Grays Harbor Transit - New Flyer D40LF

This is an open thread.

63 Replies to “News roundup: not as progressive”

  1. Yeah the Design Review Boards as they currently operate are a time wasting joke. Personally I’d want them replaced with a simple Engineering Review Board that just confirms that no the building won’t fall over, and yes it has the correct size sidewalk, and no the driveway doesn’t dump directly into a blind intersection.

    1. Personally I’d want them replaced with a simple Engineering Review Board that just confirms that no the building won’t fall over, and yes it has the correct size sidewalk, and no the driveway doesn’t dump directly into a blind intersection.

      The City already provides in depth permit reviews for all aspects of a project through a codified set of guidelines and regulations. A “simple Engineering Review Board” would be completely redundant.

      Portland has the right idea: have a design review committee that consists of a group of professionals that are relevant to design and construction. I think a single public comment period is still warranted, but it’s up to the committee to consider public comments, especially regarding “look and feel”.

      Getting rid of design review completely seems foolish. Somewhere there’s a happy balance that allows for efficient development that doesn’t result in crappy looking neighborhoods.

      1. Good point RapidRider, I agree.

        Every so often there seems to be one big project that holds up the process and gets media attention as blamed as the reason for increased housing costs. The articles lacks context to understand the nuances of what occurred in the particular design review meeting mentioned in the article and I’m unaware, but will suggest there’s usually more blame to spread than just the board.

        I have made the point in the past- while design review seems like a community whine session, it also provides a mechanism for developers to receive departures to meet the land-use code. This means that a developer can violate the land-use code, usually making the building cheaper and sometimes allowing for more units since these are the motives of developer. The project included in the article, 2100 Queen Anne, included 7 departures from the land-use code that also got approval.

        I will iterate that holding up the process based on aesthetic considerations is a shame and likely a failure of the boards leadership, but there is value in the design review process outside aesthetics that benefits our built environment and improves the quality of our city.

        I also would challenge and skeptics who have never attended a early design guidance and design review meeting to attend one for a particular project and understand how the mechanism works.

      2. OK, but do you have examples of where a building was much nicer looking because of a design review? I don’t. If anything, it makes building all look the same (easiest way to get approved is make it look like the last building that was approved). This leads to a monotonous style. In general, it is pretty darn hard, if not impossible to legislate aesthetics.

        There are a few things that could be mandated. One is pedestrian access. The building shouldn’t force someone to walk all the way around it (this sort of thing is bad: https://goo.gl/maps/on1LfatW3r7hQKDh8). Another is ground floor retail. Other than that, I think design review and half of the requirements (like massing) are a bad idea.

        People will build some ugly buildings, and some nice ones, just like today. The difference is they will build them sooner, which means a lot less blight. (Not much uglier than an abandoned building or lot waiting for the go ahead to start the construction).

      3. I agree with Matt, but there likely is room to raise the size threshold below which a developer can skip design review if they are requesting zero deviations from code.

        I’m no architect, but I’m pretty skeptical massing is important for midrise development. I don’t care if floors 2-6 are identical; building textures will evolve over time to create the organic diversity that create a beautiful city. But I think there is clear value in ensuring good design at the street level to avoid blank facades, etc.

      4. “The building shouldn’t force someone to walk all the way around it”

        Two of my pet peeves are Home Depot on Rainier and Sky Nursery in Shoreline. Other STBers have pointed out the VA Hospital on Beacon Hill. It had a renovation but they declined to put a door on the Beacon Avenue side for 36 riders.

      5. ““The building shouldn’t force someone to walk all the way around it”

        This is important, but it shouldn’t require a public design review in most cases. Either there is a midblock crossing or there is not. Again – if the developer wants to do something creative that entails a departure from code, there should be a mechanism for that. But most projects should be able to processed by city staff.

        Bellevue has done a good job with midblock crossing in new development and walkability should really improve as several of the superblocks are redeveloped. Similarly, Mt Baker will really transform whenever Home Depot is redeveloped – but that can be done with or without a design review.

      6. My point is that it makes sense to have some regulations, and someone to approve them, and that essentially becomes your “design review”. The simpler it is, the easier it is. I think we should get rid of massing rules, but massing rules are very simple. I’m sure somewhere along the line, someone makes a mistake, and the city, after reviewing the plans, corrects the design. The same could be done with rules requiring ground floor retail on buildings, or pedestrian access. Both could have some wiggle room. For example, if your building abuts a busy street, with little to no pedestrian traffic, then maybe it doesn’t need ground floor retail. Likewise, not all blocks are the same, so not all mid-block requirements are the same.

