rent took a pretty big jump a couple years ago.
      5) Lots of cheap labor (college town).

      I can see how all of this could combine to push the numbers up. You are tired of California (which has the highest amount of homelessness, by far) so you head north. You have only enough money to get to Eugene, and you have some friends up there that will let you stay at their place. You figure you will find work of some sort, but when you get up there, it is surprisingly hard. Your friends move, and you are pretty much stuck. You have a part time job, but with minimum wage at $11 an hour (and working part time) you can’t find a place. You can catch a bus to Portland, but you’ve heard it is harder up there.

    3. Yes, you’d really have to research it to figure out why a small isolated city like Eugene has such a large homeless increase. In King County, most of the homeless were previously housed residents of King County. The number of homeless rises and falls with housing prices. So the problem clearly is that the rent is too damn high. And people are losing their owned houses when they lose their jobs or have an unexpected medical expense. In the 1990s it was discovered that some people who live in hotels actually have enough money to pay a monthly rent; they just don’t have enough for all move-in expenses, or their credit score is bad, or they’ve been arrested before, so they don’t qualify for apartments. Only a small fraction come from out-of-state. And an even smaller fraction come because of more generous welfare services or their city gave them a free bus ticket to Seattle, contrary to the myths. They come because they’re drifters and happened to settle in Seattle, or they like the water and mountains like other people do, or they were looking for a job or hoping to start a band and it fell through.

      They gravitate from the rest of the county to Seattle because the county concentrated all services in Seattle. it took a long time for Bellevue and Kirkland to acknowledge they even had homeless people, and they’re only slowly ramping up services in fits and starts and reversals.

      Another factor is that Seattle used to have 90% of the county’s population, so of course it would have 90% of the homeless. And before the 1980s they weren’t homeless: they lived in SRO hotels. I recently learned that 1st and 2nd Avenues used to have tons of SRO hotels, and that’s where the otherwise-homeless lived. I’d seen a few former SROs in southwest Capitol Hill, and of course everyone can see the historical signs for “90c rooms” in Pioneer Square. But someone told me there were a lot larger number of them on 1st and 2nd Avenues. The city closed them due to fire codes and such, and office buildings and boutiques and high-end condos replaced them. I started going downtown in the late 70s, but I didn’t know what the buildings were, they were just buildings, and that was right around the time the SROs were closed.

      In Eugene it’s probably the weather, and the large anarchist population and their free cooperatives, and it’s just a hundred miles from Portland.

      1. For anyone wanting to see a visual depiction of this watch, the movie “Cinderella Liberty” from 1973; filmed in real Seattle not Vancouver. People seem to seriously not remember that pre-90s Seattle was a blue collar shit hole and 1st Ave was the definition of skid row.

      2. @J. S.

        Yep. The sleaziness also feature prominently in a chapter of Still Life with Woodpecker.

        I know I’m being pedantic, but skid road, not row. As in an actual road where they skidded the logs down (i. e. Yesler). The rest of the country can call it row, but we really should call it road, since we invented the term :)

        There is also a good book by that name: Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle

    4. I have a friend who lived in Downtown Ashland for several years recently. She described to me how many homeless people would live up in the hills and easily walk a few miles down into Ashland. I could see this “homeless lifestyle” also happening in Eugene.

      1. J.S., when I was in high school in the mid to late 1970’s I had an office job during summers in downtown Seattle in Pioneer Square. One of my jobs was a de facto courier so I would walk all over the city delivering legal papers. At that age I use to like walking by and studying all the porn theaters and shops in downtown, which were everywhere, all of which had lurid X-rated posters and advertisements on their entrances. Gentrification and VHS killed porn theaters, although Seattle still has one nudy show across from the Pike Place Market. Today we serve legal papers online, which has killed the courier business.

  6. I think one of the Metro bases near Stadium Station should be relocated, and the base be developed as housing. Where would I find land for the new base? Boeing has hundreds of billions of acres of parking lots further south. Half of them aren’t even used. I’d buy a bus base-sized parking lot.

