- Important new report from the Disability Mobility Initiative (see video above)
- Lots of Metro bus service coming back in the fall service change Oct 2
- The ST board has delayed CEO Peter Rogoff’s contract renewal, possibly due to job performance questions
- A vision for what a neighborhood around NE 130th St station could look like
- SEPTA (Philadelphia) is proposing a new LINK-like wayfinding and naming scheme
- School’s back in session! Get your (or your child’s) ORCA Opportunity card if you qualify
- Washington’s shortage of homes is a state-wide problem
- What we talk about when we talk about gentrification
This is an open thread
124 Replies to “News Roundup: coming back”
Throwing this out to the horde, in light of the Erica Barnett scoop (see link below), would you renew Rogoff? If not, who do you realistically try to hire? (Especially since Sound Transit may be the “New York Jets”of transit agencies.) Do you try to get the guy who left Seattle for Vancouver, BC, etc.?
“Throwing this out to the horde, in light of the Erica Barnett scoop (see link below), would you renew Rogoff? If not, who do you realistically try to hire?”
Since this is a political decision, my advice would be to keep Rogoff.
1. First, if the Board truly thinks the realignment solved all ST’s funding issues, there is no reason to consider replacing Rogoff. The realignment was a clever political solution, in which everything can be afforded by “extending” taxes 20 years from now, and some stations like Graham St. and 130th can even be accelerated. Kind of like a credit card balance. Buy now, pay later.
If, however, the Board knows the realignment does not solve ST’s future funding issues then this debate over Rogoff makes more sense.
2. Rogoff did not choose a 90-110 mile spine through vast undense counties. In fact, when he arrived he extolled the virtues of express buses feeding an urban subway. The past Boards and voters chose this system/spine.
3. Rogoff did not establish the subareas, that IMO placed too great a financial burden on N. King Co. to run rail to undense counties and areas rather than in its urban core, so folks in these far flung areas could take light rail to downtown Seattle, not the other way around.
4. Rogoff was not responsible for ST 2. In fact, he inherited ST 2, which like ST 1 was badly underestimated with overly optimistic revenue projections, and subarea equity. ST 3 was existential to complete ST 2, and to avoid catastrophic errors in ST 1 like skipping First Hill.
5. Rogoff did not establish subarea equity and uniform tax rates. Sure ST 3 was dishonest, but it had to be. A 40% farebox recovery rate, inflated ridership projections, underestimated cost estimates, plenty of transit porn for the voters, all to lower general fund tax increases in the three county ST district, were how you sold a huge transit levy to the counties like S. King Co., Pierce and Snohomish who get all the benefit from a 90 mile spine but pay a tiny fraction of the benefit they get, but distrust levies. Completing ST 2 was existential. Period.
6. You can’t blame Rogoff for a pandemic. Yes, ridership estimates have always been inflated, well before his time, and the PSRC’s future population estimates were wildly inflated, but he could not have envisioned WFH, or the reallocation of general fund tax revenues among subareas due to the pandemic. If anything, the juggernaut that was downtown Seattle was suppose to cover all the estimating errors, except the Seattle Council has taken one of the most vibrant, educated and beautiful cities in the world building a massive convention center and trashed it. If anything, fire the Seattle City Council.
7. Finally, was the Board really that clueless about inflated ridership estimates, a 40% farebox recovery rate, and project cost estimates in ST 3, or that ST 2 was inadequate? If so, they should be fired. No, ST is a boat, Rogoff its captain, but the Board are in that boat too, whether they are wholly ignorant, or more likely once again gave into the temptation of optimism. After all, doesn’t every single President’s memoirs have “hope” in the title (except the one great memoire by Grant)?
8. Should Rogoff be replaced for his personal conduct. That issue has passed, and he was punished. To use that as an excuse now exposes the Board, and diminishes the victims of workplace harassment. If Rogoff goes, it has to be based on his performance.
So just what did Rogoff do that the Board should consider replacing him?
Rogoff brought all of this up during a pandemic, in public, and made the tragic error of honestly releasing the deficit figure ($11.5 billion), and then when everyone realized that figure could not be massaged releasing a “new” estimate of $6.5 billion that neatly fit into the realignment plan. It was like pulling back the curtain on Oz, which was the realignment.
I have said this many times in the past: I understood what ST did in ST 3, and why. Those who follow this knew the reckoning would always come, although a pandemic and awful city council accelerated it.
But Northgate Link opens in Oct. 2021, East Link in 2023 which will be a very dramatic and pretty line across a lake and through a lot of pretty and undense areas, Federal Way Link in 2024, and Lynnwood Link around 2024. These are ribbon cuttings politicians live for, and as Lazarus has pointed out, 99% of citizens see the new lines and stations and don’t understand the taxes or “assumptions” in the underlying levies.
So why put a huge turd in the punch bowl in 2021 when the debt ceiling issue isn’t until 2029 and we are in the midst of a pandemic and every estimate is a guess? How stupid could Rogoff be?
Firing Rogoff at this point would pull the curtain all the way back on Oz, and I don’t think anyone wants that. It is a pandemic, life is grim, so let’s enjoy some fabulous Link openings for a few years, and then get down to the nitty gritty: the DEIS.
There is, and always has been, a solution, and TT has touched on this: find a way to run as much of the WSBLE line through DSTT1. My guess is when the necessary frequency of East Link– based on actual ridership — is understood the capacity will be there, despite claims of TOD’s along I-5 and magical ridership gains going from buses to trains.
This will free up some of the $2.2 billion for DSTT2. I would argue each subarea should still pay half of their $275 million commitment to DSTT2 even if DSTT1 is used, because N. King Co. paid for most of their spine, to Seattle. (East Link is different because it paid for all of East Link, and the express buses, except the subarea has too much money anyway). NO ONE is going from downtown Seattle to Federal Way or Everett. This still leaves each subarea with an addtional $137.5 million to complete their projects, which are also underestimated, and allows tunneling to SLU and maybe to Interbay with N. King Co.’s $1.1 billion for DSTT2.
When the DEIS begins, and West Seattle and Ballard demand the moon based on tunnels and underground stations for Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt and Northgate, instead use East Link as the template. A very long run across a bridge using mostly rights of way and stations not directly in the commercial core. After all, most citizens will still need first/last mile access no matter where the stations are. West Seattle and Ballard can’t argue they are more important than Redmond or Bellevue, which are in a subarea with too much revenue.
And then, as either AJ or Al S have argued, fill in any gaps with express buses until the dust settles. In East King Co. do this with ST buses because Metro is stretched and the subarea is not, and begin to woo Issaquah with express buses to Seattle so they forget about that $4.5 billion tunnel to S. Kirkland when no one in Issaquah goes to S. Kirkland, or really takes transit except to Seattle.
Everyone knew this was the plan, along with hopefully a new Seattle mayor and city council that does not totally kill the golden goose, and it is STILL the plan. Rogoff just made the unforgivable error of publicly exposing the plan, and can you really get rid of Rogoff for the one time in his life he has been totally honest (at least when it came to the $11.5 billion deficit in January 2021?).
Rogoff made a tragic mistake brining up the deficits in 2021, when there really was nothing that could be done, or needed to be done for a decade, and the Board will compound that error, and bad publicity if it fires Rogoff right before the opening of East Link, Northgate Link, Federal Way Link, and Lynnwood Link. Number one rule: don’t step on good publicity. Number two, get ready for the DEIS and demands by West Seattle and Ballard the taxes be extended another five years for all their dreams and wishes, and who better to deliver the bad news than Rogoff?
So what did Rogoff do that
It’s exceptionally difficult to hire good quality transit system management under the conditions of USA agencies.
If someone better could be found, then by all means replace him. However, TriMet has been trying to find a permanent manager for some years. There just isn’t that much good passenger transport management experience available in the USA at the salaries agencies have available. Hiring from overseas has its own pitfalls, including lack of familiarity with the various regulations and required methods here.
Metro did something unusual … They promoted from within. How do you think the current General Manager is doing?
Maybe assuming someone has to have experience in a position before they can apply to fill that position (like, say, school districts only hiring from the pool of current and former superintendents to be superintendents, so nobody new enters that club and superintendents only fail up to larger districts) leads to getting the people fleeing a similar position elsewhere.
If you want someone who understands how to treat a large staff, maybe it helps to hire someone who has spent their career moving upward being on the receiving end of that treatment, rather than just flashing a Harvard diploma to skip to the top, like they had just graduated from a military academy and are assumed to be the only people capable of being officers. To know how to lead, one has to first learn how to follow. Of course, if you want to run an army, or a business, or a government, it helps to have at least studied Sun Tzu.
I saw one of the motivations behind hiring Rogoff was for him to be seen by others in DC getting a golden parachute job for his tireless efforts to get grants and low-interest loans to Sound Transit, which, of course, has only limited relevance to experience managing a large business. Of course, running Sound Transit ain’t no golden parachute job. It is a job that will consume your every waking moment during the time you are in that job.
All that said, I fear ST has some board members whose motivations may not be in line with the rest of the Board. I’m not sure everyone on the Board is dedicated to the success of Sound Transit. If Rogoff is to be removed for certain reasons, there better be evidence those reasons are legit. He should not be removed over concern trolls from anyone whose beef is with the direction of Sound Transit rather than with the leadership skills of Rogoff.
I’ve seen too many superintendents come and go because a changing school board majority was didsatisfied with the direction of the previous school board majority rather than the leadership and followership skills of the superintendent. They also have a bad habit of kicking out the current school bus operator to get a more-pro-union or less-pro-union contractor each time the majority changes, leading to cheating all the operators out of the seniority and wage gains they managed to accrue since the last changing of the guard. It’s no wonder people don’t want to apply to such a job.
In relation to Sound Transit, I see the move to hire all the Fare Ambassadors directly as being a very positive sign that Sound Transit wants to not cheap out on rank-and-file workers. It goes against the model of contracting out permanent work to keep the wage scale always at the bottom, but that model has failed nationwide for school bus service, if one actually values the delivery of the service. Maybe, the pro-labor school boards should realize that model has failed, and get into the business of directly hiring their school bus operators, giving them hope for a career path and accrual of seniority and ever-improving wages as a professional driver, and eventually a supervisor, manager, or director of transit operations.
The new SEPTA branding is not that dissimilar to the revised ST branding. The only big difference is that jumps out at me is the use of letters for all rail rather than just a number for some. They will be getting letter+number designations in a scheme similar to the ones seen in Europe.
I’m cool with “Link 1 Line” through “Link 4 Line”, which is much better than “Blue Line” etc for an agency that transports lots of colorblind passengers. CT ought to think highly about following suit with the SWIFT lines, but choosing numbers that don’t duplicate other local transit lines. Perhaps “Swift 10 Line”, “Swift 20 Line”, and “Swift 30 Line”.
That said, Metro ought to rebrand routes 1 through 4 to some other numbers, to avoid confusion. Pierce Transit, too. Numbers will do. @-Line, !-Line, and %-Line don’t exactly roll off the tongue.
I agree that Metro should renumber the low-numbered bus routes. I was trying to find Link on the crowded downtown OBA map, and passed it by several times thinking I was looking at the Queen Anne bus route. It probably would also help if OBA had icons distinguishing modes in the mobile apps (web interface already has this).
I’m not a real estate economist, but the discussions around rising housing costs recently have been talking about these things:
– End of the eviction moratorium. This triggers putting more homes up for sale. Will it be a blip or a major factor in controlling housing prices?
– Foreign investment. Some say that corporations are amassing a large portfolio of housing purchases that drive up costs.
I certainly support efforts to fully allow at least two units per lot (and that should mean more than a limited-size ADU). To me, this simply restores neighborhoods back to the density of the baby boomer childhood (example: rather than 6 people in one unit we get 6 people in two units). However, housing prices are affected by many other market factors and those also need discussion and possible action.
6 people in one suburban home used to mean just one or two cars. When two wage earners per household became the norm it was two or more cars per. Plunk down two households and that goes up to 4-6 cars. Most residential neighborhoods in Seattle already have 50-75% of the ROW taken up by parked cars. Issue neighborhood parking stickers, one per lot. You want more then the City sells them at whatever market rate turns out to be. People won’t be so fast to turn their garage & driveway into a rental unit.
DADUs are dumb. They provide little in extra housing. A better solution is to upzone. Investors will start buying up parcels and rent them until they have a large enough piece of land to build a real apartment/condo. The land owners make more money (when they sell). The development is planned instead of being a piece of toast that fell peanut butter down. And the City gets more in property tax. You could even provide reduced parking minimums for a modest transit surcharge on the property tax. Go big or go home.
DADUs were an upzone. They were one of the biggest city wide upzones we ever had. We should go further, but let’s not pretend it is easy (it wasn’t).
Oh, and we should get rid of all parking minimums. We are heading that direction.
Not a big upzone in terms of effectiveness. It’s done literally nothing. Much better is spot upzones in areas that can actually support increased density and transit. As “biggest” it’s a bust. Which is good since it was a terrible idea.
Charge for eliminating parking minimums. It’s something of value, no?
Charge for eliminating parking minimums. It’s something of value, no?
Well, it may be to the neighbors, especially the ones using parking minima, design review, minimum floor-area ratios, setbacks, transit-minima-before-construction, on-site housing replacement requirements, etc, to make bulldozing single-family homes and building dense housing not pencil out, (which, technically is an unconstitutional “taking” of the property). But if there is a way to buy off the SFH zoning adherents, I’m all ears.
One idea I’ve thought of as a way to remove parking minimums while placating existing residents concerned about street parking: introduce a residential parking permit zone, but with a twist that only residents of buildings built before the new RPZ is created are eligible for street permits. Residents of new buildings who want a car would need to park off-street. (Short-term loading and unloading would still be allowed on the street without a permit; a permit would be required to store a car all day or overnight).
The idea is that residents of existing buildings who parking their cars on the street get the same guarantee that the new building will not impact their parking supply as they would with traditional parking requirements. But, you still leaving the balancing act between the cost and benefits of providing parking for residents up to people with an actual financial stake in the project, rather than applying some simple, arbitrary formula.
