This is an open thread.
I really dislike videos like this that ignore the chronological aspects of city development. Most European cities thrived for centuries on foot transport. Many grew quickly during the rail and subway building age. During the automobile era, Europe had less population grown relative to the US. Consider that the German population since 1960 (east + west before 1989) has grown by only 5 million, while Washington State alone has grown by well over 4 million (and the US by 152 million) in the same time period.
Most American cities that are more walkable and have urban rail were generally began before the auto era too.
In this context, I have to take issue with the notion that proactive “planning” was a deliberate result of better city layout. The amount of city evolution that occurred in the automobile era is simply a much smaller proportion of their total development.
Another structural aspect is the relationship between railroads and the government led to the better higher speed rail system. In that respect, Europe (and other parts of the world) has been able to avoid the complex and costly negotiations that we have in the US. Highways and airports don’t wrestle with using private corridors for the most part (Texas toll roads notwithstanding). Unless there is a fundamental restructuring of rail ownership and planning, it will remain difficult to implement high speed rail in the US — even in corridors that are well-suited for it.
Just like our email boxes are increasingly full of “junk”, we need to accept that the videos that are suggested to us for watching are going to generally devolve in information accuracy and value.
the German population since 1960 (east + west before 1989) has grown by only 5 million, while Washington State alone has grown by well over 4 million
Yeah but… Germany is twice the size of WA but has 10X the population. You wouldn’t expect it to grow as fast as “the frontier west”. People migrate from Europe to the US not the other way around. However, point well taken that the European cities largely were cities long before the US was even a colony. With the exception of a few cities east of the Mississippi (like Boston) the majority of their incorporated area was developed after the invention of the automobile.
I’m pretty sure that there was a big migration to urban areas in Europe from rural areas between 1800 and 1960 like the US had although the US did get foreign immigrants too). That’s what I was referring to as the “rail and subway building age”. London and Paris particularly boomed during that era. Actually the UK and France have higher population growth than Germany does since 2000, partly due to migration from former colonies as well as poorer EU countries.
Part of the reason the UK voted to leave the UE was because of the number of foreign workers. If you went to a restaurant in London there was a 90% chance your wait staff was from Poland (waiting for Mike O to call me out on that stat w/o reference ;-). But the UK and Canada certainly have very high immigration rates from Common Wealth nations. My mom grew up in London during WWII. From their north London “suburb” her father was able to take the tube into work in Central London. The late 18th early 19th century was the industrial revolution that lead to the growth in cities. But in Europe the central city streets had already been established for centuries. All of my cousins live in England and they scoff at buildings in the US that are classified as historic when they are a hundred years newer than their homes!
Yeah but… Germany is twice the size of WA but has 10X the population. You wouldn’t expect it to grow as fast as “the frontier west”. People migrate from Europe to the US not the other way around.
But that is the point. The U. S. had a huge surge of population after the automobile was invented. A lot of the cities didn’t exist, or were very small before the car. Most of Europe was the opposite. It has grown, but not to the same extent during this period. Thus it was relatively easy to reject automobile-focused development (or reverse it) because there was plenty of infrastructure that existed before it. As cities throughout the world began to reject the “freeways-everywhere” approach, it was much harder for American cities to reverse course.
For example, Amsterdam and Seattle both became very car focused after the war. Then in the 1970s, both reversed course, rejecting further freeway expansion into the city, and pushing towards more transit, biking and walking (https://inkspire.org/post/amsterdam-was-a-car-loving-city-in-the-1970s-what-changed/). Amsterdam is in much better shape, but that is both because they never ran freeways through the heart of the city (although they did form a ring around it) and were never as dependent on the automobile. It is just tougher for a city like Seattle to reverse course (closing I-5 in Seattle is considered radical) and Seattle is one of the more progressive cities in that regard. Phoenix, for example, was a small town before the automobile (it had 30,000 people in 1920). Now it has 1.6 million (and that doesn’t count the suburbs, which account for another 3.2 million). The entire metropolis — 10th largest in the country — has grown up with the automobile. It is much tougher to convert a city like that into a city where people routinely walk, bike and take transit.
Europe turned away from prioritizing cars in the 1970s because of the oil-price shocks and not wanting to be beholden to mideast autocrats. The Netherlands turned toward bike infrastructure specifically because the number of cars killing children was intolerable to the public.
Americans: We need cars, it’s the symbol of American freedom.
Dutch: Down with cars, we care about children.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to design cities. It doesn’t matter whether they’re 1000 years old or 50 years old. Newer cities should look to older cities to see what works, not chase some mad dream that looks neat on an architect’s pad but is designed for robots rather than humans.
However, there are some things about older cities I wouldn’t imitate. Grid streets make more sense to me than random streets.
The main thing that makes a well-functioning city is to be walkable. Before cars they were always walkable because horses were slow and working-class people couldn’t afford them. I’m reading a mystery series set in 1810 London (Karen Charlton), and there are traffic jams of horse carriages: that can’t carry many people per hour.
Walkable means short paths between building entrances, mixed-use so you have a variety of services within a ten-minute walk, and no excessive dead space between buildings. Don’t make pedestrians feel like second-class citizens that have to go to the tradesman’s entrance at the rear.
“Part of the reason the UK voted to leave the UE was because of the number of foreign workers.”
The UK felt ambiguous about the EU the entire time it was a member. Immigration was one of several factors.
“If you went to a restaurant in London there was a 90% chance your wait staff was from Poland”
I heard Poles in the UK were mostly plumbers. One guy I know in Ireland with an interest in languages was learning Polish to communicate with the expats there.
The main thing that makes a well-functioning city is to be walkable.
I think it is all about the cars.
I’m not a huge fan of videos (I much prefer the written word) but I do enjoy the “Not Just Bikes” videos. The author is from Canada but now lives in the Netherlands. Here is one of his more popular ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHlpmxLTxpw. While he may come across as a car-hater, there is also this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8RRE2rDw4k. The message seems contradictory, but it’s not. You want to de-emphasize automobiles, and then handle them appropriately. That means fewer of them, on a subset of the streets, going much slower in some cases, but faster (and more consistently) in others. He even gets into the “stroad” idea, explaining the concept well from a Dutch perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORzNZUeUHAM.
It is easy to assume that Amsterdam was bound to be the walkable city that exists now. That isn’t the case. Oh, sure, some of the narrow roads and beautiful historic architecture was bound to be there. But walking around could easily have been a lot less pleasant. There were plans to replace much of the city with major thoroughfares. Again, another video link from the same author (this one is shorter): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI5pbDFDZyI.
Having been to Amsterdam, it has its share of narrow streets, but it also has plenty of wide ones. Walking isn’t always care free. You often have six lanes to cross. There is a lane of cars, the tram lane, and the bike lane (and then three lanes going the other way). It took some getting used to. But it was still a lot quieter, and less intimidating. Bikes are slower, and tend to stay in their lane. The trams have to (and have professional drivers). Thus you have only one lane each direction of cars, and these folks know what they are doing (unlike a typical American city, where rank amateurs flood the streets).
All of this gets to your point, which is that it makes the city more walkable. But it isn’t necessarily about the aesthetics. There is plenty of suburbia that really looks nice for walking (big wide sidewalks, pleasant curving streets, lovely lawns) but you can’t really get anywhere without getting into mall-land. Even then it just takes a really long ways before you encounter a place where you can have something to eat or drink. In a city like Amsterdam you can walk to a restaurant, or easily catch public transportation to get anywhere. And of course, you can always bike.
“Europe (and other parts of the world) has been able to avoid the complex and costly negotiations that we have in the US. Highways and airports don’t wrestle with using private corridors for the most part”
In other words, the US hasn’t prioritized passenger rail or invested in it like it did with highways. Congress tried to get railroads built on the cheap by not paying for them but just granting land, which was free to it. That tradition started in Britain, which also has privately-financed things that in other countries are public. And, unbelievable as it sounds now, it gave the entire trade with Canada and the northwestern US to one monopoly company, and with India to another company. But companies don’t put the public interest first, they put their own profits first.
The tradeoff, I recall, is that the US actually has a much better freight rail system than Europe. From a standpoint of both traffic and carbon emissions, freight rail taking trucks of the road matters just like passenger rail taking cars off the road.