        The main goal should be to have relatively minimal, easy to understand regulations that can be approved or modified quickly. Right now that isn’t how it works.

      7. I think it’s Lowe’s on Rainier, not Home Depot. I went to Lowe’s to get some bamboo gardening poles that weren’t available at other stores, but the experience of walking three sides around it from the bus stop made me never go back.

      8. Has anyone’s parents ever gone to a game at the Baseball stadium that was there before the Lowe’s or whatever hardware store was there first?

      9. You mean Sicks’ Stadium, former home of the Rainiers and one-season major league club Seattle Pilots. By the time I moved to Seattle in the late 80s, the stadium had already been razed, so I only know it through historical photos and my spouse’s memory. (My spouse is a native but never had the chance to attend any games at Sicks’.) Now if I had lived in Seattle back then I would have been begging my parents to let me go see Hendrix in what would turn out to be his last Seattle concert, in July 1970, just a few weeks before his death in London at the young age of 27.

        Passing along the following link about that Seattle concert, since I believe you enjoy reading about local history. Enjoy.
        https://www.historylink.org/File/21126

    2. Given the number of boxy featureless buildings built these past five years, I think the design review is merely an engineering review anyway.

      If not, we would have more mansard roofs, more signature towers and facades on buildings, more welcoming entrances, more frequent doorways on the street, less blank walls and less garish color choices.

      The process primarily appears to be keeping some people employed and others busy, while we wait longer for housing to be constructed — but I’m not sure if the process can recognize ugly or beautiful.

      Imagine how much prettier our city would be merely if roof edges and our horizontal building lines were required to have some character as offered by some sort of guidelines.

      1. …but I’m not sure if the process can recognize ugly or beautiful.

        To quote Justice Potter Stewart:

        I know it when I see it.

      2. The safest way to get through design review is to submit something that looks like everything else. Anything new runs the risk of not matching the “character” of the neighborhood.

      3. Sorry for the wall of text here, but thought I would add my response to some of the comments:

        RossB – I was not making the suggestion that the design review board helps the aesthetics of a given project. My experience has been that a board’s design direction is mixed on any agreeable results (beauty is in the eyes of the beholder after all). I agree the design review process actually has little affect on the final results as compared to a world without design review, however it does raise the bar on the bare-minimum-developer who would likely clad everything in HardiePanel, which is a lot of what we see in the low-rise development. Again – not my argument. I’m simply saying that there are values outside of aesthetics that occur at design review meetings that benefit the project through departures.

        In regards to the access argument – Not quite sure what is being suggested, but mandating that a property owner provide public access over their property to an adjacent property seems questionable outside of establishing easements which seems like a whole can of worms on a city level.
        In regards to the second comment about simplifying the rules and having wiggle room. Codifying something that seems simple is difficult because it can never predict ever single lot condition. As someone who has to read this stuff for a living, I can tell you there is no rule that could be universally applied to every single lot. That is why the design review allows for departures to do just what you’re suggesting and the very reason design review provides benefits for development.

        RossB/Al S/Martin H Duke: My experience has proven that all buildings look the same because of factors outside of design review. I don’t know how every board in the city operates, but at the few early design guidance / design review meetings I have attended, the boards were very open to different styles. I would argue that the sameness is purely economically driven from the proforma of a developer. A developer will say that they need X number of units at a construction cost of X in order to turn a profit. It’s not surprising that the number of units would include maxing out the density for the lot (which is good – more units) so you end up with a box with little room for façade articulation and the construction budget is so low that materials can’t be to lavish or interesting. Also, these developers are working on multiple projects with the same design teams and why not repeating something that they know works and keeps their costs down.

        AJ: Seattle actually lowered the threshold a few years ago making smaller developments (a lot of the low-medium rise stuff) to go through a streamline review which cuts the formal early design guidance / design review meetings and one can work with a land-use official directly. You will sometime see yellow signs in front of soon-to-be developed lots that are taking advantage of this process.

        Al S: “The process primarily appears to be keeping some people employed and others busy”

        I think it’s fair to say no one wants to stay busy / employed putting together iterations of early design guidance / design review packets. Also the design review boards are voluntary positions, so they certainly aren’t making money or getting their hours of evening time back.