    1. No – having centrally located bus bases very helpful when it comes to efficient operations, particularly for the trolley network.

      KCM is looking for another large bus base in South King. There are some large parcels owned by the Feds that can be surplused to the state or county; those options would be better than acquiring private land at market rates. Boeing’s Longacre facility should be privately redeveloped as TOD, as it’s within the walkshed of the Tukwila Sounder station.

      1. A few miles further south near Boeing Field is still in the middle of the county. And, Metro has 3 bases next to Stadium Station. I am only suggesting moving one of them. And housing next to a rail station trumps a bus base.

        Oh, that reminds me. I’d also eliminate one of the Eastside bus bases and replace it with housing.

    2. Given all the additional seismic engineering required to develop parcels that are prone to soil liquefaction during a major earthquake, there are very good geotechnical reasons why developing housing on the reclaimed tidal flats around the Stadium or SoDo stations isn’t very appealing. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but that low-hanging fruit is somewhat mushy compared to places on firmer ground. The mitigation work can be costly. Looking at San Francisco, so much new development has been pushed to reclaimed tidal flats, e.g. Mission Bay, but all that development and infrastructure compresses the reclaimed landfill and that exacerbates land subsidence. Overtime, salt water intrusion from rising sea levels will become more of an issue, too.

    3. Just curious. What is going to happen to the access to Reyerson Base or the SODO busway that feeds it? If ST3 goes through, it seems like that stretch of track/roadway will see serious disruption. Almost as much as Chinatown/ID.

    4. The Rynerson base site appears to be critical as the tunnel portals for the second Downtown Link transit tunnel. It would be foolish to lose that site for staging and earth removal for the tunnel.

      Of course, if some corporate “stakeholder” wanted it to go, it would. It happened at Convention Place. Maybe ST needs Metro / King County to commit to making that property available now!

  7. Allowing Seattle to pay for more of its own light rail is a good idea. The way we’ve been doing it has prioritized expansion far into the suburbs, when from the beginning we should have really been prioritizing expansion into the highest density places, which are in Seattle.

    It is weird that cities have to go to the state to request special permission to do these things. Cities should be able to raise whatever taxes they want.

    1. The suburbs have 80% of the voters and legislators. So when 8 wolves and 2 sheep decide what’s for dinner, it doesn’t go well for the sheep. Then there’s the rest of the state (1/5 of the population), which tends to agree more with the suburbs.

      In the mid 20th century it was a very different picture. 90% of King County’s population was in Seattle, and Snohomish and Pierce Counties were not part of the urbanized area and were separate job markets, Seattle used to annex adjacent areas as they urbanized. Then annexation stopped in the 1950s as autonomous suburbs became popular. And there was a belief that cities should be treated equally, even if one was the size of Seattle and another the size of Burien. And cities should be able to exclude undesirable people. And “normal people” lived in the suburbs. All that led to suburbia taking control of power and passing parochial head-in-the-sand policies.

      In the past decade Seattle has slightly reversed it by allowing more growth than the suburbs, but it’s not enough to change the overall power balance.

      So in the 1990s when the three counties asked the legislature for a regional transit authority, the suburban subareas wanted to be included and insisted on subarea equity. They wanted to be included because they new Seattle’s huge Yes vote would be needed to overcome their area’s No vote on taxes. They insisted on subarea equity precisely to prevent the outcome Christopher Cramer recommends. The suburban subareas wanted to prevent their taxes going to several Seattle subways while they got little. Because they’re paying for it, so they want highway-running trains to their areas and P&Rs. Seattle can rot because normal people don’t live there, and it’s only one city. What they specifically wanted was rapid transit to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond, so they could travel like BARTians do.

