- King County Metro and Parks: Trailhead Direct starts May 28.
- Seattle is kicking off the new comprehensive plan with a website and survey. If you are interested in zoning reform, direct your energy there.
- Amtrak delays Seattle-Vancouver return until “late 2022” due to staffing
- The Urbanist: new Sound Transit real-time arrival screens delayed until the fall
- Interesting data from DC Metro: buses are back to 88% of pre-pandemic levels, trains just 35%
- US Traffic fatalities up 10.5% in 2021. It’s not a COVID thing, it’s an America thing.
207 Replies to “News roundup: delayed”
At the risk of being moderated for being off topic:
There are no working ORCA card readers at Seatac Station to tap on/off with. The old ones are covered with bags and there are no new ones. Does anyone know of any other locations that are similarly lacking?
My fiance told me that one of her coworkers mentioned that the Bainbridge Ferry terminal was rejecting everyone’s ORCA cards yesterday morning. It seems some of the agencies weren’t ready for the transition. I imagine coordinating all the ORCA agencies is much worse than herding cats.
I hope they were able to board.
That is ridiculous. They have been talking and planning for this for how many months and they can’t get everyone on the same page. Absolutely poor planning and coordination but then again these are government agencies and some of them don’t have the greatest reputations when it comes to changes and implementing them.
I imagine ORCA integration on WSF is near the bottom of WSDOT’s priorities.
From what I heard, there was a big line at the ticket vending machines so I assume folks were able to buy tickets to board, just without the speed and convenience of the ORCA card. I wonder if they’ve gotten it sorted out by now.
I remember when they launched the original Orca before Link opened in 2009. I remember some politicians bragging about how great it was, but I knew an employee at Metro. She told me it the launch was not smooth at all. So this is just phase 2 of the same thing. I believe it will eventuually work.
The thing like before was the free card. They waved the $5 dollar card fee for a while. Is a new card free now? It should be until all agencies have every feature up and running correctly.
Bainbridge is free for passengers. There’s no orca reader or need.
For Washington Srate Ferry it’s free. Maybe this is the foot ferry?
It’s only “free” in the sense that you pay both ways westbound.
Metro (Wash, DC) had to pull +70 operators because management allowed their safety certificates lapse for over a year. Domestic visitors often praise DC’s Metro but their rail program really is in shambles. The anemic ridership also shows an immense equity gap between lower income bus riders and suburban remote office workers.
My understanding is that DC Metrorail (like BART) was fully-funded for its construction, but struggles to fund itself for operations, maintenance/SOGR. This leads to extreme difficulty in maintaining… anything.
I want to read a humorous transit piece, preferably written in the style of P.J. O’Rourke. Think Holidays in Hell. I’ll let whoever writes this decide the subject. This can be either a Guest Post, Page 2, or long comment in an open thread.
There was once a troll named Sam
He wanted to ride the new tram
But he was too busy trolling
He missed the door closing
And he fell on his face — splam!
This ORCA you have
It’s going out of fashion
Black is the new blue
haha, nice! So, Mike, you said you were going to do a walking tour of Mercer Island some day. While you’re there, I think it would be interesting if you also to rode, or at least tried to find, and ride, the route 204. It’s such a mysterious route to me. I wonder who, if anyone, rides that thing.
I have been meaning to post a proposed walking tour of MI for Mike so here goes:
Take the bus to MI. Exit and walk north across N. Mercer Way on 80th and behind the park and ride. Turn right and walk a short distance to the community center on our left (the community center is open and often has art displays and bathrooms). Walk along the western edge of the parking lot up the gravel path (this is now formally part of Luther Burbank Park) past the pea patch and down the wooded trail to the park. Nice views from this area towards Seattle. Then do a loop of the park first walking north to the lake’s edge, then along the lake’s edge to the southern part of the park.
Return to the community center and back of the park and ride and continue on this street past a lot of nice neighborhoods and houses on your right. It will eventually turn/curve right and take you to SE 22nd and N. Mercer Way where it ends. Turn left on NMW, cross I-90, and cross the street (76th) to access the sound to mountains bike trail through the lid park. Haps burgers is kitty corner. Good shakes.
Continue through the park. When you get to the ballfields and bathroom you can take a detour down 72nd to the Roanoke for a beer. Continue on the trail through the park west past the tennis courts towards the lake. Great views of Seattle from the tennis courts. Follow the trail all the way down to the lake. Turn left and walk along the shore for around 1 mile. Lovely houses on both sides of the street, and several small waterfront parks.
This street will naturally end and curve to the left up a steep hill. Walk all the way to the top across West Mercer Way including the top of the stairs. Now you are on First Hill which is a nice, older neighborhood with more modest homes and smaller lots. Continue southeast until you reach the greenbelt and take one of the paths or staircases down the greenbelt to the town center.
At the town center there are two good grocery stores, Barrels Wine Bar, and some other places. Probably walking along 78th is best, which takes you to the sculpture garden and then across I-90 on 77th or 80th to see the different station entrances (not bad landscaping for ST although the stations themselves are not my cup of tea) and then back on the bus to Seattle.
I would skip the 204 or going to the south end. It is purely residential with very large lots and not a good walking tour IMO.
I desperately wanted to upvote this.
There is some stuff worth seeing at the south end. There’s Pioneer Park and Clark Beach. You can walk one way and take the 204 back, which I have done before.
You can also visit the ducks at Ellis Pond.
I may do that Mercer Island tour tomorrow. to celebrate the 70 degree sun. Do you have any recommendations for lunch in MI downtown? (Not brunch.)
I’m not looking forward to half-hourly 550 though. At least the 554 will overlap westbound. The 204 doesn’t run Sundays so I’d miss that part.
The Trailhead is running during an operator shortage? Are these Metro drivers or contractors..?
In the past it was contracted out, similar to Via. Not sure how it is this year, though. The Mt Si route especially is quite popular so it’s definitely not a waste.
Hope Link, not Via. The two are not similar. Hope Link operators have regular jobs and wages. Via operators are in the gig economy.
Good to know, thanks for the clarification. I’ve never used Via but the Trailhead operators we’ve had have all been great.
https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/accountability/reports/2020/system-evaluation-attachment-a.pdf See page 15 for productivity and cost per rider of trailhead routes with 2019 data. The network may be different in 2022.
I don’t read the Urbanist anymore after they got rid of the comments section. But in checking out the article linked to above I came across https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/05/15/mercer-island-set-to-renew-development-moratorium-for-fourth-time-in-two-years/
The article completely misunderstands the issues for the moratorium. The author — whose claim to fame is as “an urbanist fox on the internet” — (and looks younger than my son) writes:
“On Tuesday evening, Mercer Island’s City Council is poised to renew a moratorium that prevents the redevelopment of parcels in the southeast corner of the city’s Town Center, one of the only areas on the 12.9 square mile island where relatively dense, mixed-use housing is allowed. The ordinance, originally passed as a six-month emergency moratorium in June 2020, has since been extended three times to last nearly two years — and will likely endure for a few months more.
“All the while, 16 acres of real estate that’s mere minutes from a soon-to-open light rail station has been restricted from redevelopment, out of dramatic fear that inconsistent development could result in “visual blight, economic hardship, and poor infrastructure design that pose harm to public health, safety, property, and welfare.”
In fact this area south of 29th was rezoned by a very progressive council in 2016 to reduce maximum height from four to three stories (the rest of the town center is zoned 4 and 5 stories), in exchange for eliminating any retail requirements although this area is in the heart of the town center, and Mercer Island’s past mixed use zoning has done a very poor job of retaining retail space despite allowing dramatic increases in housing (plus there is the huge surrounding multi-family zone). Mercer Island is one of the few cities that allows housing in every zone, including the commercial zone, and is one of the few cities ahead of the PSRC’s 2035 Vision housing growth targets.
It is true the council has dithered a bit, and some of that is the objection of property owners, but the real issue is whether to add a fourth story of housing in exchange for a street level of retail. Hardly “dramatic fear”. Other cities like in Old Main Street or Old Front Street don’t allow any housing in the zone they hope to revitalize with retail.
The property is not being removed from development, and of course East Link won’t open for another two years. It is will likely be upzoned because the council wants to focus future housing in the town center (i.e. density). If history is any guide few of the new tenants will take transit, so part of the moratorium is to come up with an enforceable parking management plan because the last code allowed too little onsite parking thinking these suburban folks would take transit, and now their excess cars clog our town center streets because parking is free.
Our internet fox of course won’t be able to afford any of the new housing when the moratorium is lifted, and I highly doubt the new housing will be “TOD”, but still it is incredibly frustrating for me to read such an ill-informed article on The Urbanist, and really makes me question many of these progressive blogs. Why didn’t the author reach out to the city or council before writing such an ill-informed article?
Here’s my question for anti-Mercer Island activists … Mercer Island is a community with great schools, very low crime, very low poverty and homelessness, an abundance of greenery and nature, little to no graffiti and litter … So, if you could change Mercer Island into something else, what Seattle-area neighborhood would you pattern it after? And don’t just say it needs more density or multi-family housing. Name an urbanist-approved neighborhood that M.I. should be more like.
Mercer Island has Graffiti.
When my wife and I used to shop there, we took a walk down to Mercerdale park. There was graffiti covering everything….
on the trailer part of an 18 wheeler … parked at the entrance area to the park.
They’re trying to do their best to be like us common folk, so they import it.
Besides, there be witches and wizards there to do their nefarious deeds there,
(whilst gliding about).
That’s a trick question. Mercer Island is an island, with only one road and soon one rail line for access. It’s not necessarily the best place to put a lot of people. Bellevue, Renton, Kent, Renton, and eastern Kirkland are centrally located and accessible from all directions, and are already larger and have more infrastructure that can be added to. So why not put the largest chunks of growth there before getting to Mercer Island.
Here’s another idea. Relocate Media and the Points to Mercer Island, and turn former Medina into a new downtown Kirkland-like city. We could call it Sam City. It’s a little further west than I’d like for access, but it’s a better location than Mercer Island. And it’s on 520, so it could have a BRT station or a future Link station, actually pretty similar to Mercer Island station in relation to the rest of the city.
So, if you could change Mercer Island into something else, what Seattle-area neighborhood would you pattern it after?
I would say upper Fremont. But for that matter, I think this is a model for much of Seattle. This is one of the more architecturally diverse neighborhoods. I suggest walking around Linden, for example (https://goo.gl/maps/MSrLk6fUK92tPwNZ7). You can see old apartments, new apartments and plenty of houses. To my eye, some of it is very nice, some of it is ugly, but it is the mix that makes it interesting. Almost all of the apartments are low rise, no bigger than the houses.
It is probably not fair to expect Mercer Island to transition in that way, since it doesn’t have the history that Fremont has. From an architectural standpoint, I still like the older buildings the best. But then again, I find the newer developments to be much nicer than many of those built in the post-war period. For good or bad, that means Mercer Island would skip over buildings like this: https://goo.gl/maps/YTNkpY4CBPciiGoQ8.
From a practical standpoint, wide spread low rise is the way to go. Sure, you can pack more people in with higher buildings, but it isn’t worth the hassle. People hate having big buildings next to them, but a lowrise apartment or set of rowhouses (https://goo.gl/maps/EGySiqf62C8dp2dv9) is no big deal. I’m not saying folks in Mercer Island would be OK with adding apartments (of any kind) in their neighborhood, but their arguments are much weaker. The fundamental difference between a lowrise apartment and a house is that the former holds more people; thus people aren’t arguing about the structures, but density itself. This boils down to the desire to keep poor(er) people out of your neighborhood.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Mercer Island. I think I’ve played at every ball field, and drove through many of the neighborhoods. It is not fundamentally different than much of Seattle. It just evolved differently. A lot of Seattle grew up without zoning, and then added it later. Mercer Island is a lot like Magnolia, in that almost everything came later (after the automobile). Both are similar in that there are huge areas with nothing but single family houses. No apartments or shops, which make walking to the store very difficult. That isn’t the case with upper Fremont, of course. Their is a nearby grocery store (https://goo.gl/maps/iBST12QusWGfAup37) as well as plenty of restaurants and shops. That would probably be a more dramatic change, and like much of Seattle, limited to the arterials (although Seattle is trying to evolve on that front as well).
Mercer Island is an inner suburb. As employment has increased on the East Side, the value of living there has increased. Link will increase it further. Current zoning pushes up the cost of living there, making it impossible for the vast majority people to live in what is now a fairly convenient place. At the same time, it makes serving most of the island difficult with transit. If it looked like upper Fremont, then this would not be the case.
There is another issue, which is that you want that transfer point (to the train) to be a destination in itself. From what I can tell, that is happening. They aren’t just adding apartments there, but adding restaurants and other shops (to go along with the grocery stores). Thus adding shops along the arterial, and making the station area a destination would provide for additional trips, pushing up overall ridership. Right now it needs more density to do that (and provide for more housing for those who aren’t extremely wealthy).
Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to happen, absent some county or state-wide change. People view zoning as their right, ignoring the rights of someone looking to move into the neighborhood (or even the property owner themselves). They aren’t interesting in compromise, and while many are generous, that generosity does not extend to their block. Either that, or they are in denial as to the social benefits of zoning change (often these go together — people often will believe crazy theories if it fits their world view, or self interest). Not everyone in Mercer Island is like that, of course (I’ve met plenty who would be open to changes of this type) but my guess is they are a huge minority, making change of this nature very difficult.
How many parking spaces a project needs should be decided by people with an actual financial stake in the project, not arbitrary rules set by the city.
The basic premise of parking requirements is that new buildings should anticipate their parking needs and pay for it themselves, rather than freeload off the city. But, a hard requirement of X spaces per square foot or dwelling unit is too constraining. There are other, better solutions to force developers to honestly assess their parking demand, and not freeloading off city streets.
For example, suppose long term parking required a residential parking permit, which residents of the new building would be ineligible for? Or, suppose that in order to register a car in the first place, you had to prove that you have somewhere to park it? If a developer chooses to build too little parking and they can’t rent their units because residents can’t park on the street, that’s the developer’s problem, not the city’s problem. And market incentives will result in enough parking being built so that it isn’t a problem.
But, at the same time, market incentives will not be oblivious to costs. For instance, let’s suppose the developer wants to build 75 units, each level of parking holds 50 spaces, but the city’s formula says 75 units requires 101 parking spaces. The developer now has to either add an entire extra level to the parking garage at enormous cost or (more likely) reduce the number of units from 75 to 74, just to make the parking requirement is 99 or 100, rather than 101. But, with the free market, that 75th unit would likely be built, and there would simply be one less unit that would be allowed to keep 2 or 3 cars. And also, of course, for a place within walking distance of a grocery shopping and the light rail, the odds are actually quite good that at least one of the 75 units would go to somebody with no car, even if Daniel Thompson thinks otherwise. (1 out of 75 is really a very small number).
Where I think off street parking regulation is warrented is regarding quality, rather than quantity. For example, I think it’s fair to require that any new residential building which does include parking to have EV charging for at least some of the residents, and be wired up in such a way that residents who want a plug in their parking space, but don’t have one, could get one later in a way that is not cost-prohibitive. This is something that incurs minimal cost, if planned early enough, but provides enough tangible benefits to neighbors (cleaner air) to justify the regulation.
Ironically, parking minimums might lead to more people “freeloading” off the city street parking. This is because adding excessive parking makes the project more $$$, leading to rent being more $$$ and having to charge more for the parking spots. This leads to the garage being half empty and people parking in the street anyway, because it is much cheaper than the on site garage! A lot of wasted space. One thing that could address this is actually charging a market rate for street parking (discount for those who physically do not have *any* off street parking option would be OK), with the idea being that it is more convenient than dealing with a garage, and hence should actually be *more expensive* than the garage, not vice-versa.
To me it is pretty simple. The first question to ask is whether parking is a public good. If so, then how much should we have, and who should pay for it.
In the case of parking minimums, it is extremely unfair. Parking minimums require *new* residents to pay for parking (whether they use it or not) while existing residents pay nothing. The new residents pay for it because the cost of building the parking is rolled into the cost of building the apartment. It is estimated to cost around 20 grand per unit. Since it pushes up the cost of those units, it pushes up the cost of all available units. It is essentially a tax, but the tax only applies to someone looking for a place to live.
Personally, I don’t think parking is a public good. I think it is a private good. If you want parking, then pay for it. But if you do believe it is a public good, then have it compete with other public goods, like park improvements. Everyone should pay.
Consider public swimming pools. Imagine you take your kids swimming every week, at the local community center, where they have a pool. Now imagine your neighborhood is growing. You find that swimming is getting more and more crowded. What to do? Well, if you treat it like parking, then the answer is to require every new apartment building to have a pool. Of course the other alternative is to have the community build a new public pool. Clearly the latter is more just.
Ross, the existing residents did/do have onsite parking, whether it is a SFH or an existing smaller multi-family building or the one-story retail strips. The cost of their housing included that parking. Parking minimums were decreased in the new mixed-use developments based on the claim half or so of the tenants would take transit, but that did not happen. Private single story retail developments also have adequate dedicated surface parking (in part because they have no housing).
Streets are certainly a public good. How to use them is a debate for cities and city councils. At least the council on MI believes using streets for retail parking is a public good because retail is a public good in a town center, and it costs the city little unless to enforce. I am pretty sure that is SDOT’s approach too.
I think we agree parking is mostly a private good. Thus the parking minimums for SFH and multi-family housing, paid for by the owner, that match the actual number of likely cars, like three for a SFH. However if a city wants a vibrant retail core (a fundamental factor for urbanism) you want to attract shoppers, and you need parking for that.
Bellevue’s approach is definitely parking is a private good. It allows very little to no street parking anywhere in its commercial area. Whether Bellevue Mall or Lincoln Square or any of the new buildings that parking will be part of the development, and it will be underground at closer to $90,000/stall. Seattle allows for a lot more retail street parking.
However I also know some citizens on MI who definitely agree with experts like Brooks who believe that for a small town center like MI that RETAIL parking is actually a public good, and the city or citizens should fund a public parking lot to create “obvious” and “free” retail parking because it is the retail that is the public good.
As a taxpayer I definitely believe the city should start with enforcing the street parking it has, and then see if public investment is necessary, while increasing parking minimums in new mixed-use developments. The fundamental reality is we need more parking based on the demographic and amount of housing we have built in the town center. Private individuals should pay for their residential housing, like everyone else, and use the street parking for retail because that is a public good.
