79 Replies to “News roundup: fares”

  1. Free fares on all agencies (except WSF) this Sat and Sun due to ORCA 2.0 integration.

    1. The news report I heard said WSF walk on passengers would be fare free. Of course one direction is always fare free. Any word on SnoCo transit?

    2. Is it fair to assume that if I do have to drive onto a ferry this weekend, I won’t be able to pay with my Orca?

    3. Fares are already free on Link. There is no enforcement and it’s now policy essentially not to have enforcement since it’s a racial issue.

      1. Well, enforcement should be in the form of outreach-based education toward fare-evaders and those who are new to ST and other transit modes. Rather than excessively worrying about an issue (racial biasing) that seldom occurs, transit agencies in the region must work towards enforcement programs that do work through education and individual responsibility (the rider fails to pay for the ride and everyone pays the price, including the agency form a fiscal standpoint).

    1. A fixed bridge was always a bad idea. But yeah, Ballard to UW was always going to be the better project.

    2. As a transit rider, I’m exited because maybe this will force ST to choose a tunnel and reconsider more options. As a regular human who knows nothing of the maritime industry, why TF do we need superyachts in Ballard??

      1. Or more generally, why does Seattle “need” a maritime industry?

        The ship canal should look like the Chicago river, with drawbridges for the occasional barge or boat moving on nights/weekends, but otherwise the arterial street grid continues uninterrupted and the Fremont neighborhood spills all along Nickerson.

  2. I couldn’t quite tell from the Urbanist article on the new ORCA system. We have cards from a few years ago, and will be traveling up from Portland in late May. Do I need to register my existing cards for them to work when we get to Seattle?

    1. Existing cards will continue to work at readers and TVMs. The only place existing cards won’t work is adding to e-purse at retailers. You may want to re-register it anyway at the new myorca.com (hmm, Mallorca?), so that if you lose the card you won’t lose access to any e-purse balance remaining on it.

  3. Good article on why (new) condos in Seattle are so expensive, despite being in an urban core and being multi-unit housing. One issue I have tried to raise about this issue is how important financing and builder profit/risk are. Buy low sell high, unless apparently you are a large REIT and don’t want a lot of profit up front.

    1. Meh, my understanding was the law that was passed to fix the EFiNS fiasco— beautiful SW tile that, unless installed perfectly, retained water, causing huge condo lawsuits and losses and damages to condo owners in the 80s and 90s.

      1. I think you’re referring to Exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS, a.k.a Dryvit). This is a synthetic stucco and there were two issues. First contractors failed to provide the required airspace for drainage between the foam and the structural wall. Second was California designs with no or worthlessly small overhangs. Window installers created more problems when doing retro fits. Done right it’s an excellent product.

        Another big issue was improperly installed siding. Vinyl siding just doesn’t last and it goes to hell even faster if not installed correctly. Then there was the fiasco with LP siding de-laminating (design failure) and Hardie Board which is a great product but needs to be installed and maintained correctly.

        Builders are responsible for screw ups on single family homes but good luck going after them. Pretty much all the small builders form an LLC that they replace with a new LLC every few years to avoid responsibility.

        The way to get lower cost condos is what happened on the eastside. 20+ year old cheap apartments got a new coat of paint, engineered floors and granite counters and were sold as condos. New apartments can be built with far less risk. The other downside of condos is condominium owners associations. Some are good and some are a nightmare. Sometimes all it takes is one owner to muck up the works.

  4. Is anyone aware of transit blogs like STB but in other cities.. and consistently active?

    1. The only other one I’m aware of is Second Avenue Sagas (https://secondavenuesagas.com/), which is not as active as it used to be.

      Most of the activity seems to have migrated to Twitter, unfortunately. I try to stay off Twitter these days… it’s too addictive and rage-inducing.

  5. Re: Jarret’s comment on the NY Times article, if your chance of being a victim of crime goes up that is a big deal in an enclosed space like a subway station or line, especially if there are fewer riders. I am really surprised Jarrett would not understand that. What riders understand but apparently Jarrett does not is all he is arguing is the number of potential victims on a train or bus has gone down as the discretionary rider has left, so your chances of being the victim have gone up. Some comfort.

    The real take away for any transit system is the decline of the discretionary rider has removed the “eyes on the train” sense of safety. For example, before the pandemic legal staff — especially female staff — felt safe taking Link to and from downtown Seattle stations during peak hours (but not buses) because of the volume of (normal/safe) peak riders. However, if asked to work past 6 pm it was standard practice to get them an Uber to where they lived and walk them to the Uber, which could be Issaquah, but the cost of the project was much greater than an Uber fare the client would end up paying.

    Heightened awareness of crime on transit is exacerbated by a heightened awareness of crime everywhere in large cities today as crime spikes.

    Some like asdf2 and Mike pooh pooh it when I state safety is numbers one, two and three when it comes to transit ridership, but the point is safety is a deal breaker. It doesn’t matter how good frequency is, or how cheap fares are, or whether there is no transfer, or transit stops at your door and the doorstep of your destination, if it isn’t 100% safe no one is taking it. Any transit advocate should understand public transit already begins with a perception of being unsafe (just watch a Death Wish movie), so any crime reinforces that perception. You couldn’t get my wife on a bus — to Bellevue Square — if her life depended on it (which of course with her car or Uber it does not). Same reason she won’t park underground, even in Lincoln Square. Which is why there is $500 million worth of surface parking next to Bellevue Mall, and East Link runs along 112th.

    Transit is like stepping into a cage, often underground. ST makes matters worse by having stations that are not restricted to riders.

    I personally think there is a lot of mansplaining on this blog about safety, both on transit and on Seattle’s streets. Covid, the deteriorating situation in downtown Seattle, rising crime rates, and the employee shortage, have greatly expanded the percentage of “discretionary” transit riders by including most women work commuters as discretionary now. Being a woman is a much more dangerous thing on a city or dark street, or in an underground station, and women have acute sensitivity to the surrounding riders, people on the street, and just atmosphere on a train or bus, and whether it is clean and sanitary.

