King County Metro:

The current ORCA website will be permanently shut down at 11:59 p.m. tonight, Thursday, May 12, and will transition to the new site on May 16.  Customers can still add cash to their cards at vending machines, customer service locations and participating retailers.

In order to transition to the new ORCA system, fares will not be collected between 3 a.m. Saturday, May 14, and 2:59 a.m. Monday, May 16, on most area transit systems.

Ride your heart out.

90 Replies to “Free transit this weekend, new ORCA on Monday”

  1. “Until we provide safe, affordable, and permanent housing to everyone then there is no choice but for houseless people to use transit as a housing alternative.”

    Actually I think the cause and effect is the opposite, and we are seeing that today with the lack of fare enforcement on Link.

    Decimating transit ridership on Link by having unsafe and unclean stations and trains will not result in some great push to house the homeless. It will do the opposite.

    Folks and businesses will simply move out of Seattle taking their taxes with them, and feeling even more remote from the housing situation than they do today. Discretionary transit riders will choose to drive or take Uber instead of taking transit. Employers will subsidize parking or their own shuttles. At least that is what they did in the past.

    ST will not come close to its farebox recovery assumptions and will skip on maintenance and operations, making things worse, and my guess is outlying subareas like the eastside will truncate Link at their borders rather than have trains filled with passed out drug addicts and the homeless arriving on trains they themselves don’t use. S. King Co. is not going to suddenly decide to raise taxes to house the homeless because Seattle is shipping its homeless to S. King Co. on Link.

    So the region will become jaded at spending $138 billion on a light rail system they think the politicians allowed to become toxic and unusable, and ST is a model of efficiency and effectiveness compared to the housing programs in the region. Meanwhile Link will become unusable for the working poor.

    The housing and homeless issue is incredibly complex with a lot of vested interests in the homeless. I won’t repeat prior posts in which I discuss the differing views of Seattle (housing precedes treatment which makes sense but is basically unaffordable because no one migrates out of the subsidized housing) or the eastside (treatment and progress determine the level of housing from shelter cot to enhanced room to subsidized housing to non-subsidized housing but doesn’t account for those with zero residual earning capacity), but I will say if Link won’t be fixed until all the homeless are housed then Link will not be fixed because the homeless industrial complex is about as inefficient and corrupt as they come.

    And don’t expect a lot of handwringing or tears in the other subareas who all have cars in their garages, or a great upswell in housing funding because — Mon Dieu — we can’t take Link.

  2. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/after-lengthy-renovation-downtown-seattles-pacific-place-reopens-with-many-vacancies-at-a-difficult-time-for-malls/

    Pacific Place just went through a multi-million dollar renovation but could not attract tenants. Unlike Cam I never found the entrance difficult to find, and years ago liked shopping there with my wife. There was a movie theater and several good restaurants, although the retail stores were naturally oriented towards women. Pacific Place to Nordstrom to Macy’s created a dense retail environment.

    Maybe Nathan is correct and Seattle just can’t support retail anymore. It is thriving in Bellevue, , but maybe suburbia is just different. I am not quite sure why anyone would live in an urban city if they don’t need to work in an office there and there is no retail density.

    Another article I will try to link to examines a city’s equity by examining access to retail in high income and low income neighborhoods, focusing on NY (good due to population, access by foot, and retail density) and Detroit (bad). Maybe Nathan is arguing for greater equity by eliminating retail access for all neighborhoods. Everyone lives like a hermit in their small apartment and orders their food and goods online, although I doubt many tourists or visitors would find that an attractive city to visit. Sounds like Detroit after the exodus.

    My guess is this is Harrell’s worst nightmare, especially if this ignites the exodus of more retail, probably to areas east.

    Mark may have a point: why not have King Co. buy the mall and convert it to housing for the homeless. It could house thousands, and could be opened to tents immediately pending more permanent housing. Plus is is near Link which is free. So far King Co. has focused its housing purchases to distressed neighborhoods. I am sure Harrell and the Chamber would look forward to the ribbon cutting.

    Westlake Mall is also on life support. As Mark notes it would make excellent housing for the homeless, and is even closer to Link.

    My guess is Harrell’s main retail concern is the same as Rice’s decades ago: Nordstrom leaves downtown, with a $300 million expansion of the convention center (which King Co. had to loan $100 million to complete) going on up the street.

    With regard to the lost sales tax and tourist revenue Seattle can raise its employee head tax.

    Bellevue and Freeman must think they are competing against total imbeciles.

    1. In Seattle we eat the rich and ACAB, free recreational drugs for all BIPOCs and trans youth. Free housing, free food, and free living. End the patriarchy and bring on a new Seattle.

      1. No jest, Comrad Doug. I firmly believe that the elites are evil and we must fight for the underprivileged and unhoused. I loathe that we spent billions to build light rail to the east side to serve the wealthy, when we could have helped the thousands of poor in Seattle. I hate the sweeps and believe in legalizing all drugs.

      2. “I loathe that we spent billions to build light rail to the east side to serve the wealthy, ”

        Transit is to serve everybody, and the average Link rider is probably less wealthy than the average driver. The Eastside is hundreds of thousands of people, and not all of them have six- or seven-figure salaries. The Eastside is just catching up to a normal transit level that other countries would have built decades ago. So Link is not some extraordinary investment and gift to the rich. The gift to the rich is widening the freeways, which has happened at least half a dozen times in the Eastside.

        If you’re complaining about Issaquah Link specifically, then I would agree it’s a not-very-useful project and not where the Eastside’s biggest transit needs are. But East Link is something completely different.

      3. My question is who is “we”? You have to pay taxes to pay for ST.

        Although I think Mark is being facetious the reality is the Eastside subarea paid 100% of East Link. Plus 100% of the buses west—east at a cost of $1 billion until East Link opens (now summer 2024). 100% of Link across the bridge span. And $275 million toward DSTT2, if it is built and N. King Co. can afford the other $3 billion.

        And there is the “realignment” that extends taxes five years and our projects five years even though we are not the broke subarea. And when East Link opens our trains few will take to Seattle will halve frequency from IDS to Northgate when our frequency will be 8 minute max. East Link should have truncated at Judkins Park at best.

