LOL – that’s a hard no from me. Best of luck with the “recommendations” though.
Why so upset with this simple recommendation? Seems like a thoughtful thing to do to protect your neighbors.
I have a superior immune system, I’m one of the master …
So vaccinated people should continue to wear masks to protect unvaccinated people who don’t wear masks?
That’s the rub Sam, and why it will be impossible to motivate vaccinated folks to mask up for the unvaccinated.
I saw a clever cartoon. A person says “you can’t fix stupid”, and an image of the Covid virus says “I can”.
There just isn’t the sympathy for those who make the conscious decision to not get a free vaccine and eradicate Covid like polio so everyone else — especially those under 12 — has elevated risk to get those vaccinated to mask up for them.
Covid truly is a way to fix stupid, except it costs a fortune in medical costs and is slowing the return of the economy.
Welcome back Sam, aka T1 (Troll number 1). It’s partly that and partly to drive the overall covid numbers lower to reduce the society-wide impacts and the risk of worse variants emerging. It’s just the normal and most effective way to combat epidemics, as the US did with the Spanish Flu. And it’s similar to what countries do against tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera, and other diseases that the US has mostly run into the ground because we contained outbreaks and did society-wide mitigation measures.
We could have eliminated covid in the US by restricting travel further like Australia, New Zealand, and Nova Scotia did. There’s been no need for masks or lockdowns there for a year because it’s not circulating in their areas, except for a few immigration-related cases that are quickly quarantined and squashed. Or we could have a very low level of transmission like South Korea and Taiwan if everybody wore masks. But because much of the US has a knee-jerk reaction to masks and vaccines and mandates, we can’t have nice things.
There’s a dichotomy between those who got vaccinated to avoid serious illness and still wear masks to get Seattle’s/King County’s covid numbers down further to the May 2020 trough and Taiwan-like levels, and those who got vaccinated so they could stop wearing masks. And now the latter feel betrayed because they got vaccinated but still have to wear masks in some situations and are being encouraged to beyond that. I can sympathize with that a little but overall I feel like “Tough cookies, you misunderstood what the vaccines can and can’t do and the need to eradicate the pandemic.” I don’t fully understand this motivation to ditch masks over yours and others’ health and the public need for a pandemic-free society and no more mutations. But now that that position has gotten larger and more entrenched in society, we (the cautious and the governments) may have to adjust our policies somehow since this dangerous contingent won’t go away. I’m not sure what to do about that.
But in the meantime I’m still wearing masks voluntarily indoors so the staff don’t have to ask me to if they’re inclined to, and the federal transit mask mandate seems like a minor issue. We may lose transit riders who don’t want to wear a mask, , but there’s no definitive evidence that that’s a large number of riders, or that it’s more numerous than those who start riding transit because the mask mandate remains in place.
Much of Australia is on lockdown right now, albeit in response to a level of cases (5 per million per day, nationwide) that is lower than anything the US has seen since early 2020. I absolutely agree that mask-wearing is so minimal that we should do it very readily because it does dramatically reduce the spread (both of COVID and other respiratory viruses), but I don’t agree that restricting travel alone would get the US anywhere near Australian levels, not once the case numbers got to where they are. Really, even full lockdowns probably would never get the US (or Canada) from 50-700 cases per day per million down to Australian levels; that horse left the barn a very long time ago.
Australia’s travel restrictions violate international law, and are only even possible because they have no land borders. If a US citizen shows up at the US border, the US has to let them in. Ditto for Australia, but Australia can and does prevent Australian citizens from reaching their border by not allowing them to board flights. So the US has no mechanism to keep all Americans out, and it shouldn’t even if it could (speaking as an American living just north or the border who can drive 2.5 hours to visit family in Washington, traveling between two regions with much lower COVID transmission than most of the States, where Americans can travel without restrictions).
“ Australia’s travel restrictions violate international law”
I don’t think the US could get down to Australia’s numbers because Australia is far from everything and the US has a lot of interaction with Canada and Mexico. I also disagree with Australia’s policy of exiling its citizens. All it needs to do is have them quarantine for two weeks when they return to Australia, not lock them out for months or years. I would have thought countries can’t keep out their citizens, but that’s probably decided by each country. Similarly I would have thought that countries can’t deny birthright citizenship if two noncitizens have a child, but apparently they can and most countries do.
See right of return on Wikipedia. The right to return to your country of citizenship is a fundamental principle of international law; it’s the core principle of citizenship (even more than the right to vote), that you can always go to that country! Australia is making the number of hotels available for quarantine much less than the number of citizens who want to come home (eg citizens who live abroad but whose non-permanent visas are expiring). Anyway, there’s no way the US or Canada could fully close their borders like that, whether or not it’s legal or humane, and the epidemic in North America is very much not driven by travel at this point.
(Note that birthright citizenship is mostly a western hemisphere thing; most countries in Europe, Asia, and Oceania do not have it. My Australian-born child is a pure US citizen, whereas my Canadian-born child is a dual US-Canada citizen.)
The question is not so much who is getting infected — the unvaccinated — but where.
At this point the only place a mask mandate could be enforced is in public areas like restaurants, bars, and events. But we all know how that works: wear a mask to the table and then take it off. Those who are vaccinated, including staff, are going to be much more relaxed about strict adherence than before they were vaccinated.
My guess is the majority of new infections — again over 99% among the unvaccinated — is in private houses and settings.
I live in a city with over a 90% vaccination rate. I don’t think we have had a single infection in a long time, and it is summer with our kids back from college all socializing. I don’t see vaccinated adults or those older than 12 wearing masks indoors in private settings. Why if none of us are getting infected, and there are no unvaccinated among us?
At the same time, if someone refuses to get a free, effective, and safe vaccine, and is still willing to attend group settings in private settings — probably with like minded folks — it is unlikely any of those folks will wear a mask, because otherwise they would have gotten the vaccine.
I know one person on Mercer Island who openly refuses to get vaccinated, and he is the most opposed to masks.
I think reimposing a mask mandate could face the tricky issue when citizens say no. The LA county sheriff said his dept. would not enforce the new mask mandate, especially when his dept.’s funding was cut as part of BLM.
The fundamental problem is you are really trying to force folks who refuse to get vaccinated to wear a mask in public and private gatherings. Those who took the mask mandate, like me, seriously before the vaccine have all gotten vaccinated.
There is also the risk a new mask mandate questions the efficacy of the vaccines, that are incredibly effective, and continues to slow the reopening of offices and use of transit, which is going much slower than many thought. The eviction moratoria expire soon, and if there aren’t jobs when stimulus benefits end those folks are on the street.
I don’t know what to do about folks who refuse to get vaccinated, and this group is quite diverse, although mainly younger, 16 to 34. But I do know a mask mandate won’t affect these folks, or encourage them to wear a mask or get vaccinated, because if you refuse to get vaccinated what are the chances you are going to comply with a mask mandate?
Here’s Mercer Island’s curve: King County covid stats; press “City-Level Trends” and select Mercer Island. It’s doing pretty well by my estimate. And there may be certain small cities with low transmission that aren’t well known, and perhaps merit a different policy than other cities.
“At this point the only place a mask mandate could be enforced is in public areas like restaurants, bars, and events.”
That’s what we’re asking for.
“wear a mask to the table and then take it off.”
That’s a well-known risk of restaurants: masks are incompatible with eating and drinking. I’ve started going to restaurants once a week or so, and I take off the mask to eat, but I also prefer outdoor seating and uncrowded restaurants so I tend to go off-hours.
“My guess is the majority of new infections … is in private houses and settings.”
That may be but there’s no evidence for or against. Case numbers have risen and fallen when mask use in public spaces increases or decreases. It may be that mask use in private gatherings is following the same curve as in public spaces, but we don’t really know. In the meantime, wearing masks in public spaces but not private gatherings is better than not wearing them in either one.
Darn links in this blog interface. King County’s COVID stats.
With the efficacy of the vaccines reduced from 95% to 60-70%, I don’t think it’s crazy for vaccinated people to *voluntarily* wear a mask as an additional layer of protection for themselves – on top of what the vaccine provides – particularly those that are at high risk due to age, underlying health conditions, compromised immune system, etc.
That said, I think vaccinated people should be allowed to use their own judgement and shouldn’t be required to mask to protect those who refuse to be vaccinated, due to right-wing conspiracy theories or some other reason. The bulk of the spread of unvaccinated->unvaccinated and having the vaccinated wear masks in public doesn’t really help that much.
For now, I have personally started voluntarily wearing a mask again in the most crowded indoor situations, but still go maskless in less crowded situations, such as grocery stores, figuring the vaccine, alone, is good enough for that (unless required to do otherwise). If I see evidence of a large rise of cases in my part of the county (not South King, which has lower vaccination rates), or if the efficacy of the vaccine drops further, I may decide to play it a bit more cautious.
Have you seen what’s been going on with the late night bar and club scene in Seattle lately? I highly doubt all of those people are vaccinated. And alcohol weakens the immune system–even for the young and healthy. In such crowded indoor situations, it’s easy to infect all of the unvaccinated in the building, and have it be a substantial spreader event because even 10-20% in the room is a significant number. I kind of doubt the case increase in cases in WA in the past few weeks are predominantly due to small gatherings in private residences, as was the case in the previous two waves.
At this point, we either just put up with it or bring back bar and restaurant restrictions. Ironically, in case of the former, it does look like the surge in cases and hospitalizations has motivated more people to get vaccinated, and bringing back mask mandates and restrictions may well harden people against getting the vaccine. Fortunately, at least our hospitals are not seeing capacity issues. It really is a tough call, and a different ballgame than the winter-spring Covid wave.
99% of people currently getting infected are the unvaccinated who don’t wear masks. Now the vaccinated are going to be forced to wear masks to protect people who refuse to wear them and refuse to get vaccinated? That’s not compassion, that’s insanity.
Sam. President (Kirkland Chapter), of the Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp fan club.
As long as there’s even a recommendation for masks indoors, I’ll be wearing them unless I know everyone is vaccinated. It seems the considerate and informed thing to do. One of the things that I think would help convince more people to get on board with the recommendation is a defined goal – is it to protect our health care workers and infrastructure (our health care systems are all in great shape right now), to buy time for the FDA to approve vaccinations for kids (this might take months or might not happen at all), buy time for the rest of the country/world to bring their local outbreaks under control, or to bring local cases down temporarily (a bit disingenuous, since this virus will become endemic so case reduction can’t be anything but temporary, and we should all expect to be infected multiple times over the course of our lives)? Having a goal will help people see the impact they can make, and also give people hope that the pandemic really will be over sometime.
Everyone will never be vaccinated. Are you going to wear a mask the rest of your life?
If it can’t be transmitted then it eventually dies out. It’s not a particularly difficult disease to kill, and the incubation is only about two weeks. Provide it with a month of dead ends, and it will go extinct.
Everyone wasn’t vaccinated for smallpox, but enough were that the disease is extinct in the wild today, after a massive global vaccination effort.
A year ago, vaccines didn’t exist for Covid19, but in Taiwan they reduced transmission enough that within a couple months it was basically extinct in the wild there.
Even if we accept the societal costs of eradication (basically another Great Depression), the only places where that has come anywhere close to being feasible are island countries and countries without the civil rights protections we except in the US. It also depends on very close to perfection (look at the serial lockdowns in Australia where they let *one person* slip through). Finally, it ignores the fact that the virus has an animal reservoir and can just spillover again. Unless we’re game for locking down for years and eliminating every horseshoe bat on the planet, I’ll take our current approach over the alternatives, no matter how muddling it seems. We just have to accept reality – this virus will be with us for the rest of our lives, just like all 200+ other endemic respiratory viruses. The vaccines and treatments we have will be more than enough.
The current economic mess was created by trying to live with it, and due to the long term effects people can’t recover from (glassed lungs, brain damage, etc) there will be substantial long term economic damage by continuing to just let it burn through the population.
Continuing to do this also elongates the economic damage by having to have shutdowns every time hospitals are getting overloaded.
The “current economic mess” was from the lock downs, which the authorities felt were necessary, in different degrees depending on the state.
There is no choice but to learn to live with it, and that was always the goal.
Even vaccines have less than 100% efficacy rates. Masks and social distancing were designed to “flatten the curve” in order to relieve the pressure on our healthcare system, not eradicate a coronavirus.
Masks were just a necessary — and pretty desperate — tool for situations in which 6′ of social distancing was not possible (essential workers). It was social distancing more than masks that helped flatten the curve before the vaccines, and obviously masks had their flaws considering the U.S. has had nearly 35 million infections despite mask mandates, not including asymptomatic cases that were never counted. Obviously those folks got infected from someone closer than 6′ and were probably wearing a mask.
There has been significant economic and emotional damage from the lock downs. Many people will end up homeless when the eviction moratoria end, and our country has added nearly $10 trillion in debt in the last year that our children will end up paying back. My guess is transit will never be the same. If you have school age children like I do you saw the emotional toll first hand.
Overall I thought the county and UW did a very good job in this local area, first with testing, and then with vaccines. In February of 2020 we were being told by those who love the apocalypse a vaccine would take five years, and would likely have less than the 60% efficacy rate of the common flu vaccine. Still on this blog some talk about millions of deaths. Everyone would have dreamed of where we are today, and if you doubt that ask countries other than the U.S. without abundant supplies of three vaccines.
The reality is you can get vaccinated — and maybe a booster will be required but big deal — or yes you can be part of the herd immunity that comes from getting the vaccine. Pretty much the same choice as every virus. Since those who are old or have comorbidities were vaccinated first the current wave of infections is not straining our hospitals, and deaths are way down, which was the original goal of social distancing and masks.
If flattening the curve does become an issue again which would require infections in a large class of vulnerable people which is unlikely, perhaps masks — or even reductions in indoor gatherings — can be considered, if citizens will comply, which I doubt they will, one because those vaccinated don’t see the risk or their moral responsibility, and two because those who choose to not get vaccinated are the least likely to comply, and I really don’t have much sympathy for them. If you have a suppressed immune system, or can’t get vaccinated for any virus, you shouldn’t be out in the general public anyway, pre or post Covid.
The long haul effects of Covid-19, especially in the young and healthy, were greatly exaggerated to encourage folks to social distance, support the lock downs, and wear a mask. These same fears are being used to encourage folks to get vaccinated, except 188 million Americans have received at least one shot and have around 0.8% of getting Covid, and even then the symptoms will be mild if you don’t have comorbidities, and they know that. So you have have 188 million vaccinated citizens who can’t be scared, and obviously those who refuse to get vaccinated don’t see great risk from Covid. That is basically the entire country not including kids under 12, but they have a 4 per million hospitalization rate, less than some complications like Myocarditis in males under 12 from the vaccine.
If masks and social distancing could eradicate a virus they would have eradicated Covid-19 long ago when social distancing, lock downs, and masks, were adhered to very closely. If you want to eradicate a virus — any virus from polio to smallpox to Covid-19 which is pretty tame compared to the other two — you need a vaccine, it needs to be mandatory, and if you don’t want to get those diseases you need to get the vaccine unless you want to wait decades until the virus eventually dies out, or are willing to go with a live Sabin type vaccine that will vaccinate those around you but can give those who get the vaccine the disease, which was a tough decision for polio except polio was such a terrible disease. As a result a government no fault fund was set up for those who got the live vaccine (which they don’t use anymore) and got polio, in order to save those who didn’t get the vaccine.
I think masking does matter more than the 6 feet. The 6-foot rule was established back when we thought COVID was spread primarily through coughing and sneezing. We now know it’s mostly asymptomatic spread, and that the virus is airborne, which means it circulates around the entire room, and doesn’t just stop when 6 feet away from the initial source. Masks block some of the virus come out of whoever’s emitting it, and more of the virus coming into whoever’s breathing it.
That said, it is important to distinguish between the effects of masking vs. the effects of mask mandates. Masks only do much when they are of proper material to block out the small particles and worn with a tight enough seal to prevent air from leaking through the sides and corners. Masks that cover the mouth, but not the nose, or masks that are down at the chin are utterly useless.
Even if others don’t wear masks or don’t wear them properly, a person can still protect themself by making sure that their own mask is worn properly and has a sufficient filtration rating. Of course, it’s not possible to get a perfect seal without the professional mask fittings that health care workers use, but as a secondary layer of protection, on top of vaccination, a high risk person can still protect themself pretty well. This line of thought was originally discouraged a year ago because N95 masks were in short supply, and what few existed were needed for heath care workers. Today, there is no shortage of N95 masks anymore, and reputable brands exist for KN95 and KF94 masks, which, when well sealed, have similar filtration qualities of N95. People also suddenly realized that you can greatly improve the protection offered by even the cheap surgical masks simply by doubling them up.
Mask mandates, on the other hand, do a lot less. People who want to wear a mask to protect themselves are free to do so anyway, mask mandate or no mask mandate. What a mask mandate does do is make people who are not worried about COVID put on something that technically complies with the rule, but doesn’t do much to actually stop the virus spread. For instance, a surgical mask with a big gap around the nose, perhaps drooping down to the mouth, altogether. Or, a cloth mask with similar problems. Sure, anything is probably better than nothing, but without the serious intent to wear it properly to protect themself, how much? And, is it enough to be worth the hassle?
So far, rules for where mask mandates exist and don’t exist seem to have little to do with a situation’s actual risk, and everything to do with how cautious around COVID whoever is running the place seems to be. This leads to ridiculous situations where you’re required to wear a mask on a bus with three people on it, but once you get off, you are free to hop into a crowded bar with no mask. And, some point, it feels as though mask mandates aren’t really about virus safety anymore, but rather about making people who are (rationally or not) deeply afraid of the virus feel safer.
So, in conclusion, yes – masks do work. But the emphasis needs to shift from a collective thing that everybody does into something that people can choose to do as an individual as a secondary layer to protect themselves, on top of the vaccines. As an analogy, imagine a gate on the outside of a building that you’re trying to protect from burglers. The lock on the building works, but you can still lock the outer gate too for some additional security, even though the gate lock is easier to cut/pick than the building lock. The vaccine is like locking the building, and the mask is like locking the gate.
Dr. Dan, you do NOT know how many vaccinated people who have mild or asymptomatic cases will get “Long Covid”. Nobody does, but there are worrying signs that “longhaulers” have come from the full spectrum of cases from mild to severe, though fortunately asymptomatic cases very rarely develop the syndrome.
“Long Covid” appears to be a separate illness which is an immune reaction common to several viral “triggers”. To the degree that SARS-Cov-2 can be bottled up without destroying human society, it should be.
What exactly is so friggin difficult Ron about wearing a face covering?
I know right? Someone up in the comments said words to the effect that wearing a mask or a mask mandate is a terrible thing. No, getting COVID-19 is a terrible thing. Having a lockdown because of too many cases is a terrible thing. If masks indoors can help prevent those things, why are masks terrible?
Microsoft announced today it will require all employees to be vaccinated. This suggests Microsoft plans on some return to office work in the future, but has already said it probably won’t be M-F, and not at all for some staff.
At the same time, cities and government agencies are trying to force staff to vaccinate by requiring them to test weekly if not vaccinated, at their own cost, except weekly testing is not nearly as safe as vaccinations. According to Dr. Jha, a vaccinated person has a 99.999% chance of not dying if vaccinated, and prior studies have shown 99.2% of all Delta infections are among the unvaccinated.
At the same time many restaurants in Seattle will now require proof of vaccination to enter.
However, the media and government over-hype on breakthrough cases to scare the unvaccinated into getting vaccinated (which is working) has made it impossible to have in office work unless everyone is vaccinated.
Staff are not going to rely on masks, and it is important to understand most staff hate commuting to work, and will use any excuse not to. Like: someone in the office is, or might not be, vaccinated, I could get a break through infection, and kill my kids. Extremely unlikely, but if you are an employer a terrifying threat.
So where does this leave transit? Not in a good place.
Transit, especially buses and trains, is seen as riskier for infection. Whether that is fair or not is irrelevant.
Right now, about the only two solutions for transit are to have new infections go to zero, or to require proof of vaccination to use transit, certainly commuter transit.
Otherwise the commuter who hates commuting will say the same: if I ride transit I could get a break through infection and infect other staff, and kill their kids or mine. According to the more hysterical media (and some on this blog) that is a realistic risk. Same on MI: after all the hype and despite a 95%+ vaccination rate everyone is now wearing masks indoors, because now even the vaccinated can get Covid and die, or give it to their kids and have their kids di or get “longhauler’s disease”.
Requiring proof of vaccination to use transit would be a logistical nightmare for drivers, and impossible on light rail. It could also exclude from transit those who must use transit. But a mask mandate ain’t going to do it.
I suppose Metro and ST could designate some commuter buses vaccinated only and require online proof before boarding, like some airlines might go to, or like Hawaii, but that might be expensive, and prove other transit is risky for infection if “commuter” transit requires vaccination.
Right now we are moving to a proof of vaccination model for in office work and inside dining. Unless transit can figure out a way to convince commuters it is as safe as their 100% vaccinated office they won’t take transit, mask or no mask, because the irony of a mask or mask mandate is it means there is risk, vaccinated or not.
At that point an employer has two options: 1. let the employee work from home; or 2. subsidize parking.
I see a return to office work — at least part time — happening way before commuters return to transit, which will mean parking subsidies. If Microsoft and restaurants are going to the incredible legal step of requiring all employees or customers to get vaccinated it suggests only in a 100% vaccinated environment is a vaccinated person safe, and transit already begins with an image of being the riskiest of all public places for infection.
A different way to design missing middle, medium density housing:
I don’t think this is a problem in the US. Seattle restricts missing-middle housing by single-family zoning, height limits, parking minimums, minimum unit size, kitchen requirement, setback requirements, FAR limits, limit on the number of unrelated people on a lot, runaway design reviews, and a slow permitting process. I don’t think there’s a specific limitation on doors. ADUs must have an external door (?), but I don’t think there’s a restriction on whether it’s on the front side or not.
I prefer apartments with external doors, and external hallways if the door doesn’t open onto the street. Those are hard to find in post-1970s construction.
The reason many blocks that are zoned lowrise still have only single-family houses is those height, FAR, setback, and parking restrictions. if the house or old shop is two or three stories and the zoning allows only four, then the additional one or two stories may not be enough to make replacing an existing viable building worth it. The setback and parking requirements limit what kinds of ADUs and townhouses can be built. Often there’s not enough unused capacity for another unit. And the reason townhouses in Seattle look so much the same and it’s hard to drive into the garage is that there’s not much space left after you’ve added four or eight parking spaces, so only one layout is feasible. It’s been said that Seattle’s townhouse policy is really designed around the parking/driveway spaces, and the townhouses themselves are an afterthought.
Yes I agree that my casual understanding of Seattle codes don’t explicitly restrict front doors.
The thing I find more curious about this video are:
1. An alternative to our skinny townhouses. It’s hard to live on three or floors when each floor has 1.5 or two rooms. It’s hard on elderly residents or families with young children — or even old pets — that can’t handle steps safely.
2. An alternative to our typical 4 story apartment buildings. I see many buildings that have one entry and a long wall until the next entry. This seems to make the street more interesting to me.
3. An alternative to our vacant storefront retail. I see so many blocks with vacant storefronts below new apartment buildings. I could see value to making the ground floor live-work lofts with separate entrances. It seems silly to have so much vacant retail space while living with a housing supply shortage.
4. A way to go beyond our ADU’s (primary residence and ADU) to have two or three similarly-sized units. Adding stairs to a second floor porch (or adding a new front porch and entry on the second floor) seems so easy to do.
Many 19th and early 20th century cities had no or few residential review requirements — so these cities developed with market demand in mind as opposed to code compliance. How would more permissive housing restrictions beyond number of units change what gets built? How could current single-family homes get modified to add housing units beyond just an ADU, and what design codes make it impractical?
This couple really loves Montreal. No doubt the character is a huge part of that. Maybe more Seattle homeowners would support ways to not only add housing (ADU’s) but also make their street more interesting.
1. Relax the parking and setback requirements and you’d see a wider variety of townhouse styles.
2. You’re arguing for fewer doors? To the extent you’re talking about large buildings with one entrance, it’s for the same reason we have long low warehouse stores with one entrance. They’re designed by people who think how it looks from a car and don’t understand what pedestrians need and want, and who prefer huge for huge’s sake because it looks more impressive and authoritative.
3. Vacant storefronts are vacant only temporarily and you never know when they’ll be filled. If you make them into residential or live-work lofts (and the work is not walk-in clients), then you’ve lost that storefront space long-term. We have too few storefronts, not too many. North Dexter Avenue and most of Eastlake Avenue has nothing residents can walk to — you have to take a bus out of the neighborhood to get to a supermarket and other needs. There’s also a pandemic that has dampened the customer base and driven companies out of business and hinders others from starting, so it will take time to fully get out of that.
There may be certain storefronts where there’s not enough foot traffic in the area to sustain them, or where there are too many storefronts. I saw one in the Denny Triangle before the Amazon boom that looked like that. And it’s funny Des Moines requiring ground-floor retail on all buildings on 99 and restrooms in all Link stations when Seattle doesn’t require these. In one sense the suburbs have gotten ahead of Seattle and are showing it what to do, but in another sense it doesn’t compensate for the fact that Des Moines is suburban hell and there’s not much a resident there can walk to — there’s not enough storefronts, or a wide enough variety of them. And they’re trying to save a Dick’s that’s a one-story drive-up place taking up a whole lot, when it could be in the ground floor of a larger building or have a compact front-to-back layout like the Broadway Dick’s.
Another place is 10th Ave E on the block with a dry cleaner and one or two little pizza places. Having a dry cleaner there is better than residential only, but on the other hand it does nothing for residents there who don’t do dry cleaning or like those pizza places, and there’s nothing else there to go to.
It’s not just Montreal. They can find other missing-middle models in Vancouver and San Francisco, and even in Toronto and Seattle. It’s just the older buildings before they were outlawed. I like the two-story apartment buildings with courtyards, which you can see in Uptown, 16th Ave E, Denny & Boylston, 65th & 15th NW (I lived in it), etc.
The City of Seattle limits all ADU’s to a maximum of 1000 square feet in SF zones. This prevents most areas from having two or three units above 1000 square feet on a lot. The size limit supercedes any design review, parking code or setback. Changing this would then allow for adjustments in parking, setbacks and doors.
And let’s be clear: 1000 square feet is an arbitrary line designed to “prevent two families” living on one lot. That’s to placate neighbors afraid of slightly higher densities of population. Never mind that there are plenty of stand-alone houses in the 800 to 2000 square foot range with just one occupant.
I prefer apartments with external doors, and external hallways if the door doesn’t open onto the street.
I prefer it open to the street as long as it is a typical street (a residential street, not an arterial). Unfortunately, many of the apartments built right now are on arterials, not residential streets, which is just one more way in which they restrict development in a negative way.
In general it seems like the basic rule of thumb for North America is if you are looking at public transportation, mimic Vancouver BC. If you are looking at housing development, mimic Montreal. Neither is perfect, but both have done much better than most cities their size.
Wouldn’t it be better to look at the pre-war parts of Chicago, Boston, NYC, and Philly? Montreal built the vast majority of its urban bones a century ago. Chicago city proper seems as good as a benchmark as Montreal.
Chicago is huge. It is the third biggest city in the U. S., and the fifth biggest in North America. Yes, if you are a big city (like Houston or L. A.) and want to focus on affordability, it makes sense to compare yourself to Chicago. But for a city like Seattle, it is a bit apples and oranges (or maybe apples and watermelons). There is another issue, which is that when people talk about Chicago being more affordable, someone will inevitably bring up the crime rate.
They don’t when talking about Montreal, showing that you can build a relatively affordable, safe and attractive city. For its size, Montreal is surprisingly affordable (there are a lot of smaller, more expensive cities) and yet it didn’t achieve that affordability by sprawling (unlike many North America cities). Much of that is due to its zoning. It is a pretty good model from both an aesthetic, as well as affordable standpoint for a lot of North America cities (like Seattle). https://www.sightline.org/2017/09/21/yes-you-can-build-your-way-to-affordable-housing/
There’s certainly a paradigm change from a small city (1 million) and Chicago (2.7 million and shrinking), particularly as Chicago is ~60% large land area (234 vs 142 sq miles). Chicago city is less dense than Montreal city.
From a transit perspective, metro Chicago vast size creates the need for a massive regional rail network, whereas metro Seattle is likely fine with only 2.5 regional rail lines (Link spine, sorta East Link, and Sounder south), but in terms of urban zoning, neighborhood design, and urban transit, the 6 million people who live in Chicagoland but not Chicago are mostly irrelevant. If the goal is to achieve Montreal-esque density, then Chicago is very much a city to benchmark against, in particular if your vision is vast swathes of dense low & midrise housing, as that pattern can be applied across 100, 200, or 300 sq miles.