The difference is that freight rail needs a lot less investment than passenger rail to achieve decent modeshare. Cargo doesn’t care if it gets stuck somewhere for 8-48 hours, and the humans on the receiving end don’t care either, as long as a steady supply of it keeps coming in. Cargo also doesn’t care if it needs to sit for 12 hours at a warehouse somewhere to be transferred to a truck for final delivery, as long as the cost per ton is cheaper than shipping it by truck all the way. Nor does cargo care if single-track operation means that a 500-mile stretch of track has to alternate between westbound-only traffic and eastbound-only traffic every 12 hours.
Sounder service has a particular tension between passenger and freight rail, and every Sounder train that operates means fewer freight trains and more trucks on the highway. Without new trackage to avoid this tradeoff, Sounder service may actually be *increasing* carbon emissions if the carbon from the trucks it adds to the road outweighs the carbon from the passenger vehicles it removes from the road. For reference, a single freight train carries the load equivalent of over 100 semi trucks, each of which pollutes far more than even the least efficient passenger cars.
“the US actually has a much better freight rail system than Europe.”
I’ve heard that too. But we could have both. People keep bringing up the long low-population gaps like between Spokane and Minneapolis, but we could get to those last.
I’m glad the US has a strong freight rail system. We’d be worse off if we had neither good passenger rail nor good freight rail. And the existing freight rail made it easy to switch to high-volume containerization.
But I hesitate to value only carbon emissions, or to depend on the speculative claim that it’s better to have one freight train than to take 100 SOVs off the road. My instinct is that the network effect of a better overall passenger-transit network means those SOVs will be used even less than that. A good Cascades line alone gets you from Portland to Seattle or Mt Vernon. A good bus network too gets you from Portland to Ellensburg, Portland to Anacortes, or Portland to eastern Renton.
I agree Mike. Many of the U. S. cities lack a decent bus network, let alone a good rail network. For example, consider a trip from Seattle to Bellingham. To be fair, Bellingham isn’t a big city, but it is now approaching 100,000 people, has a decent size state university, and is on the way to Vancouver from Seattle. Looking at the schedule, it appears that on a weekday, the buses leave Seattle at 1:25 AM, 7:30 AM, 3:35 PM and later. Thus the only option for a decent out and back trip to Bellingham is 7:30 AM. If I miss that bus, I might as well cancel the trip.
Now consider the fact that I live in the north end. Going south to go north is never appealing, but especially to catch that morning bus. It might make sense for me to go to Everett instead. Again, Everett isn’t a big city, but it is about 100,000, and relatively close to Seattle, with good connecting transit. As it turns out, there are only two buses — 2:15 AM and 5:55 PM. I’m back to that first option, which isn’t really good.
There are other bus options, but this is the biggest bus company in the country. Amtrak runs the bus, but it is worse — the first bus runs at 12:15 in the afternoon, the second at 4:15.
Ideally we have a good train network, but if we don’t, we should have a good bus network. Buses should be going every hour from Seattle to Vancouver. Half of them should stop at cities like Everett and Bellingham along the way. There could be a few more non-express buses during the morning and evening, which would give you hourly service from Everett to Bellingham.
There are a bunch of reasons why we don’t. First, the gas taxes aren’t that high here (the video did get that right). Second, there is no political push towards establishing a good bus network, let alone a decent rail network. It is crazy that folks in the state are pushing for high speed rail when we lack decent intercity public transit options of any sort.
Yes – intercity bus service could use a lot of improvement. Especially lacking is viable daytrip options for cities around 150 miles apart. Once riding the bus requires an overnight stay (or, if both directions are midday, two overnight stays), it ceases to be economical anymore because hotels are expensive. Even a person who doesn’t own a car will often find it cheaper to rent a car and drive there in a day trip, once the transit option requires hotel nights (although, riding the transit and paying for the hotel will certainly be less stressful).
One aspect about public transportation in Europe that isn’t great compared to the US is that accessible transit is very inconsistent and all over the place in terms of how its implemented or executed. Some places are great or well designed, like Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Copenhagen where bikes, pedestrians, and wheelchairs can share spaces and have step free access to trains. Some middle of the road like Paris, which has good buses and RER, but the Metro only has one line that’s fully accessible and can be confusing finding the accessible exit in some stations. And then there’s places like Rome, Florence, and most national train operators where it ranges from okay to I need to plan everything to a T to make sure I don’t have any headaches.
I will say that Europeans have told me that it’s a lot better than it used to be 10, 20, or 30 years ago and improving by the day as more parts of transit are made accessible to people with disabilities and impairments.
And I will concede that the US is flawed in this aspect as well, like bus stops not always being accessible, weird train or bus and station configurations that make accessibility challenging, and general surroundings near a bus or rail stop being hostile to pedestrians.. But at the same time ADA compliance has made strides in improving transit accessibility in the US compared to some other countries.
The saga of MLK collisions ($).
“Rainier Valley’s surface tracks are a legacy from the late 20th century, when the Federal Transit Administration and mid-sized cities like Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis and Denver embraced light-rail technology because it’s versatile. Trains draw electricity from an overhead power wire, enabling tracks to be built overhead like a monorail, at the surface like a streetcar, or underground like a subway. That makes construction cheaper than a New York-style train powered by an electric third rail.”
“Since service began in mid-2009, trains have hit a vehicle, person or object 136 times in the tracks of MLK Way and four at MLK Way stations. There was a total of 168 such incidents along the entire line from Angle Lake to Northgate, according to a Seattle Times review of crash reports.”
109 of those collisions were with cars, 37 with pedestrians, 19 with inanimate objects, 4 with bicyclists, and 1 with a dog.
“In recent months, new signs were installed at Columbia City, Othello and Rainier Beach stations near pedestrian level. They stay dark until trains arrive, then flash a railcar icon toward walkways and boarding platforms. They’re augmented by the phrase “ANOTHER TRAIN COMING” during dual passes. Seattle DOT also improved electronic warning signs for drivers in 27 locations.”
Reducing train speed to 25 mph would add 2 1/2 minutes per trip. Increasing frequency to 7.5 minutes could help make up for that. That would require more railcars at $4 million each.
“A foolproof solution — move the valley’s tracks overhead or underground — hasn’t been debated…. Transit-board member Claudia Balducci of Bellevue, who chairs the system expansion committee, called the Rainier Valley segment “an outlier” that produces too many collisions, making grade separation a fair long-term question. ‘I think we need to find a way to start talking about it,’ she said. Elevated guideways cost roughly $250 million per mile, plus the challenge to install tracks among live trains. A shallow tunnel alongside might be simpler but require severe traffic closures. ‘That’s in the billions of dollars, and a lot of concrete. That’s a number with a B in it,’ said Keel [ST boardmember Ken Keel of University Place]. ‘That kind of number would require voters to vote on it.’ Seattle Subway, a volunteer advocacy group, considers such a do-over unrealistic. Members prefer an express line from downtown to Georgetown and SeaTac, while Rainier Valley tracks endure as a slower local loop, Executive Director Efrain Hudnell said.”
It is billions of dollars to fix the Rainier valley section but due to how they expect commuters from the expansion to Tacoma to sit in slow trains that are constantly stopping at traffic lights and hitting people the section must be fixed.
A low cost solution is to fence off the train tracks and install a few gates. This could probably be made really attractive if you spent more on it than the minimum. This would involve decorative fencing and pedestrian bridges.
A medium low cost approach would be to add a few underpasses at street crossings for either cars or trains.
I know one justification to make the train street running was due to equality, to make sure people did not skip over the Rainier valley. However this also meant this section got the worst quality connection and that anywhere south has to suffer through it. Look at how fast it will be to get to Montlake Terrace (28m) vs SeaTac (40m) which are about the same distance from downtown. That 12 minutes makes a big difference in choosing whether to drive.
“due to how they expect commuters from the expansion to Tacoma to sit in slow trains that are constantly stopping at traffic lights and hitting people the section must be fixed.”
The Pierce and South King boardmembers and Tacoma city officials consider this a non-problem. The long-range plan had a Georgetown bypass line, but in 2013 when they updated it in preparation for ST3, they deleted it as non-necessary. None of the South King or Pierce boardmembers lifted a finger to keep it.