Seems like an easier solution would be to charge for street parking in the commercial center? Something as low as $0.50/hour could be enough to discourage long term parkers while being a negligible expense for people visiting MI’s downtown for a quick errand.
1. “Residential buildings with floor level retail are an abhorrent blight that subtracts housing for what often end up being franchises for corporate chains or kitschy, pointless boutique shops.”
In the past cities would not allow housing in the retail/commercial zones. So you ended up with walkable and inviting retail only zones like Old Main Street, Old Front Street, Edmonds and Bainbridge.
Urbanists and urban planners then argued that in denser areas a better model was the “mixed-use” building that created more housing, and created the retail necessary for an inviting and walkable urban experience. Otherwise you have a housing desert. On this I agree with the urbanists, (although not in remote SFH zones with very mild upzones and no retail), although I do wish Mercer Island had created at least some retail only zone/area when platting its town center decades ago.
The problem is housing is much more lucrative than retail for developers, certainly on MI, and retail requires a disproportionate amount of parking (which if underground, like most cities require for mixed-use development, is expensive). At least on MI where all zones allow housing these buildings do or will need to include bookstores, veterinarians, dry cleaners, hardware stores, dentists, doctors, bars and restaurants, pharmacies, maybe grocery stores, and the other establishments a city needs (and not the commercial tenants like banks or real estate firms). Otherwise MI will be a retail desert, the opposite of the goal of mixed–use development.
A well known maxim is housing increases in value the higher it goes up, and retail decreases. Ground floor housing is the least expensive because it is loud and perceived as less safe while better views are higher up which is why penthouses are at the top, and retail above the street level gets little traffic.
Unfortunately another maxim is women hate underground parking, and women buy most of the stuff in the U.S.
The trade off, whether Mercer Island or downtown Bellevue, is to allow greater height for housing (or offices in the case of Bellevue) for more underground parking. Bellevue granted something like 14 additional stories because it wants lots of parking, 100% below grade, and retail at grade. At 660′ height limits that is no longer a problem. However there is quite a movement on MI to eliminate housing in the remaining town center properties, or severely restrict the number of stories (to one) because every other inviting retail area like those I mention above is one story. Additional housing does not benefit the existing citizens.
It is very hard to have a discussion about parking with transit advocates because they see limiting parking as a way to force drivers onto transit. That is NEVER going to happen, and in fact the opposite migration is happening today. As Martin notes, after spending billions on West Seattle Link 400 out of 100,000 daily drivers will move to Link. Instead, shoppers shift to retail areas with parking, and usually free parking. Retailers understand that; transit advocates not so much. Bellevue wants the same walkable retail rich “urbanist” feeling in its commercial core; it just believes folks will always drive there, it does not want cars on the street, so put them underground.
2. “Seems like an easier solution would be to charge for street parking in the commercial center? Something as low as $0.50/hour could be enough to discourage long term parkers while being a negligible expense for people visiting MI’s downtown for a quick errand.”
There are three problems with this.
First, it is expensive to create an enforceable parking zone, and to enforce it. Recently the 6th circuit held marking a car tire with chalk as part of parking management is a violation of the 4th amendment. So Mercer Island had to spend $100,000 on license plate readers which it will use to enforce street parking, plus the cost of the officer to do that all day and night. This is a terrible waste of money. It is also a terrible waste of money for private parking lot owners whose retail space is also used by overflow mixed–use housing parking. A well known saying on MI is a car in the winter parked on a city street should not have a frosted-up windshield, because that means it was parked there all night, and the town center closes down by 10 pm.
Second, you want free parking for retail. Just like Capitol Hill, smaller businesses in buildings without underground or surface parking need street parking for their customers, except they are filled by overflow residential parking. (The amount of free parking, 2 or 4 hours, is a debate MI is having right now). Mercer Island needs the street parking for its retail stores, and on the eastside if the parking is not free no one goes there. A big reason Seattle retail is dying and shoppers have migrated to other areas that have: 1. obvious parking; and 2. free parking.
Three, the couples who rented a place with one parking stall (or in Seattle no onsite parking) howl because naturally they have two cars, and now the building wants to charge a fortune for an extra stall the owner steals from the retail parking set-aside.
3. “How many parking spaces a project needs should be decided by people with an actual financial stake in the project, not arbitrary rules set by the city.”
This an interesting statement for two reasons:
One, cities have an intrinsic right to zone and regulate their zones. The entire concept of zoning — including requiring or allowing housing or affordable housing setasides — is to mitigate the market. No one wants a One Union Square with no parking that is way undervalued for that reason but will last decades at a prime downtown corner. The response to asdf2’s comment, at least on MI, is to then limit height to one story, which will result in retail because housing would be uneconomical.
Second, although I did not understand this until told, the people financing the new buildings — at least the huge ones in Bellevue — often require more parking than the city does, because they know a building with inadequate parking will not attract the top businesses, executives, or retail. Most eastside cities require three parking spots (one uncovered and two covered) for a SFH, and at least one for multi-family, which is too low because most eastsiders don’t live alone, and they don’t ride transit. Urbanists live alone.
If you are coming to this issue thinking limiting or banning parking will move folks from cars to transit I think that is a big mistake and does not address the issue cities are trying to address when it comes to parking, and no place has more cars parked on the street than Seattle, because it was one of the first to move to a mixed-use model in many of its neighborhoods, but allowed inadequate off-site parking. These cities want more, not less, parking, because the state and PSRC/GMPC want more housing.
Eastside cities don’t want to become like Capitol Hill or Ballard or other Seattle cities where every inch of street is filled with parked cars, and you can’t find a place to park to shop. That is a good way to discourage workers commuting to the city or shoppers coming to the city. Bellevue knows that, Seattle does not. Mercer Island is learning, except we don’t want a 660′ height limit, but are being forced to accommodate more housing which urbanists and urban planners should be in our town center near transit where it will support retail density. Except so far it has had the opposite effect.
1. “Residential buildings with floor level retail are an abhorrent blight that subtracts housing for what often end up being franchises for corporate chains or kitschy, pointless boutique shops.”
I think it’s best to take a longer view of urban development.
Prior to the industrial revolution, it was typical to live and work on the same piece of property. Either we were farmers (and husbands and wives and often children) who worked at home or we were tradespeople who had a workshop at home. The US was different than Europe where farmers lived in villages and went out to their fields.
Even in the early 20th Century, before zoning got obsessive and cars predominated, streetcar suburbs had small stores that were neighborhood general stores. Zoning was seen as a way to avoid having noxious uses near homes. Micro-managing the number of units per lot was not practiced except to guarantee a minimum size per dwelling.
Then along comes car culture and even small general stores were deemed evil. Unlike much of Seattle (where most people can walk to a small building that was once commercial), many suburban areas banned such land uses so residents were forced to drive to merely get a quart of milk.
In sum, this separation in urban areas is really only about a relatively short 70-80 years of human history. Today’s boomers think it is normal but if you talk to someone over 90 you will often hear about the neighborhood store that was reachable on foot.
With the right attention to site and sign and density restrictions, there probably should be a way to allow some commercial structures anywhere in any city.
In that line of thought, it’s good to have ground floor retail in apartment buildings to be possible. The issue I see is often that there is too much square footage cumulatively when blocks of buildings have it. It’s like having too many shopping centers — and the marketplace will create vacancies. That seems solvable by building owners being more innovative or more permitted to allow live-work lofts or artist workshops or day care or even worship or gathering spaces.
The next issue is that corporate America has shifted from small independent merchants to large company stores. That makes it hard to end up with good ground floor retail. That solution is structural in the economy and involves a wider set of tax and policy changes.
It’s not so much that reduced parking “forces people to use transit,” it’s more that reduced parking (or at least a reduced footprint of parking, e.g., U. Village) allows for more retail density and diversity — which is actually very important for retail. Additionally, not having to walk across large parking lots and through garages is a more attractive environment for people who *were not driving* to begin with, some of whom either live in walking distance or where already in the area for another reason. (Also “drive and park once” people–no need to move the car to get between shops/errands). I guarantee you that “women who do 99% of shopping” do not like having to walk across parking lots or move their cars just to get to or between stores/errands.
Please provide a “Block” button, Frank. I’m very happy not to be read if it means I don’t have to read certain smug others.
City Beautiful defines Transit-Oriented Development. He starts with Aranco MAX station in Portland. Some blocks are less dense than some people might expect. He also discusses the role of park n rides, TOD without T, and says some things about transit that will be controversial here.
Anti-TOD people, what’s wrong with these examples? Why wouldn’t you want them in your neighborhood? Why can’t they be a major part of every city and suburb, like say half? Isn’t a more walkable landscape intrinsically better than a less walkable landscape, and a win-win?
Residential buildings with floor level retail are an abhorrent blight that subtracts housing for what often end up being franchises for corporate chains or kitschy, pointless boutique shops.
Living above shops is so common in urban societies it can probably be regarded as a defining characteristic, unlike say a rural or village society where the buying and selling of things takes place in the open-air or at covered markets.
They were typical in medieval times, from London to Cairo. They are common enough that there are different words for them, depending on the language. In France, they call them “Maisonette”, while in much of Asia, they use the term “Shophouse”. My guess is, in most of England they just called them “shop”, and assumed that someone lived above it.
To call them abhorrent is to basically say you don’t like cities, or at the very least, you don’t understand them. Travel the world, and you will find they are common in the nicest of cities.
It sounds like you don’t like the architecture, or the tenants that inhabit them. Fair enough. But to decry a form that is the basis for modern cities is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
This is the first time I’ve ever heard of ground-level retail being a negative. What’s worse is living in a residential-only neighborhood like I grew up in, where the nearest supermarket was a mile away, and other retail and services was even further. In contrast, it’s so easy to walk half a block or a couple blocks to a corner store or boutique. People who have that opportunity usually love it, and people who don’t usually wish they did.
But A Joy also opposes sidewalk dining and parking-space dining, which Seattle and Edmonds expanded during covid and are now making permanent. The allegation is that they benefit the company at the expense of the public-owned right of way. But much of the public considers sidewalk dining a public benefit and aesthetic amenity. It’s what Paris and Italy have so much of that Americans wish we had, along with public plazas and ubiquidous transit. So these wonderful things that Americans love in other countries — are bad in Seattle, a private gain at public expense? Of course, the businesses should pay a reasonable annual fee, and I assume the cities and public are working on an appropriate fee schedule.
If you go to Amsterdam you will see apartments throughout the city with retail on the first floor. There are supermarkets but not that many so people shop at these retail stores in their neighborhood. You have a butcher shop, a bakery, a dairy store, drugstore, cafes, bars and other stores. And in Amsterdam you either walk to them or ride you bike and you will see riders from kids to grandparents.
And Amsterdam like other European cities have terraces in front of restaurants, bars and cafes and on a nice day it is nice to sit there and enjoy a beverage and/or a meal or snack. They add to the atmosphere of the city.
I think I saw that Orenco MAX station when I rode Westside MAX in 2016 to see how it had changed since 1998, when I first rode it two months after it opened, and to verify my memories. I didn’t know much about the west side, but I saw a station area with a large pedestrian plaza like in Italy where people would sit and have lunch or hang out, surrounded by TOD, and it had an Italian-sounding name, Orenco, if I’m remembering right. There was a French bakery on the plaza visible from the train, so on our last day my friend and I went and had breakfast there, and it was very good if I recall.
I meant to say, when I saw that neigborhood without knowing it existed, I thought, “This is wonderful!” It was really what I want more station areas to be like, and the kind of place I’d want to live.
Slate article: “ The Decade of Cheap Rides Is Over”
An interesting note is that prices for Uber and Lyft now often meet or exceed the prices of an equivalent taxicab ride, and still aren’t making a profit.
* Equivalent taxicab ride means before random additional surcharges and fees are added at the end.
Some of them are still charging extra to pay with a credit card or even using their own app!
It’s not surprising to hear that there’s a huge amount of private VC subsidy going on with rideshare companies, and adjacent companies like meal delivery. I wonder how their business model would look if they also weren’t allowed to benefit from the dangerous and illegal habits of their employees (err… contractors), like wrong-way driving, parking in bus stops/bike lanes, blocking driveways, etc.? Basically the only way the companies can exist is by simultaneously exploiting their workers through low pay and no benefits, and society by flouting laws and endangering other people.
From the article:
“One well-known consequence of the rider subsidy is the decline in public transit. One study estimates the arrival of Uber and Lyft in a city decreases rail ridership by 1.29 percent and bus ridership by 1.7 percent each year. In San Francisco, where Uber was founded, the authors estimate Uber has decreased bus ridership by 12.7 percent. A second study concluded a 5.4 percent decline in bus ridership in mid-sized cities. A third study clocked the decline at 8.9 percent. A related Uber phenomenon has been a sizable increase in downtown traffic congestion.”
“While the transportation-network companies probably increased vehicle ownership, they also gave cities cover to reduce expensive parking mandates, and developers responded with smaller garages or no parking at all. The builders of Cul de Sac, Phoenix’s first parking-free development, credit the rise of “ride sharing” for making their project possible. It has also changed the model for restaurants and bars, which don’t require as much parking as they used to. That’s good for land use and very good for drunk-driving rates, which have fallen significantly as Uber uptake has increased.”
The Uber/Lyft model will always be strong. It fits a perfect niche, and beats public transit at safety, convenience, cleanliness, and time of trip. Pooled rides will help defray costs, and Biden is working like crazy to increase oil and gas production although he will run out of time by Nov. 2022, although future politicians won’t make the same mistake. Plus more and more Uber/Lyft cars will move to hybrid (most are today) and then EV’s, especially if the state and feds subsidize EV’s for Uber/Lyft.
As I posted the other day, if you artificially reduce parking thinking you will benefit transit don’t be surprised if the market bites you in the ass.
Where Uber/Lyft don’t compete well with (grade separated) public transit is peak commutes, even though they don’t need parking. But that is the rider who is now WFH or closer to home, and is abandoning all transportation during the one period of significant traffic congestion, at least in this area.
“But maybe not. The level of money plowed into creating the Uber-Lyft system is reminiscent less of typical corporate expansion than of a big government project like the Concorde. The supersonic jet ultimately wasn’t a good enough product to endure in spite of all the money that had been spent on its development. But at least when the Concorde revealed itself to be fundamentally incompatible with the times, it didn’t employ millions of people and ferry around billions more.”
This concluding paragraph is ironic. Uber/Lyft vehicles are not the Concorde: Link is. I can’t think of anything more compatible with the times than Uber/Lyft today, and the miles they are driving proves that.
Uber is still awfully expensive…
Also, in many cases, the travel time advantages of Uber and Lyft over the bus disappear the moment rides are pooled (assuming a relatively short distance and decent bus service). Yes, Uber and Lyft make fewer stops, but each stop adds 5-10 minutes to the journey to load or unload one passenger, compared to the bus where each stop takes maybe 30-60 seconds, even with several people getting off or on.
The reason why stops on Uber and Lyft are so inefficient is all of the extra turns, stoplights, and parking lot traffic required to reach each person’s front door, which the bus avoids by just stopping in the middle of the street. On top of this, the physical process of getting into and out of a bus is much quicker than with a car.
If the bus runs every 15 minutes and takes 15 minutes to get you where you’re going, rider share is just very poor value in terms of money for time. At best, you pay $20 to save 3-5 minutes, at worst, your Uber car takes longer to show up than the bus does, and you’re $20 gets you to the destination *later* than the bus would have.
Well, you are neglecting first/last mile access to a bus and to the destination, which in suburbia can be another seat (park and ride, loooooong walk, drop off). Also the pooled algorithm is suppose to mitigate the additional time and to let the first rider know that additional time and whether to skip a pooled ride. Still I agree most “pooled rides” are friends or spouses already travelling together.
Mercer Island used some of its ST mitigation funds to experiment with a subsidized Uber/Lyft model. The subsidy was for commuters to the park and ride, and over time got smaller and smaller with the hope commuters would pool a Lyft/Uber.
It didn’t work out. Often Uber/Lyft took a very long time or didn’t want to go to the south end of Mercer Island, the trip to the north end was very short, and many Islanders didn’t like the idea of sharing an Uber. Or they needed their car to drop off kids at school, shop after work, or pick up kids on the way home.
The cost of an Uber depends on which level you choose, distance, number of riders compared to transit fares, and congestion pricing. Ordinarily on the eastside just driving your own car is the best option, because most parking is free. But if going someplace like downtown Seattle with tough parking and sketchy streets, or if you are going to drink alcohol, or the airport, Uber/Lyft work well. Also if you want to zip around an urban area like Seattle, say from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill, at least in the pre-pandemic days. My kids have all the different apps for shared ride apps and use them pretty frequently (which means they are not drinking and driving or taking public transit) usually with friends. It is the young folks who have really bought into Uber/Lyft over transit.
The market sorts these things out. Like I said, usually driving your own car is the best option. Sometimes Uber/Lyft. Sometime staying at home.
You seem rather bullish on a business that loses billions of dollars every year. $100 airport fares are going to make Link look a lot more attractive for all but the middle-upper and upper class.
I can only assume Daniel is talking his book. Uber in Lyft in your portfolio?
Some of the most harrowing and dangerous rides of my life are in the back of an Uber, with speed-freak drivers that haven’t slept in days trying to make rent.
Uber is still valued at around $46 billion (down from $100 billion) with around $27.5 billion in annual revenue. But like many growth tech stocks it has taken a hit in valuation, and was spending too much trying to serve unprofitable markets. Uber thrives in urban markets.
I am glad I don’t own the stock. Personally I haven’t noticed a big increase in fares except the gas surcharge which is minimal. One thing I noticed in Hawaii is Uber drivers offering to pick you up later for less privately.
If Uber fares to the airport rise to $100 we will obviously look at other options, although we don’t fly that often. One would be to just park at the airport, which I do if the trip is 3 days or less (and if work related someone else is paying). Often if just I am flying or my wife is flying alone the other drops them off and picks them up. I would rather pay my son $100 to drive my wife and me to the airport than Uber. And no, we don’t use Uber/Lyft a lot on Mercer Island, but from The Ave. to U. Village for my son is pretty inexpensive, especially with two or three others.