    The protest over working in the downtown county courthouse proved that. These employees are telling their employers and prospective employers they won’t commute on public transit to certain areas. At that point the employer can opt for WFH, a private shuttle, subsidized parking if in office work is required, the 630, open an office where they will take transit to, or lose that employee to some other employer.

    Jarrett can mansplain stupidly that the number of total crimes on an enclosed space like transit are down because total riders are way down but the actual chance you will be a victim of crime on a bus or train is UP, but don’t then bitch and moan that people and workers have left transit and found alternative forms of transportation, employers accommodate those desires, and farebox recovery (for systems unlike ST that actually enforce fares) plummets, along with any kind of public support for levies, especially for a system like NY’s that like every other system that old has neglected capital maintenance for decades so the train cars and stations look dangerous and decrepit to begin with.

    Jarrett’s comment is pretty stupid and naive, for someone heralded as a transit visionary. He still thinks people need transit, or transit does not need the discretionary rider, when there are so many other alternatives that are safer, and faster today, more convenient, and in most areas around the country the same cost because you already own a car or the employer is subsidizing the cost.

    1. Yeah, if there are half as many riders, and the same number of muggings, then a rider is twice as likely to be mugged.

      It’s really unhelpful that a lot of transit advocates (and urbanists generally) are in denial about this stuff. It’s a consequence of the urbanist community being disproportionately populated by young men with their exaggerated risk tolerance and acquiescence in what they see as exciting and edgy urban experiences.

      Normies don’t see the world like that. They just see a transit system and downtown becoming more dangerous and political leaders making excuses not to do anything about it.

    2. “your chance of being a victim of crime goes up that is a big deal in an enclosed space like a subway station or line, especially if there are fewer riders. I am really surprised Jarrett would not understand that.”

      That’s what he said. “low ridership makes passengers more vulnerable because they are more likely to be alone.” He goes on to say, “A more crowded vehicle is safer (both absolutely and per passenger) because there are more potential witnesses, which tends to deter crime.” So as ridership recovers after the pandemic, the problem will solve itself. After every previous recession or restructure, it also took months or years for ridership to restabilize.

      You didn’t address Jarrett’s main point: that the Times is potentially worsening the problem they’re describing; i.e., scaremongering. Both can be true at the same time, that some riders worry a lot about safety, that per-capita crime is higher when ridership dips and buses/trains are unusually empty, AND that people reading the Times article will think the risk is worse than it is. Some people have a tendency to believe the worst and accept the worst spin, especially the portion of suburbanites you’re subscribing.

      As I always say, the media reports on the one person who was assaulted today, not the 699,999 who weren’t. This makes people think all 700,000 people are at high risk, but they’re not.

      1. “You didn’t address Jarrett’s main point: that the Times is potentially worsening the problem they’re describing; i.e., scaremongering. Both can be true at the same time, that some riders worry a lot about safety, that per-capita crime is higher when ridership dips and buses/trains are unusually empty, AND that people reading the Times article will think the risk is worse than it is. Some people have a tendency to believe the worst and accept the worst spin, especially the portion of suburbanites you’re subscribing.”

        Although some might characterize Jarrett’s claim of “scaremongering” as sticking your head in the sand, especially violent crime in an enclosed cage like transit or underground transit stations (because there are not enough non-violent folks riding to apparently protect the others as though that is the riders’ responsibility) I don’t see the concern about the article. It isn’t the Times article that is the cause: the Times’ article simply reports what its army of journalists are hearing, seeing, and living as they ride transit. That is what reporters do. Crime and personal safety always elicit heightened responses. Being raped or robbed once is once too many times.

        What is the problem if people overreact to protect their safety? They do it every day in almost every decision they make, from the food they eat to exercise to wearing a mask to taking a statin. There is also the chance the Times’ article will convince people with alternatives to not ride transit and keep them from harm. There are lots of very good alternatives to transit today. If transit insists on offering an environment that is perceived as unsafe then it should fail.

        I think the actual intended readers of the Times’ article are NY’s police and transit departments, and city council who have let this situation devolve due to politics. But riders were already making this decision way before the Times’ article. It is never a wise decision to stick one’s head in the sand and deny reality. The dramatic drop in ridership would encourage most CEO’s to wonder why, without a front page article in the NY Times. One would hope a front page article in the Seattle Times would clarify that, but if Jarrett doesn’t get it probably most transit advocates won’t either.

        The important thing is the market will always find alternatives, and so will customers, and there are so many alternatives to public transit that are so much safer, and convenient anyway. Perhaps the real issue now is whether to start reallocating funding for public transit to these better private modes. The region could buy a lot of Uber rides for $138 billion, and riders wouldn’t have to worry about stepping in excrement or being assaulted or robbed.

      2. And that completely ignores all the cardiovascular and mental health impacts that takes a massive toll, as you sit inside your mobile barca-lounger and getting fat and sad.

      3. “The important thing is the market will always find alternatives, and so will customers, and there are so many alternatives to public transit …”

        Are you serious?
        You understand a “Market” transportation solution would be to have privately owned and operated roads.
        Then the providers would set the price of access to their facility to be the most profitable/efficient.

        Oh, wait… taxes for roads are “User Fees”… that’s the advertising trope.

        I pay a “user fee” for highway expansion for roads that I rarely use, and whose perceived congestion takes money from my pocket to subsidize someone else’s desire for an unfettered commute (i.e. highway expansion).

        I like the idea of a gas tax… for Maintenance Only. That way all the potholes in my little villa could be repaired.

        Go to the library, read the documents from your city, look up specific road projects and see where the funding comes from.

      4. DT, I have stated before and will do so again that I feel you are doing the mansplaining you accuse others of. As soon as I was cleared to walk to the bus stop, still with a broken arm, I used the busses and light rail. I have never felt unsafe. I use it to go to and from PT all the time right now. I don’t want to declare myself as having “STB’s token non-male” status, but I really do believe you are out of touch with how women really feel about mass transit in this region.