        It is like the proverbial deadbeat brother-in-law.

        Nothing is “free”. It just means someone else pays. At this point the best decision for the Eastside is to truncate East Link at Mercer Island, or for East Link to never open.

      4. With comments like ACAB and free drugs for blacks, I’m surprised Mark isn’t subject to a moderation queue.

    2. Hey Daniel, retail is having a tough go in downtown Seattle but what I’ve noticed as someone that lives in the city is that many of the neighborhood commercial streets have remained vibrant. In some ways what we’ve seen with Covid is a decentralization of activity from downtown to the neighborhoods i.e. urban villages. As for national retailers, u-village drives the foot traffic within the city limits. I’m in my 30’s and what I’ve noticed with my peers, who are middle class and college educated is less reliance on shopping at large retailers and more of a focus on “local” or boutique retail for clothing and home goods or a reliance on online shopping. There’s a major generational change in terms of expectations.
      As a side note, some of these online retailers that appeal to a younger demographic such as Warbly Parker and All Birds now have brick and mortar stores and tend to locate in lifestyle centers like U-Village which provide a Main Street like experience that have greatly outperformed urban multi-level downtown shopping centers.
      So what’s the appeal of living in the city? For me it’s walkability and proximity to cultural institutions, restaurants, events and parks (the Arboretum, Seward park etc) among other things with easy access either by walking, transit or with a short drive. As a kid, I remember growing up in North Seattle and in suburbs farther north and being bored out of my mind and wanting to live somewhere more vibrant. I fall into the demographic that participated in the “return to the city”.
      Funny enough, if I ever decided to live in a suburb it would be within walking distance to Redmond town center or the Kirkland waterfront which are akin to the urban villages that already exist in Seattle.

      1. I agree Alonso. My son is a student at UW. U Village is booming, and I have often posted about its success, (and excellent parking), although most on this blog think it is too upscale and prefer the Ave.

        I also think Seattle’s residential neighborhoods are its Crown Jewels and worry changing that zoning would destroy that charm.

        I lived in Seattle until my mid 30’s and have worked in Pioneer Square since 1990. I am talking about the downtown core. The rest — even UGA’s like UW — aren’t really “urban”, and many like Ballard or West Seattle are really residential.

        A city like Seattle needs a vibrant downtown core. Downtown should have the same vibrancy as U Village. The fact retail vibrancy is migrating to Seattle’s neighborhoods is an indictment, and is hollowing out the one place true urbanism can exist, except maybe downtown Bellevue. Someone living downtown should not have to drive to U Village for decent retail density.

        What Harrell needs to figure out is why downtown is failing, although his first priority is to remove the homeless from the residential neighborhoods and parks, which he is doing.

        But around 66% of all tax revenue is/was generated downtown, and because of its progressive policies Seattle is a very expensive city and needs that revenue.

      2. “most on this blog think it is too upscale and prefer the Ave. ”

        It’s not so much that it’s upscale as that it’s national chains

        “u-village drives the foot traffic within the city limits.”

        Not really because most people drive to it, and when they’re there they don’t walk that much because the paths are so short and there are no non-retail amenities to go to. I see people walking 24 hours on Capitol Hill and the U-District, some two or three times a day, whereas if they go to U-Village they’re there for a couple hours and then they’re gone.

        If by “foot traffic” you mean retail sales are higher there than elsewhere, maybe. But a lot of that is people driving in from the suburbs, and they wouldn’t go to other places in Seattle anyway.

      3. “The fact retail vibrancy is migrating to Seattle’s neighborhoods is an indictment, and is hollowing out the one place true urbanism can exist, except maybe downtown Bellevue.”

        Your definition of urbanism is too narrow. Jane Jacobs focused on Greenwich Village, which had 4-story walk-ups and is somewhat comparable to Capitol Hill/First Hill. When she moved to Toronto her son settled in The Annex, an even lower-rise neighborhood. He said she not only approved of it, it made her realize her minimum density threshold was too high. The Annex is something like Little Saigon, or Wallingford if the post-1950s zoning restrictions hadn’t strangled it. It’s hard to give an exact equivalent because Toronto is so much more pedestrian-oriented, with small storefronts with displays on the street, and a more thorough mixture of residential and retail over a large area: it’s hard to point to local equivalents. But that’s the problem we’re trying to solve: Seattle should be more like Toronto.

        Many Seattlites stopped shopping downtown years or decades ago and now shop in the neighborhoods. That’s not new, and it’s what has made the neigborhoods vibrant for decades. If more people do so, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, although we should also look at revisioning downtown too.

    3. Malls have been failing in the US since the 1980s, before Amazon. The US built more retail space per capital than peer countries, so it was inevitably going to have a problem filling all of it. Malls and big-box stores were built too close to each other to try to take market share from each other. And some companies like Walmart build a new larger store and abandon their old store because it’s no longer new. That leads to planned obsolescence. It doesn’t affect the most successful and well-located malls like Bellevue Square and U Village, but it affects a lot of others. There was the Supermall in Auburn that was supposed to be a mega-mall but never took off. Northgate changed for several reasons, but one of them might be the general decline of non-top malls.

      Online ordering is tricky, because it’s only a small fraction of total purchases, but it has had an outsized impact on malls and retailers. And some stores have responded by stocking only bestsellers, so older things you used to buy at stores are no longer there so you have to order them online.

    4. Pacific Place just went through a multi-million dollar renovation but could not attract tenants.

      Yeah, because of the pandemic. It explains that in the article:

      Much of Pacific Place’s hollowing-out is undoubtedly due to the twin pressures of the retail apocalypse and the pandemic. But some store owners and employees — who asked not to be named to avoid jeopardizing relations with their landlord — said the long-running renovation had decimated foot traffic and likely made it harder for the mall to fill open spaces.

      Malls have been dragged down in the pandemic undertow …

      It is a general trend, not limited to downtown Seattle, or downtown areas in general. To quote another article:

      Elsewhere in the rest of the region, and even some areas of Seattle, retail space has been demolished or converted into other uses, which has helped keep vacancy rates low.