I’m calling it now. This will be where the first East Link vs vehicle accident will occur.
Thank you for that link. I read the same article after I got home from work this morning. There was also another article in the Seattle Times right below the one that you linked, comparing the safety of all street level portions of light rail systems in th U.S. It discussed other citiy possible solutions. It some how vanished. I can’t find it. It was there only an hour ago.
I definitely agree that we need to make the Rainier segment of Link as safe as possible, even knowing the political history around Sound Transit viewing that segment as the least risky from an engineering standpoint. That said, it irks me a bit to read articles like this that look at only one transportation mode, presumably because most of their readership still considers mass transit “exotic”. How many people were struck or killed by car and truck drivers along MLK during that time period, and how many incidents can be estimated to have been prevented by would-be drivers taking transit instead?
Jimmy James, I think this is the article you noticed, not sure why it became so hard to find – https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/light-rail-safety-around-the-u-s-how-does-seattle-stack-up/
It is confusing because the print version had the two articles together. So much so that I thought they were simply the same article, and I (like Jimmy) wondered why the diagram comparing the two cities didn’t make it to the online version.
Thank you for the link. That is the one I was looking for. I read it earlier then it disappeared from my Seattle Times news thread. Not sure why. Thank you.
So if an article is written on submarine safety, you become angry they aren’t also writing about helicopter safety in the same story?
@ Ross B.
That is one of the reasons that I was confused. I read them both online. One right after the other. Then the second article disappeared. I don’t have the print version.
Sam, if the article were about how to prevent death in a particular patch of ocean, and then proceeded to talk purely about submarines sinking when anyone who’s been paying attention also knows that there are helicopter crashes too, then yes, I would be frustrated. That’s particularly true when almost certainly the helicopters are killing the people in the submarines when they crash, but the focus is still on the submarines.
@Jimmy — I guess we were confused for different reasons :)
It is a very good article, in that it provided plenty of data, along with potential ways to reduce the risk. There are a number of relatively cheap solutions that really help, some of which are expected to be implemented this year. The most common accident is caused by illegal left turns. The first proposal is:
Short gates, as used in parking garages, could deter driving through left-turn lanes on red.
This looks like it was produced by someone in middle school. It just ignores thousands of years of history, and the fundamental differences in population settlement between the two continents while it lauds European successes.
To begin with, the idea that Europe and North America are similar in terms of geography is absurd. Notice that the author focuses on rail in western Europe, and then later compares the size of continental Europe with the US. That right there is very misleading. Western Europe is very compact, with density in all directions. This stretches to central Europe. As you get further east, things get more and more remote. This is why you have the dense network of rail lines to the west, with fewer and fewer lines to the east. (There is also the longstanding political aspect of east versus west that the author just ignores.)
In contrast, America has vast expanses of low density areas in the middle of the country. Consider our four biggest cities: New York, L. A., Chicago and Houston. Most of these combinations are just too long for high speed rail, and there is too little along the way.
Then there is the density of the cities themselves. Most U. S. cities are very low density. The country as a whole has relatively few people living in high density areas, and almost all of them live in greater New York City. You can see that if you play around with this map: https://luminocity3d.org/WorldPopDen/#7/39.151/-80.002. If you zoom out, it gives you numbers for the entire country. When you zoom in, you can focus on cities. I won’t repeat the numbers, but New York City has almost all of the really high density (unlike Europe, where there are plenty of cities with that kind of density). New York also has a lot of the middle density, but there are several cities that chip in, like Chicago, San Fransisco, Philadelphia, DC and Boston. Houston — the second biggest city in the U. S. — does not. We just don’t have that many places with significant density, and many are really far apart. Just like mass transit, this matters when it comes to high speed rail.
Then there is the demise of the rust belt. Not only was this a major political failing (causing undue suffering for millions), environmental failing (millions migrated from areas with good natural resources to poor ones) but it also meant the loss of density. Worse yet, it weakened one potential rail network: Chicago to New York (the only realistic combination involving the top four cities in the U. S.). It is easy to imagine a New York/Pittsburgh/Cleveland/Chicago line, with spurs up to Detroit, and south to Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. But many of those cities have shrunk over the last fifty years, making that network less cost effective (although arguably more important, as we should be trying to increase the population in those cities, not in places like Phoenix).
None of this excuses our terrible record in this regard. If anything, the video gives a very misleading impression as to what the problem is. It suggests that we in the United States just need to buckle down, and do what Europe did — build a large scale high-speed rail network (after all, Europe is bigger). It should run from coast to coast.
Wrong. It is the opposite. We need to stop pretending that high speed rail makes sense everywhere. In short, we need to stop pretending we are Europe. There are only a handful of places in North America where high speed rail makes sense, and it is unrealistic to connect them all. This means telling much of the country that they won’t have high speed rail. That means Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver are just out of luck, let alone the Dakotas or Montana. This is a tough sell in the United States. We are a large country that lacks patriotism. Oh sure, we are great at waving flags, but a lot of the country doesn’t give a sh** about other parts of the country. In fact, there is a visceral hatred towards various parts of the country (visible if you ever watch Fox News). Thus the idea of helping out New York, or the Bay Area with projects that would make those cities better, and improve the lives of millions of fellow Americans is met with disdain.
This is just part of the political paralysis that makes it difficult to do anything in this country. It is easy to imagine a different system whereby the ruling party just did this, following a big election. They made plans, started them, and got far enough along that even when the political tides turned, the other party wouldn’t try to stop things. Of course that isn’t the political world we live in. Not only is it very difficult to start sensible projects, but the Republic Party is no longer conservative — they are reactionary (and more recently, nationalist). This means that progress made on these projects would simply be reversed, once they got into power (just as they have been working to reverse social progress, including laws that have existed for almost 50 years).
That is why states are taking on the task themselves (in California). If the “states” really were states (i. e. different countries), I could see more progress in this regard. The East Coast states would be less reliant on federal money (ultimately they could just print their own) and thus be able to coordinate and build what really should be built. Instead they are forced to either pay for it like California is paying for it, or just hoping that the country realizes how much sense it makes to build a high speed network there.
I’ve probably said this before here, but the thing that mystifies me about the enthusiasm for building HSR in most of the United States is: How many intercity/interregional trips does the typical person make in a year?
Buses running in dedicated bus lanes throughout the city with all-day sub-10 minute headways would make a huge difference in my quality of life. Another couple subway/light rail lines in the city (with sub-1 mile stop spacing) would make a huge difference in my quality of life. Grade separating the Rainier Valley segment of the 1 line would great. All these things would matter because nearly every everyone makes trips within the city (and region) nearly every single day.
In contrast, even if HSR to Portland cuts the travel time to an hour, I’m still only going to visit PDX a few times a year, at most, and the marginal increase vs. building out 125mph rail with more frequent service would be very small.
Let’s max out improvements in the trips that most people make everyday before we optimize the trips that most people rarely make.
I’d say that while it may seem like a thing to not do right now as a mode of transport from a basis of I don’t take trips there now currently. Adding new rail infrastructure definitely changes travel habits for people. Like if we had built out HSR along the Cascadia corridor from Vancouver-Eugene for instance in the 80s and 90s, my mother may of considered doing that instead of taking the car to visit my grandparents down in Eugene. Which would mean less to pack and travel with. Not having to spend all day in a car and feel tired when we got there. Being able to stretch our legs and maybe make a stop along the way to vist or do something in Portland or Salem. My mother is getting up in age and she said recently that night driving is difficult for her, which would make the trip down to Eugene difficult to do so now with her car.
At the end of the day, we either build for the future or regret not building for our future selves in the future.
The real question is: how many could you move off the highway? I-5 is crowded from Bellingham to Eugene most any hour of the day, and it’s expensive to keep expanding it.
That any one person makes a few trips isn’t there issue. It’s the sheer number of combined trips by all.
I’d say it’s a mix of car and plane traffic that we should be looking at and how a HSR and intercity trains would change travel patterns is probably a better barometer.
If we have to choose between expanding I-5 versus building high speed rail from Portland to Vancouver BC, then, yes, we should look at capping I-5 at its current capacity and building HSR instead, but I’m skeptical that is the trade we’ll be offered.