      5. My sister-in-law uses transit (doesn’t drive) and lives on MLK. She’s pretty savvy on how to act and what not to do/wear (and finds Link as worse than useless). My wife OTOH would never consider riding transit. They grew up in the same household (eastside circa 1960s) but have a totally different life experience. The point being, Metro & ST are losing a huge demographic that doesn’t live the “street experience”. OK, you’re good with that… how do you fund it?

    3. Classic Case of JDS

      If you read to the last paragraph, you will see his ‘editorial’ on the problem.
      “In this situation, the NYTimes decision to lead with the fear and bury the math is worsening the problem it claims to describe. The effect of the article is to scare people away from transit, so that ridership stays low, so that crime/rider stays high, so that they can do more articles about how scary public transit is.”

      “Normies” Dan?

      I’m actually in agreement with the idea that there is a male-centric bias. I have two daughters who worked downtown. I’ve worked downtown, and the worst problem that my female coworkers have had is that regardless of race, or station in life, MEN feel they are superior. It’s always about the macho.

      However neither daughter fell victim to the fear mongering, they just realized that they need to have good situational awareness.

      Unless one thinks they should stay home… where they belong, right?

    4. There’s a story on KOMO’s website about a Rainier Ave convenience store owner who has decided to close her business after the store’s latest smash-and-grab. Maybe someone should show her some statistics that crime isn’t as bad as she thinks.

      1. It’s not about the owner of that business. It’s about everyone around her who might see that article and think every store on Rainier Ave is being robbed every day, or if they go into one of those stores they’re likely to be robbed. Especially, people in the Eastside who have little knowledge of Rainier Valley and imagine things are worse than they are. That woman knows her store was robbed so she doesn’t need KOMO to tell her that. There are dozens of other stores in Rainier Valley that didn’t close and maybe weren’t robbed as much. And your picking that particular article out of the dozens on KOMO’s website is also a kind of sensationalism.

      2. Mike, we are saying the same thing. I’m saying that this convenience store owner, who is going to close her business because of it being repeatedly broken into, needs to be shown some statistics that crime isn’t as bad as she thinks. Then, after seeing the statistics, maybe she won’t close her store.

    5. Same reason she won’t park underground, even in Lincoln Square. Which is why there is $500 million worth of surface parking next to Bellevue Mall

      Wow, your wife is one powerful woman! Whole schools of urban design seem to be based on her insights and wishes.

      How often does Kemper have her in for a consultation?

      1. “Same reason she won’t park underground, even in Lincoln Square. Which is why there is $500 million worth of surface parking next to Bellevue Mall

        “Wow, your wife is one powerful woman! Whole schools of urban design seem to be based on her insights and wishes.

        “How often does Kemper have her in for a consultation?”

        Ah TT, once again you miss the entire point while trying desperately to be snarky in the wee hours of the morning.

        It isn’t my wife individually, it is women collectively, because women buy almost all the stuff in the U.S., often because they are shopping for 2-4-6 people when you count in the husband and kids. Facebook’s and Amazon’s advertising algorithms are built for this demographic. You and I are what advertisers derisively refer to as the “senior golf demographic”: old men who buy nothing. (I don’t think there is a sub-demographic for “senior golf demographic who ride transit”).

        You also miss the entire point about Freeman’s lament about dedicating $500 million worth of real estate to surface parking. He would obviously prefer to develop those surface parking lots, and may some day. But his customers demand it, and he has made it clear many, many times he doesn’t care what men think, because men collectively don’t buy anything.

        Why would Freeman care what some poor “urban planner” thinks when his favored customer has made him a billionaire? He knows my wife, even if asked, would not consult with him because she figures that is his job to figure out what she wants.

        Why do you think Amazon decided to move its new offices to Bellevue Way? Freeman certainly doesn’t care about you, because East Link will run along 112th. Do you think Freeman looks at downtown Seattle retail and thinks YES, I want some of that urban planning? Who designed that urban plan that repels women shoppers?

      2. For many people, the perception of safe means the removal of people who don’t look like them, have a different skin color, and are in a lower income class. Whitewashing transit isn’t a solution either.

        There’s no point in even bothering to try to cater to riders who would rather drive or take an Uber. If they can afford it, great. We’re talking about privilege here.

        The reality of Kemper’s mall is that it depends on hundreds of hourly wage workers to function. Bellevue is rapidly becoming unaffordable. The traffic on 405 is only going to get worse. Gas prices are not going back to $3/gallon. There are plenty of options for hourly work. Will there be enough hourly workers to keep the mall functioning? And to drive everyone around in an Uber?

        Most US cities solve this problem by restricting new and dense development as much as possible + adding more lanes to their roads and highways. Is that the future for the east side?

      3. Transit needs to serve everybody’s needs, not just one mall owner’s. Kemper Freeman and his customers are a small fraction of the population.

      4. “Transit needs to serve everybody’s needs, not just one mall owner’s. Kemper Freeman and his customers are a small fraction of the population.”

        What you really mean is transit needs to serve the needs of those who must use transit, although I don’t know those needs, and imagine they vary. The other 90% to 95% don’t need transit because they don’t use it, and the way transit is going I doubt you will ever switch them to transit. Transit treats them like slaves; Freeman treats them like customers.

        You are correct: Freeman and the rest of the businesses and office buildings along Bellevue Way — the gold coast — determined they did not need Link transit riders. It cuts both ways. I think the transit riders who got shunted to 112th got the short end of the deal. Freeman’s customers will never even notice East Link runs along 112th.

      5. You know, your obsession with Link being on 112th is interesting. Link runs along 112th between the South Bellevue Station and the Main Street Station. But so what? It doesn’t stop so the people along Bellevue Way south of Main haven’t lost anything; they were never going to have a stop anyway.

        Yes, the South Main station would be better at Bellevue Way and South Main than at 112th and South Main, but that would have required at-grade median running in Bellevue Way or a subway, and neither was going to happen. The subway was deemed too expensive, though with the East King Subarea as rich as God, it could have been afforded, right? And once it became clear that Spring/Overlake/Redmond was going to boom, a mile and a half of 35 in the middle of the trip was not acceptable.

        The point is that the MAIN Bellevue station is at 110th and NE 6th, right in the heart of the office center. Yes, it ideally would be at 108th, but I guess that was too much of a “wiggle” for ST to accept.

