Intercity Transit Route 13 at the WA ST Legislature Bus Stop

This is an open thread.

54 Replies to “News roundup: not nearly enough”

  1. Totally understand why we adjust parking rates (re: Paid parking rates adjust), but for a city that toots its own horn on equity, it’s crazy that parking is consistently cheaper than a single ride on public transit. If Seattle were serious about equity and climate change, a hour of parking should never cost less than a single ride bus ticket. Ditto Sundays – parking is free for those who can afford cars, but bus riders still have to pay. Charge for parking on Sundays, make the bus free instead (not an apples to apples funding mechanism, sadly, I know).

    1. Thanks! The survey really feels useless and seems to ignore key transit issues — platform connectivity, Metro transfers and needs and Link station access pathways.

  2. <em“It’s time we made everybody contribute and pay for what they use,” said King, of Yakima, the ranking Republican on the state Senate Transportation Committee who represents the 14th Legislative District.

    Wake me up when bikes and transit get improvements funded based on their percentage of use overall. Then we can talk about “contributing and paying for what they use”, something SOV don’t currently do.

    Time for a very long nap.

    1. Democrats propose taxing private jets and luxury yachts; GOP proposes taxing bike sales and bus fares. There isn’t much more to say.

      Maybe taxes could be raised on umbrellas, baby strollers and sneakers to pay for sidewalk improvements?

      1. I think private jet and yachts more than pay their own way. There’s already a sales tax on bikes and bike parts just like there is on auto parts. However, the tax on auto and bike parts goes to the general fund not earmarked for roads. In reality it’s all just one pot of money.

        The way bikes “pay their way” is greatly reduced wear on the roads. If I commute (not relevant since working from home) say 30 times a year I’ve more than paid my fair share in reduced road maintenance vs driving my 1/2 ton van. There’s other benefits too. Clean air and lower gas prices for everyone else (decreased demand). And perhaps lower health care premiums for my employer if I’m not on blood pressure meds and suffering from type II diabetes. And I’m still paying the same car tab fees regardless of whether or not I drive said van. There’s other ways bike pay their way. Like if I bike to a P&R even a high rent bike locker costs way less than an additional parking space.

      2. Private jets and yachts certainly do not pay their way with regards to carbon emission, climate change, or pollution. If there’s any kind of carbon tax that’s politically feasible, you would think it would be one targeted at private yachts/jets, since only the super-rich would ever be paying it.

        In the case of private aircraft, there’s also the issue of noise pollution, in that the public has to listen to it, but receives no compensation for the annoyance. This is a particularly big deal with helicopter traffic in New York City. It’s not fair that ordinary people can’t get peace and quiet in the middle of central park, simply so that some billionaire can get whisked away to his mansion in the Hamptons a little bit faster.

      3. If we had twenty times more bicyclists, four-lane bike highways, and entire train cars for bikes, then it would make sense to tax bikes for road infrastructure. But the ratio of bikes to cars on the roads is essentially zero, and bikes cause a feather’s worth of wear on the roads compared to cars. Cars have huge externalities that are paid by everybody except the car owner: dripping oil, air pollution, free parking spaces at stores, parking lots that are as large or larger than the buildings they serve, distorting geopolitical stability and enabling autocrats, etc. Some of these will go away with universal electric cards, if powered by sustainable energy methods, but others won’t. At the same time there’s nothing wrong with bikes having sales tax, since that’s how our state chose to do its general funding.

      4. Private jets and yachts certainly do not pay their way with regards to carbon emission

        Bill Gates in a recent interview claims his private jet emissions are completely offset by buying carbon credits. That’s BS of course but I was referring to “paying” there way by meaning paying for moorage and hanger space. Paying huge taxes on purchases and creating jobs.

  3. I disagree that simply raising the gasoline tax is the solution. We are quickly moving towards a private vehicle fleet that will be all electric — or at least hybrid. A VMT user fee is inevitable — although it may also need some consideration of vehicle weight. It’s not a matter of if but how.

    1. Quickly, but not quickly enough! If the goal is to move to all electric from internal combustion, why would we started taxing electric before we’ve achieved that?