Yes. There’s no need for HSR in the Northwest.
I mean there clearly is a need for it on some level if people and politicians are seriously studying it. And while yes, some projects have a political bent to their existence doesn’t mean there aren’t merits to it being a medium to long term solution for transport. As the corridor from Vancouver to Eugene has 6 to 8 million+ people living there, which is not to scoff at in my opinion.
When gas is $20+ per gallon and the PNW begins routinely experiencing 100+ degree weeks, there will be a lot of interest in an affordable way to move around the region that doesn’t burn expensive petrofuels.
Rail electrification and development of high(er) speed alignments will be seen as “easy” wins that we neglected to achieve before it became the only good way to keep people and goods moving between the Willamette Valley and the Puget Sound.
I-5 is designed poorly. Better design could increase capacity through Seattle by at least 20% without widening I-5, which really is not possible with the convention center.
Europe’s future is its past, or France’s present. Nuclear power with a smaller scale reactor with EV’s. If Formula 1 will be going EV in 2026 so will the rest of the world. Including E bikes and buses.
In the U.S. the painless solution is to require solar panels on all new construction including multi-family. EV’s with a smart grid system will solve the biggest issue with electricity: storage.
The final piece is upgrading the multi-state transmission lines. We lose a lot of electricity sending it long distances on inefficient lines.
You’re forgetting business travel, and a very common travel case of white-collar workers visiting offices in adjacent cities. If the travel is made easy, the in-person collaboration and meeting between “distant” offices becomes much more common, and businesses become more effective.
And Dan, if you think solar panels could charge cars overnight, I have a floating bridge to sell you.
The average electric car consumes as much energy in a day as the rest of the house. If there’s baseload capacity to charge all the EV’s overnight, why would we need additional solar panels during the day?
EV’s may reduce carbon output, but how do they reduce death toll of mass driving? How do they reduce the PM2.5 of tire wear? How do they improve human relationships within neighborhoods, make residential streets safe to play in, improve accessibility for disabled people, or reduce the cost burden of transportation for those in poverty?
How does an EV keep its battery functional in the Minnesota winter without killing its capacity, or prevent from exploding in the Arizona desert without shutting down?
EV’s do not make our transportation network more efficient, safer, or more accessible – they simply consume an incredible amount of public space and prevent any transportation alternatives from taking root. We have an opportunity to achieve all of the goals, if only the unimaginative would get out of the way and allow the imaginative a chance to try something new.
School buses are the largest public transportation sector in the US. Most of their routes are ideally suited to an EV. Not many have been made to date. Blue Bird the largest manufacturer has only received 300 orders and there are 456,000 diesel school buses in the United States. But CA has plans to phase out all diesel yellow buses by 2040. There was a piece on the radio this weekend about this and it mentioned that many districts are using a replace and refurbish approach and yanking the diesel engine and replacing with electric. This might be an economical solution for districts that can’t afford new buses and it likely gets the worse polluters off the road. Modern Diesels with DEF run pretty damn clean. Districts would keep some for long distance travel. But on the other buses the large storage bays under the seating would be ideal for batteries. Hopefully they swap out the engine & transmission so there is at least partial regenerative braking and an all new drive train.
It would also make sense to replace a large number of the USPS fleet with electric; an opportunity that seems to have been squandered.
I agree Phillip. One of the big problems with high speed rail is unrealistic expectations. I remember Jarrett Walker writing about how building mass transit to airports is popular, because people can see themselves using it. It isn’t that they use it that often, but they can imagine it coming in handy.
The same is true with high speed rail. Consider similar transit projects to the ones you mentioned, but for Portland. I don’t know what these would be, but one of them would be a tunnel for downtown. But assume dozens of various improvements, helping out thousands of Portland riders. The thing is, I would rarely, if ever, take advantage of any of them. On the other hand, if I can get to Portland in an hour (door to door) I can imagine checking out the city. This is the basic problem. We can easily see the value of things we will use a few times a year, and have trouble seeing the value of things that we know (or should know) will be used by thousands if not millions of people every day.
It is worth looking at high speed rail ridership. For example, the Japanese HSR system (Shinkansen, or bullet trains) was the most popular one in the world (until the Chinese system recently passed it). Over 350 million people rode it in a year. That is definitely a lot of people, and yet it is dwarfed by the number who take mass transit in Japan. Look at this chart (and sort by annual ridership): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_urban_rail_systems_in_Japan. There are about a dozen transit systems that carry more riders. The Tokyo Metro carries over six times as many people (and it is just one of the mass transit systems in Tokyo).
There just aren’t that many people that ride high speed rail, even when it connects extremely big, dense cities that have outstanding transit systems. We should try and improve our transit system before we proposed spending huge amounts of money on something that will move relatively few people.
I think the ridership on a true Portland HS rail system unless it’s highly subsidized would be pretty close to the number of people that fly today. The ecological impact of building the system would never balance out. Especially as airplanes become more efficient and there’s momentum to use at least partially plant based fuels. OTHO, a tourist traveler has more time and would substitute a rail pass for driving if it was reliable and and frequent. The incremental improvements are the way to go and help both the passenger and freight systems. And long distance rail is going to depend on infrastructure owned by the Class A railroads for the foreseeable future.
The real question is: how many could you move off the highway?
Very few. That’s the point.
You will take way more people off the road if you improve your transit, bike and pedestrian systems in each city. Like high speed rail, this would also increase the popularity of using public transportation to go between cities. The data backs this up.
But we can talk about anecdotes as well. My daughter’s family recently went to visit some friends in Portland. I asked if they were taking the train and they said “no”, since they needed the car down there. So it really didn’t matter how fast or frequent the train was — they weren’t taking it. But the opposite is true for lots of other cities. Part of the reason that rail travel to New York City is so popular is that people *don’t* want a car there. It is a burden. They want to get to the heart of the city, and then move about from there on foot.
By all means we should make the trains in the Northwest more reliable and a bit faster by implementing the long range plan (assuming it doesn’t cost that much). As I mentioned, just decent levels of service (e. g. hourly) would lead to a significant number of people using buses and trains instead of driving themselves to get between cities. But bullet trains are a distraction. They move us away from more cost effective projects listed in that plan, as well as more cost effective mass transit plans.
@Bernie – in my rant, I should have clarified that I meant electrified SOV’s when I said “EV’s”. I agree that electrified buses and utility vehicles are good and necessary.
I’d personally love to see more overhead-wire trolleybuses in the city, since they’re quiet and relatively lightweight (which reduces relative roadway wear).
I’d say it’s a mix of car and plane traffic that we should be looking at and how a HSR and intercity trains would change travel patterns is probably a better barometer
Yes, and that is precisely the numbers they have been looking at. That is all in the high speed rail report. Once you get really fast, very few people fly, for example.
But my point is that the overall numbers are really tiny. You induce some ridership, but even then, it is puny compared to the number of people who use transit in any of the cities, or the number of people that would use transit but don’t because it sucks. They measure things in number of riders per year (a dead giveaway that it is small). At best, they expect 3 million riders a year with ultra-high speed rail (see page 45). Max carries 38 million a year. Link carries 25 million a year. TriMet carries 57 million, and Metro carries 121 million. Hell, Community Transit carries 10 million a year. Everett Transit — a tiny system covering part of a relatively tiny city — carries almost 3 million.
Most of those transit systems are not very good. Transit in Seattle is borderline. Many of the trips are pretty good, but a lot suck. Transit for the East Side largely sucks. Even after East Link, most buses will run every half hour. That sucks. If you are willing to revolve your life around the bus schedule, it might work, but otherwise, it is only used by those that don’t have a choice.
Metro could increase its ridership by the entire projected Northwest bullet-train network, and no one would notice. This for a system I think sucks. The point is, making it suck less would increase ridership way more, for way less money.
Speaking of sucks, the existing public transportation system between the cities sucks (as I wrote before). The buses suck, and the trains suck. Only the plane is decent, an option used by a mere 4% of travelers (see page 46). Meanwhile, 6% use the train, 11% use the bus (because they suck, but are cheaper). It is bizarre to think that want to go from a system that sucks, to a system that is world class. Other than maybe China, no one else has done that. Before the bullet trains, Japan had decent train service connecting their cities. They didn’t go from two trips a day out of Tokyo, to trains going 200 MPH. The same is true for France, or anywhere in Europe. These countries kept making things better, before they invested in making them really fast. We should do the same.