        But it’s not like some sort of sinful transgression was committed by “Urbanists” that set the Bellevue City Council all aflame against Link. It was a simple decision: at-grade was too slow and “streetcarish” and Belleveue didn’t want to pay for a tunnel.

      6. Tom, Bellevue blocks are looooong, and it is uphill to Bellevue Way. I am sure there is blame to go around, but it was a big mistake to not put East Link underground, along probably 102nd or 104th if disruption to Bellevue Way was too great. The subarea had the money, although maybe ST didn’t understand that, and I think there was an anti-transit bias among some Bellevue business and property owners. I doubt any are weeping that East Link runs along 112th/110th. I live on MI and can walk to an East Link station, but not if it doesn’t access Bellevue Way and Old Main Street (which is why a shuttle is likely in the future).

        For example if Link was run along Western Ave. I could say that is only a few blocks from 5th and 6th so what is the big deal. Or I could argue Link will result in Western becoming the commercial hub of Seattle. The Spring District will have housing and commercial, but probably anemic retail, which is why Link’s main station is at Westlake Station, the retail hub of Seattle. If there is one thing I agree with Ross on it is you run rail to where the folks are already going because of the cost, not where you hope they may go in the future.

        The irony is this is repeating itself in WSBLE. Downtown Seattle — and Ballard and West Seattle — want underground stations and tunnels, but don’t want to or can’t pay for them. The only difference is I don’t think the subarea has the funding for WSBLE, no matter what the design, but above ground in public rights of way is the most affordable, just like for East Link. My guess is if ST insisted on surface rail for WSBLE it would end up along the equivalent of 112th, so everyone loses.

      7. Daniel’s opining that East Main as an inferior choice is contrary to the facts of the current development proposal . The current proposal is to build 6 38-story buildings across the street!

        The details are here:

        There is no way that this would happen near Bellevue Way south of Main Street without open warfare by neighborhood groups. There is no way a developer could even assemble a site this large (15.5 acres).

        It may be dubious today, but if this development happens, no one will regret the decision to site the Main station along 112th.

      8. Thanks, Al. That looks like a very good anchor for South Main, and as you note would never have been allowed along Bellevue Way. So, great news that the line runs along 112th.

        Once Line opens, I expect that the blocks directly adjacent to the freeway north and south of NE 6th will fill up as well, making the main station still better. And eventually there will be some sort of horizontal conveyance along Sixth over to the Mall.

      9. “I live on MI and can walk to an East Link station, but not if it doesn’t access Bellevue Way and Old Main Street (which is why a shuttle is likely in the future).”

        Not from Mercer Island to Bellevue Way. The part between South Bellevue and Bellevue TC was always going to be backfilled, first by Metro, now in the latest proposal by the 554. Eventually RapidRide K may serve it.

  6. Link readers are ambiguous today. Normally when you tap in it says “PERMIT TO TRAVEL” and beeps once. If you tap again at the same station it says “CANCELLED TRIP” and the error beep. When you tap out it beeps twice and shows your actual payment and balance.

    Today when I tapped in at Capitol Hill it said “FARE PAID”, the amount was indecipherable characters that may have been X’s, and at the bottom was an unfamiliar message. When I tapped out at U-District it said the same thing. I went to the next reader and tapped twice, and both times it said “PERMIT TO TRAVEL” and three lines saying “null”, “null”, “null”, and it beeped once. So I have no idea whether it charged me once, four times, or zero times. Not that it matters since I have a pass.

    On the way back I didn’t bother tapping ,since I didn’t know whether I was tapped in or not, there was no way to definitively tap in anyway, the last message it had said was “PERMIT TO TRAVEL”, and I didn’t want to be charged a fifth time.

    Yesterday it was fine.

    Also, I saw one of the new readers. It was smaller than the existing ones but mounted in the same kind of stand. It was on but said out of order.

    1. My bus this morning only said ‘Permit to Travel’ after beeping red at me for three straight attempts. Normally it tells me the amount charged and amount remaining in my e-purse. So something is certainly amiss already..

    2. Today it said “PERMIT TO TRAVEL” both times, and on a bus it said “PERMIT TO TRAVEL” too. So it has lost touch with reality. The X’s and nulls were there too.

    3. The bus orca readers also seem to take 2-3 seconds longer per person which adds up at busy stops.

  7. The Trailhead Direct (https://trailheaddirect.org/) appears to be in the process of being updated; the main page is a 404 but there’s a feed on the right that references 2022 holiday schedule. In particular, Memorial Day is on the holiday schedule, which implies service starting by or possibly before Memorial Day. Hopefully there will be more information soon, but it’s a good sign given how much staffing trouble there has been lately.

    1. And it looks like Trailhead Direct is on for May 28! Unfortunately it’s only the Mt Si route due to staffing but hopefully it will keep the momentum going and we can get more routes next year.

      1. Are there any paths from the Mt Si trailhead without significant hills, or where the hills start further on?

        I still want to go to that plateau east of the East Sunset Way trailhead. I understand there’s a hill at the beginning but then it’s flat. I’ll either take the 208 to the closest stop or take the 554 from city hall and walk from there.

      2. Also on my mind is the Soos Creek Trail, which I’ve been to twice. I noticed some half-loops from the main trail to the creek and want to explore those. The part I’ve been on is from the entrance near KK Road & 150th Ave SE (bus 168), to the northern end at SE 192nd Street (bus 160 a mile west). But the trail also continues further south and I’m not sure how far it goes, so I may explore that too.

      3. We’ve done both Mt. Si and Tenneriffe Falls, and both involve quite a bit of elevation change. I think Little Si has steep parts at the beginning and end but the middle isn’t too bad, though we haven’t done it yet.

        I also would be pretty interested in better service to Tiger and Squak Mountains (and that the latter gets renamed soon…), more so than Mt. Si since both are much bigger parks and less crowded. As you’ve noted, the 554 gets close to both, and the 208 gets close to the north part of Tiger, but access to the south and east sides are lacking. I would be happy with a loop from Issaquah TC around both mountains, rather than starting in Seattle, which would save Metro quite a bit of money I would think.