      1. There is an existing fee of $225 for fully electric vehicles. Hybrids pay less, I think it’s $75.

      2. A recent KUOW story indicated that currently, electric cars are charge a flat registration fee of $150 to $225 for road use in lieu of gas taxes. My understanding is that a potential VMT would replace the gas tax, to provide more egalitarian taxing of road use as electric/high mpg vehicles proliferate. Personally, ideally the gas tax would stay as an expression of societal carbon cost and we’ll see that reinvested in carbon reducing policies like electrifying transit and such.

      3. @Dardanelles — Exactly. In fact, I would never get rid of the gas tax. When we finally get to the point where very few people drive a gasoline car, then we have the VMT and the gas tax. But we are a long ways away from that. I would also tax other things that cause global warming (flying on a regular jet, coal generators, etc.). The latter would be phased in over time, so people aren’t hit with a sudden shock, but new purchases of low carbon goods are more attractive. It would be stupid to reduce the gas tax since it is one of the few carbon taxes we have (in the U. S.).

      4. The current incentives are backwards, in that anyone driving less than 20k miles per year would pay less road tax with 40mpg gas car than with an electric car. It’s like the state can’t make up its mind and is trying to encourage electric car adoption with one hand and punish it with the other hand.

        Until we have enough EV adoption that road funds are seriously threatened, I say just keep the gas tax and treat the lack of gas tax for EVs as a subsidy to encourage EV adoption. When EVs are widespread, then we can switch to a per mile tax. (But keep the gas tax too, as RossB said).

      5. As much as ZEVs are desirable for the environment, some way to pay for road maintenance beyond the gas tax must evolve. While sales tax can pick up some, the “fairer” way is to charge a user fee for ZEV miles of travel because money doesn’t grow on trees. As gas tax revenues dive, raising the rate won’t be able to meet the increasing maintenance shortfall. We do have an increasingly urgent maintenance crisis already.

        Before Reagan, gas taxes paid for both road expansion and maintenance. Our maintenance funding deficit is now severe and getting worse.

    2. Elon Musk said he one day wants Tesla cars to become hover cars. Should hover cars be exempt from VMT taxes?

      – Sam. I have maintained an 850 credit score every year since 7th grade.

      1. Gas taxes have the advantage that the buyer pays a little at a time, and so the tax is less noticeable. You get more complaints about EV owners who have to pay their tax all at one time and so see the tax, or tolls on roads or lanes. My guess is if the gas tax was paid all at one time during the year citizens would complain a lot more.

        It is a form of carbon tax, is somewhat influenced by the weight of the vehicle which impacts road damage, is progressive in some ways (you don’t have to buy a Ford 350), encourages more efficient cars which means less dependence of foreign oil from shady governments, and is a pretty good user tax. The fact the tax revenue is limited to roads (but benefits buses although transit fares do not go toward road and bridge maintenance so the gas tax is a form of transit subsidy) also makes sure the tax goes towards the needs (roads and bridges) of those who pay the tax.

        Unfortunately the gas tax has worked too well, and more efficient cars and EV’s are producing too little gas tax revenue. An alternative to the gas tax is going to be difficult to figure out, and I am sure there will be quite a fight over what uses the new tax can applied to. A per mile tax is the logical alternative, especially if paid bit by bit, and even more directly ties the tax to the use and need for road repair, and I suppose can apply to any vehicle including buses using roads and bridges if the tax will be applicable to transit funding.

        What really isn’t discussed is the cost of enlarging our electricity generation if vehicles and buildings are going to switch to electricity, and CA and TX have shown us what an overburdened electrical system means, which requires a lot of redundancy during peak times unless somehow the car batteries can tie back into a smart system and serve as a form of storage for peak times.

        It doesn’t help that cities especially have been remiss at maintaining road and bridge infrastructure, and a huge bill is now due.

    3. food has not been taxed for decades; restaurants are taxed. Dwight Pelz worked on the initiative to remove the sales tax from food (I-345, 1977).