If the developer wants to build no parking and think they can get people without cars to fill the building, great. If they’re wrong, and people won’t move in because there’s nowhere to park, that’s the developer’s problem, not the city’s problem. The developer has plenty of financial incentive to ensure that this problem does not happen. The end result will almost certainly be some parking getting built, but if the area has good transit, likely something less than a separate parking space for every adult resident.
Unlike the blind formulas typically used by cities, the developer’s decision will likely also be influenced by physical characteristics of the building. For example, let’s suppose a site supports up to 50 units are current height limits and the traditional formula would require 50 parking spaces. Now, let’s suppose that the size and shape of the site are such that a single level of underground parking supports only 45 spaces. The developer would be forced to either 1) excavate a whole second level in the parking garage for just 5 more spaces, or 2) Build 5 fewer units (perhaps using the space to make existing units larger, or add other amenities) just to reduce the parking requirement. Both options artificially increase the cost per unit, which ultimately gets passed on to tenants via higher rents. Without parking requirements, the developer can choose a 3rd option – just build the 50 units with the 45-stall parking garage. If 10% of the people in the neighborhood (with sufficient income to qualify for renting one of the units) do not own cars, they should be able to rent 10% of the building’s units to such people by offering them a discount over competitors that force them to pay for parking spaces they don’t need and can’t use. When you set the incentives correctly, the free market works. Blind, arbitrary formulas, imposed by the government, do not work.
only residents of buildings built before the new RPZ is created are eligible for street permits
Yeah, I like that idea. This also creates a natural sunset clause to the entire process. If you move out of the neighborhood, you lose your permit. Eventually there aren’t any, and parking goes back to being first come, first serve.
Some folks have suggested allowing these permits to easily be transferred. This gives people in the neighborhood a financial incentive to see new development. It also establishes a baseline cost for the new developer. Maybe it is cheaper to buy up a couple dozen permits (for the new residents) rather than build new parking. For that matter, the builder might just do the math, and figure that worse comes to worse, the new residents will just buy up a permit. This would mean no sunset — the permits would exist for as long as there is demand to park there.
I’m not sure which variation I like better, but I do think it is better than what we have now.
In regard to Seattle’s new construction parking requirement reforms , we now have some actual local data to point to, though with some mixed results:
“Most developers closely adhered to the minimum parking requirements. About 34% of the developments included the exact amount of minimum parking required in the code; nearly 30% of the buildings in areas where no parking was required took full advantage of the revised standard (70% provided some parking even here).”
Here’s the link to the entire piece:
Lotsa Link and highway closures this weekend. Link is closed Sunday between Rainier Beach and TIB for track replacement. Passengers going to the airport will have to transfer twice, because PT has only enough drivers to operate the shuttle between RB and TIB. not one more stop to the airport. (Yes, PT will run the replacement shuttle according to the article.)
The Montlake Bridge will close again this weekend, and the I-5 express lanes, and the southbound I-5 mainline through downtown (the collector-distributor lane with the exits will still be open), and the 99 tunnel downtown. The Bremerton and Port Townsend ferries are down to one boat each. The Vashon ferry will be down to two boats Sunday.
Going between North Seattle and downtown , your best bet may be the E, although it may be crowded with cars trying to escape the I-5 congestion.
When I took the 550 to Bellevue one Sunday this summar, and it was rerouted to 405 because of Link construction at South Bellevue, 405 southbound was as thick as rush hour. I asked my mom who lives in Bellevue whether it’s always that way now, and she said it was because of some closure in Seattle; I can’t remember if it was 520 or 522. I asked why they would go to 405 which is so far away? She said it’s people living around Northshore or Lynnwood for whom 405 isn’t that far out of the way. So 405 may be thick again this weekend.
Philly has perhaps the most antiquated transit system and culture amongst the largest cities in America. For a city of 4(?) million, the system is horrendously confusing and discombobulated. They were still using tokens up until just a few years ago. The rebranding is a hopeful sign that perhaps a changing of the guard took place internally.
SEPTA has competent people, but they are terribly understaffed and as best as I can tell new hires aren’t taught some of the basics.
Probably the most obvious one I ran into was their purchasing department was asked to obtain some very common screws, that you could get at most any hardware or industrial supply house, and they were even given a McMaster-Carr part number.
The purchasing department decided to put it out for public bid, in a process that guarantees they’ll probably pay many times what they would have had someone just sent a purchase order to one of the many industrial fastener warehouses.
Had someone there had better experience and familiarity with existing SEPTA vendors and common parts, they’d probably not have approached it using public bidding.
It’s also the poorest big city in America, which is probably related. However it has some great infrastructure if they can figure out how to use it. The way the regional rail runs through downtown instead of terminating at a hub station is very S-Bahn-like and could be amazing with better frequencies.
And the very fact they call it “regional rail” instead of “commuter” shows that someone at some point realized they needed to concentrate on trips other than the 9 to 5 work trips.
The phrase “commuter rail” means different things to different people. When I visited a friend in Jersey City and we took PATH to Manhattan he called it “commuter rail”. I was surprised because it runs off-peak and even night owl and is as frequent as a subway. I would have called it a subway. But his meaning of commuter rail seemed to be that it has wider stop spacing and isn’t an MTA Subway.
In any case, “commuter” originally meant riding on a commutation ticket; i.e., a multi-trip discount ticket like the ferry 10-packs or Metro’s old ticket books. They weren’t just for 9-5 downtown office trips but for shift workers or going to Broadway shows or anything else. The old commuter/regional rails had all-day and weekend service, as PATH and LIRR and NJT and Metra still do.
“Regional rail” is also ambiguous as it could apply to either Sounder or Cascades. And “metropolitan rail” doesn’t help either because it could apply to either Link or Sounder. So it’s hard to find unambiguous terms for things.
When I visited a friend in Jersey City and we took PATH to Manhattan he called it “commuter rail”. I was surprised because it runs off-peak and even night owl and is as frequent as a subway. I would have called it a subway.
I would too. So does Wikipedia. It lists PATH as a “heavy rail rapid transit systems”, in the same category as the New York Subway, Chicago “L”, Washington Metro, etc. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_rapid_transit_systems_by_ridership). PATH carries 300,000 people a day, and is second in the United States in ridership per mile (by a comfortable margin).
I think the main reason that folks call it commuter rail is because of the cultural and political divide between New York and NewJersey. Jersey City is as close to Midtown Manhattan as Brooklyn — but you aren’t in New York. It also doesn’t run quite as often as the main subway line. Or run through much of Manhattan. But with the exception of the extension to Newark, the
stop spacing is much more like a regular subway than Link, let alone a normal commuter rail line. As you wrote, a lot of it also has to do with the higher bar that the New York Subway sets (in terms of frequency, coverage and stop spacing).
Thus your friend lumped PATH in with the commuter rail run by NJ Transit. Just in terms of numbers, they are dramatically different. PATH carries 22,000 people per mile per day. NJ Transit Rail carries about 500 (it is really long).
My guess it also has a lot to do with where you are. If you are in Newark, you’ve got one PATH line into New York, and it makes one stop there (at the World Trade Center). In the middle of the day, it drops to 20 minute frequency. It takes around 20 minutes to get into Manhattan with only four stops in between.
In contrast, if you are in Hoboken you have a train that runs every 15 minutes, and makes five stops in Manhattan. Miss that train, and you can at least take the other train to get to WTC (which also runs every 15 minutes). That still isn’t great frequency, but combination means waiting no more than 10 minutes. To the trade center it takes around ten minutes, while you get to the end of the other line in fifteen. Hoboken is considered a suburb, but in many ways is more a part of the urban core than Staten Island. It is just a quirk of history that Bergen Neck (the peninsula containing Jersey City and Hoboken) is part of New Jersey, while Staten Island is part of New York. But that quirk effects the style and investment of rail transit west of the Hudson.
He was at Newport on the second line, the one with four stops in Manhattan up to 33rd Street. I visited there several times in the 2000s, and stayed a couple times elsewhere in Jersey City on the WTC line. My impression is that PATH is more crowded than the subways off-peak, even late evenings. Although most of my subway experience is on the A/C/E and N/W, which all have the ridership split between two or three lines, whereas with PATH there’s only one line (at least in Newport, Exchange Place, and Hoboken) so everybody piles in to it.
I interpret the difference between “regional rail” and “commuter rail” as the latter being related to strong directional scheduling by time of day, perhaps operating on just a single track. I can see legacy terms surviving after the prior decades of “commuter service”, but they will ultimately fade away. (For example, the BNSF / Sounder track agreements force Sounder to be considered commuter rail. If the agreement was for two-way all-day service, it would take years after the service change to rebrand it as regional rail.)
I’m reminded of the Toronto Board of Trade press release rebranding GO Trains as Trillium Regional Rail. https://urbantoronto.ca/news/2021/03/toronto-region-board-trade-proposes-regional-rail-network
I’d rather bring back all-day commuter rail service than cede the phrase to 9-5 downtown workers. The latter just reinforces the view that only 9-5 downtown commuters are numerous enough or important enough to have effective transit. If there were all-day commuter/regional/metropolitan/whatchayacall’em trains like Metra or Caltrain, riders would reappear, as they do in Canada around the extensive bus, light rail, and/or subway networks in most the cities and suburbs.
And if you call them regional trains it’s unclear whether you mean something metropolitan-wide like Sounder or statewide like Cascades, because both are called “regions”. And in the the 1970s “The Region” was within King County (the area within Renton-Seattle- Redmond-Bothell), or maybe extending up to Mountlake Terrace or Lynnwood at most. Auburn and Tacoma and Everett were mostly separate job markets, except for Boeing workers who got reassigned between plants willy-nilly.
“I think the main reason that folks call it commuter rail is because of the cultural and political divide between New York and NewJersey.”
The problem you whippersnappers are having with the semantics concerning the transit nomenclature is because of HISTORY….
Us Old Guys who grew up back in the NYC metropolitan area remember when… (“When I was YOUR AGE… !”)
These “commuter rail” lines that appear to be ordinary modern “Rapid Metro” like service started out as privately owned companies, selling their line (and no doubt deeded property they had developed, or sold) to the public as a way to “escape the teeming masses of the big city”, along with a “commuted fare” on their railroad.
In my “phase” of railroad use experience, there was a number of distinct companies operating these lines:
NY Central RR, Pennsylvania RR (who owned the Long Island RR), Erie Lackawanna, New Haven RR.
Heck, the Dyre Avenue line of the NYC Subway was absorbed from the bankrupt New York, Westchester and Boston Railway.
Too many here are under the illusion that New York became a dense urban area, and THEN they built the rapid transit to serve it.
It’s EXACTLY the OTHER WAY AROUND.
The Transportation System defines how a region grows.
@Jim — I think most people know that various parts of the greater New York rail system were privately owned, even if they have to look up the particulars on Wikipedia. It explains many of the peculiarities.
Hudson & Manhattan Railroad (H & M) operated a line from Hoboken to Manhattan back in 1908. Back then, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) (which later changed to the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation, or BMT) were the main companies operating in New York. It is even more complicated than that, as other rail companies bought other rail companies along the way. Early on, most of this rail was on the surface, or elevated. Ironically, H & M built one of the first subway systems in the area (meaning it was underground) yet is not called a subway. It is quite possible they would have been first, if it wasn’t for technical issues along the way.
The H & M was quite successful in the 1920s. But expansion plans by H & M were squeezed out by the other railroads. The Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge sent people from the train to their cars. The depression further hurt the railroad. Meanwhile, the city bought out the IRT and BMT, and eventually the state (MTA) took over operations. But they didn’t buy out the H & M. The rail line struggled with ridership, declared bankruptcy in 1956, and muddled along until finally being bought out by the port in 1962, as part of the creation of the World Trade Center. They created the subsidiary that runs it today, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH).
It is quite possible that if the port didn’t buy them out, they would be operated by the state of New York (MTA) along with New Jersey, in much the same way that the Metro-North Railroad operates. Both the LIRR and Metro-North became part of the MTA during Nelson Rockefeller’s term as governor. Hard to imagine such a powerful, progressive Republican, but it was a different era. Anyway, it is quite possible that if MTA operated it, it would simply be considered part of the subway. It is also quite possible that by then (the late 60s) it was too late, and the private railways that existed were considered “commuter rail”, while the lines that were bought out in the 40s (and largely now underground) were called “the subway”.
Of course the city could have bought out H & M in the 40s, when they bought out IRT and BMT. They didn’t, and the only obvious reason is because much of it is in New Jersey. Which goes back to the original point, which is that it is quite likely that if that part of New Jersey was another borough, it is quite likely that the PATH lines (or at least the heart of it) would be simply part of the main subway line, and just called “the subway”.
I think all of this plays a part in the terminology people use. People probably called it “commuter rail” back when it was run by H & M, and weren’t about to change the name just because the port was operating it. If MTA bought it out (like they bought out Metro-North) this probably wouldn’t change either. But if it was bought back when “the subway” was first being formed, my guess is it probably would be called that. Then again, the New York City Subway operates entirely in New York, while the line to Hoboken obviously does not. This distinction (New Jersey versus New York) was enough to keep the terms separate, regardless of how it all evolved.
It is worth noting that your friend doesn’t refers to it as “the train”. This is common terminology in NYC. My guess is they are making a distinction between PATH and the New York City Subway, even though it operates more like it, and less like like any of the NJ transit lines. My guess is this has everything to do with the fact that your friend lives in New Jersey. It wouldn’t surprise me if people making a reverse commute just call it “the train”. Then again, maybe they don’t, simply because they reserve “the train” for the main subway system, the one that never leaves New York.
The point of my post was to poke fun at all the youngsters who try to sort out the “why”, and assume there was some Grand Plan.
There was none.
When you go back 100 years, you find that growth occurred very organically, it was designed around a transportation system where rail transportation was the fastest and most reliable, since the competition was dirt roads.
Improving the speeds of automobiles along with paving the roads opened up publicly funded “competition” to the for-profit railways.
The only money-making roadways back there were the Turnpikes.
That was a very DT-esque foamer-flavored response by the way. 2 thumbs up !