The Uber from downtown Seattle to the north end of Mercer Island was almost $100 on year’s eve. Money well spent after a night out on the town where martinis cost $20 when I woke up in my own bed and not in jail.
The problem with Link is I still have to get to it if I am going to the airport. With luggage. And it drops me off a long way from the terminal. If the total trip to the airport is $100, how much will it be to a Link station from my house with luggage plus transit fares?
As I noted the market sorts things out. People 99% of the time make the decision that is best for them, and it is very hard to get them to do something they don’t want to do.
But Link’s huge problem right now is safety and cleanliness, and those are deal breakers, no matter how much Uber (or parking at the airport) costs.
What I would like to see is a publicly provided and regulated rider-driver clearinghouse. The app is pretty simple in itself. Build in a bidding function, and a couple options to get the rider’s preference of time over cost, and let the market sort i out. Right now, there isn’t really a market at all, with only 2 real competitors, that set prices for all their “contractors”.
I want to see 2 million competitors working for themselves, with a percentage going to buy them access to the system and consequently maintain it.
Instead we have shareholders skimming all the value.
You could even set a few favorites. If you really liked Carl’s driving and responsiveness, just keep using Carl. or Sue, or Carlos, if Carl isn’t available. Right now, you have no strong way to reward good service, other than just 1 of thousands of ratings. But if Carl was good, he’d build faithful ridership, and could probably charge a premium over Mario, the sleep-optional maniac trying to undercut him to pay his car payment, and his sky insurance bill.
In practice, the “favorite driver” idea only works if you book each ride you take far in advance. If you want a ride spontaneously, your favorite driver is probably going to be busy carrying somebody else at the time you want to leave – and their trip may end in a completely different part of town from where you want to be picked up. I suppose if enough willing to wait an extra 30-45 minutes to be picked up *and* pay an additional $20-30 for the ride, just to have a preferred driver you’ve ridden with before, one could imagine a system with software to support that. But, in practice, I think almost nobody would actually use such a feature, which is probably why neither Lyft nor Uber support it. The whole point of Uber and Lyft is to get a quick ride when and where you want it. If you have to wait 30-45 minutes for a particular driver, you may as well just ride the bus.
“If the total trip to the airport is $100, how much will it be to a Link station from my house with luggage plus transit fares?”
Link from SeaTac to Intl Dist is $3.00, plus maybe 25 cents to Mercer Island. At Intl Dist you’d have to go up to the surface and back down to the opposite-direction platform because Sound Transit is lame and won’t build a center platform. A taxi from Mercer Island Station to south Mercer Island is maybe $5 or $10. So your total is $13.25. The other $86.75 can go to your son’s college fund.
Many people fly with only carry-on luggage or a light backpack. If I’m going to San Francisco for a weekend and staying at a hotel or a friend’s house, I don’t need much more than a change of clothes, a book, and some snacks. Others go to the airport to meet somebody who’s arriving, and don’t have any luggage. Others work at the airport. These are the most likely Link users.
Mike, you misunderstand the question that was posed to me: the question was IF Uber fares went from around $45 today to $100 one way how would I get to the airport?
I don’t think they will go to $100 (especially with a recession coming) but if the fare did how I would get to the airport would depend on: 1. whether the trip was work related in which case the client wants me to use the least expensive method when considering my hourly rate (and fortunately Zoom Teams has really reduced my work travel); 2. how long the trip is which determines the cost to park at the airport; and 3. whether I am travelling with my wife or alone.
Obviously the best alternative to a $100 Uber fare is parking at the airport. This is my preferred method if the trip is three or less nights, or the travel is for work. My wife prefers to have me drive her to the airport if she is travelling alone, and sometimes she drives me.
The point I was making is if Uber to the airport goes from $45 to $100 one way, an Uber fare from my house to a Link station would probably double too. I really can’t schlep luggage from my house to the bus stop to a Link station to the airport (not with my wife’s luggage, and a client would object to such a slow trip). So the Uber to the Link station would be around $30 or $35 in that situation, plus the Link fare, plus if work related my time.
So I would either park at the airport which is around $12-$15/night or get a ride.
I think Ross has pointed out before that not many trips to the airport are on Link, at least by travelers, and my guess is that number is very low on the eastside (since we don’t have Link and it is an easy shot down 405 in the HOV lane in an Uber which will much faster even with East Link).
Like any traveler we make our choice based on time of trip, convenience, and cost. At around one week parking and Uber round trip are equal. Link is just too inconvenient and slow to be a viable alternative for where we live.
There are people who have such familiarity with Uber or Lyft and an ingrained bias against using any transit (often traceable to racist upbringings) that they will shell out the dough.
A few months ago, I was chatting with someone I had never met trying to get from Tacoma to SeaTac the evening before a flight during our snowstorm in late December. Rather than look into using Route 574 which runs every 30 minutes, he was willing to wait several hours and pay $150 for that trip. This was someone who didn’t have a huge income but was raised in suburban Detroit. He had only 1 smaller travel bag. I was unable to convince him of the ease of using ST 574.
Al, even I can use Uber/Lyft and have the apps on my phone and I have very limited tech skills. It is very simple to download the app and set up an account. It has nothing to do with racism. Just about every Uber driver I have had is not white. Every kid has Uber/Lyft on their phone. They are not racists.
It is just more convenient than public transit in most cases, although more expensive most times.
Also, I am not so sure taking a bus in a snow storm is the best idea. I was actually on a bus in a major snow storm in the 1990’s and when the bus could not move anymore was told to leave the bus in the middle of nowhere in 15 degree weather. By the luck of God we I was with my law partner) were able to hire a kid in a jeep to drive us back to Ravenna where I lived at the time. I will never get on a bus in a snow storm again.
Maybe your circle is well-off and can afford to rely on these apps, but they are too expensive for me and most people I know to use very often.
And this why public transit fails…..
The lower wage folks, the pizza makers and janitors who can’t afford train fare, skip paying… Sound transit has its undies in bunch because the under 40K crowd keeps riding for free. Imagine that!
The higher wage earners have ride share apps to get around the city.
Just what demographic is Sound Transit building for???
The article is about Washington DC transit. A glance at wmata.com says local buses are $2.00, express buses are $4.25, the metro is $2.00-3.85 off-peak, and the maximum peak-hour metro fare is $6.00.
In comparison, our own Metro is $2.75 both local and express. ST Express is $3.25. Link is $2.25-3.50. Link’s fare is the same or less than Metro for distances up to Westlake-Rainier Beach or Northgate-Beacon Hill. That’s because Link has economies of scale when ridership is robust and one train can serve overlapping trips that would require multiple buses and bus routes. A bus can’t get from Northgate to Westlake in 15 minutes making all of Link’s stops.
So Link is as inexpensive as Metro for trips up to about seven miles, and beyond that it has an incremental express fare. Metro will delete some of its low-cost expresses when Link is extended: it’s only keeping them at that low cost because it’s just for a few more years.
An Uber/Lyft ride costs $5-10 or more for a trip that would be $2.75-3.50 on transit. That adds up to a lot if you use it regularly. If you commute five days a week and make three other trips, that’s 56 trips a month. At $5/trip that’s $280. A monthly transit pass is $99. So clearly, working-class and lower-middle-class people can’t be using Uber/Lyft all the time, and middle middle-class people might consider it a waste of money.
Uber/Lyft’s business model is also problematic. They want to be a “platform” that connects drivers to riders, where the drivers and riders take all the risks and costs and the corporation rakes in the profit because it’s just a “tech company” maintaining an app. It avoids treating drivers as employees, or paying their employment taxes and medical insurance or giving them a stable income. It may pay their drivers’ insurance, but only because local laws forced it to. Drivers don’t make enough to pay the full wear-and-tear on their vehicle, so they’re subsidizing it. And some drivers may be getting less than minimum wage after expenses. The companies don’t even break even, so their investors are making up the difference. So everybody loses except the CEO and tech staff. This is not sustainable. Uber/Lyft seem to hope they can keep it limping along until driverless cars can eliminate the driver cost, and hope investors don’t realize they’re being fleeced. Driverless cars are always in the future, and the future keeps getting longer away. Even if they do come, it’s not clear that they’ll reduce Uber/Lyft’s expenses as much as expected. So rideshare-like taxis are a questionable business model: it may succeed for a few more years, but longer-term is less certain.
Cities could offer their own subsidized short-distance taxis, as Metro is doing in a few neighborhoods Via and Ride 2. That’s at least more honest and eliminates the corporation skimming profits. But they’re not very cost effective. Human Transit says one demand-response taxi averages 2-3 passengers per hour, while even low-volume coverage bus routes average 10 or more. Via in Rainier Valley was unusually high at 4-5 per hour, but that’s still less than a fixed-route scheduled bus could do.
Hey Daniel, we should still reduce parking, at least in Town, because more people are taking Uber/Lyft and don’t need parking spots at their destination, right? MANY people use Uber/Lyft specifically to avoid the parking hassle, and that’s even in situations where they have a parking spot at home and there is ample parking in the area that is cheaper than the round trip Uber! Even if you argue reduced parking does not get people onto transit, transit isn’t really the only game in town, and not the only reason to reduce parking in Town.
Yes, Brandon, more are taking Uber/Lyft, but that does not mean they sell their second car. Whether you drive a car or not you still need to store it. And Uber/Lyft are more expensive than driving your own car, especially on the eastside where parking is free.
Transit is not a draw on Mercer Island, especially when you remove the work commute. No one is selling their cars. As earlier posts note folks are driving more miles than ever post pandemic. Uber/Lyft have a specific niche, and at least for me that is urban travel or where parking is limited or expensive, or if you are going to drink. Otherwise I drive. But I have a garage.
Look at Seattle streets. Every inch has a car parked on them despite every effort to get folks to give up cars and use transit.
Various ideas on MI now include requiring mixed-use buildings to allow unused retail parking to be used for “walk-off” parking to avoid the incentive by building owners to charge very high retail rents to discourage having retail and allocating that parking for charged residential parking (especially when that retail and retail parking were part of the allowance to go above 2 stories), prohibit mixed-use buildings from charging for residential parking, somehow figuring out a way to enforce street parking that is free for retailers but not residential use (probably with a prohibition on parking between 10 pm and 6 am) which is now parked at the park and ride, higher onsite parking minimums because most suburban couples have two cars, or some argue limit buildings to one or two stories which is the base height in the comprehensive plan and would discourage housing, or create a retail/commercial only zone like other cities.
If we could waive a wand and make town center residents own no more cars than the parking stalls their building allocates great, (and I am sure Seattle planners would love to borrow that wand), but so far we don’t have that wand and probably will have to spend a fortune adopting a parking management plan for the town center streets and enforcing it, along with some town center code changes.
“Look at Seattle streets. Every inch has a car parked on them despite every effort to get folks to give up cars and use transit.”
And so does every street in Manhattan. That doesn’t mean anything.
As the article notes, the real shame of Uber/Lyft’s success is that it crushed car share, which had the potential to be a true car replacement option and make far better use of the limited street parking capacity in cities.
“As the article notes, the real shame of Uber/Lyft’s success is that it crushed car share, which had the potential to be a true car replacement option and make far better use of the limited street parking capacity in cities.”
Car share was inconvenient. First you had to get to one, and second you had to return it to a parking spot, without any great savings in cost in an urban area (and carshares don’t work well in suburbia).
Uber/Lyft are door to door transportation, and there is no parking.
Car share will boom when driverless technology allows very large rental companies with huge purchasing power to own fleets of shared cars that will operate like Uber/Lyft, with the same app.
Customers will probably opt for a monthly fee so they use it more. The excess monthly fee from someone who didn’t ride that much in that month will subsidize those who do, and my guess is monthly rates will be tiered based on miles ridden.
This will remove parked cars from the streets, but probably won’t reduce the number of cars driving around the city.
“ US Traffic fatalities up 10.5% in 2021. It’s not a COVID thing, it’s an America thing.”
I see this issue as a continuation of a culture of overly focusing on smart phones. We are training ourselves to be less aware of our surroundings and to feel anxiety if we can’t read and respond immediately.
Reducing speeds won’t help. Even pedestrians are putting themselves in danger by texting and walking, for example. Headphone use seems rife.
The hard solution is changing human behavior to not be so fascinated and obsessed and focused and impatient with our fun new hand gadgets. That’s a broader topic way beyond any single policy change.
The Wall St. Journal has a front-page article on traffic deaths today. The 10.5% rise in deaths in 2021 (42,915 deaths) matches the 11% increase in miles driven over 2020 (325 billion ADDITIONAL miles if you can believe it). Of course, there were around 400,000 deaths from Covid in 2021.
Both are record one year increases due to the pandemic skewing things. Total fatalities were higher in the 2000–2005 years but then dropped pretty significantly around 2009 until around 2016 (the recession).
I think as more citizens feel comfortable returning to transit — or return to an office — the miles driven will drop slightly, and so will fatalities. Higher gas prices will likely reduce miles driven, and a probable recession beginning later this year. I do agree phones are a major distraction while driving. Many insurance companies now allow an app that tracks phone usage while driving and reward drivers with perfect scores. I have one and have one for my kids.
Or course, if fewer miles driven means emptier roads, which allows people to drive faster, fatalities increase, not decrease. This is why road diets are important.
As long as it is physically possible to drive 60 mph in a 30 mph zone, people will do it, and it’s not something that can be solved simply with police patrols.
Reducing speeds absolutely will help. If you get hit by a car at 20 MPH you have a 90% chance of living to cross in another crosswalk. At 40 mph, your chances drop to 90% chance you will be feeding the worms. And close to 100% chance your life will be changed forever, even if you are one of the lucky few who get to limp out of the hospital.
I think Al means reducing speed limits, which has a meager effect at best at actually reducing driver speeds on roads. For example, Seattle dropped default arterial speeds to 25, but I doubt that’s had any real effect on pedestrian safety.
The only things that slow cars down are traffic and narrow/winding streets with frequent intersections. This is easily observed in driving patterns in old neighborhoods of Seattle that are de facto one-lane, two-way streets due to the curb space being filled with parked cars, since there’s no requirement for residents to park their cars in their off-street driveways or garages.
I am not sure that’s what he meant, given the context (blaming tech and the victims).
But you are absolutely right. Curb bulbs, speed bumps, circles. raised crosswalks and such – changing the actual infrastructure is the best way to slow people down.
The second best would be to start dropping speed cameras everywhere and mailing tickets. That would be a good way to pay for the above infrastructure. It works for school zones, so it can work everywhere.
Cam, those reductions are limited to specific speeds in specific street contexts. These data are also total fatalities and not just pedestrian fatalities.
Oh, I would define wireless earbuds as “head phones” as they have the same effect — distracting drivers and pedestrians from their direct surroundings.
Finally, given the notable increase without any increase in posted speeds or apparent driver speeds, the problem isn’t speeds for the most part. If it was the trend would be flat. It’s more likely due to higher VMT in 2021 from 2020 as Daniel notes.
No. It’s pedestrians. I have no idea what you are talking about regarding context. Getting hit at 40 MPH is going to kill you on the top of Queen Anne just the same as on Aurora or I-5.
And Daniel is flat our wrong. VMT dropped substantially in 2020 from 2019 and fatalities still increased. And pedestrian fatalities increased even more than those in the car, and that trend has been going on since SUVs and light trucks because the predominant choice of soccer moms and raging teenagers alike.
And yes, they are just estimates, but the underlying truth is still there, regardless of quibbling about confidence intervals and rounding to make a cleaner public health message.
Well in 2019 VMT increased https://www.statista.com/statistics/185579/us-vehicle-miles-in-transit-since-1960/ and total fatalities decreased. So maybe there isn’t a direct correlation between VMT and fatalities, although the Wall St. Journal felt the identical percentage increase in VMT in 2021 and fatalities was more than coincidence. Intuitively all things being equal more VMT would suggest to me more accidents and more fatalities. But I am not a traffic engineer.
In fact, total fatalities had been declining pretty precipitously from 2009 until beginning to rise again around 2016, exactly when VMT started to increase about the same percentage as the recession ended. At the same time pedestrian deaths also appear to coincide with VMT. https://www.statista.com/chart/17194/pedestrian-fatalities-in-the-us-by-year/
“Economic conditions, population growth, demographic changes, weather conditions and fuel prices can all play a role in pedestrian fatality levels but they still cannot be attributed to the steady rise over the past decade. The report states that a shift in American sales away from passenger cars to light trucks could be a contributing factor while the increasing level of distraction associated with smartphone use while driving is another key reason. Darkness is the most dangerous time for pedestrians with 75 percent of all deaths occurring at nighttime in 2017.”
Cam is correct that in 2020 VMT decreased but total fatalities increased over 2019. But it would seem darkness is the main factor. Vehicle style — or weight — appears to a minor factor. Focusing on blaming the type of driver — “soccer moms or teenagers” — isn’t cited by Cam. Most truck drivers I know are men.
I have no idea what you are talking about regarding darkness. Though it’s just speculation, I would say the increase in 2020 deaths was due mainly to speed. Traffic slows people down, and traffic declined substantially in 2020 due to the pandemic, so those driving could drive unimpeded.
I think the increase in 2021 was due to a number of factors. Increased VMT perhaps, but also a mental health crisis. One of the few places where people weren’t feeling restricted was behind the wheel, and I at least anecdotally saw a substantial increase in incredibly reckless driving. And the statistics appear to bear that out.
The SUV and light truck comment was intended to refer to the increase in pedestrian deaths compared an general decline in overall auto-related fatalities. I didn’t realize that citing every stat was a requirement here, and if so, I look forward to extensive links in your great American novels as well, but here you go:
The thinking among the professionals is that while auto drivers and passengers have benefited from safety features such as crumple zones, air bags, seat belts and the trend towards driving around in massive tanks with Barca loungers and TVs in them, the height of those vehicles has had the opposite effect on those outside the car. Whereas when I was hit by a sedan (which I have been many times), I simply roll over the hood, and get up with some scrapes (as long as the speed is below 20, which it fortunately for me has been), if I’m hit by an SUV or truck, it’s so high that I am crushed under the treads and dragged until I’m dead. They also have much poorer sightlines and it takes them far longer to slow and stop. All leading to a frightening increase in pedestrian and bicycle deaths, both as a rate, and a count, over the last 15 years or so.