    4. VMT Tax comes up again; just raise the gas tax!

      I totally agree. The slow move toward electric vehicles has been driven by perverse government incentives that created the Tesla bubble. Stop the subsidy and let the fuel price differential drive adoption. Instead of lots of fancy Tesla cars you’d see fleet adoption for local delivery vehicles. It’s harder for transit since Metro doesn’t pay taxes on fuel… maybe they should? Really the only thing electric vehicles do is eliminate point source pollution; which is important in congested areas. Electricity is not a source of energy and the only way electricity will be “carbon neutral” is if we return to the pursuit of safe nuclear power.

      1. the only way electricity will be “carbon neutral” is if we return to the pursuit of safe nuclear power.

        What? Are you saying that the concrete, steel and construction energy to site a windmill should not be offset by the forgone carbon to produce the energy that the windmill’s replaces? That’s weird, Bernie.

        Sure, they have a “payback period” during which the are carbon positive. But if they’re well-sited the day comes when that foregone energy from other sources equals the energy in the concrete and steel and that which was expended to erect it. On that day they are “carbon-neutral”, and from that time forward they are carbon-negative.

        Yes, there may be blips when a part has to be replaced, but the overall trend starts at a peak at time zero and steadily decreases until it crosses the X-axis and some time positive. It then continues on that same downward slope, roughly speaking.

        Assuming that the support and the nacelle are built well-enough for a couple of refits, that virtuous cycle can last for a century. Then, yes, it must be repeated.

      2. Oh, and I do agree that non-BWR nuclear power is the finest, most reliable and lowest-carbon source of “baseload” power. Unfortunately, the most abundant supply of U-235 is locked by gravity in a super-compressed ball at the center of the Earth where it has burned away reliably, keeping the magma melted for four and some billion years. The deposits on the skin are vanishingly small by comparison.

        Sure, you can “breed” Plutonium out the more stable U-238, or maybe you can go to Thorium, though Thorium has been five years away for a half-century.

        But the point is that nuclear — except fusion — has a limited life-span, and it does produce nasty stuff that can’t be avoided.

        Heck, even fusion has a limited life-span, but humans being who we are would not avoid burning each other up with some of it before we used it up.

      3. What? Are you saying that the concrete, steel and construction energy to site a windmill should not be offset by the forgone carbon to produce the energy that the windmill’s replaces? That’s weird, Bernie.

        That’s weird because I never brought up any of those concerns and don’t even consider it an issue. Great misdirect though.

        I will say there’s no free lunch. Hydro was long held as the model of “renewable” or “carbon neutral” or whatever buzzword is fashionable when the last one is debunked. Now we’re tearing out damns because we’ve learned they kill the river ecology. China is still building damns and as bad as they might be they are probably better than the coal fired plants they are replacing. And didn’t India just have a major damn failure? How many people have died from damn failures verses nuclear failures?

        Wind has known problems with birds and bats. Walla Walla has a bunch of wind turbines. Farmers like it because the get lease payments. But they’ve found when the turbines operate at night they screw up the bats which leads to an increase in the insect population which leads to an increase in insecticide use.

        I don’t disagree that we need to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere. The big threat I see isn’t “climate change” (something that happens all the time) but the ocean pH level. That’s real science and so far hasn’t been turned into a talking point. Replacing forests, and cities can do their part, is one piece of the puzzle. Lots of other things can be done that make way more sense than knee jerk measures like banning natural gas heat. We’re flaring off natural gas in huge amounts. Why not use it since electricity production is nowhere near carbon neutral.

    5. I think the motivation behind taxing bikes for road infrastructure is dedicated bike lanes remove traffic capacity, and so the tax is for the dedicated lane. If bikes used general purpose lanes then no, they should not be taxed because they cause no wear and tear, although general purpose lanes are less safe.

      The reality is even in Seattle non-recreational trips by bikes are a little over 2% of all trips (in part because there is so little safe bike storage in the city), so many dedicated bike lanes get very little use, but bikes in Seattle are ideologically preferred and the bike groups are effective lobbyists. The vast majority of bicyclists in Seattle and on the eastside are not poor, or live in disadvantaged communities of color, and so eliminating sales tax on bikes that cost several thousand dollars seems elitist to me.