I don’t have any friends in New Jersey (just ex-inlaws)
(I think that was someone else’s post)
I don’t see how it is confusing. There are only two rapid transit lines with a single connection, and the bus system is on a grid. There are trolleys, but they don’t have exclusive lanes, so they’re basically just buses on rails.
The various suburban trains (there are a lot of them, I admit) don’t go anywhere useful anyway, as – this is America – all the stations are surrounded by parking lots and little else.
The MBTA has two way all day commuter rail service. I used it out of North station. It serves outlying towns with street grids that developed centuries ago. They have paid parking. There is demand and transit advantage for commuter rail here, but it has limited time from BNSF and very high cost. Ottawa also has all day commuter rail. RER in Paris.
Hey, don’t diss tokens. I can’t think of a more efficient form of fare payment to ever exist. Paying with cash, magnetic strip fare cards, and now tap cards all take longer than just dropping in a token and taking a seat.
From the Metro “not dead yet” link:
It’s irritating that these news blurbs and performance reports don’t consistently track the same metrics. How many people are riding the damn bus? I looked at the 2020 Metro system evaluation report which is the last numbers pre-Covid. It’s a decent report. Nearest comparison I could find was “Ridership: daily boardings across all modes” which was 507,000. So what I’m reading is Metro is restoring 90% of the hours for 1/3rd of the ridership. That on the face of it seems dumb. But what’s worse is they aren’t even targeting the restored service or adapting it. To flog a dead horse I’ll use the 249 since it was my local route. It had not as bad numbers as most people think. But most of the ridership was on ~40% of the route. Crop the tail(s). Better yet realign it with RR-B which never happened. This isn’t a hard one to make better with very little pain.
Transit is only useful and competitive with driving if it’s frequent enough to not have excessive waiting. This may require service for 1/3 the ridership you were otherwise expecting. Last year when the lockdowns were the most extensive and Metro and ST reduced service severely, and Link even dropped to half-hourly, the public and local governments’ response was that coverage and frequency must remain up to keep the transit network usable. Metro responded by not cutting frequency further, and ST eventually restored Link frequency partially and then fully. The 249 suspension was a coverage loss, and its apparent justification was that it’s among the lowest-ridership coverage routes.
Restoring almost all service in October is because offices were expected to reopen soon and Metro wanted to avoid overcrowding that would discourage riders from returning. That decision was made earlier this summer before Delta got so bad and offices postponed their openings again. It’s too late to cancel the service increases that are already prepared, but Metro may re-suspend some runs later if travel patterns remain low for longer than expected.
What does “realign the 249 with the B” mean?
Focus on Overlake Village via Northup/20th to BTC instead of the worthless tails. The south side… I’m not familiar with but just seems to need to go away. Anybody, anybody? losing this coverage that objects???
I don’t think is an agency anywhere in the world that simply focuses on ridership. Everyone has a mix of ridership and coverage. That means that some buses won’t carry that many riders, while the bulk of the ridership is on a relatively small number of routes.
I don’t think [there] is an agency anywhere in the world that simply focuses on ridership.
Sure, but I’d guess most transit agencies focus on “something”. Restoring routes pre-pandemic without taking into account the huge demand difference is bat shit crazy. It’s “we’ve got tax money to spend and we’re damn well going to spend it… not my money so I don’t give a …”.
Doing a big service restructure to take post-pandemic ridership changes into account takes time. First off, you need staff time to come up with it (staff that is limited and overworked, as they are traditionally viewed as administrative fat). Then, you have to make a proposal. Then, people comment on it. Then, it gets revised and people comment some more. Then, the county council, which has the final say, holds hearings and comments some more before finally voting yes/no.
The only immediate options Metro has are to either restore service or keep service suspended and just let the extra money sit there in reserve accounts.
Sure, but I’d guess most transit agencies focus on “something”.
Of course they do. Metro is doing what they did before — balancing ridership with coverage.
Restoring routes pre-pandemic without taking into account the huge demand difference is bat shit crazy.
Of course they take into account the demand difference. Prior to the pandemic they would run some routes every couple minutes to deal with crowding. This has gone away.
But other than that, nothing has fundamentally changed. Metro is a heavily subsidized service — this subsidy has simply increased. The only way to reduce this subsidy is to increase ridership. To quote Jarrett Walker:
if Seattle’s King County Metro were pursuing a pure ridership objective, it would cut almost all service in the low-density suburbs and put all those buses in Seattle as higher frequencies on dense corridors.
This would mean eliminating routes like the 249. It gets 11 riders per hour. I count 6 all-day East Side buses that are worse, and several peak-only buses that are worse. But it is still bad. There is only one route in Seattle (the 22) that performs that poorly. A typical Seattle bus is two or three times as cost effective. Taking a ridership approach would mean huge gaps on the East Side — and some significant ones in Seattle.
The point being that if Metro suddenly decided to focus more on ridership instead of coverage, things would change dramatically. They don’t, and I don’t think anyone wants them to. Nothing has fundamentally changed, except that the subsidy for those heavily subsidized buses (like the 249) are bigger.
As for that route, I would definitely change it. I would hand over the section on Bellevue Way to the 271, and have the 249 take over service in Clyde Hill and Medina. This would make the frequency match the purpose. The 249 becomes more of a pure coverage route (and runs every half hour) while the 271 (a more frequent bus) gains ridership, speed and connectivity (with a freeway stop). When times are tough (as they were just recently) the 249 would be suspended, as the agency focuses only on higher ridership routes.
But none of that should happen until things get back to normal, which likely won’t happen for a while. For that matter, I wouldn’t restructure the routes on the East Side until East Link.
I agree with Ross. It is basically impossible for an agency like Metro to plan or “restructure” during a pandemic, especially one with so many starts and stops, and one that may fundamentally change ridership when just Link may fundamentally change Metro’s ridership and routing.
I suppose Metro could eliminate eastside routes due to low ridership because eastsiders are not commuting to work, as long as Metro refunds the eastside the taxes it pays towards Metro’s 80% subsidy. Eastsiders think the real solution is true subarea equity for Metro.
Yes, eastsiders prefer to drive, and it is hard to provide bus coverage and frequency to East King Co., but we also pay a shitload of taxes to subsidize Metro.
This means eastsiders taking transit at this time, during a pandemic, really have to take transit, and I would just as soon see my eastside tax dollars being used to make transit as convenient and frequent as possible for those eastsiders taking transit right now, no matter how many there are.
Give us our Metro tax dollars and let us determine how to best use if for those eastsiders using Metro, because clearly they have to (although it probably would be cheaper and more efficient to just buy them a car based on Metro’s operating costs per hour).
Believe me, post-pandemic there will be the mother of all restructurings for Metro, when Metro will be asked to provide all the feeder service but will have to split the fare with ST.
The mayor of Kenmore’s amendment to the realignment passed, and ST is obligated to replace the delayed park and rides on the eastside (to afford the realignment although the eastside subarea has plenty of money) with equal first/last mile access. If that “equal” first/last mile bus service isn’t so equal, look for East King Co. to demand some kind of subarea equity for Metro, especially when those riding Metro on the eastside are not those who must like right now, but high income, very vocal commuters from Issaquah.
Why does Metro have to pick an arbitrary date and “flip the switch”. At the very least turn on one or a few suspended routes at a time. Give it six months or maybe a year and see how those routes are doing. You keep bringing back more routes while evaluating those in service.
The end of the pandemic isn’t going to magically happen when we have enough people to claim herd immunity. Vaci-fobia and variants mean two steps forward and one step back. The longer it drags out the more travel patterns will change. I’ve seen about a 5X increase in home delivery on our private road. Delivery trucks now account for more traffic than residents.
There’s also the issue of hiring and training enough operators. Metro has had a hard time staffing the routes they are still running. Ramping up the workforce makes a lot more sense than flipping the switch which will undoubtedly result in hiring under qualified people and high turn over. Another huge cost when Metro claims to be strapped for cash.
Sadly, Daniel, the powers that were in the 1880’s thought that the Puget Sound counties should reach the divide line with the Columbia watershed.
As a result, you are stuck with the Libs in Seattle.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but how exactly would it work for the other “subareas” to “refund” tax revenues to the MOTU’s? Metro is mostly funded with scounty-level sales tax revenues.
I guess the Leg could allow TBD’s to be larger than they are now to make up the slack.
So, are you a stalking horse for Whimper wa ting his Mall to get an across-the-board price advantage over Seattle retailers? I’ve been wondering for a while why someone who is so obviously repelled by the likes of the denizens of this blog would spend so much time here.
By the way, your defense of Rogoff is pretty perceptive. There are some useful new insights in it.
Why does Metro have to pick an arbitrary date and “flip the switch”.
It makes it much simpler. There are really two different things you are now proposing. First it to bring on routes, one by one. This means that every week or two, Metro makes an official announcement, and a new route is brought back online. Meanwhile, riders for other routes complain (Why is the 249 back, but not 246?!!!). Ridership on the route is low, but we can’t tell if this is due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, or the fractured nature of the network (maybe there were lots of 249 to 246 riders). Then you have labor issues. You are hiring back workers bit by bit, even though you have the money to operate (more or less) like before. Will this continue, or will Metro decide that we don’t need the new riders this week, and all you applicants and trainees can call back later? Public agencies generally don’t go through “slow expansions” but grow in large, well publicized ways. It is just simpler.
Your other suggestion is for a route change. You mentioned a truncation, but I would shift things around. Either way it is a route change. Every route change involves a lot of public outreach. The issues are debated in open houses (real or virtual). Eventually, the route changes involve a lot of “rider alerts”. Little bags are put over dead bus stops. Numbers on the signs are changed. New schedules and maps are created. I’m all for frequent restructures, but by that I mean every couple years, not every few weeks. Any more frequent and it is a recipe for complaints (Why do the routes keep changing?!!!).
The time to restart service is when you can afford it. That is now. The time to restructure depends on a lot of different factors. For the East Side, the next time they should restructure should be after East Link.
Ross, I didn’t suggest bringing back routes one at a time. I said a “few”. The first factor in deciding how many would be the number of drivers they have ready to go. I’m also not suggesting doing this every week. I said give it 6 months to a year to evaluate. If there is demand Metro can start hiring and training the next group of operators. Again, the decision of when to bring back more routes, change existing schedules/coverage or pull the plug would be data driven. An easy solution for some routes would just be to switch to the snow route. Metro has all the route covers and all you do is send out someone in a van to pull or replace them. It’s just not that hard. The only requirement they need is a council resolution saying to be smart.
The time to restart service is when you can afford it. That is now.
Really, I thought there was still a huge hole in the budget that will quickly get worse if they don’t meet their stated policy after the last budget crises to achieve 20% fare recovery.
OK, returning back to normal in phases is quite reasonable.
But being as dynamic as you suggest just won’t happen. Changing routes is controversial, and requires public input. It just doesn’t make sense to change routes with East Link right around the corner. The last restructure for the East Side occurred just a little bit before the pandemic, and I’m sure the plan was to do nothing until East Link. Speaking of which, that was the time to make the changes you suggest — nothing has fundamentally changed, and nothing will change until East Link. If we wanted to get rid of part of the 249 because it underperforms (and will do so even after East Link) then that was the time to do it.
Just about every restructure should be done as a set. This minimizes the work, and results in a better network. Notice how we start talking about a simple change (moving the 271 over to Bellevue Way) and it sets off a cascade of changes.
There are exceptions, but I don’t see any on the East Side. For example, why get rid of the southern part of the 249 right before a major restructure in the area? Maybe service there is replaced by a peak-only route, since it would connect to downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue and Redmond. Everything will need to be evaluated after East Link, which really isn’t that far away. It doesn’t make sense to get ride of a route (or part of a route) and then a little while later put it back, but with a different number and different routing. The churn that recently happened was catastrophic and should be avoided whenever possible.
So what I’m reading is Metro is restoring 90% of the hours for 1/3rd of the ridership. That on the face of it seems dumb.
Um, there is a pandemic going on, and one of the recommended weapons against the Army of the Undead is social distancing. That, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated if you haven’t already. Yeah, Metro allows all seats to be filled, but trying to allow space for riders to spread out is very much a worthwhile goal right now. Metro just happens to now prefer allowing crowding over passing up passengers. I happen to agree with that decision.
Metro can (and I assume will) require its workforce to be vaccinated. Indeed, they should, as every further death of a Metro employee from COVID is in the “preventable” category. There isn’t much Metro can do about requiring vaccinations among passengers. That’s a non-starter if operators are to be asked to check vax cards. ATU would probably refuse, for the safety of the operators.
However, Fare Ambassadors could offer up a deal: If someone is subject to a fine, waive it once if the passenger can present proof of vaccination. Allow it to be waived after-the-fact, once the passenger comes up with proof of vaccination later. Maybe that’ll get a few more people to get the shot, but the set of passengers subjected to fines is a very small list.
A general requirement to be ready to present proof-of-vaccination on Link or RapidRide is tempting, but probably violative of the role of “public” transit, just like we can’t refuse limited ICU beds to those who didn’t make the effort to get vaccinated. But, I have to say, Mr. Biden speaks for me when he says our patience is wearing thin.
“A general requirement to be ready to present proof-of-vaccination on Link or RapidRide is tempting, but probably violative of the role of “public” transit …”
Public schools requiring vaccination to attend class is a similar violation?
I don’t want to carry around my critical vaccination card every day or be forced to get a smartphone to prove my vaccination status every time I ride a bus. So far I haven’t gone to any restaurants that require it and I hope that day doesn’t come. It’s one thing to show it to your employer once and another thing to show it several times a day. If we’re going to have to carry these every day they need to be small enough to fit in a wallet and durable enough they won’t get destroyed sitting in a wallet.
Which routes are crowded? If there is overcrowding on some buses at some part of the day then there’s where you start bringing back service. I haven’t seen a packed bus on the eastside since the start of the pandemic.
Bernie, I also haven’t seen a single crowded bus on the eastside in the last year and a half. Not one I have been on, or one I have seen passing by from the sidewalk or my car. Not even half full.
No, I can’t see having to show vaccine cards to ride transit.