        I guess I just want to iterate that the design review process has flaws, but there are benefits like departures that allow for discretion of the land-use code and result in building that are better components of the urban fabric and higher densities. I also challenge one to participate in an early design guidance or design review meeting to be a voice for better development – maybe the prolonged duration of the next headline project calling for the end of design review could be swayed by one who fights for higher density, pedestrian access, and sensibility.

      4. “ My experience has proven that all buildings look the same because of factors outside of design review.”

        Exactly! This is an important observation!

        Constructive design review should include encouraging more than buildings that all look the same. Our new apartment buildings often look the same — like we are living in an apartment version of Levittown with the “ticky-tacky” apartment buildings.

        If the design review process can’t figure out how to make Seattle more beautiful and functional by now, it’s a procedural joke with uninspired people involved — and needs to be eliminated.

  2. I was wondering if there were any updates to the Next Gen Orca? The ST website mentions rollout beginning in “2021,” but something tells me that won’t actually happen. I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, want to ditch my physical ORCA card and use the NFC on my phone.

      1. Oops, later in the presentation they explain the timeline is expected to allow “virtual” cards in summer 2022 – probably later at this point, though.

  3. I think that if the Puget Sound area had FAST charging stations with more than 3 plugs per station it would make it easier on taxis and rideshare to comply. There are plenty of SLOW charge stations. There are plenty of free stations. But there are not plenty of convenient places to charge a car like a taxi. ( In 35 minutes or less). It needs to be as convenient as a gas station. A fast charge for an electric car takes about 30-60 minutes depending on their range. The older range for electric vehicles was 50-95 miles for the day. That is if you do not use heat or air conditionong. The 2020 range seems to be between 190 and 240 miles. Non Tesla of course.

    If you drive all day long in a gas car, you are out 5-10 minutes when you buy gas. If you drive an electric car, you are out 30-60 minutes, depending on your range. Notice I never mentioned price? It will probably have more to do with down time and convenience. Just like us and our public transportation choices. But they lose money on their down time. Much more than, me, for example. When I ride the bus, it takes me longer to commute, but I surf the internet and read, but don’t lose clients. They do.

    I have used rideshare. Most of them have very very efficient gas vehicles or Hybrids. The cost of the vehicle isn’t holding them back. The infostructure is.

    As electric vehicles start to gain ground in percentive of vehicles, I might even propose, they have rideshare fast stations set aside them.

    Think about waiting in line to buy gas. There could be 6 cars there. But you know you can still probably fill up in less than 30 minutes. If there are only 2 fast charge stations and all are electric vehicles, you will be waiting anywhere from the low of 3 or more hours to 6 hrs. Actually, probably around 5 hours, because you cannot always charge your car 100% on a fast charge. Still unacceptable.

    People and companies will always fight change. But they usually do it due to convenience or money. Make fast charging easy for rideshare and the transition will be easier and probably more equitable.

    1. I wonder how many people exceed the daily range, though. New York cab drivers do 180 miles a day, for a 12-hour shift. So that suggests that plenty do more. I can imagine cab companies investing in quick chargers.

      I’m sure there are lots of Uber/Lyft people who do a lot more, but there are also lots of people who do a lot less. I would imagine most did not buy their car solely for the purpose of shuttling people around. They use it to make side money. Even if it is their only job, they still want the car for other reasons. With an Uber job you can always just “clock out”, if you are too close to running out of electricity.

      I think the bigger issue is long distance trips. I know plenty of people who drive down to the Bay Area in a day. Even Seattle to Spokane would be impossible (you would have to fill up at least once). Even though these types of trips are relatively rare, people often buy a car with this in mind (especially for summer vacations). This is where the ability to do a fast charge would make a huge difference. I could also see how charging a premium for the service would make sense. For day to day use, people charge up at home (overnight). But for a long distance trip, you would have to pay extra to charge up in Ellensburg or Moses Lake.

      1. Tesla’s come with an electronic map of every charging station within a certain radius of the car at any time that is constantly updated. I know several people who have driven to LA or Spokane from Seattle, and according to them recharging is not a big deal, and is often done around stopping for something to eat or shopping, which is why more restaurants will begin installing charging stations.

        Plus the range and charging times for batteries is improving very quickly, and a 400 mile battery is predicted shortly. A battery does not need to be fully charged to get the car back out on the road. If you drive an Uber and take lunch you will be able to fully charge your car in the time it takes to eat lunch.