      But downtown has been hit harder:

      Overcapacity was compounded by the pandemic, which hurt in-person shopping and chased out many of the office workers and tourists that retailers depended on.

      So basically all malls got hit hard, but especially downtown malls (like Pacific Place). Back to the article:

      But Pacific Place has faced its own unique challenges.

      The mall’s “fortress nature” and multilevel design, which were more standard in the 1980s and 1990s, were “never inviting for the consumer,” Green says.

      But Pacific Place has also suffered from bad timing.

      Many of the tenants Pacific Place lost since 2017 left during a renovation by Madison Marquette, which paid $271 million for Pacific Place in 2014 and an additional $87 million for the underground garage in 2016.

      Although Madison Marquette had hoped to replace departing tenants with more “upscale” stores, Rosen says, by the time the renovations finished, in mid-2020, COVID made it nearly impossible to recruit them.

      It is basically a big case of bad timing. Retail was doing reasonably well downtown, before the pandemic. There was a shift from department stores to company owned stores (Patagonia, North Face, etc.), which has been happening in lots of places (in part due to online retailers). For a mall owner to assume that a refurbished building would attract new, higher end retailers was reasonable. Unfortunately for them, the pandemic crippled their business plans.

      But downtown retail will likely rebound, as the tourists and office workers return. It may never reach the high point of the past, but that is true just about everywhere. The places that are doing better than ever before (e. g. Bellevue Mall and the U-Village) never had that much retail to begin with (nothing like downtown Seattle). In general there is a lot less in-person retail, and a lot of consolidation. I expect downtown Seattle to be one of the few places of concentrated retail in the region, while many malls disappear (if they haven’t already).

      1. “The mall’s “fortress nature” and multilevel design, which were more standard in the 1980s and 1990s, were “never inviting for the consumer,” Green says.”

        I don’t know what “fortress nature” even means. It’s a tall narrow building, like most buildings downtown, and that’s what makes it more attractive than a suburban mall or freestanding big-box store. It has an ordinary entrance. The atrium is not that uncommon, even if the circular spiral-shaped look is. Going into it feels like going into every other downtown building. So what’s “fortress” about that?

      2. I’m not entirely sure what “fortress nature” means either, but I can guess. It seems like there aren’t that many entrances, as it is meant to be entered by car, not by foot. There are some windows displaying the goods, but not as much as on a lot of other buildings. It does look more like an office building (with some ground floor retail) than a multi-level retail establishment. It is a judgement call, obviously, but I always thought Fifth Avenue shops seemed more inviting. It wasn’t until I got into Pacific Place that it seemed interesting.

      3. “It seems like there aren’t that many entrances, as it is meant to be entered by car, not by foot.”

        What? I always entered at the front, and never thought of the underground garage as anything unusual. I never thought it was less pedestrian-oriented than other downtown buildings.

      4. Coming from any direction other than the south, your choice was to walk through the entrance to the parking garages on a narrow sidewalk, dodging dropoffs and choking on exhaust, to the basement, or through a poorly marked entrence to an uninviting, narrow double escator.

        The Barnes and Noble entrance was inviting to peds, I’ll grant. And i did like the atrium and the sandwich place in the bottom. Niether survived, last i checked.

      5. Yeah, what Cam said. To be fair, the difference is subtle. If you are headed to the building (to say, see a movie) it is fine. But for spontaneous shopping, it isn’t great. To be clear, it isn’t horrible, it just isn’t as good as other places. Pacific Place has only one really good side: Pine (https://goo.gl/maps/82Wq9LTziPaTDCv27). Sixth isn’t bad, but Nordstrom’s is just better. There is a big entrance to Nordy’s right at the mid-block pedestrian crossing, while on the Pacific Place side there is an entrance to the bank (https://goo.gl/maps/C6uSUy3FTx1sXF6c7). It isn’t even clear how you get into the mall from that side, after crossing the street. This means even if you see something in one of the few display windows that interests you, it is discouraging. The displays at Nordstrom are just nicer. But again, sixth isn’t terrible. Olive is worse (https://goo.gl/maps/ovvpUzJ3oD2xbaiQ9) and so is seventh (https://goo.gl/maps/xhfKf9H6G4Cd38HQ6).

        At most, you have one, maybe two sides that look pretty inviting. In contrast, look at 5th Avenue. To be fair, it has arguably the nicest upscale shopping and strolling in the city. Before the pandemic, places like Anthropologie probably did really well when they put out their 30% off sign (https://goo.gl/maps/Jinm9VwxFHvydoMC7). I just don’t see the equivalent at Pacific Place, except on Pine.

        I would guess that relatively few people went to Pacific Place spontaneously. That’s normal for a typical mall, but not ideal if you are downtown, and have thousands of people milling about in the area every day. Most of these buildings have one “bad” side; Pacific Place has three (or maybe 2 and a half).

        In the long term, the competition from Pacific Place is not Bellevue Square, or the U-Village. They can’t “out-mall” those malls. Those days are gone. They can’t compete, as the suburban malls have grown, and attract those who like sparkle and sanitized urbanity. Parking is easier, and even transit options to those places aren’t bad. The real competition is with the shops on Fifth Avenue. There are thousands of people now living downtown, or very close to it. Thousands more visit, on a regular basis. That number will grow, as we pull out of the pandemic. The character that attracts suburbanites (and I use that term loosely to include much of Seattle) is bound to send people towards other parts of town. Towards Pike Place most of the year, and towards Fourth and Fifth during the holiday season. Pacific Place might be able to pull people a block or two away from their usual stroll, but only if they offer something special. The building itself doesn’t make that easy.

      6. Suburban mall shoppers would probably define sparkle and sanitized urbanism as safety, cleanliness and available parking.

        We never parked at Pacific Place. We belong to the WAC and so parked there because the key to parking is it being “obvious” and safe if underground, which means not driving around looking for a strange lot, more than cost (otherwise we would be on transit).

        The entrance to Pacific Place seemed obvious to me, although things always got sketchier the closer you got to 7th. But I think Ross’s analysis misses two critical points:

        1. Retail density. Retail shops and restaurants tend to open near one another because people “shop”. They don’t really know what they want to buy or eat (or they could order online). They are going out to “shop” and they want retail/restaurant density.