SUVs also not so coincidentally started their rise in market share around 15 years ago. Hmmmm….
Cam, first off it’s comparing 2021 to 2020, not 2020 to 2019. Things were unusually quiet in 2020 because of Covid.
Second, the article reports similar increases in almost every category. Pedestrian fatalities grew — but so did the other major categories.
However, there has been no national increase in posted speed limits. If anything, more cities lowered speed limits rather than raised them. Higher posted speeds are thus not correlated to higher fatalities.
I stick with my observation that the bigger factors are likely increased VMT and greater distracted travel — both driving and not driving.
That’s not to say that lower speeds aren’t helpful on many urban streets. But this is national data and that is a much broader universe than arterials at 40 mph. That includes everything from drunk drivers to freeway smashes to night blindness to weather effects.
It appears to me you made a conclusion and are trying to use these data to prove yourself right. However, the summary doesn’t do that. There are many other factors in these fatalities besides mere speeds of vehicles only on urban streets.
While my example is not one of being hit by a car (and somewhat ironic given my stances on the mode of transportation), I want to emphasize that speed kills. My recent life threatening accident was on an ebike going 25 mph (not here, as that speed is illegal). Even with a helmet, I am lucky to be alive.
“It appears to me you made a conclusion and are trying to use these data to prove yourself right. ”
Yeah. Nope. I’ve been immersed in this and related research for quite some time. If not for the pandemic consuming the last 2 years of my life I’d still be. Data first.
If you were a good data analyst, Cam, you would understand that there is a difference between explaining a cause and explaining an increase. Speed does kill and that’s very true. All I’m saying is that the INCREASE in fatalities from 2020 to 2021 does not appear to be caused by higher speeds with these data. No where in these data are they saying that people drove faster in 2021 than they did in 2020.
What data, Al? I don’t see any data.
I’m confused. Are you fixating on the wall street journal article? I don’t subscribe, and I certainly wouldn’t trust some reporter from that rag to provide anything useful. I’ve seen the increase in deaths from other sources. Like I said, that’s likely due to many causes, perhaps including VMT, but correlation does not imply causation. We just don’t know, The inverse correlation occurred the prior year.
It does appear speed and risky behaviors remained elevated compared to previous pandemic times.
Can we chill with the ad hominem etc., Al?
Andrew, this is not an ad hominem argument. Even Cam admits and sources that “risky behaviors” is a factor in the increase, which reads to me as partly distracted travel from cell phone use and partly increased impatience that results from wanting to be obsessively connected (which would include people driving faster so that they can get to a place where they can respond). This is the gusting my original observation in my post.
I’m personally horrified by the increasing number of glaring blue hues I see on driver’s faces and even on pedestrians from smart phones. A few years ago, I would text someone and get an automatic response that the individual was driving and to not expect an instant response. Today I never see that. Today even my friends get text notifications about irrelevant breaking news and Instagram livestreams every few minutes that they want to read or watch while traveling!
We can play with urban street speed limit signs and added crosswalks all we want — but until we figure out how to get people less addicted to their phones while traveling and the side effects from that, I think fatalities will continue to increase. There’s not an easy solution for this unfortunately.
You’re right, it’s not ad hominem. What I meant was chill with the insults.
I honestly can’t recall the last time I saw a pedestrian walking around with *headphones*. Like, the Walkman and the I-Pod are dead, man! Trend is texting and photo/video apps. Walking while talking on the phone even seems much less of a thing. And I don’t even see many walking around glued to their phones either, though people will take them out, like clockwork, while waiting for the walk signal to change and of course at bus stops and in queue lines. I find that when people are actually engaged in the “walking” part of walking, they are generally trying to GET somewhere.
There are plenty of folks walking around with wireless earpuds (airpods and the like), and I pretty often see folks get off the bus with over-ear headphones on and continue walking (including myself).
Al, are you implying that Europeans don’t look at their phones as much as Americans do? I haven’t visited Europe recently, so I don’t have anecdotal evidence to confirm or deny this supposition.
” Even pedestrians are putting themselves in danger by texting and walking, for example. Headphone use seems rife.”
Actually, that’s been debunked. It’s cars failing to yield 99% of the time.
Anyone saying they aren’t going to use transit because of safety issues has their head in the sand regarding how dangerous cars are, or they are using “Safety” as a code-word for not wanting to rub shoulders with us icky, unwashed masses.
Well 90-95% of the time.
Walking is the most dangerous part of any transit trip. Given how dangerous many of our locales are for pedestrians, that likely skews any safety arguments back over to personal motor vehicle use. Of course, that also ignores the deadly impact of sedentary lifestyles. It’s a complex issue, but the data is pretty clear that the suburban strip mall sprawl approach is the most dangerous on all accounts.
People are terrible at assessing risks. I remember being at a party once, with my brother. He mentioned that he likes to go hiking, sometimes alone. One of the guests thought it was crazy, and began lecturing him about it. Most of us just rolled our eyes. Worth mentioning is that my brother is fit, strong, and an experience mountaineer. He was talking about taking common hikes, like at Paradise on Mount Rainier, in mid summer (very little snow). The riskiest part of his trip, by far, was the drive.
But the other thing that made it crazy was the guy doing the lecturing. The man was morbidly obese. Like most of the folks at the party, he was in his 50s. The most likely person to die in the next few years was not my brother in some headline-grabbing mountain incident, but him, dying of a health issue.
While that conversation was an extreme example of the problem, it manifests itself in various other ways. It is common for folks to drive long distances on a regular basis so they can live in a “safe” neighborhood. The additional driving puts them at risk. They do less walking, increasing health problems. When they do walk, their risk of an accident involving a car is much higher. Not every suburb is like that, and plenty of people find time for exercise. But I’m saying there is a tendency to focus on the sensational, when obviously the more dangerous situation is the mundane.
Statistics show you are most likely to be killed within 10 miles of your home; so move 10 miles away.
Hiking alone is significantly riskier than with a partner. I get why some people want to do it (they hate urban density). But there’s been a huge increase in “up hill travel” since the pandemic starting usually from ski area bases. The percentage of people that have problems is low. But the small % that fuck up endanger a large body of rescuers and entail significant expense in search and rescue. Most often they’re dead but if they are rescued there is an increasing tendency to hold them liable for the cost of the rescue which will be 10’s of thousands of dollars and not covered by insurance. There’s no more risk driving to the trail head with a partner than doing it alone. You’re simply taking on additional risk. Summer hiking is a little different but wilderness travel in the winter; don’t go alone… please. There’s also considerations of cell phone coverage and how remote you are.
Winter is a completely different ballgame. But I will say that the risk of going alone or being a group is not as clear cut as you make it out to be. It is common for people to take on additional risk, because they feel more comfortable in a group. It plays a big part in climbing and skiing accidents (for example, the horrible Tunnel Creek accident — https://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/index.html#/?part=tunnel-creek).
Speaking of which, it is common for people to think that side-country skiing (starting your trip from a resort) is safer than backcountry. It isn’t. There has also been a huge increase in backcountry and side-country trips the last few years (go to Paradise on a nice day and you’ll see a ton of people). The pandemic amplified it, but it was a trend before then.
In the Northwest, avalanche deaths are often the result of being pushed off of a cliff, as opposed to being buried. Thus people underestimate the dangers. If an entire group slides off of a cliff (or all get buried for that matter) it doesn’t matter if they are all carrying beacons and shovels. Yes, a properly trained, conservative group is safer, but if an individual is willing to take risks, then a couple individuals will as well.
Anyway, this wasn’t about backcountry skiing and avalanche safety. It wasn’t even about climbing. This was about summer hiking on an established trail. The chance that an experienced hiker (let alone an experience mountaineer) would die or need to be rescued on such a trail is extremely small. The idea that he would be automatically safer in a group is even smaller. Focusing on those risks is just ignorant. You would be much better off recommending that he get a safer car, or wear a helmet while driving.
Oh, and this was well before cell phones. It may have been before commercial GPS. He taught climbing, and made a first ascent (of a face, not a mountain) and that was all done with map and compass. Now he does carry a SPOT Satellite Messenger for solo backpacking trips.
It would be nuts to depend on cell coverage for navigation in the mountains. I know plenty of people you use their smartphone as a GPS receiver (with a map and compass as backup, of course).
After the death of his brother on Nanga Parbat Reinhold Messner always climbed alone. He argued that at any altitude you are essentially alone because no one can save you, and roping up just means if one falls to his death so does everyone else.
When I was young I did a lot of winter climbing and camping around here. We were ascending Mount Baker in the dark (not very tall but lots of crevasses) with a guide and were roped up. I had climbed it before. I had just crossed a snow bridge over a crevasse when the person behind me who weighed at least 240 pounds without pack and was very inexperienced started to yell at the guide who couldn’t hear him whether he was suppose to jump over the crevasse because he did not see the snow bridge, which was pretty narrow.
It was at that point I realized this was stupid. This guy would have taken all of us on the rope into the crevasse. None of us had ascenders (that allow you to climb up a rope). The guide didn’t have a fulcrum or pulley to place under the rope as it cuts into the snow when someone falls into a crevasse, or a winch to pull them back out of the crevasse. None of us had our packs independently secured to the climbing rope which allows you to take off your pack if hanging in a crevasse to make the rope climbable with ascenders and remove the weight from your back.
It was just assumed by the guide no one would fall into a crevasse, or he would call someone. I stopped climbing after that.
Messner noted that if you climb long enough the mountain will kill you, at least the mountains he climbed, because that is the thrill of the risk. He invented a minimalist style of climbing without oxygen and alone because he said the risk was that you were on the mountain, and there was nothing you could do if the mountain decided to kill you. He also said you always die descending, because you waited too long, or are tired, or because you make mistakes, or the snow has softened, or it is your time.
He is a fabulous writer, and very sensitive toward the base areas in Nepal and Tibet where he started his climbs from.
When I get into my car I believe there is essentially zero chance I will die. Per miles driven that is a pretty good bet. I can’t think of any relatives or people I know who died in a car crash. There were a lot in the old days when my dad’s family lived in Montana, but once the lanes on the interstates were separated the deadly head on crashes in those old 1950’s and 1960’s cars stopped.
If the point is to encourage more people to ride transit because of the risk of dying while in a car, or take a train because of the risk of flying, I don’t think people buy it. As I noted in a prior post total deaths from cars including pedestrians in 2021 was around 48,000 despite the hundreds of billions of miles driven while Covid deaths were over 400,000, and I don’t see a lot of folks wearing masks.
I lost my first girlfriend in car crash.
I almost lost my sister, and she will never be right.
Guess what the leading cause of death is for dudes your sons age?
You have just been lucky.
If the point is to encourage more people to ride transit because of the risk of dying while in a car, or take a train because of the risk of flying, I don’t think people buy it.
My point is that people are terrible at assessing risks. Every year in the U. S. about 25,000 people die from homicide, and 35,000 by car accidents. Around 10% of the homicides are caused by strangers, and the number is lower for women (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/forensic-insights/202112/the-truth-about-stranger-homicide-and-whos-really-risk). Thus the risk of being killed by a stranger is very low. Given all that, it would make more sense to focus on car safety, or the people you hang out with. Yet if you look up “safest cities”, or “safest neighborhoods”, they focus on crime. Rarely will you see a report on places that have fewer car accidents. Even when data is easily available (at state level for example) you see few articles about it (Minnesota is fairly safe, South Carolina isn’t). https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/state-by-state. Way more people read “true crime” stories than “Status Report”, put out by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety. My guess is people avoid neighborhoods they feel are “sketchy”, and yet buy a car without bothering to look at the crash test reports. Often they mention the safety of their kids, ignoring that the leading cause of death for those under 16 is car accidents.
But it isn’t just that. As you get older, it is highly unlikely that you will die in an accident, or be murdered. It is far more likely that you will die of disease. So what are the healthiest communities? Those that allow people to walk everywhere. Sure, you can live a very healthy life in an area that requires driving everywhere, it is just more difficult. There is a very strong relationship between obesity and car dependence (https://www.fastcompany.com/1679157/mapping-the-link-between-obesity-and-car-driving).
I get why some people just accept the risks. High altitude climbing is very risky. So is backcountry skiing. The elites in those sports often don’t make it to 30. (As my brother put it, imagine if LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant all died playing basketball). To be clear, there is a lot of climbing and backcountry skiing that doesn’t involve that level of risk. And yet many of the experts — the best at the sport — put up with that risk, and are well aware of it.
The same goes for driving, or any other activity. I get why people ride motorcycles, or tiny old cars that lack airbags. But what I find frustrating is when people ignore those risks, and focus on dangers that are a lot less likely.
Cam, as a parent I am acutely aware of risks for young males, especially suicide these days (homicide makes up almost 17% of deaths for males age 1-19 but we don’t worry about that as much). thathttps://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2018/all-races-origins/index.htm#age-group .
However now that he is no longer 19 or younger his likelihood of dying in a car crash has gone way down, and in fact the rate young males die in car crashes has gone way down. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/historical-fatality-trends/deaths-by-age-group/
And he doesn’t have a car at college these days, but does come home occasionally to get his car for trips. But as parents we still worry all the time.
Some of the decline in mortality is safer cars, some states requiring graduated licenses (including driving at night) because driving is a skill, some better emphasis on drinking and driving. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/motor-vehicle-safety/index.html
For example, with my son and daughter we had a standing policy that they could ask for a ride or take Uber/Lyft at any time if they thought they had been drinking, no questions asked. Still have that policy and both are at college. Of course, most teens would rather take Uber than call their parents late at night to ask for a ride home because they had been drinking. My guess is the use of Uber/Lyft substantially reduced their risk from a car crash when a teen is most at risk: drunk.
It is some luck, but also better cars and better tools like Uber/Lyft, and I think parents are more aware of this issue today.
If males aged 16-19 have the highest mortality rate from driving, in part because at that age males minimize risk, it would not make sense to tell them to not drive due to risk when they probably see driving as one of the least risky things they do, and getting a car when you are 16 is about the most important thing in life. They are doing all kinds of risky things that probably carry as much risk of injury than driving (like contact sports or lighting off fireworks), although they do them less than driving.
The fact that deaths from car accidents for males ages 15 to 24 have declined to less than the mortality rate for males ages 25 to 44 and not too much higher than for those ages 45 to 64 years old shows society and governments have taken this issue very seriously, and the tools like graduated licenses, safer cars, and maybe Uber/Lyft have paid off.
You can’t eliminate all risks for your kids although you would like to, and learning that is very hard for parents. Like most parents they will drive a car, and so teaching them how to drive a car, making sure they buy the safest car (which is pretty easy if the parent is paying), making sure they don’t drink and drive, use seatbelts, and drive safety when age 16 to 19 are how you minimize risk.
However driving or owning a motorcycle is strictly verboten. The risk is too high.
More and more, I want to give Sound Transit an F- for anything related to passenger experience or information. My latest gripes:
1) The Real Time info. Why TF can’t they just put One Bus Away on their screens? That information is pretty accurate. (And _where_ does it come from that ST can’t be that accurate?)
2) Everything to do with the switch to the new fare system. (Why exactly did they have to break the old system before getting the new one in place?) Today I used one of the new readers. It’s a big step _backwards_ from the old ones. When you tap on OR off, there is only a single beep, and the screen says “Thank You.” That’s it. No indication of how much you’ve been charged, whether it’s a transfer, or how much is left on your card. This was all information that used to be displayed at least when you were tapping off.
Oh, and the single beep. Remember, that was a problem before, so they fixed it with two beeps for a tap off? They forgot that about that issue and went back to a single beep? Does anyone there pay attention? Does anyone care?
I’m glad they keep the trains running, but it’s mind-boggling that they screw up so many of the small and easy things…
>> Why exactly did they have to break the old system before getting the new one in place?
I’m certainly not privy to the specifics of the decision, but based on general engineering principles, I’d guess power provisioning.
Well the old readers were still powered and running, but they dropped down to a single beep for tap off, and where info used to show on the screen, it just said “(null)”
I’m sure there was some technical reason for it, but again it doesn’t look like passenger experience was a high priority. They didn’t even explain it–announcements said some readers were out of service, but not that the ones that were in service no longer worked the way they did. …
In retrospect they should have suspended fares all last week instead of just the weekend. I assume the “$X” and “(null)” were because the backend system that supported them had been turned off. I’ve been in other situations where several things had to change at once but they couldn’t happen all simultaneously. This is compounded by coordinating across several agencies and technologies. But… that’s where the lo-tech solution of putting a bag over the ORCA readers works so well. It worked for one weekend; it could work for seven days. If the agencies were concerned about losing weekday revenue, well, I’m concerned that I don’t know if I was charged for several trips last week, or if I was double-charged or who knows what. It’s disconcering to get a tapout message when you tap in, or a tapin message when you tap both in and out, and different readers doing different things, and nonsensical amounts of money like “$X” and “(null)”. What’s the point of having people tap in that situation? It was so widespread that I’m sure the agencies knew about it on the first day, but it kept happening for several days. Just put a bag over the readers. Riders understand that; it has happened so many times in the past, mostly on bus readers.
If you are familiar at all with technical project life cycles, then you would know.
“It’s in the next release”
I will say the ORCA website experience is substantially improved. Being able to add money immediately is much better. And having to re-register all of my family’s ORCA cards made it easy to finally consolidate them under a single user (me).
I agree that station experiences remain frustrating. Getting on at Roosevelt yesterday, the ORCA reader beeps were too quiet for me to hear. Not seeing a balance displayed, or being able to distinguish tap-on vs tap-off is frustrating.
And while all of the escalators were miraculously working, the on-board automated next-stop announcements and display board were screwed up. Apparently the next stop south of Roosevelt is Beacon Hill? The conductor gamely tried to make station announcements themselves, but there was so much feedback from the speakers they were unintelligible. And why can’t ST have real time arrival data? Despite the fact that Sound Transit is responsible for maintaining One Bus Away which does have real time data.
I read a story about how China is using a robotic dog with a PA strapped to its back to roam the streets of Shanghai and shout Covid safety instructions to residents. “Wear a mask!” “Wash your hands!” “Check your temperature!”
I have an honest question. Given how Link is having trouble getting riders to pay the fare, should they consider using robotic fare enforcement dogs to roam Link cars? They’d be equipped with speakers and cameras, and programmed to check fares, announce the rules of conduct, and film riders who refuse to pay.