        The real issue right now is the extra cost of EV’s, and I would like to see federal subsidies like those given to home solar panels, and state tax breaks (sales tax, tab fees). Attorney General Ferguson has already cautioned the legislature that WA — unlike CA — does not have the legal authority to mandate EV’s before federal mandates, so better to incentivize EV’s now rather than wait for federal mandates in 2035 or later.

      2. Another problem is that taxi/Lyft drivers don’t know how far a trip will be until they pick up a passenger. What if they have ~40 miles of charge left and a driver in Everett picks up someone on the way to the airport? As it is now they’re obligated to take the ride and will be penalized for not taking it.

      3. That part’s easy. Make the app aware of how much range is left in the car’s battery. If the answer is less than the length of the trip (with a reasonable cushion), the app would simply give it to another driver with a fuller battery.

      4. Yeah, it is trivial for Uber, Lyft and other “for hire” systems (e. g. limos to the airport). It is a different matter for a cab that is hailed (e. g. Yellow Cab). In that case, the rider gets in and tells the driver where he wants to go.

  4. Is there a cyclist usership data like there is for motorists and bus riders?

    As a transit advocate and a motorist, I’m becoming wary of bike lanes because I hardly see any cyclists when compared to transit users. Unless it’s a dry day or in the summer, many of these bike lanes (at least when I see them) are empty. Plus, I feel some of the configurations are complicated, like on 2nd ave in downtown or along Roosevelt in the U-Dist. When making free turns, cars are literally turning across a whole lane of space while a bike is free to go straight, which I think is dangerous.

    1. “I’m becoming wary of bike lanes because I hardly see any cyclists when compared to transit users”

      By that argument, let’s not have sidewalks either on streets that don’t have enough pedestrians.

      The result of such arguments is a city where you’re forced to drive everywhere, even for trips short enough to walk, just to avoid getting run over. This is not the type of thing we want more of.

    2. No free turns on 2nd Avenue unless I’m forgetting something. No Turn on Red signs are posted at the intersections.

      My issue with 2nd Ave as a cyclist is that you must ride your brakes much of the way Southbound. Pedestrian compliance with walk signals is not that high, and you never know which person will step off in front of you. That eliminates much of the time advantage of biking as you end up missing most of the lights.

    3. N 92nd Street, a small freeway overpass west of Northgate, gets one car every couple minutes, so it normally looks empty. Is that enough use to justify it? In any case, the downtown bike lanes are a long-term investment. It may take five or ten years for usage to build, the same as with new bus routes. And we don’t have a “complete” bike network yet — the lanes end arbitrarily at one highrise block. When we have a more complete network so you can ride all the way through downtown and other neighborhoods, there will be more usage, and then the early lanes will be “for free” because they were paid for years ago, the same way Link was able to take advantage of the DSTT and I-90 lanes that were built twenty years earlier.

  5. We’ve had this argument before, but accelerating EV’s is a prime reason Metro feels it has to electrify its entire fleet by 2026, the cost of which comes from reduced levels of service. If an Uber or Lyft driver must use an EV then Metro, with its huge budget, needs to convert in the same time span an Uber/Lyft driver is given, and of course that will further accelerate Metro’s reductions of service (but probably increase Uber/Lyft use).

    Transit’s primary goal is not climate change, it is providing reasonable mobility to those who cannot afford a car, and reasonable is measured by the difference between the time, safety and convenience of those who can afford to drive and those who must take transit.

    I always thought it was unwise for transit advocates (especially rail) to wrap themselves in climate change, hoping it would doom the car. All it has done is accelerate Metro’s conversion to electric buses right when light rail will open and need excellent first/last mile access to make adding a seat faster, not slower, and outside financial pressures are hitting Metro that will reduce levels of service for those who truly need transit.

    1. “Transit’s primary goal is not climate change, it is providing reasonable mobility to those who cannot afford a car, and reasonable is measured by the difference between the time, safety and convenience of those who can afford to drive and those who must take transit.”

      Wrong again, Dan. The goal of mass transit to enable people to conveniently get to places that are too far to walk at relatively low cost to the user. The point is to enable someone to live, work, and play in the city without owning and maintaining a private automobile. You really can not imagine someone who would chose not to own a car?

      1. Or people who do own a car but don’t take them downtown or to large events where parking is difficult/expensive or traffic makes driving a nightmare. I’m sure most downtown transit commuters are choice riders.

    2. Going back to the issue of electrification, electrification of Uber and Lyft cars is much easier than electrification of Metro buses.