I can absolutely see requiring it to eat indoors at a restaurant. If you don’t want to show it, or don’t have one, many restaurants have outdoor dining options.
It seems like the comment section is saying people should show proof of vaccination in every place imaginable (airlines, schools, restaurants, libraries, gyms, workplaces, stadiums, hospitals, public buildings, etc., etc.), but the one place people shouldn’t have proof of vaccination is to ride a bus.
Comment section, your logic is nutty. You do you know that, right?
Are you saying that everyone *should* have the right to ride public transit, or that public transit is the most important place for everyone to be vaccinated?
Eventually, the government is going to require everyone to be vaccinated. You know that’s coming, right?
Public and private schools have a long tradition of requiring certain vaccinations to be enrolled and attend class.
Lots of bars are requiring vax proof upon entrance. They’re already checking IDs, so it’s not much of an extra administrative burden. Losing customers and employees because they get COVID is a lot more expensive. Indeed, bars that don’t check vax proof may already be losing customers who prefer to go to bars that do provide vax proof, especially once people figure out that the ones not requiring proof are a lot more likely to be hangouts for the unmasked unvaccinated. In King County, there are only so many unmasked unvaccinated, and a lot of them actually are responsible enough to not go out in public right now. So, bars not checking vax proof may need to reexamine their business model.
Restaurants are another matter. During the dark scary period when the county did not require masks in indoor public settings, I was too many people going into restaurants where the staff wasn’t even masked up. People were actually eating food where the staff had been freely breathing on it. Gross.
The Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, Kraken, UW sports, and WSU sports are all requiring vax proof presented at entry, or at least will be within a couple weeks. Hopefully they know to write an incentive into their contracts with the security providers to have full staffing or pay a penalty to get the contractors to pay their employees enough to be able to hire enough people to fully staff the entry gates. People checking vax cards will need to get paid better than people just checking tickets.
Airlines, Amtrak, Greyhound, etc can easily check vax proof if the federal government requires it. I see that coming long before the universal vaccination law. Indeed, once the vaccination rate is high enough, and all ages can be vaccinated, the airlines and Greyhound will be begging the federal government to be the entity they can point to as responsible for that infringement of nobody’s imaginary rights to harm the people around them. They may also want the mask mandate (which is harder to enforce and has caused lots of late and missed flights as people who can’t behave themselves have to be escorted off the plane) to go away at the same time. If I have to travel interstate, I will still be avoiding options that don’t have strict mask enforcement, even if everyone on board is guaranteed to have been vaccinated. Asymptomatic spread is very real, and even more so with delta.
But back to the present. I do find it embarrassing, and setting a bad example for passengers, when a bus operator is not wearing a mask while driving with passengers on board. I’ve seen a couple operators doing that recently. Likewise, transit security wandering around a transit center maskless, while all the passengers he is walking by are masked … You guys are only making your job harder.
The distinction is:
Riding a bus, going to a hospital, going to a grocery store are all things that may be necessary for a person to live. (Getting to a job, healthcare, food. Etc).
An employee at a hospital or clinic though is different. I should be able to expect if I need care that those providing it have taken all the steps they can to protect my health, and that includes healthcare providers being vaccinated.
Things such as going to a restaurant, a museum, or sporting event, etc. are not required to live. These are all optional and for the overall societal good requiring proof of vaccination at these places is okay with. me.
Brent, I’m saying if we require proof of vaccination, and enforce mask wearing, everywhere in society except on public transit, then this pandemic will never end.
@Sam — The difference is whether it is practical or not. Requiring a mask is very practical, and is now the rule. Requiring proof of vaccination requires the bus driver to verify some little piece of paper, and compare it to your ID. That takes time, and slows down the bus. At the end of the day, it becomes meaningless, as the driver will be forced to let you on, even if they think it is forged (just like a bad transfer). It is one thing for a driver to hold up the bus because someone refuses to wear a mask — it is another thing to hold up the bus because they suspect the information on the piece of paper was copied from the internet.
If they eventually come up with a quick verification system, then I could see it, but getting that system out to *everyone* — even the folks who take a bus — would be a challenge.
None of this applies to other occasions. Getting in to a public event like a Seahawks game will soon take a lot longer. A lot of people will be sent to “the slow line” as they work out the issues. You can’t do that on a bus.
Even if it were somehow possible to enforce proof of vaccination to ride the bus, it would create chicken-and-egg problems. Imagine. You can’t ride the bus until you’re vaccinated. You can’t get vaccinated without getting to the vaccination site. And if you can’t get to the vaccination site without riding the bus, you’re just screwed.
No it wouldn’t. King County has had a program in place where FD personnel go to your residence and administer the vaccine. Fire fighters are essential but most of the time they are looking for things to do. It’s not as complicated as comments want to suggest. As others have pointed out , vaccine mandates have been enforced for years. This is nothing new. What the right wing nuts have claimed is it’s an infringement on civil rights. Strangely, the Silly Liberty Union doesn’t think so since it doesn’t align with their agenda.
Just roll up your sleeve. This isn’t that hard!
Bernie is correct about Route 249. Between Overlake and BTC, the headway and waits should be shorter.
Between Overlake and BTC, the headway and waits should be shorter.
I would move the 271 to Bellevue Way, which would mean that the 249 would have only the section between Northrup Way and Overlake (along with a lot of low density coverage). Some of that would be replaced by Link, but if we feel that added frequency is justified, I would make that section part of a different route.
Other than Bellevue Way (being served by the 271 with my plan) there is no reason to have frequent service to northwest Bellevue. That means the new 249 doesn’t serve it, which also means skipping South Kirkland Park and Ride, taking a more direct route to BTC. One option is to go via 24th, then south (https://goo.gl/maps/EpoB3JLG8NdqYJK26). This would double up service for part of the 250, while making the transfer between those buses (for trips to Kirkland) as easy as ever. Another option would be to keep more of the existing route, but go by the Spring Station (https://goo.gl/maps/kzhf2rJpQWvHWnun9). Either way, this could be tacked onto something coming from to BTC from the south (e. g. a Factoria to BTC route that runs along Bellevue Way).
Here’s another option for what could be done to the 249: https://goo.gl/maps/rJ6uhjhEv6dvXfpN7
The idea is that the Yarrow Point coverage loop would replace that of the 246, so it’s not really any additional service. But it does connect the 249 corridor with three frequent routes to the U-district, making for a very quick connection, compared to today’s 249, which connects to the 255, only.
If this route 249 were adopted and the 271 moved to Bellevue Way, route 246 would presumably be modified to run to Evergreen Point, replacing the 271’s service in northwest Bellevue. It would be a significant downgrade for the area (the 246 runs once per hour, Monday-Friday daytime only). But probably about right given the characteristics of the area. (Anecdotally, I have seen the 271’s stops in Medina used just often enough that I would not feel comfortable replacing it with absolutely nothing, at least not immediately).
@ Ross & asdf2,
No, no & no. Your proposed routes highlight you don’t know the area at all. NE 24th you propose would be great for me; me and only me. This a road through 1 acre minimum lots. From old timer neighbors I was told the bus actually used this route decades ago and 1 or two people actually used it occasionally. BSD uses NE 24th from 134th down to 140th to go to the International school. Again, make this accessible to commuters on the HS Metro bus. The 249 should be on 20th/Northup. The routing on NE 29th PL is what locals call the by-pass.
@asdf2 — The problem with that route it is a mix of coverage and quality service. Eddie (and Bernie) are making the case that the existing route from BTC to Overlake is relatively popular, and should have better frequency. I cover part of that with the 271 (which has better frequency). The rest of it is covered with the new bus. Mixing in very low density service to the northeast waters it down, while you get very little in terms of connectivity.
@Bernie — Now that I look at in more detail, I agree, staying on 24th would not be a good idea. For some reason I though there was a cluster of apartments on there, but they are the same sort of developments that exist on Northrup, but far fewer of them. That leaves the other option I proposed (https://goo.gl/maps/kzhf2rJpQWvHWnun9) along with keeping the same level of coverage as before (https://goo.gl/maps/yNQkBCn9BUbstcxbA). Hard to say which is better — I would have to look at stop data. On the one hand the first option runs right by Link. On the other hand, the second option doubles up service along a good portion of 116th. I think I would prefer the first one, but if lots of people go to 116th, then running 8 buses an hour along there would be nice. Both options double up service from BTC to the hospital.
I didn’t realize you wanted the frequency on northup to improve. I was thinking the hourly daytime only service on today’s 249 would be just right for the extreme coverage areas we are just barely willing to run a bus to at all. I also assumed that removing all service from areas that had service before would be a political nonstarter, regardless of how low the ridership is.
That said, it would also be nice if we could not run buses down northup or bel red road at all and tell people to walk to Link (or the B line). It would free up service hours to run other routes more often. Maybe then, we abandon service to Clyde hill/medina also. Getting the county council to accept it would be tough, but the savings would boost ridership elsewhere.
I didn’t realize you wanted the frequency on northup to improve.
That is my assumption, based on the comment Eddie made. Otherwise your proposal (or something similar would be fine).
That said, it would also be nice if we could not run buses down northup or bel red road at all and tell people to walk to Link (or the B line).
Or we could adopt a route like the one you proposed, and just run it like before (every 30 minutes). If people vote with their feet (and walk to the station) then ridership on this section would likely go way down. In that case, running a bus every 15 minutes would seem like overkill, and there would be no need to split the route.
I really don’t feel that strongly about that section. I feel very strongly that the 271 should use Bellevue Way. That would accomplish three things:
1) Speed up the 271
2) Give the most popular corridor in northeast Bellevue the highest frequency.
3) Connect the 271 with the freeway stations for transfers.
NE 8th and Northup are 3/4 mi apart. Stop spacing for RR-B is a 1/2 apart. More than that for Link. I don’t think there is a station between the 130th P&R until you get to Overlake. There’s also the issue of not many N/S connecting streets and those that do don’t have complete sidewalk and or street lighting. Only the west end of the Spring District is developed. It’s still a lot of auto repair and other light industrial. Northup has the most retail and is getting a new multistory apartment complex.
Increasing frequency on 116th would be good. A couple of large assisted living complexes are about to open there and the whole stretch is called the medical mile because zoning has created a concentration of clinics along that stretch including a branch of Seattle Childrens Hospital. You can also transfer and get to Kirkland P&R.
There’s also 124th which has been proposed by Metro as needing N/S service. But until there is development farther from the link Station I don’t know that it’s worth it. And development on 124th is severely limited by the two bus bases. OTOH, there’s nothing but self storage now on 20th west of 124th.
20th between Bel-Red and 156th has seen a lot of new 5-7 story apartments (or condos). I don’t know the time frame but the entire site that was Sears is set to be mixed use. I’m guessing relatively soon since there’s been no attempt at leasing the space.
As a former resident of Philadelphia… the SEPTA renaming looks good to me. Which, since I did not grow up there, is probably a sign that it will fail. Philadelphians are very resistant to change like this, and unlike Seattle, lifers far outnumber newcomers.
I don’t know where this “Montgomery Lines” comes from? I guess they must be talking about the Norristown High Speed Line and the King of Prussia spur. The spur which probably won’t ever be built, as it’s a huge waste of money. They should just put some bus lanes on the Schuylkill Expressway.
The housing shortage is nationwide now, in both large cities and small towns and rural areas, in both coastal states and inland states. I read that nowhere in Washington state can you get a 1 BR apartment for under, I forget the exact amount, maybe $1200. So you can’t flee to Kent or Tacoma or Chehalis or Bellingham or Wenatchee or Spokane anymore. Even in cities where rents and house prices are low for us, they’re high for local residents. The only areas that still have generally-affordable housing are depressed areas that people are leaving from because they have few jobs and even fewer that pay more than the federal minimum wage, and areas that allow the housing supply to keep up with population growth like Dallas and Houston.
When the vacancy rate is low and more people compete for each available unit, the sell out in a week and prices rise. When the vacancy rate is high and few people compete for each unit, the prices remain flat or fall. Seattle had a surplus of housing between 1965 and 2000 when the population fell due to the Boeing Bust and white flight and didn’t recover its previous peak for decades. Then after the 2012 Amazon boom, all the remaining slack was squeeed out and prices rose faster than they ever had. In 2010 you could still find run-down 1960s apartments for $650. In 2013 those had jumped to over $1000 because housing was scarce so landlords could get away with it, and some of the run-down buildings were demolished so they weren’t available anymore. But rents fell in 2008 and in 2020 because people moved away. So it really is based on the vacancy rate. The equivalent for owned houses is the inventory: the number of houses available and how long they take to sell. Before 2008 the average time-on-market for houses was 6 months and rental apartments 1 month. Now they often go in a week or even a day. That’s a sign of a severe housing shortage.
The stable point is a 5-10% vacancy rate; that’s when rents neither rise nor fall. (Some sources say 5%, others 10%. Seattle has been below 3% for eighteen years, and sometimes as low as 1%, not counting the recessions. That’s why rents have been rising. In the owned house market, the number of houses for sale dropped to a very low level in the 2008 crash and never came again. So there are very few houses for sale, and many people are competing for them. That’s why house prices are rising.
The rest of the country hit that crisis point after Seattle did, but it happened during the post-2008 recovery. It’s because zoning throughout the country is so restrictive the supply can’t keep up with the population growth. So just as happened in Seattle, the slack was fully squeezed out and now there’s a housing crisis everywhere. Except in areas where the population is falling. But those are the areas where you can’t get a job because jobs are scarce and don’t pay more than minimum wage (otherwise people wouldn’t be leaving those areas).
The average median income for all of King Co. is around $97,000/year. Net that is over $65,000/year. If 30% of disposable income goes towards housing that is $19,500/year or $1625/month, if you want to live alone. If you have a spouse or partner you have closer to $3000/month to put towards housing.
Rising housing prices are not all bad. Well over 50% regionally own their housing. The increase in prices means they can borrow for college tuition, medical bills, assisted living when they sell, upgrade and maintain their house, pay their exorbitant property taxes, and so on. Mike talks about areas in South Seattle, South King Co., and Pierce Co., but those areas are seeing the steepest increases, after the eastside. Why? The demand for the SFH.