        Thanks for the tip about the Soos Creek trail. I’ve been looking for walks/hikes to do in south King County but it’s hard to commit to 3-5 hours of transit when you don’t if something is going to be just over a berm from a freeway…

      4. There’s some great flat walking from the North Bend stop, Tollgate Farm is really pleasant, and the Snoqualmie Valley trail can get you safely from North Bend all the way to Rattlesnake heading east and to the Falls heading west (and all the way to Duvall with a bike or a looooong walk)

        If Trailhead direct serves Rattlesnake at some point, Iron Horse (opposite direction from the parking lot as the more eponymous Ledge) is an excellent flat walk. Also shows up as John Wayne trail on some maps.

        Skylar, you find Southern Lushootseed offensive (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squak_Mountain)?

      5. “I would be happy with a loop from Issaquah TC”

        I suspect that when East Link opens, Trailhead Direct will terminate at South Bellevue, Mercer Island, or Bellevue Downtown. Issaquah TC is probably less likely because it would be a three-seat ride for most people, and the Issaquah TC is in the middle of nowhere. Issaquah Highlands P&R would have better and faster transit access than Issaquah Transit Center, so that might be more likely as a termination point. If there’s a timed transfer to another route to Link, then a three-seat ride would be less of an issue.

    2. AJ, I do find it a bit uncomfortable to use, but the bigger problem is that there’s a long racist history of white people like me using it against Native people (see https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/nation/proposal-to-nix-derogatory-term-targets-hundreds-of-us-sites/ for a decent primer). If it was just me finding it uncomfortable it would be one thing, but Native Americans (including the Interior Secretary) also find it derogatory. I definitely get that someone who is Native can use it without those connotations, but there are plenty of other words whose acceptability depends on the context and background of the speaker/writer.

  8. Seattle is expensive due to many factors, Frank. Although I sometimes visited this great city that, nonetheless, deserves a second look despite its many issues.
    I recently gave a second look at the longtime idea of zero-fare transit. While it might have many negative outcomes should KCM implement such a policy, the best alternatives would be 1. A drastic fare reduction across KCM’s bus lines 2. Option for credit/debit card payments. As for housing expansiveness in a city like Seatle, Frank, I believe zoning issues are driving the costs up (little or no supply and fired-up demand, folks).
    Insightful blog, Frank.

    1. Seattle’s population increased until the mid 1960s, when it suddenly went down due to the popularity of the suburbs, federal subsidies to the suburbs, redlining in inner-city areas, and white flight to avoid desegregation school busing in Seattle. And then the recession in the early 1970s that affected the entire metro area. Seattle’s population started increasing again in the late 70s, but it didn’t reach its previous peak until 2000. I started living on my own in 1985, and Seattle housing was easily affordable for the rest of the 80s and 90s and into the 2000s.

      Prices started rising around 2003, and 5% annual rent increases became common. That was the norm until the 2008 crash. Then for two years years there were tons of vacancies and sales, and rents either stayed the same or went down.

      In 2012 the Amazon boom was in full swing, and prices started rising faster than they ever had before — or at least faster than the previous five decades. 10% annual rent increases became common — twice the 2010s record. Run-down apartments that had remained $600 all the way to 2012 suddenly jumped to $1000, and reached $1600 in seven years. In other words, the last remaining slack in the market from the 1960s was finally squeezed out, and prices accelerated like the waiting time in a checkout line does when it gets overwhelmed with five or six people: suddenly the waiting time increases exponentially. Owned houses and condos followed a similar upward trajectory. So average rents went up 40% in ten years. That’s not normal.

      The problem is supply and demand. Seattle companies created tons of new jobs, but Seattle was only building 9 housing units for every 12 jobs, so every year it was getting 25% further behind. Average wages didn’t increase much at all, so the housing became ever more unaffordable. A quirk in the job supply meant the new tech jobs paid near top wage, so the new tech workers were able to outbid everybody else and take whichever apartments/houses they wanted. The bottom 10% got shut out completely and had to move to the suburbs or became homeless. Mark Dublin, a longtime STB commentator who passed away this year, and had been a Metro bus driver, got displaced from his Ballard apartment due to rising rents and had to move to Olympia. That’s extreme, and it may be because he was elderly or really low income, but other people have had to make similar moves to south King County, Snohomish County, or Pierce County.

      The ultimate issue is the number of people competing for each unit. In the 80s and 90s it took a month or more to fill an apartment, so you looked at one, spent a week thinking about it, and if you still wanted it it was available. In the mid 2000s you began to hear of people snapping up an apartment in an hour while other people were looking at it or waiting in the lobby. And it got worse in the 2010s with even more competition, and vacancy rates down to the 1-2%.

      Owned houses up until 2008 on average spent six months on the market looking for a buyer. Ever since then it has been way less: the average time on market goes from a week or two, up to four or six weeks — far below the six months that’s associated with stable prices. in other words, sellers aren’t selling like they used to, and many more buyers have appeared. And there’s no room for more single-family houses in the inner King County cities because it’s all built up. You have to go out to Maple Valley or Issaquah or Snohomish County to find a substantial number of houses, and little enough competition that middle-class people can afford them.

      So the solution is to build a lot more housing to eliminate the backlog. Most of them will have to be townhouses or multifamily units, because there’s no room left for a lot more single-family houses. And because prices have risen so much faster than wages, there will have to be over a hundred thousand subsidized units for those who can’t afford market rate. We should have nipped the price increases in the bud when they started in 2003 and 2011, by zoning enough capacity to neutralize it and shrinking the single-family-only areas, but we didn’t, so now we need to build a lot of subsidized housing to fill the gap.

      1. https://www.deptofnumbers.com/rent/washington/seattle/#:~:text=The%20rental%20vacancy%20rate%20in%20Seattle%20peaked%20in,the%20rental%20vacancy%20rate%20has%20increased%20by%201.74%25.

        This link has good historical rent data for Seattle, the state, and for the U.S. Median rent in Seattle in 2019 was around $275/mo. more than for the state as a whole, but up 16.87% over the last three years compared to 14.39% for the state as a whole.