        IMO when we went shopping 6th Ave. was the most vibrant, certainly when it came to clothes stores, certainly for younger (famale) shoppers like my daughter, the life blood of clothing retail. Just like a mall you want a store in every facade.

        Some naturally think these stores compete, and in that case they should locate alone in a remote location. But this isn’t like going to Home Depot: shoppers don’t know what they want to buy. These are impulse decisions, which is the joy and society of shopping.

        Also more and more the rampant shoplifting and lack of prosecution and vandalism are making it unprofitable for retail in downtown Seattle.

        Without the retail and restaurant density — whether U Village, Bellevue Square, or Old Main Street — shoppers and diners won’t go to that area. Density means a very short walk between stores.

        Street retail needs even greater safety and cleanliness than a suburban mall because you are on the street, with shopping bags and purses and money, often in the dark. That safety in large part comes from having normal people on the street, and safe parking.

        6th Ave. retail had been declining for some time. Pacific Place is just another example, as is Macy’s, a key anchor for the less wealthy demographic. If the retail density gets too low shoppers stop going there, streets get scarier, and then anchor tenants — the same anchor tenants as in suburban malls — leave.

        It is nearly impossible to resuscitate a retail area that drops below the required retail density. A decline of retail density is usually a sign a city is dying, although Covid could be affecting things, except other retail areas have returned to pre-pandemic levels and people have money to spend.

        2. Women buy around 99% of all retail in the U.S.

        Understanding this is how Freeman became a billionaire. . Tonight the manager of U Village is coming over for a cocktail party. She will tell you my 19 year old daughter is the key to her business (I have a 21 years old son but think he bought Kurt Cobain’s old wardrobe).

        The other 1% is bought my those like my wife, including everything I wear (or at least own).

        When was the last time you heard two guys say on a Saturday they are “going shoppping”?

        My daughter and wife are 1000 times more sensitive to safety than Ross, and they buy 1000 times more stuff than Ross or I do. Freeman has often remarked Ross and I don’t exist in his world.

        This begins with perceptions of safety, and the surroundings like tents on a street. They just won’t go to downtown Seattle anymore, and the retail knows that.

        Yes they buy online, but ironically return a lot to the physical store, where naturally they buy more.

        Every anchor store in Seattle is in Bellevue, but more and more are leaving Seattle. Losing Macy’s was a much bigger deal than losing Pacific Place, which is just part of the death of retail along 6th.

        For shoppers it means little. Fewer and fewer were shopping in downtown Seattle anyway and there are better places to “shop”. But for downtown the loss of retail is the canary in the coal mine, and the Covid excuse really doesn’t work anymore.

      7. “Coming from any direction other than the south, your choice was to walk through the entrance to the parking garages on a narrow sidewalk,”

        Why does it need more than one entrance. Many vertically-oriented buildings have other buildings behind it and on both sides so they can have only one entrance. I’ve always thought of Pacific Place as similar to those buildings. I’ve seen the entrance on 6th but I never saw a point in using it. Pine Street is the main pedestrian street and where the trolleybuses are, so that’s where I’d be. Olive Way is uninviting to pedestrians; it’s a car sewer. And if you’re walking from the north, I don’t see it as a major hardship to go to the front of the building, especially since there aren’t going to be a lot of pedestrians coming from Olive Way or the north anyway.

        “The entrance to Pacific Place seemed obvious to me, although things always got sketchier the closer you got to 7th. ”

        Maybe in the 80s and 90s 7th was sketchier, but I haven’t felt it to be sketchy for at least twenty years, and for the past 17 of those years I’ve lived less than a mile away from it. You know where the sketchiest areas are: 3rd & Pine, Pioneer Square. 7th Avenue is nothing like that.

      8. It’s a mall. Most malls have more than 1 decent entrance. It was several years before I even noticed or used the the Pine St. entrance. Olive is my main east-west walking route. I found Pine uninviting in that section. A lot of blank walls and garages, even if it were convenient, which for me it wasn’t. Olive is a car sewer, but it is usually gloriously stalled. So it’s actually reasonably pleasant because the cars are all stuck. Urban furniture. Gives you a giggle that there are that many people who think driving downtown is a reasonable thing to do.

      9. Daniel – I can’t tell if you are trolling or not, but shopping as a past time? A hobby to buy things you don’t need? That you support? Ick. You do realize most people in America struggle to feed and house their kids?

        Definitely a sign of end-stage capitalism, and a reason we need to tax the living crap out the rich, if people think enabling that is the definition of a healthy urban environment.

        Maybe it’s time that MI zoned so that you could do all your hobby-shopping on the island, and Seattle could focus on shit that matters to the non-rich.

      10. Mercer Island has many qualities other communities should be striving toward. Very little homelessness. Very little poverty. It’s a community that generates an enormous amount of property taxes. An extremely low crime rate. Very rich in tree canopy and vegitation. Wouldn’t a community with the opposite of all those things be an awful place to live?

      11. It’s sad to see the demise of Pacific Place. My son’s choir sang there at many Xmas events and it was a fun excuse to visit the big City. One less reason I’d ever want to go to DT Seattle. I think choir concerts at Xmas are still a thing at B’sq.

        Things that “were” great about DT Seattle. The original REI store; long gone. The current Seattle REI, meh.

        REI HQ in the Spring District…. WFH. Redmond store moved to B’view. Convenient when I need skis worked on but not a destination (no climbing wall, Redmond got greedy with taxes?). Current location next to impossible to access from transit and driving sucks (as does Target). Don’t get why these stores exist other that they think density is going to increase rapidly and soon and don’t want to be price out of the market.

        Amazon/Walmart… shop from home; hard to beat the price and selection. No transit or SOV required.

      12. Sam: “Mercer Island has many qualities other communities should be striving toward. Very little homelessness. Very little poverty. It’s a community that generates an enormous amount of property taxes. An extremely low crime rate. Very rich in tree canopy and vegitation. Wouldn’t a community with the opposite of all those things be an awful place to live?”