Seattle is also like Chicago and unlike an LA or Houston in is has a very centralized job market. I don’t know how centralized Montreal is, but if you subscribe to the production theory of cities (as I generally do), that centered-ness is critical to the success of transit in an urban area.
Missing half of my sentence; let’s try again:
“There’s certainly a paradigm change from a small city (1 million) and current Chicago (2.7 million and shrinking), particularly as Chicago is ~60% large land area (234 vs 142 sq miles). Chicago city is less dense than Montreal city.”
I am all for wearing masks in public meetings and on public transit indefinitely. This isn’t just about Covid19 but also allergies, colds and flus. We have way too many folks with weak immune systems and seniors out there who we have a community responsibility to protect.
I know masking is annoying at times. I know, I’ve been out there masking. But the alternative?
I’d rather we just masked up and took some basic common sense precautions. This lockdown stuff like “essential trips only” and business phases really is traumatic to many people, both Democrats and Republicans alike.
Thank you for taking my comments.
NYC Subway turnstile entries.
Via is working with Goldman Sachs on an IPO. One of the founders of Via, Daniel Ramot, is an Israeli who worked the avionics systems of F15 and F16s for the IDF.
Makes sense. Yet another company reinventing the wheel but covered in techno glitter that will get the billionaires excited. At the end of the day, they won’t provide anything public agencies haven’t provided for years, but in the process someone is going to make a killing.
Having worked on the (largely analog) avionics for the F-15 and Lawn Dart are hardly germane to managing a bus company.
Is he going to strafe the SOV’s in front of the bus?
My bike was recently stolen. I know it is popular to dismiss property crimes as almost victimless, unimportant, and unworthy of any attention. But I have to say this has been very upsetting, and it will be an expensive and difficult endeavor to replace my bike.
In the meantime I’ll be driving more because my car is more difficult to steal. A sad irony of this situation.
Buses and trains are harder to steal than cars.
I own a $2,000 e-bike. The cost of car ownership is roughly equivalent to having that e-bike get stolen and replaced every four months.
That sucks. I don’t think anyone thinks it is unimportant. It reminds me of what a friend used to say “You know, they used to shoot horse thieves”. Seriously though, stealing a bike means stealing someone’s ability to get around. It is a huge financial hit. It is one of the coldest types of thievery.
I don’t know what to add but what you’ve probably already heard. It is tough to get back, but it happens. A search for “Recovering a stolen bike Seattle” has a lot of resources (including a Facebook group).
The difficulty of securing a bike has a negative impact on transit.
For example, on Mercer Island common bike areas in town center multi-family housing have seen a steep increase in bike thefts. Someone figures out a way to get into the common storage area and steal some bikes. So now if you have a nice bike you have to take it into your condo or apartment.
For the light rail stations, the amount of secured bike storage surprised me it was so low, because our comprehensive plan and intermodal transportation policies really tout bikes for first/last mile access, and I thought ST supported this kind of first/last mile access. Plus the park and ride is oversubscribed and there is very little intra-Island feeder transit. The park and ride has some bike lockers, but there is a two year wait.
Most people who ride bikes regularly don’t like to own and ride cheap bikes, and there are not many cheap E-bikes, and E-bikes make challenging topography like Mercer Island more accessible. They don’t like leaving them out in the rain while they take the train to work, and they don’t like leaving them chained to an outside bike rack that is a short escalator ride from a train station below grade for a thief. I can’t imagine leaving a bike in a rack near a light rail station in Seattle. I imagine bike riders will have to take their bikes onto the train and hope there is secured storage wherever they are going, which is like hauling around an anvil.
I suppose there is bike share, but it isn’t cheap, and probably costs more than the transit fare for round trip first/last mile access, if you can find a shared bike near the station and your home. If you can’t you are pretty much screwed if that is what you are relying on to get home and took to transit.
Basically despite nearly every city’s comp. plan touting bikes as first/last mile access to transit I don’t see how anyone can risk it even though bikes begin at your doorstep unless I guess you carry your bike with you wherever you go, including retail and restaurants, which leaves cars, walking, or feeder buses (which require walking) for first/last mile access.
Maybe because it is the city I live in and its near total lack of first/last mile access to effectively two rail stations, but I just don’t get an agency spending tens of billions of dollars on light rail that couldn’t care less about first/last mile access, which begins and ends at someone’s doorstep. Just building 90 miles of spine based on the budgets of Metro (that apparently can’t even afford to maintain escalators), CT and PT seems like sticking your head in the sand when it comes to first/last mile access.
I don’t know about Northgate Link, I think first/last mile access for NG will depend on the feeder bus frequency and traffic, but for East Link I think the issue will be first/last mile access will mostly be by car, and once someone is in a car they will either drive directly to a station that serves East Link like S. Bellevue, or to their ultimate destination, especially if there is free parking. I know some think large TOD’s will make walking more of a first/last mile access, but those TOD’s are very high end and car oriented. Just because there is a light rail station someone might be able to walk to doesn’t mean they will.
Biking to stations in East King Co. with the topography and lack of dedicated bike lanes is unlikely to be a large percentage of first/last mile access (although it could be on Mercer Island), but if your bike will be stolen or left out in the rain all day, or you have to drag it with you wherever you go, who will use a bike for access?
If a last mile trip is really just one mile, I’ll typically just jog it, since it takes under 10 minutes, and leaves no equipment outside to get stolen.
For longer trips, some transit hubs have secure bike lockers. Eastgate and South Kirkland park and ride both have them. Hopefully, south Bellevue and mercer island link stations will too.
Masks are still required in all public areas of our Belltown condo and I am grateful for this. We wear masks grocery shopping and inside restaurants, not when with vaccinated friends or family. Seems like a no brainer to me.
August 9th we will finally be allowed into Canada and will take a good supply of masks and will follow whatever the rules are, no problem.
I have not been on a metro bus since March, 2020. Am sad about the demise of Bolt Bus. Anyone know if it could reincarnated and return?
I took Flixbus once a week ago. Kinda does the same thing other than it’s an L shaped route doing Portland – Seattle – Ellensburg, and they stop in Olympia and at Sea-Tac. Mask use seems somewhat less common than Amtrak passengers (95% vs 100%).
BoltBus web site says this is a temporary arrangement until “renovations are complete” so I imagine they’ll be back once traveling is less troublesome.
BoltBus used to offer nonstop trips from Seattle to Portland, which took 2 hours 45 minutes without traffic. It was very nice. Then, they added the stop in Tacoma, and now, FlixBus has two intermediate stops at SeaTac and Olympia. The SeaTac stop is especially annoying because it causes the bus to get stuck in the long line of airport pick up and drop off traffic.
BoltBus also left Portland at 6:30 am instead of 7, which impacted how things worked with traffic, and also limits further travel options.
To clarify: the 7 am departure of Flixbus means worse traffic and reduced connections.
Eg, with the BoltBus 6:30 am departure I could usually transfer to BelAir and get to Anacortes by 1:30 pm or so. With the Flix schedule there’s no advantage over Amtrak.
“ Report: Wealthy out-of-town apartment seekers could add to Seattle housing crunch”
That argument to require vaccine passports would then be applicable to all viruses, including the common flu. The reality is Covid kills less than 2% it infects (not counting the asymptomatic cases) and those deaths are heavily skewed toward the elderly and those with comorbidities.
I wish more would get vaccinated, and do think private employers have the right to demand vaccinations (although after getting priority for the vaccine the teachers Union is opposed to mandating vaccines) but it is a slippery slope .
And a significant portion of those that live through it will likely have long term brain damage.
The conservative talking point about “only the elderly get this, and we should sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy” may have been true last year, but across the country younger ICU patients are becoming far more common.
One of many, many examples of articles that may be found:
*Pre-Delta variant, that is. In fact, hospitalizations and deaths shifting to younger people has been a trend since the alpha variant. It’s not the summer of 2020 anymore.
“The reality is Covid kills less than 2% it infects…”
You do realize that if you apply that percentage to the popular of the United States (~325million), you end up with 6 and 1/2 million dead.
But let’s go with the idea we only need 80% infected to get herd immunity (~260million), so now you only end up with just over 5 million dead.
But… not all cases are reported, so let’s just, quite arbitrarily, cut that number in half to account for the asymptomatic carriers that aren’t ever going to show up in the statistics. (~130million). Now we’re down to only…ONLY 2 and a half million dead.
There, isn’t that better?
Hmmm, we’re only up around 600,000 currently.
We need to get those antivaxers to step up their game!
And then while the infection festers in those covid cesspool communities we can look forward to a new mutation that can work around the current vaccine.
I love science!
The death rate post vaccine has plummeted, especially since the elderly and those with comorbidities were given priority. It has taken several months to go from around 550,000 deaths to 600,000.
There have been around 5500 deaths among the vaccinated out of 200 million vaccinated. 99.2% of all new cases are among the vaccinated, and 99..5% of deaths, and deaths among those vaccinated had comorbidities.
If someone is not going to get a free vaccine with that kind of efficacy they are not going to wear a mask, and there is no health reason for a vaccinated person without a suppressed immune system to wear a mask.
We can debate this all day. Sure if you are in St. Louis with a 46% vaccination rate and 80% of new cases are in African Americans during a surge a local mask mandate might help a little. But not in King Co., and so far I have seen almost no one wearing a mask.
I always keep a mask in my pocket and go with the flow. I don’t know how I would wear a mask in a bar, but so far no one is wearing masks in bars.
If you think there is any chance a mask mandate in King Co. — especially among the unvaccinated — would be followed or enforced go for it. At the very best I would expect masks worn below the chin.
All of these covid stats are only right now. Things are still rapidly changing and new trends in the path month haven’t reached their full extent yet. The stats and recommendations now may not be valid in six months, much less in a year or ten years.
As for affluent renters moving to Seattle, that’s always been happening. When somebody takes an apartment in a new city, they usually vacate an apartment in their previous city. The article didn’t really do a full evaluation of how many are moving to Seattle vs from Seattle, or whether more people are moving to Seattle than to other cities, or the number coming from outside the metro vs inside. Intra-metro moves are usually much higher than inter-metro, and that famed exodus from San Francisco last year dispersed mostly to the rest of the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
I agree with asdf2 that transit is not a a cause, let alone the cause, of current property value fluctuations. In fact transit is very low on the list of factors when it comes to property values. Mercer Island and Medina have no transit, but are two cities with very high values.
Even with slower growth rates the average prices of housing “near” transit is higher than housing not near transit according to the article, (whatever near transit means), because transit usually means urban/suburban and the density means higher prices.
I do think the pandemic resulted in people leaving urban centers because everything was closed, and density meant more risk (and no one was taking transit). Plus major urban centers are seeing a spike in crime. Seattle is a prime example.
Then you have millennials deciding to make the move to a SFH, and usually quality of schools is a major factor for housing values.
I think more employees than we think don’t plan on returning to commuting to an office, which means they don’t have to live in an urban area to avoid commuting. I saw a poll on CNN in which 33% of those polled said they would change jobs to avoid commuting. Now there are tons of jobs that are online, unlike before the pandemic. The longer the pandemic lingers the less likely they will return to commuting to an office.
Transit serves housing, not the other way around. I have never heard anyone say they bought a house because of the transit. Price, work, jobs, public safety, schools, environment, neighborhood are all much larger factors than transit.
The Eastside has transit and will have rail. I doubt nearly as many eastsiders will ride transit post pandemic as ST estimated pre-pandemic, but they will have rail if you can get to it. They just don’t want to commute to work on it.
Did housing prices rise 39% on the eastside because of transit, or East Link. Of course not. Prices rose 39% because right now families think the Eastside is a better place to live than Seattle, which is why Seattle housing prices rose 11%, which is still strong growth, but mainly in SFH.
The pandemic is a good lesson that transit follows and serves housing. While transit advocates were focused on increasing density to somehow meet ridership and farebox recovery workers post-pandemic were leaving the city and abandoning commuting on transit for good. Talk about unforeseen consequences.
Really when you think of it the spine allows this sprawl, except people still don’t plan on commuting to work, so they don’t see the value in living in a shoebox in a dense building next to light rail along I-5.
It looks like zoning to serve transit like TOD’s missed the big picture, because the transit commuter is leaving, and going to SFH neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs because families with kids who no longer have to commute to work love cul-de-sacs, which is why Eastside builders build them.
So no, transit isn’t a factor in property values, but the quality of the city and schools, and WFH are, with WFH being the real wildcard.
Again I point to the statistics that show Seattle housing turnover is about 4 days.
People aren’t “fleeing” urban areas on the west coast. There just simply isn’t any housing left for them to live in.
If people were “fleeing” urban areas on the west coast, you’d actually see housing that people could afford. In Detroit you can buy a house for almost nothing. That hasn’t happened anywhere on the west coast, except for shopping malls and other retail.
Transit does increase home values, but the effect is largely localized to the immediate areas of very high quality transit (e.g. condos right across the street from Northgate station). This is largely because the number of people who want to live near good transit exceeds the number of homes that exist there.
Once you get away from Link and onto boring old bus routes, the effect is much more muted. The bus is nothing special and there are tons of places to live where you can walk to a bus.
Of course, there are some people who oppose rail because they don’t want property values (and rents) to go up, but that’s just the old “my neighborhood is a dump, and to afford the rent it must always remain a dump” argument that opposes any type of improvement, from bike lanes to street trees.
There are many factors that affect location choices in different ways. We all rate the importance of job location, crime, schools, affordability, transportation convenience, square footage, outdoor space or access, proximity to friends and family, amenities, views and aesthetics differently.
Some factors can combine to attract some groups more and others less. For example, Capitol Hill appears to be younger with more college students now that UW is a quick stop away — yet Link has helped make it more unaffordable for low-wage LGBTQ+ residents who have traditionally been able to live there.
Generally, I think the property value “bonus” of station proximity will increase more as new stations outside of the City of Seattle open. East Link in particular is a string of pearls of destinations, and young adults in tech will often assess whether they can live within walking distance of a station on the route. Most new SE Seattle apartments being built this year seem to be near Judkins Park in anticipation — and less so at current SE Seattle Link stations (although they too are seeing more units added). Spring District and Overlake will continue to densify and look way different in 5-8 years.
Since frequent transit coverage blankets much of Seattle I think the market effect of transit is generally small with new Link and RapidRide access openings. In contrast, I think the market effect will be more noticeable in places outside of Seattle as new Link stations offering quick, frequent, reliable trains will attract more new residents to stations (combined with the inability to get parking as garages fill up if they live too far to walk). As the pandemic worries wane, I expect desks to again be occupied and most workers to return to transit.
Finally, I think the advancement of electric cars with increasingly more advanced technology will make owning a car a bit less unacceptable in the next decade more than in the prior one. This would result in more congestion.
Finding ways to offer exclusive transit use on corridors at an appropriate type of design is and should be a top priority. Many great transit cities of the world — London, Paris and New York — live with great subway access yet still have terrible traffic. Of course, it boils down to objectively spending available capital dollars. The lack of discussing and analyzing basic metrics — time saved per rider, aggregate travel time saved (time savings X ridership), jobs within 30 minutes, transit overcrowding, ease of transfers, riders per mile and others — in the current ST3 realignment demonstrates how amateurish many leaders still approach this. By not demanding performance metrics in decision-making, it feels like the ST Board are a bunch of seventh graders building a commercial aircraft with limited experience or first-hand knowledge.
Generally, I think the property value “bonus” of station proximity will increase more as new stations outside of the City of Seattle open.
I suppose, but I think public transportation is very small factor when it comes to development in greater Seattle. It would be interesting to look a map with a few layers. One would be existing apartments and current development — in effect, expected density (in the near future). You would see the boom in Roosevelt, as well as on the other side of the freeway (next to Green Lake). That sort of thing is going on all across the city. Now look at the layer which has the current and future stations. There is some overlap, but lots of places (Greenwood, Stone Way, Central Area, Lake City, etc.) that are nowhere near transit. Some places are booming, but won’t have a station for 20 years, if ever (west Ballard). There does seem to be a connection, but it is a weak one.
Now look at a layer with zoning limits. Wow. Suddenly it all becomes clear. Where they have allowed growth, growth has happened. But wait, not everywhere. Throw in historic property values, and things become even more clear. The areas that were always valuable (Roosevelt, U-District, Ballard, Stone Way, etc.) that changed their zoning have seen tremendous growth. Some of the other areas have lagged. Some of these laggards are close to stations, suggesting that traditional economic factors, along with a host of other issues (being close to a busy street, a sizable distance from a really nice park, etc.) are much bigger issues.
Growth won’t occur without a zoning change. The new stations can be credited for that, but that isn’t the market talking — it is the government. For example, the area around the proposed 130th station is largely zoned single family. It isn’t special, as it is relatively close to the freeway. But it is in Seattle. Typically the lots in that part of the city are big and the houses small (making them a good deal for developers). If there were no Link expansion plans, and the city arbitrarily chose the area around that station to rezone, you would see just about as much growth as you will when they rezone (in response to the station). Of course these apartments would have parking (probably mandated) and being close to the freeway would be seen as a selling point (not a negative). The ones closest to the freeway would likely be fairly cheap, although maybe with double pain windows it wouldn’t matter. While neither side has easy access or a pleasant walk to bars or restaurants, they at least have parkland. On the west there is a nice little park, and the east the golf course (that is surrounded by a green belt). It is no different than a lot of apartments in the city, really. They put them on the worst land, treating renters like second class citizens.
The point being, our highly restrictive zoning is what creates these little boom areas, not the stations. Even in the suburbs you can see that. Yes, the Spring District is booming. Of course it is. Where else is East Side development supposed to grow? Downtown Kirkland? Totem Lake? I guess, and guess what — those places are growing too. The point being, once Bellevue decided to create their own little section of growth — extremely close to the space-limited and booming downtown Bellevue — it was bound to grow. Link is just a bonus. The key was zoning.
It is really tough to find places that clearly would not have developed without Link.
“It is really tough to find places that clearly would not have developed without Link”
Nearly every major zoning change has occurred in close conjunction with Link or other major transportation investments. If you ignore political constraints, then yeah sure Totem Lake, the Spring District, and SE Redmond could have all happened without Sound Transit. Your examples are neighborhoods that are already highly desirable, so yes redevelopment will occur with a simple zoning change. What will be much more interesting is whether or not Link (or Stride or Sounder) will induce development where there is excess zoned capacity prior to the arrival of Link.
There are plenty of neighborhoods outside of Seattle that have ample excess zoned capacity yet little development because they are not currently desirable enough to support the rents needed to finance significant private development: Southcenter, downtown Renton, central Issaquah, downtown Everett, Edmond’s 99 corridor, most of urban Tacoma, downtowns of Kent, Auburn, and Puyallup, etc.
In Seattle and the core of East King (Kirkland/Bellevue/Redmond), developers have mostly already maximized the current zoned potential of neighborhoods. That is not true throughout the rest of the region.
“There are plenty of neighborhoods outside of Seattle that have ample excess zoned capacity yet little development because they are not currently desirable enough to support the rents needed to finance significant private development: Southcenter, downtown Renton, central Issaquah, downtown Everett, Edmond’s 99 corridor, most of urban Tacoma, downtowns of Kent, Auburn, and Puyallup, etc.”
I don’t know about the rest, but I wouldn’t include central Issaquah (which I think you mean downtown Issaquah, although there is little multi-story development in Issaquah). Issaquah’s commercial core may seem incomprehensible to some, but it is by design, women love it, and is a cash cow. It is retail sales tax, not “rents”, that drive city revenues, and why Issaquah has so much money for a city of 35,000.
The PSRC has pursued a TOD oriented development model, because ST is desperate to approximate the ridership estimates it made, and to appease the global warming crowd. But living next to a train station — especially above ground as West Seattle and Ballard have learned — is not something that is desirable for a city or neighborhood (and Mercer Island’s station is basically underground, but not covered although there is talk of a lid).
Furthermore it is a myth development pays for itself or benefits a city. The costs of each new resident for all the infrastructure from water to sewer to roads to police to schools to social services costs cities money after the sugar high of construction sale tax is gone, and one of the biggest push backs is the lack of state funding for mandated population increases.
TOD works well if it is located and priced for the usual non-peak transit rider who must ride transit, like Judkins Park, because that housing is multi-family. But not the Spring District, Downtown Bellevue, or Wilburton. That customer does not need transit. TOD was a convenient way for Bellevue to sell massive upzoning in its commercial core, while protecting its SFH zones. I know a developer involved in one of the massive projects in The Spring District, and he told me even though Bellevue has recently relaxed underground parking minimums the lenders and tenants are demanding close to twice as much parking as the City of Bellevue mandates, even though it costs a fortune.
There is virtually no benefit to Mercer Island from its light rail station. The station will not increase property values, will increase costs on the city, there is no access to it, and so not surprisingly the city is not interested in upzoning land near the station, certainly the residential neighborhoods to the north that would cause a revolt.
The dream for the vast majority of Americans is a single family home, even if it means long commutes. WFH may make that desire affordable without the commute, and skew the PSRC’s mandated housing vision, and cut deeply into some of transit’s ridership. Ironically I think it make the spine — which I think was extravagant — more relevant, because now folks can afford a single family home in these outer areas and take light rail to the city once or twice per week. Irony of ironies, the spine may lead to the sprawl the PSRC hoped to avoid.
Take transit out of the equation and ask what zoning should be, and what most citizens want it to be, and that should be the zoning. Zoning for transit has it backwards, and when something like WFH happens transit agencies and the PSRC are caught flat footed because the revenue is gone.
No, I mean Central Issaquah the designated growth center west of 7th Ave, not the historic Old Towne which is mostly built out to existing zoned capacity. I sat on the planning commission when city staff walked us through the analysis that showed vertical mixed use development wasn’t profitable for developers based on Issaquah rents at the time (2015-ish). Staff and the commission generally agreed that we were content to wait until rents went up (or costs went down) rather than change the zoning, given that Issaquah as consistently exceeded its 2010s housing targets through growth elsewhere in the city. As Daniel correctly points out, sales taxes revenue is super important for local government, so the Central Issaquah zoning it set to encourage mixed use development and discourage the conversion of the strip malls into 100% residential development because the city is happy to grow population but not also shrink its tax base.
Yes, national lending standards can often require parking above local parking minimums.
“ The dream for the vast majority of Americans is a single family home, even if it means long commutes.”
The prices and time to sell in Seattle speak otherwise.
That’s because the alternatives available in the USA are either uncontrollable rent increases in an apartment or awful homeowner association dues in a condo.
There are many, many disadvantages to living out in the middle of nowhere, but if that is the only place available to live, then it does best living on the street.
I wonder how long those 33%-er MOTU’s will be singing their rebellious songs when the bosses “call” those “I quit!” bluffs.
While it’s probable that the coding “stars” can make the threat real, the 90% of the 33%-ers who think they’re Supernovas but are in fact Jupiter-plus Red Dwarves will flicker out.
“I wonder how long those 33%-er MOTU’s will be singing their rebellious songs when the bosses “call” those “I quit!” bluffs.”
“While it’s probable that the coding “stars” can make the threat real, the 90% of the 33%-ers who think they’re Supernovas but are in fact Jupiter-plus Red Dwarves will flicker out.”
TT, for an avowed Trotskyite you sure hate the common worker. Why do you think the average worker who cannot afford to drive and park downtown should spend so much of their life commuting on packed transit, especially with a virus you think will be with us for a very long time and is a lot more contagious than believed with a real risk of longhauler disease?
I don’t think we should require the common worker to spend their lives away from the families commuting on crummy transit so ST can meet its exaggerated ridership estimates or future farebox revenue, or to revitalize downtown Seattle. Other than that I can’t think of a single benefit of commuting, on transit or in a car.
Plus, it benefits business by reducing the very expensive overhead for office space. Our firm is looking at leaving downtown Seattle/Pioneer Square, but we have a year left on our lease. Unfortunately so are many other tenants in our building and in downtown Seattle, and we are toward the back of the line. All of Seattle it turns out is awash with office space for sublease.
But strangely enough this is not just a Seattle phenomenon — although many Seattle businesses are sick of the downtown environment. It turns out there is lots of office space on the eastside available for sublease right now too.
WFH won’t eliminate going into the office, but it will limit it, and allow workers to select the days and times, which will help reduce peak demand which drives the huge cost of transportation infrastructure. We have plenty of road capacity for non-peak times. No doubt the attractiveness of the city in which the office is located will also play a role in how often a worker wants to go into the office.
It will affect transit ridership, and it will skew sales tax receipts towards where workers live rather than commute to, but so what. Society adapts to massive changes that tend to occur from something like a pandemic.
I might have agreed with you a few months ago that most workers would return to the five day/week commute, but I didn’t anticipate the huge number of citizens who would refuse to get vaccinated, or the Delta strain, or the time it will really take to make people feel comfortable taking transit.
The infrastructure is now there to work online. I think that is a good thing. Let transit get back to its core mission serving those who don’t have other modes of transportation, and let downtown city cores revitalize based on safe streets, vibrant retail, great restaurants, tourism, and hopefully attracting more residents to live downtown rather than dispersing them throughout the residential neighborhoods.
When it comes to WFH I am with the worker, because I think WFH benefits everyone.
Another nonsensical DT rant.
A company’s decision whether or not to require employees to return to the office is a business decision. It has absolutely nothing to do with Sound Transit’s ridership estimates and everything to do with the productivity tradeoffs between in-person collaboration vs. remote collaboration.
The idea of a CEO of a private company telling workers to return to the office for the sake of propping up Link’s ridership numbers is utter nonsense.
Wow, nobody has ever called me a Trot before. Usually they think I’m a heartless Republican because I have frequently argued that a place like Seattle, once “discovered”, will replace its former laid-back residents with new, richer ones, and that that’s just the way the game is played. “House rich” folks with an inadequate income stream to pay the taxes and insurance on a $600K home or $2000/month rent simply have to up sticks and find a less expensive place to live. Subsidies on the scale necessary would simply inflate demand more and price them out again.
Where in the world did you think I “avowed” myself a “Trotskyite”?
I certainly agree that WFH is potentially a win for the environment, but only if it doesn’t lead to more sprawl. Paving the landscape around Cle Elem because fiber-optic cables is not my idea of “progress”. It appears to be yours.
$1355/month doesn’t seem “wealthy”. Even the high of $1800+/month is not high end in Seattle or in Bellevue.
Interesting the highest percentage of those looking to move to Seattle are from Portland, San Fran and LA, cities with the same but worse issues as Seattle.
The torrid market is SFH on the Eastside, up 39% year over year, with an average price of nearly $1,4 million, $500,000 higher than in Seattle.
Time will tell how WFH affects migration and housing patterns.
Home prices are growing twice a fast in areas without public transit.
This shouldn’t be surprising.
Take a look at Lacy north of I-5. Massive new developments going in, all of it not served by transit.
The housing and/or other stuff really needs to be there before the transit gets there. The fastest change in value of housing comes when farm fields like those were/are gets turned into acres of rooftops.
When people finally get to the point they demand transit somehow serve their tangle of cul-de-sacs and traffic circles, the values have pretty well settled out.
The article is classic clickbait. It’s got a lot of things wrong with it.
First, doesn’t define exactly what “without mass transit means”. Is North Bend considered to “have mass transit” because it has a #208 bus that runs every two hours? Or, does a bus have to have a minimum frequency in order to count? Or, maybe buses don’t count at all if their definition of “without mass transit” really means “without rail transit”. The article doesn’t say.
Second, the headline makes it sound as though the presence of transit service, in and of itself, depresses property values, but correlation is not causation. If anything, the presence of high quality mass transit increases property values.
Third, when you’re talking about cheap rural land being sold off to suburban sprawl, the cost per acre can go up by an astronomical percentage if you’re starting from a very low baseline (e.g. when the land is just farmland). Of course, these areas aren’t served by public transit, just making the sensationalist headline technically true.
Transit should be installed at the same time as the housing, or even a bit earlier so that it will be ready to serve the residents as soon as they move in. That’s how streetcar suburbs were designed, and why they work so well.
“Transit should be installed at the same time as the housing, or even a bit earlier so that it will be ready to serve the residents as soon as they move in.”
That’s easy to say, but hard to do when the cash strapped transit agency already has its hands full serving the existing areas. Unless the new areas generate enough tax revenue to cover their own service, a requirement to serve them is effectively an unfunded mandate.
Rather than running the service from day 1, the initial focus should be designing the physical layout of new development so that it can be served by transit efficiently. This means commercial destinations along the arterial, not 1/2 mile away, where the bus has to detour into the parking lot to serve. It also means good sidewalks and crosswalks, and pedestrian paths so people can get to bus stops on arterial roads without having to walk way out of the way.
I’m not even talking about huge density here, just basic pedestrian awareness in the design. Snoqualmie Ridge has it, as does Issaquah Highlands. Lake Stevens, on the other hand, does not.
