33 Replies to “Weekend open thread: The best vaccine is the one you can get soonest”

  1. Random question, but in light of recent proposals for a “Cascadia Rail” system, I wonder if it is technically feasible to build a line to Victoria/Vancouver Island by hopping the San Juan Islands via tunnels and/or bridges? Could you split the main Portland Seattle Vancouver route somewhere around Bellingham and hop across Lummi, Orcas, Stuart, and whatever other islands you can cross before reaching Victoria International Airport in Sidney, and finally heading down to Victoria?

    I am aware that this would probably be the most infeasible, expensive, and politically contentious infrastructure project in PNW history, but I am only concerned with the technicality.

    1. Haro Straight is too deep — about 900 feet — and too wide — about six miles — to have anything except a floating bridge. There is far too much ocean traffic to and from the Port of Vancouver to have a floating bridge.

      So, the answer is, fugeddabout it!

      1. I wish I had done a little more research before asking that question, but it turns out Norway has already built or planned several subsea tunnels at similar depths and distances, although they are all road tunnels.

        The Eiksund Tunnel opened in 2008 and runs about 5 miles, reaching a maximum depth of 942ft.

        Ryfast is the longest and deepest tunnel system in the world, reaching a maximum depth of 958ft and spanning 8.9mi.

        So definitely not impossible, but it would be among the deepest tunnels in the world, and certainly the world’s deepest subsea rail tunnel.

      2. Setting aside the political and social issues, the Norwegian tunnels had relatively accessible bedrock to blast/tunnel through, we’d have to go several hundred more feet down to get below the mud here, it’s not feasible.

    2. Haro Straiht is too deep — about 900 feet — and too wide — about six miles — to have anything except a floating bridge. There is far too much ocean traffic to and from the Port of Vancouver to have a floating bridge.

      So, the answer is, fugeddabout it!

    3. Most long sea tunnels are ion or in shallow, sandy earth under the water. That’s not the case there.

      Plus, there are only 870K people living on the entirety of Vancouver Island. It’s not like it’s as populous as Hong Kong or Britain either.

      1. As I replied above to another comment, Western Norway has several deep undersea tunnels (>900ft) with a population nowhere near that of Hong Kong or Britain. While Vancouver Island is sparsely populated, Victoria has a similar population to Bergen, Norway and is closer to much more populated metro areas like Vancouver and Seattle.

      2. Those tunnels connect the entire country of Norway to mainland Europe without making a big detour through Sweden. Countries have an interest in developing their economies, which means they may invest more in land access than a small region would. Vancouver Island is a small part of British Columbia; the main economic center is Vancouver on the mainland; and BC is a small part of Canada, which has many land border crossings to the US. While BC’s capital Victoria is on the island, northern BC is small towns with people who knew it was isolated when they moved there, like the Olympic Penninsula and Whidbey Island. They like the small-town/rural atmosphere and aren’t clamoring for a tunnel. I don’t know why BC keeps the capital on the island rather than moving it to the mainland, but it seems satisfied with ferry access that takes three hours to drive from Vancouver, wait for a ferry, and sail across the strait.

      3. Mike Orr, apparently you missed this paragraph:

        “I am aware that this would probably be the most infeasible, expensive, and politically contentious infrastructure project in PNW history, but I am only concerned with the technicality.”

    4. Technically you could do it this way, but the more likely route would be to tie the existing E&M line into the ex-BC rail line and have a series of shorter bridges around Campbell River or something. It would be useless for passenger service but the extra time would not be noticed by freight traffic. It would also probably serve the big paper mill across the Strait from Ladysmith, which currently gets freight service by railroad barge.