    2. Oh, and the anti-tax movement. That had its origins in colonial American isolation from England, and industrial tycoons and plantation owners, and in the anti-New Deal reaction to Roosevelt’s reforms, and in Ayn Rand and the Goldwater libertarian movement. But it gained ground in the 1970s California Prop 13 tax revolt, and that finally spread to Washington in the 1990s with Tim Eyman’s initiatives. That was the same time Sound Transit was formed. While all anti-tax activists don’t want their own taxes raised (a kind of NIMBY), some go further and don’t want anyone else’s taxes raised either (a kind of BANANA). Especially not large, liberal, union-infested cities who waste money on undeserving minorities and “prevailing wage” and large bureaucracies. Especially ESPECIALLY because if Seattle makes its own taxes high, it displaces tax capacity the rest of the state could use to make Seattle pay for their things.

      So there was absolutely no interest in the 1990s in giving Seattle a large enough tax authority for even one semi-underground metro line, let alone several. And even streetcars hearkened back to the bad old days of railroad baron monopolies and inadequate car infrastructure, as suburbanites remembered them. The monorail authority was an anomoly, and it was driven in large part because it didn’t look like a traditional train. But it was largely dependent on car tabs, which were in the anti-tax actvists’ crosshairs at precisely that time.

      So there was no way the state in the 1990s would give Seattle large autonomous tax authority for transit, so Seattle went along with the regional vision because that was the only way to get anything better than RapidRide. (Which itself was Metro-wide and had 3/6 of the lines in the suburbs.)

    3. The limitation comes from concern that the cities will bond themselves into destitution and require a “bail-out” from the State.

      Yeah, it was paranoia among the Hayseed Caucus, but twenty years ago the HC was a lot more powerful.

  8. Why isn’t more housing development, like what’s happening near Northgate Mall, and in Totem Lake, occurring around the Commons Mall in Federal Way? The mall owner, and surrounding property owners, need to start building housing. Commenters scream about the one-story Chic-fit-A in Bellevue. Most of Federal Way is one-story.

    1. Not enough affluent people want to live there yet, and there are still underused (developable) parcels in the Spring District, Overlake, Northgate, and Totem Lake. And after that, Tukwila, Renton, Bothell, Kenmore, and Woodinville. Affluent people and developers will get interested in Federal Way and Kent and Lynnwood when the wealthy Bellevue/Redmond/Seattle axis gets full and the population continues increasing. It’s the same reason Factoria/Eastgate is just sitting there.

      Federal Way and Lynnwood are trying to goose the market by presenting themselves as good places for companies and people to locate in, hoping they’ll get Bellevue’s growth and tax receipts and affluence. But that spreads out from the favored quarter, and Federal Way is twenty-six miles from Bellevue, and it’s in the industrial side of town. Every American metro has an unfavored quarter, which is the industrial side of downtown, and a favored quarter (where the CEOs live), which is chosen to be the opposite side of downtown from the industrial side, or at least another side. So job growth and affluent resident growth occurs mostly in the favored quarter, and only spills out into the unfavored quarter when the former is full and the population is still increasing. And “full” is based on the zoning ceiling. The Eastside has decided it doesn’t want to be denser than a certain level, so additional growth after that has to spread out to other areas.

      Of course it’s not black-and-white one before the other. Tukwila, Renton, and Kent have gotten some developments, even though the Spring District isn’t completely full and Factoria/Eastgate are there waiting. In the latter days they occur simultaneously, some in Bellevue, some in Rainier Valley, some in Tukwila. But in general the major growth curve for outlying areas far from the favored quarter occurs later. And it hasn’t reached Federal Way yet.

      Link could cause a spurt of growth in downtown Federal Way. Because it’s immune to traffic jams, and is more frequent than ST Express, and goes to other popular destinations besides downtown. That will attract some people, and could attract some companies.

      1. Link could cause a spurt of growth in downtown Federal Way. Because it’s immune to traffic jams, and is more frequent than ST Express, and goes to other popular destinations besides downtown.