Yes, it requires the politicians and public to have the right priorities. But it’s what the most effective cities do, and what all cities should do. New neighborhoods should be walkable, have a good mix of housing and jobs and retail, and have frequent transit. That will maximize tax revenue, resident convenience, attractiveness of non-car mode shares, and satisfaction with government.
In other words, cities and counties should build streetcar suburbs like Wallingford or Greenwood, not like southeast Pierce County, north Bothell, or north Kent. The Issaquah Highlands gets at least part of that right. King County should focus on getting more frequent bus service throughout it and central Issaquah, and all the counties should build their new neighborhoods more like it.
P.S. I don’t mean new urban centers should be like the Issaquah Highlands; they should be denser. But housing developments outside urban centers should be more like it. Looking at you, 164th in north Lynnwood, The Landing, 192nd in north Kent, Kent East Hill, Pacific Ave in Tacoma, Des Moines, southeast Kirkland, etc.
The article is classic clickbait
I wouldn’t go that far. The title is a bit misleading, but that happens all the time with statistics. The biggest weakness is that it doesn’t provide a link to the study itself, but links only to the Redfin data site.
Here is the key sentence/paragraph:
The median home-sale price in car-dependent areas, nationwide, has increased 32.8% to a record $418,100 since January 2020, while it has risen 15.6% to a record $540,500 in transit-accessible neighborhoods.
The value of car-dependent land has increased faster than transit-accessible land — but it still hasn’t caught up. In other words, the price of a 5 bedroom house on a half acre in North Bend has gone way up. But it still isn’t as expensive as a similar house in the Issaquah Highlands, let alone something similar in Magnolia.
This is nothing new. Property values of suburban and rural property shot up during the pandemic. They have continued to increase. This is also a huge reversal of the Great Recession. Urban property was fairly resilient, while suburban and rural property got hammered. Especially hard hit were places like Bend and Las Vegas. It is anyone’s guess as how this will play out, but it seems quite possible that those areas (or similar ones) will crash again. It is quite likely that lots of people are paying way too much to live in the boonies (while locals roll their eyes in disbelief) but it doesn’t seem bad compared to when they were living in the city. History may repeat, but hopefully this time it won’t take the economy with it, and will be more like the S & L crisis (which may have caused a relatively minor recession, and “just” cost the taxpayers a bunch of money).
No doubt that zoning plays a huge role in development or redevelopment, Ross. The few thousand mid-rise apartments near Judkins Park in various stages of approvals or construction would be duplicated at Mercer Island and South Bellevue if those neighbors supported a zoning change for more density because the market would likely take full advantage of it.
However, there is a symbiotic relationship between Link and denser zoning in most communities and I think you allude to that. I think most leaders see that population growth has to go somewhere and view many Link stations as the “best” place to do that.
The outcome of higher rents or property values seems to however be the focus of this thread. In this context, the question becomes whether Link adds any value to areas as compared to other areas when both areas have similar zoning restrictions. I think it does, and I think that effect grows the further the area is from frequent bus service and short possible commutes. I imagine that a real estate economics grad student could do quite a research dissertation on the topic.
Of course it does. It makes non-car transportation much more convenient for several major corridors and trip pairs, and when ST2 is finished it will connect most of the major cities in the core area. (The core area being Lynnwood-Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond-FW. Feeders to Everett and Tacoma effectively extend it.) A metro needs a good trunk transit core, and Pugetopolis will finally have one. That will be useful to Judkins Park, and even to Rainier Valley transferring at Judkins Park.
You do realize they have single family homes in Seattle don’t you Glenn, and the average price of a single family home on the Eastside is now $500,000 more than a SFH in Seattle.
To suggest living “out in the middle of nowhere” by which I am guessing you mean Issaquah is worse than living on the street in Seattle is pretty moronic, considering the average Issaquah SFH costs more than $1.4 million.
the average price of a single family home on the Eastside is now $500,000 more than a SFH in Seattle.
Nope, not even close. Average is meaningless. Median value in City is way more. It’s still sick that a lot you have to tear down a house is still worth +$500 on the eastside.
Both average and median are meaningless if they don’t adjust for size of the house or lot. The vast majority of the east side is more affordable that much of Seattle after adjusting for size. I moved to Issaquah specifically because the condo I bought there I couldn’t have afforded if it was located in the dozen or so neighborhoods we were looking at within Seattle.
Bernie, I know I posted this info on this blog before, but today the Seattle Times has another article on regional and Seattle housing prices (p. A11).
The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue market is up 23.4% in May, a record. In April the increase was 20.2% (behind only Phoenix and San Diego). The median price paid for a house in King Co. last month cost $860,000. In Seattle the median was $890,444, and in N. King Co. $925,000.
This link, however shows the median price for a SFH is up 39% year over year to around $1,350,000, which is roughly a $500,000 difference for Seattle as a whole, and closer to $425,000 for N. King Co.
I think Al has a point about lot sizes being larger on the eastside, and that affecting values, because the median prices for a SFH on the eastside were higher than Seattle before the spike (condos are a different story and Seattle is still slightly more expensive for condos). What I find interesting is the difference in price increases over the last year: 39% for the eastside and around 11% for Seattle proper.
Housing prices are rising across the entire region. Focusing on whether one neighborhood is higher or rising faster than another misses the point: the main problem is the underlying price increases in all areas. That price increase is because the population is rising faster than the housing supply, and many buyers/renters are limited to certain market segments (3 BR family, below-median price, on a good transit line, etc). So there’s increasing competition both in the entire market and in these specific segments. When an owner/landlord can turn over a property in five or ten days, they’ll charge more than when they have to leave it vacant for a month or more. The norm for apartments until 2003 was 1-2 months, and the norm for houses until the 2008 crash was six months. Now houses and apartments are turning over in a week, and along with that comes multiple buyers/renters in the same hour, and buyers routinely overbidding and waiving inspections. The more buyers overbid, the more base prices (asking prices) tend to rise to that level. That’s what’s happening. It’s all about the housing shortage.
Daniel says people want SF houses — but few SF houses are for sale! The inventory is far lower than it was before 2008. Inner suburbs are built out: there are no more large tracts left to subdivide for SF houses. Yet more people are competing for the houses that exist there, so the prices rise. The places that still have unused tracts left are Issaquah, Maple Valley, North Lynnwood to Marysville, and east Pierce County. So those are the areas where SF houses are growing. But all areas are experiencing rapid price increases, because the shortage is so large that people who can’t get the size/location they want are going to less desirable areas and taking their second, third, or tenth choice.
Detroit houses are practically free in some parts of the city, where the conditions are worse than 95% of the US. Other parts of Detroit are seeing price increases and increasing unaffordability, the same as the rest of the country.
Housing prices follow a curve similar to a supermarket checkout line. When the rental vacancy rate is above 10% and the house time-on-market is over 6 months, prices remain stable or decrease. As the rates go down, prices rise. If there are still a lot of 30-year-old, tired, no-frills units available, they remain a haven for lower-income renters/buyers even as prices rise. That’s what Seattle had in 2007. Then with the Amazon boom, all the remaining vacancy and run-down slack got squeezed out and price increases accelerated. Similarly, a checkout line goes swiftly when there are zero, one, or two people waiting. But as the number reaches three or four the line slows down, and the more people added the exponentially worse it gets. That’s what’s been happening in Seattle/Pugetopolis since demand returned to normal in 2012.
I see nothing wrong with mandating proof of vaccination to attend sporting events, go to school, or fly on a plane. Nor do I think exceptions should be allowed for any reason. Businesses should also be allowed to require vaccine ‘passports to protect their employee – if nothing else.
If this were the Black Death and half the population were dying we would be taking every measure. This conceit that people are allowed to have in this public health emergency because we haven’t yet run across a variant that will kill half the people is dangerous.
All of us, even the vaccinated, are at risk. Sadly, most people don’t recognize the danger.
I will belatedly thank the Sounders for having an all-vaccinated section (the lower bowl), though I still haven’t gone to any matches this year and have no plan to do so.
Tonight’s match will be the first with vaccinated and unvaccinated, side by side, with no social distancing, this year. I have a bad feeling about this. Masks up, Seattle!
Let’s hope that MERS is truly extinct in thr bat world, because if some bat gets both SARS-Cov-2 and MERS, the viruses share some RNA bits, and the resultant MERS-Cov-2 jumps the species barrier again, Katie-Bar-The-Door.
Do not believe this is impossible. Fantastically unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Not at all; all the necessary actions have been observed in Coronaviruses.
Let us be grateful that these viruses reproduce asexually, meaning they evolve solely through errors in duplicating their RNA strands. And occasionally genetic splicing that would presumably be the work of human beings. Surely, humans would not be so daft as to actually create superviruses via gain-of-function genetic manipulation. Would they?
Brent, so you’re saying that it IS impossible for two different Coronaviruses which happen both to invade the same cell to create a chimeric new strain? Maybe it is; certainly viruses are incapable of “trading” genetic material as viruses do.
I hope so, because the hot stew in bat caves seems a great place for it to occur.
“as bacteria do”
If you were Tom Douglas, and you were going to locate your first restaurant outside of Seattle, but still within King County, which town or city would you locate in? The location kinda surprised me, but, the word on the street is he’s putting a Serious Pie in Totem Lake this October. Downtown Bellevue or Redmond I could see, but Totem Lake?
That’s not a surprise. It will likely be in THE VILLAGE AT TOTEM LAKE; “development that includes a theatre-anchored center featuring retail, 400 residential units, entertainment and office spaces.” Besides the existing multifamily housing Evergreen Medical Center, Kirkland’s largest employer, is next door. It is a Transit Center and in less than 2 years Eastrail will connect Totem Lake to all points Woodinville to Renton. Across the freeway a huge senior living center is going in and lots of multifamily along 116th. Totem Lake is Kirkland’s future. There’s hints they want to increase the height limits and try to become more like downtown Bellevue. Juanita is growing like crazy and that whole area, including Kingsgate has little direct competition for a Tom Douglas style restaurant.
You all are ignorant common sense if you want to be out where a Mask regardless of your status it doesn’t matter I am vaccinated and I still wear my mask why because I have a heart and care for other people everybody needs to just grow up wear a f****** mask till this s*** is controlled. Xoxo ✌ even to you ignorant people who think you’re better than the next
Anyone care to translate this gibberish?
Punctuation and spelling have value.
“I copied and pasted this from from some guy on Twitter.”
You probably could have reread it in the time it took to write this comment.
I’ve been off the grid for most of the last week so haven’t been keeping up with STB, but why isn’t anyone talking about the big escalator expose in the Seattle Times earlier this month? It was pretty enlightening:
The map shows a very inconvenient truth – most of ST’s escalator issues are actually Metro escalator issues.
ST has two stations at 100% availability, three more above 98% availability, and only one station that misses the metric of 95%.
Metro DSTT escalator availability is horrific. None meet the metric, and the best Metro station is actually worse than the worst ST station.
To be fair, Metro’s escalators are the oldest in the system, but it is also very clear that Metro’s maintenance program was far from adequate. Metro’s Diane Carlson pretty much came out and admitted that Metro made the conscious decision to let maintenance lapse simply because they wanted to run more buses instead.
The result? ST is stuck fixing Metro’s mess. I’m sure ST is capable of getting the job done, but the real question that is left unanswered is, “Should we ever trust Metro again with a major piece of infrastructure like the DSTT?” Because it sure didn’t work out well this time.
Good luck to ST on getting all the DSTT issues fixed.
It’s now ST’s responsibility. We knew all along that half the DSTT escalators were broken, King County deferred maintenance on them in the last years of its control, and Metro didn’t have money to fix them except when it could get federal grants.
Yup. It’s called due diligence and ST failed spectacularly in this regard.
You need to spend at least a few seconds reading the information provided before commenting. The article and commentary is pretty clear, the escalator problem began and (hopefully) ends with Metro.
Since I have a subscription to the ST, I had already read the linked article previously. Your comment is thus bunk and apparently implies that you don’t understand what due diligence involves. As one who has worked for many years on physical asset assessments and valuations as part of a corporate acquisition team at a former employer, which routinely grew its business substantially through plant and distribution site purchases as well as complete buyouts, I repeat my prior assertion. ST failed to do proper due diligence.
This really isn’t new news. This was readily apparent to anyone following the situation for the past couple of years, particularly if one was paying attention when the board approved motion M2020-71 last Dec.
I shouldn’t say just deferred maintenance. All the DSTT escalators are thirty years old and at the end of their life so they all need to be replaced. That’s what King County punted to ST.
I’d group it all under State of Good Repair, which covers regular & major maintenance and replacement at end of life.
I’m not familiar with the specifics, but this does feel like King County choose to punt on end of life replacement rather than shoddy maintenance, though they may have indeed skipped maintenance near the end once they realized it would no longer be their problem, since KCM decision makers respond to incentives just like the rest of us.
Hmm, reading that Seattle Times article, it does read like KCM intentionally deferred maintenance, specially during the last recession, which would then accelerate the need for end of life replacement.
This is also a great datapoint on why it’s better to just situate stations to minimize the need for vertical conveyance.
Thanks Tisgwm, my question is do you really think ST was unaware of the maintenance deficiencies in DSTT1 when it agreed to purchase it? ST had been running trains through it for years. Could ST really be that clueless, or negligent?
Or do you think ST understood the maintenance deficits but wanted the sole control of the tunnel, and figured it had the money — or could obtain the funding — to remedy the maintenance backlog?
I just find it a little scary that an organization like ST would agree to buy DSTT1 without a walk through, or any kind of basic due diligence on some pretty obvious maintenance issues.
Metro knew it was going to hand over the tunnel to ST. ST knew it was going to take over the tunnel. What did you think was going to happen? Metro would spend money it doesn’t have so that a different agency — one that just recently passed one of the biggest levy packages in the country — would have brand new escalators? Get real. Either the agency that takes over the thing is smart enough to work out a deal, or Metro was going to delay replacing them, knowing full well that ST would.
That is total BS. If Metro intentionally ran a public asset into the ground just because their nose was a bit bent out of shape because ownership was being transferred, then that is the worst example of public stewardship I have ever heard of. Such behavior is egregious, and the mere suggestion of such a thing would justify an independent investigation by the state AG.
Let’s get real. This isn’t a second grade playground. Metro has a responsibility to be good stewards of the public assets under their control. And that is true regardless of whether or not their stewardship is long term or short term.
You really should read articles you reference. That would give you a better understanding of the issues. Here is a little snippet:
“Overall, the escalators are in poor condition and have exceeded their service life expectancy,” said a mid-2019 study by Vertical Transportation Excellence. The average life is 25 years, but only one was newer than 32 years, it said.
Got that? These escalators are old. Very old. If they were mismanaged as poorly as you suggest, they never would have made it this long — they would have all broken down twenty years ago. But eventually you have to replace them. The only question is who is going to replace them — the old owner or the new one. Do you really think the county was going to spend a bundle fixing and upgrading the escalators right before ST took them over? That would be silly, given that ST might want different ones. Likewise, they might want a different subcontractor to maintain the escalators — and guess what, they do.
You act as is this was all some secret done by Metro. It wasn’t. All of this was public knowledge. This is a public agency — they knew how old the escalators are. They had the complete service report. ST knew very well what it was getting.
Here is an analogy. You own an old car. You’ve maintained it reasonably well over the years, but it has a lot of miles on it. You intend to give the car to your kid, as a graduation present. Do you put in a new engine? Of course not. The kid gets it, “as-is”. Of course there are parts that are old, and have to be replaced. That is the nature of a car. You tell the kid this when he gets the car. In fact, you encourage them to take the car to a mechanic, the day they get it. But it is up to the new owner to decide what to do.
All of this is normal. What is NOT normal is to build a major station and not put in stairs. Or put in very poor escalators that have to be replaced almost immediately. King County didn’t do that, ST did.
Like it or not, escalators are NOT a necessity. Elevators are (for ADA reasons) but as long as you have stairs, people can get there. We have all been to stations in other parts of the world, and been impressed with all of the little niceties. We think that’s the key to a well functioning transit system. It’s not. The keys are speed, frequency, reliability and coverage (and not necessarily in that order). Everything else is a “nice to have”. It sounds criminal to you — Criminal! — that Metro would focus their scant funding on running buses rather than escalators, but maybe you forget what it is like to just miss a bus that runs every half hour. For that rider, having to walk up from the platform is a small price to pay to have that bus run twice as often.
Yes, the escalators are old, and I acknowledged that up front, but there is no doubt that an improved maintenance program would have extended their useful operating life. One need look no further than ST and their turnaround of the situation at UWS to understand this.
And age does not necessarily equate directly to unavailability. In my lifetime I’ve spent a fair amount of time riding very old escalators in the London tube – escalators so old that they were made of wood. They worked fine. Why? Because they maintained them well.
All of those wooden escalators have now been replaced. Not because of maintenance costs or unreliability, but primarily as a result of the 1987 Kings Cross fire.
Your analogy of a car sale is silly. But I’ll continue it so maybe you can understand better: No one is accusing Metro of not installing a gold platted engine in an old car just before selling it. What you are effectively saying is that Metro decided to skip the oil changes and drive the old car until the engine seized and then try to sell it. I think we can all agree that such a thing is stupid.
That said, there really isn’t a “sales price” that ST will pay for the tunnel. Last I heard ST was simply taking over the debt service on the tunnel. That is a completely different thing than a free market sale of an old jalopy.
Additionally, if Metro knew in advance that they would lose ownership of the tunnel (they did!), and if they knew that the “price” would be nothing more than ST taking over their debt service, then Metro could have found a way to maintain the DSTT using debt.
The result would have been a better functioning DSTT, a better user experience, and a bill that Metro would just hand to ST!
Metro did none of that. They just ignored the maintenance issues and ran it into the ground.
Bottom line, 22% availability is not acceptable.
I’m with Lazarus. What KCM did was analogous to skipping an oil change on your car because you plan on giving it to your roommate in a few months. While your roommate is happy he got a free car, he’s understandably pissed you didn’t bother to change the oil, not only because you live together and talk every day, he also pays pays a sixth of your rent every month.
To extend the analogy, what KCM did was refuse to even let ST take the car to the shop before they handed over the keys. I have firsthand knowledge of the transition and KCM was incredibly uncooperative, clearly bitter they had to hand over the tunnel, and tried to nickel and dime ST on the way out. When it comes time for Link Operations to transition from KCM to ST ownership, expect even more pettiness.
Did you guys even read the article? The problem wasn’t maintenance, it was that the escalators weren’t replaced earlier. Holy cow, there is even a section in the article titled Replacement delayed. In that section, it states:
Got it? The experts concluded these escalators are too old. Somehow they managed to last much longer than their stated lifespan — contradicting the idea that they were not well maintained. But like all similar systems, they needed to be replaced. It was only a question as to who was going to replace them. Your analogy is flawed. A better one is tires. Yes, there are things you can do to make your tires last longer (rotate them at the right time, avoid potholes, etc.) but eventually they wear out. You can put brand new tires on a car before selling it, but unless you get a great deal on the tires, it would be stupid — let the new owner decide what kind of tires to put on there.
Put it this way, let’s say that Metro replaced them, but they pulled a Sound Transit, and put in cheap escalators. A few years later, these brand new escalators would need to be replaced, and you would have another UW Station situation again.
You are also missing the main point. SOUND TRANSIT KNEW ALL THIS. The service history is public record. They knew these escalators were old, and not in great shape. There was nothing hidden — ST knew they were going to replace the escalators, and now they are replacing them. Given Sound Transit’s track record with *new* escalators (terrible) it shouldn’t be surprising that they didn’t prioritize this.
I don’t blame them. Escalators aren’t that important. Elevators are. Buses and trains are. Let’s say I had a choice: On the one hand, the trains run every 15 minutes, but the escalators are perfect. On the other hand, the train runs every 6 minutes, but the escalators are broken down. It isn’t even close — give me the frequent trains. What is true of trains is true of buses. I’m not alone — almost everyone feels this way. Less than half the subway stops in New York have escalators. It isn’t even close to the biggest concern of riders (reliability and frequency is).
There is no mismanagement here (by anyone) it is simply priorities. As the article pointed out, this is common. Agencies across the country delay replacing their old escalators. It is a maintenance task that is more flash than substance. It is a very visible representation of the system, but at the end of the day, doesn’t mean much. That is why agencies often include them in levies. People want to see it fixed, but the real nitty-gritty of a system (the day to day operations that make it possible for all those trains to get from one end of town to the other) is too complicated to put to a vote.
There really isn’t much of a story here. They delayed replacing the escalators, and now they will be replaced. The switchover probably played a part, but it is quite possible that this would have happened if ST owned the tunnel for the last twenty years. This sort of thing happens everywhere (get used to it). We are spoiled, because our system is so young. Just look at the chart again (https://static.seattletimes.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/TL-escalators-failure-WEB.jpg). Escalator state is simply a result of use and age. All the new escalators are fine. Tukwila is fine, because very few people use it. But SeaTac — owned by ST the entire time — is starting to show its age. All those people carrying all that luggage is taking a toll. Should we freak out because it is performing well below the goal? Of course not. That is normal.
What is *not* normal is to build a station without stairs, or build a new escalator and have problems almost immediately. Sound Transit did both, which showed really bad planning.
The need for escalators increases as the vertical elevation differences increase between the platform and the street. For example, a cut-and-cover subway station in NYC with third rail trains may have just 25 steps to the mezzanine and another 25 to the platform. Light rail caténaires add vertical distance. Mezzanines add vertical distance. Bored tunnels add vertical distance.
As far as the DSTT escalators go, the ST2 vote which contained a proposed full takeover of the DSTT should have included vertical improvements in the DSTT in 2008. The ST2 goal of “ Pedestrian improvements at or near transit facilities” clearly counts. However, ST2 appears to assume that access is just to get to the station entrance and not get all the way to the platform.
Just like ST promotes funding SOGR for track maintenance, light fixtures and other station and track items, they should expect to replace escalators.
ST simply avoided or perhaps overlooked DSTT upgrades for decades. They are looking at it now. I’m unsure if they will open station upgrades to public opinion — and I think they would learn lots if the asked riders. I worry that the discussion is just about escalator replacement rather than a full-blown station modernization discussion. The DSTT stations are beautiful — but even an art museum regularly upgrades its systems.
A final point about rail versus bus tunnel stations: the surges. I doubt any Metro bus unloaded more than 20 or so people at a DSTT station. One four-car train may be unloading 200 at one time in 2025. It’s akin to a drain working fine with a trickle of water from the faucet, but dumping a large bucket of water will take time to drain out of a more clogged sink drain. It was already not unusual for Link riders to have to wait to use an escalator or elevator pre-pandemic during busy hours — and that was with just three-car trains and 80K system riders. Making sure that escalators are plentiful and operating is the equivalent of reducing train frequencies by one or two minutes at peak times for riders. It may not be “essential” but it certainly is impactful — comparable to better frequencies (and that is a situation where escalators quantitatively are as important as better frequencies — refuting your assertion, RossB).
“To extend the analogy, what KCM did was refuse to even let ST take the car to the shop before they handed over the keys.”
It is a tunnel, open to the public. ST ran trains through it every day. ST has estimated tunnel costs and construction for ST 3, and built tunnels on its own other than DSTT1. ST has tunnel experts, and escalator experts, and knows how to hire escalator experts and ask them to walk the tunnel. The brand of escalator, the age, the average daily riders, the number of complaints ST had received about the escalators over the years, and the condition were readily apparent.
This analogy would make more sense if the roommate were an experienced car mechanic and had shared use of the car for the past several years, and the mechanic bought the car after an inspection and using the car for years anyway, knowing the issues.
So the real question is why did ST take the tunnel as is, knowing all the issues? Usually the answer is because of the price, the rest of the car looked pretty good, or the buyer really wanted the tunnel or car.
In this case I think another possibility is ST knew Metro did not have the money to maintain or repair the DSTT1 without cuts to service (which in large part will determine first/last mile access for Link), and ST could spread the costs over the five different subareas, which I imagine ST thought was fair, rather than having Metro or King Co. pick up the tab alone after the N. King Co. subarea — IMO — paid for a disproportionate amount of the spine so folks to get to downtown Seattle, because when the subareas were formed Snohomish Co., Pierce Co., East King Co., and S. King Co. were pretty anemic economically, and three of those still are but can contribute to the refurbishment of DSTT1 since it benefits them disproportionately compared to what they paid for the spine.
I am sure Metro was hesitant to sink a ton of money into DSTT1 if it was losing control. Plus ST had a war chest, or thought it did (and really does when you count East King Co. ST didn’t get duped: it was a logical decision. Spread the cost of refurbishment of DSTT1 among all the counties and subareas so King Co. Metro did not take a disproportionate hit.
When looked at that angle the decision and purchase make sense to me.
“knows how to hire escalator experts and ask them to walk the tunnel” – that was the specific thing KCM prohibited ST from doing. The condition assessment did not occur until after ST and KCM aligned on all the legal paperwork. Of course the ST engineers knew the condition of the tunnel from public view – most of them used it every day.
Also, ST has been paying a proportional share of the DSTT operating & maintenance cost as long as ST vehicles (bus & train) have been using the tunnel.
You are correct per the KCM attitude during discussions regarding tunnel ownership transfer. I have heard the same thing from my sources who were in the room the whole time.
But I’m not sure how much of KCM’s attitude is a result of having their pride bruised as opposed to actually having nefarious intentions. My take is that they simply aren’t taking change very well, but change is going to come.
But, if KCM’s attitude is driven by ego, then the next 5 years are going to be particularly hard for them. NG Link, East Link, Lynnwood Link all will open, and the regional focus will shift yet again towards rail
But it is going to happen. Transit Ninjas are not going to do an audit of ST2 and ST3 and overturn the votes, the head of KCM is not going to replace Rogoff as head of ST, and the old Breda buses are not going to be reinstated in the DSTT on August 13th.
KCM needs to be more of a team player, for the benefit of the users if not for anything else.
Apparently you don’t understand the term “service life expectancy”. There are basic assumptions that go into that value that are based on…….hold it just a minute……wait for it……here it is…..ROUTINE MAINTENANCE AND MAINTENANCE COST!!!!
It’s not that an asset at its service life can’t be operated reliably, it is simply that the amount of maintenance and the associated costs exceed a level where the manufacturer would recommend that the user consider replacement.
Unfortunately Metro has done neither. They have not upped maintenance to maintain reliability, and they have not moved to full replacement either. They took the third road. They allowed the asset to degrade to the point of uselessness.
Metro’s attitude has both degraded the user experience and increased overall costs to the taxpayer. And it is basically their fault and only their fault.
Incidentally, to get back to your stupid car analogy and to further drive home the point that there are basic, intrinsic assumptions in the term “service life expectancy”, if I bought a new car from the dealer I know it will come with mandated service intervals for oil changes and major tuneups. And it will come with a mileage based warranty.
If I take that brand new car off the lot, and decide to not do any oil changes, then I think we can all agree that the car is going to fail short of its service life expectancy (warranty). And I think we would all understand when the dealer said the warranty was voided by the lack of maintenance.
Additionally, if I honored all the service intervals, and the car made it to the warranty mileage, I don’t think any of us would expect the cat to fail completely after just one more mile.
Let’s be real here.
“But, if KCM’s attitude is driven by ego, then the next 5 years are going to be particularly hard for them. NG Link, East Link, Lynnwood Link all will open, and the regional focus will shift yet again towards rail.”
I think the next five years are going to be tough for Metro (and PT and CT) anyway. They were given an impossible mandate: provide frequent first/last mile feeder access to Link through many dense and undense areas, and through some very congested areas, that now adds at least one transfer to many rides after ST has sucked all the transit revenue out of the system.
If ST thinks crummy first/last mile access to Link won’t tarnish Link I think ST is badly mistaken, and I think some areas like East King Co. can’t be well served by Metro. ST got the $90 billion, not Metro, CT and PT, and ST already begins with an awful reputation with most citizens whereas Metro doesn’t. Riders, especially work commuters, will use one metric to decide whether Link is a success: is the trip time including transfer faster or slower than before Link.
The cost to refurbish the DSTT1 for five subareas is not an issue the public is going to notice or care about. Infrequent or poor first/last mile access to Link — especially if you are trying to get to work — on a rail system that is now beginning to move into the exburbs and suburbs and will serve the work commuter (depending on WFH) will be noticed, and if service on Metro was faster than before Link no one is going to blame Metro.
Nobody is going to blame ST because their Metro bus is late, nobody is going to blame ST because their Metro feeder bus is too infrequent, nobody is going to blame ST because their Metro bus takes a circuitous route just to go a few blocks. And certainly nobody is going to blame ST for missing their rail to bus transfer because the bus never showed up.
Nope. They are going to blame the agency whose name is on the side of the bus. Metro.
As far as Metro having an impossible task, nope again. They actually have an easier task. Instead of having to feed everyone into downtown and a few major employment centers, they now have the same basic destinations plus a plethora of other transfer points to feed riders into. They have many more opportunities to provide high quality service by facilitating transfers to Link in the situations where it makes sense.