        MI is truly is a wonder of exclusionary zoning. When all but 2 highway-side condos are over a million and, and single family homes go for $2-7 million, you get that. The zoning is the equivalent of putting a giant, 18 karat razor-wire fence around the whole island. Amazing what that does for your poverty rate.

      13. Why does it need more than one entrance?

        Because otherwise it creates a “fortress nature”, which is “never inviting for the consumer” as Green wrote.

        Green is a retail analyst, but many of us see the same thing. It is all about spontaneous shopping. It is far more likely if you have lots of interesting window displays, and entrances. You happen to walk down the street, see a sale, and pop-in to buy something. In a destination mall (e. g. U-Village) it doesn’t matter. Very few people are just walking by the mall. They typically drive there with the express purpose of shopping. Even if they walk there or take the bus, they are focused on the mall itself, and shopping within it. In contrast, for downtown, a lot of their business is from people who had no plans whatsoever to shop. They were taking a walk during a lunch break, saw something they were interested in, and popped in to take a look. Next thing you know, they made a purchase. Every person who runs a toy store in a touristy town understands this. You spend a lot of time putting your cutest toys in the window, to appeal to grandparents. These shoppers weren’t walking around thinking “I need to get a toy for by grand kid — where is the nearest toy store”, they are just traveling.

        Even people who head downtown for the express purpose of shopping are likely going to want the most enjoyable experience. Yeah, sure, the mall itself is nice (at least I always thought it was). But it is a mall, like many others. It is hard for me to see why someone in Bellevue, for example, would want to go there. In contrast, it is very easy to see why someone in Bellevue would want to visit other places in downtown Seattle. There is the Pike Place Market, for example. Even if I lived downtown, I wouldn’t be that attracted to the mall, unless it is cold and wet out (which admittedly seems never ending this year). It is just more interesting to walk the streets. It is likely one of the reasons you ended up downtown. The light’s so much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares …

      14. I wonder if people move to islands precisely to live an exclusionary life. Mercer Island, Vashon, Orcas, Whidbey, Bainbridge, etc. Mercer is probably the most privileged of the bunch, but I think one of the reasons people move to an island, at least locally, is to escape urbanism.

      15. It makes sense for those examples, Sam. However I don’t think people move to Manhattan, Singapore or Miami Beach (all islands) to seek a quieter life.

      16. The top qualities for Mercer Island are location (especially when most professionals use to commute into Seattle), a rural feeling to the neighborhoods with lots of mature trees, public safety and schools. I wouldn’t recommend a night out on the town on MI, but you have two pretty good options in Seattle and Bellevue for that. Seattleites do travel to MI for the excellent grocery stores that have lots of surface parking.

        Cam makes a common mistake on this blog by thinking zoning is a major factor in determining property values.

        First, Mercer Island is one of the few regional cities that is above the PSRC’s 2035 housing growth targets, which is why it received a net zero new housing growth target in the 2050 Vision Plan through 2044. Mercer Island has already reached its maximum population target set by the PSRC in the 2035 Vision Plan of 26,000 it was not supposed to reach until post 2050, which is causing problems in the schools, infrastructure, number of citizens per park acre ratio, road capacity, etc. .

        Unlike some other areas like Medina, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point, Clyde Hill or Beaux Arts Mercer Island has a very large multi-family zone, and allows housing throughout its commercial zone (one of the reasons we have anemic retail). Still that housing — especially if new — is not very affordable. One of the ironies under the funding model for ARCH is Mercer Island’s annual contribution is much higher than other high value eastside areas per capita because we do have multi-family housing.

        Mercer Island could I suppose upzone some of the south end areas that have 15,000 sf lot minimums, but anything new on a 7500 lot would probably start at around $4 million. This is the real goal of builders and developers. You could put in multi-family housing (although there is almost no transit in these areas) and if new those would start at around $2 million in today’s market. So you create no affordable housing. Not even close.

        A subcommittee chaired by Claudia Balducci (ugh) is drafting updated housing targets for regional cities based on AMI, which in part is based on infrastructure (for example the city most opposed to increased housing targets is Sammamish, and their total housing target was raised almost 2000 units because of the new sewer system).

        The subcommittee will draft targets for 0% to 30% AMI, 30% to 50%, 50% to 70%, and 70% to 100% AMI. But my guess is based on political pressure will exempt the smaller and very wealthy cities like Medina, Clyde Hill, et al. just like most state upzoning bills.

        A city like Mercer Island has almost no housing that is affordable for someone making even 100% AMI (if they live alone), even multi-family, and with the current property values the older and more affordable multi-family housing is being renovated or replaced with new much less affordable housing. You create more housing units, but fewer affordable units. Because the zone has little to do with affordability.

        Mercer Island has a fairly small government with a small budget although the citizens pay the same taxes as most Seattleites (excluding some very bad levies like Move Seattle). The two main sources of tax revenue, property and sales, are consumed by the state and county before they reach the city. Like most regional cities special school and parks levies pass, but not so much local maintenance and operations levies to lift the 1% cap. Plus Seattle always votes for county wide levies for transit, parks and libraries, which consume any property tax capacity for local cities. Just the county library and recent county parks levies add nearly $1000/year to my property tax bill just for my main house.

        So there is no way Mercer Island can afford to build its own affordable housing on the Island because the land is already privately owned and is too expensive. Instead there are requirements for new multi-family housing to set aside 10% for “affordable” housing (80% AMI), the city’s Youth and Family Services provides rental assistance to help families avoid eviction, and the city donates to the eastside regional organization called ARCH for emergency and affordable housing.

        And ADU’s/DADU’s are allowed on any residential lot (220 sf to 900 sf to hopefully keep them affordable which the Master Builders Assoc. wants to raise because they have no interest in affordability) with an additional 5% GFAR (gross floor area to lot area ratio) for lots 10,000 sf and less. Except most don’t move to MI to have a rental DADU in their backyard, the owner must live onsite, DAU’s are quite expensive to build per sf especially with the new international building code Inslees signed into law, the few that do exist are quite expensive to rent or are rented out on Airbnb (although MI prohibits rentals less than 30 days), and most of the “affordable” rental housing on MI is just renting a room in a house, although “gentrification” is eliminating these older SFH’s.