I have an alternative proposal: train actual dogs to check fares, to comfort those suffering from today’s individual and societal ills.
I think ST will have to secure the stations as well as the trains Sam. Descending into an underground train station is a big perceived risk for many. We could not get staff in downtown Seattle to take Link during non-peak hours pre-pandemic.
If I remember correctly there was a shooting at the Westlake Station not long ago and ST promised to post more security guards, but ST security “ambassadors” are not police, and from what I have seen around the periphery I think ST’s operations budget is much less than it is letting on, and ST cannot afford security personnel in the stations downtown.
If riders are afraid to enter the stations they are not going to ride the trains. With the loss of the peak commuter this rules out taking light rail at any time of the day for a large segment of the population, most of whom are discretionary riders.
The stations are not some Mad Max anarchist hell from my experience, just people minding their own business wanting to get from A to B or C or D.
And stuff like this about how things are scary or frightening when the reality seems to be less so and more of one offs is quite frankly absurd and kind of speaks to how much this conversation has delved into how much people in the US don’t understand public transit and how it should function which is similar a public utility or government agency, especially as someone who is disabled and gets caught in the crossfire of this conversation from people who keep pushing for pro car stuff as a solution to every single problem or failure of transit. Which to be honest, every single pro car idea or policy has generally led to making things worse for everyone including drivers themselves in my experience. Adding more highway lanes is not going to fix traffic, uber/lyft cannot solve the last mile entirely, not all commutes center around rush hour, can dependent urban and suburban car/transit design actually makes for a more stressful experience.
Public transit is not just the ride for the poor, elderly, the young, or disabled who can’t afford or use a car to get around, it’s the ride for everyone and alternative to driving and should treated as such when talking about it.
There was a shooting at the Bellevue Mall two years ago. How many police do they have patrolling each store today in order to increase the sense of security?
Cute, but it would seem a bit silly to do. Rule breakers would ignore robotic dogs in a matter of hours. It would get messy in a crowded train. Riders would deem them a nuisance.
Now robotic turnstiles with video cams would seem more effective. Being called out on a station loudspeaker by an imposing stern voice before a violator gets on a train would be a powerful disincentive.
The definition of imposing stern voices would need clarification, but should represent the diversity of the region. It would seem great for a senior who works from home and knows how to verbally guilt others to do the right thing, for example. It would seem much more effective to be guilted by this virtual grandma or grandpa than by a dog. Lol!
A robotic dog would be about as useless as Sound Transit’s automated announcements about how they don’t tolerate harassment, blah, blah, blah.
Does anybody seriously believe that listening to an automated announcement about Sound Transit not tolerating harassment will really deter anyone from harassing others?
Yeah I find the “doesn’t tolerate harassment” announcement to be the most silly bureaucratic thing they announce. I keep wondering how someone would harass a loudspeaker as the announcement implies that applies to the agency itself.
A better announcement would probably be to more direct: “Don’t you dare harass anyone in this train. If you do, remember that we’re already recording you on a hidden camera — and we will help the victim to hunt you down to press charges.” Get a commanding movie star to record it like Queen Latifah or Vin Diesel.
The messages on the trains and in the stations are already obnoxiously loud. Adding a roving, mobile loudspeaker would only make things worse. Noise pollution is a real thing, and it leads to hearing loss.
And it’s also obnoxious, and general obnoxiousness can be a deterrent to potential riders who are at the margins whether to ride or not.
Imagine if, when driving your car, you had to listen to a loud voice every 10 minutes saying “Ford does not tolerate texting while driving, aggressive driving, or failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk”. All of the above are clearly bas behaviors. But, would a forced announcement actually prevent them? Common sense says “no”; it would accomplish nothing except to make pissed drivers switch brands to a car that doesn’t do that. It’s the same thing, except you can’t just “switch brands” of transit without doubling or tripling your trip time.
Irony of ironies, a woman was seriously injured when she was hit by a train at the Othello station. I hope she recovers.
Northgate Mall’s name has changed to Northgate Station. Google maps shows it as Northgate Station Mall. They have new sign on 1st Ave Ne. Not exactly transit related, but I thought it was interesting.
Yeah, I think it is goofy. To be clear, they wanted to do a “makeover”, and I think it will be a really nice change (https://futurenorthgatemall.com/). With a new mall comes a new name. Might as well leverage one of the key benefits of living in the area (being close to the Link station).
But it is confusing. I can just imagine the future conversation:
“Where do live?”
“Oh, close to the station, huh?
“No, at Northgate Station”
“Are you homeless?”
“No, I live at the mall. Northgate Station Mall.”
I’m surprised they couldn’t come up with a better name. Something like “Northgate Village” (although I guess that is taken).
I read your link to Northgate. Is it really going to take Simon’s Properties up until 2040 to build all the housing on their property.?Usually for profit companies go faster.
Speaking of the mall, I do think there is an issue there that will become increasingly important. Right now, buses that serve the area encounter relatively little traffic. That will change, as the mall gets rebuilt, and they add a lot of parking.
It is challenging. On the one hand, it is a significant destination. On the other hand, it will be increasingly difficult to serve. There are several turns involved, and little in the way of bus-lanes in the area. I think it may make sense to have some of the routes skip Northgate, to serve Roosevelt instead. I would combine the 67 and 73 like so (https://goo.gl/maps/rEFGznuvkdASgarPA). Other than that, it gets tricky. Once the station at 125th is added, the current route of the 345 seems like a waste, but I figure we still need service on Meridian, and connecting Northwest Hospital to the clinics by Northgate seems sensible. Northgate Station is at an awkward spot, and yet it is a significant destination (unlike just about every station to the north of it). Getting the balance right will be difficult.
I too was flummoxed why the developers chose “station” in the new name. I agree that “village” would seem to be the next best word, followed by “center”. Other similar developments elsewhere use “commons”, “city”, “square”, “plaza/place” and “district”. Of course, developers are free to choose any name they want within limits so I assume that their PR team looked at many options. I sometimes wonder if they picked “station” to attract people willing to pay for parking to use Link.
Certainly traffic will increase around Northgate. However, once Lynnwood Link opens, the number of bus routes and transferring riders will drop pretty significantly. Also I-5 acts like a “river” edge for cars with no car “bridge” at the station so the delays from east-west traffic won’t impact the buses headed to the station south of Northgate Way.
It will take some time to remember the new name and get used to saying it. I still call the 1 Line “Link” because there’s only one line, and Shoreline South station “145th” because it’s not open yet.
Northgate Station is a reasonable name for the mall: it will hopefully attract transit riders, and it shows the mall owner is not 100% biased against trains. Kent Station shopping center is called that. The mall is in transition and most of what I used to go to it for is gone, so it will really only make sense when the new development and retail is built out and we know destinations will be there.
It happened on my bus today. I took an 11 westbound in the PM peak from Bellevue Ave to 4th Ave to transfer to another route. I was sitting in the middle of the bus. At 5th the bus waited for a couple minutes. The driver said something to a passenger and played a recorded announcement, but I couldn’t understand either one. I debated whether to get off and walk because it was only one stop further, but it seemed likely the bus would start moving soon. It did, and got caught in a line of traffic, but that cleared pretty quickly. Both before and after it started moving, the driver said a couple more things and played a couple more recorded announcements, and this time I could understand “No smoking” and “Please don’t smoke.” As I got out I looked around at the other passengers to see if anyone was smoking. One guy alone in the back row had his head leaning down forward so I couldn’t see his face, and maybe had something unseen cooking below it. My first thought was, is it one of those highly toxic chemicals (fentanyl) that would poison all of us? But I didn’t smell anything like industrial chemicals or burning rubber as it has been described, so maybe it wasn’t or it didn’t reach me. But his head was in the position of those guys on the street leaning forward over a piece of aluminum foil with burning fentanyl on it.
Why are they all over the buses now? This only started a year or two ago. Where were they taking drugs before they were on the buses? Why did they go to the buses? Or were they not taking drugs at all a couple years ago, because the synthetic-drug phenomenon was smaller, or they hadn’t gotten depressed or lost their job in the covid pandemic, or they were in mental-health services but the services closed?
In 2016, they were using the elevator from the McDonald’s on 3rd to the Westalake Mezzanine. I got chambered in there once. Never used that elevator again. I reported it to security and the said ot hapoens daily. In 2017. It didn’t stop me from riding. I am just aware that parts of the system are used for it. They need a place with almost no air flow to chamber the funes. Elevators then, busses now.
First, for the same reason smoking cigarettes is prohibited on buses and in indoor spaces.
Second it discourages discretionary riders from riding transit that deprives the transit system of the funding to provide good service to poor people who must ride transit but don’t do drugs.
Third it portrays all homeless as drug addicts which makes it much harder to house them outside downtown Seattle.
Fourth the reason a person doing drugs on a bus is homeless IS BECAUSE THEY ARE ADDICTED TO DRUGS. Drugs are bad. They ruin lives. Homeless drug addicts once had good lives. Housing is only part of restoring lives. One of the big problems with the “housing precedes treatment” argument is it has taken the focus off why a person doing drugs on a bus is homeless and needs me to pay for his housing: DRUGS. If I have to pay for his housing I expect him to become sober and get a job or forget about it, which is how the Eastside approaches housing. In fact I think Rhode Island’s approach is which homelessness due to drugs begins with incarceration is the most effective approach because I am not interested in funding housing so someone can do drugs in private. If you want to continue to do drug in private pay for your own damn housing.
Fifth, Demanding others to pay for housing so someone can do drugs destroys all sympathy folks like me have towards funding emergency housing, and my guess is the poster is really expect others to pay for that housing, and makes our homeless industrial complex look like charlatans, which mostly they are. Self virtue with no money is tiresome.
Yup. And also, if you really want to give drug addicts a safe space to do their drugs, there is no reason for undergoing the expense of equipping that safe space with wheels and an engine, when a stationary building would accomplish the same goal. Nor should other people who don’t do drugs and simply want to get where they’re going have to put up with it.
If anything, the attitude of “buses as a safe drug site” is quite elitist. It’s saying you don’t care because you can just take your car, and if other people that can’t afford cars have to share every trip they take with people doing drugs, that’s their problem.
For the record, I ride transit far more than the average person around here, but if smoking and drugs were allowed on buses, I would never ride it. And would start thinking twice about voting “yes” on ballot measures to pay for it. And so would nearly everyone else.
” It’s saying you don’t care because you can just take your car, and if other people that can’t afford cars have to share every trip they take with people doing drugs, that’s their problem.”
This attitude is pervasive in the decision process… not just in the Seattle area, but almost everywhere in the US.
It’s especially annoying in the Puget Sound region because of our supposed liberal eco-friendly reputation. It’s a part of my snarkiness (not just because I’ve reached the “Hey You Kids, GET OFF MY LAWN” age.)
We treat transit as the dumping ground.
I remember a number years ago, when Seattle decided to abandon the idea of those fancy self cleaning toilets, a Seattle City Council member answered the question “Where will the homeless go?”, by saying they could just use the toilets at Amtrak.
According to friends, Amtrak fired off a (no doubt politely, but sternly worded) letter to the council saying something akin to “The Hell with that idea!”.
Metro said second-hand fentanyl smoke on buses isn’t harmful to other riders, and also said if a rider is worried about it, to just wear a good mask.
Yes, this really was said, and, I can back it up with proof if you want.
“why a person doing drugs on a bus is homeless and needs me to pay for his housing: DRUGS.”
There’s an gigantic gap between somebody who can scrounge up $100 a month to spend on drugs, and having $1800 a month for market-rate rent.
“Metro said second-hand fentanyl smoke on buses isn’t harmful to other riders, and also said if a rider is worried about it, to just wear a good mask. Yes, this really was said, and, I can back it up with proof if you want.”
That contradicts an article a couple weeks ago that we discussed on STB, that drivers who smell fentanyl evacuate the bus because it’s too dangerous to breathe, and maintenance workers are getting sick cleaning up the leftover residue.
So one Metro person may have said it’s no big deal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what most of Metro does. If the article was wrong that fentanyl on buses is an epidemic and creates hazardous working conditions for drivers and maintenance workers, then Metro could have easily refuted the article and it would have been reported, but it wasn’t.
Drug use on buses is terribly wrong and should not be allowed. It doesn’t matter whether that rider is homeless or not. It doesn’t matter what income, age, gender or ethnicity the rider is. It needs to be outright banned, and those that do it need to face punishment and/or immediate abuse treatment intervening.
The most directly impactful thing to do involves putting more law enforcement staff on transit. A driver is not a social worker nor a cop. It’s what other cities and cultures do. Transit is wonderful in many cities around the world because of a culture that activities like this are heavily punished when riding transit combined with visible and imposing law enforcement.
The second thing to do is to strongly disincentivize drug activity on vehicles. That begins by charging some sort of fare. It also should include the threat of forced incarceration or treatment for a guilty offender. I think fines are much less effective as those doing this likely care more about their next drug experience over a fine. There needs to be roaming officers available to board vehicles quickly if summoned by a driver or rider.
Regardless, concentrated enforcement is needed now. We can’t have rational discussions about transit use and any other transit rule like fare policy if it’s going to be dangerous. The danger is not merely to the choice rider but to the riders that are more dependent on transit — including those with mobility issues, students, and those that work for little money. Everyone deserves to have safe transit travel available and that is implicit every time boards approve transit operating funds and taxpayers vote for a transit measure.
No future transit measure will pass if the opposition can paint the measure as “supporting drug use on transit”. It must be addressed NOW (spring and summer of 2022) or it will harm transit support for years.
What I find most discouraging is how our elected leaders won’t get tough on the issue. I see many leaders who are afraid to do anything but embrace either a surreal utopian progressive tenet like “free fares will solve every transit issue” and “people can camp out on a train or bus” that enables this dangerous behavior, or the “Seattle nice” tenet that naively believes that nothing bad ever happens on transit worthy of remedying for fear of offending someone.
Metro has tens of thousands of buses out every day. There’s no way it could afford police or security guards on all of them or even half of them. It would have to cut service 90% to fund even a fraction of that. And the counties and cities aren’t likely to step up with funding because they have many other pressing needs, like police officers in Seattle and housing everywhere and mental-health services for the most distressed homeless. So the solution would have to be something different.
I think Metro drivers and management disagree on not only how to handle the problem, but I think they even disagree if there is a problem.
“ Metro has tens of thousands of buses out every day. There’s no way it could afford police or security guards on all of them or even half of them.”
I don’t think it takes a permanent law enforcement staff on all or even half the buses. It just takes a few weeks of concentrated enforcement targeting certain routes or times of day or neighborhoods. I suspect that there are at most a few hundred people doing this — and uprooting them from transit use could be done strategically with a few small, responsive, agile teams of law enforcement and rehab professionals rotating among the services.
At least according to Public Health (King County & Seattle), the risks from inhaling second-hand smoke are very low as most of it is already in the user, plus presumably it dissipates with good airflow. I’d take a public health department’s analysis of the risk above any lay-person, including a transit operator. That’s not to say I think we should tolerate drug use on our buses, particularly drugs that can contribute to bad/disorderly behavior, nor am I anti-drug (just responsible-drug).
“What I find most discouraging is how our elected leaders won’t get tough on the issue. I see many leaders who are afraid to do anything but embrace either a surreal utopian progressive tenet like “free fares will solve every transit issue” and “people can camp out on a train or bus” that enables this dangerous behavior, or the “Seattle nice” tenet that naively believes that nothing bad ever happens on transit worthy of remedying for fear of offending someone.”
If you were to ask me why politicians are afraid to fix this is both from solutions that would require multiple layers of government to fix (access to Healthcare, Housing, Employment, etc.), as getting access to said things brings stability to people’s lives and helps deal with mental health which I see as a cause of falling into that problem. Other countries have homelessness problems from my experience, but it definitely pales in comparison to US in part from lack of social safety nets like other countries do.
Fixing or mitigating the issue of homelessness in the US my opinion is going to take a generation to fix or address this problem in any meaningful manner, like 10-20 years. Which for any politician is a hard pill to swallow when they have constituents to face who can’t wait that long for a fix.
You also need to address homelessness smartly, I think this is something the “Empathy to Homelessness” and “Tough on Homelessness” camps get wrong in trying to address the issue. There’s a lack of nuance and understanding from both camps that either extreme is not going to fix the problem and that you need a mix of both to approach homelessness in a well thought out manner.
Zachary B, Homeslessness issues are related to but not causing drug pipe use on transit. We have had homelessness for decades but drug pipe use on transit used to be rare to none . Even homeless folk taking shelter in transit is increasing only recently.
Certainly homeless issues are complex as it is a condition that affects many people in different ways and is brought on by different reasons. That’s complex to fix.
What needs immediate “fixing” is drug pipe use on transit, and riders using transit at their preferred shelter. That’s what I was referring to.
Mike, a heroin habit does not cost $3/day, but does make it nearly impossible to hold a job.
At the same time if you are insisting every homeless person is entitled to a top of the line $1800/mo. apartment to live alone the region cannot afford that, and neither can many working class citizens who don’t do drugs, the folks I think my housing taxes should go to.
Skylar, my definition of “responsible drug use” is I am not asked to subsidize a drug user’s housing, transportation, health care, food, or any other expense. If a drug user can afford drugs they don’t need my money. NOTHING in this world will destroy a young person’s desire, ambition and success more than drugs.
In the circles I run in, which happen to be those who pay in more than they take out, nothing turns them off to levies or subsidies for housing, health care or transportation more than this idea of subsidizing drug use, or low barrier shelters. That our rent money is going to the heroin dealer. We thought it was going to fix lives.
And make no mistake about it: anyone who is paying the taxes is looking for a reason to not pay the taxes. If more paid taxes they would understand this.
If You want to totally doom transportation levies — despite the grotesque figures Tisgwm posts — then telling the “elites” who vote and pay the taxes but no longer need transit that their money goes to addicts riding transit is a great place to start.
A lot of my friends are libertarians. They, like you, believe an individual should be able to decide for themselves what to do. But don’t ask them for a dime. Real responsibility is you pay for your own housing, transportation, health care, and food, and drugs, unless you are a kid.
In Nov. 2022 we are going to see a wave of real hard piping R’s taking over, because progressives exhausted the independents, and basically have been dismal leaders. Look for some hard “love” coming for drug addicts, which means they are on their own. If you think Trump is right wait until Tom Cotton.