      With buses, they’re all consolidated overnight into a small number of bus bases where they’d all have to be charging at once. The power lines leading into the bus base can’t handle that, so they’d have to be upgraded. In fact, I read in a previous STB post that electrifying the bus fleet would require the construction of entirely new substations, just for charging Metro buses. That’s expensive.

      Electrifying Uber and Lyft cars doesn’t require that level of infrastructure investment because the charging takes place primarily at the driver’s homes, which are scattered throughout the city.

      Another big difference is that a car that is used by just one driver can only be on the road so many hours per day, which allows for slower charging at night using cheaper wiring. A bus that’s on the road from 5 AM to midnight, by contrast, has just 5 hours to charge before it has to be on the road again the next day. That’s a much more concentrated load of energy, requiring much more expensive infrastructure.

      In light of all that, I’m fine with the idea of making Uber and Lyft electrify before Metro does.

    3. The problem is charging stations. According to the video, a fast charging station costs $50,000. It’s faster to charge it halfway and go to twice as many stations than to charge it all the way. The longer the range, the heavier the battery, and the more energy required to carry the battery. Proprietary plugs are also a problem. Europe has a plug standard the way it had a GSM standard, so all stations work for all cars. The US has company-specific stations. For trips like Denver to Dallas, there’s a gap in the middle with no charging stations, and EV’s can’t climb the mountains enough to get to the next station before they run out. He says that’s the biggest hinderance in the mass adoption of EVs.

      1. EV’s can’t climb the mountains enough to get to the next station before they run out

        I’ve wondered about that. While stuck at Snoqualmie Pass (or three miles east of it) I noticed a couple different Teslas. It wouldn’t surprise me if other electric cars also have the range to get up to the mountains *and back*. That is a different thing then continuing on, but it is a huge selling point (for me, anyway). I’m afraid I wouldn’t even consider a car if it can’t get me to the mountains and back (since that is one of the main reasons I would buy it). But that is more of a range situation, not a “fill up”, situation, although the two go together. If there was a charging station at the pass, then a trip further on would be possible, even if it means hanging out at the pass for an hour or so (I could always eat dinner somewhere).

      2. I’ve met Tesla owners who have successfully driven from Seattle to Ellensburg and back on one charge. You use more battery going up the hill, but almost nothing on the way down.

      3. The car actually charges on the way down. Not a LOT, mind you, but enough to be worthwhile. Braking is a mix of the discs like on a regular car and switching the motors into generators like diesel locomotives.

      4. I think with one pedal driving, the disc brakes don’t even get used for anything short of an emergency stop. Normal driving, it’s all the motor acting as a generator.

      5. Yeah, I understand the whole notion of regenerative braking. But you still lose something in the process. I just don’t know how much that is. I’ve looked, and haven’t found much data on it. I would imagine there is some formula (e. g. every 1,000 feet of up and down is like an additional 20 miles). Same goes for running the heater, and air conditioning (in both cases they suggest getting your car ready when it is plugged in). But a formula would be nice (setting the heater for 70 degrees when it is 40 out is the same as …).

        Anecdotally, I found someone who got good mileage in Colorado. The only takeaway was that lowered air resistance can make the car more efficient at high speeds at high elevation. It makes sense, but I never considered it. Electric cars in Bolivia would do quite well (for those sections that are paved).

  6. Nathan confuses the reason for his use of transit from the purpose of subsidizing transit, up to 80% for Metro.

    Why should taxpayers subsidize someone like Nathan who wants to play, work and not walk long distances in an urban area and not own a car if he can afford to pay a non-subsidized fare or own a car? Of course I can understand someone not wanting to own a car even though they could afford to, or could afford to take Uber/Lyft, or walk, except why should I subsidize that decision? No wonder Metro is reallocating bus service to south Seattle and areas where people don’t have a choice to use transit if some think transit is just a lifestyle choice. For many transit is not a choice, including the cost of parking for commuters, which is why it is subsidized.

    1. Why should my taxes subsidize schools for students whose parents could afford private school?
      Why should my taxes subsidize library cards for people who can afford to buy books?
      Why should my taxes subsidize fire departments for buildings with fire insurance?
      Why should my taxes subsidize wider and longer roads for people making the lifestyle decision to commute from Marysville or Puyallup or islands only accessible by ferries or floating freeways?

      The idea that public services, including transit, should only be subsidized for the poor souls who can’t afford the private service is pure fiscal-conservative nonsense.