  2. Left Right and Center has a discussion about high housing prices and the lack of subsidized housing. (0:23:31 – 0:49:06, or read the transcript.) It focuses mostly on LA and tbe Bay Area. Includes a conservative panelist who supports urban density. The economist guest says Prop 13 supports urban sprawl; building public housing is currently illegal in California; Covid migration from San Francisco is mostly going to nearby suburbs (the same housing market); such migration is not necessarily long-term; low-wage service jobs are mostly the same as jobs that can’t telework; one problem is that high-wage and low-wage workers have to live in the same housing market; and people get mad at luxury unit profiteering but exempt the single-family houses that take up 3/4 of the land. E.g., people get mad at developers making a profit, while they live in a house that has gained a million dollars in their lifetime and they don’t want to give any of that back to affordable housing except a token amount. (Well, a million dollars in California, not so much here, except the highest-end houses.)

    P.S. I’ve been listening to LRC for many years and recommend it.

  3. SDOT has been working all week on Beacon Hill’s contentious intersection at 15th Ave S and Columbian Way. The intersection is near the VA Hospital, Mercer Middle School and MacPherson’s Produce and is served by both the 60 and 107.

    Several new configurations have been proposed over the years but none of the iterations achieved community consensus. It’s not clear what we will be seeing after all the digging is covered up, but the project should be complete in a week or two.

    1. Sam is not a cat. Sam is not an institutional investor. Sam is not a computer geek who knows how to clear the memory to reset the count of readings on news sites that charge after a certain number of free views.

  4. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/local-business/will-downtown-seattle-bounce-back-after-the-pandemic/

    More in-depth article on the future of Downtown Seattle. Tourism not back fully until 2024 according to Visit Seattle (and I’d have to wonder if they are even being too optimistic).

    On office occupancy, I feel the ditch-the-office fad ignores the tight living conditions of younger workers living with roommates or in small apartments. Not everyone has a spare bedroom and a nice yard – going to the office for a studio-dweller is very possibly a nice change of pace.

  5. Seattle government and business leaders are grappling with how to revitalize downtown ($) after the pandemic. Durkan said recently she’s working on this.

    Daniel’s opinion is in the last open thread. (The last three paragraphs.)

    My view is that Seattle needs a new vision for downtown. I don’t know what it might be but I have some ideas about what it should and shouldn’t include.

    Downtown had a similar decay in the 1970s. That was reversed by investment in the retail core. That led to the DSTT, Westlake Park, Nordstrom’s flagship store, Pacific Place, pedestrians on Pine Street as thick as Brooklyn in “Welcome Back Kotter” even at 9pm, and boutique shops and condos on First Avenue. (In the 70s First Avenue was full of prostitutes and adult cinemas.) Tons of shoppers flocked to downtown, and startup companies and condo residents and frequent buses and Link followed.

    It’s unclear that this vision can be replicated again. People are buying more online and not going to department stores and botiques. Two of the three deparment stores are gone. (1990: The Bon Marche, Nordstrom, Frederick & Nelson, with three DSTT mezzanine entrances. 2021: Nordstrom, with one entrance.) Large companies are shrinking their office footprints, commuters may be less than 5 days a week, and some are done with condo living and urban hipsterism.

    But there are two kinds of urban residents. Some are there because of the theaters and chic boutiques and trendy cafes and nightclubs and hipster vibe. Others like myself have always wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood with frequent transit and neighbors walking home and friends to visit without a car. The second kind will remain in urban neighborhoods even if they lose their theaters and hipness. The first kind will move to the suburbs where they can get a larger house and the new hipness is.

    Seattle’s marketing of downtown was kind of flawed. Permanent urbanists moved there without it. Temporary urbanists were only interested in the restaurants and theaters and hipness, and weren’t so satisfied with a small apartment. The goal of the downtown marketing was to make people permanent urbanists, but it focused on the restaurants and hipness. That disappeared in the pandemic, and boarded-up shops and tents and protests replaced it. Many of the downtown businesses are still open even if their windows are boarded up, so you can still go shopping, get food at Pike Place Market, and check out books curbside at the library. That’s enough for permanent urbanists, but not temporary urbanists. So the temporary urbanists have left, and it’s unclear whether new shops and restaurants will attract them again.