Meanwhile progressives will have totally fucked the working poor, and to be honest that really makes me angry.
Pic of Ballard Ave in 1925. This is looking north. The nearest cross street is Vernon Place. The big building on the right still stands today and is the Olympic Athletic Club. At the end of the street, on the corner of Ballard Ave and 22nd, the large building is the former Ballard City Hall. By 1925, Ballard had long been annexed into Seattle. The bell tower of that building is all that’s left there today. The tracks were for the Seattle Municipal Street Railway.
I’ve been out of the STB “discussion loop” for a bit so I have to ask, has Mr. Rogoff left town yet?
Perhaps before the agency cuts him his severance check they should make an adjustment to recover the tutor expenses they incurred on his behalf. Just a suggestion.
All snark aside, what I really wanted to post about is this report that Sound Transit published last month called the “Sound Transit Annual Program Review Report”. Per the board’s approval of the agency’s capital program realignment plan last year, this reporting is now a requirement. From the executive summary:
“The realignment plan also included direction to staff to produce this Annual Program Review in order to apprise the Board and the public of major project changes, risks or other developments in a timely manner.”
It’s not a pretty picture but a sorely necessary undertaking given the past practices of the outgoing CEO and the senior management team. I would encourage others to read the report in its entirety and make their own assessment of course.
The latest update on the long-term financial plan changes just since the board’s adoption of the realignment plan late last summer shows another whopping increase of over $10.8 Billion in sources/uses. The 25-year financial plan following passage of ST3 was approximately $92B; the plan is now a 30-year plan and over $142B.
The following comparison speaks for itself. Please note the significant increased debt load and expected increased reliance on federal grant financing. Again, these are changes just since adoption of the realignment plan in the second half of last year.
Comparison of 30-year financial plans, Final Realignment Plan vs Spring 2022:
Total Uses –
(YOE$ in millions)
Capital Expenditures- $68,791/$70,907
O&M Expenditures- $32,587/$37,026
Total (2017 – 2046)-
Total Sources –
(YOE$ in millions)
Bonds & TIFIA Proceeds, Cash-
Total (2017 – 2046)-
142B dividided by 4M ST district residents would be $35,500 per resident.
Food for thought.
Yes, but that’s over 30 years in year of expenditure dollars. $1k per year per resident doesn’t sound so bad, especially if it’s $1k in 2050 dollars.
“142B dividided by 4M ST district residents would be $35,500 per resident.
Food for thought.”
Compared to what?
It’s an interesting figure, and if I go further with asdf’s idea, and divide that $1,000 yearly amount by the 365 days in a year, it comes to just under $3 a day.
What you should be asking in order to make a valid Transportation Funding decision is:
What other things can I spend my hard earned tax dollars on that will make my transportation experience better… and…
How Much Will That Cost?
The cost of Sound Move is meaningless for deciding whether it is worth it (or specific portions) if we don’t have anything to compare it to.
There is no “Grand Plan” (with $ amounts) for the region other than what Sound Transit and the various counties transit agencies budget show for that form of mobility. The only quote I heard was in an NPR interview years ago with someone from WSDOT speculating (presumably, since there is no study program) saying that if you built all the lanes you needed to reduce congestion (for the 25 year time span in actual studies) in the Puget Sound region, it would come to around $148 Billion .
(That’s in addition to what we’re already spending)
Yeah but the outcome makes those of us in SE Seattle get very little out of it. We no longer get direct North Seattle direct Link riders and instead get a time consuming transfer (a degradation in service and accessibility). Even Downtown stations will be deeper and will add travel time to use. We do get rail to SLU and Ballard directly and to West Seattle with a transfer, but not much else. Most of us do not need direct access beyond Kent-Des Moines. We do get Graham but ST is further along with Everett Link than they are with Graham even though Graham is supposed to open first. I have serious doubts that Graham will happen or the design process would have already begun.
Let’s be clear who wins in ST3:
1. SE Seattle residents are replaced in the DSTT by wealthier and whiter on average West Seattle residents. SE Seattle residents get worse Downtown connectivity.
2. Extensions go out further to places few of us go. Then, the hassle of transfers and the slower top light rail speed doesn’t even improve the overall transit time to even reach those places.
3. We get thousands of free parking garages on the edges of the district, with many of those parking doing so for free even if they live outside if the taxing district (which many will).
And we still pay for Metro too.
So it’s not paying $3 a day for transit. It’s paying $3 a day to get mostly worse transit while wealthier white people reap the benefits.
Welcome back Tisgwm, as depressing as your research is. What a colossal blunder. I wondered where you had gone.
It’s an interesting and depressing report – depressing because it is surfacing issues which have not been well explained, and I’m not sure the Board understands.
I’m not sure the “Total sources” is so interesting, the debt and reserves largely reflect timing of other things. But what happened to operational costs and SOGR? The report mentions a large increase in staff costs, but there’s a lot more that isn’t explained.
The other astonishing thing is how close the “affordable plan” is to being unaffordable again. Despite a hefty increase in tax revenues and federal grant forecasts, they have already shrunk by more than half the cushion in the plan from last August. This is an agency on the brink of another realignment delay despite a gusher of new money.
“This is an agency on the brink of another realignment delay despite a gusher of new money.”
That was my overall takeaway as well.
I only mentioned the changes in the “sources” figures to be as complete as possible and show the other side of the ledger. Obviously the timing of the increased debt reliance is important to note, as is the increased debt servicing expense that actually occurs during the 30-year plan period.
P.S. Thank you, Daniel, for the kind shout-out.
There’s inflation now, remember? Things cost more.
Operating cost forecasts aren’t running far ahead of revenues because of inflation. Sales taxes and car tabs will keep up with inflation just fine, and the property tax is too small to affect the math much.
I agree with Tisgwm about the fact ST is still manipulating the figures (my words).
Fortunately Link is a fairly new system. Simply read the linked article on the D.C. metro system for a glimpse of the future. Only ST is claiming reduced ridership and the pandemic have not undermined farebox recovery assumptions, while ironically former CEO Rogoff is warning about the opposite.
The problem with another “realignment” is the problem with the first: if rising ROW and construction costs are the issue — and by definition mean the current ST taxes based on 2016 assumptions are inadequate — extending project completion dates along with the same inadequate taxes does not help. Certainly with inflation unlikely to return to 1% which is the assumption in ST 3. It would be like waiting to buy a house in Seattle if your current income is going to stay the same. You go backwards.
ST 3 — like ST 1 and 2 — was based on ST 4. Without a ST 4 ST never pencilled out, even without a pandemic. But ST felt passing ST 3 was existential to completing ST 2 so manipulated all the assumptions in ST 3. PSRC future population estimates — all living in TOD — also were not reasonable but were complicit.
Since there are five different subareas there are five different subarea funding issues, with the Eastside likely unique because it has the funding but probably not the ridership or geography, or political desire, for more rail. East Link will not be transformational, and endless delays have been met with yawns by eastsiders. Their major concern is Seattle does NOT come to the Eastside.
For the other subareas other than N. King Co. the issue has always been that the farther you get from downtown Seattle the less necessary grade separated light rail is or makes economic sense.
For N. King Co. the issues are the very high cost of the desired designs (underground and deep), the move away from downtown as the hub, and the permanent decline in the peak commuter who has a very high fare paying rate. These are the same issues affecting D. C. Extensions and realignments exacerbate these problems rather than solve them.
The Board is like deer in the headlights. Like any politician — and Balducci as chair is incomprehensible to me — they will deny the problem as long as the truth can be denied beyond their term. That is why we will never see a HB5528 levy: the amount would be so high it would reveal the truth, and would not pass to boot.
The truth is revealed at several steps. Project bids are the final step because they can’t be manipulated, unless of course project cost contingencies are low balled. A DEIS should be a truth step but a DEIS is always manipulated by the agency, like ST 1. 2 and 3. Agencies believe that if the project is begun the funding will have to be found to complete it.
The only goal for the Board right now is to make sure someone else inherits the final solution, which will be a ST 4, or elimination of projects, and some kind of operations levy.
The reality is project extensions are project eliminations (and Eastside projects like ST 3 park and rides and Issaquah to S. Kirkland will not get built because changing transportation patters and the weak ridership on East Link) but apparently the Board figured 5 years was long enough to be gone when someone has to admit the truth.
“ST 3 — like ST 1 and 2 — was based on ST 4. Without a ST 4 ST never pencilled out, even without a pandemic. But ST felt passing ST 3 was existential to completing ST 2 so manipulated all the assumptions in ST 3. PSRC future population estimates — all living in TOD — also were not reasonable but were complicit.”
ST knew ST2 wasn’t dependent on ST3. Only the short extensions to downtown Redmond and Federal Way were not in ST2. ST3’s marketing allowed voters to get the misimpression that ST3 was needed to open Lynnwood and Redmond Tech and KDM, but that was never the case. I’m not fond of such marketing, but ST never directly said Lynnwood or KDM was dependent on ST3.
ST3 is not dependent on ST4 either. There’s no indication the board in 2016 or even now has any concrete idea of when or what ST4 might be, much less backfilling ST3’s financing. That’s all your speculation. The only specific thing is a list of desired short extensions (Everett College, Tacoma Mall), and corridor studies in ST3 for potential future lines, as every ST# has. ST3 can be completed without ST4, it’s just a question of how long it would take. The public is already paying the equivalent of ST1/2/3 taxes on top of each other, and ST4 taxes would be on top of that. There’s no indication ST believes the public or legislature is ready for that, especially so soon after ST3.
“PSRC future population estimates — all living in TOD — also were not reasonable but were complicit.”
The PSRC does what it claims: plans for growth. Its past population predictions have been pretty accurate. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into things and made it hard to say what will happen when. There are two choices: overbuild and risk excess vacancies, or underbuild and exacerbate the housing shortage that’s driving prices up. Pugetopolis has so far escaped the worst of the San Francisco and San Jose housing shortages and $3500-4000 rents and $1.5 million average house prices, but it could still happen.
The PSRC can’t control population growth; it can only guess what it will be. What the PSRC can do is channel most (not all) growth to multifamily urban growth centers. That’s widely seen as the best policy, including by most of the cities involved. The alternative is all single-family houses. That’s impossible because there’s not enough room within the urban growth boundary. The boundary can’t be eliminated or greatly expanded without a change in state law. And doing so would turn western Washington into Bay Area hell. It would also displace all those farms growing nutritious food for Washingtonians.
Developers are continuing to build housing and office space at a rapid pace, so they believe population growth will continue. They may be wrong, but it’s not just the PSRC predicting it, it’s also the ones who are putting their money on the line.
Today I tapped three times at a RapidRide reader to see what it would do. Before the ORCA conversion it would start a trip, cancel it, and start it again. Now it says “PERMIT TO TRAVEL” all three times.
They said ORCA 2 has more flexible software so it can be customized more than ORCA 1 could, and that more features will be coming over the next several months. But it appears the features have regressed. In two years will we get all the features back we had two weeks ago? Or is this identical tapin/tapout/cancel message permanent? “Canceling” means not being charged. So was my charge canceled or not? Was I charged three times? The reader doesn’t say.
Yeah, I ran into the same thing today. I was waiting for a B, so I tapped the RapidRide reader. Then the B never showed up (ah, transit in America…), and a 245 did show up, so I tapped the RapidRide reader again because I was riding a non-RapidRide bus.
Doesn’t make much difference in this case, since you get 2 hours free after the first use anyway. Pretty sure you won’t be charged three times in succession.
The other problem is that the reader doesn’t tell you your balance anymore. I hope that’s a temporary regression.
“Fans flood Brooklyn subway stations for Notorious B.I.G. MetroCards on what would’ve been his 50th birthday” From the New York Post. Bing it if you want to read the article.
Why can’t ORCA do something like that? Have a limited edition transit card featuring a local celebrity? I think Ichiro would be popular.
My first thought would be Kurt Cobain. Jimi Hendrix would also be a good choice. Ichiro seems a bit in poor taste to me, as he’s still alive.
Lynnwood’s urban growth has started.
“More than 3,600 new housing units have been completed in the past year, are under construction or planned in Lynnwood’s City Center and Alderwood neighborhoods. Multiple street, sidewalk, and trail improvements are already planned.”
“In a meeting last month, one City Council member warned against ‘too much housing,’ while another reminded his colleagues that a busy, walkable core is what many constituents ‘have long asked for.”
As if too much housing is a problem.
“After college, Nguyen [owner of a furniture store] had a career in Silicon Valley. He returned in 2005, as Lynnwood’s leaders began planning a metamorphosis. They rezoned 250 acres for buildings up to 350 feet tall, envisioning people of all ages living and working above restaurants, boutiques and pubs. At the same time, they vowed to preserve outlying neighborhoods for houses with yards.”
That sounds like Bellevue’s planning to become a major center, only four decades later.
‘“How many units do we need … before somebody says stop?” former Councilmember Ted Hikel asked, suggesting more growth would strain public services like police and could “destroy the city by turning it into another Seattle, turning it into another Ballard.”’
I could see complaining about downtown’s seediness or Capitol Hill’s liberalness… but Ballard? Has he ever been to Ballard? Oh, the horror, to have a walkable neighborhood, a more complete selection of walkable businesses, a farmers’ market, and an expanded Nordic Museum. There’s probably more traffic congestion but it’s by no means the worst in Seattle, and pales in comparison to I-5 between Seattle and Everett. You don’t have 30-minute car commutes expanding into 90-minute car commutes in Ballard.
The planning continued after voters in 2008 approved Lynnwood’s light-rail extension, which will carry passengers to downtown Seattle in 28 minutes. Still, the city’s population grew just 8% from 2010 to 2020. Only now does development at last appear to be ramping up, stirring excitement and anxiety.
I read the anti-new housing comment as doublespeak for “new residents living in denser areas aren’t my kind of people.” If they cared about the tax base, they would be supportive of new projects.
I also think that the Alderwood Station could be great for thousands of new jobs for all those new residents. It’s not too much housing if the new residents can walk or ride one stop to their job.
Residents cost a municipality
money because they demand services.
Businesses, with their sales tax revenue, generate money for a municipality.
That’s how cities make those decisions. They just love their auto dealerships.
Yes, and in the aggregate, it creates a financial incentive for cities to want businesses that people travel to from other cities, but relatively few residents. Problem is, in the aggregate, the result is a surplus of business space and a housing shortage.
Ideally, tax collection would be structured so that cities would be more neutral about housing vs. business space, perhaps splitting sales tax revenue from credit card transactions between where the business is located and where the customer lives. 20 ago, this would have been impractical, today, it’s a problem that seems mostly solvable through software.
This is especially true for car dealerships. Car dealerships are ugly blight, yet many cities don’t allow the land to be redeveloped into anything else because they need the tax revenue of the car dealership to pay their bills. If taxes on car sales were assessed to where the buyer lives, rather than where the dealership is, this kind of nonsense would go away.
The Spring District is reportedly overemphasizing office space and building too little housing. This is the perverse incentives in action. Bellevue can get away with it because it’s such a desirable location for businesses that they’ll come. Workers will have to commute from Snohomish County if there’s not enough housing in Bellevue or the Eastside. This may be good for Bellevue’s tax receipts but it’s bad for the region and all the people involved, who have to travel further than they would have. It’s a beggar-thy-neighbor attitude rather than all cities working together for the betterment of all.
King County’s formula for urban growth centers requires a minimum amount of zoned job capacity but ignores housing. It assume housing will be there too (there won’t be 100% separation of jobs and housing as in previous decades), but it allows cities to underbuild housing. So Issaquah, Kirkland, and Federal Way dutifully zone the required commercial space to get regional amenities (e.g., a Sound Transit high-capacity transit station). Meanwhile Ballard-Fremont and Lake City have a more even balance of jobs to housing — more effective urban villages like the U-District — but because of that they fall below the jobs minimum so they aren’t official urban growth centers and thus aren’t must-serve by regional transit. So they were skipped over in ST2: Lynnwood Link wasn’t required to serve Lake City, and Totem Lake and Issaquah look more important than they’d otherwise be.
Snohomish County has a huge imbalance of housing and jobs: some 70% of residents commute to King County for work. The goal of expanding downtown Lynnwood and Everett and the Everett Industrial Center and bringing Link to them is to generate more jobs and tax base, so that more Snohomans can work in their own county. Lynnwood and Everett can’t attract companies the way Bellevue and Everett can, so they have less control over their housing/jobs ratio. They can make it somewhat more balanced but can’t become office powerhouses, at least not until the population increases greatly and companies are forced to look beyond the Eastside and Seattle because there are no large parcels left for corporate campuses and more desirable small-business addresses. That’s already happening to some extent, and Lynnwood has the potential to fill up some of its emerging office capacity. Whether it can fill all of it is another question.
So Lynnwood will inevitably be more housing-heavy than King County, and that might be OK. The councilmember’s concern that downtown Lynnwood might get “too much” housing seems nonsensical. There are strong regional pressures putting more housing in Snohomish County and more businesses in King County, that are unlikely to be overcome. So it’s pretty clear that all that housing will be filled up, and it could take even more.
“The Spring District is reportedly overemphasizing office space and building too little housing. This is the perverse incentives in action. Bellevue can get away with it because it’s such a desirable location for businesses that they’ll come.”
The incentives are not “perverse” Mike, just financial. The developer is doing it for the money. It is why cities have zoning codes.
In Bellevue’s case, the town center code requires a certain amount of housing, retail and parking, because office space at this time is the most profitable (actually the code incentivizes them with additional height). Otherwise developers in The Spring District wouldn’t have either retail or housing.
On the other hand, in a city like Mercer Island the profit is in the housing, so ideally the code requires adequate retail and parking. In the past the code did not, and so the town center — which is one of the few that allows housing throughout the commercial core — has inadequate parking and retail plus retail parking.
As I pointed out before, the most difficult thing to create is a vibrant and retail dense retail area. It takes safety, cleanliness, usually folks who live nearby, access by others, and most of all retail and restaurant density. The Spring District and Wilburton will have some retail but will never be able to compete against Bellevue Way/Old Main Street, where not surprisingly the housing will be the most expensive. It isn’t hard to create a profitable housing or office building in Bellevue (although offices are more lucrative per sf) but it is very, very difficult to create a vibrant retail area, which is the entire point of urbanism. Otherwise you live and work in a dead zone.