        Or eliminating regulatory limits on height, GFAR, impervious surfaces, parking and yard setbacks which is what you would need to do to actually increase the amount of actual housing (number of bedrooms) if you replace a SFH with a multi-family structure. So MI looks like a very urban paved landscaped. Still it would not be affordable unless it degraded the livability of the Island/neighborhood.

        ARCH has one older building on MI for affordable senior housing, but the list is years long because you can’t migrate the elderly into less than 100% subsidized housing, and they tend to live a very long time these days. ARCH doesn’t attempt to build or buy any new affordable housing on MI because ARCH’s philosophy is affordable housing begins with affordable land, and good transit.

        So how is a city like Mercer Island that is way ahead of nearly every other city in its total housing units target suppose to create housing that is affordable for someone earning 100% AMI or less?

        Build more new multi-family housing? We are doing that but the cost (rent or sale) is very high for this new construction, and much is bought or owned by off Island investors. Plus it tends to replace older more affordable existing multi-family housing. Lower minimum lot sizes from 15,000 sf to 7500 sf, or from 10,000 to 5000 sf, which would still result in any new housing on that lot costing well over $2 million? Upzone all the residential neighborhoods to multi-family when there is no intra-Island transit and much of the Island is very steep just to get to the road?

        Seattle is struggling with these same issues, and it has way more “affordable” land than MI. Affordable housing goes against market interests and forces and this region has a lot of wealth. Without public subsidies you really can’t build affordable housing for those with AMI’s below 100%, especially if they insist on living alone. We saw the gentrification of The Central District, and now the same thing is happening in South Seattle.

        About the only thing Balducci’s committee can do is require or request expensive eastside cities to contribute more to ARCH, and some really don’t pay their fair share, like Medina and Beaux Arts under the funding formula.

        Developers and the MBA have been very successful in selling upzoning to naive progressives and obfuscating the fact creating more individual housing units doesn’t create more addtional actual housing based on bedrooms, many of whom are resentful of rising property values and rents, but they are not really selling affordability. In fact since new zoning needs new construction to implement the new zoning they are selling the opposite, because no builder or developer plans to sell or rent their housing below market.

        The reality is many areas in Seattle (if not most) are unaffordable for the same reasons. Seattle allows three legal dwelling units per lot now and state law prohibits any limits on the number of unrelated persons living in the units (other than fire code), and the UGA’s were upzoned, but where is the affordable housing? We are seeing gentrification making South Seattle unaffordable, but Cam doesn’t see that, or care, because zoning for him is part of class warfare, and what he really sees is his rent rising, but doesn’t really understand why. If you understand the why, then you understand it isn’t going to get better because local governments don’t have enough funds to create all the affordable housing needed — especially 0% to 30% AMI housing for folks with probably zero residual earning capacity — and Seattle tends to be a big draw around the country for these folks.

        What will happen is what happens to all wealthy U.S. cities: residents will have to move out until they reach an area they can afford and commute if they must, including those living in South Seattle today, although maybe WFH will help migrate more of the wealthy folks driving up rents in the urban core to other areas. Or areas in Seattle become less attractive and Seattle begins to die like midwestern cities where you can buy a SFH for $25,000.

      17. Seattle’s almost as bad. There is a reason I didn’t return.

        Tacoma is at least trying. Too slow for the need, but at least they eliminated SFZs.

        Talk to me when MI follows suit and changes that 88% to 0%.

      18. “It’s sad to see the demise of Pacific Place.”

        The developer is only proposing to reduce the amount of retail, not eliminate it. It’s still an open question what the new retail will be, and whether they’ll preserve the beautiful atrium atmosphere. So we don’t need to write off Pacific Place yet. As for it currently struggling to fill up with tenants, so are other retail spaces downtown and elsewhere in Seattle; that’s not specific to Pacific Place. Naturally, the spaces closest to 5th & Pine will recover first, and it will spread from there, the speed based on relative supply and demand. Pacific Place has never been a “must be in” building; it’s just a somewhat convenient location with a nice interior, and the other boutique signs make your boutique sign look better.

      19. Seattle allows three legal dwellings on a residential lot (and UGA’s). How is that SFH zoning? Mercer Island allows two dwellings on any residential lot: a main house and a DADU up to 900 sf. Plus it has a very large multi-family zone and allows housing throughout the commercial zone, neither of which are very affordable.

        Or are you arguing for eliminating regulatory limits such as height, GFAR, lot coverage, impervious surface limits, etc.? Of course those new limits would apply to a SFH as well in the same zone which would overwhelm the lot.

        You also don’t get any “middle housing” when you eliminate regulatory limits, like in downtown Bellevue. Developers tend to build to the limit.
        It hardly makes sense to adopt a minor upzone. Go all out and eliminate all regulatory limits. Plus better increase bus transit by around ten fold if you plan to eliminate parking limits in remote residential upzoned neighborhoods on the basis folks will get rid of their cars and take transit. Unless like North Bend you are ok with 45 minute frequencies to Mercer Island, where you get to transfer.

        You moved to Tacoma for lower housing costs, which is what happens, which probably forced someone out of Tacoma. But those lower housing costs preceded the zoning change, which is a very mild zoning change. Look for Tacoma housing costs to rise significantly, in part because downtown Seattle is not doing so well and the eastside is very expensive. Tacoma is a nice city, and I would argue the downtown is better than downtown Seattle today.

        Good if you own in Tacoma, which is why the investors are moving into Tacoma.

      20. I support eliminating all zoning, beyond maybe keeping heavy industrial and thruways away from schools and residential.

      21. “I support eliminating all zoning, beyond maybe keeping heavy industrial and thruways away from schools and residential.”

        Why do you support eliminating all zoning except the two exceptions? What are the goals?

        I highly doubt any city will eliminate all zoning, and the bases for zoning in the first place were well intentioned https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoning#:~:text=The%20origins%20of%20zoning%20districts%20can%20be%20traced,that%20was%20also%20where%20the%20poorest%20people%20lived.