    So if that’s not downtown’s future, what else can downtown be?

    It should remain a place with lots of businesses, retail, and condos/apartments. Seattle’s downtown is unusual among American cities in keeping a large jobs core — it had 10% of the region’s jobs pre-covid. And sufficient transit infrastructure to bring masses in and out for work, shopping, tourism, parades, ballgames, and demonstrations. We shouldn’t throw that away. The future downtown should try to keep offices and attract new ones. if the traditional retail isn’t viable downtown anymore, it should evolve into something else. And we should support continued residential units downtown and in the adjacent neighorhoods, because permanent urbanists and people who can tolerate living there will gradually increase as climate becomes a larger issue and generational attitudes change.

    One thing that bothers me is cafes and restaurants that close at 5pm or 7pm. That Cherry Street Coffee House in the article may be one, and Victrola is another. (The Victrola at 15th & Harrison is open evenings, but the other Victrolas aren’t.) The restaurants only serve lunch, or maybe breakfast too. When I want an evening tea or meal, they’re closed. That’s not urbanism, or at least it’s a defective urbanism. Thousands of people walk around Capitol Hill in the evenings and late night and want coffee or food but the restaurants are closed and they miss a sale. I can understand restaurants in the office-only district between Union and Yesler, where there are few non-work amenities to attract people. But that’s the problem! Lower downtown shouldn’t be office-only! It should have evening retail and activities like Pike-Pine do, to attract people 24 hours or at least 18 hours, and so that nearby residents have things to walk to. When a new building on Madison went from office-only to ground-floor retail, that was a start. So that should be part of it. Office-only neighborhoods are as bad as residential-only neighborhoods just in a different way.

    1. That revitalize link paints a bleak picture with its various photos.

      A boarded-up business. A business owner that installed a new security system. Trash and graffiti next to a business. A row of tents on the 3 Ave sidewalk. A boarded-up business with police cars out front. A row of motorhomes in SODO. Another boarded-up business.

      A lot of that doesn’t go away when covid starts to go away. One thing that Seattle has going for it that a city like Bellevue never will is major tourist attractions and sporting events.

    2. It’s a combination of things. I definitely agree that downtown today is too office-oriented and there’s not enough residential, nor is there enough amenities nearby to make people want to live there. For instance, downtown has no full-sized grocery store (it has a grocery department in the Target, along with Pike Place Market, but neither have the kind of selection you’d get at a normal supermarket like QFC or Safeway). Downtown does have restaurants, but lacks the variety of restaurants you’d get just over the highway in Capitol Hill. And, as you said, too many restaurants are open just for the weekday lunch crowd and shut their doors evenings and weekends.

      Unfortunately, from the city’s perspective, most of these issues are really under control of the private sector and outside the city’s domain. But, the city can at least avoid interfering with projects that move downtown one step in the right direction. For example, the city’s decision to block the redevelopment of a “historic” parking garage in Pioneer Square is just shooting itself in the foot.

      At the moment, I feel like if you want urban living, there’s not a compelling reason to choose downtown over downtown adjacent neighborhoods, such as Capitol Hill. Until that changes, we won’t have a full revitalization of the downtown core.

    3. There were protests downtown because it’s the largest city. That happens in every largest city. There are homeless downtown for the same reason.

      Downtown is unbalanced and should have more housing and retail/activities that don’t end at 5pm mixed with the offices, but it was successful and revitalized before that. The adjacent neighborhoods are less than a mile away and in many ways part of the same urban center. So it’s OK if most of the housing and non-lunch restaurants and daily amenities are in the periphery pf that urban center. Downtown just needs to be successful somehow, whether balanced or not.

      And 6/7 of Seattle’s population lives closer to downtown than to a suburban center with comparable retail/venue choices. So may of them will still come downtown, and that’s 550K people.