Ross – Why are you valuing 30 million trips of 5-20 miles more than 3 million trips of 50 to 200 miles?
“How many intercity/interregional trips does the typical person make in a year?”
How many airplane flights does the typical person make in a year? In aggregate they add up to full planes. There are hourly flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles, maybe even half-hourly or 15 minutes. Should we shut down the airline system because people don’t fly every day or every week? Europe shows another way: regional high-speed rail that makes regional flights obsolete, and uses much less energy.
“There’s no need for HSR in the Northwest.”
A 220+ mph line is not a necessity, but improving the current system definitely is. We need to stop thinking about all-or-nothing or one-line-in-a-vacuum. Increasing Cascades to 110 mph and hourly service would give much of the benefits of “HSR” at a much lower cost. Switzerland’s national rail lines run every half hour, not every four hours or once a day.
We should also consider pursuing the Seattle-Ellensburg-Yakima-Pasco-Spokane line, which would connect all of Washington’s largest cities east to west. This would be normal in Europe, and would reduce car dependency. Right now a car is about the only practical way. Greyhound runs a couple times a day. The multi-county connectors like the Apple Line are only slightly better and are only where Greyhound isn’t.
But this needs to be in the context of improving the entire transit system, both long-distance and short-distance. Not pitting one against the other. Short-distance can be weighed higher because it affects everyday trips more critically. But it needs to be a wholistic system.
The lack of a robust transit network for both local and long-distance trips is a drag on the economy and people’s health and well-being, and it distorts society by creating perverse incentives.
“When gas is $20+ per gallon and the PNW begins routinely experiencing 100+ degree weeks, there will be a lot of interest in an affordable way to move around the region that doesn’t burn expensive petrofuels.”
The problem with this prognostication is the same as why transit does poorly in much of the southern half of the U.S.: the summer heat is unbearable, and in some cases dangerous. The news today reported than hundreds of homeless have died in the heat dome gripping the Midwest. In fact during last summer’s heat wave in this region folks had a hard time using transit.
I owned a house in Phoenix from 1995 to 2012. From June 1 to around Sept. 30 it was too hot to go outside, except to the pool. You could not walk to a transit station (and Phoenix is not a very walkable city because the heat requires folks to own a car or truck), and wait for a bus. Plus the heat would radiate off the pavement. You would be dripping in sweat, and it would probably be dangerous to your health.
I do agree though that a move to EV’s is a good idea, especially if gas prices remain high, although the region will have to find new sources for electricity. Right now I think PSE generates 37% of its electricity from coal and 1% from solar. The proposal to remove the lower Snake Dams is having problems because the proposal requires replacing the lost electricity before removal.
By the way, an EV can charge in 4-5 hours if using a Level 2 charger (240v) and can charge overnight even with a level I (120v), and many businesses like Microsoft are installing Level 3 charging stations in the parking garages. https://engineercalcs.com/ev-charging-station-types/ If just a charge from 20% to 80% is required (around 200 miles) a level 2 charger can do that in 30–60 minutes.
The point of the smart grid is most of the cost of our electricity is just like our roads and transit: to meet peak demand although that is only a few hours/day. By allowing citizens to sell that electricity back into the system — either from solar panels or EV batteries — the need for peak capacity at the site of generation goes way down. Many of our forms of electricity need to run at night when use is low, and that electricity is wasted if not stored. EV batteries are that storage system, at no cost to the utility.
I see HSR as a replacement for flying more than driving. The travel needs are similar, and the faster the train the more it can compete with flying.
A core reason for California HSR is that both traveling between the Bay Area and Southern California air travel clogs up every airport (something like at least 20-30 percent of all boardings in each region). The project is generally perceived as an alternative to building two new airports that would be difficult to site and very expensive to build.
A final California HSR issue is that Bakersfield and Fresno (and other valley cities) are difficult to reach by air. HSR will connect this region of 4 million people much better.
For the Cascadia corridor, there is no such obstacle because more people drive the journey and distances are shorter. I see the business case in our region as one for a hybrid between regional rail and higher speed rail. A train speed of just 110 mph would be plenty. I see the most essential feature is actually frequency, and trains at least every 90 minutes all day would be ideal. I also think its success would depend on both great transit including private shuttles and seamless rental cars at stations.
“Right now I think PSE generates 37% of its electricity from coal and 1% from solar.”
About a quarter each from coal, natural gas and hydro.
The rest from wind (9%) and other sources.
Maybe the statistics I saw included the biomass (14%) with coal.
I think the reason is obvious. 3 million trips is puny. It is practically nothing. But when you see a number like that, it seems big (it is like the number of hot dogs eaten each year). It is hard to put it into perspective.
I mention transit agencies to show how small it is. I chose local agencies not because we have a big transit share or are big cities. Quite the opposite. I chose local cities to show that even relative to our weak transit use, the number of future trips is very small. For example, in Vancouver there were 450 million transit trips taken before the pandemic. Yes, I definitely value 450 million trips over 3 million, even if the 3 million are longer.
I get why you want to place special value on long distance trips. But my point is that it will benefit very few people and/or benefit people very little. You will have an extremely small number of regular users. Sure, they will benefit quite a bit, but a few thousand at most, in a region of close to ten million. You will also have occasional users. This still won’t be that many people, and by the very nature of the trips being occasional, the impact on their lives will be minimal.
Now matter how you cut it, this isn’t a good value, simply because it won’t be used that often (and is extremely expensive).
Right, except that only a handful fly (around 4%). Under the most optimistic scenario this drops to nothing, but it still isn’t that many trips. Worth noting is that there are a lot more people make connecting flights (16%) and they don’t see that much of a change with high speed rail (15%). The biggest source of ridership comes from capturing auto trips. Not because it is expected to capture a really high rate, but because the overwhelming majority of trips are taken by car. They expect the number of car trips to go from 64% to somewhere between 58% and 52%. They expect bus ridership to be roughly the same (11%) presumably because it is cost driven. They also expect the number of people to take conventional rail to shrink from 6% to somewhere between 2% to 4%.
There are a number of different influences on ridership beyond speed. Cost is one. Another is the number of trips and the reliability of service. Both bus service and rail service lack reliability and frequency. Obviously for a long trip you wouldn’t expect mass transit frequency — the longer the trip, the more tolerant people are of long waits — but hourly is a decent standard. That simply doesn’t exist for any mode (except maybe flying).
High(er) speed rail (120-130 mph most places) achieved incrementally? Yes. “High Speed Rail” (150+ purpose built)? Absolutely not. The capital cost is ridiculous for the relatively modest distances involved. Do not forget that there is no above-ground right-of-way available even for higher speed rail between Jackson Street and Lynnwood or around Chuckanut Mountain exists, so even “mostly higher speed” between Seattle and Van BC is a stretch.
Maybe it is a good idea is to wait until CA finishes its HSR project to determine whether HSR makes sense in other areas. Few areas will have the population density CA does, or the wealth per capita, and so ridership should be higher than most other areas. It will be interesting to see how many flyers and drivers along this route switch to HSR, the cost of the fare, farebox recovery rate, and what the total cost is. That should tell areas like the PNW whether HSR makes sense in this region.
“Maybe it is a good idea is to wait until CA finishes its HSR project to determine whether HSR makes sense in other areas.”
We don’t need an experiment; we know what works in other countries that have population densities like Pugetopolis, Chicagoland, etc. It’s not like it hasn’t been done many times before. Waiting until CAHSR is finished to start another one means it will take decades for the other one to open, when Americans have already been waiting fifty years.
… Do not forget that there is no above-ground right-of-way available even for higher speed rail between Jackson Street and Lynnwood …”
I think this issue should be fully flushed out in terms of DSTT2. One wild idea: What if DSTT2 was a nonstop higher speed tunnel between SODO and somewhere between Smith Cove and I-5 corridor at Mariner or Lynnwood? The old railroad tunnels could be exchanged then retrofitted for Link and we would only need to build new station vaults Downtown. Chinatown would be much less disrupted. This new deep bored tunnel could include one HSR track with possible access allowed to other tunnel tracks.