Advantage Metro, if they choose to focus on customer service instead of trying to snub ST.
For someone who tends to praise ST for everything and trash Metro for everything, this thread is actually a self-own.
To wit, we’ve discussed several times how ST’s 95% standard misses the boat. The real standard should be how much of the time getting to and exiting a platform is inaccessible, by elevator for those with mobility challenges, and by any vertical conveyance for everyone else. Having a platform accessible via wheelchair only 96% of the time is an accessibility fail. Having to take a different escalator, or an elevator, or stairs, is a minor nuisance.
The solution, of course, is not more perfect vertical conveyances, but more of them, so there is sufficient redundancy to have access to and from a platform far higher than 99% of the time.
Several of ST’s stations have been notorious failures in this regard. We all hear about it on the station announcements when the elevator from the Seatac Airport Station to the eastern pedestrian bridge is down. And it is down a lot. Same for any of the three elevators at Tukwila International Boulevard Station, and either of the elevators at Mt. Baker Station. The latter two stations were actually not a failure of having enough vertical conveyances, but of not putting the platform in the center, which would have resulted in vertical conveyance redundancy.
Escalator and elevator failures in the DSTT are a nuisance solved by walking or wheeling to a different elevator or escalator. When an elevator fails at any of the three aforementioned stations, it ends up requiring a long detour via another station for those who need the elevator.
At some point, ST ought to retrofit these stations with more elevators.
“ The solution, of course, is not more perfect vertical conveyances, but more of them, so there is sufficient redundancy to have access to and from a platform far higher than 99% of the time.”
Yes this is a point that I’ve made before! The ST standard is 95 percent regardless of redundancy in a station. If there is no redundancy, the standard should be higher — say 98 percent. If it’s lower, perhaps 90 or 92 percent is acceptable. A blanket 95 percent is 1.5 days a month!
As far as who is to pay for it, it should be ST. ST gets away with each extension not having system impacts and that’s negligent. If projects to combine to add over 100K more riders daily to a system, chances are pretty good that about 40K to 50K of those new riders are using vertical conveyances on the DSTT. Plus, Metro has gifted the tunnel to ST. Keep in mind that by going from a bus tunnel to a rail tunnel, we exchanged more Seattle destinations for more non-Seattle destinations by using the tunnel for all lines.
I trace the problem to not having station upgrades studied, required and funded in ST2. The environmental studies whitewashed the DSTT impacts. Now that some of those ST2 projects are “under budget”, their surpluses should go for upgrading and adding more vertical conveyances in the DSTT.
Finally, I’d make a shoutout for East Link funding ID/C vertical conveyances. The station is much more exposed to the weather and is a major upcoming transfer point because that is where East Link will split off. The room to add conveyances also looks less problematic as the platforms seem generally wider and there is some room next to the southbound/ eastbound train platform.
I don’t praise ST for everything, but I do think the level of discussion on this blog could benefit from commentary that is a bit more fair and balanced. That is why I comment. Because “Transit Dies in Darkness.”
ST has wisely made ongoing track maintenance an ongoing expense. The same ought to happen for vertical conveyances, but with coming up with more capital money to retrofit cheaped-out stations.
There is no time like a pandemic to do these retrofits.
Let me correct my count for Tukwila International Boulevard Station. It does not need three more elevators. It just needs two: One from each platform to the ground level. Do that, and losing an elevator won’t create an accessibility problem. Losing two elevators won’t be a problem either, unless it is both elevators to the same platform. Losing three elevators wouldn’t be a problem either, so long as it is the old ones. As it is, losing the bottom elevator knocks out accessibility to both platforms for those who need an elevator.
SeaTac Airport Station could sorely use an elevator between the eastern pedestrian bridge and the bus stop on the west side of Pacific Highway, if that is feasible. That doesn’t add to the count. I’m just saying that would be the ideal location for utility to riders.
The two additional elevators needed at Mt. Baker Station could be jointly funded by the City of Seattle and ST. Make it part of the next Seattle transportation bond issue.
I hope and pray that ST now requires multiple elevators for access to any not-at-grade train platforms. Retrofits are an expensive kicking of the can down the line.
“It’s now ST’s responsibility. We knew all along that half the DSTT escalators were broken, King County deferred maintenance on them in the last years of its control, and Metro didn’t have money to fix them except when it could get federal grants”
True, but Metro had the money, and some would say the responsibility, to maintain and replace the escalators, except Metro knew ST would be taking over the DSTT and like many believed ST had more money than it knew what to do with. And if you eliminate some ST 3 projects (but not ST 3 revenue) that is partly true. ST can afford to upgrade DSTT1, and it just can’t afford to build DSTT2.
It was just a way to reallocate costs, like many ST express buses. The eastside subarea pays for 100% of the east-west-east ST buses even though Seattle residents use the buses, which will cost $1 billion by the time East Link opens, because Metro and ST wanted to tap the eastside subarea reserves.
The reality is Metro has an impossible mission, to provide bus service to such an enormous county, double the size of Rhode Island. Will Metro’s burden become any easier with bus truncation and Link? I doubt it, and there will be even more pressure because riders will be adding transfers, and ST is trying to pinch pennies on the hope a miracle happens and it can afford the ST 3 projects.
For example, ST express buses from the eastside will become Metro feeder buses, which is a reason Metro wants the bus intercept on Mercer Island — to save money, because now it owns the cost of feeder bus service to East Link, which won’t be much less costly than express buses to downtown Seattle, except the riders will be angry and demanding at being bused to a rail intercept. It won’t get any easier for Metro if a big chunk of commuters don’t return, but those who do return still want the same frequency, but with half the riders and farebox recovery, and the fare is split with ST.
Metro doesn’t have the money. It has no large capital budget, otherwise it would already be building the dozen RapidRide lines it has planned. ST has a large capital budget, some of it is reserved for DSTT overhauling, and it has lighter restrictions on raising large amounts of taxes. Also, the DSTT was properly King County’s, not Metro’s. Metro is a county department, but that doesn’t mean it has a lot of money lying around for escalator replacement, only for bus fleet replacement.
“The reality is Metro has an impossible mission, to provide bus service to such an enormous county, double the size of Rhode Island.”
It’s just a matter of scaling its expectations and revenues to match that size. Rhode Island may have one set of state offices, while California needs several sets in multiple cities because it’s so large. Estonia may have one set of national offices, while the US needs several sets in several states for the same reason. Either approach can be fully funded and effective, and splitting the state or country so that it has only one set of offices isn’t necessarily more efficient; it could be less.
“ST express buses from the eastside will become Metro feeder buses, which is a reason Metro wants the bus intercept on Mercer Island — to save money, because now it owns the cost of feeder bus service to East Link, which won’t be much less costly than express buses to downtown Seattle, except the riders will be angry and demanding at being bused to a rail intercept.”
That’s only a small part of Metro’s fleet. Metro knew it was going to happen and supported the plan. Local all-day buses are much less expensive than downtown express buses. The distance is half. The distance deadheading is half, or maybe zero if it gets riders in the reverse direction. The cost of one 8-hour shift is less than two 4-hour shifts with a multihour gap in the middle, partly because it’s easier to recruit drivers for it. And because feeders are less expensive, they can potentially run more often. The problem with the 41 in Lake City is because a major recession gutted the estimated revenues. That doesn’t happen with every restructure or all feeder routes.
“ Metro doesn’t have the money”
Total BS. The Metro O&M budget is huge, on par withST’s. The problem is that Metro decided that maintenance wasn’t essential, and that is the core of the problem.
Metro decided to totally punt on maintenance so they could run a few more buses. That type of short sighted approach might work for a year or two, but I. The end it gets you exactly where the DSTT is now – an embarrassment.
But that is the core of the top level question, if Metro is incapable of doing maintenance on something like the DSTT (for whatever reason), should they ever be trusted to do it again?
Metro has thousands more buses than ST has buses and trains (both owned and contracted). Buses have higher maintenance costs than trains and tunnels because they have internal-combustion engines and rubber tires on asphalt. Metro keeps the buses maintained and operating, so that’s 90% of its responsibility right there. There are no new bus tunnels or anything similar planned, so the question of Metro maintaining them is moot.
If you own a tunnel and run buses through it you have a responsibility to include maintenance of the tunnel in your budgets.
I don’t know whether the tunnel budget included SOGR when it was set up in the 1980s. People can stop making mountains out of molehills. All this has been known for a decade and every player has its share of responsibility. There’s no reason to single one of them out now and put all the blame on it, or make unrealistic demands with nonexistent money.
– Owns and operates thousands of buses.
– Has little capital funds beyond that. When it plans a transit expansion, the county has to raise a separate levy for it or it won’t happen. When an escalator breaks, it has to apply for and wait for a federal grant to fix it.
– Owned the tunnel until 2019.
– Was responsible for tunnel maintenance costs that it didn’t ensure Metro had the funds for.
– Never had a plan to replace the escalators at their 30-year end of life. (So apparently it had no SOGR on the escalators.)
– Deferred tunnel maintenance during its last years of ownership, including repairing escalators.
– Made a policy decision during the 2008 recession to put all funds into keeping buses running over everything else. This is the most basic purpose of a transit agency. If you maintain a tunnel but have to cut bus runs, what’s the point? People can’t ride a tunnel from point A to point B. In any case, it was a policy decision; i.e., political decision. That’s what the council is elected to do; make political decisions; and decide on tradeoffs when there’s not enough money for everything. As there always is in a recession.
– Fully bought the tunnel in 2019, including all its debt and maintenance backlog, and is responsible for it now.
– Didn’t look closely at the tunnel’s condition before the ST3 vote or before the handover. In other words, it seriously underestimated how bad condition the tunnel was in, including the escalators/elevators.
– Is attempting to address at least some of the backlog.
– Had major problems with UW Station escalators and notable problems with Capitol Hill escalators, but those are now replaced and are performing well, better than any other station’s escalators.
Regarding that last part, have the UWS escalators been fully replaced now? Maybe I’m mistaken but I thought ST reversed course on that plan a while back and was deferring full replacement by a couple of years.
They’ve been at 95% reliability for a few years now. I’m pretty sure it was well before covid. i rode it southbound five days a week and northbound on and off, and almost every day there was at least one escalator out of service, but then suddenly the problems stopped. Capitol Hill had fewer problems but still more than it should have. But then ST replaced the escalators, the problems disappeared, and those two stations have been at the top of the escalator reports ever since.
So ST just needs to do the same thing in the DSTT. And while some DSTT problems may have been obscure, everybody and his dog knew that half the escalators were going out like a yo-yo since at least 2015 and needed to be replaced. So hopefully ST included that in its DSTT refurbishment budget. But the DSTT has many times more escalators to replace than UW or Capitol Hill Stations did.
When did DSTT escalator and elevator breakdowns become prolific? I don’t even remember. It may have already been happening in 2010 or 2005. But then it was just one escalator in a station at a time, not several at once.
Ok, so I double checked my previous assertion to convince myself that it wasn’t something that I conjured up in a fever dream. Sound Transit announced last fall that they would indeed delay the full replacement of the problematic escalators at UW Station. Link below ($).
“Sound Transit scraps plans to replace UW Station escalators, citing performance improvements
–By Paxtyn Merten
Data reporter, Puget Sound Business Journal
Oct 7, 2020, 6:01pm EDT”
Ha! You make my point for me!
ST knew they had an issue with escalator performance at UWS so they improved their maintenance program and now escalator performance at UWS is at 99%.
Metro? Well…..Metro knew they had a problem so they did the opposite. They actually diverted resources from maintenance to operations. Now escalator performance at USS is at 22%, which is horrific and unacceptable.
So, as a transit user, who would you rather have in charge? Who would you rather entrust your tax dollars too?
Can’t say for sure, but I worked downtown for 2 and a half years starting January 2012. My recollection is that there were constant escalator repairs at the south end of the station: it was very unusual that all the escalators were operating at once.
Great article about the folly of the urban village strategy: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattles-longstanding-urban-village-strategy-for-growth-needs-reworking-new-report-says/
I especially liked the comments from Norm Rice (our last great mayor). It isn’t common that a politician acknowledges that a strategy they championed isn’t working. Personally I wouldn’t call it a failure, but simply a step forward. The same can be said for the ADU changes — not enough, but a big step in the right direction.
The “Urban Village” concept is not new; it has been used in plenty of other places. It fails in those places for the same reason it failed here (https://viewpointvancouver.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/?fbclid=IwAR1yAeWGDUzZjG8vLaBPhwJPYh9fxm0tIuVXUbfLVYFqbT1f7zJy5H7s7D0). You just aren’t going to get an affordable city if you carve out tiny circles and say “build here” while making sure nothing else changes. I suppose it could work, if demand is very low, but that is certainly not the case here. What does work is allowing very wide spread growth. Ideally this would be like in Tokyo — density everywhere, with a mix of low and high rise. But more realistically, we could have something like Montreal — lots of low-rise development, even into the suburbs (https://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2015/04/why-is-montreal-so-much-more-affordable.html). We would have the same height limits as houses, just get rid of the density restrictions and the parking requirement. I would go further, and get rid of the front setbacks and side setbacks (to allow for incremental row house development) but even without that, making those changes would be a huge step in the right direction. For a city like Seattle (with lots of suburban style development, even in the city proper) this would likely lead to a lot more affordable housing.
This isn’t the only change that needs to happen. The author summarize the problem here:
If new housing is very expensive to build, then it won’t directly lower housing prices of the existing stock, it may do some filtering, but only if housing grows much faster than population. If prices ever fall and new housing is expensive to build, then construction will stop dead in its track until prices increase again.
The main reason new housing is so expensive is zoning. What little plots of land are available for multi-family are sold at very high prices. But that isn’t the only reason development is expensive. Obstacles that encourage blight and slow growth, like design review, should be overhauled (https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/07/19/its-time-to-overhaul-design-review/). Funding is an issue, especially for smaller projects. There are a number of things that should be done, but the most important is to change the zoning. It is nice to know that we have leaders who recognize the problem.
I agree it as a good article, but I take the opposite conclusion. I don’t think the strategy is ‘folly.’ The strategy has worked exactly as intended, which was to focus growth in certain neighborhoods & corridors. The problem is the demand has greatly exceed the capacity, which suggestion the solution is we need more and larger urban villages, not that we should abandon the concept. The urban village strategy simply wasn’t ambitious enough to keep up with the Amazon prosperity bomb.
I would rather double the amount of land we have within urban villages than leave the villages as-is and upzone the SF zones to denser but still lowrise zoning. Of course, it’s a both/and, not either/or … should we allow for more lowrise density across all of Seattle? Yes! But that doesn’t mean the urban village strategy was folly.
The post on Montreal draws the ‘lowrise’ line at <5 stories, which is still much denser than the RSL zoning that will likely be applied outside of SF zones. That's mostly a point about how wood-stick construction is much cheaper than concrete & steel, not pro or anti urban villages. I think it's more impactful to grow our urban villages so that those 4~6 story wood-stick buildings can be built along Seattle's many great transit corridors than it is to try to ensure we can build rowhouses rather mccmansions outside of the urban villages; once you get away from downtown Seattle and UW, the car/transit mode transit is pretty indistinguishable from the suburbs and allow for dense rowhouses far away from good transit will make us grow more like Houston, not Montreal; still an improvement of the status quo, but we can do better, and that's what the urban village strategy is intended to do and should be build upon, aggressively.
The issue that isn’t addressed is Seattle is now over 50% rental. Obviously 50% of the housing “demand” is from investors who don’t live on the property, and that would be expected from multi-family housing. Here is a link to a 2015 article on the 21 U.S. cities with over 50% rental (Seattle had not yet reached 50%) https://www.bdcnetwork.com/21rentercities These cities are the future of Seattle.
Unfortunately our tax codes and other incentives for home ownership in this country — designed to build wealth and to satisfy the innate desire to own a home — apply to real property as well that is purchased as an investment, lack of tax on gains until exercised, record low interest rates, and an exemption from the state’s new 6% capital gains tax on gains over $250,000, very easy with real property or investments of that size.
The percentage of renters in Seattle will continue to rise as more and more properties are converted to multi-family housing, and that rental class based on property appreciation in Seattle — including the value of the land as multi-family housing — will be permanent. Since developers tend to look for the older and less expensive housing to redevelop into multi-family it is the more affordable housing that will disappear the soonest, and since new construction is always the most expensive per sf you will see rents increase faster than the overall housing costs.
Fewer and fewer Seattleites will have any opportunity to build wealth from owning property. Many are asking Congress to investigate the huge investment trusts (including Warren Buffet) who now look at residential housing as an investment trust vehicle, which they discovered when they picked up massive amounts of residential property during the great recession for cheap, and get all the tax breaks designed for single home ownership.
What is never discussed in the zeal to upzone or increase housing stock is what kind of housing stock you are creating. In this case it is small and rental, and really not suited for a family.
If a majority of a city or neighborhood is rental — especially one that allows up to three dwellings on any lot 4000 sf or larger and up to 13 unrelated tenants without the property owner having to live onsite — it is a much different character than owner occupied neighborhoods, ones with trees and neighbors you know, and who have some stake in the condition of the property, especially if you want to raise children. I agree with those who feel allowing new multi-family housing on these lots is probably preferable to three old dwellings with 13 unrelated renters, but both fundamentally change a SFH neighborhood.
I don’t think it is any coincidence that last year a SFH on the eastside rose 39% and in Seattle 11%. Seattle’s SFH neighborhoods have always been its crown jewel, even with the decline of the downtown core. My guess is we will see more Seattle SFH owners, especially those with children, moving to the eastside, but they better do it soon because the appreciation for a SFH on the eastside will make it difficult to sell a SFH in Seattle and afford anything comparable on the eastside. Already the Seattle SFH owner is around $500,000 underwater when moving to the eastside. The median house in Seattle according to today’s Seattle times is $890,444, and for N. King Co. $925,000, and neither of those will get you close to a SFH on the eastside unless you are waaaaay out, or it is a tear down.
“Seattle is now over 50% rental.”
Which means the majority of voters are renters. This will eventually lead to more pro-multifamily policies and less tolerance for single-family zoning on 75% of the land. Why should a decreasing minority of existing homeowners have sacrosanct privileges that everyone else has to work around? And if some of those apartment renters want to buy a house in Seattle, they won’t be able to, because all the houses are full of existing people. The number of houses for sale is very low, and there’s no room for additional single-family houses. Oh, and the lot minimums mean you have to buy a large lot except for the small lots that are grandfathered, and the cost of a large lot can be a barrier in itself.
“Since developers tend to look for the older and less expensive housing to redevelop into multi-family it is the more affordable housing that will disappear the soonest”
Even the “older and less expensive” houses are $500K. That’s in no way affordable.
I don’t think the share of renters will affect the politics much. San Francisco has been majority renters for awhile and their most far left renters vote anti-growth and anti-market, which tends to result in anti-change and anti-development (of any kind).
Particularly with rent control, renters are people too and therefore just a selfish as homeowners about considering their neighborhood full after they moved in.
Mike, there will never be affordable housing in Seattle that is not publicly subsidized. Certainly not to buy and own, because now you are competing with the investor, and most of the competition will be for the older and more affordable properties to develop.
So what you will have is an increasing percentage of renters who will always be renters in Seattle, and will be subject to rents charged by large landlord groups, which is exactly what we have seen over the last decade. Will those rents go down in new multi-family construction? No. Will it displace any kind of rental SFH for families? Yes.
The rental class can vote anyway they want, but they would be foolish to think their vote will make their rent go down, or just not go up 10%/year, and get ready for some whopping rent increases once the eviction moratoria end.
If you are a renter what you really want is rent control, but I don’t see that happening, although my guess is it would lead to a flood of rental properties being put on the market for sale, which could actually deplete the rental stock.
A Seattleite can always sell and move if they want a SFH neighborhood, except the disparity in SFH prices among the different regions mean the eastside is probably unaffordable, N. King Co. is a bit more expensive so you may not get the same house for the money, which leaves areas south of Seattle. (The 22% of Seattleites who send their K-12 kids to private schools could convert tuition towards a mortgage, except they probably own more expensive homes in Seattle anyway).
My advice to the Seattle homeowner who wants to live in an owner occupied SFH neighborhood is sell now if that is what you want, because SFH south of Seattle are appreciating faster than in Seattle. My advice for Seattle renters is get ready for steep rent increases that were put off during the pandemic when the eviction moratoria end. I don’t see anything on November’s ballot that will change either of these.
Northern California has an unholy alliance between anti-growth classist nimbys and anti-growth liberal “environmentalists”. The latter comes out of a 1970s ecotopia vision of a rural/small-town/low-density ideal. They believe that any density beyond that harms the environment. In contrast, most environmentalists recognize that city-dewllers use less energy per capita and have less impacts on the land than low-density residents, and that when you have 330 million Americans and 8 billion Earthlings, models like Montreal, Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, and the Washington DC suburbs are the best way to acommodate them in a moderate ecological footprint. California’s environmentalists are more anti-density than that, but I don’t see much sign of that outside California. Liberal anti-growthers here tend to use the same socioeconomic and parking/traffic-congestion arguments as other nimbys, rather than saying density is bad for the environment or increases carbon emissions (when it does the opposite).
Seattle has never seen a population growth of over 160K in a decade until this last one. The next closest numerical increase in population was between 1900 and 1910. In 1910, a majority of residents were renters.
In other words, there seems to be a strong correlation between more people renting and fast population growth.
Of course, I think future trends will probably be more related to national housing tax policy. If homeowner deductions go away, more will rent. If renters can deduct part of the rent off their taxes, more will rent. If condo purchases get encouraged through liability reform or other means, more will buy (and building owners would convert apartments into condos).
Seattle housing prices have skyrocketed. We’ve had a huge increase in homelessness as a result. The report states :
“The urban village strategy has not been able to mitigate the displacement of BIPOC residents because it perpetuates a land use and zoning policy that was specifically designed to limit their housing options,” the analysis says, referring to Black, Indigenous and people of color.
The analysis adds: “With 75% of residential land excluded from accommodating more affordable housing types, low-income BIPOC residents are left confined to certain sections of the city, competing for limited affordable housing opportunities.”
I would say that is a failure. Mayor Rice acknowledges that, which is why he doesn’t argue for a minor tweak, or a tiny expansion, but a completely different approach.
The fact that we’ve concentrated growth is inconsequential. We would have been just as well off if the growth had occurred organically, all over the city — the way cities grew for thousands of years.
The current approach leads to many problems. You end up with perverse growth patterns. Small apartments are replaced by big apartments. If this was simply the result of demand, socialists would use it as an example of the dysfunction of capitalism. And they would have a point. It is nuts to tear down an old house on a big lot, replace it with a huge one, and then a few blocks over tear down a small apartment to build a big one. Except it isn’t the market doing this — it is the government.
One of our goals should be to make market rate housing affordable. That won’t happen with the current approach, nor has it ever happened anywhere with the current approach. We can easily point to cities where the approach has failed (Toronto, Vancouver, New York City) and where the opposite approach has succeeded (Montreal, Tokyo, throughout Germany). The “urban village” or “grand bargain” approach just doesn’t work anywhere. Because if you go down that road — if your goal is to preserve the single family zoned areas — then you end up preserving a lot of it. Because no one wants to live in the areas where they allow growth. That is because growth there is unnatural. Instead of organic growth (old houses replaced by small apartments in a leapfrog fashion) you have perfectly good houses — sometimes beautiful houses (https://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2012/10/capitol-hill-house-standing-since-1890-wont-get-landmark-protection/) — that are torn down, simply because that is the only place where you can build. People complain when that happens, or they complain when a six story building goes up next to their house. But they complain a lot less if the apartment is the same size as a house (which is what happens in Montreal). The resulting political pressure means you end up with tiny circles where they allow growth, or worse yet, only along major arterials (a modern form of economic redlining).
Note that the article mentioned how “Some wealthy neighborhoods, like Laurelhurst and Magnolia, ended up without urban villages at all”. Well of course — what did you expect? As long as we are drawing circles, different neighborhoods will push for different boundaries.
Which is why drawing little circle won’t work. The only way we are going to get affordable housing is if we change the zoning rules for the vast majority of land under private hands — and that means getting rid of single-family zoning. No, it doesn’t mean six story buildings on every block, but it means multifamily housing (the same size and shape as currently allowed for single-family) being allowed everywhere. Legalize inexpensive housing — it isn’t that complicated.
I’m trying to figure out what it is your trying to say with that last sentence. I’ll try and parse it out:
I think it’s more impactful to grow our urban villages so that those 4~6 story wood-stick buildings can be built along Seattle’s many great transit corridors than it is to try to ensure we can build rowhouses rather mccmansions outside of the urban villages;
So you are saying basically continue with the current policy? Instead of having a city with widespread density, just have it in tiny pockets. Restrict apartments to the arterials (these great transit corridors), and not a block away– is that it? That sort of restriction not only leads to the kind of negative outcome mentioned in the report, but worse transit.
once you get away from downtown Seattle and UW, the car/transit mode transit is pretty indistinguishable from the suburbs
What??? I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, so you’ll have to explain what you mean here.
and allow for dense rowhouses far away from good transit will make us grow more like Houston, not Montreal;
This just doesn’t make any sense. If the growth is in Seattle proper, than by definition it won’t be far away from good transit because it is physically close to the rest of the city. Magnolia is less than five miles from downtown and the U-District. Laurelhurst is less than five miles from downtown and adjacent to the U-District. The borders for the City of Seattle are not like Houston (Houston has about five times the land mass of Seattle).
You are also belittling row houses, even though row house neighborhoods in other parts of the country are more densely populated than any neighborhood in Seattle (you can pack a lot of people in a Brooklyn Brownstone). Height does not equal density.
still an improvement of the status quo, but we can do better, and that’s what the urban village strategy is intended to do and should be build upon, aggressively.
Except the urban village strategy is designed to limit growth. In that sense, it has accomplished its goals, swimmingly. Most of the city hasn’t grown. Success! Continuing to draw these tiny little circles so that the vast majority of land will not add people is not a recipe for affordability or good transit.
Dude, not everyone wants the life you want! Let the .15% (estimate) of the land area of the US with more than 2000 persons per square mile be what it wants to be.
It’s amazing how many perverts, lunatics and oddball contrarians who live in the United States and would prefer not to be “reformed” by censorious busybodies who don’t approve of their friends. Most gave up on Mom and Dad long ago. They don’t need your guidance.
You have your moated castle. Butt out of other peoples’ choices.
I apologize. I should have put “perverts” and “lunatics” in quotation marks.
I think we should expand upon the urban village strategy, not abandon it nor leave it as is. Clearly the city needs more zoned capacity, it’s just a question of where & how. I want to draw big circles, not little circles; Ross wants to draw 1 circle.
And yes, ‘expand’ would mean literally expand. So yes allow for midrise multifamily if it’s within a 5 minute walk (or whatever) of an arterial. But if a lot is a full 20 minute walk to a frequent transit stop, I don’t think it’s important whether that lot allows 1 home or 3 homes; 3 homes is better, but not materially.
And I’m not belittling row houses. Row houses are great and I wish they were allowed everywhere in the city. I’m just saying that 6 story apartment blocks are better, and political capital would be better spent try to have more & larger urban villages rather than do a wholesale but likely modest upzone of the SF zones. If we can do both, great, but that’s a big lift so I’m just articulating my priorities. It’s about guiding growth, not concentrating it. If your counterargument is “we should allow 6-stories everything,” that both correct and unhelpful, much like insisting we should just have bus lanes everywhere and always.
I’m pretty sure the mode share for trips within Seattle that don’t include downtown or UW are less than 50% for transit, i.e. indistinguishable from nearby suburbs. “If the growth is in Seattle proper, than by definition it won’t be far away from good transit because it is physically close to the rest of the city. ” -False. When I lived in Issaquah, I could get to work in downtown Seattle on a bus faster than the many of my coworkers who lived in Seattle proper. The majority of Seattle has good transit, and I would like urban villages to cover the majority of Seattle; unfortunately, Seattle doesn’t have universally great transit, and therefore I don’t think trying to do a universal upzone is the best political strategy or policy.
I want to draw big circles, not little circles; Ross wants to draw 1 circle.
You can’t draw big circles — the whole point of the “urban village” approach is to draw small circles. It is all part of the “Grand Bargain” (https://viewpointvancouver.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/). The entire idea is that you preserve most of the single-family zoned areas, in exchange for having big buildings in a handful of places. The key word here, being “most”. It is the only way that the politics can play out. If you make big circles, than the single-family folks complain, since too many of them have big buildings going in next to them. You are arguing for a fantasy world — a model that no one has every implemented. I’m arguing that everything that comes close — including what we have — has run into the exact same problems that we have now. Just look at a paragraph from the article:
Unfortunately, by the second decade of this century, it became apparent that the bargain could not accommodate three emerging pressures: affordability, equity and the need for a broader range of housing choices.