At the same time Mercer Island is looking at a new town center code that actually gets retail and retail parking in exchange for the additional height that developers naturally want to go to housing.
Housing is only one part of a development code, and is not the holy grail. You can have the densest housing in the world but without a vibrant retail/restaurant street level who wants to live there. Same with offices, which is what we see in Seattle today. Office or housing density do not necessarily result in a retail dense street scene.
What do Link supporters think its purpose is if not to connect housing in one area with jobs in another area? People who work in the Spring District will take the train to get to work. That’s why Sound Transit built it.
“The Spring District is reportedly overemphasizing office space and building too little housing. This is the perverse incentives in action. Bellevue can get away with it because it’s such a desirable location for businesses that they’ll come.”
I’m not sure who’s reporting this. The Spring District is one development in the neighborhood. It’s mostly office because they have one customer who is taking on as many new office buildings as they can build. The neighborhood more broadly has a ton of new residential projects, and capacity to add more apartment buildings for decades. They’re limited only by the cost of construction and the absorption rate of the market.
They’re limited only by the cost of construction and the absorption rate of the market.
Exactly! There are several new and under construction (and in the pipeline) residential units along Bel-Red and 20th that technically aren’t part of “The Spring District” but are walking distance to a Link station. One in fact on Bel-Red near 124th replaced a Bank and office space. It makes sense that office towers would be the closest thing to the Link stations since they generate the most trips. Redmond has built a lot of new residential at Overlake. I noticed this weekend that they’ve started demo work on the old Sears building which will be mixed office, retail and residential. Tons of new units off 156th at Bel-Red and also Crossroads.
I think it’s best to assess what happens in Bellevue as a 6-station strategy rather than a single station strategy.
Of course, the Spring District and BelRed stations offer the most potential for residential among the six. In that way, the segment could be more balanced.
Of course, the market seems to favor jobs at Bellevue stations. Maybe market forces will create incentives to move some of the various proposals from office to residential.
To me, a missing opportunity is South Bellevue Station. A Factoria cable-pulled connection could open up an amazing new TOD opportunity there. The area west of the station is well suited for TOD — but the residents would shut that down pretty loudly.
“What do Link supporters think its purpose is if not to connect housing in one area with jobs in another area?”
The purpose of the entire transit network is to serve all of people’s trips, both work and non-work. Non-work makes up three quarters of the trips. The purpose of Link, as the highest-capacity trunk mode, is to serve the highest-volume corridors.
People focus on work commutes because they’re essential to earning money and staffing businesses. In many cases they’re people’s longest and most congested trip, or the one they’d most consider using transit for.
But the overall goal of transit is to provide total mobility, for both work and non-work trips. That’s how it functions in cities with ubiquidous transit, where half or more of the people don’t have cars, because it’s more convenient to take transit than to drive. Link, Stride, and the bus restructure are steps in that direction.
I am kind of a fan/nerd for transit construction projects. I saw I-5 lane closures in the news in Mountlake Terrace. It is for the removal of the temporary steel beam structure over I-5 during the consttruction the Lynwood Link overpass. Is it down yet?
For the beams over the roadway, yes.
Southbound was clear, the direction I was traveling, but some of the structure adjacent to the northbound lanes was still visible.
Since this is a news roundup, I thought four stories over the weekend were interesting:
1. The Seattle Times editorial page on Sunday had an editorial calling for higher pay and benefits to attract police officers to work in Seattle. Between 2020 and 2022 the number of in-service police officers in the SPD has fallen from 1290 to 968.
In 2020 many Seattle activists were calling for defunding the police, as were across the U.S. Not many city councils did so although they threatened, and demonized the police. Then crime soared, and whenever crime is an issue in an election it is the only issue (unless inflation is running at 10% in real rates). I highly doubt many politicians, even in this region, will run on a defund the police platform in Nov. 2022.
But the activists got their ultimate wish: declining police officers. The problem Seattle will have isn’t competitive pay and benefits: the SPD is probably the highest paid dept. in the region. Other police departments from the King Co. Sherrif’s office to Bellevue to even smaller cities have reaped the benefit when the SPD officers move to other cities, because Seattle police officers tend to the be the most qualified and trained, and Seattle paid for all the training, especially with such a labor shortage today and fewer young people wanting to become police officers. Despite the views of many on this blog, the vast majority of young people go into policing because they really want to make a difference, and all the hate towards them is demoralizing, as are city councils that make their jobs impossible.
I don’t see Seattle being able to attract the needed officers, and most will be new recruits, so I don’t see how Harrell achieves his goal of restoring safety to Seattle, and by safety I mean a perception of 100% safety, because that is the perception of going to Bellevue to work, shop or dine. Maybe “community officers” like ST’s fare ambassadors will do the trick, but so far it hasn’t on ST.
MTA ridership fell 5% after the Brooklynn shooting in April 2022. “The subway’s ridership is also still trying to recover from the blow of the pandemic. Typical daily subway ridership fell from 5.5 million riders to less than a tenth of that. On Monday, estimated ridership was 3.1 million, according to the MTA.”
Then on Sunday there was a fourth shooting. https://nypost.com/2022/05/22/fatal-shooting-marks-fourth-subway-homicide-in-2022-nypd/ “Subway crime rates have soared since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — from 1.47 felonies per million riders in 2019 to 2.11 felonies per million riders in April 2022, according to the latest NYPD and MTA figures.”
This has resulted in 99 million fewer annual riders, and a 19% gap in revenue. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/n-y-mta-ridership-falls-134112096.html
Statistically one could argue a rider’s risk of being shot or killed is very low, except that low risk is killing ridership on a transit system that is very old and needs huge amounts of farebox recovery (and funding), in an area so dense it really can’t function without transit, unless more WFH.
Getting on a train car is like getting into a cage. I don’t know how many times I have said it, but safety is numbers one, two and three for discretionary transit ridership, and when safety is the concern all transit ridership is discretionary. There are too many alternatives to transit these days for it to be perceived as unsafe.
3. Going viral on eastside Nextdoors is a letter a SeaTac resident wrote to the SeaTac City Council about the crime around the light rail station. [Reprinted at the end of this post is the letter].
The fact the writer is from SeaTac is important on the eastside, as though SeaTac residents are tougher are more tolerant of crime. It really isn’t clear whether the light rail station is attracting SeaTac criminal elements, or whether they are migrating to SeaTac on light rail.
It really bugs a lot of folks — at least where I live — that cities are suppose to spend the money and resources to police light rail because ST, despite a $142 billion budget, refuses to, especially when light rail will have such a negligible improvement in transit in these outer areas. All light rail is is buses without fare enforcement. More and more the outlying subareas are starting to wonder whether Link and Link stations are worth it, because the fact is transit — and mode of transit — is very low on the list of what makes a community vibrant and attractive. I am beginning to truly believe it will be better for the eastside if East Link never opens.
4. Jon Talton is a business writer for the Seattle Times. I think he is a reasonable voice often among unreasonable voices, at least when it comes to business or economics. For years he has lived in downtown Seattle and written about the changes.
He had an article in Sunday’s Times hoping that converting Pacific Place to offices might actually signal a rebound for downtown Seattle. He gives a good history of Norm Rice’s efforts the last time downtown Seattle retail was imploding, the importance of Pacific Place, and Nordstrom taking over the old Frederick’s building, the rare sky bridge between the two, and reopening Pine that resulted in a revitalization of the Westlake retail. His quotes from the early 1990’s about crime, graffiti, and a growing homeless population in this area are the same as today, except major retailers are gone, and there is no Norm Rice.
Talton writes that if Harrell solves the crime issue, and the homeless issue (with 322 fewer police officers), the perception of Seattle after CHOP, Third Ave. is reclaimed, tourism rebounds, and the work commuters that are now 33% of pre-pandemic levels return, maybe new offices at Pacific Place will attract future retailers, that will again revitalize this once retail dense area of downtown.
But I think Talton’s wish is unlikely. The death of retail is usually the death of an urban core, and removing retail space means it is gone forever. The difference in the early 1990’s is Rice expanded retail space. Seattle won’t have the police officers to achieve Harrell’s goals, and a 33% return rate to downtown Seattle by workers in May 2022 signals something much deeper is at work, and those workers not returning because they are working someplace else. Meanwhile Bellevue is now seen as an attractive alternative for many businesses, which wasn’t the case in the early 1990’s.
As Bellevue has proven it is pretty easy to build and even fill office towers, and Mercer Island has proven itis pretty easy to build housing in a commercial zone, but it takes a lot of factors to create a rich retail dense area. Without a retail rich street level, urbanism is impossible, a town center is worthless, especially with WFH and online ordering, and living an urban or dense life is pointless.
In this case I think Talton’s hopes and dreams are not reality. The likely permanent loss of the work commuter is probably the number one concern, but the crime and homelessness are forcing more and more workers and businesses (and downtown residents) to look for other options, and you need lots and lots of people from outside the retail core to come to have a really rich retail core. Bellevue Square and Bellevue Way could never survive just based on local downtown residents.
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2022 1:00 AM
To: City Council (CityCouncil@seatacwa.gov)
Cc: Carl Cole (firstname.lastname@example.org) ; Mary Mirante Bartolo (email@example.com) ; Gwen Voelpel ; Kristina Gregg (firstname.lastname@example.org) ; Rep. Tina Orwall (Tina.Orwall@leg.wa.gov) ; Sen. Karen Keiser (Karen.Keiser@leg.wa.gov)
Subject: Requested Council Action
Dear City Council & Staff –
Based on recent reports as documented by KIRO television, as a resident of SeaTac I request you take immediate action for the protection and general safety of our residents. It has come to my attention by several newscasts, as well as my personal observations while riding the light rail that the smoking of illicit drugs (fentanyl) on our public transportation systems has reached epidemic levels.
For those who may not have seen telecasts, following is a link that describes the problem on the metro buses:
Note in particular the loophole or lack of statutory authority to address the problem, and the subsequent response by the City of Federal Way (council action) to address this issue.
My specific request is that you enact an ordinance similar to that of Federal Way’s and make enforcement a priority. If for no other reason, it is important to get the message out that this practice is not tolerated here. Lest one thinks this is not a problem in SeaTac, please view the following which aired on KIRO Wednesday late night news 05/11/22. It shows almost 20 individuals passed out (by fentanyl) on light rail cars in SeaTac (assume Angle Lake station)!
https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/public-transit-video-shows-nearly-20-people-passed-out-link-light-rail-train/L5WS3VSZ3RABFACN4UXKBXBDFQ/ Unfortunately, one more black eye for our city.
I use the light rail on an occasional basis for trips to downtown or the University of Washington. Often these are off commute hours. Virtually every time I have taken the train at the Tukwila station, there are groups of individuals hanging around the stairwells, clearly with no intent of catching a train. Some appear to be dealing drugs in the open. The last time I took the train, I parked my car next to the short stairway adjacent to 154th street, where there were several such individuals.
The very next day, at that same location, an individual was shot dead within feet of where my car had been parked! Evidently a drug deal gone south. On another rail trip to the UW, I observed an individual who was passing out after barely able to board. I (and many others) do not feel comfortable/safe riding our public transportation that we fund out of our taxes. This is not acceptable!
Thank-you for your consideration!
xxxx, SeaTac resident
The last time I checked shooting up heroin is illegal. It should be reported, and the offender should go to jail and/or detox. If you don’t like that then change the laws.
The truth is that not enforcing the law is what has Seattle in this downward spiral, and enforcing it is what is going to get Seattle back.
Furthermore, if voting for transit measures means that my tax money is going to go towards creating a place on a train or bus where drug addicts feel free to break the law, then my next vote is ‘NO’, and I won’t be the only one to feel this way either.
STB, I’m pretty sure, Mike/Mark/Gregg are all the same person. They say the same thing in every comment.
The parody pro-houseless comments are getting out of control on this blog. And people keep falling for it.
The herd has been culled.
As a SeaTac resident I am happy to refute most of claims made in that letter, and find it interesting they did not CC the entire City Council. I regularly take transit from the SeaTac Link Station, as it is less than 1 mile from my house. I can safely say I have never seen anyone smoking anything other than tobacco and cannabis, and can count the number of times I have seen homeless people sleeping there on one hand with fingers to spare.
I also find it interesting that this individual believes everybody sleeping on Link is doing so because they are on fentanyl. I know this may come as a surprise to some, but people do not take recreational drugs just to sleep. I myself have drifted off to sleep on busses and trains, and I have never had fentanyl, even while in the hospital for extended stays due to trauma and pain.
Then there is the hyperbole regarding the recent shooting at TIBS. At the time of the incident it was reported that the shooting had not taken place on transit property, although the shooter did apparently flee using Link.
SeaTac is quite safe, and if there is any “crime magnet” attracting unsafe elements to it that would likely be the fault of the DoC. They drop off people getting out of Kent RJC at the SeaTac Link Station in clear violation of the RCW (misuse of transit facilities), and steadfastly refuses to stop no matter who the community complains to.
I guess the part of all that which is sort of relevant to this web site is if the perceived crime problem in Seattle is going to cause people to not use transit.
I spent a bit of time trying to find meaningful crime data, but for the most part it doesn’t look like post 2019 data is analyzed too well yet. What little I was able to find indicated there isn’t a particularly meaningful statistical difference between downtown Bellevue and downtown Seattle. It did show Shoreline being lower than either, which is interesting because that strip along Aurora doesn’t seem like a particularly crime free area.
There were also indications that crime in rural areas has increased significantly.
Of course, mere statistics isn’t really helping us determine if an area is safe or not. If a huge portion of crime is being committed by homeless people against other homeless people
1) the average non-homeless person is statistically improbably going to have a problem
2) if you want to lower the crime statistics, you would need to solve the homeless problem, not dump more police officers onto the street.
Anyway, considering the crime problem is happening everywhere, it doesn’t look to me like just having more patrol officers at Link stations, or whatever you are trying to propose here as a solution, will work. There isn’t enough work being done to provide information on the reasons for the crime wave.
The Seattle Times editorial page on Sunday had an editorial calling for higher pay and benefits to attract police officers to work in Seattle.
Yeah, that’s not exactly a big surprise. Unfortunately the Seattle Times editorial board has evolved in ways similar to the Republican Party. They went from a reasonable center-right position, to reactionary. It should be no surprise that they ignore the fundamental issues with policing in the United States, and embrace a misguided law-and-order position. Like so many issues, it will be a while before they figure out that the so-called radical left was actually correct. Remember when black people in L. A. were told they were exaggerating when it came to police brutality. Then someone finally got lucky, and filmed Rodney King getting brutally beaten by the LAPD. That was in 1991. Obviously this sort of thing happened all the time, otherwise it wouldn’t have been filmed.
In 2014 the Atlantic Monthly published an article that “Research suggests that family violence is two to four times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population”* and yet nothing much happened. Or how about the whole Black Lives Matter movement. For years people dismissed their claims. Then a series of incidents occurred, and folks became “woke”. Or how about Colin Kaepernick, one of the smartest quarterbacks to every play in the NFL. His protest was met with anger and derision. It wasn’t until those same incidents occurred that people finally figured out that he had a point. He was trying to inform Americans; to make them realize what is actually quite common with police all over the country. Perhaps if others had listened, there would have been fewer deaths caused by the police, and the police would have been more effective.
Which brings me to the Seattle Police Department. Obviously we aren’t as bad as LAPD. They literally have gangs within their force, that again weren’t made public until very recently**. But the Seattle Police Department still has problems. That isn’t my opinion, but the opinion of judges who look at the department***. They are making progress, and the consent decree may end this year, but as of right now, there are still issues.
The current push for more police officers ignores the correlation between abusive police and crime. People stereotype the police, and while there are good officers, the system itself makes things worse****. As a result, cooperation between the public and the police — essential for low crime — is worse than it should be. There is a lack of interest in reform even though that is clearly the biggest problem. We know what works in other countries, but ignore those lessons*****. In Seattle the police spend a huge amount of time dealing with problems they are not equipped to deal with. Rather than just spending more on the police, we should spend more time and money on reform as well as spending more on social programs. This would reduce crimes from being committed in the first place, while also allowing the police to focus on reducing crime.
Like so many times in the past, The Seattle Times editorial board is just wrong.
“Unfortunately the Seattle Times editorial board has evolved in ways similar to the Republican Party. They went from a reasonable center-right position, to reactionary. It should be no surprise that they ignore the fundamental issues with policing in the United States, and embrace a misguided law-and-order position. Like so many issues, it will be a while before they figure out that the so-called radical left was actually correct.”
Funny, this is pretty much the exact opposite sentiment than on the eastside. Quoting the Atlantic is like quoting The Stranger for many. Billionaire noblesse oblige based on your husband’s earnings.
Who knows what will work. Whatever happened to those “community counselors” the defund the police crowed was talking about? I do know Harrell ran on two platforms: public safety/crime, and homeless tents on streets and in parks. (Whatever happened to the replacement for Zimbabwe or is transit a complete non-issue for him).
He crushed Gonzales who ran on the opposite platform, and a Republican was elected city attorney. Seattle probably has two years to get results. He is clearing tents from the residential parks, but I don’t see much progress on the downtown core or crime. I just don’t know what he or anyone can do if the work commuter to Seattle stays at 33% of pre-pandemic levels. Those folks paid the bills.
In July it won’t be my problem anymore. I live on Mercer Island and like most eastsiders our number one concern is Seattle does NOT come to the eastside (and welcome delays in the opening of East Link), and in July we are leaving The Smith Tower after 32 years and taking offices on Mercer Island, which ironically has a more vibrant town center during the day than Pioneer Square. I will live the urbanist dream: walk to and from work, walk to lunch and to shop, not even a need for transit (since there is none)
Does anyone remember Oscar Grant, who was shot point blank by a BART police officer who had a checkered history with a racist past? He claimed he thought he was firing a taser.
What’s not often understood is that BART police made much less than other local police did. Thus, the applicant pool was “less professional” and BART was more likely to let questionable applicants get hired.
Ironically, they made less than station agents, which had a great Union contract. They got paid better than BART police.
I can’t say if SPD has something similar going on, but I would rather have 80 good police (rewarded with better pay) on duty than 120 bad police.(paid terribly) on duty.