      1. Bikes are ecologically sustainable, so an appropriate goal for the city. It’s not just random ideology. The Netherlands built an extensive bike network because the public objected to cars killing children and demanded a bike network instead of more highways. Is that arbitrary ideology? No.

        The reason the bike lanes are so empty is the network is incomplete. They abruptly stop in the middle of a dense area and don’t go to many neighborhoods, and that’s not enough to make grandmothers feel safe on bikes like in the Netherlands. But just because a bike lane appears empty in the 60 seconds you walk past it, doesn’t mean it’s not getting a rider every couple minutes. You’d have to stand watching it for a period of time to see that.

      2. The motivation for the bike tax is political pandering made by a once great, but now dysfunctional political party. You would think the events of January 6 would make this obvious, but I guess not. Rush Limbaugh begat Fox News which begat Donald Trump. A majority of the party still support Trump, which explains why an absolutely ludicrous idea can sound sensible in comparison.

      3. Fun fact, Nixon wished he had a right-wing media ally, and then he wouldn’t have had to resign. Media types heard that and created Fox News. And now we’ve seen what happens when a president who commits impeachable offenses has a right-wing media ally on his side.

    1. My office in the Smith Tower looks north up 2nd Ave., and so all day long I can see the bike lane on 2nd, which is rarely used even though it is through the heart of Seattle.

      There are many reasons in Seattle bikes do not make up a larger percentage of non-recreational trips. Weather, topography, distance, age, needing a place to shower when you get to work, safe storage, safety, an inability to carry much or someone like a child, and so on. Bike use for the most recent non-pandemic numbers I can find shows a pretty steep decline despite more dedicated bike lanes. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/seattle-bike-commuting-hits-10-year-low-census-data-show/

      Whether to dedicate road capacity to bikes is a political question, although at a little over 2% I don’t think bikes are much of a factor when it comes to transportation. If the argument is bikes are more climate friendly, does that mean when EV’s are the predominate form of car dedicated bike lanes will be removed? No, because of politics and ideology in Seattle.

      1. Bikes are more climate friendly than EVs, so there’d be no reason to remove the bike lanes.

        Climate friendliness is also a sliding scale, not a rigid/absolute one. Lithium, coltan, and other trace materials necessary for the electronic age are still mined under horrible ecological (and employee work) conditions. They’re not the top of the green chart, just higher than petrol ICEs.

      2. The primary purpose of bike lanes isn’t for bikes to use them. They are a symbolic statement a city wants to make. They are a reward or politically payback. They are built to give a progressive politician’s resume more green cred. And, they are built to make car driving more difficult. Cities don’t care if no one uses bike lanes. That’s not why they build them.

      3. Sam, do you have evidence of this? I could say, “Metro took away my 8 and 10 stops because it doesn’t like me”, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

      4. There are many reasons in Seattle bikes do not make up a larger percentage of non-recreational trips. Weather, topography, distance, age, needing a place to shower when you get to work, safe storage, safety, an inability to carry much or someone like a child, and so on.

        Translation: We in America still haven’t figured out that if you design everything for cars, people prefer using cars. It is pretty obvious when you get out of the country and visit other nations that have similar or worse weather and topography (along with every other item you mentioned).

      5. American transit ridership goes up and down with the reach/frequency/reliability of the transit network, even with the strong car bias. If we had a Canadian amount of transit, we’d have a Canadian amount of ridership. Even if may people would still drive, more than people expect would take transit.

  4. Should the bus-bike hump on southbound 12th Avenue South at the bus stop for routes 36 and 60 (about 10 trips per hour) have signage asking cyclists to yield? The humps are in place on NE 65th Street. SDOT proposes them on Eastlake Avenue East for the J Line.