It is the exact same critique of Urban Villages! Replace the word “bargain” with “urban village” and it looks exactly like what PolicyLink wrote about our system.
We don’t need to double down on a failed policy. We need to do something new, and that is to make widespread changes in *all* of our neighborhoods. There is no way that folks in single-family zoned areas will accept six story buildings in those neighborhoods. But they will accept three story, since that is the height limit for houses. The density difference is minimal. Yes, I realize that is counter-intuitive. But you get diminishing returns with bigger buildings, as you spend a huge amount of extra space building up (notice how many big buildings have lobbies, and huge elevators, and maintenance areas). Costs go up as well. It gets complicated, but often the cheapest approach is to build about three stories. It is only when land is very expensive that it makes sense to build higher. This means that absent zoning, as multi-family land prices drop, building three stories is the most cost effective way to add units.
The only way you can have *affordable* housing is you change the zoning on a *lot* of land. Let’s say we go your route, which is the current path we are on. Assume for a second that we manage to double the amount of land that is zoned mid-rise. This would be an amazing accomplishment, and would take a huge amount of effort. Chances are, we would fall well short. But let’s say we manage to get that much. That works out to another 227 acres zoned for mid-rise. This would definitely make a difference. But it would be nothing compared to changing the zoning on the 24,699 acres that are zoned single-family. There is more than one hundred times the amount of land zoned single-family than mid-rise!
Even if you accept your premise (which is that mid-rise is essential) there is simply a lot more land with my approach. Even if mid-rise is twice as dense as low-rise, you get way more units — and just as importantly, way more potential units — by making a more wide spread change. The urban villages would have to be fifty times their current size to reach the same level! Sorry, that just won’t happen.
I say potential units because that is how cheap units are built. Not everyone wants to sell their property. Just because a place is zoned for multi-family, doesn’t mean it will change any time soon. The smaller the circles, the more likely it won’t change. Places along busy streets have existing businesses, and they don’t want to move. People in their houses don’t want to move. It is only when property values rise really high (due to the scarcity of multi-family zoned land) that owners sell, and new units are added. This means that apartments aren’t built unless developers expect very high prices for the units, which means that prices remain high.
The more *land* you have available for multi-family development (of any sort) the more that prices can come down. The easiest way to get a lot of land for multi-family is to eliminate the single-family zone areas. Renaming it should be the first step. That way, when we do allow (low) apartments in those zones, the name makes sense.
AJ, Ross, you’re BOTH right. Ross is undoubtedly correct that “peanut butter” density a la Brooklyn produces more housing than “Urban Villages”, for just the reason he states: there’s WAAAAAYYY more land involved,
But AJ is also undoubtedly correct that “that ship has sailed”. Seattle is a city of cottages and larger single-family homes, and the owner-occupiers of the “less that 50%” are much more consistent voters than the renters in the “more than 50%”. They will not stand for it, because they want their sun exposure and in the old streetcar neighborhoods north of the Ship Canal without alleys or in many places only single-car garages, street parking. They don’t even want a lot of DADU’s for the parking reason.
Most of the owner-occupiers recognize that Seattle has a serious “affordability” problem, and that it is rooted in the lack of availability. They consistently support arterial and, especially, urban village up-zones. But they don’t want to be shaded by a three-story building adjacent to the south.
I’m pretty sure the mode share for trips within Seattle that don’t include downtown or UW are less than 50% for transit, i.e. indistinguishable from nearby suburbs.
I doubt that. Proximity and density are the biggest factors to transit use. You are also making a circular argument. You are saying that transit ridership in various parts of Seattle are low because they lack density, so therefore, we shouldn’t add density.
“If the growth is in Seattle proper, than by definition it won’t be far away from good transit because it is physically close to the rest of the city. ” -False. When I lived in Issaquah, I could get to work in downtown Seattle on a bus faster than the many of my coworkers who lived in Seattle proper.
That is a bizarre measure of transit. Transit isn’t just about getting to downtown — it is about getting around the city. There are only a handful of bus routes covering a handful of places in Issaquah. This makes sense, since it is a suburb, and can’t possibly get the kind of ridership that you would get in the city. Those express buses from Issaquah (214, etc.) all perform well below the average Seattle bus route. Most of them don’t even run in the middle of the day, relying on ST to carry the load (ST has a much lower bar for performance). Issaquah has nice express buses, but they are essentially subsidies compared to a typical Seattle bus.
The majority of Seattle has good transit, and I would like urban villages to cover the majority of Seattle; unfortunately, Seattle doesn’t have universally great transit, and therefore I don’t think trying to do a universal upzone is the best political strategy or policy.
Wait, what? First you are saying that Seattle doesn’t have good transit (it lags many a suburb) then you say that most of Seattle has good transit? OK, I’ll bite. Why do you think there are areas of Seattle that don’t have good transit? They aren’t dense enough! Come on man, the reason our modal share doesn’t resemble San Fransisco’s is because we are nowhere near as densely populated as San Fransisco. We have the proximity, we just don’t have the density.
Take Magnolia for example. The 24 does quite well during rush hour (way better than any Issaquah bus). It is OK in the middle of the day, and poor at night. During rush hour the bus runs frequently, while the rest of the day it doesn’t. With half-hour service, it is essentially non-existent. People behave like they would in a suburb — they drive (either to their destination or to a bus stop serving a more frequent bus). The only way things will change is if central Magnolia gets more density. Will they add a big urban village there, the size of Lake City? Probably not. At most they would take the existing development, add a few blocks of apartments and call it done. The result would be only a handful of potential riders, which would mean it would be stuck where it is now — not quite enough people to justify more frequent service, despite being relatively cheap to serve. In contrast, if you change single-family zoning, then there would be growth all along the corridors served by that bus. You could even justify running both the 31 and 32 there (a more logical pairing). This would enable good frequency for Magnolia Village (in much the way that 65 and 75 serve Lake City). This would enable riders in much of Magnolia to not only easily get downtown, but get to the SPU, Fremont, Wallingford and the UW. You just can’t get that from the suburbs, even if they grow. It is just too expensive, because those places are too far away.
Look at the buses that do really well. They don’t just serve single spots, they serve corridors. The 7, the 40, the E. This is how good buses work. They serve lots of different trips — what Jarrett Walker calls diversity, not specialization (https://humantransit.org/basics/the-transit-ridership-recipe#diversity). Now imagine if all corridors had similar ridership, because the entire city was just a bit more densely populated. Now imagine combining corridors, with a grid, so that you can get anywhere to anywhere easily. This can only happen in the city, and is only likely to happen if we have widespread changes to the zoning (i. e. change the rules governing “single-family” zoning).
What I’m proposing it nothing radical, and has been done in many places. It works. What you are suggesting has never worked anywhere. Look at the examples that Durning gives for cities that have built their way to affordability (https://www.sightline.org/2017/09/21/yes-you-can-build-your-way-to-affordable-housing/). They basically follow two models — sprawl or wide spread low rise. No one has followed the “urban village” approach to affordability. It just doesn’t work.
“That works out to another 227 acres zoned for mid-rise.” There are more than 227 acres of urban villages? I said double the size of the urban villages, not double of a specific zoning type. I was also including all of downtown and the U district in my baseline to double, if that wasn’t clear.
I’m unaware of any city that built so much 3-story housing, away from good transit, that they solved their housing crisis. Yes, lowrise is more cost effective than midrise at low land cost, but that applies to nearly none of Seattle. Most of Seattle already pencils out to midrise: it’s only in a 3rd ring suburb like Issaquah that 5 story buildings don’t yet pencil out.
The idea of that we use lowrise to build our away to affordability in an argument to upzone from Marysville to Lake Tapps; upzoning Matthews Beach and Seward Park is nice but isn’t going to impact the regional housing dynamic, so I think it’s more important that Seattle focus on where its next 100K housing units will go.
Thank you Tom. I’m not arguing Ross’ idea is bad, I just think there is a better solution.
Ross, you keep making the mistake of fallacy of composition. It is true that there are parts of Seattle that have inferior transit access to jobs than specific parts of other cities in the region. It is also true that, in aggregate, Seattle clearly has the best transit access in the region. There is nothing magical about crossing a city boundary.
If your only goal is housing affordability, then yes build density anywhere and everywhere. But as this is a transit blog and there is more to urbanism than affordability, I think a broad lowrise up zone, if limited to only one municipality in the region and not accompanied by a significant expansion of midrise and highrise zoning throughout the region, is a pretty crap policy response.
If you believe new multi-family construction will create affordable housing without public subsidies, or will make existing housing more affordable, and Seattle’s current and future population will need massive amounts of new housing, then abolish all zoning: use zoning (SFH, multi-family, commercial, retail), and regulatory zoning limits (height, gross floor area to lot area ratios, impervious surface limits, yard setbacks, parking minimums, etc.).
As many on this blog argue let the market decide, despite the fact a post on the Urbanist today quoting Crosscut notes that currently there are 72,000 vacant apartments in Seattle. https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/07/28/seattle-must-end-single-family-zoning-to-create-an-equitable-housing-system/#comment-25813
Arguing for four story multi-family limits, or six story, or row houses, or three dwellings per lot with up to 13 unrelated tenants, is simply substituting your zoning vision for SFH zones. Neither vision is more “moral” than the other. There is no rational basis for such limits if increased height and density will create more needed housing, and affordable housing.
Bellevue has gone to a 60 story height limit to address housing issues; four and six story multi-family limits in Seattle are like limiting Link to one car per train, especially if population growth is claimed to be significant post-pandemic, despite historical and current population growth rates.
To argue a 60 story building in a Seattle residential neighborhood that would create tons of housing would destroy the fabric of the neighborhood is the exactly same argument residents of SFH zones make about including four or six story multi-family rental development in their zones. If the issue is more housing, and more affordable housing, any height and density limits are intellectually dishonest, because one way or the other you are fundamentally changing the SFH zone, and eliminating it, in the name of “housing”, and “affordable housing”. So if a 60 story residential tower in a residential neighborhood changes the fabric of the four or six story multi-family zoning, that is the price for more housing, and affordable housing, at least according to advocates of eliminating SFH zones.
When I see words like “privilege” used when it comes to zoning, I get the feeling there is a lot of envy in these zoning proposals at those who live in a SFH with a nice yard in Seattle, because the cost is so high. Who wouldn’t like a SFH with a nice yard (and a garage so our bike or car doesn’t get stolen). Four and six story limits, or row houses, or three dwellings per lot, make no sense if height and density create more housing and more affordable housing, and strike me as simply an attack on the “privilege” of SFH zones that are too expensive for most Seattleites to live in today, especially since over 50% rent..
Look, someone living in a SFH zone in Seattle can always move to a city that does have SFH only zones if housing availability and affordability require SFH zones to be eliminated. But to then require row houses, or four or six story height limits, or three dwellings per lot for some new “residential neighborhood vision” makes no sense.
Abolish all zoning in Seattle and let the market decide. Folks can move to other cities if they don’t like the development in their neighborhoods, although based on current SFH property values and appreciation in Seattle that is probably south of Seattle (except we are not talking about abolishing SFH zones or multi-family housing in the Rainier Valley, are we, because “urbanists” don’t want to live there).
Most of the owner-occupiers recognize that Seattle has a serious “affordability” problem, and that it is rooted in the lack of availability. They consistently support arterial and, especially, urban village up-zones. But they don’t want to be shaded by a three-story building adjacent to the south.
Twenty years ago, I would agree with you. Now, not so much. The politics around the issue are changing. People who run on preservation routinely lose, while urbanists routinely win. Yes, the folks who want to encase the city in amber make a lot of noise, but they are a small minority. The vast majority of people — including folks like me who live in single family homes — are more accepting of growth. We don’t want big buildings next to us, but wouldn’t mind new, low level apartments.
Which is why the worry about three-story buildings is misplaced. That is happening now. In every single family neighborhood, there are brand new, three-story buildings being built (there are several just down the street from me). It is just that they are houses, not apartments. Which is why the regulations should be clear — the same physical limits — just with more people.
Which is not to say that it will be easy. People will whine. But at the end of the day, folks will accept the changes, as they have with the ADU changes (remember how people freaked out about those?). From a political standpoint it is much easier to say “same type of buildings, just more people” than it is to say “big buildings, but probably not next to you”.
Politically, the anti-density folks are outnumbered. There is no reason for anyone who lives in an apartment to support their cause. At the same time, many people who live in houses are smart enough to realize the harm that single-family housing does, and sympathetic enough to want to change the rules. That doesn’t mean they want to be like Tokyo, but they could accept being like Montreal.
There is nothing magical about crossing a city boundary.
No, nor did I say there was. But there is something very magical about proximity (or at least very important about it). Most of the places where people want to go are in Seattle. The places close to those places are, by and large, also in Seattle. Almost all of the existing density is in Seattle. Again, look at the listing of places I mentioned within close transit proximity of one of the lowest density places in Seattle (central Magnolia). From there, you are a short distance to downtown Seattle, Queen Anne, SPU, Fremont, Wallingford and the UW. Is there anything like that in the suburbs? No. There just isn’t. The places are just too far away. Of course this matters.
It has nothing to do with the arbitrary boundaries of the city, and everything to do with the fact that city happens to be laid out quite symmetrically. You could argue that White Center is more urban than Broadview, or that Shoreline is as much a part of the city as Bitter Lake, but you are splitting hairs. Even if you didn’t have the existing borders, it would be quite reasonable to draw the lines that way — especially since it takes advantage of existing density, which definitely follows those same city borders (if you doubt me, look at a census map). I suppose you can argue that Mercer Island and Medina — being so physically close to Seattle — should be up-zoned for that reason. Yeah, good luck with that. That also ignores the fact that there is a real, physical barrier between those communities (known as a lake). The fact is, the physical limits of Seattle work quite well as a proxy for the area that has the most potential for transit success, simply because it is close to most of the places people want to go.
You are also completely missing the point. If Shoreline wants to rezone, then great. I’m talking about Seattle. This whole thread is about Seattle, and how the urban village concept failed (as mentioned in the article). Which brings me to other points you made:
I’m unaware of any city that built so much 3-story housing that they solved their housing crisis.
Yet I gave you a clear example: Montreal! Holy cow, man, I’ve been arguing that from the very beginning.
I said double the size of the urban villages, not double of a specific zoning type.
Right, which means you end up with only a tiny amount of land zoned mid-rise. Look at the numbers: https://fancybeans.com/2018/01/24/65-57-35-how-much-seattle-land-is-zoned-single-family-really/. There is very little land (inside or outside of the “urban villages”) that is zoned for anything but single-family. It is tiny. Double the land within the urban villages, and you end up with double the tiny. You end up with the same problems mentioned in the article.
If your only goal is housing affordability, then yes build density anywhere and everywhere.
I did not write that, and I’m getting a bit tired of dealing with your stupid straw men. I did not propose sprawl. I made it clear that I didn’t support sprawl, from the very beginning. I mentioned rezoning *in Seattle* which, by the very limits of its borders, CAN NOT SPRAWL. So stop writing such bullshit, OK. My point is that Seattle is big enough, and demand low enough, that if the city was rezoned appropriately, housing would be a lot more affordable.
This would also have obvious benefits from a transit standpoint — bigger than if we continued with the urban village concept. Double the size of the urban villages, and you add a tiny amount of density. Get rid of single family zoning, and you add a lot. You keep suggesting there is a mythical place in Seattle where transit just won’t work. Where the hell is that? Seriously, what part of Seattle will suddenly see huge growth, but be forever stuck with bad transit? I’m looking at the transit map of Seattle, and the density map of Seattle, and I just can’t find a place like that. Seattle is a city with moderate density pretty much everywhere. Oh, I suppose on the coastal fringes it is really low density, but even some of those places would benefit greatly with just a bit more density (Alki might even get all-day service to downtown!). You seem to embrace a “spiky” model of development, which hasn’t lead to better transit, anymore that it has lead to cheaper housing. You are delusional if you think it will.
Which is not to say that we shouldn’t rezone a few areas further. The area around 130th, for example, should (and likely will) be rezoned to allow higher buildings. But the only way to get a significant amount of growth (and the increase in both affordability and better transit that comes with it) is to get rid of single-family zoning.
If you are looking for another example of the benefit of wide-spread increase in density, consider the new 79. On the one hand, it is a great bus. Those of us who keep pushing for more of a grid could not be more pleased. It will provide east-west service in an area that largely has buses going north-south. It doesn’t slog its way to downtown, or even through the U-District. It is a connector bus, and as such, could be very efficient. More importantly, it — like its companion the 74 — could provide a key element in a broader network.
Except it won’t. That’s because it will only run every half hour. Half hour buses are at best coverage buses. They don’t run frequently enough to provide a network benefit. Riders will largely ignore the bus, and walk to more frequent routes, even if they take them out of their way. All because it runs infrequently.
It runs infrequently because the area is low density. It shows up on this map as yellow (https://tinyurl.com/rjzcjv6). While much has changed on that map, that neighborhood hasn’t. No part of the unique coverage route will ever be an urban village. The same is true of the 74. The same is true for Victory Heights — that part of Northgate Way that was going to lose all-day service as part of the latest restructure. You can go through the system, and see route after route that is borderline — from Seward Park to Sunset Hill, from South Seattle College (!) to Yesler (!!!) — you can see routes that don’t have quite enough riders to justify decent service, or in some cases, even all-day service. Many of these routes — both existing and proposed — provide a tremendous amount of network benefit, but they just can’t be justified.
The situation won’t be fixed with additional or bigger urban villages. It can be fixed by a wide-spread increase in density. Hundreds of thousands of people could have better transit, if only they change the zoning.
While you’re looking at Ross’ density map, take a look at Sand Point, an area that some claim is in need of light rail.
The term “affordable” is very nebulous, and I think DT is using it to mean affordable to people with very low incomes (e.g. today’s homeless population). The premise of his argument is that any housing solution that doesn’t directly create homes that they can afford is a waste of time. So, the fact that upzoning may lead to more homes affordable to people with 100% AMI feels like it’s not accomplishing anything for people with 10% AMI, so you may as well just give up and have only single family homes affordable only at 200% AMI.
The problem with that argument is that it overlooks the fact that you can never solve affordability without increasing supply to match demand.
The 72,000 vacant homes is also not a sign of greedy developers, but simply a functioning real estate market. In order to have buyers and sellers, you have to have inventory. 72,000 may seem big, but relative to a region of 1 million people, that’s just 7.2%, which feels like a normal, functioning market today. Grocery stores are not required to empty their produce bins in order to feed the hungry. Saying it’s landlords fault for not doing the same with housing is not reasonable. I even own one of those 72,000 vacant units, and it’s for sale right now. I am not about to bring in a homeless person to trash the place, right as I’m trying to sell it. Every market has to have some slack in it in order to be functional.
“The term “affordable” is very nebulous, and I think DT is using it to mean affordable to people with very low incomes (e.g. today’s homeless population). The premise of his argument is that any housing solution that doesn’t directly create homes that they can afford is a waste of time”.
That is incorrect asdf2. You are confusing emergency housing that is designed for the homeless, because they have a 0% AMI, with affordable housing that is generally designed for those with some income.
Affordable housing is generally divided into brackets of area median income. https://metrocouncil.org/Handbook/Files/Resources/Fact-Sheet/HOUSING/Area-Median-Income-and-Housing-Affordability.aspx#:~:text=AMI%E2%80%9D%20if%20a%20household%20whose%20income%20is%20at,the%20number%20of%20bedrooms%20in%20the%20housing%20unit.
The most common brackets are 30%, 50%, and 80% AMI. Developers of new high end housing projects prefer to either pay a fee in lieu of onsite affordable housing set asides, or use 80% AMI because that bracket is considered more suited to the genteel clientele of the rest of the building.
My point all along is this new high end development displaces housing that was much more affordable, because that is how developers make money: buy the older and less expensive (hence more affordable) properties and convert them into housing that will sell for as much as the neighborhood and market will bear. Obviously the amenities for this building are not designed for affordable housing.
72,000 vacant apartments is a lot. 10% of Seattle’s entire population, when Seattle housing market is so squeezed it alone is creating significant increases in housing prices. I would be interested to hear how the market is for your place (and I wouldn’t bring in a homeless person either). Glenn from Portland states than no property for sale in Seattle is on the market longer than 4 days. But if there are 72,000 apartments currently unoccupied that is going to worry any purchaser who hopes to rent your unit.
But my other argument is if you are going to be intellectually honest, and truly believe Seattle needs massive amounts of new housing — on top of the 72,000 vacant apartments — that will be rental because we are talking about rental property if we are talking about any kind of affordable housing — then stop with the faux upzones in the residential neighborhoods.
Already nearly every residential lot can house 13 unrelated persons in three separate legal dwellings.
For those who claim net housing can be increased by eliminating SFH zones but keeping the regulatory limits for SFH such as height, impervious surface limits (footprint, sometimes called lot coverage), front and rear yard setbacks, and gross floor area to lot area ratios, there just isn’t a net housing gain. At best you replace a SFH with six (maybe) very small studio or one bedroom units, which is likely less than 13 unrelated tenants allowed now.
For those who argue for four or six story multi-family rental buildings in the SFH zones on former SFH lots, that will require consuming the entire lot including any yard setbacks or vegetation for the footprint, it seems odd to me to pick 4 or 6 story height limits if greater height and lot coverage (footprint) will create more affordable housing, somewhere in Seattle, and the footprint alone will definitely destroy the character of the SFH zone. If the argument is more height and lot coverage (footprint) will create more housing and more affordable housing — and the SFH zone character is destroyed with 4 or six story multi-family rental buildings — then let the market decide whether to go to 20, 30 or 40 stories, because the footprint alone destroys the character of a SFH zone, whether one, two, three or 40 stories.
When someone picks 3, 4 or 6 story building heights in a SFH zone it is as arbitrary as a SFH zone, just without the same character.
I read your post on The Urbanist. But when I read The Urbanist — which is usually written by either developers (or their architects, or very naïve and probably poor people) it becomes apparent to me the desire to eliminate SFH zones has everything to do with privilege, envy, and the inability to afford a SFH in Seattle, or maybe any place to live. These folks on The Urbanist won’t be able to afford any kind of new construction.
I can understand why many don’t want to hear me say it, but you are never going to create affordable housing in Seattle of any kind through new construction that is not publicly subsidized. Ever. If Seattle’s economy remains strong, and the downtown core is not seen as attractive to live, you will see 10% to 14% annual growth in Seattle housing prices in the neighborhoods across the board every year, forever. Usually the past tells you the future.
At the same time you will see 39% annual growth in SFH on the eastside, and higher growth rates in N. King Co., because there is a very strong desire and market for SFH zones, with good public schools, if you can afford it.
buy the older and less expensive (hence more affordable) properties and convert them into housing that will sell for as much as the neighborhood and market will bear.
Yeah, that happens all the time. But again, it is because of zoning. Down the street from my house there were three houses that recently sold, all very much like this one: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/12051-20th-Ave-NE-98125/home/171917350. Before those houses were built, the developer bought the lot, which had a small house on it (i. e. something less expensive). Then they subdivided the lot into three big lots (as many lots as the city would allow) and built three big houses on it. Three fancy big houses replacing one house.
Why didn’t they just build an apartment, or row houses, or simply more houses on smaller lots, you may ask. Because they weren’t allowed to. The developer built the only thing they could build. I suppose they could have built smaller houses, but construction costs are simply not that important. It doesn’t cost that much more to build a big house than a small house. Similarly, it doesn’t cost much more to build an apartment than houses. The only reason they built what they built is because the law prevented them from building what people wanted. This gets me to another point:
For those who claim net housing can be increased by eliminating SFH zones but keeping the regulatory limits for SFH such as height, impervious surface limits (footprint, sometimes called lot coverage), front and rear yard setbacks, and gross floor area to lot area ratios, there just isn’t a net housing gain. At best you replace a SFH with six (maybe) very small studio or one bedroom units, which is likely less than 13 unrelated tenants allowed now.
It would be silly to have the same restrictions as now. The point is, you would have the same *height* limits. What difference does it make if they put up a house like the one I listed (ugly, not at all in keeping with the character of the neighborhood) or an apartment the same height? None. No one cares. People sometimes miss the old house, but other than that, it is basically the same.
As for how many that lot could handle, consider that it was originally 25,000 square feet. The lot that contains this apartment: https://goo.gl/maps/88NgdvPaqtDWEoLE7 is 9,216 feet. The apartment contains 31 units. You do the math.
For those who argue for four or six story multi-family rental buildings in the SFH zones on former SFH lots, that will require consuming the entire lot including any yard setbacks or vegetation for the footprint … the footprint alone will definitely destroy the character of the SFH zone.
Ah, you are from the East Side. I get it. You think that houses require big lots, and can’t possibly be close to each other. The thing is, that isn’t the case in Seattle. Many of the single-family neighborhoods that people find so attractive have houses very close to each other. I remember driving around Seattle once with a friend from Bellevue, and he seemed shocked that the houses are so close to each other. It’s OK. It works. Many (myself included) find it far more attractive than neighborhoods with big lots. When you are walking, you get to experience a new house and new landscaping much sooner (making the walk more interesting). I know several people from the suburbs who routinely drive to Seattle so they can walk around the various neighborhoods.
Likewise, the same is true when it comes to small apartments mixed in with the houses. The irony of the current zoning is that so many of the places people find attractive (and want to preserve, exactly as they are now) would be illegal under current zoning (https://www.sightline.org/2017/03/01/returning-seattle-to-its-roots-in-diverse-housing-types/). I really question your aesthetic sensibilities if you find this ugly:https://goo.gl/maps/bYagtmFiLLvEybx26, or this: https://goo.gl/maps/XE46tHFLLnCnZNBD6 or this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_photos/7980530226. OK, that last one was from Montreal, but it is the same principle. The idea that someone would somehow think those are terrible, or not fit in with a typical *Seattle* single-family neighborhood is absurd. Oh, there will be some, but most people in Seattle *like* the fact that there is variety. That second picture was taken on a street I routinely would walk on my lunch hour. I specifically chose it for the variety (and interesting nature) of the housing.
The big thing people fear is change. They’ve seen the inorganic growth that constitutes the “urban village” concept and they don’t like it. We’ve boomed, and that means that everything in its path was mowed down. Nice houses, old houses, everything. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, there have been plenty of big losses (see the house I referenced earlier). A lot of the new buildings are fine, but overall, it is hardly “old ugly building replaced by nice new ones” as you suggest. Oh, that happens all the time with new houses, but it isn’t common with apartments. The zoning just won’t allow it.
Which is the great irony of the situation. Those who are honestly focused only on the streetscape, and fear the loss of something special in Seattle are hastening its collapse with the “compromise” that is the “urban village”. Instead of small old houses on big lots being replaced by small apartments, you have very nice houses replaced by apartments. It is not only a failure from an affordability standpoint, but it is also a failure from an aesthetic one as well. You aren’t giving anyone what they want. Those who want to live close to the ground floor in an apartment on a quiet street are out of luck, along with those who used to admire the beautiful old house that had the misfortune of being just inside the arbitrary zoning lines. McMansions on the side streets, and McApartments on the busy arterials.
It becomes apparent to me the desire to eliminate SFH zones has everything to do with privilege, envy, and the inability to afford a SFH in Seattle, or maybe any place to live.
How very white of you. It reminds me of something else you wrote:
What is never discussed in the zeal to upzone or increase housing stock is what kind of housing stock you are creating. In this case it is small and rental, and really not suited for a family.
Those two paragraphs are just dripping with wealthy white privilege. It suggests you have never been poor, never met a poor person, never read about about poverty, or have even the slightest idea what it is like for roughly a third of Americans to live in this country. There are families that live in trailer parks, old shacks and yes, apartments. There are many that live in a car. The one thing they want, more than anything, is an affordable place to live. You aren’t doing them a favor by preventing builders from building what they want (a place to live).
This isn’t jealously. It isn’t envy, or class warfare. It is simply a pursuit of justice, equality and freedom. If I own a house, why can’t I convert it to an apartment? Why should a poor family be forever denied the opportunity to buy a place in Seattle, when I want to sell it to them, and several other families? Isn’t a place to live a fundamental right?
As for your other statements, they are just as nonsensical and clueless:
I can understand why many don’t want to hear me say it, but you are never going to create affordable housing in Seattle of any kind through new construction that is not publicly subsidized.
This argument never makes any sense. You are saying that the only way we can have affordable housing is if the government builds a lot of it. Never mind the fact that I’ve cited many counter examples. How would that work? Well, I suppose the government would spend a huge amount of money building tens, if not hundreds of thousands of apartments in the city. Where? On land that is currently zoned single family, I suppose. Except wait, they can’t do that.