    2. I think Daniel is also overgeneralizing about the types of people riding the bus.

      There are plenty of people in north Seattle who cannot afford car ownership. They need transportation options too. Even if the statistics say it’s a lower percentage of the population, the population density is much higher, so there could very easily be just as many, if not more transit dependent people per square mile in north Seattle than in Tukwila/Kent.

      On top of that, serving a transit dependent person requires more than just running buses by their home. They also need buses that get them to where they want to go on the other end of the trip. So, you still need buses going all over the Puget Sound region (at a usable frequency/span), regardless of what the demographics data say. And you can’t make assumptions about which neighborhoods low income people work in. Every neighborhood imaginable – rich and poor – has service workers. Even if the service workers can’t afford to live there, they still have to be able to get there. And the service that gets them there can’t just run 9-5 Monday-Friday because the work hours of many service jobs are incompatible with that (imagine someone who works the opening or closing shift at a Starbucks that’s open from 6 AM-10 PM, for example).

      Of course, a system that adequately serves essential workers who live anywhere and work anywhere also serves people who can afford to travel everywhere by car, but would rather spend the money on other luxuries. That’s fine too. Even if a bus route may cost Metro $6/boarding, it’s not like Metro has to fork over an additional $6 for every person who gets on the bus – the marginal cost of having a seat full instead of empty is zero, so a middle-class person choosing to ride the bus too is not leaching taxpayers. In aggregate, enough middle-class people choosing to ride the bus means less traffic and parking for others and can even allow streets to be narrowed, freeing up room for wider sidewalks, bike lanes, or landscaping.

      Another point I cannot overstate is that public programs that are viewed as “for the poor” and irrelevant to the middle class inevitably get chronically under-funded, lest the users of the program appear to the public like they’re leaching taxpayers of money. Take a look a food stamps, housing subsidies, you name it. If it’s seen as for the poor only, it’s underfunded. By contrast, public programs that are seen as for the middle class always manage to find the money to provide at least an acceptable level of service. You never hear about public schools shortening the school year for lack of funding. You never hear about airports reducing operating hours to Monday-Friday for lack of funding. And there’s always a seemingly unlimited pot of money around for building new highways and roads (and, no, the gas tax does not cover anywhere near all of it). A transit system that is viewed by the public the same way as public schools and airports will inevitably get much better funding (and service) than a transit system that is viewed like food stamps and low-income housing vouchers.

    3. Before the pandemic, ST trains carried the same number of people as a four-lane freeway through Downtown. If the region is to grow, we need more north-south capacity — and all we have to do is run more trains to get enough additional capacity as a completely new four lane freeway all the way through Seattle and we will still have room for more riders.

      On other words, it’s a cost effective transportation improvement.

      1. More importantly, a geometrically effective transportation improvement.

        Even if a 2nd rail tunnel costs the same as a new 4-lane freeway, it’s still better because it takes up less space. Urban freeways are very geometrically inefficient.

      2. The trains will carry the equivalent of a four-lane freeway again. There is no question about that.

    4. Why should taxpayers subsidize someone like Nathan who wants to play, work and not walk long distances in an urban area and not own a car if he can afford to pay a non-subsidized fare or own a car?

      Because it is better for society. As Nathan wrote, it is similar to public schools, public libraries, public fire departments and other public services. Transit scales, and the better it is, the more society — every part of society, from the poor to the rich — benefit.

    5. Yes, transit is an essential service for those unable to drive, for financial, physical, or other reasons.
      Yes, transit is a public amenity for those who prefer it. Good public transit improves quality of life, just like nice libraries or nice parks.
      Yes, transit is important for environmental reasons.

      But all this misses out that good public transit is an economic necessity for a city with the job density of Seattle, and it will soon also be true for Bellevue. This is temporarily obscured by the fact that vast swathes of downtown office towers are vacant, but good transit is a basic requirement of a functioning Seattle economy. Daniel may not understand it, but the political leaders of Bellevue certainly understand that the current Amazon growth spurt would be completely unsustainable – in the broadest sense of the word – without East Link and a robust bus network serving Bellevue.

      Places like LA or Dallas have very diffuse job distribution and can therefore function with crappy public transit; Boston or NYC would literally fail without good public transit.