    1. Short answer: Yes, I would.

      The one on 65th just says “slow” (https://goo.gl/maps/R4T7u8YE32aySx4p9). I think as a biker, I would find it weird, and be on my toes (so to speak) when I encountered one. As I figured it out, I think I would recognize the natural hazard. Someone could be sitting at the bus stop, glance up, see the bus and instinctively just walk forward. I’ll admit, I tend to look both ways all the time (joggers can run into me as well) but I could definitely see that.

      It is worth noting that these are different than the island stops on Roosevelt and Dexter (https://goo.gl/maps/6CmfPtWNJL3DyE926). In that case the pedestrian walks off the curb, and then back onto the bus stop island — it is more intuitive to check the street.

      Recently SDOT added a speed bump for a section of the bike path on Roosevelt. https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2021/02/05/watch-out-speed-bumps-added-to-roosevelt-way-bike-lane-near-43rd/. These lasted all of one day, as they caused bike accidents. You can see that there were already signs saying “Slow” that bikers largely ignored. It is possible they will ignore “Yield” as well, but it is a bit more definitive.

    2. Yeah Ross, I am not sure why Americans haven’t taken to bikes more. Maybe you are right and it is design. What I do know living between North Mercer Way and Aubrey Davis Park is recreational biking us very popular, especially weekends, and these bicyclists ride here from east and west to ride around the Island. Why they don’t ride to work or for non-recreational trips I don’t know.

      I do know the number of recreational bicyclists explodes when the weather gets better, so I would probably start with weather. I know I go out less when it is dark and cold and wet, and rarely ride my bike during winter, or when it is dark, but that is just me.

      1. When I was riding a lot and competing I had some simple rules. I’ll ride in the rain. I’ll ride in the dark. I will not ride in the dark when it is raining. Even on a motorcycle you have to ride like you are invisible. In the dark and the rain drivers can barely see the fog line; you’re just collateral damage on a bike. Dedicated bike paths like 520, Burke Gillman, etc. are exceptions but they don’t get you to work.

        I see Seattle spending huge amounts of money on DT bike infrastructure that I don’t think will ever pencil out. Putting that money into better recreational connectivity would have better payback. Heck, if you want to get people to work that bike lane money would be better spent on transit.

        That said, a bikeable waterfront serves both bike commuting and recreational biking.

      2. Bicycle infrastructure doesn’t cost huge amounts. There’s a problem with bike projects encroaching on transit capital budgets and lane space, but neither of those is lot of money compared to car infrastructure or their benefits. The problem is Seattle has too little commitment to fully building a robust bike AND transit infrastructures, unlike other countries that Just Do it. That’s exacerbated by state tax restrictions that make it difficult to fully fund them, especially with a non-regressive type of tax.

      3. “Dedicated bike paths like 520, Burke Gillman, etc. are exceptions but they don’t get you to work.”

        The Burke-Gilman certainly does. Many people ride it from Wallingford, Ballard, and northeast Seattle to the U-District for school or work. I rode it from the U-District to Ballard for work. Asdf2 probably rode it from Ravenna to the Montlake freeway station. Others ride it to jobs at Children’s or further north. It gets so busy peak hours that bicyclists have to slow down. It’s the closest to a European bicycle highway we have.

  5. Yes, the pandemic has had in impact and led to a decline in revenue and rider demand. It is probably temporary; the vaccines are coming. The Metro Connects network assumed ST3, so ST3 is not a reason to revise MC. MC had a fiscal deficit from the beginning; it needs new local option revenue, such as suggested by Executive Sims in the 2009 Executive agreement on the deep bore to replace the SR-99 AWV. The primary shortage is in service subsidy; but capital is also needed. There may be an effort for a local option revenue measure in 2024. In Seattle, SDOT could not deliver on its RR and streetcar dreams (e.g., lines G, H, J, R, 40, 44, 48, and CCC Streetcar).