    4. I’m optimistic. I think the turnaround will be fairly quick. It’s all about the pandemic. Yes, various areas have been thrashed by hooligans, taking advantage of various protests. That has happened before, but the shops usually recovered very quickly. This time they haven’t, because there is no point. As that article wrote, very few people are taking trips downtown. No one wants to be around people. They don’t want to ride the buses or trains; they don’t want to linger inside a shop, or hang out. That is what downtown is all about, and it just isn’t available.

      But the pandemic is slowly coming to an end. Even now they are reporting a big uptick in future travel plans made by seniors who have had their shots. People are booking cruise ships (which seems very optimistic) but that just shows their level of enthusiasm. This should be good news for Seattle (in the long run). The viaduct is gone, and the are building a spectacular promenade from Pike Place Market to the waterfront. This is the type of thing that gets locals and tourists to downtown. Those big buildings where the offices are won’t stand vacant forever. Lots of people will be given the option to work from home, but plenty will decline. Others will be told they have to go in.

      There are areas that are problematic, but that has been the case for years. The downtown McDonald’s has been sketchy for a long time. Same with Pioneer Square and the courthouse area. Police reform could go a long way towards improving things, as would more money on social spending. Likewise, the city can do better than just moving the homeless around (which will likely resume after the pandemic). But overall, it is a relatively small part of downtown.

      Retail will do fine. The big boarded up building is a Royal Robbins outlet. This is the future of a lot of retail. Patagonia, Columbia, Eddie Bauer — they all have their own shops now. Not only does this eliminate the middle man, but it means you don’t have to worry about mail order. They can try it on there, and buy it online, for all you care. The store can be a loss leader as long as people buy that brand. Downtown is where you want those stores (along with the more attractive malls, which will survive).

      Which doesn’t mean they don’t need money. Cities and states are hurting. People are hurting. We need to pump a lot of money into the economy. Fortunately, we have a president and congress that understands this.

  6. Oh, and all those apartments on Summit were full of families with children up until the mid 1970s. The average house size in the 1950s was 800-1000 square feet. So it is possible to live in that kind of environment. Americans just got an ever-increasing size-itis fever. So suddenly 1000 square feet wasn’t enough, and people began demanding 1500, 2000, 2000, and then 3000 square feet. And one house I heard of is 8000 square feet. Enough is enough. If I had 8000 square feet I wouldn’t know whether to have ten wrestling tournaments simultaneously in it, or invite thirteen relatives and friends and tenants to live there with me (800 sq ft per person), and I certainly wouldn’t want the cost and effort of maintaining it.

    1. Americans didn’t work from home much at all back then though. Never mind home school. Perhaps the biggest threat to urban living is if households must provide their own workspaces and classrooms – it simply isn’t cost effective to rent 3-bedroom apartments for a working couple or 5-bedroom apartments (as if those exist) for a family of 4.

      Permanent work from home is a heavy blow to cities – people will have to move where space is available. And fear or the next pandemic will linger for many people.

      1. Suburban coworking spaces might help with the home-office problem. With a separate room per person rather than just one large room with desks. it may be cheaper than getting a larger house, and some companies might pay the rent on it.

      2. But again, only one quarter of jobs are telework-compatible. And only some of those people want to telework full-time or have a separate office room. So you’re talking about a minority of a minority. They get all the attention because those kinds of people get attention, like Uber early adopters. But it’s still only a small part of the workforce.

        Also, some companies give workers a stipend for a home office. Jarrett Walker said the employees at his small company argued that if they’re required to maintain a home office, the company should pay rent for it, because if they worked in a central office the company would be paying for that. Jarrett agreed and was trying to set that up. Other employers might increasingly do so.

  7. On a previous thread there was a discussion about running buses on First Avenue. I think it deserved its own thread, and this is it.

    The first thing you would need to do is add bus lanes on First.