The one factor that seems unfair is a home owner in this region paying $3000/month towards their mortgage is reaping the benefits of rising prices, so their payments build equity, whereas someone renting an apartment paying $2000/month gets no equity, no matter how long they pay. But that has more to do with income levels, and the costs to get into housing, which of course went up with the 2008 housing crisis which was in large part due to poor underwriting.
So who are we really talking about?
First we are talking about urbanists, who from what I can gather from the blogs are usually childless and often single. They each want their own separate unit, with separate kitchen and bath and living area for one, in an expensive north Seattle white SFH neighborhood, even though the website “Rooms For Rent” has numerous rooms in SFH’s for rent at reasonable prices, when a rental SFH (or owned) combines the kitchen, bathrooms, and living areas among several people. Oh, and they want the rent to be cheap.
Second, you have those earning less than the AMI. A favorite meme on The Urbanist is a simple Econ. 101 supply and demand model for affordable housing. Except upzoning does not increase the supply of what is needed: non-publicly subsidized affordable housing. Just the opposite.
Third you have transit advocates who actually think TOD’s along freeways will create the ridership to justify spending $131 billion on light rail, although I think that number is low.
To effectuate upzoning, the old housing must be removed and replaced with new housing. New construction is always the least affordable per sf, because that is why the builder is doing it. Plus when you replace a SFH with a multi-plex you need separate kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas for each person, a great waste of space if you go from one kitchen to six. The actual number of persons who are housed when a SFH is converted to a multi-plex is not that much greater — especially in a rental SFH — because now everyone lives alone, and needs their own kitchen, bath, etc.
At the same time, since the name of the game is profit, the builder or developer wants to buy the oldest and least expensive SFH to convert, which are usually the most affordable rental properties housing families. Unless there is a public subsidy for the public housing, (which is usually 1/3 more expensive because it is government housing) new housing — even the new micro-housing — won’t be affordable, because it is new.
We can have this ideological debate forever, with of course claims SFH are racist or privileged even though redlining was outlawed in 1968 and many elderly who own these homes are house rich but cash poor, but the fact is in a region of rising incomes housing prices will continue to rise too, if not publicly subsidized.
What urbanists have a hard time wrapping their heads around are kids, and how that fundamentally changes housing needs, which is why the SFH is still by far the most popular form of housing, and why in the past people will willing to commute long distances to urban cores to work while living in a SFH. Now with WFH they don’t have to commute.
Since 2008 there have been a number of factors limiting the stock of housing, especially SFH’s:
1. Investors like Buffet bought huge amounts of distressed properties (mostly SFH) during the recession and placed them into REIT’s, restricting the supply. I think this is the biggest issue, except it does not fit into a urbanist/racist/privileged meme.
2. During a pandemic few want to move because the number one reason most move is for a new job.
3. In a market with steep price increases few want to sell because they are making money, there is not tax on the gain until it is sold, there is no capital gains on the gain under WA’s new law, and because they are uncertain they can replace their housing.
4. Interest rates right now for our refi were 2.38% for a 20 year loan. If you get a five year mortgage with a balloon you can get under 2%, with mortgage interest and property taxes (up to $10,000) a tax deduction. If buyers assume housing prices will never go down, then they will always opt for as expensive housing as they can afford monthly.
5. The aging millennials are getting married and looking to start families, which means schools and a SFH.
6. The pandemic has changed people’s housing desires. Folks want more space, and less commuting. Most folks don’t want to live in a shared wall unit, and in a neighborhood of rental multi-family units if they can afford not to, especially if they have kids. Raising a family in downtown Seattle is not an attractive idea, and why there is no K-12 school in downtown Seattle.
7. Eviction moratoria. This region is seeing a record number of rental SFH being sold during the moratoria, and those houses are not going to be replaced with rental housing, or multiplexes, they are going to be owner occupied.
8. The price increases for SFH’s are much higher than for multi-family housing condos, and recent national issues with condo maintenance (including collapsing) and common costs are waking buyers — and lenders — up to the risks of buying a condo. As a result, we are seeing developers and builders very shy about new multi-family projects, rental or owned.
For most, buying a house involved coupling up and doubling their income, buying a starter home or condo, staying married, and then moving up as your income increased and you built more equity in your house. When young we lived in group SFH or cheap apartments, then a condo, then a starter home, then a bigger home. Now everyone wants their own new condo or apartment with their own kitchen, bathroom, and living space, in an expensive SFH neighborhood, right now, cheap.
Affordable housing for those below AMI needs public subsidies, but the city of Seattle (and regional) cities don’t have the money, and land and construction prices are increasing rapidly. So these cities pretend upzoning will do what they won’t, or can’t.
Plus, unless you understand the different strata of affordable housing, from 0% AMI emergency housing to 30% AMI housing, to 50%, to 70-80% affordable housing, and how tenuously these different groups live together, you will never solve the affordable housing crises.
Recently I posted a link to the most expensive areas in the western U.S. What they all had was high incomes, with high paying jobs, in desirable places to live. Nothing one could do, including upzoning, will make these areas affordable. This region is one of those areas, and the factors I list above have made the SFH more scarce and more expensive. Upzoning Seattle’s residential neighborhoods won’t do anything to change that, except hollow out the downtown urban core, move more wealth to the eastside, and eliminate any kind of retail core, unless you think retail at 130th will be vibrant.
I don’t know how you do it. You write sound economics and turn it into a sneer. I guess it’s a unique talent.
Redlining is *technically* illegal, but the segregation it created is maintained via exclusionary zoning, NIMBYism, artificial lines on maps, e.g. school zones, and to some extent unequal distribution of infrastructure investment. The national discussion we had on social justice last year unfortunately didn’t extend to entrenched segregation exacerbated by landuse and zoning policy.
NIMBYISM is a term I have never understood as a pejorative. Of course residents of a community want what is best for their community. Why should they care what someone who does not live there thinks is best for their community, especially if that person can’t afford to live there? Is anyone surprised Laurelhurst does not want emergency housing? What neighborhood does? Is the Rainier Valley demanding more homeless camps and emergency housing?
“Exclusionary zoning” is another progressive buzzword no one ever defines, specifically who (not what) is being excluded, and how.
Redlining was made illegal by federal law in 1968, although many states had prohibited it before then. The two main groups redlining applied to were Blacks and Jews. In 2021 are we talking about the exclusion of Jews, because probably the city with the highest percentage of Jews is Mercer Island.
No, in 2021 the group being excluded is Blacks, based on economic disparity, not poor white progressives. Blacks would love to live in the wealthy white Seattle neighborhoods, if they could afford it.
“Exclusionary” zoning has nothing to do with “what”, although many groups — almost all white including of course the developers — argue that exclusionary zoning means multi-family zoning, and is the “what” being excluded, although all zoning — use and regulatory — is exclusionary be definition.
Not surprisingly urban Blacks are one of the most vocal opponents of upzoning SFH neighborhoods.
One, because unlike white progressives Blacks tend to live among others, and in extended families. They actually have children. The family does not need six separate tiny one person units per lot with six separate kitchens and six separate bathrooms and six-ten separate bedrooms, with no parking. That is how white urbanists think, and what they want (in wealthy white neighborhoods).
Second, because Blacks have learned the hard way that the most exclusionary force is upzoning and gentrification, like in the Central District, that in 30 years went from 85% Black to 15% Black after it was upzoned.
Mike argues that no home is better than a home in a distressed neighborhood for poorer Blacks. How very progressive. Others on this blog have argued displacing Blacks from the CD was inevitable, or even good for Blacks. But Black citizens in south Seattle know the pressures of gentrification will ooze south from Georgetown and Columbia City to their SFH neighborhoods if they are upzoned, and Seattle will surpass Portland as the whitest large city in the U.S.
Now THAT is exclusionary zoning.
NIMBYISM is a reaction to not allowing a particular proposed use or public investment, Daniel. It literally means “NOT in my backyard”!
So the term is generic. It’s pejorative use is when it’s unreasonable. You know — things like opposing suburban battery buses stopping near freeway ramps because every unloading bus adds more pedestrians so it heightens the risk of hitting a pedestrian.
The problem is that less desirable uses must go somewhere. It’s when the neighborhood with resources to sue and beat on the doors of elected official offices can get trivial land uses or investments stopped while assuming that quiet neighborhoods “won’t complain” when a major incompatible use goes in. It’s all in the context.
“ unlike white progressives Blacks tend to live among others, and in extended families.”
Let’s be blunt about this 20th-century white privileged statement: most cultures around the world live in extended families. It’s true in most countries and it’s not just a “black thing”. Even the Bible describes most people living in extended families. This relatively-recent obsession with preferring putting people in micro- apartments or single-kitchen houses largely is a cultural construct created by American white people in the last 120 years. When progressives brag about creating numbers of units rather than numbers of bedrooms, it too has a white privilege culture imbedded in the comment.
I’d happily trade the residential zoning discussion of number of units to be instead focused on setbacks and lot coverage and minimum unit sizes first, with the number of units (defined by locked doors and kitchens and electric meters) being less important.
Who determines what is trivial, Al? You? For a community you don’t live in or understand?
You are conflating regulatory zoning including SFH zoning, and siting an “essential public facility”, which has its own separate process (EIS — SEPA) and regulations.
SEPA is effectively the process to determine what is trivial when siting large public (essential) projects, their design, and any mitigation. SEPA IS nimbyism, codified.
For example, Seattle used SEPA to demand Link run underground from downtown to Northgate. Was billions of dollars for tunnels and underground stations through these mediocre neighborhoods “trivial”. IMO yes, since now park and rides in East King Co. have to be delayed because N. King Co. blew its wad.
The UW demanded $70 million. Bellevue demanded a tunnel and $35 million in cash plus a 1500 stall park and ride. Issaquah demanded a $4.5 billion line to S. Kirkland. Snohomish Co. wants a jog to Everett.
Now Seattle wants the four other subareas to pay half of DSTT2 no matter what it costs, and Ballard and West Seattle are demanding underground stations and tunnels.
But you think Mercer Island wanting ST to adhere to a settlement agreement ST drafted and signed in Nov. 2017 that simply prohibits drop offs on the north side of NMW outrageous.
Of course, the two ironies are that if Mercer Island did not have a mayor in 2016 who thought like you do and foolishly signed off on the SEPA permits without a settlement agreement the bus intercept would have never been located on MI, and the whole point of the intercept — to help ST come close to its pre-pandemic fantastical ridership estimates crashed on the rocks with WFH.
Forget about Mercer Island. Metro too now understands the deceit in ST’s ridership estimates and the litigation with MI is moot because Metro will never need 20 buses/peak hour, and the elephant in the room is ST’s actual post pandemic farebox revenue won’t come close to meeting its operational costs.
I guess the third irony is that the one subarea that will have the biggest differential between actual and estimated ridership/farebox recovery —East King Co. — is the only subarea that can afford the steep decline in farebox recovery. I would take Mercer Island’s problems over ST’s.
I just find it so absurd when folks on this blog desperately search for ridership in TOD’s and reducing parking limits when WFH will cut ridership on Link 20-25%, and the riders left including seniors, students and the poor are the ones with discounted passes.
Don’t worry about Mercer Island. The courts will decide what is trivial, but it is ST’s dishonest ridership estimates and a pandemic that make this litigation moot. ST has bigger fish to fry than an intercept that will infuriate Issaquah commuters, at least those still commuting to Seattle.
Unfortunately, MI probably lost its opportunity to obtain real mitigation for the intercept, like cash, SOV access from Island Crest Way, and reserved park and ride space, or just the opportunity to use $4.5 million in the 2017 settlement agreement towards commuter parking reserved for Islanders without having to match the funding, which I always thought was the point of the litigation, and the likely mitigation under the EIS has MI negotiated its SEPA permits like other cities did. But if actual ridership for the intercept is as low as I think it will be Mercer Island won’t be entitled to mitigation.
Oh please. There are cultural differences, but a lot of it can simply be explained by income. Gramma doesn’t live with the grand kids in the two bedroom apartment because “it is a Black thing”, she lives there because she can’t afford the rent on a studio. Or because mom can’t afford day care. The same is true for low income Whites.
This is why multi-generational households increased during the great recession: https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2011/10/03/chapter-3-demographics-of-multi-generational-households/. Even now, they make up a mere 25% of the African American households. It would be even less, if it wasn’t for the hollowing out of the middle class caused by the Reagan-Gingrich era we are just now trying to dig out of.
There are cultural differences, but these vary greatly. Asian multi-generational numbers are the highest (but still well below half) but the longer they live in this country, the less likely they are to live in an extended family. There are also significant differences by ethnicity. In Japan itself the number of multi-generational households has dropped significantly (50% to 24% as of 2007 — https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/62/5/S330/570920). Yet Japanese immigrants get lumped together with every other Asian immigrant, and people assume they have a similar cultural upbringing.
Likewise, lumping together African American culture is silly, given the significant differences by region and experience. The one thing Black Americans will tell you though, is that they get treated differently than White Americans, no matter what their background, which is why there is still value in noting this on the census forms. Obama was raised by a White family and had no experience at all with the great African American diaspora (i. e. the history of slavery and Jim Crow). But he was always “Black” in the eyes of everyone he met, which meant he shared many of the same experiences as (half Asian) Bruce Harrell, (immigrant) Pascal Siakam or Russell Wilson (who can trace his ancestry back to slavery). Their family meals and family discussions might have been dramatically different, but when they left their house, their experiences were remarkably similar. Grabbing a cab is difficult, they get hassled by the police, and of course, people make stupid-ass assumptions.
“SEPA is effectively the process to determine what is trivial when siting large public (essential) projects, their design, and any mitigation. SEPA IS nimbyism, codified.”
SEPA was established in response to Robert Moses ramroding freeways through neighborhoods with no public input or veto or disclosure of the impacts, and similar cases of the proposed Thompson Expressway in the CD and I-5 through downtown. It was intended to make these decisions more inclusive and to disclose the impacts.