        I think to have any chance of eliminating zoning the goals have to be enunciated, because then others can determine whether eliminating all zoning will achieve those goals, and be worth the issues zoning was adopted to address in the first place (including your two exceptions).

        If the goal is more affordable housing, I don’t personally think zoning has much to do with that. The availability of land for multi-family housing is not an issue in this huge four county area, at least not yet, and multi-family does not necessarily mean affordable. I also doubt enough folks see the connection between zoning and affordability to spur them to eliminate all zoning, which to them looks more like a goal to force urbanism on them, which basically is the PSRC.

        Let’s see how Tacoma turns out, or Oregon, or the zoning changes in Seattle. So far regional housing prices have continued to soar, but there are many factors from construction costs to interest rates to labor costs to regional AMI that influence housing prices.

        My guess is those housing prices will continue to soar in this region, despite zoning changes and new construction, especially Tacoma, because Seattle money is moving to Tacoma, which Tacomans probably resent but can’t do anything about, except move farther south.

      22. My primary goal is to increase density and decrease reliance on the automobile. Dropping zoning would lead to mixing of housing types, and a mixing of commercial (retail as well as job centers) and residential, allowing to people to walk to stores and restaurants, instead of always being forced to get into their 2-tons of death, killing others, themselves and the planet.

      23. It’s SF zoning because in nobody’s current world is it cost effective to add a DADU or ADU while retaining the current primary structure. I know because I’m going through the process of adding a DADU above my 3-car garage right now.

        On the other hand, the POS 1000 sq ft house with the failing roof and the 30s ugly white brick on an 8000 sq ft corner lot up the street with a view of the water and the mountain would easily pencil a 6 or 8-plex, or even larger. Except. Historical designation means max 3 expensive units. So it sits their rotting. Instead of 8 families being housed.

        Even though it sits right next to a beautiful brick 8-plex built in the 40s right next-door. Before the racist exclusionary zoning made them illegal.

  3. Will we have the opportunity to exchange our original blue Orca Cards for the new black ones for free? I assume that at some point the blue ones won’t work, even if you can use them now. It would be nice to not have to pay a $5 card fee again.

    1. I think the blue ones will continue to work until they wear out. My original card lasted several years but finally couldn’t be scanned by most readers, so I took it to customer service and got a free replacement. It was registered so I got a balance transfer. They may be less willing to exchange it for a free card if it’s not registered.

      It’s possible that in a year or two they’ll deactivate all the old cars and there will have to be a mass exchange, and they shouldn’t charge a fee for that. But all the brochures and FAQs and articles imply that won’t happen; the system is backward-compatible and will remain so.

      In any case, your card will probably stop working in a few years anyway, when the battery runs out or the electronics fail.

      1. My card is good until August 31, 2024. So in theory ORCA and transit agencies have to honor the old cards at least until then.

  4. Pacific Place just isn’t a great retail building. It had poor pedestrian level entrances and way too many escalators. Maybe killing it will help the Macys building and surrounding retail reinvent itself.

    1. Macy’s didn’t leave because Pacific Place was too much competition. It left because of corporate-level problems and it had to close some of its stores. The Macy’s building is now offices, and the owner promises some kind of retail and renovation on the ground floor but never said exactly what. It can’t go back to being a multi-floor department store without kicking out Amazon.

  5. I’ve an ORCA card I got in 2009 and it still worked as of September. I don’t think this type has a battery in it. I think it’s induction powered by the antenna?

    When cards fail to work I think it’s just the antenna that powers the card from the reader getting broken.

    1. My ORCA card is a free fare one, as I am on disability. They have expiration dates, at which point they serve as regular ORCA cards.

  6. Was doing a walk through King St Station earlier, they have the new ORCA readers installed and ready to go.

  7. Did anyone use this weekend’s opportunity to take any of their friends on transit? I was busy and didn’t do it. I wish I did.

  8. Free fare weekend, and free fares moving forward.

    Don’t bother with pesky fares. Since it’s racist to check fares of every single person on the vehicle, agencies can’t do it any more and there’s no need to pay. If you are by some rare change stopped say “Sorry. My name is John Smith. I forgot to pay. I will definitely (not) do it next time.”. Either say the “not” out loud or in your head. Doesn’t matter.

  9. 2 observations about the new ORCA.

    1 – bus readers are still taking an extra couple of seconds to register each tap, which is awkward because at busy stops people either have to wait longer to confirm their card worked, or they won’t know if an error beep is for them or for the person in front of them.

    2 – Communication from Metro implied that old ORCA cards could still be used fully. However an article from today’s Seattle Times implies that we need to re-register all of our cards in order to keep autoload working. I imagine there will be quite a few failed autoloads in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully drivers will be sympathetic.

    1. The ORCA brochures, website, and some newspaper articles have said that all this week: if you used the old website for autoload, e-purse adding, registering your card, or looking up your trip history, you’ll have to create an account on the new site to continue all those. Also, you can’t add to e-purse at retail outlets with the old cards, and you can’t add a pass at retail outlets at all anymore. But the card should still work at readers and TVMs.

  10. I wonder which local companies and organizations have the best ORCA as a perk policy, where they give an unlimited ORCA card free to all employees? I’m sure most or all local government employees are given one. I also wonder if any companies who had a generous ORCA perk policy before covid, has since cut back on it because of closed offices and wfh.

    1. It would be a big hit to transit agencies if bigger companies reduced buying monthly passes for their employees due to WFH policies.

      1. Unlimited doesn’t make sense for cash-strapped public agency in Pierce. The transit is so poor and infrequent, that few ride, so they just try to keep my orca topped-off. Cheaper that way.

    2. Aren’t all companies above a certain size required to offer ORCA passes? Or at least to have some kind of SOV-commute reduction strategy.

      1. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-could-require-businesses-to-let-workers-pay-for-transit-with-pretax-wages/

        https://www.theurbanist.org/2018/10/02/seattles-new-pre-tax-transit-pass-policy-will-save-users-hundreds-annually/

        Actually, I thought this was part of the 2017 tax bill which eliminated deductibility of transit subsidies (for actual travel to and from work) for employers but allowed an employee to accept up to $255/mo. I think in transit reimbursement before it was taxable income. Maybe this legislation was to benefit employees who don’t itemize.