The first step towards your goal would involve changing the zoning on tens of thousands of acres. Then the city has to buy up the land. Then it builds all those places. Great. But why not just start with the first step? Rezone the city, and see what happens. Of course you have to have public housing — that has always been the case, everywhere — but with the change of zoning, the public dollar goes a lot further. In the mean time, there are thousands upon thousands of people willing to build places for those who can’t possibly afford marble countertops, or heated tile floors. No, these aren’t places you would want to live in, but believe it or not, no one cares. We are concerned with the vast majority of people in this city that just want to afford a decent place to live.
Population growth in the U.S. for 2020 was 0.35%, the lowest in 120 years. https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/us-population-growth-smallest-120-years-74862788 I think every first world nation has basically a flat growth rate excluding immigration.
This link explains the difference between birth, death and growth population rates. https://www.preservearticles.com/difference/three-differences-between-birth-rate-and-growth-rate-of-the-population/29483#:~:text=Three%20Differences%20between%20Birth%20Rate%20and%20Growth%20Rate,is%20almost%2026.1%20per%20thousand%20in%202001.%203.
Here is where the growth in 2020 was and was not:
“Among the states, Idaho had the largest single-year population increase, growing 2.1% to 1.8 million residents. It was followed by Arizona, which grew 1.8%; Nevada, which increased 1.5%; Utah, which grew 1.4%; and Texas, which increased 1.3%. [ed. all low tax states].
“Sixteen states lost population, including California, the nation’s most populous state, which declined 0.18% to 39.3 million residents.
“New York — the pandemic’s epicenter in the spring — had the nation’s biggest decline, losing an estimated 126,000 residents, or a dip of 0.65%. The Empire State has been losing residents since 2016, but the drop from 2019 to 2020 was significantly larger than in years past.
“New York’s population decline was followed by Illinois, with a 0.63% drop; Hawaii, with a 0.61% decline; West Virginia, with a 0.58% drop; and Mississippi, with a 0.38% decline.”
To Al’s point, WA state did reform its condo liability laws and limited the long tail on new construction warranties. The goal was to encourage more owner occupied condo multi-family development and less rental apartment development.
There has been little conversion of existing apartments to owner occupied condos because the cost of conversion is high and the existing construction often low quality since it was designed for apartment rentals. Plus as long as rents and property values continue to increase most apartment investment trusts (REET’s) don’t’ want to sell.
Instead developers have sought out older apartment and condo complexes in high value communities to tear down and replace with high end owner occupied condos, which is good for the city if you like gentrification and construction sales taxes, but not so good for the displaced lower income tenants of the replaced building. This is a real problem on the eastside and among the elderly.
I think the recent collapse of the condo building in Miami, and the focus on 40 year recertification for condos, will have a significant impact on condo sales in large buildings in which deferred maintenance can be prohibitively expensive if not properly reserved.
The biggest issue in the future is demographics, namely the aging of the U.S population and a declining birth rate throughout the world, but mostly in first world countries. There is a reason Native Eskimos would put their elderly on ice blocks and push them out to sea.
Great news on CNN this morning: https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/29/investing/companies-vaccine-requirement-delta-covid/index.html
I especially like THIS juicy tidbit:
Wall Street offices are filling up fast. And vaccines are required. The financial sector says get vaxxed or find a new job. BlackRock (BLK) and Morgan Stanley (MS) announced all employees must be vaccinated to return to the office.
So, the REAL MOTU’s are down with “WFTO” [“work from the office”], not “WFH”.
The Eastside “Wannabe” MOTU’s are gonna have to start ridin’ the 550 again. Desoleé.
“Master[s] of the Universe”.
“The Masters of the Universe were a set of lurid, rapacious plastic dolls that
his otherwise perfect daughter liked to play with. They looked like Norse
gods who lifted weights, and they had names such as Dracon, Ahor, Mangelred, and Blutong. They were unusually vulgar, even for plastic toys.
Yet one fine day, in a fit of euphoria, after he had picked up the telephone
and taken an order for zero-coupon bonds that had brought him a $50,000
commission, just like that, this very phrase had bubbled up into his
brain. On Wall Street he and a few others— how many? —three hundred, four hundred, five hundred?— had become precisely that … Masters of the
Universe. There was … no limit whatsoever! Naturally he had never so much
as whispered this phrase to a living soul. He was no fool. Yet he couldn’t
get it out of his head.”
“[H]e could see the island of Manhattan off to the left. The towers were jammed together so tightly, he could feel the mass and stupendous weight. Just think of the millions, from all over the globe, who yearned to be on that island, in those towers, in those narrow streets! There it was, the Rome, the Paris, the London of the twentieth century, the city of ambition, the dense magnetic rock, the irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening-and he was among the victors!”
Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
I would imagine the traders have a little less hubris following the financial collapse. Ha, just kidding. They are probably still the arrogant pricks that made that book such good reading.
Ross, +1000. A perfect quote!
Should probably be “WATO” [“work AT the office”]
Well they will be opening up the South Bellevue Link garage supposedly next month. That’s 1500 spaces!
*next month = September
Meanwhile Bloomberg says many companies are postponing or rethinking their opening plans. Seattle Times link ($).
Things are continuing to change rapidly. What’s accurate now wasn’t two months ago, and probably won’t be in two months or six months. Vaccinations remain low in some states and counties, the delta variant is more contagious than previous plans anticipated. Some vaccine-hesitants are now getting vaccinated because of delta, but it remains to be seen whether it will be enough people to get closer to herd immunity. Some states have laws prohibiting companies or agencies from requiring vaccines or masks. Some anti-vax media personalities aren’t so anti anymore. All this will take months to sort out, and it won’t necessarily go in the direction you think it will.
TT, I just don’t get why you are so down on labor. Why such glee at the idea of forcing ordinary workers who can’t afford to drive to work and park onto packed transit, that you more than anyone claim is a big health risk?
What makes you think the Wall. St. financiers or even eastside workers will take transit to work? How often are you taking transit?
If they are required to return to an office I imagine they will demand subsidized parking, because what employer is going to demand employees risk their health, their family’s health, and the health of others in the office (which you note are not safe even if vaccinated) to take transit to work when you know the partners and executives are driving to work?
You really are an elitist TT, and have no problem forcing workers onto packed peak hour transit you yourself won’t take. If your glee is because the return of the commuter will refund transit, my guess is you will be disappointed.
Wall Street traders did take transit to work until their companies prohibited it in 2020. If they weren’t taking transit beforehand there would be no reason to pass a new policy. Hopefully the prohibition has been repealed. All classes in New York take the subway, even if not all individuals do. Similarly, six-figure business executives in Pugetopolis commute on Metro, Sounder, and Link, and will on East Link, to the extent that they still have commutes. Not all of them but some of them. And if you say people in Medina mansions and similar houses on Mercer Island never take transit, we’re not designing a transit system for them alone. Transportation policy needs to meet the 99%’s needs, not the 1%’s needs.
You lying POS, I detailed my consistent use of transit when I was working. Find the comment.
I have 24/7/365 access to a car of my own, but I walk to the grocery, hardware, and “big box” stores between a mile and two from me, unless of course what I’m going to buy can’t be carried.
When I go across town I use transit, again with the caveat that I don’t try to transport garden amendments by bus.
And yes, I recognize that I am laden with racial and class privilege. But I’m not a hypocrite about transit. I’ve used it since I was eight years old when I rode it to and from the Y on Saturdays.
Since there is essentially no parking near Wall Street, the traders who actually do the price-setting trades ride the subway to work.
Sure, there are warehousesful of geeks over in Hoboken and Jersey City keeping the 99+-% of trades which are mirrors of the sets.
Cool walking tour of Times Square. Made a little over a week ago. It’s a 360 video, so if you move your cell or tablet, up, down, right, left, your view change accordingly. Or, you can change the view with your cursor.
In the past year I have posted about a large apartment complex being build across from the University Village on 25th Ave NE and here some details on what it will entail.
It will have 236 units. 9,000 square feet of retail space, 183 underground parking stalls and 214 bicycle spaces. There will be a lobby concierge, fitness center with saunas and a rooftop indoor/outdoor clubhouse topped by a rooftop deck.
Although it is near the UW it is not envisioned as student housing but is expected to attract families and downsizing households from the nearby Ravenna and Laurelhurst neighborhoods.
I drive by there on a regular basis and it is quite a complex and I am sure that the U Village is quite happy to see it built as they can envision residents walking across the street to shop. Previously on the site was a motel and bank.
From the looks of it they are in the final stages of finishing so probable within a few months it should be available for people to move in.
While this project is finishing up another apartment complex is being on the north side of the U Village where there used to an Office Depot. They just starting the construction so it will be a while before it it completed.
Jeff, do you know how many of the 236 units will be affordable, and the AMI limit for affordability (usually these kinds of buildings have 80% AMI affordable unit set asides, which I think is faux affordability).
Also 9000 sf of retail is quite low for 236 units, so I am guessing that retail will mostly be for the building’s tenants. It would be tough to compete against U. Village across the street. But glad to see such support for the mall concept. Hopefully we can see this kind of development along the Ave.
I wonder about storage for 214 bicycles. First, the demographic, older couples downsizing from expensive neighborhoods, doesn’t strike me as folks who will bike for their primary transportation, and this building sits at the bottom of a steep hill in an area with heavy traffic. Second, communal bike storage has proven to be prone to theft, and so any expensive bikes need to be stored in the unit (we have seen this on Mercer Island).
193 parking stalls for 236 units plus any parking set asides for retail is obviously less than one stall/unit, and the demographic for these units don’t strike me as big bus riders (and there is no light rail station nearby, is there). I have seen this situation in new buildings in Freemont (except the issue was the lack of a second stall) and the units with a second dedicated stalls had much higher resale values. A unit with no parking stall for this demographic seems risky to me (unless they are the affordable units). Whether you primarily take transit or not, you still need to park a car somewhere, even TT, and competing for a street parking space in the U. District is very difficult.
Another issue is it is harder to get someone to downsize from a Laurelhurst type neighborhood (who after selling their SFH has millions) to a shared wall development with one or no parking stalls. We have tried to create this kind of downsizing on Mercer Island but the residents are not ready for shared walls, and of course need at least one parking stall. There is a big psychological divide between Laurelhurst and the U. District, and even from most areas of Ravenna, and from a SFH to a shared wall condominium.
On the other hand, for those who think any new construction will create affordable housing, or create affordable housing someplace else (and I don’t know what kind of housing this development replaced) this scale of development makes sense for all the residential neighborhoods in Seattle if Seattle wants to get rid of SFH zones to create more housing. (Too bad downtown Seattle isn’t seeing this kind of residential development).
Limiting multi-family housing in the residential zones to the same regulatory limits as a SFH (including front and rear yard setbacks) makes no sense because no new net housing is created: a SFH can easily house 6, especially if a rental, and a multi-story development on the same lot limited to the same regulatory limits — height, impervious surface limits, gross floor area to lot area ratio, yard setbacks — would create at most 6 studio or one bedroom units. Better off to just go with the current zoning that allows one main dwelling and two accessory dwellings and up to 13 unrelated tenants.
In the end this development proves that new construction never produces affordable housing because builders don’t want to build affordable housing (or there wouldn’t be affordability set asides). It also proves downtown Seattle is not attractive for wealthy Seattleites looking to downsize, but the mall concept is still quite attractive (see, Bellevue Mall and all the housing surrounding it). My guess is the lack of a parking stall, and the location next to the UW, will hurt the asking price for the units, certainly for anyone downsizing from Laurelhurst or Candy Cane Lane.
“I wonder about storage for 214 bicycles.”
The Burke-Gilman trail is right behind it. The trail goes right to UW Station. There are a lot of apartments north of it, and a lot of bicyclists in the area. That’s where asdf2’s old condo is and he biked/jogged/scootered to the Link station or the Montlake freeway station from there.
“Affordable” is relative to each person’s income. The standard is that everybody should have housing available at 33% of their income. A $2000/month market-rate apartment translates to an $80K income. There are many levels below that, at $12K, $20K, $40K, and $60K to name a few. All of them need some amount of subsidized apartments.
Separately, market-rate prices rise and fall depending on how many people are competing for each unit. Again there are many submarkets at different price points: a high-income person may not want a no-frills unit, and a lower-income person flat-out can’t afford something above the median price. Building a lot of market-rate units dilutes the competition for each unit, making the growth curve flatter than it would have been. That’s over the entire city/region over a period of time, so it’s like climate, not weather. Seattle prices are rising and there’s lots of construction, but you also have to compare it to the same period without construction. If there hadn’t been construction, prices would have risen anyway, and probably faster and higher, as happened in San Francisco and San Jose.
“The Burke-Gilman trail is right behind it. The trail goes right to UW Station. There are a lot of apartments north of it, and a lot of bicyclists in the area. That’s where asdf2’s old condo is and he biked/jogged/scootered to the Link station or the Montlake freeway station from there.”
Fair enough, although asdf2 can run a mile in 5 minutes and thinks nothing of a brisk three mile walk. These are suppose to be retirees who are downsizing, not UW students.
I am sure recreational biking will be popular on the trail, and no doubt the prospective tenants have bikes sitting unused in their garages at home. But where does someone in Seattle park their bike at a light rail station without it being stolen? And again large communal bike storage is prone to theft, so best to keep an expensive bike in the unit is my advice, because 236+ tenants will have keys to the bike storage locker.
I don’t know if the bike storage is mandated by code or market forces. There was a pretty good discussion before about the need, or lack of need, for large communal bike storage in subsidized affordable housing, especially for the elderly, and the increased cost to the development.
For this demographic I would have flipped the parking and bike storage/parking amounts, although I am sure car stalls are more expensive than bike storage.
It’s not a senior building so I don’t know where you get most residents will be elderly. There’s a large gap between college students and elderly people. In the building I lived in at 56th & U Way, most people were post-student age. Maybe that will be the case here. Just because the owner is targeting families from Laurelhurst houses doesn’t mean that’s what they’ll get. Maybe only a dozen families will downsize in ten years and they’ll all move elsewhere, and other middle-class people or college graduates will fill this building.
“where does someone in Seattle park their bike at a light rail station without it being stolen?”
I don’t know what the likelyhood of bike theft is since I haven’t had a bike since 2003. The main problem I had was people taking the headlights off my bike, which happened twice. But the general adage is, if you don’t want a bike to get stolen, buy a cheap bike. Some people have two bikes, a cheap one for commuting and an expensive one for mountain biking. It’s flat from U Village to the station and everywhere on the trail, so a cheap bike would be fine for that.
“best to keep an expensive bike in the unit”
My building prohibits bikes in units because they might make marks on the floor. You have to use the bike storage. Some people take them up to their unit anyway, but then they risk getting evicted.
“236+ tenants will have keys to the bike storage locker.”
If it’s one big locker. My building has two bike lockers with around thirty bikes each. They’re a similar size as the storage units, which are also available.
“It’s not a senior building so I don’t know where you get most residents will be elderly.”
According to Jeff the building owners are targeting people looking to downsize from a SFH. In my experience those are usually older folks.
For example, I am 62 and my last child is just leaving for college, but you learn they tend to come back a lot, so downsizing really means done with college (and not living with mom and dad) and tired of the upkeep of a SFH which I still enjoy (at least the gardens). So the earliest I could look at downsizing would be 66, although my wife would never go for it. “Senior buildings” really have more to do with tax implications than the age of tenants, and none of Seattle is zoned for them. But there are a lot of multi-family buildings in which the average age is approaching 65. People tend to downsize from a SFH to a condo because they want to travel and less upkeep, and those are usually older citizens.
Also I am assuming the price of the units will be high. Brand new construction across from the U. Village with the amenities mentioned will have asking prices over $1 million, which is out of the reach of most younger people. Amenities like “There will be a lobby concierge, fitness center with saunas and a rooftop indoor/outdoor clubhouse topped by a rooftop deck” strike me as the kind of amenities older — or at least wealthier — residents would want and pay for.
Look, I think it sounds like a great project for the neighborhood, although the antithesis of affordable housing. Personally I wonder about fewer than one parking stall per unit which means no parking for some units, and the need for storage for 214 bikes, but I am not the developer, and I don’t plan on buying one of the units (but if I did, even if just as an investment, I would make sure my unit came with a dedicated parking stall).
That’s *you* though. What you want and what others want at a particular age may or may not be the same.
In that location I expect a fairly diverse set of demands just because it’s close to so much stuff. People will make trade-offs to live there.
“That’s *you* though. What you want and what others want at a particular age may or may not be the same.”
“In that location I expect a fairly diverse set of demands just because it’s close to so much stuff. People will make trade-offs to live there.”
Glenn, I agree, and I have no plan to buy one of these units, although I come from the demographic that downsizes from a SFH. My point was the purchase price will determine the group who can, let alone will, buy one.
“Personally I wonder about fewer than one parking stall per unit which means no parking for some units”
There’s no need to wonder or care. If you’re right and no one moves in because they don’t have a parking spot, that’s the developer’s problem, not your problem. I think people will still live there anyway. Obviously, units that come without parking will have to be cheaper, all else equal, but that’s the point.
Bike parking is a bit different than car parking. If it’s a shared room, the cost per bike is much less than a parking garage for cars. If it’s individual storage lockers, people who don’t have bikes can use them to store other stuff, so they still add value.
This is U Village. Some people live there so they don’t have to drive to get to campus, shops, restaurants, supermarkets, bookstores, movie theaters, etc. The 31, 32, and 65 combine for 8 buses per hour to the U-District and U-District Station, and in 2019 it was 10 per hour and it may return to that someday, and night owl. The other direction is Children’s, which has a lot of bicyclists and transit riders. The garage at the Othello Station building is only 66% full. This building could probably get by with even less.
If you have too much parking and it’s bundled, then people without cars are paying for a space they don’t use. If it’s not bundled, the going rate is $250/month, and that makes people think twice about having a car. If it’s not bundled and spaces are empty, then the landlord tries to raise the rent on everybody to recover that gap. Each parking space costs $10,000+ to construct, so it adds a lot of cost to the building.
People without cars are crying out for apartments where they don’t have to pay for parking they don’t use, because there’s so few of them. And those people choose places like U-Village. It’s practically certain that 10% of the people won’t have cars, and it may even be 33%. Just because you think 100% of people have cars and will demand 1 or 2 spaces, it’s not true. Especially not near UW.
When we got my current apartment, my roommate had a van and leased an unbundled space for it. We live on Capitol Hill and he works in a Kent warehouse. He drove to work, and we took the van to Costco and to the Saturday evening MMA fights at Edmonds CC, Everett, and Arlington. Then the van needed a new engine and was falling apart, so he got rid of it, and now takes the 150 to work. Luckily it runs until 2:15am for night shifts. A $99 bus pass takes care of all his transportation costs, as compared to a $250 parking space. That leaves plenty of money left over for occasional Ubers and car rentals. We aren’t going to Arlington anymore, but in the van that cost $30 per trip in gas so we weren’t going to do it as much anyway.
asdf2, I can offer an opinion without having a financial stake in the development. God knows everyone else does on this blog when it comes to zoning or development.
I know a lot of developers, some very large, mostly on the Eastside. So these are just my observations based on the intended demographic for the building, which I am guessing is much closer to me than you.
But the real point I would hope is some would FINALLY understand is new construction is never affordable if not subsidized. These units will likely start at $1.5 million. Is that affordable?
You CAN’t create affordable non-subsidized housing from new construction. The builder’s financial incentives are the opposite: buy the least expensive and most affordable property and build the most expensive new housing the market will bear, and in N. Seattle that is over $1 million/unit.
I like this building. But if you are building housing for me or someone downsizing from Laurelhurst (who will never move here) you are not building affordable housing.
So what is the real point of upzoning the SFH neighborhoods, because it isn’t affordable housing in “north” Seattle.
“You CAN’t create affordable non-subsidized housing from new construction.”
Nobody said you could. Not when the market median is above what the workforce can afford. The point is to slow down the growth curve. It’s much harder to roll it back. We should never have let it get this extreme.
“These units will likely start at $1.5 million.”
Jeff said apartments. Aren’t these apartments?
“if you are building housing for me or someone downsizing from Laurelhurst”
I missed this too, but Jeff said “Ravenna and Laurelhurst”. I think he meant everywhere east of 15th and south of 70th. That’s a large diverse area, not just hoity-toity Laurelhurst dynasties. I don’t think there are that many downsizers in any case, just a few a year. But it doesn’t matter because that building will fill up anyway. Anything on the 45th corridor will fill up.
This looks to be the Greystar development at 4715 and 25th. Mike is correct: it will be apartments. Parking is 184 stalls. It is 7 stories and the massing is well … massive based on the architectural renderings online, and gives an idea what this kind of scale would look like in a residential neighborhood. Financing was $64 million through B of A.
The mix will be studios to three bed units. According to the online listing the major draw is proximity to U. Village. The developer from SC is going to be carrying a lot of debt as an apartment complex, although it may be placed in a REIT.
Construction was to be 24 months which would be a 2022 opening. Will be interested to see the rental rates (which will subsume the common fees). This kind of rental shared wall high unit mix development doesn’t strike me as a draw for older citizens downsizing from one of the adjacent affluent SFH neighborhoods based on what I see in Bellevue but will wait to see.
Jeff is correct, the developers are hoping families and those looking to downsize from the adjacent “affluent” neighborhoods are the intended target, not students.
Yes – if you focus treat just one isolated property in isolation, demolish an old home and building a $1.5 million house in its place maximizes the developer’s profit.
But, they can’t do that everywhere because what actually makes the $1.5 million house worth $1.5 is not the fact that it’s new construction or how much money the developer spent to build it. It’s what somebody is actually willing to pay to live there. Let’s say, out 1 million people, 30,000 of them are actually willing and able to pay $1.5 million for a home. Think about what would happen if developers tried to build 100,000 such homes. At some point, either they’ll have to lower the price, or they’ll just sit there, unsold, and the developer’s income will be $0. If too many are built and the only way the home sells is to charge, say, $900,000 for a home that cost $1,000,000 in land+construction costs to build, then the developers lose money.
To prevent this, developers can and do forecast the supply and demand before they even start building and make sure that what they build pencils out. If the giant $1.5 million home will only actually sell for $900,000 because everybody else is also building giant $1.5 million homes, they will have to switch to a different design, such as multiple smaller homes, appealing to people not quite so high up on the income ladder (unless, of course, the zoning only allows for the construction of one big home, and nothing else).
Now, if the entire housing market were a monopoly, under the control of one single development firm, the result would indeed be something akin to how DT envisions the housing economy – sky high prices and tons of vacancies, no matter how much you upzone. But, the reality world is not that at all. In the real world, there are many different development firms that all have to compete with one another, in addition to the existing housing stock. And, if you allow the supply to increase beyond a certain point, at some point, developers will have to build cheaper units for the simple reason that they will run out of people willing and able to pay for the more expensive units. We’re just not seeing that today because the supply is so artificially constrained relative to the number of high-income people in the city.
The problem with your analysis asdf2 is there a fixed floor to the cost of new construction: land, building supplies, demolition, labor, subs, insurance, taxes, permit and impact fees, and the cost of the loan.
In North Seattle I doubt you can build a new SFH for less than $1.5 million, or multi-family for less than $750,000/unit and make a profit (excluding a DADU which does not have the land costs but is expensive per sf. because it is small).
That is your floor.
For many new SFH the owner is the “developer”, and there is little risk for the builder. That isn’t the case for multi-family housing, unless they are pre-sold condos, and those are usually very high end.
72,000 vacant apartments in Seattle with several thousand more in construction would worry any multi-family developer, in part because many if not most of those are less expensive than new construction multi-family housing. No one really knows what WFH will do to the multi-family market, especially in urban areas. Recently a developer sold a new, completed 173 unit development on Capitol Hill to the city for affordable housing at a steep loss at $243,000/unit because the units were not selling.
Upzoning can create more new housing — although less than thought because the units are often small and replace a SFH that in Seattle can house 13 — but that new housing has a floor of probably $750,000 before the developer begins to lose money on the project, which means that developer can’t get financing again.
Everyone in development is doing it for a profit, and that begins at a fixed cost floor for new construction. If a developer can’t sell a new multi-family unit for $750,000 best to not even start the project, or loan the money for the project.
The articles I read about the Greystar project all felt it was a big risk. I agree, but time will tell. The rents will have to be very high — including the cost of the amenities which are rare in apartments — to pencil out.
The problem with your analysis asdf2 is there a fixed floor to the cost of new construction: land, building supplies, demolition, labor, subs, insurance, taxes, permit and impact fees, and the cost of the loan.
That is ridiculous. I’ve already shown you the math. These million dollar houses are huge. It doesn’t cost much more to build several row houses, or a small apartment. So, again, for the property I mentioned:
3 gigantic houses, each on a huge lot — $4 million gross.
16 row houses — $4.8 million gross. ($300K per house)
50 unit apartment building — $5 million gross ($100K per unit)
In both cases, the developer grosses more, which more than covers the extra cost of construction. Now at this point, you may think that building those extra places is a lot more expensive. There is extra lumber, extra labor, and all that. But based on what they are building, you would be wrong.
The fact that they are building huge houses in second rate areas simply shows that it doesn’t cost much more to build a huge house than a small house. There is a much bigger market for cheaper houses, but it is less profitable. Let me put some numbers on this, to make it easier to understand. Imagine it costs half a million to build a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1500 square foot house. What most would call a “normal” house (for the area). You could easily sell it for 750K — way more inline with the neighborhood. Now imagine it costs substantially more (say, 800K) to build a million dollar home. Building the smaller house is simply more profitable.
Except that clearly isn’t the case. They didn’t build three “normal” houses, they built three huge houses. Because it just doesn’t cost that much to build. This also explains why big houses are being built in even cheaper land. Go out to the suburbs — or better yet, the small towns even further away — and check out a new development. The houses are huge. These are places in the middle of nowhere, with nothing special around them. It just doesn’t make sense to build small, when it only costs a bit more to build big. It didn’t used to be this way (which explains why there are so many small houses in my neighborhood) but it is true now.
The same is true when it comes to building places for lots of people instead of one family. There is more lumber, of course, but way less lumber per person housed. Labor costs go up, but construction techniques are far more efficient, so they don’t go up that much. It isn’t that much more expensive to build several row houses, instead of one big house. The same is true for building an apartment. That is why the costs, eventually, would reach down to those mentioned.
Of course that wouldn’t happen right away. But if it is profitable to build row houses and sell them for $300K, or build condos and sell them for $100K, then the price will eventually approach that. The only reason it isn’t is because it is against the law. That needs to change.
That new U Village apt complex, with 236 units and 184 parking stalls, has to have so much parking because it’s not within walking distance of a Link station. Oh, wait, the soon-to-be-built apt complex at 1600 132nd Ave NE in Bellevue, which is directly across the street from East Link’s Bel-Red/130th Station, will have 249 units and 187 parking stalls.
Ross’s construction cost estimates — and sales price estimates — are not realistic IMO. My guess is each of the three new SFH on large lots will be listed for around $2.5 million each. On the Eastside the listing price would be closer to $4 million each for the more expensive areas.
You can’t build an apartment for $100,000/unit. The loan for Greystar was $64 million for 236 rental units, and the developer usually has 10% to 20% of their own money in the project. You won’t see a new row house in N. Seattle listed for under $800,000.
The SFH in this market is a sure profit for the developer. Row houses or multi-family not so much when based on true construction costs, especially if the smaller developer has to hold the rental property which ties up capital needed for future projects.
Plus you begin to change the character of the SFH neighborhood from owner occupied SFH with vegetated lots to absentee rental properties with no lot vegetation and a bunch of cars parked on the street.
What is being glossed over are the 72,000 of vacant apartments. Half of Seattle owns, which leaves 350,000 renters. Probably 20% of those (at least) live in rental SFH, so that leaves 280,000 who rent apartments. 72,000 is a 25% vacancy rate. Holy cow, Batman.
Those vacant apartments are existing construction. The vast majority will rent for less than new construction if the developer wants to make a profit. A developer in Seattle would have to be crazy to not ask why are there 72,000 vacant apartments in Seattle if there is a housing crunch, and why did SFH sales prices increase 39% on the Eastside from April 2020 to 2021. If you were a developer or builder where would you build, especially when current Seattle zoning allows three separate legal dwellings and 13 unrelated tenants per lot without the owner having to live onsite in the same residential neighborhood you want to build and sell a $2.5 million SFH, which is going to spook the Seattle SFH buyer who can buy on the Eastside with much better public schools.
Trying to zone based on ideology almost never works because developers and builders are like sharks, and their food is profit. They will only build what you want if it makes them the highest profit with the least risk.
72,000 vacant apartments in Seattle if Crosscut is correct is an indication something is seriously wrong in the Seattle housing market, and my guess is zoning ideologues are killing the golden goose: Seattle’s residential neighborhoods.
Good for me as I live on the Eastside and my house value increased 39% last year (more than I made working as a lawyer), but a sign something is wrong in Seattle, which is highlighted by the crazy commercial and (high end) housing development in Bellevue.