      1. Transit should be positioned so it can be the first choice for everybody, because it’s more energy-efficient and space-efficient than individual cars. In cities with robust transit infrastructure like New York and London, less than half the residents own cars. “First choice” doesn’t mean everybody will choose it, but they <i.can choose it, and that allows ridership to reach its potential (or at least approach it). Pugetopolis has two problems: lack of frequency on existing routes, and large low-density swaths and cul-de-sacs that are hard to serve.

        Mobility is essential for a city’s economic health, and access to jobs and cultural activities is essential for people’s health. Mass transit is the most efficient way to provide mobility. So cities should plan robust ubiquidous transit into their baseline assumption. Seattle/Pugetopolis is hindered because it didn’t do that for fifty years and allowed the population to triple without it, so it has a huge backlog that will take decades to retrofit.

  7. Eyman goes down! Oh ya….

    This, coupled with 2022 redistricting concentrating more political power in Seattle and the PS Region, has the real potential to shift the conversation on transportation funding locally.

    Darn good news!

    1. Eyman can still write and promote initiatives, he just can’t “direct financial kickbacks into his personal bank account” (prosecutor’s words) or ” controlling the finances of political committees” (Times reporter’s words). So he may still be a problem. Now he’s forced to show his hand, whether he was doing it out of tax-cutting conviction or a money-laundering scheme. If it’s political conviction, he’ll continue to run initiatives but have more trouble raising money so he won’t be as effective. If it’s pure money laundering, he’ll stop and find something else more lucative. Maybe he can go back to selling watches and get better at that. Or move to Idaho.

      1. I’m assuming it’s much less of a problem with newer systems like Link than old systems like the New York Subway. And, even in New York, it’s a lot less of a problem when you’re only exposed to it for a few minutes a day, in contrast to vehicle exhaust which you’re exposed to 24/7 (unless you’re in a hermetically sealed building with good air filters).

  8. Design review should have its place, but that place is with respect to the *design*, not affecting *whether* the thing can be built.

  9. As an older teenager who was glued to his radio (and tv when possible) listening and watching the 1973 Watergate hearings and then the 1974 House impeachment hearings, it’s just in my nature to presently be closely following the current impeachment trial proceedings in the other Washington. As a result, I’m now playing catch-up on what’s been going on here on this blog so far this week. With that said…..

    The other day there was a post about Sound Transit expanding its paid permit parking program at its transit centers and parking garages it operates. In that article, there were several comments alluding to using parking program “profits” for other purposes, such as increased frequency on bus feeder routes. Here’s one example of such an exchange of suggestions from said posting (not to pick on these particular commenters):
    https://seattletransitblog.com/2021/02/08/sound-transit-to-expand-paid-parking/#comment-868821

    Such proposals would require a change in policies under ST’s currently adopted paid parking program, specifically repeal or modification of Resolution R2018-27. Frankly, the resolution was poorly drafted as it contains several nebulous provisions (section 3, for example, refers to future board-defined metrics). The CEO also was given a great deal of latitude with regard to setting pricing and availability. Nevertheless, the fiscal note attached to this resolution reads as follows:

    “…Using the average market price of $90 for the SOV permit
    program will raise an estimated $2 million per year in net revenue from all qualifying Sound
    Transit owned and operated parking facilities. This exceeds the amount required to cover costs for permit program administration, including signage, permit sales, facility monitoring and enforcement. This amount does not cover the full cost of parking to Sound Transit, inclusive of the amortized cost of land, capital construction, project financing, security, and other parking-related agency expenses. Revenue derived from parking fees over and above the amounts
    assumed in the ST3 financial plan will be directed to the ST3 System Access Fund to further improve station access and safety, including bicycle and pedestrian access improvements.”

    This suggests to me, under the agency’s current fiscal policy with regard to its parking facilities’ revenues, that these excess proceeds can only be directed toward station access improvements (as AJ expressed as his desire in his follow-up comment). Am I missing something here?

    Also, there are some minor capital costs involved with the paid parking program beyond the cost of the actual parking facilities. I believe ST books these under Projects-Other, enhancements* and currently has something like $14 million in the most recent 6-year TIP for such anticipated ST3 capital costs.

    *google project #600133

    1. Thanks for looking it up. I appreciate that.

      Well, that’s disappointing. I would rather there be no regulation at all. In general I prefer that — I think focused taxes are stupid (even though I know I more or less argued for the opposite). The problem with taxes of this nature is that they just force agencies to spend extra time and effort moving the money around.