It would take some serious political will and tough negotiations to make it happen. It would probably mean that ST itself would have to be completely restructured and the state would need to create a new Western Washington rail entity. Part of the negotiation would best include more train sets in the system on other existing track segments.
I rue at how much ST2 and 3 use freeway edges for 55-mph Link. Those wide land swaths seem much better suited for trains above freeway speeds. It’s an opportunity that we lose with the current Link vision.
I think HSR between Seattle and Portland would get some use, but from a carbon standpoint, the benefits of it seems somewhat dubious:
1) You will emit tons of CO2 just building the thing, that would have to be paid back over time in the form of fewer vehicle/airplane emissions (construction would involve lots and lots of concrete, which is very CO2-intensive, plus all of the diesel-powered construction equipment).
2) Much of the ridership will likely be either “induced demand” (trips that would have otherwise not happened at all) or riders that, today, would be taking the regular train, or a bus, rather than a car or plane.
3) The line would take exactly zero cars off the road until it finishes construction, which wouldn’t happen for at least 20 years into the future. That seems kind of late.
4) By the time it finishes, a much higher percentage of the cars on the road than today will be electric, and the electricity grid will likely be cleaner.
5) Prototypes of short-haul electric aircraft have already been built, so by the time a Seattle->Portland HSR line opens, many of the flights between the two cities will be electrified as well (even if electric aircraft for long-haul flights remains infeasible).
On the other hand, simply upping the frequency of inter-city buses from 3-4 trips per day to a trip every hour, and adding HOV lanes through Tacoma to keep such buses out of congestion, would be far cheaper, and provide real benefit to travelers much sooner.
Also, by the way…for those that say solar panels can’t provide enough power to charge EVs…off-grid, solar powered charging stations do indeed exist. Here’s an example of one: https://www.plugshare.com/location/188582. I have also seen several reports of homeowners being able to charge their cars, entirely or almost entirely from solar panels mounted on their home’s roof.
“You will emit tons of CO2 just building the thing, that would have to be paid back over time in the form of fewer vehicle/airplane emissions (construction would involve lots and lots of concrete, which is very CO2-intensive, plus all of the diesel-powered construction equipment).”
Other projects around the world have the same issue and yet still move forward in building said projects. And it’s a one time increase and in the long term you’d see the CO2 impact of the initial construction be mitigated over time from use by passangers.
“Much of the ridership will likely be either “induced demand” (trips that would have otherwise not happened at all) or riders that, today, would be taking the regular train, or a bus, rather than a car or plane.”
You’ll likely see a mix of people ride it, from people who don’t want to take a car or plane where they’re going. Along with train and bus users who want a faster trip option. I do see it as a big benefit for business travelers who can do day trips to go conduct business, meetings, conferences, networking, etc. Along with day trippers or weekenders who’d want to visit friends, family, or the city and don’t have time for a longer trip.
“The line would take exactly zero cars off the road until it finishes construction, which wouldn’t happen for at least 20 years into the future. That seems kind of late”
This feels like a really terrible reason to say we shouldn’t do it, either you build for the future or regret down the road for not building it sooner. Japan’s shinkansen was complained about by the Japanese public as if it would be worth it when they were building and getting ready for opening it. There was an attitude as it was a waste of money. Afterwards, people liked it and no one talked about it being a waste of money afterwards.
“By the time it finishes, a much higher percentage of the cars on the road than today will be electric, and the electricity grid will likely be cleaner”
This forgets the people who don’t own a car or don’t want to own one. Along with that the countries with the best infrastructure and transit are ones with a good mix of public and private transport to get places. And while EVs are getting better, we’re still going to take a long time to get to a place where EVs are the main car of choice.
“Prototypes of short-haul electric aircraft have already been built, so by the time a Seattle->Portland HSR line opens, many of the flights between the two cities will be electrified as well (even if electric aircraft for long-haul flights remains infeasible”
I see that as a benefit for connecting passangers than originating passangers. The one benefit that trains have over planes is how painless from door to platform the process is. No check in, no security, just walk from the station entrance to the platform to get on your train. In Europe, I could arrive to the station 10-15 minutes from departure and not feel hurried to get to my train like I do at the airport where you need 90 minutes to 2 hours of allotted time before departure to check in, security, get to the gate, board the plane and then when you land, deboard, head to baggage, and then leave for whatever transport. It starts to look less efficient than a plane in comparison.
HSR is a good use of infrastructure spending in my preview as we need fast and efficient transit that connects cites and towns within the larger megaregions or corridors together into one that people can live, travel, and do business in. I’m still reminded of the story of a employee of a major German multinational corporation coming to visit I think it was Everett to set up an a potential office there and being absolutely mortified at the lack of good rail or public transit to get there We’ve focused so much on building a very car centric country in the last century that it’s becoming more of a hinderence tham an asset to us as we go forward and in particular in light of climate change that’s happening. We need to badly invest in high speed rail and intercity rail if we want to be competitive long tern. And while some would say the density isn’t there, even the less dense part of Europe like Sweden and Finland still have robust intercity rail and high speed rail in Sweden’s case. I will say that in the shorter term building more frequent intercity bus system would he a net positive.
There are various good reasons to invest in HSR. ‘Global Warming” is not one of them. If the sole goal is decarbonization, then just electrify Cascades, run it every hour, and charge $5 for a roundtrip. State subsidy of O&M (frequency & fares) will do far more to induce demand (aka take cars off roads) than capital spending.
Al – I don’t think positioning that as a “DSTT2” is a useful framework, as the DSTT is first and foremost about serving Seattle’s urban core (new stations in Denny, SLU & LSA, and alleviating afternoon peak congestion on travel within the urban center) … but I do think a broader “Western Washington” rail entity, either as an evolution of Sound Transit or as a standalone entity, is an excellent framework. A new rail ROW from Jackson Street to Snohomish would be primarily useful as regional rail and secondarily useful as HSR. The “HSR” branding will get the political traction, but a well designed system will get far more riders traveling within metro Seattle (stations in Everett, Marysville, etc.) than between metros (stations in Bellingham, Mt Veron, etc.). There’s also a lot more wealth in Snohomish county than Whatcom or Skagit, so an creating an investment that is appealing to Snohomish is essential for both politics and actual utility.
It’s also plausible that Washington build a HSR network that focuses on Seattle as a hub but doesn’t support through-running, much like France/Paris, which would eliminate the need for a multi-billion tunnel. Trains coming from Portland terminate at King Street, trains coming from Bellingham/Everett terminate at Northgate (for example). South of King Street there’s no need for new ROW, WSDOT simply needs to invest in it’s existing plans (as Ross helpfully points out frequently), but north of Seattle’s urban core there’s a strong case for new ROW.
“…adding HOV lanes through Tacoma to keep such buses out of congestion, would be far cheaper, and provide real benefit to travelers much sooner.”
Oh dear God, no.
20 years of construction, and still we see red on Google maps in the middle of the day. HOV just as clogged as all the rest. Highway expansion does. Not. Work.
Take a general lane if you need one. There are lots. Make it HOV-10 if you need to. Just no more lanes. Ever.
AJ, “south of Seattle” the [existing] right of way is not suitable for “HSR”. The curve radius in many places south of Chehalis is too tight for anything faster than “Higher Speed Rail” which is what the state is planning.
Unfortunately, the ROW strip is already consumed by the existing double-track, but even simple more frequent Cascades-level speeds would require a third track. That is very u likely to happen.
Frequent subsidized bus service is the only affordable option for the state. An economic winter is coming as soon-to-be-dominant Republicans block any aid to “Blue” portions of the country such as the West Coast.
Washington is going to be forced to pay for all its own infrastructure improvements, and that of several less successful “Red” states.
20 years of construction, and still we see red on Google maps in the middle of the day. HOV just as clogged as all the rest. Highway expansion does. Not. Work.
That is ridiculous. Buses on 520 have experienced a huge time advantage over cars for a very long time. While largely just a replacement for an aging bridge, the new HOV lanes will be much better than the old lanes, because they will feed right onto Montlake Boulevard. From there, the bus will run in bus-only lanes right to the edge of the bridge. This means that if the bridge has been up for a while, and caused a big backup, the bus gets right to the front of the line. Whether it is a summer Saturday, or busy rush-hour, the buses will be able to connect from 520 to the UW very quickly — much faster than driving. This work will probably be done before East Link opens.