        Median rent rose from $1157/mo. in Seattle to $1621 from 2009 to 2019, and from $1038/mo. to $1359/mo. for Washington State as a whole.

        Like most price inflation, rising housing prices had mostly to do with rising incomes (and my guess is from investors). The problem with using a supply/demand analysis is upzoning requires new construction (and tends to replace older more affordable housing in the same zone) and so you are not increasing the supply of what you need: affordable housing. You are increasing the supply of unaffordable housing, because all new housing has a certain fixed price to build per sf. even if cheaply made.

        Probably the best way to mitigate rent prices is to not live alone.

      2. I forgot to mention the link also lists historical vacancy data, and also compares rent to income for the U.S. (20.03%), Washington State (20.73%), and Seattle (20.69%). This suggests to me that Seattle’s higher median rent is due to higher median incomes. I think it is interesting that the U.S., state and Seattle all have such close income to rent ratios.

      3. Yes, high housing prices are enabled by high wages, but the problem is the displacement and gentrification inherent in the influx of high wages in a stagnant housing market.

        The ceiling of the market is floated by wages, but the floor of the market is defined by supply.

        Have you ever played musical chairs? In this metaphor, the chairs are housing, and the high income earners get to sit down before the low income earners. If new housing is legalized, the folks who can afford market rate will move into new market rate housing, rather than old housing that needs renovation or repair.

        You have very strongly held beliefs (one may call it orthodoxy) regarding the impacts of new market-rate housing, but recent research proves the contrary: https://www.lewis.ucla.edu/research/market-rate-development-impacts/

        I invite you to review and rebut any of this research.

      4. “Like most price inflation, rising housing prices had mostly to do with rising incomes”

        Not in the ordinary sense. The purchasing power of wages has barely risen since the 1970s and by some measures has fallen, while the price of housing, healthcare, and education have risen steeply. That’s what created the affordability crisis.

        Those “rising incomes” you’re talking about are an influx of high-salary workers: they’re a new top 10% that’s displacing everyone else. You often say the median income in Seattle and Bellevue is over $100K and rising, but that doesn’t mean the people have gotten richer, it just means that more people are getting pushed outside the municipal boundaries. So they no longer show up in the municipal statistics, and that makes the statistics misleading. The rising median income in Seattle and Bellevue is not a reason to pat ourselves on the back and say how well we’re doing; it’s pointing to a growing crisis that working-class and lower middle-class people can no longer live there — even if they work there, even if they’re more likely to take the transit that dense areas have, and even if they have hardships affording a car. It’s better to live without a car in Seattle than in Kent East Hill, Auburn, Lynnwood, or Spanaway — the places they’re being pushed to.

      5. “Have you ever played musical chairs? In this metaphor, the chairs are housing, and the high income earners get to sit down before the low income earners.”

        Yes, it is like musical chairs, as I’ve been thinking about for a few days. The problem now is there are more households than units, so multiple people are competing for each unit, and that drives the price up. If there were slightly more units than households, prices would be stable. If there were a lot more units than households, prices would go down.

  9. Ok, here is my one question for the candidates for ST CEO:

    “Why should anyone who can afford not to ride transit?”

    This is the existential question for transit, because ST is based on the concept light rail will entice (not force) tens of thousands of drivers who can afford to not take transit to take transit. Otherwise why spend $138 BILLION. That is the assumption underlying ST’s ridership estimates, and its funding models.

    If Martin is correct that WSBLE at a cost of $12 to $20 billion will move 400 drivers to transit, or the current reality that none are moving from cars to transit, then we need to reimagine and downsize transit to meet this financial and logistical reality. If transit is mobility for the poor that is an entirely different system.

    Instead what I read on this blog is that levies have created so much ST revenue in subareas like east King Co. that the issue now is what is least bad way to spend the revenue. That East Link to Redmond in 2024 is marginally better than Issaquah to S. Kirkland when neither will move a single eastside resident out of their car onto to transit that now includes one, two or three transfers.

    The truth is Eastside transit ridership in 2024 when East Link might open will be lower than in 2018, 2019, or 2020–2024.

    That for me is the ultimate test of whether the cost of light rail was worth it. I don’t need bolder highlights trying to explain my subarea to me. I just need the ridership data, like data every CEO lives or dies on.

    Then divide the cost of light rail by the additional riders and decide whether like WSBLE it was worth six $60,000 EV’s over 6 decades for each WSBLE rider, or the same for East Link based on the numbers.

    1. Why should SOV ownership and operation be practically mandatory for access to the majority of urban amenities, as it is today?

      How can space for a diversity of transportation options be created without taking space from SOVs?

    2. Since you don’t believe ST’s financial or ridership models, what number, between 0 and infinity, would be a believable number to you? How much money should be spent getting independent 3rd, 4th, 5th-party estimates?

      Also: If someone decides that the bus or train is more efficient that paying for parking at their office, does that mean they “can’t afford it”, or that mass transit has provided a more attractive transportation option? If someone takes transit instead of an Uber because the surge pricing is nuts, and they have some spare time, is that someone who can’t afford to ride in a car?

    3. “ST is based on the concept light rail will entice (not force) tens of thousands of drivers who can afford to not take transit to take transit. Otherwise why spend $138 BILLION. That is the assumption underlying ST’s ridership estimates, and its funding models.”

      The decision to build East Link was made fourteen years ago and the money is already spent. There’s nothing the CEO or ST can do about it now except refuse to run the trains it has already bought. There’s no point in doing that, so why are you relitigating an issue from the 2000s that’s moot now?

      Ridership will automatically increase to the extent that service is improved and pent-up demand finally has something it can ride. East Link will run every 8-10 minutes, compared to 15-30 minutes on the 550 or 545, and 15-60 minutes on the 271. Travel time will be faster. There will be new all-day express service between downtown Bellevue, the Spring District, Overlake Village, and downtown Redmond.