        Is it though? I mean, technically it goes to lots of places, but other than the airport, I don’t see it. It takes over a half hour to get to Rainier Valley (and Link manages to miss the destinations there) and 35 minutes to Beacon Hill. I just don’t see someone hopping on the train to get some Dim Sum in the I. D., since it will take over 40 minutes. For the occasional baseball, football or soccer game it is good, but that doesn’t happen too often, and is still a pretty long trip. It works better for the Tacoma Dome, but there are only so many shows. You do have the college though, and I could see apartments close to Federal Way Station being built for that, but that is true for anywhere along SR 99. Oh, and transit ridership to the airport is dominated by early more riders — before Link opens.

        I think Federal Way will continue to grow the way that places like Kent and Auburn grow. As long as Seattle and Bellevue limit housing development, and as long as there is a hot market, new development will spill out to places like Federal Way (where they allow it).

      2. It’s a good spot to live if you are a two income household and one works in Seattle and the other works in Pierce.

      3. It’s a good spot to live if you are a two income household and one works in Seattle and the other works in Pierce.

        Yeah, sure, but that is true for plenty of other places. If I worked in Tukwila, and my spouse worked in Puyallup, the place is nothing special. There are very few employment centers along the south end of the line. You have Highline College, SeaTac (where a lot of the jobs start very early in the morning) and downtown Seattle. Someone working in the latter location can take a bus from say, Kent. I’m not saying there won’t be people taking advantage of the location. I’m just saying it is a stretch that there will be a lot, and that will in turn lead to a lot of growth in Federal Way.

        Oh, I suppose that ST (or Pierce Transit) will improve the bus service from downtown Tacoma to Federal Way, so that would make sense. Technically that isn’t Link, but I could see that.

      4. AJ, and that cohort is ….. 3% of the regional population? Two? One and a half?

        It’s a thin reed on which to build a skyscraper.

        And Ross, we all know you think that the cumulative IQ of the entire Sound Transit management team is barely pushing 80, but don’t you think it’s at least possible that they might run trains going into service from the South Base as early as say 4:30????

        I understand that will disturb the roosters along the tracks any time of the year except Summer Solstice, but…..

      5. I meant 1 person works in downtown Seattle and the other person works somewhere in Pierce (Tacoma, JBLM, whatever). That household may want to live as far south as possible while still riding Link (i.e. Federal Way for the foreseeable future), so one spouse gets all day reliable transit into our biggest job center and the other spouse can have as short as possible of a commute (probably driving, but bus truncations might create good ‘reverse commutes’ from FW). Given many households are dual income these days, I can easily imagine a household where one partner has a good career based in Pierce and the other partner finds their best options are all up in Seattle since that is where most jobs are. I know Ross doesn’t believe people will intentionally ride Link from FW all the way into Seattle, but 1) people do crazier things for love and 2) many people already drive much, much longer distances to work in Seattle, often because their household has a reason to live elsewhere in the region.

        3% of the regional population (4 million) would be 120 thousand people, which is larger than Federal Way’s entire population. So yeah – more than enough of a use case to fill up a few midrise apartment blocks surrounding the station.

      6. don’t you think it’s at least possible that they might run trains going into service from the South Base as early as say 4:30?

        Sure, that’s possible, but it would mean missing the peak. Check out page 155 ( for the service pattern of the 574. The only time the bus is close to hitting seating capacity is at 2:13 in the morning. This is for the northbound bus (Lakewood/Tacoma/Federal Way to SeaTac). The rest of the time the bus barely manages 30 riders. I really doubt that ST is going to run the train really early so that it can pick up 30 riders, or even 50. You need a maintenance window, and the bigger it is, the fewer problems occur. It is expensive to run empty trains, especially if it cuts into service time.

      7. Oh, I know people commute long distances. I have a friend whose job was recently transferred to Tacoma (from downtown Seattle). So now, instead of taking the bus and train to work, he drives all the way from Ravenna to Tacoma. But this is a temporary thing, which is often the case. It is just a miserable commute (no matter the mode) and most people won’t put up with that for a really long time.