The main problem with buses on I-5 is that they are HOV-2, not HOV-3 (or higher). That is a trivial fix. New ramps would need to be added, but similar ramps have been built much quicker than Tacoma Link. Even without HOV-3 lanes and ramps, most of the trips during the day are faster with the bus than future Link. When they aren’t, Sounder runs between the two cities. Link is only valuable for the small number of trips that are in between. Having the bus stop at a combination freeway-bus/Link station (like Federal Way) and then continue on would be enough to cover almost all the trips.
Even the Federal Way extension is too far. But since it is the only freeway/Link station south of downtown, going further is a big waste of money. Huge amounts of money will be spent, and to justify the cost, the buses will be truncated, which means a lot of riders (taking express trips in the middle of the day) will see worse service. Either that, or the train to Tacoma will be largely empty, all day long. There are only so many people trying to get to Fife.
What’s ridiculous is to suggest adding more lanes to that. I specifically point out the day care and elementary school right up to that vast travesty of over-engineering and human folly. Reed elementary also happens to be the newest elementary school in Tacoma. That should be illegal.
Ross, in fairness to Cam, HOV-3 requires more than changing signs to achieve consistent travel times. It requires consistent and widespread enforcement, and that is unlikely to be provided. When congestion mounts, cars just jump into the HOV with abandon, since their drivers know they won’t get caught.
In actuality, given that the new HOV lanes through the Fort have taken the inner shoulders, it’s impossible to enforce. There’s no place in which to ticket.
I would venture that the great performance of the HOV facility on New Evergreen Point has a lot more to do with the tolls, which can’t be avoided, than the “lane restriction” which can.
The California model wherein an HOV facility is mostly separated from the general lanes with “entrance/exit” zones every few miles should have been adopted here in Washington, but it hasn’t been. I guess it’s just too expensive for our poverty-stricken DOT.
“In actuality, given that the new HOV lanes through the Fort have taken the inner shoulders, it’s impossible to enforce. There’s no place in which to ticket.”
Good point Tom. Mercer Island lost SOV access from Island Crest Way to I-90 westbound. There was much angst and lobbying of DOT and FHWA (which offered HOT lanes or making the HOV lane a general-purpose lane which might happen when East Link opens and there are no (few) buses across the bridge). But since I-90 was widened from 3 to 4 lanes in each direction there is no place for a police car. The police would wait west of the Mt. Baker Tunnel, but ST construction took over that area.
So basically, there is SOV access if you want it because enforcement is not possible. What is interesting is how many Islanders abide by an unfair and ridiculous restriction that was a major promise of ST 2. I certainly would not if I came from the south end.
Of course, the pandemic, WFH and the preference for eastsiders to work on the eastside have made most of this moot due to low traffic congestion. Not even the buses use the HOV lane across the bridge because there is so little traffic and the buses don’t want to enter in the outer lane, move to the inner HOV lane across the bridge span, and then have to move back to the outer lane (closest to the lake) to exit onto MI, and they cannot access the transit tunnel anymore from the inner lane.
If you ask me HOT lanes make more sense because I think many law-abiding citizens will pay the toll willingly, it is easier to enforce with cameras, and it creates revenue to help offset the additional lanes although I-90 can’t accommodate more lanes. The only problem with HOT lanes is they benefit the wealthier.
Of course, there’s a place from which to ticket. During peak congestion, a cop drives down the leftmost GP lane. Each car that passes on the left, look in the windows and count the people. If they are a violators, turn on the lights and sirens, signal left, and hit the gas. They can pull over on the right shoulder or exit the highway to receive their ticket. It’s not that complicated.
asdf2, show me one place and one time that has happened anywhere in the State of Washington in this Millennium. Have you EVER seen a police car stop a vehicle in any HOV lane for violating it?
They’re DRIVERS THEMSELVES! They’re on the “Drivers’ Team”. The only possible way that they will ever seriously enforce HOV violations is by giving them 25% of the fine revenue as a bonus. That’s it.
I’m not saying that they’re useless; they do chase down reckless drivers, people driving distractedly or under the influence of a substance, and excessive speeders. But HOV violation? ROTFLMAO.
10,000 tickets issued in 2016. I’d imagine it went down during COVID, but yes I’ve seen HOV violators been ticketed, and I know people who have been pulled over (both one who got ticketed and one who had to point out the child in their back seat).
Ten thousand tickets per year is twenty-seven per day. I’ll admit to being surprised it’s that many, but given that there are about 100 miles of HOV lane between Dupont and Everett that’s one ticket every four miles in twenty-four hours or one every four days per mile of lane.
The probability that other drivers will ever see one of these ticketing action is vanishingly small.
There’s no deterrent value. If there is an objection to giving individual officers a bonus, at least give it to the Department to fund more officers.
I think the political paralysis in this country has less to do with large parts of the country hating other parts, and more to do with the rural parts having a much bigger voice than the urban parts, both from decennial post-census gerrymandering, but also (and probably more significantly) from the built-in gerrymander of the Senate. Unfortunately, a state such as Wyoming — which has less population than the city of Seattle 20 years ago — has as much representation as all of the state of Washington.
I bet if we could figure out how to fold the low-population states into each other (for instance, WY + MT + ND + SD), admit territories as states (DC, PR), and/or break up some high population states to make them more on par with the low-population ones (i.e. CA into something like 17 states/city-states), we could make substantial progress on things like urban transit at the federal level. There’s a lot of shared problems and interests between the urban areas, even if they are separated geographically, and I think Puget Sounders would have no problem funding NYC or LA or Houston transit if it meant that we got funding as well. The problem now is that all of the rural areas are able to shout us down in the Senate.
I like Monidaming, Nebkota, Mainontshire, Hawaska, Maryware, and Connecticut Island. I think that takes care of all the Shrimp States, bassically making the smallwst at least three million.
Or, just stop trying to fund local & regional infrastructure at the federal level. Aside from the Acela corridor (because the core service extends from Virginia to Boston), there are basically zero important transit projects that cannot be funded by a local or state entity.
Even with HSR, every useful corridor is either contained within a state (CA, FL, TX) or could be managed by by a single state taking the lead (e.g. IL running a Chicago centric service), with again the NE corridor as the only notable counterexample.
I think it is both. The federal system itself — both by design and by chance — gives rural areas more power than they should have. My point is that it shouldn’t make that much difference. Right now the rural areas are often anti-city, to the point of being anti-patriotic. There are exceptions (e. g. Montana) but they are rare.
It wasn’t always that way, nor should it be that way. Consider things closer to home. See how often folks in eastern Washington attack Seattle. The greater Seattle region is really the golden goose here — it is in their self interest that the city thrive — but they don’t see it that way. Not only do they not want their money going to Seattle area projects, they don’t want to give us the chance to tax ourselves. More to the point, they really aren’t interested in an investment that would make Seattle (or the Seattle region) thrive. This isn’t a matter of fairness (the money flows the other way) it is matter of cultural differences. It is part of the wider division that exists within this country.
Or, just stop trying to fund local & regional infrastructure at the federal level.
Sorry, but that is ridiculous. This should definitely be funded at the federal level. Everyone in America should chip in a little bit to make public transit in New York City a little bit better, even if they never visit there. This is because it is a cost effective way to improve the lives of huge numbers of fellow Americans. If we don’t accept that fundamental idea, there is no reason to have a nation. We might as well break up the union (and why stop there — we could easily devolve to city-states).
Government programs are bound to benefit some areas more than others. A public program to improve farmland should not be paid for only by those living in rural areas. Same with flood prevention. I don’t know about you, but I think it sucks that New Orleans was flooded by Katrina, when the Army Core of Engineers knew about the problem, but overlooked it (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150824212258.htm). Sure, we can just tell these areas to deal with it themselves, but what if, like New Orleans, they don’t have the money? New Orleans was (and is) dealing with poverty caused by slavery and Jim Crow? Should we tell them tough luck — let your city flood if you can’t fix it yourself?