      I mentioned a while ago that I’d never realized there wasn’t all-day ST Express from downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond\ because I’d never been to Redmond much, until one day I tried to use it and found out it wasn’t there. There’s nothing better than the B between Bellevue and Redmond off-peak. If I were still living in downtown Bellevue, I’d take Link to the Redmond trails and shopping in Redmond, and theoretically I might work at Microsoft. Others will take it for the same reason, because it goes where they’re going.

      I would even walk or bus from Bellevue Way to East Main or Bellevue Downtown Stations to take it, that last mile you say nobody would do. You’ll say nobody else will do that. But somebody is getting on the 550 at the NE 4th Street stop. In fact, a lot of somebodys. A smaller group gets on at Bellevue Way & Main, which is a few blocks from where I lived. Since they’re already taking transit, some (not all) of them will get to the Link stations some way or another and take it from there. Particularly if they’re going northeast, which is a new transit market the 550 doesn’t serve at all. And did I mention Link is more frequent and faster than the 550? I could also add, easier for wheelchairs, walkers, wheeled carts, and bikes to get on too, and it can fit more bikes per train, and it’s overall roomier.

      East Link is justified for the Eastside’s population density and wealth now, just as Forward Thrust was justified in the 1960s when the Eastside’s population was much lower and just beginning to grow. We should have built it then, but the second-best is to build it now. Because most cities with comparable populations do so, because it’s the most efficient and effective transit.

      Now if you’re going to complain about Issaquah Link, and the Everett and Tacoma Dome extensions, then I’d agree they’re not necessary and are maybe unjustified. But you’re complaining about East Link, which is justified. And you have this idiotic idea of truncating East Link on Mercer Island. Ayayay! The most expensive and tricky part of East Link was the Mercer Island Bridge between Seattle and Mercer island, so that’s the kind of project you’d want to delay or defer first. But it’s on the west side of the line, the part you want to open first. That doesn’t make sense. You know as well as I do that there’s no large number of Mercer Islanders going to Seattle, or Seattlites going to Mercer Island. The bulk of travel is between Seattle and Bellevue, Bellevue and Redmond, and Seattle and Redmond. Yet that’s the part you want to defer or delete.

      1. “Ridership [on East Link] will automatically increase to the extent that service is improved and pent-up demand finally has something it can ride.”

        I am not sure that is true Mike. Not today. I don’t think East Link will increase transit ridership on the eastside over transit ridership in 2018 (before the decline of ridership on the 550 and 554]. ST’s ridership estimates on East Link are totally bogus. Everyone knows that now, including Metro.

        I am not advocating that East Link not open (in 2024 now) or ST not run the trains. We did pay for it, and the eastside transit restructure assumes East Link runs trains. I just think it will have little impact on the eastside. It will move some folks from buses to trains because they have to with the loss of their (one seat) bus, will mimic the same dedicated routes the 550 and 554 had in the center lanes and transit tunnel, many of whom no longer need to make that commute, and my guess is it will move some folks from buses to cars because of the transfers. East Link is not going to change the eastside. Eastsiders have lived without light rail for a very long time.

        There is no pent–up transit demand on the eastside. Transit ridership has been declining since 2019, certainly cross lake. With much less traffic congestion cars still have major advantages over transit if you can afford to own a car, and most eastsiders can. East Link won’t change that.

        “And you have this idiotic idea of truncating East Link on Mercer Island. Ayayay!”

        My point was if East Link trains return to the eastside with the same conditions and riders we are seeing in Seattle without any fare enforcement the few eastsiders riding transit won’t take East Link. I think the same will be true north and south of Seattle. They will drive, take a bus, demand their employers provide a shuttle or subsidized parking, a 630 type bus, WFH, and so on. If they won’t take East Link because of safety and sanitation concerns it makes little sense to create those conditions by running trains into Seattle, and truncating them at MI so East Link becomes primarily an eastside transit system. We really didn’t spend $5.5 billion to improve transit in Seattle, although East Link trains will do that.

        If you read eastside Nextdoors (which have hundreds of thousands of members) you would see safety on East Link and the lack of fare enforcement is a HUGE issue, while the delayed opening of East Link got a big yawn. Everyone is terrified of the eastside becoming Seattle. No one moves to the eastside because of the transit, or to ride a light rail train though nowhere from nowhere to nowhere.

        I agree it is not ideal (and hope post-tensioning actually works and the bridge itself is not compromised) but what is the point of building a $5.5 billion light rail system on the eastside but having few eastsiders ride it because it is unsafe of unsanitary? I just don’t think you understand very well how sensitive eastsiders are to safety, and all transit begins with a perception it is much less safe than the alternatives, at least in the U.S. You think eastsiders think like you do. They don’t.

      2. “I don’t think East Link will increase transit ridership on the eastside over transit ridership in 2018 (before the decline of ridership on the 550 and 554].”

        I disagree, but OK. The old ridership will return, subtracting something for work-from-home, and then it will gradually grow from there. If for no other reason, because the population will continue increasing (both suburban and Seattle population).

        “ST’s ridership estimates on East Link are totally bogus.”

        I don’t care about that; it’s irrelevant. Future estimates are always uncertain, and that was more than ten years before the pandemic. What matters is ridership relative to 2019. Ultimately, building East Link was a political decision. It wasn’t based mainly on East Link’s ridership estimate, it was based on the fact that people wanted it and thought it would be good infrastructure for the future. It’s not like they would have built it if the estimate had been 40,000 but not if it had been 20,000. People don’t think that way.

    4. “what I read on this blog is that levies have created so much ST revenue in subareas like east King Co. that the issue now is what is least bad way to spend the revenue”

      It’s only yourself that you’re reading. You’re the only claiming that East King has a big surplus. You’ve failed to provide evidence or explain how everybody else (ST, the Eastside politicians, the transit public) missed it. In any case, if there is a surplus, and you think you have a better idea how to spend it, you can write a Page 2 article promoting it, and recommend it to your politicians and neighbors.

      (For reference, East King’s part of ST3 consists of the Redmond Tech-Redmond Downtown extension, Issaquah-South Kirkland Link, Stride 1 Bellevue-Renton (and Burien), Stride 2 Bellevue-Bothell (and Lynnwood), Stride 3 Bothell-Lake Forest Park (and Shoreline South Link), a Woodinville-Bothell and/or Woodinville-Bellevue bus, some park n rides, a maintenance base, and maybe I’m forgetting something.)