        I thought an unlimited transit pass cost $99/mo. Why would the legislation allow an employee to use up to $260/mo. in pre-tax wages, and how does the employee itemize the actual travel if they don’t itemize on their return.

        Pre-pandemic we offered 100% transit passes to staff, some of whom used Sounder, although the monthly cost was closer to $260 for some (or so they claimed). We were supposed to keep a log of the travel and amount but never did because it was not deductible. Then we just had too hard a time getting staff to commute by bus downtown, and then the pandemic hit.

      2. “I thought an unlimited transit pass cost $99/mo.”

        A $2.75 pass costs $99/month. That’s good for Metro everywhere, Link up to the distance of Westlake-Rainier Beach or Northgate-Beacon Hill, and CT/PT/ET local routes. If you commute on ST Express the fare is $3.25, Northgate-Angle Lake is $3.50, CT 4xx/8xx routes are $4.25, Sounder goes up to $5.75, and the ferries are whatever they are. You’d need a higher-price pass for those. CT’s website has a convenient chart that says a $4.25 pass costs $153. ST Express would be somewhere in between, Sounder higher, and who knows about the ferries.

        The ferries don’t participate in ORCA transfers, so you’d have to buy both a ferry pass and a PugetPass if you commute on both a ferry and Metro/Link.

      3. My recollection was that, if the transit pass is purchased through the employer, the employer can simply deduct the cost off the income reported on the W-2 form, subject to the limit. So, there is no tax reporting burden on the employee, nor does it matter whether the employee itemizes or not.

        As to the 2017 tax law, we should count ourselves lucky that the Republicans didn’t eliminate the deduction entirely. To put it bluntly, Republicans have zero reason to give any **** whatsoever about people who ride transit, and eliminating the deduction would have allowed a slightly larger corporate tax cut while staying within the limits on increases to the deficit necessary to allow the law to pass through budget reconciliation (necessary to bypass the filibuster).

        Population density is very strongly correlated with both transit ridership and the Democratic party vote share. And, the vast majority of relatively high-ridership cities are also in deep blue states. You have to scroll down the rankings to #9 (Arlington) and #11 (Philadelphia) to find stuff in a swing state. And you have to scroll all the down to #29 (Miami), to find a city in a state under Republican control. To put that in perspective, even Bellevue, WA (#27) beats out Miami.

      4. “Republicans have zero reason to give any **** whatsoever about people who ride transit”

        Even though they and their families take the DC Metro, and their Wall Street counterparts take the NYC subway, they can’t imagine that what works for them would also work in their constituents’ cities or their parents’ cities. They have effective benefits of living in Europe while denying it to their constituents and pretending to them it doesn’t work.

      5. “Even though they and their families take the DC Metro”

        Do they? I thought members of Congress get reserved parking spaces at the capital, and they all drive (both Democrats and Republicans). (Joe Biden, taking Amtrak when he was in the Senate, being a rare exception).

        To be fair, members of Congress have security constraints which ordinary people do not. Public figures have powerful enemies, some of whom might be armed and violent. If I were in their position, I would probably not be riding public transport either.

    3. UW supposedly is finally making the U-PASS fully-subsidized for all staff and faculty (it’s already available for certain classified staff and students). Based on my partner’s experiences, I know Microsoft provides free ORCA cards for all staff (including contractors), and Amazon does for full-time employees (but not contractors). Google does not for contractors, at least as of ~6 years ago, but I believe does for full-time staff.

      As a long-time UW employee, it’s pretty disappointing that we’re behind even some of the tech companies that are happy to exploit society in other ways, on top of the generally lower salaries.

  11. Warning to others: the additional passwords on the new Orca site (also known as “insecurity questions”) are *required for initial login*, not just for password reset! Make sure that whatever you put in those fields is something you will be able to enter on demand (e.g. put it in a password manager)

  12. First usage reports.

    When I tapped in on Link, the new reader displayed “THANK YOU” and a green checkmark and beeped once. When I tapped out, it did exactly the same thing. It said nothing about how much I paid or my balance, and the beep was identical to tapping in. So I have no idea whether I tapped in or out or both or neither.

    We pleaded with ST for years to have a distinct tapout beep, both for blind riders and for those who don’t look at the display, and it finally added a double beep for tapout. This reader didn’t have this, or it doesn’t recognize tapouts yet. Also, I’d like to know my balance and how much I paid.

    The Metro reader was the old kind and didn’t take longer than normal. The message was “PERMIT TO TRAVEL” like it was doing last week. That message used to be on Link but not on buses. I haven’t seen any Metro bus with a new reader yet.

    If some bus readers are taking longer than they used to, that may be because in the old system the value was on the card, while in the new system it’s on a central server. So it may be communicating with the server in real-time like ATMs do. Or maybe the buses are still downloading a snapshot of the database every morning. If so, I don’t know how website payments can be effective on buses immediately.

  13. I had trouble getting my new account going. I couldn’t remember my password (according to Orca), so I submitted a password reset. I found no message on my email, though farther down the list I saw a notice from Orca that the system was changing, so this was the email account that I was registered to. Finally I simply signed up for a new account on the existing email, and it accepted it. Except when I got to the part about the Payment Method for the autoload. The popup menu says “Select Payment Method”, but then nothing happens, and there’s no way to actually setup an autoload. I’ll try another browser, but the new website is off to a bumpy start already.

    1. I just setup autoload on my card, and it wasn’t obvious how to add a new payment method.

      The current setup requires that you go to your “payment settings” tab of your profile, add a payment option there, and then go back to the card management page (“My Cards”) to add value or passes.

    2. Autoload is having some initial problems. There’s a workaround in a Seattle Times article by Mike Lindblom:

      “after hitting the yellow button to ‘Add Autoload’ — which thousands of people need to do — we weren’t able to ‘select payment method.’ A rider described that same issue on Twitter, where ORCA responded with some advice. To add autoload, move your mouse to the left side of the screen. In the gray stripe, click “Payment settings” and enter your credit or debit card information. After that step, the autoload field will accept your choice of payment method.”

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