        But my point is that if you are commuting to downtown Seattle, you can live practically anywhere. You can live in Auburn or Puyallup, and ride the train. You can live in various neighborhoods and take an express bus. You can live in someplace like Kent and do both. The only advantage to living close to Link (in Federal Way) is that it gives you access to other places, along the way, as well as (eventually) places the other direction. The problem is, none of those places (either direction) are big employment centers. You would do just as well with any of the Sounder Stations, or the dozens of areas that have express bus service to downtown Seattle (which will get you to downtown in just about the same amount of time, if not sooner).

        Transit frequency is always nice, but the longer the trip, the less important it is. There are few spontaneous trips — only commutes, where riders schedule their day accordingly (to get to work by nine, as BTO famously sang).

    2. There are three things that have to happen before a develop builds housing:

      1) The city (or whatever responsible agency) has to allow it.
      2) Someone needs to sell the land.
      3) The developer needs to buy it.

      Just because a city has zoned an area for development, doesn’t mean the owner will sell. Lake City, for example is full of land that is used to sell cars. There were rumors that the largest land holder in the area (the Brooks family) was going to sell, but they didn’t. Even if they are interested in selling, developers may not be interested, or offer a low price (at which point the owner just waits). I have no idea what the situation in Federal Way or Bellevue is, but my guess is it is something of that nature.

      1. If I’m putting myself in the position of a Federal Way land owner, and if I’m looking at the future, I see light rail is coming to town. I see there’s a lack of regional housing. I see FW has the selling point of being more affordable than the north end. I see that E-commerce is disrupting my brick and mortar tenants. And, I see the covid era is putting many of my tenants out of business. I’m not going wait until after light rail arrives to think about adding residential.

    3. I would personally like to see the sales tax from car sales go to the jurisdiction where the buyer lives, not the jurisdiction where the buyer bought the car. This not only prevents car buyers from avoiding taxes by shopping outside of the Sound Transit district. It also prevents cities from resisting upzoning of car dealers because they need their tax revenue. That, and tax property based on land value, rather than improvements to make large parking lots that do nothing but store cars more expensive.

      1. Speaking of car dealships, where are the Cadillac, Chevy, and GMC dealerships on 116th in Bellevue moving to? 134th and Northup Way.

    4. Many parcels near Link stations in the Rainier Valley have slowly evolved into denser housing even though there were no plans for them as Link was being constructed before 2010. It doesn’t happen overnight.

      Current projects south of Judkins Park and in the Spring District is indicative of inevitable denser development near new Link stations. It’s notable as these are happening well before Link opens — meaning that the market can only get stronger when the daily reality of a functioning Link station exists.

      One story shopping centers can quickly “pencil out” (be investment worthy) to become denser residential development because it’s mostly asphalt paving, and concrete pads with concrete block walls. The property ownership is also already assembled. When — not if but when — the large commercial parcel owners in Federal Way decide that redevelopment will generate more profit, it will happen. Unlike residential neighborhoods where owners have emotional attachments, commercial areas can become ripe for redevelopment pretty quickly.

      The curious thing about Federal Way is that it’s far enough from Seatac runways (as far as Downtown Seattle) that there can even be be high-rise buildings. The market probably isn’t there for anything over 20 floors — but the hillcrest location would create some spectacular views above the tree line.

      1. AJ, yes. The readership here does not understand how much people want view properties, and high rises provide them in spades. That’s part of why they are so popular in Vancouver, BC. If you’ve ever looked at the way they’re scattered you’ll see that EVERY window above maybe the fifth floor has some sight line that includes the Salish Sea or mountains. Every one; they don’t squish them all together like Manhattan.

      2. Kent’s zoning around KDM station allows 200′. Will be interesting to see if the market will take advantage of that.

      3. Highrises are expensive because you have to make the building stronger so it won’t fall down, the foundation extends deep into the ground, and tall buildings require more elevators and stairs which take a larger potion of the space. in contrast, 7-10 story buildings have smaller requirements. Even in Manhattan much of the housing is 10 stories or less. We could house a large number of people in buildings like that if we allowed enough of them, and didn’t have setback and parking requirements that take up gratuitous space and don’t exist in other countries that have vibrant medium-density cities where less than half the people have cars.