“Plus you begin to change the character of the SFH neighborhood from owner occupied SFH with vegetated lots to absentee rental properties with no lot vegetation and a bunch of cars parked on the street.”
Whether a lot is owner occupied or renter occupied, or one large home or several smaller homes has nothing to do with the presence of lot vegetation or cars parked on the street.
If you don’t want cars parked on the street, restrict parking on the street. If you don’t want the trees chopped down, require that whoever is developing the property preserve the trees.
The fact that a lot is restricted to one house for one family has nothing to do with tree preservation, as chopping down all the trees to build a larger house, or a backyard tennis court, is still considered “ok”. But, replacing the existing house and dividing it into a duplex or triplex, keeping all of the trees intact is somehow not ok, and leads to a lot with no vegetation. That’s B.S.
You miss my point asdf2. I am not stating whether a property in a residential neighborhood is rental or owner occupied affects lot vegetation (although a rental neighborhood has a different character than an owner occupied residential neighborhood).
But when you convert a SFH lot into multi-family housing you necessarily increase the footprint, which reduces the area available for trees and lot vegetation. Otherwise you don’t increase the total sf for housing. All you do is make the living quarters smaller, except now you need separate kitchens and bathrooms for each unit.
There are four main regulatory limits on a SFH:
1. Height (including whether a roof is flat or pitched).
2. Lot coverage, sometimes called impervious surface limits, because plants and trees don’t grow in concrete.
3. Front, rear and side yard setbacks, which combined with impervious surface limits determine the building’s footprint, which determines the total amount of lot area left for trees and vegetation. The trees and vegetation always exist in the yard setbacks, by definition. Yes, a larger SFH replacing a smaller SFH that does not maximize its code limits will have a larger footprint, up to that allowed under the code, but not nearly as large as a multi-family building on the same lot.
4. And gross floor area for all structures to lot area ratio.
For example, if you allow three separate legal dwellings on a residential lot that is going to increase the amount of impervious surfaces (which includes foundations and driveways), reduce front and rear yard setbacks, and increase the gross floor area to lot area ratio (GFAR).
Simply converting a SFH into a duplex or even triplex does not increase the sf of the building. Like I note it decreases living area because every unit now must have a kitchen and bathroom. Same sf, except the units are tiny, great if you are single and poor I suppose, but not ideal for a SFH neighborhood.
If you convert a SFH lot to a multi-family building you have to increase all of the regulatory limits if you want to realize more housing than the SFH (again with kitchens and bathrooms in each unit). Otherwise what is the point of building a multi-family building that has the same regulatory limits (i.e. sf) — especially yard setbacks — as a SFH that has a lot of required pervious area under the code?
It isn’t very hard to see in pure SFH neighborhoods and multi-family neighborhoods. The SFH neighborhood has much more vegetation and tree canopy in the front, rear and side yard setbacks.
That is why I was confused by Ross’s argument that a multi-family building replacing a SFH in a residential neighborhood would have the same regulatory limits as a SFH, because you don’t create any more living area.
Ross clarified he was only talking about height remaining the same, but the fact is “massing” — the perception of whether a building is out-of-scale for its lot and zone — begins with the first story. If someone builds a one story building but there are no yard setbacks and thus no vegetation that building appears massive to the pedestrian, like it is on top of them (which is why some row houses or Brownstones have steps facing the street, to move the façade back, although that is still impervious surface without vegetation). Add stories and the massing increases exponentially, like in downtown Seattle, or the photo of the seven story Greystar building that appears massive.
The issue with street parking is there are 460,000 cars in Seattle, and the residents demand street parking, so every street looks like a parking lot. Multi-family housing — because there is no requirement a tenant not have a car — increases the number of cars per lot, while decreasing the number of offsite parking spots.
Some neighborhoods petition and receive restricted street parking for their residents only because of the demand for street parking and lack of onsite parking in Seattle, but rarely are residential streets no parking at all.
There is a difference between opposing apartments and opposing all non-stand-alone big-yard homes. Townhomes are going up all over Seattle and they seem to be selling quite well (although I couldn’t find a recent report on sales).
As far as lot coverage goes, the whole big setback and lot coverage thing is manufactured idealism of just the last 100 years (and really popularized in a smaller time period). Even new single-family developments in outer suburbs have shrinking lots and lot coverages. Lots carved up between 1945 and 1980 (just a 35 year period) may indeed now be “oversized” — which creates a regulatory challenge of house to “redevelop” those lots no matter where they are.
Example: There are plenty of 1500 square foot single family, single story homes with parking for three cars that could easily be two three-story 1700 square foot units with little impact on allowed lot coverage or setback. The obstacle is not so much the design standards but this “unit” definition thing. The definition of a unit is usually arbitrarily regulated by the existence of a full-service kitchen, entrance door locations, door locks, sound insulation and street access. It’s possible to leave most setback, lot coverage and other design requirements in place (noting that many houses built between 1945 and 1980 still can add lots more square footage inside their allowed building envelope) and still add housing especially in the suburbs.
When many families had 3 or 4 children, big yards were a feature. With fewer families and fewer children in families, the short span of human history of expecting big yards is mostly over — and cities are left to revisit zoning laws to repair the resulting inefficiency (not only on how it affects transit use, but also how it affects providing all local public services and generating property taxes).
* There is a difference between opposing apartments and PROTECTING all non-stand-alone big-yard homes.
“But when you convert a SFH lot into multi-family housing you necessarily increase the footprint, which reduces the area available for trees and lot vegetation”
Not necessarily. It depends on how big the SFH and enclosing lot was to begin with. I’ve walked by many large single family mansions that could be replaced with an entire 20-unit townhome complex without increasing the lot coverage or decreasing vegetation one bit. Except, of course, the zoning says large mansions – good, townhomes – bad.
Even lot coverage restrictions isn’t really the same as tree preservation. It allows trees to be chopped down for bad reasons, such as view clearing, or fixing dead spots on the lawn that don’t get enough sunlight for the grass to grow, but prohibits empty portions of the lot that don’t have any trees from being developed, so they just sit there as empty lawn, and still don’t have any trees.
What we need is to stop using stuff such as number of unrelated families living on the property as a proxy for tree preservation and just require tree preservation directly, with big fines that can’t be blown off as merely the cost of doing business. With a little bit of creativity, there are ways to use a lot more intensely while preserving trees, especially if off street parking requirements go away. Even a tree in the center of a property, you can build around it and put the tree in a courtyard. Developers just don’t bother because they like the cookie cutter designs they can replicate anywhere, which assume a completely clear site. It may be that most of the time, once trees are preserved, nothing other than a single family house pencils out. That’s ok. Most of the time is not all of the time, and there’s no reason to prohibit multifamily development where it can fit, simply due to some blanket, overly broad zoning rule.
Mike, zoning does not address the size of the house. It addresses the house to lot area ratio. Bigger lot, bigger house, if you want. Some prefer large gardens.
I haven’t seen houses in Seattle that could be replaced with 20 row houses without a much larger footprint. Even if that were the case, the number of those houses is rare. Maybe a possible subdivision, but the SFH subdivisions are very profitable for developers so I don’t know if they would even care if multi-family housing is an option, especially if they have to hold the rental property after it is built.
After all, how many build even a single DADU on a lot with a new house when they could build two. Mercer Island has a model DADU/ADU program, and even then there are 238 DADU/ADU’s on the Island out of 7000 sfh lots, and a lot of those have actually been remodeled out of existence but the permit has not been removed from the deed, and many are devoted to Airbnb even though short term rentals are not legal on MI (but no one wants to rent to anyone with the current eviction moratoria, which might have a lot to do with the 72,000 vacant apartments in Seattle).
Seattle pretty much has small lot sizes in most of its “urban” residential neighborhoods, especially in the zones in which multi-family housing would go (not Laurelhurst). So what kind of multi-family housing can you get on a lot with 4000 sf to 8000 sf, without increasing the footprint and regulatory limits for a SFH. Not many units, and even fewer total persons housed when comparing a SFH with five bedrooms to six studios with their own bath and kitchen.
And then you have to compare the number of persons a SFH house can house vs. the number of very small units with their own kitchen and bathroom. Again remember we are not talking about upzoning Laurelhurst, but smaller lots. So a house can house 6, but six studios can house…six.
Tree preservation on private property is a touchy issue. I have tried for years to get tree preservation on Mercer Island on private property that is not under development, with some success for major trees. Usually the neighborhood, and whether the property is owned or rented, determines the effort put into the yard vegetation and trees. But all a zoning code really does is distinguish pervious surfaces in which trees and plants can grow, and impervious surfaces in which trees and vegetation cannot grow.
I just think continuing with the UGA makes more sense in Seattle, and if necessary upzone those UGA’s like Bellevue is doing, although probably for a different demographic.
Urbanism depends on urban and retail density, and dispersing that density through all the neighborhoods when the actual gain in housing units seems questionable to me is counterproductive if the goal is to create retail rich urban areas (in large part because Seattle’s downtown core has been abandoned by Urbanists).
And of course, at the end of the day, that new row house is going to cost $800,000 depending on the neighborhood (and I think we can rule out the Rainier Valley), so who are you really building and zoning it for?
I was one that argued that the South Main station was fine with just a crosswalk across 112th as the south entrance to the station, but looks like the city of Bellevue is looking at a pedestrian bridge (though unclear if will be at north or south station entrance). From the East Main LUCA:
Policy S-SW-53. Allow for pedestrian sky bridge connections from East Main Station across 112th Avenue SE to the transit-oriented development east of 112th Avenue SE.
Also looks like they will be trying to break up the super blocks, with a new N/S street in between 112th and 114th and at least two E/W streets in between Main and 6th.
Click on the “Staff Report with Amendments” link for details. More bridge details on PDF page 60.
Don’t they know pedestrian bridges don’t work unless you block crossing the street? It didn’t work at NE 12th & 108th, or 130th & Aurora, or the abandoned underpasses along Aurora, or in Bristol, England. There are hills west and north of East Main station, but not between the station and the planned TOD across the street.
Hooray for breaking up superblocks.
Don’t they know pedestrian bridges don’t work unless you block crossing the street?
Seattle has moved away from that idea. You can cross Aurora at ground level (legally) now at 130th (https://goo.gl/maps/xJTTEMAxuM9nU9w7A). There is no crosswalk at 102nd and Aurora, but interestingly enough there are curb cuts (https://goo.gl/maps/YYYqrAviDWyYUtm48) so maybe they will eventually add them. Or maybe that is for people on bikes? The city added a surface level crossing for Holman Road (https://goo.gl/maps/J4CEYrZmMvgjqmTU9).
That doesn’t mean the pedestrian bridges aren’t used. I’ve seen plenty of people use the bridge at 130th and Aurora, instead of waiting for the light. My own pet peeve with the bridges is that they assume you are walking on the sidewalk, perpendicular to the crossing, instead of the same direction. For example, they assume you are walking on one side of Aurora, then decide to cross. I’m sure there are people who do that, but the pedestrian bridge is of most value for people that are going east-west. The back and forth nature of the bridge means that you not only have to spend extra energy going up and down, but extra distance as well. It would make more sense to have a long ramp to the east and west.
The best pedestrian bridge in the city is this one: https://goo.gl/maps/zXLzSRPsbZRZXAN38. To the east you have the campus, which sits higher than street level. Thus there is no elevation penalty. The stairs go the direction you want to go — no back and forth. It is especially elegant from the northwest. From, say, Big Time Brewery, you can walk south on the Ave, then ascend those little stairs to the plaza that is part of the brutalist Schmitz Hall building (https://goo.gl/maps/Brdp1N9aHT76NKRk8), walk around the building (on the level plaza) then ascend directly towards campus (https://goo.gl/maps/Brdp1N9aHT76NKRk8). It makes for a direct path, without any extra elevation.
Unfortunately, very few of our pedestrian bridges are that well designed.
“ Don’t they know pedestrian bridges don’t work unless you block crossing the street?”
I agree that making two vertical changes just to cross an adjacent street is a wasteful expense that pedestrians won’t want to use..
There can be treatments to have only one elevation change:
– Downtown Bellevue isn’t exactly flat. Elevation differences can offer opportunities to make overcrossings work for pedestrians with a little creativity. The air space above platforms is developable as a lid that can have a level connection to a nearby hillside.
– Another idea is for a developer to simply elevate local shopping streets to be one level higher for both pedestrians, bicyclists and slow-moving autos. For the hotel parcels opposite of East Main, that would be like having one or two levels of parking at 112th Street level, and creating a new north-south shopping street in the middle of the block on top of the parking. It’s kind of like how the Spring District/ 120th will be oriented. That way, a rail station has the effect of being in a basement (or a “subway station”) even though the station is actually built on the surface. The challenge is how to get a developer and a city to think outside of the box. Over a century ago, we came up with a way to raise Seattle’s First Avenue to be a second-level shopping street so the idea is not new.
It will be interesting to see how developments evolve at our upcoming 20 new light rail stations opening by 2025 (and maybe a few existing stations too).
It really depends on how awful the crossing is.
In the Portland area, Highways 99E and 213 (82nd Ave) are infamous for the number of pedestrian deaths. I’d gladly take a bridge at a few of those locations rather than the 2 minutes for the beg button to kick in plus run the risk of getting run over anyway.
I don’t think the pedestrian bridge will work well here. There isn’t an elevate change, and the station platform is at-grade. I’d much rather see a midblock at-grade ped signal, and going for a bridge in lieu of (rather than in addition to) that midblock crossing would be a major loss.
Without the elevation change the bridge isn’t going to have an elegant design like the good examples Ross highlights (I’d add 3rd Ave to Myrtle Edwards as one of my favorites), so it will need to be tightly integrated into the build environment to be useful.
The ped bridges over Bellevue Way and NE 8th work well because the retail extends up 2 or 3 stories on both sides and the interior floorplans were designed with the bridges in mind, so it’s a good path if your start or finish is not at ground level, which is true not only for shoppers but also many of the workers & residents in the towers above (when the malls are closed, the bridges are still open but I would imagine the foot traffic is minimal). It’s a stretch, but if the redevelopment of the Red Lion and Hilton Bellevue lots are as ambitious as Lincoln Square, with 2 levels of retail and bridges connecting the various podiums, I could see a bridge across 112th be useful. If someone is heading to anywhere east of 112th that is above ground level, it would be ‘on the way.’
The Braven might be a good example of Al’s 2nd suggestion (but without his full abandonment of the ground level pedestrian experience). It has street level retail with a so-so pedestrian experience, but on the 2nd floor it’s an effective pedestrian experience as an open-air mall; I could see a simillar design work well, as long as it’s insulated from the 405 noise pollution.
An ambitious developer could look at the lots on the east side of 405 and look to put in a highrise there with a ped bridge across 405 that then connect onwards to the station without dropping down to ground level. There are some pedestrian corridors in Tysons Center that go from building to building to connect to the new WMATA stations without ever going to the ground level to facilitate crossing multiple arterials. That would be a pretty cool way to be connect south Willburton to Link.
It looks like now that masks are being pushed again, vaccination rates are also increasing, contradicting the CDC hypothesis that not requiring masks will push vaccinations. Meanwhile, the case counts in Washington State, and especially King County, are headed downward over the past couple days.
Special thanks to PCC, which has gone back to asking all staff and customers to wear a mask inside their stores. Being able to shop for groceries again felt like a real “re-opening”.
I’ve also seen fewer riders failing to wear their mask properly, even while the train is getting more crowded.
The number of residents wearing masks indoors on MI has increased significantly over the last few days. Of course with a 95%+ vaccination rate there are very few unvaccinated to infect. The irony is it is the unvaccinated who likely won’t wear a mask.
With around 100 million Americans unvaccinated I am afraid we will be doing this dance for years: cases spike among the unvaccinated, the vaccinated start wearing masks again, symptomatic infections among the unvaccinated drop, people stop wearing masks, symptomatic infections rise among the unvaccinated, people (vaccinated) start wearing masks again, rinse and repeat. At least until private employers require vaccinations, and governments do for teachers/school staff and government employees.
What’s crazy about requiring the vaccinated to wear masks, perhaps for the rest of their lives, to protect those who don’t want to get vaccinated or wear masks?
This dance does not have to be circular. If we can get cases to come downward by getting those willing to do so to wear masks, why can’t we keep that up until the cases reach zero?
We were almost down to 10K daily when the CDC pulled the rug out from under the recovery by telling lots of people that there was no reason for them to keep wearing a mask. And then the downward progress halted, even while vaccinations continued. The CDC’s previous mask guidance, rather than the unvaccinated, may be the primary cause of our continue misery.
Regardless, I still beg everyone who has not gotten a COVID vaccine to please consult with your doctor for advice thereon. You are playing Russian roulette with your life, and the lives of your loved ones. While waiting to get your shots, the mask over your mouth or nose is a very effective bullet-proof vest against infection and spreading. Stopping this threat to humanity that is the novel coronavirus is your patriotic duty. You and your children will someday have more freedom because you make this very small sacrifice of going and getting a very safe and highly effective vaccine. Please. Pretty please with sugar on top.
Shock and surprise: new CNN poll shows unvaccinated much more likely to not wear mask compared to vaccinated.
Also, new CDC study shows 99.999% of those vaccinated won’t die from Covid.
Reduced sperm production in those that have had Covid19:
So maybe at some point anti-science nutjobs will slowly go extinct?
@Glen in P,
Slowly isn’t good enough.
ICYMI, Tuesday is the primary election.
I predict that the big winner will be ranked choice voting, a solution for a clear and present problem, as there is a good chance the top two candidates for mayor will collectively fail to get a majority of votes cast. This seems to be becoming a quadrennial problem. I hope we can bring the city’s election system out of the 18th century in time for the next mayoral election.
I’m voting for Andrew Grant Houston for Mayor. Andrew is the candidate wanting to push hard for green bike lanes and red bus lanes. He is running fourth in at least one poll, with a plurality of voters having no idea for whom they are going to vote. AGH has been endorsed by the Transit Riders Union, Seattle Subway, and 350 Action Seattle, among others.
Teresa Mosqueda is also on the ballot! Let’s make sure she gets re-elected to her council seat. She may be the best council member this city has ever been fortunate enough to have serving it.
Mail ballots by Monday, or get them to a ballot drop box by 8 pm Tuesday. Check out the King County Elections webpage if you have questions about voting or still need to register to vote.
I agree that this year’s election makes a very strong case for second choice voting. I don’t think it will play a big part in the mayoral race though, as I expect the two most qualified candidates (Harrell and Gonzalez) to easily advance. If that doesn’t happen, and we get a fringe candidate (another unqualified person like Moon, who gets crushed by the more mainstream candidate) then more people will push for it. Gonzalez can beat Harrell; so can Farrell. Everyone else would get crushed.
I think that is far more likely to happen in the open race for city council position 9. It is a classic case where the centrist candidate (for Seattle) may be squeezed out by the two extremes. It is highly likely Thomas would be the consensus candidate (winning a second-chance vote) but won’t advance beyond the primary.
I’ve been undecided between several mayoral and District 9 candidates, more so than any previous local election. My instinct is still for Jesslyn Farrell as the best technocrat. Houston I like his endorsements and his enthusiasm for transit, but his defunding the police goes the opposite direction. I saw orange signs this weekend that seemed to say he wants to defund the police 90%. I never thought I’d agree with Daniel that public safety would be the #1 issue for Seattlites or for me, but I think a sharp defunding is counterproductive and we may have to stop a candidate who’s pushing that from getting into office. We do need to redirect non-violent cases to non-police response teams and and make other reforms, but we should start with budgeting for that and then see how narrowing the police’s scope would affect its budget, rather than starting with trying to reduce the police budget for ideological reasons. So I’m concerned about Houston but I haven’t 100% decided how I’ll vote.
“I never thought I’d agree with Daniel that public safety would be the #1 issue for Seattlites or for me, but I think a sharp defunding is counterproductive and we may have to stop a candidate who’s pushing that from getting into office.”
It isn’t just me. Once you get off transit blogs and Urbanist blogs everyone votes public safety number one, two and three, if public safety is an issue, especially white people. Even NY City Democrats.
The point I try to make over and over but seems to land on deaf ears is the folks in suburbia don’t live and walk on public streets. They drive from garage to location and back. Transit, retail, restaurants, street vibrancy, Urbanism all begin and end with safe streets.
Who is going to walk to a bus stop (day or night), or walk downtown streets to shop or dine in Seattle, if it isn’t safe? Who cares about the frequency of transit if using it is not 100% safe, including for women, because if you have ever visited a Muslim country streets and bars without women have a much different vibe.
Seattle has to get its shit in order, and I don’t think any of the mayoral candidates has the will to do what it will take to do that. In the 1990’s NY City found itself in this predicament, and elected Rudi Giuliani, and it worked. Yes, like Nathan Jessup his visage was grotesque to the liberal elite eating canapés in tall buildings along Central Park, but the city was livable again.
The issue at this point is not whether community based response teams are better than the police, or the amount of funding for the police, the issue is a majority of Seattleites feel the streets are not safe RIGHT NOW (and 100% of eastsiders feel that way about Seattle). It does not help with the eastside booming across the lake.
Seattleites and their politicians need to take long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves how did we fuck up such a beautiful city with so many natural attractions, not how frequent the 7 bus or Northgate Link should be, or how to destroy the SFH neighborhoods, although those on the eastside who own are getting rich off the appreciation on their SFH, and have great alternatives on the eastside, so we really can’t complain as long as Seattle stays in Seattle, which not surprisingly is the main campaign issue for races on the eastside.
If you are debating whether to vote for Houston (WTF?) or Farrell you already screwed.
The immediate issue is who to vote for in the primary. I’m disappointed that one person is good on transit and bad on policing, which creates a dilemma of whether they’d be overall good or bad. I was always going to vote against a heavy defunder, although conversely I don’t think we need to run around paranoid and make increasing police and railing against tents our #1 issue. We don’t need to get into the side issues right now of how much Seattlites prioritize “safety”, although I think you’re overstating it. Crowds have returned to Pike Place Market and Pine Street and Metro’s ridership is increasing, so those people aren’t deterred from going downtown. Suburbanites always have unrealistic views of Seattle crime; some still won’t go to Rainier Valley assuming they’ll get shot, based on redlining in the 1960s and the crack epidemic in the 1990s, even though many of their peers have moved into new Rainier Valley apartments and are doing fine and like the diverse neighborhood.
They drive from garage to location and back.
Yes, that’s true, but it is not “scalable”. There is simply not enough room in the Puget Sound lowland to accommodate everyone who wants to live in it in single-family homes that require them to drive everywhere. THAT is the reason for the nosebleed prices here and the affordable prices in Houston and Omaha. They can spread in every direction with little resistance from the environment.
They add another loop with the roads which serve each segment of land between the next inner loop and the new one extended and the new space to the outside of the new loop bisected by a new set of roads. They’ve done it three times now in Houston, each time claiming that the new loop would solve all the traffic problems. They now have five-level interchanges in many places, because the crossing roadways have to be separated from the service roads which line both sides of freeways in Texas. So one freeway will underpass the four-corner intersection of the service roads while the other overpasses it and the left turns are stacked two levels above THAT.
For instance at I-10 (Katy Freeway) and The Sam Houston Tollway, the stack is Service Roads, I-10, the Tollway, east-west to north-south left turns, and north-south to east-west left turns. Five levels.
A cathedral for the Vehicle God: https://www.google.com/maps/search/I-10+and+outer+loop+west,+houston,+email@example.com,-95.5637254,444m/data=!3m1!1e3
Seattle simply can’t do that because of the severe geophysical constraints it faces. There are three deep parallel waterways radically constraining northern King County, with additional parallel and fairly steep ridges between them and on either side of the Green River Valley. “Cars everywhere, everywhen” simply doesn’t “scale” here. We’re at the limits of that model, unless you want to bulldoze new block-wide strips through the existing built-up areas.
You have made your skepticism that the region can pay for the second downtown Seattle tunnel abundantly clear. Let me remind you that at a million a pop, the land acquisition of all those lived-on parcels necessary for a Houston-style renaissance of Puget Sound would be far more expensive.
So TT, are you claiming Houston is not car oriented, and that accounts for its housing prices? I have been to Houston and have never seen a more car oriented city.
Of course cars are “scalable”, a strange term with no real definition. There are 460,000 cars in Seattle alone.
Houston also has 8 times the land area of Seattle. But if one includes Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap Counties, the land area is larger than many states. You could easily build one million new SFH in that area within the current zoning without having to upzone any rural or natural lands, and the access roads already exist.
Right now transit use is below 1/2 of 2019, and cars are scalable. In fact, driving is a pleasure today without the peak hour commuter.
Transit in many ways is not scalable either, during the peak hour commute. Buses are packed, and so are trains. It doesn’t mean you eliminate transit.
The key is to eliminate as much peak hour commute — on transit or in cars — as possible with WFH, and then there is more than enough capacity on our roads and transit, and the four country area has enough land for a million more SFH, if folks don’t have to commute every day. Originally the goal for Urbanists was to have the work commuter move to the city and live in a dense apartment or condo so they could walk to work, but technology makes that unnecessary today. You can live in remote Alaska if you want and still WFH.
The U.S. has 2.3 billion acres. https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2012/march/data-feature-how-is-land-used/ Urban areas use up around 2% of that area. Most trips in this region are by car. Cars are scalable and so are the roads, except like transit the peak hour commuter demands strain capacity.
No one is giving up their cars because some claim they are not “scalable”, especially when many of us have three car garages and most parking on the eastside is free. Make transit safer, more convenient, and just better and more riders will use it, although probably not enough to make up for the loss of the work commuter from WFH, which will probably require making transit more “scalable” for the number of transit riders and farebox recovery.
“You can live in remote Alaska if you want and still WFH.”
A quarter of the workforce can potentially do that. Three-quarters can’t. You can’t do nursing, haircutting, food serving, maintaining pools, running a bookstore, construction, etc, remotely. To quote 1980s futurist criticism, you can’t eat floppy disks.
“Of course cars are “scalable”, a strange term with no real definition.”
Take any house, supermarket, freestanding restaurant, or shopping mall, and compare the amount of living/retail space to the amount of parking/driveway space. In houses the garage is often a quarter or half the size of the house. In commercial buildings the parking is as large as the building or larger. A car is much larger than a person. Each car in a parking lot requires 1 1/2 spaces worth of land, because the car has to get in and out of the parking space. Roads are exponentially wider than they’d be if 50% or 80% of the population didn’t drive. Two lanes can serve several times more people on trains or buses or bikes or peds than SOVs. That’s what “cars don’t scale” means. Every additional person-trip requires a bit more space than a person if they’re not in a car, or a lot more space if they’re in a car. So space requirements rise exponentially if everybody drives. That’s what has happened to American cities. It’s not just a question if making it bad; it’s already horrible. Cities devote half their buildable land to roads and parking, and 80% of that is because of SOVs. That pushes everything apart, makes things harder to walk to, harms community cohesion, and is incredibly ugly.
The US position claims to put people first but it really puts SOVs first, and distorts and harms everything else to work around cars. Many non-US cities are putting people first instead of cars, and are actively reducing car lanes and parking spaces to make more room for transit lanes, ped/bike infrastructure, and public plazas and bioscapes. That’s what we should be doing. It’s more scalable and sustainable.
“Once you get off transit blogs and Urbanist blogs everyone votes public safety number one, two and three, if public safety is an issue, especially white people.”
Not always. Snohomish County voters rejected a sales-tax funded public safety measure just a few years ago.
I’m going to largely ignore the Guiliani implications since you’re engaging in some revisionism while also ignoring the consequences of his administration’s tactics. Just fyi, I grew up in the city in the 60s and 70s in a very diverse working class neighborhood, attending public schools and using public transit in the process. I only mention this because I think I have a good idea what the city was like before and after Rudy and I’ve read plenty of bullshit claims about his legacy. I think the linked article presents a much truer picture.
This is the first multiweekend thread I’ve seen. Might as well talk about rollercoasters.
Ha! I just posted on the same thing. Is STB dead?
Well this blog is really circling the drain. It has now been a full week since there was a new blog post. That is a record in apathy by the people who supposedly run this thing.
Additionally, when there is a blog post the post tends to not be very informative. Just a link to some video to create an “open thread”, or a news roundup that is both less extensive and less diverse than what you can get 5 days a week with the old SDOT clip sheet (I assume it is still available).
This blog never had much influence over policy, but at least some of the policy makers would refer to it once in awhile (Greg Nickels we miss you). Now I fear that nobody is paying attention to it at all. The posts are too infrequent, they are too uninformative, they rarely contain anything that could pass as news, and the dialog that they generate is too biased.
Is it time for new blood at the top?
Lazarus, it is summer, sunny, and for the first time in nearly 18 months we are not cooped up. If I ran STB (for free) I doubt I would be in the library drafting weighty transit tomes for August.