SEPA is misued by NIMBYs to block any apartments or transit upgrades that might bring lower-income people or hinder SOVs and expansive parking. This is the same tactics NIMBYs have used since the late 1800s to keep anyone not like them out of their neighborhoods. They did it first with private covenants, then with single-family-only zoning, then with SEPA on transit projects.
The decision of what zoning and transportation policies to apply throughout the city is a decision for the entire city’s government and residents and would-be residents, not something that individual neighborhoods should be able to veto. Doing the latter puts those homeowners’ rights above everyone else’s, when they’re just a handful of people. And it’s not really their rights. A homeowner has property rights to their parcel. They don’t have property rights to their neighbors’ parcels. If some homeowners on a block want to build multifamily or missing-middle housing and others on the block don’t, the latter should not be able to veto the former’s plans.
Transit impacts is another issue. Anything changing the status quo is defined as a negative impact in SEPA terms, even if the status quo is substandard or destructive. For instance, trolley wires in north Beacon Hill (existing) or Madison Park (theoretical) would be considered a negative impact because of how they’d affect the view, even if they would improve transit mobility and environmental imprint. Similar with Seattle’s “design review” policy buildings. SEPA defines even good changes as negative, and gives NIMBYs too much power to effectively veto them. Those are flaws in the SEPA process.
The gentrification article raises an important point, that being at risk of displacement in a gentrifying integrating neighborhood may be better than being poor in a segregated minority neighborhood (ghetto) that remains neglected and having few job opportunities. Pugetopolis doesn’t have long-term segregated minority neighborhoods so it can be hard to remember they exist and compare them to our gentrifying neighborhoods. But according to the article, more people nationwide live in these ghettos than in gentrifying areas.
It quotes Karen Chappel, a displacement professor, who says in the Bay Area in 2005, 10% of the neighborhoods were gentrifying while 40% were getting poorer. That’s hard to believe because it suggests San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties are less than 10% of the Bay Area when they must be at least 40% or 50%. And it may be related to counting artificial census tracts, which don’t necessary correspond to socioeconomic boundaries. Still, since it’s hard to count how many people are displaced vs how many move for other reasons, she may be at least qualitatively right that fewer areas are gentrifying than most people assume.
How would this 10%/40% split compare to Pugetopolis? Areas that are “getting poorer” apply to South King County and maybe Pierce and Snohomish Counties. That’s where people who are priced out of more expensive areas are moving to, and that may be lowering the average wealth of those areas. South King County did not aspire to be what it is. The low-density residential neighborhoods in Renton, Kent, Auburn, and Federal Way were built for upwardly-mobile white people who assumed they’d always have a car and wouldn’t need walkability. So it’s a tragedy that lower-income people are now being forced to live in them. And it’s the opposite of what those cities intended in the mid-century. What they intended was to be like Bellevue and Shoreline. What happened was a demographic trend that occurs throughout the US.
Christopher Leinberger in “The Option of Urbanism” writes that American metropolitan areas generally have two sides. An poorer “unfavored quarter” that’s in the industrial side of downtown, and a wealthier “favored quarter” that’s in the opposite direction or at least another direction. The unfavored quarter is clearly South/Southwest/Southeast Seattle and South King County. The favored quarter is the Eastside, originally as a picturesque rural paradise through the 1950s, and where King County channeled affluent growth starting in the late 60s.
Leinberger predicts that the favored quarter will have two radial freeways from downtown and a peripheral ring freeway. The biggest business leaders will live inside this triangle and establish their headquarters further out in the favored quarter, so that they personally can reverse-commute to work against the peak traffic flow. In the Eastside the radial freeways are I-90 and 520, and the ring freeway is 405. Bill Gates lives inside that triangle in Medina, and Microsoft was at first inside the triangle at 112th NE and then further out in Redmond. So Gates could reverse-commute to both of them on 520.
South King County tried to be a suburban utopia like the Eastside, but it ultimately couldn’t overcome being in the unfavored quarter and having so much heavy industry and so many highways searing through it. So it was a nice old place when Fairwood and Timberlane were built, and then reversed in the 90s as lower-income people started flooding in from Seattle and the Eastside and newcomers.
Another definition of gentrification might be more illuminating. Demisas’ article defines it as weaithier people moving into a formerly segregated neglected area. But another definition is that it’s when that happens when one neighborhood that was formerly cheap becomes expensive while most other neighorhoods remain the same. But that’s not what’s happening in Pugetopolis. It’s not just the Central District and Southeast Seattle that are becoming more expensive, it’s the entire region. So how much of the rising prices in Southeast Seattle is due to “gentrification” and how much of it is because prices everywhere are rising? The latter is certainly a lot, and is part of the reason why middle-class people are moving into Southeast Seattle, because they can’t get the same level of housing in more expensive areas, which only became expensive in the 1990s. The Eastside became expensive in the 1990s, and the CD and Southeast Seattle followed 5-10 years later.
As a region with lots of water, hills, views and a dispersed set of major employment sites, I think it’s silly to apply the “favored quarter” notion too far. We have a variety of housing types and prices in most quarters. Also, our housing stock is fairly new compared to other regions of the country.
I do see South King in general increasing as the low income area for East King and Seattle. I attribute that more to things like lower developable land capability in East King and Seattle though — squeezed between the Cascade foothills and water.
As a region with lots of water, hills, views and a dispersed set of major employment sites, I think it’s silly to apply the “favored quarter” notion too far.
Bingo! This is one of the first things I tell people when they visit Seattle. We really don’t have a “best neighborhood”. Ask a dozen people what the nicest neighborhood in Seattle is, and they will come up with thirteen answers.
It has been that way for a long time. The nicest views are to the west. Not only do you have Puget Sound, but the Olympics behind it. Throw in beach access, and it appeals to wealthy visitors and locals alike. However, places like West Seattle, Magnolia and Blue Ridge may be lovely, but are isolated. Belltown condos are really nice, and appear to be the best of all worlds. But not everyone likes the hustle and bustle of downtown living. Or maybe you want to be close to the lake, and get a view of Rainier. That explains the mansions in Mount Baker and places north. Then there is the UW, which is a major draw. Again, more huge houses along the coast, as well as some very upscale neighborhoods, like Laurelhurst and a neighborhood that became the name of an upscale real estate company (Windermere). It is tempting to assume that it is all about the coast — both Lake Washington and Puget Sound. But that doesn’t explain the mansions on Queen Anne (some old, some new) or those on Capitol Hill. Speaking of which, back in the day the Central Area was run down, the victim of red lining. Eventually, of course, white people (some with money) were attracted to it, because it was, well, central. Being able to walk downtown is a very nice feature.
Speaking of convenience, there are plenty of people that will tell you the best neighborhood is Wallingford or Green Lake. Located between the freeway and Aurora, you can get anywhere. Then there is Fremont, the center of the universe. Of course plenty of people say the north end is overrated, and Beacon Hill, close to the I. D. and downtown is much nicer. The I. D., of course, has been home to plenty of people who have no interest living anywhere else (for good reason).
As far as suburbs go, the main attraction of the East Side is jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. If Microsoft had located in Auburn or Lynnwood, then the suburbs would look a lot different now. Since Microsoft chose the East Side, Mercer Island and Medina suddenly went from sleepy little suburbs, to super hot property, bridging the gap between both cities. Now, as the region booms with more and more well paying software jobs, that has spread throughout the East Side.
There is no favored quarter — property values simply go down as you go out from the major employment centers. Except for places with views, of course (those are still worth a fortune).
“We really don’t have a “best neighborhood”. Ask a dozen people what the nicest neighborhood in Seattle is, and they will come up with thirteen answers.”
It’s not about “best neighborhood”, it’s about where the most economic activity is. You can say Wallingford is better, but Microsoft, Bellevue Square, and tons of high-paying jobs and affluent retail are in the Eastside, not Wallingford. So if you want those jobs or things you have to go there. Some of it is downtown because Seattle has remained more centralized than many American metros.
“If Microsoft had located in Auburn or Lynnwood, then the suburbs would look a lot different now.”
The point is, why did Microsoft locate in the Eastside? It could have gone to Auburn or Lynnwood but it would have had a harder time recruiting workers or impressing business partners.
The point is, why did Microsoft locate in the Eastside? It could have gone to Auburn or Lynnwood but it would have had a harder time recruiting workers or impressing business partners.
Nonsense. It was an arbitrary decision. At the time, Redmond was a sleepy suburb. If you wanted to recruit workers you would locate closer to the UW or downtown. If you wanted to impress business partners you would get a skyscraper downtown. They were moving from Bellevue, and wanted their own business park. They could easily built it in a different part of the city, but since they were already in Bellevue, that likely influenced their decision.
This begs the question — why did they move to Bellevue in the first place? If I have it right, they moved from Albuquerque to here: https://goo.gl/maps/uARno5nHVLZg51mP7. That is about as arbitrary a place as any. I have no idea the reasoning, but it is quite possible it was just availability. They could have located in Southcenter, or maybe Shoreline (if office space was available). Then moving to Auburn of Lynnwood could easily have been the next step.
The location of Microsoft was about as arbitrary as its success. If IBM had gone with someone else to build their operating system, few would even know about Microsoft (“They used to make compilers, right?”). Hell, the operating system they sold them was purchased by Seattle Computer Products. If IBM skipped the middle man than SCP would have been the blockbuster local software company, not Microsoft. Where was Seattle Computer Products located? Tukwila.
At the Microsoft location there was already a cluster of high tech. Sunstrand and Honeywell (defense contracts) were the two big ones I remember. They both did engineering and manufacturing on site. I believe the Group Health hospital was also already there; not sure on that one.
The infrastructure was there. Redmond had built 148th as a divided 4 lane arterial with underground utilities and 520 ended there. There was also a GTE central exchange on 148th which in the 80s was important. Redmond was extremely business friendly. Bellevue didn’t want to give them a tax break so they moved. Eventually Microsoft bought the land Sunstrand and Honeywell (and Eddie Bauer) were on. More recently they finally convinced Nintendo to sell the parcel they weren’t using.
Microsoft assumed their programmers would never go home.
Microsoft assumed their programmers would never go home.
Exactly. It was part of the office park concept that evolved into the “campus” concept. It became big in the 1980s, but was built around 1950s culture. Dad drives to work every day, while mom stays home. If work is going well, you move out to that suburb, making it more difficult to leave. But tech companies took it a step further. By calling it a campus, it was meant to be like college, and appeal to those that never really grew up. You could play Frisbee or hacky-sack on the quad, or pull all-nighters while guzzling caffeine. Unlike stodgy companies, there was no dress code, no set hours, just the expectation that you would spend endless hours working there. Oh, and of course, no union.
At the Microsoft location there was already a cluster of high tech. Sunstrand and Honeywell (defense contracts) were the two big ones I remember
That makes sense. But given the fact that the company that actually built the software that allowed Gates and Allen to become billionaires was located in Tukwila, I could easily see them building there. Then we would be talking about how close it was to Boeing and other high tech companies, and the major freeways there, and the proximity to the airport …
My point is that Redmond is not Pittsburgh. Microsoft’s decision to move there is an accident of history, and not a geographic inevitability. There was no fundamental advantage to locating in the eastern suburbs instead of the northern or southern ones. Microsoft made the East Side desirable, not the other way around.
There was no fundamental advantage to locating in the eastern suburbs instead of the northern or southern ones.
I would go one step further in saying there was no fundamental advantage to locating in any of the suburbs. I don’t think that decision has helped the company. For every employee that finds it attractive, there are two who find it a pain the ass. Imagine your wife works in Swedish Ballard, and you live in Phinney Ridge. Even in the 80s you could get a bus to downtown in the morning, while your wife had a pretty easy commute as well. Take that job at Microsoft and you need two cars, and your reverse commute gets worse as time goes on. Meanwhile, Microsoft — like almost all businesses — wants to communicate with other businesses. Instead of a quick lunch downtown (where the only transportation involves taking elevators) it becomes an ordeal.
They could have just built skyscrapers in the heart of downtown, but that would have meant abandoning the “campus” concept. Still, they could have built the same thing in the city, especially in the 80s. They could have located somewhere in between the UW (where all the local talent comes from) and downtown. Maybe the Denny Triangle, a land of cheap motels and parking lots. Or maybe a more scenic location, close to Lake Union. People could get there fairly easily, no matter the suburb. They can easily do business with corporate muckety-mucks residing in the towers to the south. Pretty soon, it would have looked, well, a lot like it does today. It took another company to build there, and essentially stretch downtown to the north.
Leinberger’s theory isn’t specific enough to account for Lake Washington and Lake Union. Since the favored quarter is a cone, and arguably includes the part inside the Seattle city limits, and part of I-5 fills the gap between downtown and 520, we could say that the Amazonia and the Gates Foundation are just outside the triangle, close enough to be part of it. And the Central District is also inside the triangle, even though it was redlined and one of Seattle’s poorest neighborhoods in the mid-century. And a more normal city wouldn’t have Lake Washington, so Bellevue would be next to Madison Park and Kirkland next to Magnuson Park, assuming they weren’t built in the middle of where the lake is. It’s kind of interesting to imagine Bellevue and Kirkland adjacent to Madison Park and Northeast Seattle. What would things have been then?
The Eastside is clearly where the most business leaders, non-downtown headquraters, upscale shopping arcades, a wide variety of jobs both upscale and mundane, other investments, and affluent residents are concentrating. However, a significant amount of it is also in Seattle, more than many other American cities, so that’s an exception. Although if we count the U-District and Capitol Hill as effectively in the cone, and maybe even stretching it to Fremont, that’s practically practically all the high-job-growth, affluent-desired areas. So the favored quarter metaphor is remarkably accurate even with King County’s exceptions. Since it’s a generic metaphor, it only attempts to predict long-term trends, not short-term countertrends.
And at some point, a 21st-century trend may supercede it. The 1990s back-to-the-city movement in Seattle was in some sense a countertrend, but it didn’t eliminate the Eastside dynamic or become as big as it. And as I said, most of the back-to-the-city movement still occurred inside or near the cone.