      4. Mike, sure, mid-rise is great and a definite density enhancer. More power to it. If people can see that car-share for Ikea runs and traditional rentals for vacations are a practical and affordable solution, many more people might be willing to forego having a car, or at least, not more than one per family.

        For places where there isn’t going to be a view any way, mid-rise is ideal for the reasons you stated. But look at the Pearl District and South Waterfront in Portland. Those twenties didn’t HAVE to be built. They were built because they made sense and people want to live in them.

        Maybe people won’t want to live in Federal Way enough to pay more for a view. It’s a gamble to build the first one, sure. But what a location. It’s about equidistant from Mount Olympus and Mount Rainier and can see as far south as St. Helens though I don’t think Adams is visible; it’s behind Rainier. The Sound would be visible just two miles away from anything above the fifth floor. It’s not the same as actually living next to it but really nowhere except the coast north of West Seattle has decent access.

      5. I expect Federal Way to have a handful of six story buildings, much like Ash Way. But with a trip to downtown taking over 40 minutes, and no significant destinations in between, I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of it. I wouldn’t expect development to spread out, the way it does in, say, Roosevelt.

        With Roosevelt you can make the case that it was just a nice neighborhood and they changed the zoning (not unlike Ballard, Upper Queen, or lots of other places that haven’t seen a significant improvement in transit, but growth that almost immediately occurred when the allowed it).

        The only places that look like they really will have TOD are up north. Places like 148th and Mountlake Terrace. To a certain extent, you have the same dynamic — these are the only places where they allow growth, in a fairly expensive city. But these are not naturally attractive places. Without the train you have quick access to the freeway, but that is both a blessing and a curse (lots of noise, an obstacle for walking, etc.). But with Link, you have frequent and fast access to not only downtown, but the UW and other popular destinations, like Capitol Hill. Mountlake Terrace to the U-District would take 15 minutes, as would 148th to Capitol Hill. Even 148th to Pioneer Square will take only 20 minutes. This enables spontaneous trips, and effectively stretches the city northward. It makes apartments there attractive for students, or other folks who like to visit the city, but for whatever reason (e. g. cost) prefer someplace outside it.

        I just don’t see that with Federal Way.

      6. Lids over I-5 at the stations with greenery or real estate would do a lot to mitigate the freeway and make them “naturally attractive places”. The biggest frustrations with freeways are the noise and walking across eight lanes of asphalt. Lids mitigate that. They don’t have to extend several blocks, or even necessarily all the way across the freeway, just in the immediate station area. Seattle mitigated the two-block Pine Street overpass with a dog-walking park, which immensely improves it and turns the two-block unpleasantness into one-block unpleasantness, which is more bearable.

        That’s right about Bellevue, but Bellevue is in the favored quarter (which is between I-90 and 520, and slightly further north). Microsoft was the first large employer after PACCAR, and Bill Gates lived in the favored quarter (Medina) and reverse-commuted. That’s the typical pattern of mid-to-late 20th century development in US metros. But Federal Way is not in the favored quarter, it’s where affluent people don’t want to be, and it’s twice as far out. So Federal Way can’t just expect the Bellevue effect, or not for a long time. Federal Way is begging for employers, like all outlying cities (Lynnwood, Everett, Tacoma), so if it markets itself well it may get a few medium-sized ones. But it’s not going to get as big as downtown Bellevue. Maybe things will change after 2050 and it might grow faster.

  9. For anyone thinking we won’t need as much public transportation even after the pandemic because companies will realize having their employees work from home is a good thing, think again. I was just informed by someone from a large employment agency that most companies are going back into the office because working from home didn’t work out for them. This person told me that the companies that are all growing during the pandemic are working in the office. (Furthermore, Zoom interviews don’t work—they just make the interview process twice as long because they have to do the exact same interview again.)

    Of course more people will probably drive while the pandemic is going on and maybe after, so that might be a reason for less public transportation. But not working from home, because that’s going to go away, apparently.