I learned this weekend that the proposed redevelopment of the old Albertsons site on 85th (Rose Hill) has been shelved. The developer and the City couldn’t agree on zoning/design. However, Lee Johnson auto dealership has been sold to a developer. I don’t know what is planned for that parcel. On the west side it boarders 405, The east and north boarders residential so I’d guess it will be mixed use with retail on NE 85th.
CT released their 2024 restructure proposal: https://transit2024.participate.online/
Good news on the housing front. The Puget Sound Business Journal is reporting income restricted condos have dropped dramatically in price to where developers almost can’t give them away. https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2022/05/23/daniels-seattle-gridiron-condos-sales.html?utm_source=st&utm_medium=en&utm_campaign=EC&utm_content=ps&ana=e_ps_EC&j=27823187&senddate=2022-05-24
I don’t have access to the article, but I find it confusing. By its very nature, income restricted housing should be low-cost. There is no point in charging a million dollars for a condo, and then limiting it to those that are low income. I’m not saying that is what they charged, but 375K as the lowest price isn’t that low, especially with current interest rates, and a low down payment.
Here is the article for those who cannot access it. Interesting smorgasbord of issues.
“Four years ago Daniels Real Estate rolled out a plan to sell a dozen Seattle condos in the new Gridiron building at below-market prices.
“We thought these would fly off the shelf,” Kevin Daniels said in a May 10 email interview. They have not. Even after cutting prices, “(we) can’t even give them away, it seems.”
The 12-story glass-and-steel project between Lumen Field and Seattle’s new waterfront was built on the site of a century-old brick building whose facade remains. King County, which once stored bleachers from the old Kingdome stadium in the building, sold the building for $6 million to Daniels, who agreed to include below-market residences in the project.
Under the deal, Gridiron can charge up to $483,000 for an income-restricted one-bedroom unit but is now listing those for $399,000. Two studio units are priced at $375,000.
“Imagine any opportunity to buy a home in Seattle under $400,000 in a new building with the same finishes as the market-rate units,” Daniels said.
In about the last week, two more of the income-restricted condos were put under contract, said listing agent Kim Davis of Your Seattle Home Team. She added that tour activity has picked up, going from “probably less than five” before the price cuts to around a dozen so this month.
Still, six below-market homes on the market for nearly four years haven’t sold even though the income-restriction covenant lifts after the units first sell. That allows buyers to eventually sell them at market-rate prices and make what Daniels called “a tidy sum.”
Sales are restricted to households that make 115% of the area median income (AMI). That’s a maximum of $93,200 for a single-person household and $106,500 for a couple.
He thinks the slow sales are the result of “the best intentions going up against economic realities. … The issue appears to be that there are no programs to assist with any income over 80% AMI, so the down payment is out of reach for most of this workforce housing income level.”
In addition, Daniels thinks rising crime and a worsening homeless crisis downtown have cut into the sale of downtown condos to people who are downsizing,
He doesn’t think that parking costs of an additional $50,000 a stall is holding back sales given Gridiron’s proximity to light rail, streetcar and bus service.
There are a total of 95 market-rate units at Gridiron and of the 20 still for sale, one is under contract, Daniels said. Prices range from the low- to mid-$500,000s to the low- to mid-$900,000s.
Among the market-rate sales, six were over $1 million, with public records showing the highest price paid was over $1.1 million.
Monthly homeownership dues are around $1.10 a square foot, up from 71 cents a foot when the building opened in 2018.
It’s not really a smorgasbord of issues – he identifies the only issue: “The issue appears to be that there are no programs to assist with any income over 80% AMI, so the down payment is out of reach for most of this workforce housing income level.”
As someone about to step into the housing market with my fiance, the disconnect between who they think can afford these place is ridiculous. I’m barely under the cutoff of $93.2k, and no bank in 2022 is going to give me a 30-year $320k mortgage at any debt:income ratio less than 40%. Sure, if there wasn’t an HOA for the building, then it might be feasible, but they’re charging $1.1/sqft! That’s over $500 for their smallest unit, a 460-sqft studio.
They may think this is reasonable, but the only folks buying condos today are either individuals making over $100k, or couples with combined incomes well over the $106.5k max.
I appreciate the effort, but if they’re going to target buyers at less than 115% of AMI, they need to sell their condos for less than 115% of similarly-priced condos elsewhere with lower HOAs. I just punched in “<$400k" and "Any Housing Type" on Zillow and found a good handful of similar or larger units for the same price without income restrictions. Sure, they're older, but no one entering the market at under $400k is caring about "new" – especially since "new" usually means shiny but cheap.
I agree Nathan, but the key is the developer does not want to sell to someone with less than an 80% AMI, because the rest of the market rate purchasers will object, but wanted the additional height for affordable housing. Here are some other flaws with this program/project I have pointed out to Mercer Island’s council as they begin their housing needs assessment plan based on AMI:
First is HOA dues are a little over $1/sf/mo. in this development. That is over $800/mo. on top of a mortgage that is not deductible for an 800 sf unit. Great for the wealthy, not so much for an affordable unit.
Parking is a necessity for most, especially for women or families, but $50,000/stall is affordable for the non-price restricted units but not price restricted. Unfortunately, this is really the fault of Seattle politics in which transit is not safe to use, certainly in Sodo, which of course affects residents in outlying areas who have to travel to downtown Seattle, but even with safe areas like MI a car is a necessity in suburbia. Yes the purchaser can subsequently sell their unit at market rates, but without secured parking the unit won’t resell. For the non-market purchaser the best investment they could make for resale is a second parking stall.
Next there is the down payment. There is a catch-22 hinted at in the article. For those at 80% AMI or above there are no subsidies for a down payment, but in reality, the developers really want to fill the affordable units with folks who don’t look affordable, like the 80% to 115% segment not unlike on MI.
Now with mortgage rates over 5% and rising for those with excellent credit — and higher for those who need affordable housing — the monthly mortgage rate has gone way up.
Next, $375,000 really isn’t all that affordable for someone with a 60% AMI (plus the parking and HOA dues). It is a ruse, and somewhat of a lottery.
Finally, with the elimination of the long tail for warranties on new condo construction Seattle and other areas will likely see older more affordable multi-family housing converted to expensive condos, probably like this project.
One would think the real surprise is someone hasn’t scammed the system and the SODO project by funding someone with an AMI 115% or lower to buy an affordable unit in the Sodo development and then flip it at market rates. Except market rates for units this building, in this location, probably without parking that is likely a studio with very large HOA dues are not going to sell.
Developers don’t want affordable housing and the degree of their distaste increases as AMI decreases, but want the additional height. So they demand:
1. The unit can be resold at market rates to get rid of affordable housing folks. I am sure that is exactly what this developer was hoping for but the market for housing in Sodo isn’t great right now.
2. Parking can be sold at market rates, when it is unsafe to take transit in much of Seattle, and if you are a women or have kids a car is basically a necessity.
3. Very high HOA dues that apply per sf with no exemption for the affordable units.
4. Less and less chance to qualify for a mortgage or down payment the lower the AMI.
Moral of the story? Don’t look at new construction for affordable housing, and be sure you understand the motives of developers, which are the opposite of affordable housing.
Dan, the person you think believes that new construction will create new affordable housing is a man made of straw.
The well-document effect of new construction is that it slows, or stalls, the increase in cost of nearby housing, since people who can afford market rate will simply buy the new unit, instead of renovating and old unit and making it unaffordable forever.
Unless they’re going to provide the private loans for the down payments themselves, this developer ought to sell these units at market rate. Who cares that parking is an add-on – I think it’s good that they’re selling the parking separately. Let the purchaser decide if they need that extra 200 square feet of concrete to park a vehicle, or they can save that $50k and take the bus.
Transit is safer than driving – just ask the guy whose car broke down on Tuesday morning on the crest of the Ship Canal Bridge. Oh wait, you can’t, because another driver hit his car while he was (likely) attempting to diagnose his vehicle and knocked him into a 180-foot freefall. Or ask the families of the other 800 folks who die every year on Washington’s roads.
“The well-document effect of new construction is that it slows, or stalls, the increase in cost of nearby housing, since people who can afford market rate will simply buy the new unit, instead of renovating and old unit and making it unaffordable forever.”
That is the theory in any case, [and at least it recognizes existing construction will be the most affordable the older it is, and the housing in Sodo reveals the hidden costs of multi-family housing] and could be true if lower interest rates allow greater purchasing power so a buyer can pay more for new construction. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/what-plunging-new-home-sales-mean-for-buyers-and-the-economy/ar-AAXIH1n?li=BBnb7Kz
People tend to buy the most house they can afford (monthly). Just like a car.
Everyone, including me, falls in love with the house you just can’t afford, and is one step beyond your ability to pay. A lot of times, like our first house, that means a fixer upper.
Housing costs, unlike food and energy, are factors in the inflation rate, which has become a political timebomb. So housing prices (not cost) are political now.
What does the Fed do? It raises interest rates, and signals higher future rates, and stops buying mortgage-backed securities, which have sent mortgage rates from under 3% to 5.5% today, but going up. Meanwhile everyone who refinanced at under 3% like we did can’t afford to sell if they wanted to because their next loan will be 6% (which is the rate when we first bought). So you will be able to afford less house if you sell.
The Fed is hoping rising mortgage rates will reduce home prices which are a reason inflation is so high. But for the purchaser it is kind of a zero-sum game because the actual value of housing they can purchase based on their monthly mortgage interest rate is the same because borrowing rates are up. Yes housing prices might go down a little, but borrowing rates go up. What the Fed wants — and politicians — is lower housing prices, not necessarily lower housing costs, because inflation is the hot topic in the November elections.
There are many other factors today affecting the price of new construction. One is inflation itself for labor and building materials, another is housing is the best investment (especially residential) right now, multi-family housing is seen as risky, the stock and bond market, and commercial real-estate are declining right now, residential REIT’s really can’t sell and go to cash, and large housing investors like lower prices and higher borrowing rates because they often pay in cash.
Just because someplace upzones does not mean builders will build it. Most builders are expecting some kind of employment recession, and remember well 2008-09 when housing and builders got killed, although I read where some major SFH builders are offering their own loans at lower interest rates.
I agree the total amount of housing will affect housing prices. But waiting for new construction will take a very long time, and other factors like borrowing rates, the cost of new construction, risk, the economy, the wealth of the area, will probably have a greater effect, at least for many decades, and who knows what kind of wealth Seattle will have then. My niece was unable to afford a condo in Issaquah because of folks from Seattle moving to the eastside according to the agent.
It is frustrating I am sure. The buying frenzy may cool, and prices moderate due to higher interest rates, but probably not enough to offset the extra monthly cost from higher interest rates, and that kind of market does not stimulate a lot of new construction. A lot of housing demand was created when Millennials moved out of their parents home, from the desire to live alone, and the desire of aging boomers to stay in the SFH’s, which at some point should change.
“Just because someplace upzones does not mean builders will build it.”
So why not upzone everywhere (and update all the codes along with it to allow denser construction, as you often pedantically point out is a necessary addendum) and see where builders decide to build?
“But waiting for new construction will take a very long time”
You’ve stated several times that builders build to “make a killing”, so if we let builders build in the current market, they’ll build a lot, and built it quickly, and only stop building when market rate drops to the cost of construction (and insurance and all the other fluff). In the meantime, there will be a broader market for homes in places people actually want to live. The old homes won’t be able to compete with new homes, and stay on the market as affordable “fixer-uppers” for the below-market-rate crowd.
It’s such a simple mechanism that every time you’ve claimed that new construction won’t help affordability, I have to think of new way to dumb it down for you.
Subsidized/social housing (or subsidized financial assistance) is the only way to create new, immediately affordable housing, and I haven’t seen an intelligent argument otherwise. The point I’m constantly yelling at you about is that broadly legalizing new housing in a form that diverts interest from the small stock of currently affordable housing maintains affordability much better than price controls.
The relationship with transit is that dense housing needs a dense transportation infrastructure to support it – hence the inherently low-density private automobile will never be able to meaningfully serve a dense community.
Well, Nathan, I don’t think the people who live in SFH zones want them upzoned, or the regulatory limits that create the character of a SFH changed. Why would they want that? That is the crux of it. They like their SFH zone, which most Americans do, it is their city, and they tend to have a lot of money. I think just conceptually most people don’t understand how upzoning Laurelhurst will make it affordable.
UGA’s make the most sense to me if you want density because you can concentrate housing density and transit, and create some kind of urbanism since downtown is dead, and because of the scale the cost per sf is lower for new construction.
You and your fiancé should focus on UGA’s because of the density which should mean lower housing costs, better walkability, and because you like transit. Most UGA’s are only developed to a small fraction of their zoning.
Like the UW. For many of the rest of us we can live without transit, and certainly transit is much less important to us than our neighborhood zoning, but everyone has their different tastes. Not too many folks I know on the eastside complain their car or SUV does not meet their transportation needs, or they want to give up their car so they can have denser neighborhoods.
I think the kind of housing and transit you and your fiancé are looking for is out there. My guess is borrowing rates and underwriting standards now will be more of a headache than housing prices for buyers, although higher interest rates should cool the market. The only places I can think of with the density and transit you desire are UGA’s in Seattle, and maybe downtown Bellevue, which is becoming quite dense, if not affordable. Affordability usually begins with an area’s public safety and schools, and then how new the construction is.
I think providing transit to meet density would be tough in places like the Sammamish Plateau if it were upzoned. I have always argued — especially with Link — that transit should serve density first, not try to create it, and that is Link’s greatest failure IMO.
When it comes to public subsidies for housing, you learned what others have: the subsidies are mostly for the poor, like below 80% AMI, and really below 60%. I don’t think the voter gets too worked up about someone with a 100% AMI needing housing assistance to buy a house, certainly if they insist on living alone or not working. In Seattle that is around $106,000/year. For one. Like many (and Bernie) my wife and I both worked and started out in a fixer upper, and I mean fixer upper.
And shout out to Bernie: Woodinville was just named by Zillow as the number one residential community in the U.S. Probably not for urbanists, and not very affordable these days, but a lovely community if you like suburbia.
“Every city in Zillow’s latest 10-most-popular-markets list is a suburban area roughly 30 minutes from the nearest city center. Home values are growing faster in each of these suburbs than in the principal cities in their metro areas.”
“Remote work is a key reason suburban home values are now growing faster than those in urban areas as home buyers are prioritizing space and affordability over a short commute.”
I don’t need your advice, Dan, I need people who think like you do to get out of the way of building new housing for all the folks who can afford to buy new housing, so the fixer-uppers are left for the rest of us.
Fortunately, the relative abundance of new housing in my neighborhood has kept the floor on multi-bedroom housing relatively close to affordable for us. We will be looking for fixer-uppers, because that’s the only thing we’ll be able to afford. There’s nothing for us to buy in neighborhoods that haven’t allowed new development, since all the fixer-uppers sell for a million bucks anyways.
Unlike you, I can imagine myself in other people’s shoes, and I have no idea how folks without generational wealth and high educational status have any hope of buying their own housing near job centers without significant housing policy reform – and the modest urban village upzones have proven to be nowhere near enough. Like putting one toe on the brakes while the car zooms towards the cliff’s edge.
Your cyclical arguments are incredibly tiring.
The last time Seattle had a Republican mayor was 1969.
Good luck Nathan, I remember how stressful looking for a house can be. We last did it in 2009, which was a very strange market when down payments were 40%, and talking about stringent underwriting. By 2014 my house was worth $300,000 less than what I paid for it, and it took until 2012 to sell my old house at a huge discount. My advice is buy what you love, pre-qualify even if it is a fixer upper, always use an agent if you are the buyer and especially a first time buyer, consider schools if you ever plan to have kids or sell, but to not expect any sympathy from anyone at what you can or cannot afford.
Daniel, I appreciate how polite and respectful you are to commenters who disagree with you.
A minor news update on May 17 for RapidRide J: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/transit-program/transit-plus-multimodal-corridor-program/rapidride-roosevelt
“The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) published the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), completing the FTA environmental review for the RapidRide J Line project.”
Which, if I remember correctly, is the last hurdle before they start getting permits for construction.
The Census Bureau. has released population figures for cities from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. The Seattle Times has a front page article on the findings today.
Seattle lost 4300 residents, or 0.6%. Earlier the Census Bureau reported King Co. lost over 1% of its population over the same period. The last time Seattle lost population was between 2002 and 2003 when it lost 200 residents.
More surprisingly Bellevue lost 2,399 residents, or 1.6%. Other cities losing population were Federal Way, Kent, Tacoma, Everett, and Renton. Cities gaining population include Redmond (number one with a gain of 2,932 which is a very high percentage based on Redmond’s total population although Microsoft announced today a freeze on hiring), Spokane Valley (surpassing Renton as the state’s 8th largest city), Lynnwood, Ridgefield, Black Diamond with 1000 new residents which is a 20% gain, and Richland.
Some of this is a large drop in immigration from outside the U.S. Some no doubt pandemic related. Some perhaps crime or cost of living.
Other findings suggest a continued migration from northern U.S. cities to southern U.S. cities, either for weather, taxes or cost of living. Portland, Denver, Boston, and Washington D.C. had declines larger than Seattle. San Francisco lost an astonishing 6.4% of its population (50,000 residents) and NY lost 305,000 residents.
These are large drops, and suggest some kind of systemic change, although only time will tell. The issue for this region is our housing and transit planning, and the PSRC/GMPC goals, are based on continued population growth and densification, and the peak commute. Many of the cities in the Puget Sound region that lost population are on the Link route, and are “urban growth centers” for jobs and housing.
As many cities in this area embark on the 8 year cycle update to their comprehensive plans I expect future population growth to be a continued theme, along with TOD and densification to accommodate that growth. But considering the PSRC itself acknowledged the 2050 Vision Statement — that was based on 2018 data (and omitted both EV’s and WFH for a plan through 2050) was out of date on the day it was adopted — it will be interesting to watch between now and 2024 when most new comp. plans will be adopted and the population, housing and transportation data.
As I always say, it is nearly impossible to make folks do what they don’t want to do, at least in the long term, and that includes probably number one and two housing and transportation choices.
“These are large drops, and suggest some kind of systemic change, although only time will tell.”
It’s pretty well understood that this was primarily do to lack of international immigration due to covid. The domestic patterns didn’t really change that much.
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