      This will be similar. Cities (like Seattle) are going to spend money on station access improvements. Now, of course, they will hold off, in hopes that parking fees can fund it. If nothing else, it means that officials are paid to coordinate, and figure out the timing and make estimates instead of just building it. Even though I was the one who suggested we use the money on bus service, I would rather just pump it back into ST maintenance than do this. That way, they could do something crazy, like run the trains more often.

      The worst part is that we have something that is generally a capital expense (new sidewalks, a pedestrian bridge, etc.) along with a continuous funding stream (parking). It is a bad mismatch. One of the stronger arguments for dedicating the money towards bus service is that it is rather fungible. Those areas might have much better than average feeder service, but the city (or county) can easily move the service around (Metro does that all the time with a restructure). With this, on the other hand, you eventually reach a point where station access is gold plated. You build things that the city would never build, while other parts of town lack those same “amenities” (e. g. sidewalks).

      In the short term, it means that it encourages the city to put off projects like these: https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/About/DocumentLibrary/NE_130th_St_Shoreline_Multimodal%20Access%20Study.pdf. In the long run it means that ST will have more money than they know what to do with.

      Hopefully they will amend that rule.

      1. Why would a city delay a project if they have already obtained funding? ST already has a “system access fund” that is currently vetting projects without any parking monies. Seems like a more likely outcome is the best projects get built first and additional ST station access monies fund projects further down the project priority list.
        https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/FinalRecords/2016/ST3%20System%20Access%20Exec%20committee%20Rule%20160407.pdf
        https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/ActiveDocuments/Presentation%20-%20System%20Access%20Program%20Briefing.pdf

        City governments have a near infinite need for minor capital projects. I’m skeptical “ST will have more money than they know what to do with.” A steady diet of station access improvements should be much like SDOT’s steady diet of bus priority improvements: there is a flywheel effect as improvements continue to build on each other, and there is project efficiency improvement as a dedicated team can spends years working through a series of similar, small project rather than one-off mega-projects. I don’t think SDOT will ‘run out of ways to spend money’ on minor bus improvements.

        Shoot, pretty much any leafline project that intersects with a Sound Transit station could probably be justifiably funded through the Nonmotorized Access Allowance (https://leaflinetrails.org/lets-talk/ ) if ST is looking for ways to spend money ~30 years from now.

  10. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/more-businesses-flee-seattle-because-of-crime-and-violence/vi-BB1dCZMZ?ocid=hplocalnews

    This news piece mirrors some of the issues our firm is having with female staff working in Seattle that some on this blog took offense to me mentioning.

    I also think it touches on what I think is the biggest issue for transit levels of service and completing ST 3 in the N. King Co. subarea: declining general fund revenue from businesses, which affects transit subsidies.

    Although cost overruns and short term funding issues due to a pandemic can be dealt with by extending completion dates and maybe supplemental funding under HB 1304, a permanent decline in total revenue and general fund subsidies means these ST 3 projects can never be funded, and should not be started. I am not sure proponents of HB 1304 understand the numbers we are talking about.

    The cost overruns for ST 3 were always suspected, along with optimistic future ridership projections, but ST never anticipated a pandemic, followed by a reduction in riders, but more importantly a long term business and tax revenue reduction that subsidizes transit long term in Seattle, which really is not ST’s fault, and in many ways is only a shift in this tax revenue to other subareas.

    This is really the reason behind Metro’s future cuts in levels of service through 2040, because Metro only has a 20% farebox recovery in good times.

    1. I don’t consider ST3 higher costs as “overruns” but are just flat out “mistakes”. In particular, ST did not plan for enough contingencies to pay for what’s needed. The higher costs vary by project too — with the WSBLE being the big problem.

      There is a logic problem with your point about crime and post-pandemic job loss. These are short term issues. Light rail takes 10-20 years to plan, design and construct —particularly for tunneling. What may be an issue in 2021 may be a non-issue by 2026. For every vacated floor in a Seattle office building, there will be a new market for that space.

      The NYC subways look nothing like they did during the 1970’s and 1980’s. They really cleaned up their operation. They proved that change is possible.

      I remember a time when Downtown LA had skyscrapers locked up behind chain link fences after they were built a few decades ago. Now those buildings reopened and are leased.

      We had no idea 15 years ago that Amazon and Facebook would grow to be as major of our employers in Seattle as they have been.

      We still don’t know what the next big job creator will be. Still, the real estate marketplace eventually recovers and space gets re-leased. Seattle has a history of more severe real estate economic cycles and demand always returns.

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