  6. Here is a fun site you often get from MSN:

    https://moneywise.com/a/ch-b/states-americans-are-fleeing_ByeStatesFeb05-LGSB-DSK?t=US%20States%20Americans%20Are%20Leaving%2C%20Fast%20%28Plus%20The%20States%20They%27re%20Moving%20To%29&utm_source=taboola&utm_medium=Desktop&utm_campaign=8503266&utm_term=msn-msn-home&utm_content=2968893722&s_trn_d=0.2136&taboola_click_id=GiBf7bZsF0bSL6Ve6akUZD_WFD2AtZ_NJzC_kdbtaxHTcCCO7U8o_7TZhqCu8LOpAQ&hero=202102051723250500912630059#tblciGiBf7bZsF0bSL6Ve6akUZD_WFD2AtZ_NJzC_kdbtaxHTcCCO7U8o_7TZhqCu8LOpAQ

    It lists the 23 states residents are fleeing the most (WA is not one).

    Some are surprising, especially CA, NY and NJ near the top. Some like Kentucky are not. Political ideology did not appear to be a factor. The three major reasons were: 1. jobs; 2. housing; and 3. costs of living including taxes. I was surprised weather wasn’t mentioned.

    It seems like a common cycle: if there are inadequate jobs move to where the jobs are, and when they move there they create a housing shortage so housing costs rise, and the places they move to tend to then have increased costs of living, and those areas then become higher tax states. On the other hand those states and cities people flee suddenly have very affordable housing, and lower costs of living.

    It would be nice if working from home could smooth out this cycle. Many of the states people are fleeing have very beautiful areas, even if jobs are lacking, and that would decrease pressure on hot cities and states and their costs of living and housing.

    1. The only way it’s coming back is if Board members demand it. It’s clearer with each year that Board members and wealthy stakeholders are the only constituents that senior management wants to please.

      I did find the Q3 report fascinating. Westlake dropped to the #2 highest ridership station behind UW and Angle Lake, SeaTac and Capitol Hill aren’t far behind. Of course, things will likely change again once Northgate opens in hopefully seven months and riders return once vaccinated.

      In other words, these reports will be increasingly important to provide in the upcoming four years as new stations open. You are right to note this now.

      1. Thanks for the link! I hadn’t yet reviewed this Q3 ridership report until now.

        Minor pet peeve: I wish ST wouldn’t consolidate the STX Everett to Seattle and Tacoma to Seattle routes in the detail section. I think they do it this way simply to keep the report to four pages in length, which seems rather silly.

    1. It depends on what part of Capitol Hill you are talking about. There are plenty of new apartments on Capitol Hill, but First Hill allows taller buildings than Capitol Hill in part because it is next to downtown. In general though, zoning in Seattle (as in most places) is a mix of various parochial interests. It doesn’t make sense from a large urban planning standpoint but just evolved that way. This is my favorite map of zoning for Seattle (https://jeffreylinn.carto.com/viz/681ff218-0a5d-11e6-8f50-0ea31932ec1d/embed_map). It doesn’t list the heights, but does list where multi-family housing is allowed, while also listing where it was grandfathered in. As you can see, it really makes no sense. Lake City is zoned for apartments, while various places of the city much closer to a large urban center (e. g. Laurelhurst, most of Magnolia) are not.

      1. That’s a cool link. I was mostly thinking of one condo building on First Hill called First Hill Plaza. I think it’s about 30 stories. But, when you go down Broadway on Cap Hill, residential buildings top-out at about 7 or 8 stories. Yes, I know there is probably a zoning difference, but why? Like you said, it might be because First Hill is closer to downtown.

      2. If you start asking “Why” when it comes to zoning, you are going to be busy all day. I just randomly pulled up map #55 (http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Research/gis/webplots/k12W.pdf) from the list (https://www.seattle.gov/sdci/resources/zoning-map-books). Start at 54th and 8th, and move north. To the west of 8th it goes from NC1 (Neighborhood Commercial) to LR1 (Low Rise), to RS1 (Residential Small Lot) to Single Family, then to LR1 for two blocks (with the blocks split in half) then Single Family, with another corner that is NC. I could ask a lot of questions, such as “Why is there an LR1 block from 61st and a half to 63rd and a half?”. It gets weirder for 56, too (http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Research/gis/webplots/k12E.pdf).

        There is no consistency. There is no logic to it. It is simply the result of years and years of decision making, largely based on self interest (people who did, or did not want to build something somewhere).

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