Another question is, why isn’t the favored quarter north instead of east? It could have been in Northgate and Lynnwood instead of the Eastside. North Seattle was pretty white-only and more affluent than South Seattle and had the infrastructure for job growth, while the Eastside was still rural farm towns. But King County chose in the 1960s to channel housing and job growth to the Eastside. Why? Part of it is doubtless the lakes and Cascade foothills, and the fact that it was a greenfield blank slate to build on. But part of it seems arbitrary, and perhaps unfortunate and inefficient. If it had gone north, people wouldn’t have to use energy crossing miles of lake, and it could have gone as far as it wanted, even to Everett and Arlington. But for some reason they didn’t choose that route. Maybe because King County ends three miles beyond the Seattle border.
“I do see South King in general increasing as the low income area for East King and Seattle. I attribute that more to things like lower developable land capability in East King and Seattle though — squeezed between the Cascade foothills and water.”
I don’t think so. East King and Seattle have had several times more development since 1990 than South King County. And if you extend that back further to 1960 when much of Kent and Auburn were farmland like the Eastside was, the Eastside/Seattle still grew more. The Eastside got tons of wide-ranging jobs, mixed-density housing, and dozens of both commercial and residential highrises. in South King County, the Tukwila industrial area was already there. The Kent industrial area around West Valley Highway was a notable growth area in the 1990s. Before that downtown Kent looked like a small town in the middle of nowhere. The rest of the area east of downtown Kent, and southwest to Federal Way, is pretty much all a low-density bedroom community with miles of houses and some garden apartments. Recently there have been denser developments in downtown Kent and The Landing, and close-together houses in Covington, but they’re a tiny part of the total. South King County has twice as much land as Seattle, and a higher population than Seattle, and low density and industrial land everywhere, so it has oodles of room for massive infill growth, and it could triple the population from 800K to 2.4 million without becoming as dense as Seattle or San Francisco. But it has grown hardly at all since 2000, while the Eastside and Seattle have grown a lot. And that’s all because of the growth-skeptical attitudes in South King County cities.
Sept 19th will be the 26th anniversary of Seattle urbanists voting against the creation of the Seattle Commons Park. That area of South Lake Union is now covered with office buildings and roads. Seattle urbanists also want to derail plans to convert Jackson Park golf course a giant public park, and instead want to turn it into a giant apartment complex. They also want to turn Magnuson Park and Woodland Park into apartment complexes. Why do urbanists hate parks? Granted, they don’t hate all parks. I see them celebrating small pavement parks and tiny concrete parklets. It seems like they just hate large natural parks.
Urbanists like Seward Park, Discovery Park ,The Arboretum, Gasworks Park, Ravenna Park, Schmitz Preserve Park, Greenlake, the new downtown beach in Myrtle Edwards Park, Kubota Garden, Bellevue Downtown Park, Kelsey Creek Park, the Kirkland waterfront parks, the Burke-Gilman/Sammamish River Trail and the trails in Issaquah and Redmond, etc. They like some aspects of Marymoor Park but not its lack of transit access, which is a problem when it has regional events that draw thousands of people, and rugly/soccer matches that draw their players and friends.
If you can’t tell the difference between South Lake Union, Jackson Park, Seward Park, and a parking-space parklet, you’re not being serious. Oh wait, that’s your job, as STB’s Troll Number One.
Seward Park is a natural reserve. South Lake Union was decaying industrial, and the vote against the Commons had more to do with not giving public money to Paul Allen than about the merits of a park there. Allen was going to get the benefits of public investment to raise the prices of his adjacent real estate. Many people didn’t like funding Allen’s streetcar or football stadium either.
Jackson Park is a golf course. That means it doesn’t have native trees and wildlife or a place for people to walk and picnic, but instead has a blank lawn that’s like an ecological dead zone. It supports golf, a land-hungry pastime associated in the past with rich white businessmen and now played by a dwindling number of people. Seattle has five public golf courses; it’s worth at least asking whether it still needs all five of them or would be OK with two or three, or if Jackson Park’s course could be smaller and in the half furthest from TWO Link stations. If Seward Park’s old-growth forest were redeveloped, it would harm the ecologic balance and climate resistance and a wide variety of recreational opportunities. If Jackson Park were redeveloped, it could be an ecological improvement if half of it became a park with more diverse vegetation. Finally, there’s the severe need for housing, especially housing near Link stations, and Jackson Park has TWO Link stations. If we don’t build New Westminsters and Metrotowns in Northgate and Roosevelt and Mt Baker and Beacon Hill, then that’s all the more reason we need some substantial amount of more housing at 130th and Shoreline South.
Magnuson Park, I haven’t heard of any proposals to convert the non-developed land. The developed land was built in WWII as a naval air station. The buildings are the same two-story density they were when the navy left. I don’t know of any proposals to replace some of them with seven-story buildings or highrises, but if they did, so what, as long as they don’t pave over the undeveloped part. When people talk about adding density to the Sand Point neighborhood, I assume they mean outside the park itself. Finally, Madison Park doesn’t have enough transit access for thousands more residents, although that will be improved when the 62 can go to Roosevelt Station.
Woodland Park, I don’t know of any proposals to turn it into apartments. There have been controveries in nearby Phinney Ridge, the one I remember is about a proposed apartment building with little parking. But that was on an existing parking lot I thought, not in a park.
As to the merits of the Commons proposal, I voted against it for the Allen reason. Maybe I was wrong about that, I don’t know. Seattle had unrealized proposals for a 1912 Bogue Park in the Denny Triangle that would have been a kind of Central Park. That would have been good, and it would have come with a citywide subway that was a companion measure. Then we would have been more like New York with a Central Park and a subway, and maybe art deco highrises around the park that would draw people even to admire the buildings. The Commons falls somewhat in that vein but was proposed in a different context, when the city around it had changed. And it wouldn’t have been very large, just a one-block-wide Westlake Avenue stretch. Also, what Allen had in mind at the time around the park was a biotech hub, which wouldn’t have drawn as wide variety of people as the current cloud-computing tech hub, and its insular focus might have led it to be more like the Gates Foundation which is not very pedestrian-friendly or a pedestrian area.
It wouldn’t have been a “large natural park” for a century, while the trees grew. Nor will Magnuson. They ceased being “natural” nearly a century ago.
It’s not that parks are bad land uses. It’s just they should change as a city changes and go to places that need certain types of facilities. There was a time when parks usually did not have active recreation and were instead placed to be contemplative, for example. There was a time when few lived near Jackson Park and there wasn’t a freeway or light rail line next to it.
My opinion on golf courses is that they can go lots of places and that it’s a dying recreational activity. Funding a regional light rail station is a public investment that needs to be maximized, and an adjacent golf course is as incompatible to that as a landfill is next to apartments. It’s bad land use allocation to have a large course creating very few destination trips within walking distance of ultimately two light rail stations. Just move the golfing somewhere else!
So I would suggest letting Seattle do something like this: Sell Jackson Park in sections for a new neighborhood and use the proceeds to buy a stake in a nearby course and/or reduce the property from 27 holes to either 9 or 18.
At the very least, dig up one or two holes and put the park and ride under the golf course grass, and use the park and ride land for something useful.
We are currently rewriting our PROS plan on Mercer Island (Parks, Recreation And Open Space Plan). Cities do this every 10 years.
One of the most important metrics for the livability of cities is number of park acres per 1000 citizens.
There has also been a fundamental change among urban and park planners for urban park use. In the past the focus was number of “park” amenities per 1000 citizens, such as tennis and basketball courts, ballfields, paved plazas, memorials, bike paths, and other impervious surfaces until urban “parks” are developed into non-existence because city councils see park land as free land.
Instead, current planners understand that the denser a city the more important open, natural, green spaces and solitude are, because these are the things urbanism eliminates, and they are fundamental to mental health.
Usually it is population growth that lowers the ratio of park acres per 1000 citizens. Parks become more crowded, and cluttered, and are no longer parks.
Urbanists are unusual in that they want to destroy park acres through development, an irony since they wrap density in the cloak of global warming. They argue on one hand to develop Jackson Golf Course, but then propose silly ideas like placing a lid over I-5, to create green space.
There are dense cities without meaningful open and park space. I lived in London, where most parks are pocket parks that are often locked to non residents of the neighborhood. There are very few street trees. For me, the “urbanism” of London and lack of open and green space was claustrophobic, and ironic for a culture with such a rich horticulture past.
Cities and citizens usually develop parks because the land is “free”, when there is plenty of non-park land to develop But then you end up living in a wasteland of concrete, and find it is prohibitively expensive to replace that green space.
So you end up with a city that resembles East Berlin: huge housing projects with sealed units and no decks with no parks or green spaces and lots of depression.
“impervious surfaces until urban “parks” are developed into non-existence”
An example of this is Meydenbauer Park in Bellevue. In the 1980s I found it a green oasis, seeming like a quiet world away from the city just steps around it. The only visible sign of civilization was the Main Street bridge in one small corner. But when I visited it again last year, it was godawful. The trees are gone and a wide concrete bike path in the middle fills most of it.
This tiny little park wasn’t needed for housing or concrete. There are miles of single-family houses around it that could have been demolished for much more housing and recreation than this park could provide, and it would only impact the handful of families in those houses, which are fewer than the number of would-be Meydenbayer Park users.
“Current planners understand … the more important open, natural, green spaces … are, because these are the things
urbanismcity development eliminates, and they are fundamental to mental health.”
And to the environment, ecosystem, and climate resilance. Part of the Seattle waterfront renovation includes a lane of bioswale-type vegetation and shrubs, and underwater a stair-step shore to give protected corridors for salmon and other species to pass through. (Different species prefer different depths and amount of light, and the different levels protect them from their predators.) The on-land vegetation is expected to immediately bring back small critters and birds that left downtown when their habitat was concreted over. It won’t bring back all of them but it will bring back some of them, and that’s a step in the right direction. The humans benefit from having those plants and critters and ecosystems among them, something they lost when it was all concrete and asphalt. And it is compatible with highrise buildings and restaurants and joggers right next door to it.
“Urbanists are unusual in that they want to destroy park acres through development,”
That’s false. in the same way Sam’s contention is false. The best urban areas aren’t all highrises and concrete everywhere. Some areas like Manhattan can be like that, but not all parts of every city. Have you been to Vancouver BC? It does a good job in both the West End/Yaletown (highrises), AND Kitsilano (duplexes and lowrises and a long beach trail), AND Surrey (better suburbs than we have with a dense satellite downtown, and more comprehensive transit throught the suburbs). The first two are both good urbanist areas, even though one is highrise and the other is duplex/missing-middle housing and single-family houses. The third, Surrey, gets some things right at least. Surrey also has new and under-construction BRT lines in exclusive center lanes.
The key to urbanism is walkability and a diversity of residential and non-residential destinations so you can meet most of your needs on foot or with a short, frequent transit ride. That’s only partly related to density and open space. A wide variety of neighborhood designs can be successfully urbanist. Some of them you might even approve of and want to live in. If you don’t insist on a quarter-acre yard, two-car garage, and absolutely nothing but similar houses within a half-mile.
There’s a lot of things in between the very low density house-only model in Mercer Island, southeast Bellevue, and much of northeast Seattle, vs Hong Kong or East Berlin or Moscow or Cabrini Green huge highrise housing projects one after the other for miles.
Of course, good cities need parks and open space. Nobody is disputing this. The issue is whether a golf course is the best use of land immediately adjacent to a light rail station. It may technically be parkland, but it’s not very useful ether ecologically or recreationally, except for golfers. I think there’s a good case to made for keeping the area as a parking, but converting it to walking trails. But, there is also a case to made for converting at least the corner of the property next to the station into housing and replacing the open space with a new park elsewhere. I’m not going to argue as to which of these two approaches is best, but I think both alternatives are at least worth studying, along with the “no-build” option of just keeping Jackson Park as a golf course, forever.
Should also be noted that lots of open space every year gets paved over with concrete to support oversized parking requirements. To say it’s ok to replace open space with parking lots, but not with housing, is not consistent.
I’d be all for a ban on converting open space to automobile parking lots.
The NIMBYs aren’t just against converting open space to dense housing, they’re against converting anything to dense housing. Notice that next to Children’s Hospital (which the NIMBYs are also against), they aren’t against converting parkland to housing. They’re just against converting the parkland to *dense* housing, or more Children’s Hospital. Those mansions planned to be built on former parkland are the worst possible outcome of the NIMBY process.
Asdf2, open space and park land are zoning designations, with open space being the most restrictive. I doubt open space has been converted — rezoned — to commercial to construct a surface parking lot. That would be a very contentious council meeting for any city.
You also won’t find a surface parking lot in the residential zone because the lot coverage limits (previous/impervious surface ratios) would restrict the footprint of the parking lot.
The only zone you will find a surface parking lot is in the commercial zone, and those are being redeveloped into buildings, with as tisgwm notes varying amounts of onsite replacement underground parking.
The only development I am aware of that rezoned open space was Link, specifically East Link. Thousands of trees were removed from the green belt. ST promised the trees would be replanted and eventually conceal East Link, but ST poured so many concrete pads for construction staging, access vehicles, ST parking, and so ST’s promise was once again hollow and the green belt now resembles a parking lot.
I’m not promoting converting the golf course to anything. The people that golf typically have such an outsize voice relative to everyone else I figure that’s a lost cause.
What I am promoting is putting the parking structure under the golf course, so that two global warming uses of land (grass and parking) could be combined. There’s nothing particularly deep about golf course grass that prevents parking under it.
This would at least allow the parking structure above ground to be replaced with something more useful.
How did northeast Seattle (Magnuson Park, Hawthorne Hills, UW’s Rainier Vista, etc) end up without many trees. I assumed it had been more like a prairie or meadow than other parts of Seattle. But if all of Seattle was originally thick forest like Seward Park, then there must have been massive clearcutting in northeast Seattle. Did the navy cut down the forest in Magnuson Park? Or was it already gone? Or was there never a forest there in the first place? If it was cut down earlier, who did it and when?
My understanding is that NE Seattle was a lot of truck farms initially.
Most of Magnuson Park was under water until the Montlake Cut was cut and the locks were built. That dropped the lake level about 17′. The Burke Gilman trail follows the original shoreline.