Plus I don’t think transit is much of an issue right now. Northgate Link opens in Oct., East Link in 2023, and Federal Way Link in 2024. What is there to complain about. Almost no one is even riding transit.
The TRU hasn’t had a transit post in months, and is consumed with housing issues, and I would be too if the eviction moratoria were expiring and I was way behind on rent with a likely rent increase in the future to make up for the past 18 months.
The final vote is scheduled on the ST 3 realignment plan according to the Urbanist, but that is a political document estimating the future decades out during a pandemic, when ST changes its deficit estimates by billions monthly. It is pointless to post about ST or ST 3 because you can’t believe either.
I think we all know what won’t get built: DSTT2, WSBLE, Issaquah to S. Kirkland rail. But the spine will be completed, and post pandemic we will learn how relevant it is.
But today enjoy the summer.
“Hardly anybody is riding transit” – Metro’s daily ridership is back up to something like 180,000, but I guess we’re all nobodies? That’s not even counting any of the other transit agencies in the Puget Sound region.
I’d like more posts too but I’m guessing there’s vacations or just life in general going on. AFAIK STB’s authors are all volunteers (or maybe paid a small amount) so not much to complain about. If you want content, write it yourself!
Well, Metro’s boardings were around 160,000 in July 2020, down from over 400,000 daily boardings in 2019, so I wouldn’t say there has been a surge of riders recently (pre-Delta) but I should have said ridership is less than 1/2 than pre-pandemic, so transit is not as big an issue in people’s lives right now to get worked up over. (Although Inslee did order all transit to return full levels last month, and eliminated distance requirements — except for drivers — so the frequency is there).
Contrary to what the TRUs name suggests, they have never really been about transit, or at least transit for middle class people. Their focus has always been on general services for the poorest of the poor, of which, transit is just one of many. When they do talk about transit, they are more concerned about people who are completely broke not being able to afford the bus fare than they are about how often or how many hours a day the bus actually runs.
As to ST3…I don’t think it’s case that Seattle projects never get built and Seattle’s tax dollars go nowhere except Tacoma and Everett. I can see things being postponed or value engineered. Maybe the Ballard line gets truncated at Expedia and never crosses the ship canal, although I hope Ballard station eventually opens.
I also hope ST would reconsider whether DSTT2 is really necessary, and that the alternative of squeezing more trains in DSTT1 is really infeasible. Whatever the capital cost is of upgrading signalling, ventilation, whatever, to handle more trains, it can’t possibly be more than a fraction of what a whole new downtown tunnel would cost.
I agree with TT that 72,000 apartment vacancies seems hard to believe. But new construction won’t solve an affordability housing crisis. Like so much post-pandemic, we won’t know for a few years, except the floor to build a SFH, row house, or apartment when the developer must hold the apartment and tie up all that capital.
But the eviction crisis is existential right now.
I also agree with TT the solution to urban rail and the WSBLE is to use the DSTT1, which saves every subarea a fortune to use on their projects. East Link is limited to 8 minute intervals, and my guess will have low cross lake ridership during non-peak times, so the capacity is there in DSTT1.
That just leaves connecting Link somehow to SLU, understanding a transfer would be the third seat for many, when studies show few riders will take three seats on transit to get anywhere.
I still go back to something I said long ago: why did ST raise funding issues for ST 3 now when there is so much uncertainty, and there is no real solution, certainly a ST 4
Northgate Link opens in Oct. East Link in 2023. Federal Way Link in 2024. If I were on the Board and pretty much knew ST underestimated ST 3 costs to sell it I would be pissed ST ruined the party for Link over the next few years by publicly raising a funding issue for which there is no solution.
2021-2024 should have been a victory lap for the Board.
I forgot to raise the issue of new West Seattle and Ballard bridges that accommodate rail but have no loss of car capacity. Considering we can’t even get ST to water the new plantings at the 77th station entrance on Mercer Island I am guessing ST is assuming this is Seattle’s funding issue, and ST’s finances are much stronger than Seattle’s. No bridges no WSBLE, and that may be the real rub.
It makes no sense at all to build a combined car/rail bridge over the Duwamish Waterway because the clearance has to be so high. Since trains have a considerably lower maximum gradient than do rubber-tired vehicles, it would either require the traffic lanes to be on longer ramps than they otherwise would be OR the trail ramps would be essentially independent of the roadway except at the summit. Why have such a short stretch of shared decking?
It makes more sense to have two individual structures, each of which could be engineered to the unique loads of and stresses from the vehicles which use it.
That is less true of a replacement Ship Canal crossing, IF a 70 foot high opening span as originally proposed is used. That is low enough that the costs of rail-standard gradients would not be excessive when also used for a new road bridge,
More of the myth about LR gradients being less than rubber tires on concrete? Because, you know, steel?
Give me a break. This myth is so false one has to wonder why it even comes up anymore.
It’s the other way around. LR has more grade climbing capability than rubber tire on concrete. Why? Because the defining condition is not dry running conditions on a beautiful sunny day. The defining condition is the most adverse condition for each mode.
For rubber tire on concrete that is snow and ice. I’d put a Link LRV up against a Metro artic any day in a snow storm! Check out YouTube. It is filled with vids of Metro buses just slip sliding away in our relatively minor snow storms? Link LRV’s? Nope.
There is one environmental condition that will bring LR to its knees though – wet leaves over the rails. Wet leaves under enough pressure basically turn to oil. But I think we can all agree that there won’t be any trees on any of these crossings.
That said, I do agree with you that ST should build a separate bridge. Why? Because SDOT is a disaster. It would be much better for ST to stay clear and just do it’s own thing.
Lazarus, sure, there are examples of LR vehicles (broadly defined) scaling two-digit-degree grades at various places around the world, but ST has a pretty strong institutional resistance to anything greater than two-and-a-half. That’s pretty clear from the examples that they’ve built [see the approach to TIBS from the northeast].
You lost me. First you start out claiming that LR is bad because it doesn’t have grade climbing capability, but when presented with an argument that LR actually has better grade climbing capability in adverse conditions than buses, you immediately switch to (paraphrasing), “Well, ya, but ST has an institutional bias against high gradients.”
So which is it? Is the technology flawed? Or does ST have an institutional bias?
And for the record, when it comes to gradients, less is more. ST’s so called bias against high gradients is just good design. It’s always best to limit gradients, regardless of what the technology can ultimately support.
So your criticism of ST for using low gradients is really just an acknowledgment that they use high standard design practices. Thank you for that.
with a likely rent increase in the future to make up for the past 18 months.
Hmmm. Up above you were panicking about “72,000 empty apartments” and now you’re prophesying “a likely rent increase”? A rent increase after the landlords “throw the rascals out” for delinquent rent???
I guess attorneys don’t have to take Microeconomics during the pre-Law phase, so I’ll mention a little concept commonly dwelt on extensively during the course: “supply and demand”. It goes something like this.
“When more people want a product or service than there are items of the product or service providers to meet their demand, the price of the product or service increases. In an ‘ideal’ market, this encourages more people to produce the product or provide the service, eventually balancing ‘supply’ to ‘demand’.
When fewer people want a product or service than there are items produced or providers of the service, the price of the product or service falls. In that same ‘ideal’ market the producers of the item produce less of it because it is less ‘profitable’ and some providers reduce their level of provision or even cease the activity entirely, also balancing ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ over time.”
“What does this have to do with rental rates?” you ask? Well, to get an idea, you might substitute “an apartment” for “product” [or “service” for that matter], “landlord” for “producers of an item” or “providers of the service” and “rent” for “the price of the product of service” and see what happens.
Grant, the Seattle rental market is far from an “ideal” market; it’s massively “sticky” in that the supply of floor space is quite “inelastic” [and THAT’s a pun; thank you; thank you]. So the providers of the “product” — e.g. “landlords” — can’t easily reduce their provision of the “product” — “housing” — very easily. They have little choice but to reduce rents if they can’t find willing buyers at their desired price.
If indeed there are 72,000 empty units in the City of Seattle, what Seattle actually has is not “landlords” but a bunch of suckers who bought apartments during the Amazon boom and who are emotionally invested in “making a killing”, when in fact they have bought a dream, not an asset.
That’s the sad, sad song that plays in the background during most classes in Microeconomics.
Whoops. I put this at the wrong level. It was supposed to be under Daniel’s reply. Too used to “going up” for this relatively new thread.
You make a good point TT: it could be a high vacancy rate for apartments — 72,000 according to Crosscut — plus a glut of evictions I have noted for the past year would be the most pressing stimulus funding need could lead to a “renter’s market” in Seattle, for those who can afford an apartment.
It could also be landlords waiting until the eviction moratoria end.
I was as surprised by the high number of apartment vacancies in Seattle as anyone (and don’t know if that includes individual condos used as rentals).
But as the poster on The Urbanist asked, why is Seattle rushing to an upzone with a 25% apartment vacancy rate that is likely to increase when the eviction moratoria end? I thought there was a housing crunch. According to Glenn any housing unit for sale in Seattle sells within 4 days.
The problem with the stimulus program for rent assistance is it is designed to pay back some unpaid rent, not allow a displaced tenant to afford first, last and damage deposit. According to the TRU spokesman the average arrears are around $20,000.
I really don’t know how the apartment vacancies are spread out — geography and how expensive. All I know is if I were a builder or developer right now I would avoid multi-family housing in Seattle — which a small developer has to hold if rental and can’t really place in a REIT — and would focus on the Eastside, which not surprisingly is happening.
But you raise a catch-22: if apartment vacancies are so high they reduce rents you don’t need more apartments, that as new construction will have higher rents.
Daniel, yes, “72,000” simply can’t be a correct figure or there would be a “race to the bottom” among the small owners. At least some of the owners of smaller, older properties bought them before the boom, and therefore have pretty affordable mortgages. The big rises in rent of the past decade have been pure cream for them; they can afford to take less in order to keep the cash flow going. They’d still be massively in the operating black at 75% of what they got in February 2020.
Well, if you were “at the top”, I’d certainly stop my monthly contribution. So don’t get too ambitious, Young Napoleon.
Well if you think one link to a basically non-transit related video every 8 days is worth your transit dollar, then more power to you.
Me? Not so much.
Thank you for volunteering. Although I shudder to think what a Lazarus article would be like. STB is a volunteer organization so you get what you pay for. I’ve written articles for STB and been an editor of a (non-transit) ezine, so I know that both take many hours. So slamming volunteers for having other family obligations or not having the energy to publish an article every day is wrong. I don’t know why STB went to less-than-daily six months ago and one article in seven days this week, but I assume it’s for the above reasons. At times STB has had a paid reporter and maybe it’s time to revive that. I would certainly donate to it.
If STB is moving to a phase of fewer articles, there’s still value in having the community there for whenever an important issue comes up, as they inevitably will. We’ve been through a whirlwind of transit programs and changes for a decade with ST3, ST2 implementation, RapidRide C/D/E, planning for Madison and Roosevelt, the TBD, the TBD contraction, the COVID ridership plummet and other issues, the uncertainty of reopenings, and Northgate Link planning. Maybe now is a good time to slow down and digest these things.
The next major changes are Northgate Link this year, Lynnwood/Redmond/Federal Way in 2022-2025, and Madison and the three Strides sometime vaguely after that. The first East Link restructure proposal will probably be in the next month or two. So maybe we can all take a breather now and these things will be coming up soon. Other issues coming up are, maybe we can pressure the next city council to restore more of the TBD, and get the county to move on its Metro expansion measure, which is needed to fund the dozen planned RapidRide corridors in Metro Connections and more overall frequency.
There is a very important meeting this Thursday (https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/07/31/the-final-act-sound-transit-3-realignment-plan-vote-takes-center-stage-on-thursday/). I’m not saying that ST won’t have an article about it, but I do find it weird that they don’t have anything yet. It seems like the sort of thing that would drop Sunday or Monday, with plenty of debate in the comments. Then, by Tuesday or Wednesday, if nothing else you throw out a new open thread (this one has certainly gotten long in the tooth). Then on Thursday evening or Friday you report on the meeting.
That isn’t the only thing going on. You have the “Urban Villages” report that the Seattle Times reported on (and I commented on above). You also ST restructuring the buses (https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/07/30/sound-transit-emphasizes-express-bus-service-in-tacoma-and-federal-way-in-2022-proposal/). I don’t mind reading about that in The Urbanist (Fesler is a good writer, like the other folks there) but I expect to read about a transit proposal here, and I expect the folks here to discuss it in the comments.
Below is the guts of the Urbanist article on ST 3 realignment. I guess it begins with whether you believe ST’s funding deficit du jour of $6.5 billion, and whether this exercise makes sense during the middle of a pandemic.
I just find the stub from West Seattle so ridiculous — including the cost of the new bridge no one has the money for — I just have to laugh at the whole exercise. The stub makes the gondola look serious.
To me, the plan and the amendments look like politics, depending on whom you represent, except Balducci definitely does not represent East King Co. I don’t really understand why any project in East King Co. is being delayed when there is the money. Can anyone point to any funding deficit for any project in East King Co. in the article below? I can’t.
I thought Kenmore mayor David Baker made a common sense amendment, and that is to fund some kind of first/last mile bus feeder access if park and rides are delayed, which was completely lost on ST and The Urbanist. Who needs first/last mile access to light rail in areas like Kenmore?
If I had to summarize the plan and amendments it would be: if we don’t build DSTT2 all subareas will have a shitload of extra money to do other projects, that still must be delayed because ST so underestimated project costs and ridership in ST 3 in order to sell it, except East King Co., so let’s pretend to delay the park and rides to appease transit and urbanist advocates until the eastside cities demand them since it is their money, and East King Co. gets someone to represent it other than the worthless Balducci, or Pierce Co. secedes, which is a lot less likely with Pierce getting an additional $275 million with the cancellation of DSTT2.
Why do I feel like we will be doing this same exercise in a few years, maybe with a tier 5, 6 and 7 by then.
“Funding gaps requiring offsets differ greatly by project and mainly hit Tier 2 projects in the hybrid realignment plan. According to the agency, these funding gaps stand at:
$21 million for Tacoma Community College Tacoma Link;
$602 million for Southwest Everett-Everett Link;
$1.824 billion for Smith Cove-Ballard Link;
$65 million for the NE 130th Street Link infill station;
$8 million for the Graham Street Link infill station; and
$25 million for the Boeing Access Road Link infill station.
“At the behest of Chair Keel, boardmembers were directed to bring forward reworked amendments if they had budgetary impacts with identified offsets. Thus, some amendments that had been proposed in recent weeks have fallen away or been amended. As of Friday, July 30th, the following key amendments are proposed:
“Cost savings: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wants a requirement that reviews operations, maintenance, administrative, and personnel costs for cost savings. This could further help with the many different endeavors to save money that have been identified in the realignment resolutions.
Interim station access: Kenmore Mayor David Baker wants to include an annual program review item that looks at ways to get riders to stations if structured parking facilities are delayed. This could mean things like interim connector bus service or microtransit options.
“Link infill stations (Keel): Chair Keel wants to adjust the timing of all three Seattle infill stations (NE 130th Street, Graham Street, and Boeing Access Road) and the Smith Cove-Ballard Link extension. The amendment affects the affordable schedule by moving all three infill stations from Tier 2 to Tier 1 with earlier delivery dates. NE 130th Street would move up from 2036 to 2025 while Graham Street and Boeing Access Road would move up from 2036 to 2031. However, Smith Cove-Ballard Link would move back from 2039 to 2040. Additionally, the amendment would affect the target schedule by moving all three infill stations from Tier 2 to Tier 1 and move up the delivery date for NE 130th Street from 2036 to 2025. These changes are assumed to have no net financial impact.
“Link infill stations (Durkan): Mayor Durkan has a more narrow Link infill stations amendment. Hers would only move up the Graham Street infill station in the affordable schedule from Tier 2 to Tier 1 and the delivery date from 2036 to 2031. It would also adjust the target schedule by moving up Graham Street from Tier 2 to Tier 1. This change, however, would have financial impacts and require additional offsets to achieve.
“Parking and Sounder delays: Pierce County Executive Dammeier, Fife Mayor Kim Roscoe, and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards want to delay additional Sounder trips to advance parking projects. Part of the surprising justification for this amendment is to satisfy a narrow segment of riders and advance sprawl, rather than connect riders in a more efficient and sustainable manner like station-oriented bus service. The amendment would delay more South Sounder trips until 2046 while Tacoma Dome Link parking projects would be moved up two years to 2038 and moved from Tier 4 to Tier 3. This, however, is entirely inconsistent with the transit priority and parking delay principles of the realignment framework and an intentional act of climate arson.
“The meeting on Thursday will no doubt be a rollercoaster as boardmembers decide which realignment path to take and make the case for their amendments. Whether it will end up in a good or bad place remains to be seen.
“You can weigh in on the realignment plan and amendments ahead of the meeting by emailing the board at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments will be accepted up until the meeting on Thursday, August 5th at 1:00pm. Verbal comments can also be provided at the virtual online meeting by signing up beforehand.”
New(?) Metro service change overview for Northgate Link:
This debate needs a post of its own, and will surely draw hundreds of comments: Do we refer to the new station between NE 65th and NE 67th St as “Roosevelt Station”, “the Roosevelt Station” as this link does, or just “Roosevelt” as the outer-body voice on the trains will do? Or some other lingo altogether?
When already on the train, “Roosevelt” will suffice. If I’m on the surface trying to get to the train, “Roosevelt Station”.
What a COMPLETELY inadequate notification the “getReady” web page presents. There are no maps or route descriptions. What a poor effort by Metro.
It’s Metro. Did you expect better?
The Urbanist has a better description.
It’s weird because they’ve already published maps and detailed descriptions for the routes, that presumably haven’t changed. This isn’t the first screw up with the communications department in charge of this revision. The first proposal had several bad links.
Detailed schedules usually come out one or two weeks before the change, so that would be September 18th or 25th. Metro and the county have published more detailed service levels than this page (i.e., which periods have 15 minute or 30 minute frequency, which this page has for only some routes and periods),. I don’t know where they are because I always have trouble finding them again on their websites.
One disturbing thing I hadn’t noticed was the 20 will be 30 minutes on Saturdays as well as evenings. So neither the 20 nor 75 will have 15-minute service from Lake City to Northgate on weekends, and since they don’t share any stops, people will have to decide beforehand which stop to go to, keep track of two half-hourly schedules, and guess which one will be more on time. The 20 will share stops with the 522, so that gives some overlap, but both are half-hourly and uncoordinated. (The 522’s 15-minute service is only weekdays according to this page.)
I think this quick-and-dirty KCM page has errors. For example, Sound Transit’s web pages seem clear that there will be 15-minute weekend frequency on the 522:
Hmm, then Metro is de facto leveraging ST to be the primary Lake City-Link feeder. That raises a question of whether we should stop focusing on the 20 and instead focus on a Lake City-Roosevelt route to replace the 522 when it goes away with Stride, and to make it the primary Lake City-Link connection until 130th Station opens, and thus we’ll need to push Metro to make it very frequent. I also wonder if the Lake City-Roosevelt route could be interlined at the south end, and if so where to. The most obvious answer is Fremont or Fremont/Ballard. But that might overlap too much with the 62 unless another creative routing were found. Still, something might come up. Something more productive than sending it east for the 55th or 75th service, which wouldn’t help the overall northeast/southwest or northeast/southeast corridors.
It’s a good point about Route 522, Mike. Much of it depends on the timing of the ST 522 Stride opening.
Since Stride will open after Lynnwood Link opens, I expect Metro to have more restructuring in 2024 or 2025. That would be the time to attach that segment to part of another line.
I am amazed about how difficult it will be to get to Aurora RapidRide from Lake City. Only Route 330 (an infrequent route) provides a one-seat transfer to Aurora destinations unless it’s on a crosstown bus. Much has already been posted about how Stride should have extended to Aurora already — but even that wouldn’t directly run through Lake City. A direct route connection to Fremont or Ballard would however provide that single-transfer possibility.
A few times it has been pointed out that Northgate TC is a horrible location for east-west bus access because of the missing arterial street connection there. Every turn adds delay for riders. Once Lynnwood Link opens, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Metro gravitate to using Roosevelt as the crossroads a bit more.
It’s certainly too late to adjust for this in 2021. Meanwhile, I expect far north Seattle bus transit preferences to increasingly want direct Link access from and to northwest Seattle. The public momentum to connect more to Link (and less to Downtown) will probably move in that direction (and away from RapidRide on Aurora) and that can tie in to a frequent route to replace the ST 522 segment in Lake City when that happens. Of course, the next unknown is whether Lynnwood Link trains will be too crowded in North Seattle and if the best way to ease this is by running more north-south buses. The restructuring discussions in 2023-4 will be interesting!
How important is it for a Lake City-Roosevelt route to continue south to the U-District? And how far south? To 45th, Campus Parkway, or UWMC? Remember that the 65 does go to the U-District, it just goes through 25th and U Village and the Montlake traffic first. So the issue is how much underservice is there from Lake City and the old 72 area straight to the west side of the U without going through U Village/Montlake. I’d say there’s high necessity to get to Roosevelt, uncertain importance to the U-District, and and unimportance to UWMC. Because the overhead of transferring to Link or the 67 is more of the total trip if you’re going one mile to the U-District than if you’re going two miles to the UWMC area. If you’re going to the UWMC area, that’s two Link stops away and Link’s advantage becomes greater, and there are many more bus choices and frequency between the U-District and UWMC than between Roosevelt and the U-District.
So neither the 20 nor 75 will have 15-minute service from Lake City to Northgate on weekends, and since they don’t share any stops, people will have to decide beforehand which stop to go to, keep track of two half-hourly schedules, and guess which one will be more on time.
Yep. Service in the middle of the day and weekends is being degraded so that rush-hour commuters can get downtown without having to deal with the new train. That isn’t the only reason transit will be worse — Pedersen and the mayor wanted less money for Seattle transit — but it one of the big ones.
Hmm, then Metro is de facto leveraging ST to be the primary Lake City-Link feeder.
Not really. They would have done the same thing either way. See my comment earlier:
1) Metro bus funding in Seattle is getting worse (because of the mayor and Pedersen).
2) Metro shifted money in the north end from all-day and weekend service to peak-only routes that mimic Link.
3) A tiny bit of money was moved from the north end to the south (enough to create a good scapegoat).
That raises a question of whether we should stop focusing on the 20 and instead focus on a Lake City-Roosevelt route to replace the 522 when it goes away with Stride, and to make it the primary Lake City-Link connection until 130th Station opens, and thus we’ll need to push Metro to make it very frequent.
I’ve been saying for a while now that Metro will have to replace the 522 (in Seattle). There are issues and trade-offs involved, that have been argued about quite a bit.
As for the 20, it is crap. It was designed to be a coverage route, but got bumped up to frequent (a decision that was misguided, in my opinion). It seems to go out of its way to avoid overlapping with other routes, dramatically lowering what little value it has. From east Green Lake, you can take the 45 or the 20 to the U-District, but you can never use the same stop. Likewise, if you are on 45th and Latona waiting for the 44, you will be able to see the 20 (headed to the same place you are) up on 50th. But then it will suddenly turn, as if to tease you (Nyah, Nyah, this bus is not for you). It is a poor replacement for the original 61, taking a lot longer, and providing a lot less.
I also wonder if the Lake City-Roosevelt route could be interlined at the south end, and if so where to.
I would send that bus from the Kenmore Park and Ride to Campus Parkway, and truncate the 372 at the Lake City Fred Meyer. That would make the two buses closer to each other in length/time. If we can find a layover/turnover spot at 145th, then both get truncated there. At that point, the Lake City-Roosevelt bus could certainly be extended.
The big issues is the crossing. Buses become unreliable when they go over a drawbridge. It is possible the situation will be cleaned up at Montlake. You could then pair that bus with the 48. Another alternative would be to split up the 271. Truncate it at downtown Bellevue, or at most Eastgate Park and Ride. Issaquah would have a bus serve Eastgate and go to Mercer Island (to connect to Link). The 271, meanwhile, would move over to Bellevue Way (finally) and after going through the U-District, go a bit farther, up to the Lake City Fred Meyer. I think by then the critical 520 work will be done, and buses will be able to make that connection very quickly (i. e. go right to the front of the bridge when it is up).
But I wouldn’t rule out just sending it to the U-District, and ending there. It might be connected to another bus (e. g. the 372) to make operations easier, but I don’t think it needs to go farther. It would be nice to extend it to Eastlake, but that bus is RapidRide. I think the best pairing would be the 48, assuming they can fix the backups that occur when the bridge goes up. But that doesn’t seem that much better than just ending close to the UW (or looping around on the 372).
How important is it for a Lake City-Roosevelt route to continue south to the U-District?
By itself it isn’t critical, but the section between 45th and 65th is underserved (or will be underserved, after this restructure). You could remedy the problem by running the 67 on The Ave (instead of Roosevelt) but I’m pretty sure Metro doesn’t want to do that. The 45 and the replacement for the 522 would make a pretty good pair in terms of ridership per mile, which means they could be paired up well (e. g. each running every 10 to 15 minutes opposite each other).
You don’t need to run the bus any further than Campus Parkway, although it is likely the bus would be paired the same way the 65/67 are and the 75/45 soon will be. This allows people to get a one-seat ride through campus while saving Metro money. The bus could be paired with the 372 (or the pairing would be shuffled around).
Going back to the topic of STB not posting anything in over a week, there has been plenty of transit related stuff to cover that hasn’t been covered, in addition to ST realignment meetings. For example:
– Montlake bridge closure and impact on bus routes
– finalized KCM bus schedules for October
– ST express schedule changes for September
– What, if any, impact the bipartisan infrastructure bill would have on Seattle area transit, and Amtrak routes that serve Seattle?
– State of Seattle->Vancouver B.C. bus and train service when the border reopens next week
There’s plenty of real transit stuff to cover without digressing into land use or general politics. STB should be doing better than this.
It’s concerning — but after a sad 1.5 years with Covid as well as even sadder news on transit use as part of that, I’m not expecting much can excite the site managers right now. Add to that the fact that this is a peak time for travel and that hotter weather makes people a bit more lazy unless they have AC. Plus, ST and to a lesser extent Metro generally doesn’t change course based on STB discussions.
The next uplifting event will be Northgate Link opening in less than nine weeks. Maybe that’s a good time to renew our spirits.
Finally, I know from serving on boards that someone running things as a volunteer gets burned out. Maybe it’s time for new writers?
The tricky thing about STB is that the articles’ biases are muted or non-existent. It would be awful if someone with strong opinions and aggressive language were posting things.
ST and to a lesser extent Metro generally doesn’t change course based on STB discussions.
No, but on occasion they change their policy based on public input that started from the blog. The ST meeting this week could be a good example of that. Some of the amendments are quite reasonable, and with enough support, could happen.
Going back to the topic of STB not posting anything in over a week
I submitted a page two article weeks ago. Resubmitted with requested phote(s) and never got published. Have part two mostly ready but if there’s no interest then…?
It’s been a while since I sent anything to Page2, but at the time the writer had to press the “publish” button to post it on the web site.
I would be very interested in an STB writer’s take on the recent Eno Center report on transportation construction costs in the USA: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/why-building-rail-transit-in-u-s-seattle-costs-so-much-and-takes-so-long/
As mentioned in some comments earlier in this open thread, there’s a special Sound Transit board meeting this Thursday, Aug 5th, to move forward with the capital program realignment decisions. Hopefully this blog will be reporting on the topic by then and again after the meeting’s outcomes are known.
I finally took some time today to review the substitute resolution and its associated exhibits. Instead of trying to read the tea leaves and give my take on what may or may not happen, I’m just going to offer a couple of observations.
1. Included in the package for the board’s consideration is an updated financial plan (Exhibit C) that reflects the board chair’s realignment proposal that pushes the capital program out to 2046 based on the most recent affordability gap estimate of $6.5B . Hence, the financial plan now reflects all sources and uses for the 30-year period from 2017-2046 (rather than 2017-2041). As a result the total uses amount has increased to $131.3B (YOE$), and the capital program has grown to $69.2B. Total debt service costs increased to more than $19B. The plan, as proposed, is now balanced, unlike the financial plan adopted by the board during last year’s budget cycle.
For comparison, the 2017 updated financial plan following passage of ST3 in 2016 reflected the following top line numbers:
Total uses in YOE$ (2017-2041):
Total capital exp:
Total debt service exp:
2. Apparently the ST staff are confused about where to slot in the 130th St infill station project. On the included “Affordable Schedule” (Exhibit A), again based on the chair’s proposal, this project is included as part of the catalogue of project’s slated for the Central Corridor. The same is true for Exhibit B, i.e., it’s considered a Central Corridor project.
However, on Exhibit D2, “Project Evaluation”, suddenly the infill station project at 130th St. has become one of the North Corridor’s slate of projects. There’s no explanation given from what I can see.
What gives??? Let’s see if any of the board members note this inconsistency during Thursday’s meeting.
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