    1. I’ll respond with my own anecdote. I’m someone who lost their job when their entire industry collapsed under covid. Luckily I was hired into a different and fast growing industry. This means I both interviewed and trained remotely. So far things have been exceptionally smooth and our team works very well.

      They’re also growing fast enough that the company has said they won’t even be able to fit everyone into the office when things are back to normal. So it’s likely most of us that were hired on as remote workers during the pandemic will stay remote permanently.

      So while I don’t doubt many companies are eager to return to normal, I think there are just as many that aren’t.

    2. The pandemic response by working from home merely accelerated an existing trend. Flexible work hours and partial or total working from home was already significantly occurring for some jobs.

      I think what will change is the “planning for the peak surge” transit investment strategy. Day-long frequent rapid buses and light rail will remain or grow in demand while niche peak express buses and commuter trains will probably wane. It’s probably better for transit (and for highways too) as it is terribly inefficient to build and operate a system where so much added capacity is just for two or four hours a day.

    3. No one knows what the future holds. There was a slow, but steady increase in working from home before this happened. What I’ve heard from experts is that they don’t expect everyone who can work from home to continue doing so. It only works well for a subset of people. But they still expect a substantial increase in people working from home than before the pandemic.

      Overall, though, it probably doesn’t add up to huge numbers, or mean that “traffic will be gone”. You can see that big companies are still planning on adding office space — and this includes tech companies (the type of company most capable of dealing with work-from-home issues). When REI said they weren’t going to use a new office building, Facebook said “Can I buy it?”, not “Yeah, same here”. Keep in mind, these are the jobs that *can* be done at home — there are still lots and lots of jobs that can’t.

      1. Yes. Humans have been urbanizing for thousands of years. Proximity and random urban encounters and face to face interaction help with productivity. Covid may be a blip. Urbanism accelerated after the 1928 flu that had more deaths.

      2. The 1918 Flu (obviously that was just a typo) was a real test for the established cities in the eastern US. NYC, my original home town, fared pretty well all things considered. My maternal grandparents survived the pandemic living in the city and I still remember most of the stories they told me of what it was like back then. My grandfather was a city cop and I remember him telling me how they had to go into all of these various apartment buildings to assist with getting infected individuals moved to one of the hospitals or other locations that were charged with “caring” for the sickened. Squabbles, often very heated, between and among neighbors over quarantining matters were also pretty common apparently and as a result my grandfather dealt with a lot of that sort of thing as well while on his daily rounds. Enforcement of the city’s mandated quarantining rules was scattershot though and largely fell upon its denizens’ voluntary compliance.

        NYC, like the rest of the urbanized world, eventually got through the flu pandemic and ultimately flourished over the next decade, adding some 1.3 million citizens to its five boroughs. While I’m reluctant to call a pandemic event that may have taken as many as 50 million lives worldwide a “blip”, I do agree that the patterns of urbanization we have seen for decades and centuries in our own country and nations around the world are sure to continue.

        For an interesting short read on how NYC handled the 1918 flu pandemic, see the following source:

    4. Three cheers for you, Norah.

      The sizzle has gone out of the creative steak with people at working home alone. Accounting and coding are fine done at home; their practitioners are mostly introverts anyway. But the people who actually like generate sales! are extroverts and needs them some friends!

      I gather you don’t work in a Smith Tower law office.


        I can’t predict the future like some on this blog and am not an employment or commercial property expert, but I buy into the prediction that commuting will decline by around 20% to 40% from pre-pandemic levels. Just makes sense. Workers hate spending their lives commuting, by car or transit, and it saves businesses a lot of money for office space, transit passes, and parking. The cost to work from home is zero.

        I use Zoom and Microsoft Teams regularly now (never heard of either before Covid-19). Absolutely love it for depositions, hearings, client meetings, even trials. Plus now everything is automatically videotaped. I personally hate travelling for work — especially flying — even though I have continued to go into the office every day during the pandemic although the Smith Tower is essentially vacant, and now I don’t have to if don’t want to or can’t.