The boosters who worked so hard to build a naval air station may have sowed the seeds for the facility’s demise by placing it so close to Seattle. The city continued to extend its boundaries beyond what were once farms accessible only by rail and muddy ruts.
Yup. The lowering of the lake and the clearing for the first airfield, and then the further development with the naval air station, totally transformed the natural environment and ecosystem at Sand Point.
I’m pretty sure almost all of Seattle has been logged. Schmitz park and Seward Park both have remnants of old growth, but that’s about it. Most of the big trees you see in parks like Discovery or Woodland are second growth (although they are well on their way to becoming a mature forest). You can often see some of the huge cedar stumps that were cut when walking around a park or green belt.
I don’t know much about the history of Magnuson Park, but a lot of the big open areas in Discovery Park were the result of the military. For example, there is a big field along the loop trail on the southwest corner. This used to be a baseball field (while the surrounding areas regrew their trees). My guess is that a lot of Magnuson Park was former swamp, and a lot of it didn’t have trees because of the military.
It is no longer the Northgate Mall but now it is Northgate Station as the owner has renamed it and the link below from Simon what it will be like in the future.
But, if we go by the logic why the University St Station name must be changed, we’ll see a lot of confused people wandering around the Link station, wondering where the stores are, and we’ll see a lot of people wandering around the mall, wondering where the train is, correct?
Should the Kent Station shopping center be renamed too? What about The Station at Othello Park apartments?
In any case, the train station is across the street from the mall named after it, so if people walk all the way around the mall they’ll see it. From University Street Station you can’t see UW unless you go up one of the highrises and look through a telescope. (Well, you probably wouldn’t need a telescope; I just put that in for dramatic effect.) And if you wanted to get to UW you’d have to get on the train again for three more miles. So it’s not at all like the situation with Northgate Station mall.
Do you want something even more ironic? University Street Station is as far from UW Station as UW Station is from Northgate Station (the train station). Northgate Station mall is closer to its eponymous train station than UW Station is to some of its transfer bus stops.
This is the future for Malls. The addition of public spaces was one of the keys to Crossroads Mall remaining profitable. More activities help draw people; rock climbing at Crossroads, ice skating/hockey at Northgate. The addition of a health care provider is one of those things that never goes out of style and creates employment besides just retail sales. Totem Lake added a lot of office space. Totem Lk & Northgate have replaced the traditional Dept Store anchor with hotels. Crossroads hasn’t added housing, yet, but a lot of development has happened around it.
This is what I see Tacoma Mall evolving into. It will be 10-20 years before this level of development makes sense which will be about the time a decision needs to be made regarding a southern Link expansion.
I’ve only been to Totem Lake a few times. I remember the smallish mall and the large medical/apartments cluster around Evergreen Hospital, which I think is east of the redevelopment area. What’s the best way to see this new development and to understand its extend and future scope? Which bus stop would you go to, and what would you look for where? How would I distinguish between things that went in since 2014 (when ST3 planning started) vs things that were already there? I see the Evergreen medical/apartments cluster and think it was already there. I remember a smallish mall, and across the freeway some apartments around Kingsgate P&R.
Mike, there are some routes get your closer than others. Riders arriving by ST Express buses will have about a 10+ minute walk from the freeway station. Certain Metro routes, like the 255, are maybe a 5 minute walk from the Totem Lake TC. And, the 225 and 239 gets you right in front, but they’re half hourly service.
If I were you, I’d wait to go. The entire place looks like it’s only about half finished. A Tom Douglas Serious Pie will open in the Spring of 2022. I’ve driven there twice now, to go to Chipotle and Whole Foods. The parking lots are a mess. They are crowded and maze-like. Not a great pedestrian experience. Seems built for cars.
I haven’t been to Totem Lake for about two years. At that time Phase II, redevelopment of the upper mall was in full swing. From the permit application:
46,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant uses (less service areas)
41,000 sq. ft. movie theater
650 residential units
1,387 parking stalls within a parking garage and 17 street parking stalls
The lower mall has a sea of parking on the west, freeway side. Originally there was a sea of parking on both sides separating the stores in the upper mall (which wasn’t a mall but strip development). Phase II is the pedestrian friendly part. There’s some nice renderings and photos here
Kirkland’s Totem Lake Connector is scheduled to open in July 2022. Then you’ll be able to start at Wilburton Station and walk all the way to Woodinville. Kirkland continues to make improvements to the actual Totem Lake (more of a wetland) and it looks like they’ve purchased the parcel the old Totem Lake Hotel is on to use as the main park access.
Malls have become stratified (like so much of the economy). Most are dying (or are dead). But a relatively small number are thriving, and can invest in amenities to keep it attractive. Location has a lot to do with it. U-Village is a traditional mall, and while it has a nice playground, is not that different than what you would expect to see fifty years ago in an outdoor mall. It is thriving because Seattle is thriving.
In contrast, when they’re done, the Northgate “mall” will look radically different. This doesn’t look much like a mall: https://www.gglo.com/project/northgate-mall-redevelopment/. The only thing that differentiates it from everything around there is that the owners have a huge amount of land to play around with. For example, they can decide what 3rd avenue looks like or whether it exists at all (right now it doesn’t through there).
I have a friend who used to live on the other side of the freeway from the mall. If memory serves, the area was essentially taken down to the studs. There are probably a few restaurants that are still around, but not much is left from the old mall. So if you visited, you shouldn’t have any trouble telling the difference.
I like Bernie’s idea of visiting by bike. The CKC is a nice biking path, and that bridge will be a big improvement.
If we must cover Jackson Park with a large apartment complex because there will be a light rail station next to it, will we also have to cover Woodland and Green Lake parks with housing when someday there is a light rail station next to them?
re Urbanist and NE 130th Street station. The land use vision will take many years. the debate over the Jackson golf course will be messy. In the short term, Seattle will have to address the right of way constraint. It will not be able to provide both transit and bicycles priority on North and NE 130th Street. Both modes need to at the curb. The major short term advantage of the station will be provided by a short headway and wait bus route connecting both Lake City and Bitterlake with the Link station.
Agreed. In this case, buses should be the priority. Just as Eastlake was more important as a bike corridor, this corridor is more important as a bus corridor. As I wrote on the Urbanist, I would make a few bike improvements:
1) Turn 128th into a good bike path from the Interurban Trail to Northacres Park. A pedestrian/bike crossing would be created for Aurora (with a beg button). The pavement needs to be cleaned up and widened to create a walking/biking path in the Haller Lake neighborhood. Otherwise this is reasonably flat.
2) Similarly improve 1st, from 128th to 130th.
3) Improve and widen the sidewalks on 130th, from 1st Avenue to the bridge. An alternate approach would be to add a crossing on 3rd, and work only from there. Bikes from 128th would go through the park and cross at 3rd (where a crosswalk and light would have to be added).
4) Widen the pedestrian bridge on the north side. This would probably be a second bridge adjacent to the existing one.
5) Improve Roosevelt Way north of 130th.
6) Improve 1st north of 130th (to connect to Roosevelt).
7) Build a bike path under the train, from at least 117th to the station ( believe this is the works). From 117th to Northgate Way bikers will use 3rd.
8) Improve 117th. It is a greenway, but there is little in the way of bike paths. Eventually they are going to fix the 117th/Pinehurst/15th intersection*. This will allow bikes and pedestrians to go straight across on 117th, but not cars.
9) Improve the route from the northeast to the station (that skirts the golf course).
All of these are mentioned in the plans: https://www.seattle.gov/opcd/ongoing-initiatives/ne-130th-145th-multimodal-access-plan. The big challenge is getting the money, and making sure that bus travel on the main corridor is prioritized. That may mean additional bus lanes, although it isn’t clear how much is necessary.
So, SDOT has this set of concepts? Roosevelt Way NE has open swales north of NE 130th Street, so ROW will be tight without SPU help. I have biked on 117th Street many times; it works for those comfortable in traffic; it is not an eight-to-eighty arterial. It leads to Northgate school.
All of the ideas I listed are on SDOT’s plan. Priorities are a different matter. On the map (http://wwwqa.seattle.gov/Images/Departments/OPCD/OngoingInitiatives/NE130th145thMultimodalPlan/20200821_multimodal_mastermap.jpg) it shows some lines as thick, and some thin, which I can only guess reflects priority. I’m fine with their choices. The more I think about it, the less important I think Roosevelt is (north of 130th). Diagonal streets are problematic. It makes more sense to prioritize an east-west and a north-south line. Corliss is fine for north-south, and one of the other options (7, 7A, 7B) is better than Roosevelt (6).
Crossing Pinehurst Way and 15th on 117th is not horrible, but isn’t good either. I avoid it whenever possible. Reworking that intersection will make things a lot better, especially for kids trying to get to Hazel Wolf (the new name for Northgate school). I don’t think crossing there is legal, let alone safe. A crosswalk at 5th would also be nice, as people drive too fast there (or at least they did). A young woman was killed there not too long ago. There are also plans for extending the sidewalks from the school to Roosevelt (they recently added sidewalks north from the school to Pinehurst Park along 12th). They also added speed bumps along 117th, so now there are speed bumps on 117th from 5th to Pinehurst Way.
It costs some money, but I’ve wondered if they should build a transit plaza as a lid over I-5. It doesn’t have to be wide. It would resolve some of the site land constraints involved when building access. It would also shorten the walking distance from areas north of 130th and west of I-5.
There are two Page 2 articles in the last week if anyone hasn’t noticed.
I usually check Page 2 every day, but when weeks goes by without an article I check it less often, assuming there still won’t be anything. We may need a better way to indicate “there’s a new article on Page 2” so that people don’t have to check it every day or miss it.
The plans for apartment development in Jackson Park are ridiculous. They are more than a distraction, but are counter-productive to their goals. In that sense, it is reminiscent of the crazy Seattle Subway plans that have hundreds of miles of rail in the region.
When people focus on Seattle Subway plans, they dismiss the very important decisions that will determine our transit future forever. It is easy to accept poor station placement if you feel like another rail line is just around the corner. Likewise, you ignore bus improvements because you feel they are second rate. Worse yet, every little pushback or compromise with buses are cynically accepted, as it can’t possibly be effective as the trains that I saw once on a really cool website.
The same is true with housing proposed in Jackson Park. To begin with, it ignores the fact that the big problem with that park is that it isn’t a real park. It is a golf course, and only allows access to golfers. Golf is a dying sport, and is space intensive. It doesn’t make sense to set aside a huge amount of land in an urban area for an activity that benefits only a handful. Like Blyth Park in Bothell, it should become a general purpose park. It would be the nicest park in that part of town, and be accessible to a huge (and growing) number of people. I would probably keep the driving range, add a playground (or two) and call it a day.
If they did add housing, it would mean repealing a law passed a while ago. That in itself would be controversial, and urbanists would face opposition not from NIMBYs, but from people who just like parks. If they built at the level proposed by the Urbanist, it would be a giant bate and switch. After years of fighting for a park, you would be told that most of it would be used for housing (with plenty of roads cut through the middle of the park). It wouldn’t happen, and urbanism would be given a bad name. At most I could see a tiny sliver of public housing (closest to the station) but that is about it.
But there is another problem with this type of thinking. It suggests that the way to handle the housing crisis is with big projects. It is a perpetuation of the “Grand Bargain” (coined here: https://viewpointvancouver.ca/2019/10/17/the-grand-bargain-illustrated/) whereby most neighborhoods stay the same, but we develop the hell out of tiny pockets. It doesn’t allow the city to grow organically, in ways that people actually like. Instead of living in a neighborhood with a mix of housing styles and retail scattered here and there, everything is segregated. High quality old houses — some borderline historical — are torn down because they are inside the lines. Fallen down dumps with huge lots are replaced by McMansions because they are just outside it. Housing prices remain high, while any sense of neighborhood character is destroyed. Sometimes by new multi-family development, but often by the lack of it. Row houses or small apartments in Pinehurst are far more in keeping with the neighborhood than giant houses, but the city won’t let them build those (on most of the land). The approach leads to boring, homogeneous design — ignoring the fact that people routinely call places like this extremely attractive: https://goo.gl/maps/U8PFsX5v62yXXyMQ8. Despite being in the middle of a single family neighborhood, the apartment in that picture doesn’t destroy the character of the neighborhood. It enhances it.
This mindset — that apartments, row houses and multi-plexes should be completely separate from “regular houses” also leads to segregating little shops and restaurants that add character. I recently had lunch here: https://goo.gl/maps/oLBqhbKtEowKEwLm8. That picture is out of date. They added an outdoor seating area on the other side of the sidewalk. We sat right next to the street, and had a pleasant, quiet lunch. That’s because it is a quiet, residential street, with very few cars. This is rare in Seattle, as it has pushed all retail to busy streets.
The segregated approach towards housing (which goes back to when it was racially segregated) needs to be rejected. We need to stop focusing on the big towers that get those so-called urbanists excited. We need to embrace the movement that has spread from Minneapolis to Denver to Portland. It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot better than paving a park to put up housing, or expanding the tiny circles we call “villages”. Not only that, but it will be better. Housing will cheaper, neighborhoods will look more attractive, and transit outcomes will be better.
Jefferson Park is an example of what Jackson Park could be. It has a golf course, driving range, children’s play area, sports fields, general-purpose meadow, and public food garden. That would fulfill RossB’s goal of a more widely-useful park.
Link should never have been on the freeway with two stations that have a quarter of their walksheds lost to a golf course. But since it is there, and more housing within walking distance of Link stations is a critical concern, and housing is the region’s most critical issue, and a golf course is an especially poor use of station-area land, it’s worth at least considering putting housing there. Renovating the park for more diverse park uses is also worth considering.
Nothing in the Jackson Park article advocated for limiting growth to the station area, and it is focused on midrise, not towers – your points here are straw men.
You are right, the entire city needs to allow for development. But within walking distance of expensive, frequent, grade separated transit, more intensive development is needed. These are not mutually exclusive.
Hey this was a great roundup, thanks for helping to keep me in the loop!
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