    Then the big decision is which buses get sent there. There is an excess of service on Third, so shifting some buses could get you extra coverage “for free”. But there are issues. I will cite the 24 and 33 (Magnolia buses) as examples:

    1) Frequency. If you only send a few buses, then frequency on First is poor. The 24 and 33 run every half hour, or 15 minutes combined (at best). A trip within downtown from First to Third wouldn’t make any sense (you would just walk up to Third). Even a trip from First to First is questionable. The frequency has to drop to about five minutes for it to be worth it.

    2) Transfers. If the Magnolia buses run on First, you make it harder to transfer to Link. You also make some bus transfers harder. A lot of transfers can simply be done further south (assuming the bus eventually turns east) but there are some riders who would have to walk two blocks. You would miss the 3/4 (both directions) as well as any of the somewhat reverse direction trips (40, 62, 70). This may not be a lot of riders, but there may not be that many who take trips on First, either.

    3) Clustering. If you split up bus routes, you effectively reduce frequency. Right now, people can stand at the same bus stop downtown and have their pick of a Ballard or Magnolia bus to their destination. That would go away. There aren’t a huge number of stops, but one area is the area west of Queen Anne Avenue, between Western and Mercer. If I was on Republican in there, I would take the D, the 24 or 33, whatever came first. There is also Expedia (once it reopens). Years ago when I lived in Interbay off Dravus I noticed dozens of people getting off the 15 and walking to Magnolia. That always surprised me, given that the 33 would come closer. My guess is folks just picked the bus that came first. That would go away.

    4) Lesser destination for riders from Magnolia. My guess is where more people would prefer Third Avenue than First.

    This is why I think most agencies consolidate service on the transit mall. It would be unusual to run a bus a couple blocks away unless the transit mall is essentially full. That is the case right now, but won’t be the case when Lynnwood Link gets here (and many of the buses on 2nd, 4th and 5th go away).

    I wouldn’t rule it out, but it would likely be driven by politics (as a way to placate for the loss of the streetcar) as opposed to the most cost effective policy. In any event, unless they bumped up the frequency of the Magnolia buses, I don’t think they would work (by themselves any). There are other buses that could combine to provide sufficient frequency, but it gets tricky. Some buses should be clustered together. For example, the 7, 14, 36 and 106 are worth keeping the same, as they serve Jackson. That is probably frequent enough service, and if not, you could throw in the 27. But then there is the question of where those buses turn around. If they loop around like the 7 (using Virginia) you connect very well to other routes but you also leave a good section of First with no service (most of Belltown). At that point, it isn’t clear it is worth bothering. I think you have to go at least up to Denny. Ideally you would turn around there, but my guess is you can’t, leaving Lower Queen Anne as the terminus. This makes same direction transfers worse, but at least you cover all of First.

    This wouldn’t be free, but it would be relatively cheap. The other alternative is to run a dedicated, independent bus. This is essentially the streetcar idea. The problem with the streetcar (other than being a streetcar) is that the routing is terrible. It would be a brand new, independent route, meant to provide coverage for First, but doesn’t cover the northern end of it. It would make more sense to just run a bus all the way to Lower Queen Anne. The southern end is trickier. One option would be to just keep running south on First, to around Lander. This would allow the 21 to be moved to the viaduct, thus speeding it up, and consolidating West Seattle buses onto the same streets downtown. Another alternative is to turn on Jackson. It is probably easy to loop around using Fifth, and layover with other buses on Main. Better yet, it could loop around to the right, at 12th, King and 10th, thereby connecting to more of the I. D.

    There is no easy solution. The streetcar is very expensive, and is a bit like the 47. It will suffer from low ridership, even though it goes through densely populated areas. It just can’t compete with faster, more frequent service just a few blocks away. If you increase frequency, it really adds up, especially since that would mean buying more streetcars. You can achieve much the same thing by running a brand new route, and it allows for more flexibility, along with cheaper overall cost. But it still isn’t cheap. Moving buses, on the other hand, is the cheapest option, but has other issues.

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