        Another benefit is learning how to work remotely — home or office — makes it much easier to travel or vacation and continue to be productive, or just home with a sick kid or waiting for a repairman who gives you a four hour window, which I was not good at before. I also like the ability to do doctor visits by video.

        I don’t know why working from home threatens urbanists or transit advocates. As Al S. notes reducing peak hour demand is good for transit and will hopefully reduce our need for more and more road capacity which is all designed to meet peak demand, and allowing parents to spend more time with their kids rather than on a bus is good for kids.

        Even if general fund tax revenue shifts from urban centers like Seattle to where the workers live and now work from home, or farebox revenue on transit falls, the region is still going to have to find a way to fund transit and other social needs, probably with outlying cities in King Co. picking up a bigger piece of the tab.

        I agree most people are social although the pandemic has created a nesting instinct, and can’t wait to get back out to restaurants, vacations, movies, bars, music venues, sporting events, dinners, family gatherings, school, all the things they love. But no one loves commuting to work, and I am not sure productivity has declined with working from home. In any case when employers are chasing employees working from home might be a deal breaker for the employee, so little choice for employers.

        I usually go with Microsoft on these work patterns because they tend to set the standard, and Microsoft has three tiers for work from home that gives discretion to most workers, what days and what hours, in part because of Microsoft’s strong stance on climate change. If Microsoft is doing it so will most tech companies, and probably most companies will follow if they can. Just look at how bank branches are disappearing. Banks did not become less productive or convenient when branches closed, they became more convenient once customers learned to use online banking.

        I myself like working from the office, but I know many don’t.

    5. Since COVID, I’ve interviewed several candidates for the software company I work for. In many ways, coding interviews actually work better remote, since people can type much faster than they can write on a whiteboard, especially when you need to insert a line in between two existing lines or copy-paste something. Remote also means that the candidate can use their favorite keyboard and monitor to code on, just like they’d be able to do in the real world. On the other hand, when an interview is remote it becomes a very cut-and-dry procedure that’s solely about the company assessing the candidate; During an in-person interview, it is much easier to sell the company to a promising candidate, since they can see with their own eyes what the workplace looks likes and the quality of the perks and food, in a way they can’t just talking to one person through a computer screen.

      For actual working – yes, working from home does work in terms of basic productivity metrics, but it’s lonely. Even though, in theory, anyone can start a video chat with anyone else at any time, in practice, doing so to talk about anything not work-related is much more awkward than simply eating lunch together at the cafeteria used to be. About once or twice per month, I’ve actually gone so far as to meet one or two co-workers for lunch, somewhere outside where we can safely socially distance.

      When the office reopens, I do expect to go back to doing most of my work there, but I don’t think the home office will go away completely. I’m expecting the long-term situation to be something of a hybrid, where lunch and most of the team meetings are in-person, while focused individual work is split-time between the office and home office. I live within easy walking distance of the office, so I can easily see myself going in for partial days nearly every day, even if some of the work continues to be done from home.

  10. Daniel, after all these years, I owe Sound Transit at least this much for the effort it takes to keep it in existence. Find me someplace within boarding distance of any rush-hour route, and because it’s important the effort looks 1930’s Federal as all Hell, a couple of card tables and a folding chair.

    And a sign looking Federal enough to be Credible, meaning a 1940’s take on our country’s at its Memory’s finest: “Help Wanted, Will Train, Attitude Decides.”

    And because I want it to work so bad, lead job’s yours. Anything left over with poles and wires over head, will keep it in mind, but for this one, maybe best settlement for the espresso stand across from the station. You’ve got some young neighbors who can show International Espresso some things for a change.

    It’s what America, its Federal Government, and a fortuitous Depression are FOR, for. Last I looked, the City of Mercer Island still owns that wonderful piece of espresso-dispensing property. Last straight-shot I had there was wonderful, with nothing but positive promise for the next one.

    Mark Dublin

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