  10. “Why should SOV ownership and operation be practically mandatory for access to the majority of urban amenities, as it is today?

    “How can space for a diversity of transportation options be created without taking space from SOVs?”

    I agree with these two statements Nathan.

    First, access to a majority of urban amenities must be available to everyone via transit. However, as you move into less dense suburbs and exurbs the cost and logistics of providing everyone that kind of mobility — or the need — via transit becomes problematic. Running a bus from North Bend to Mercer Island is expensive. (Which is why I don’t think upzoning these areas makes sense, and question running a spine from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond on the basis these are somehow urban centers).

    Second, I agree transit will have to somehow steal drivers from SOV’s and Uber (because once you have more than one in a car — or Uber — the cost is equal to or less than public transit). But that will not be easy today. Or tomorrow.

    I think the PSRC’s estimates of regional population growth and densification are unlikely, at least over the next decade, so basically we are talking about a zero sum game between transit and SOV’s. I also think ST used inflated ridership estimates to sell its levies so at least Link begins with an unobtainable ridership goal.

    Right now, total miles travelled in the region is down for all modes. WFH will keep total miles travelled down, especially for transit. The move of eastsiders to eastside offices will do the same. Employer subsidized parking, Uber/Lyft, and employer shuttles will also reduce total miles travelled by SOV’s or public transit.

    So we have SOV’s and transit competing for a shrinking pie of riders and miles travelled.

    Then you have safety and cleanliness issues on Link, and first/last mile access issues for all transit, which SOV’s don’t have but ST never really considered. Plus convenience which can include carrying kids or groceries or just about anything. And less traffic congestion, and in many areas free or subsidized parking.

    In the past transit advocates focused on disadvantaging the competition, which was helped by traffic congestion and parking during peak times in very urban areas. I don’t think that will work in the future. There are too many options post pandemic. Especially for Link, it will have to compete for the discretionary rider.

    Cost is usually the number one claimed benefit of transit (if you don’t include the taxes to subsidize it, and yes roads are subsidized too) and that can be true if we are talking about a SOV. But most discretionary riders already own a car, so the cost differential in gas vs. transit fares is negligible, at least for the discretionary rider (transit already has the non-discretionary rider who can’t afford a car, or fare).

    The other factors, including time of trip, at least today, highly favor cars, which is why transit ridership is down.

    If I were CEO of ST I would begin with securing the stations because then I could secure the trains. I think that begins at the station entrance. A dirty or smelly train or station is just as scary to a discretionary transit rider as one filled with passed out drug addicts like in the video taken by ST operators. ST operators should not have to try and shame ST into doing something.

    An underground train station or train car is like a cage. Without secure stations you can’t have safe and clean trains, and safety and cleanliness are the SOV’s strong points. Without safe and clean trains we get what we see today: a disproportionate number of crazy riders to normal riders. Safety and cleanliness are deal breakers for discretionary riders with a car in the garage. I think Dan Ryan hit the nail on the head when he pointed out the lack of women among urbanists and transit advocates, and the lack of understanding when it comes to risk.

    Next is revitalizing downtown Seattle, because in the past that is where most discretionary riders took transit due to traffic congestion, parking costs and retail density, and Link runs through downtown Seattle. How many take transit FROM downtown Seattle to a less urban area? Few on the eastside voluntarily take transit during non-peak hours. You can build a system based on non-peak riders without securing stations, but then you get what you have today on Link.

    Can downtown Seattle be revitalized? Maybe, but to return true retail density and vibrancy is about the hardest thing to do; The Spring District and Wilburton and maybe 112th will have lots of housing and office towers but little retail density. That will be on Bellevue Way because the key is retail DENSITY. Seattle bounced back after the 1970’s to 1990’s, but Bellevue was not such an alternative back then, and it took decades.

    I would like Link to succeed, considering we are set to spend $138 billion and I have a station within walking distance. That will require riders, which will require the discretionary rider, unlike today. That means trains that are clean and perceived as 100% safe, have first/last mile access that fits the area and not some ideology, and have urban areas folks want to go to ideally without a transfer.

    Even more I would like downtown Seattle to return, but I doubt that can happen without the hoards of commuter workers, and that won’t return.

    That is a tall order, but doable, but probably not with the current Seattle City Council. The issue with the eastside is the lack of density or urban areas that require transit, the route of East Link, and a very strong preference for cars and free parking. Metro will tell you transit in suburbia is very difficult.

    Transit begins with so many deficits compared to a SOV or HOV it can’t afford to add deficits, like unsafe or dirty stations or trains, or approaching first/last mile access from an ideologically point of view. Remember, a SOV has no first/last mile, which might be its greatest advantage because it is in the garage and otherwise the rider never gets to transit in the first place.

    What bothers me most about ST, and the Seattle City Council, is I don’t see them even trying to compete due to ideological arrogance. But since I am a discretionary transit rider, or non-rider, and can go east to dine or shop, not my problem.

    1. “Running a bus from North Bend to Mercer Island is expensive.”

      You’re not doing it mainly for people in North Bend to get to Mercer Island or vice-versa; you’re doing it for the communities in between. It’s more efficient to have a single route to Mercer Island than to split it into several routes going different places. All of them share the cost of the Eastgate to Mercer Island segment, and it benefits a lot of their trips, including Issaquah to Link and Issaquah to Bellevue College. The only added expense for North Bend is the one mile between Snoqualmie and North Bend, which is little cost. This route is also mitigation for the 40+ years that Issaquah and the eastern cities had atrociously inadequate transit. So even if it’s a little overservice now, it makes up for a lot of underservice earlier, service Metro wasn’t paying for.

      And it achieves another of your goals: a one-seat ride from all those cities to a Link station, making it a two-seat total ride from their closest bus stop to the large cities twenty miles away. That’s such a long distance a one-seat ride isn’t to be expected, and a two-seat ride will attract more riders than a three-seat ride. In Chicago practically every bus route crosses an El station somewhere, and this is applying the same principle.

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