For that matter, what defines local? What if the city enacts a tax (to say, prevent another Katrina) but only in the city itself. That just means people can move out to the suburbs, and ignore the plight of the city itself. Next thing you know, you have another Detroit on your hands. Sure, the suburbs didn’t care when the jobs moved from the central city to the suburbs — many liked it. But then the entire region shrunk, and with it a tax base. The state of Michigan (and the country) is much worse off as a result.
Trying to fund things at the local level is bad idea. It is hard to think of anything that should be funded that way. Schools are paid for that way and it is terrible. Poor districts get bad schools, rich districts get nice schools. I suppose it is valid to give certain areas a chance to increase funding of something they want more (e. g. local parks) but in general we have way too much local funding, not too little.
“just stop trying to fund local & regional infrastructure at the federal level.”
Only the federal government can create money to fix our infrastructure hole. Only the federal government can reverse the 1970s tax laws that funnel most of the productivity wealth to the top 1% and starve the states of resources. Having state-level plans pits states against each other, as states with the least infrastructure compete on their lower taxes and unionization and some companies fall for it.
New York to Chicago might be worthwhile, because it potentially can include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Indianapolis along the way. Or Cleveland and Toledo west of Pittsburgh with perhaps a branch to Detroit. There are plenty of abandoned but strait rights of way west Pittsburgh.
Connecting anything farther than Dallas to Houston would be foolish.
Alon Levy has a high speed map that seems quite aspirational, but not crazy: https://pedestrianobservations.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/hsrbutpretty.png. There are networks that are decent size, but not one giant network for the United States. The Midwest is definitely one of them.
Notice that even by these optimistic standards (with trains all the way to Florida) the Northwest is a “maybe”. Given all of the information from the various reports, the proper approach is to implement the long range plan (https://www.aawa.us/site/assets/files/7322/2006_washington_state_long-range_plan_for_amtrak_cascades.pdf) and run the trains more often. Just doing that will get us the biggest improvement per dollar spent.
Skipping over that step and trying to build ultra-high speed rail would be a huge mistake. At best we spend a fortune, and improve things slightly. At worst we spend a fortune and don’t finish.
Yes, not finishing seems to be a theme for government these days.
“straight”, not “strait”. This is rail rights of way we’re considering, not ship channels…..
” I’m still reminded of the story of a employee of a major German multinational corporation coming to visit I think it was Everett to set up an a potential office there and being absolutely mortified at the lack of good rail or public transit to get there”
Siemens I think. An industrial center in Germany would be required to have a high-capacity transit plan. When they were told the plan was highways and free parking, they walked away. That shook Everett and Snohomish officials and led to the Paine Field detour.
Germany would have probably sited the center on an existing S-Bahn line and added a station, or created a new branch to it as it did with Duesseldorf airport. We don’t necessarily have to go that far. We don’t have an S-Bahn (Link has more stops and is slower), and metros like Rhine-Ruhr are flat in all directions so there are more opportunities for sites and lines, while we’re constrained by typography and Paine Field is parallel to the population middle.
So we can step back and ask, “What is the goal?” The goal is to have the ability to transport the majority of the ndustrial center’s employees, or tens of thousands of people working mostly day shifts. So what would work for that? If Link were moved to I-5 or terminated at Mariner, a bus loop could go from Mariner to the industrial center and Everett Station, bringing up workers from both south and north. A large bus fleet would be somewhat high capacity; you’d have to ask Germans whether it would meet the requirements in Germany.
Another twist is that most industrial workers probably aren’t coming from far north and south, but from all over southwest Snohomish County. So it really needs multiple lines in multiple directions. Swift Green is one such line, coming from 112th, Mill Creek, and north Bothell.
And the companies are sprawled out over the industrial center, moreso than industrial buildings in New York City or probably Germany. So one station is not within walking distance of most of them. So you’d need more stations, like airports that have two or three stops.
So maybe Snohomish County could present a set of Swift lines (including part-time lines) converging at the industrial center and with more than one stop there. The Link detour loop, Swift Green, another from maybe Edmonds, etc. That may meet Germany’s requirements, or be more effective in the Snohomish enviroment of workers coming from short 5-10 mile distances in all directions.
Generally agree, except with “Another twist is that most industrial workers probably aren’t coming from far north and south, but from all over southwest Snohomish County.” The vast majority of the labor pool is to the south. Particularly for high-tech manufacturing, the point of sighting manufacturing in Paine Field and not, say, central Kansas, is to tap into the highly skilled labor pool. Boeing engineers commute to Paine from all across the metro.
I guess imbed doesn’t work. I at least I don’t know how to make it work. Link.
Yeah, it’s a huge thing.
Community Councils are a human right!
The problem with the little “Europe vs. the USA” transit video is that takes a look at the big picture and doesn’t understand it’s the small picture that’s really in control. Europe was not built around a transit system because it’s older than any transit system. Europe had a high degree of density before trains or buses were even invented.
Much of the USA doesn’t have the density for Euro style transit.
So let’s take a look at what the real differences between Europe and the USA are. I used to own a house in East Tacoma… 800 square ft house, small front yard, big backyard with an alley in the back. Not really different than houses in Germany or England… except for the backyard and the alley. It would have been quite possible to build another 800 sq ft cottage in the backyard, turn the alley into a street and build out every other backyard on the block with cottages, tear down the house on the corner and build 4 row houses and put a pub on the other corner. That’s what most of the UK and Germany looks like.
There’s a lot more people and not much space to park a car….. so yeah, the bus is an option. Any house within walking distance of a train station is worth more.
The trouble with American transit is the micro environment is often out of wack for transit to really thrive. City planners come up with crazy stuff like 10 story residential buildings and subways 150 deep because the political will to shoehorn more and more housing into places like Wallingford isn’t there. Let homeowners build a second house on their lot for their adult kids to live in. That was what made the European village and that’s what drives good transit.
Seattle should never have looked at Sound Transit or rail as “the answer” for transit. It should have stuck with streetcars, buses and increased neighborhood density and made transit work in the city limits. Who cars about Renton or other neighboring communities? Let them fix their own transportation problems.
For Megaregions, this is honestly where the focus should be in modernizing the rail system overall. But also investing in better rural rail is needed on some level as well. As there’s a lot of places that would benefit from s-bahn or like regional rail in the cities that are medium or small sized cities/regions,. While looking at Germany, Beligum, Netherlands, and France are good indicators as to building dense corridor and megaregion rail. There’s also the case for places like Sweden, Norway, and Finland that the US should be looking at. Which have similar(ish) population density for many parts of the US and how rail could be implemented. Like I spent time in Southern Sweden last year and the region has a good few trunk rail lines, bus connections from major and minor train stations to smaller villages or areas, etc.
As for how you fix the wonky urban planning, it’d require an overhaul of Municipal planning and zoning to happen as a start along with revamping a lot of the bureaucratic hurdles that bog down US projects like the lengthy environmental review process. Public comment periods that feel like another waste of time and resources on some level. And property acquisition that is just arduous and litigious.
There’s also the issue of contracting for construction, which is where in my opinion the problems start to pile up in terms of balloning prices and questionable planning. We have a tendency to do many layers of subcontracting in outsourcing work to get a job done that the price just skyrockets from how many hands a job may pass through to get it done.
There’s a lot of steps to be had to fixing this problem, but it does seem like the US is on some level waking up to how much car dependency is more of a burden or hindering us than it was in the past. And I will say that it’s not unfixable as I know many Europeans would argue that there were and still are many car dependent places but that nothing is set in stone or stays in stasis forever.
“Much of the USA doesn’t have the density for Euro style transit.”
But much of it does. The Northeast, The East Coast. The Great Lakes (centered on Chicago). The Southwest (San Diego to Sacramento). The Northwest.
American suburbs, while designed car-dependent, don’t have fewer people than outer metro areas in Canada and Europe that have Seattle-level transit. 15-30 minute buses and trains are typical.
When I was in Ratingen in the 1990s, a suburb of Duesseldorf the size of Redmond, there was a half-hourly S-Bahn running 24 hours to the eastern side and on to Essen. The west side had a 30-60 minute bus. Now the map shows a U-Stadtbahn to Ratingen, which is surface light rail with downtown tunnels. I’m sure it runs every 10 minutes, or 15-20 minutes if it’s particularly bad. And I expect the S-Bahn is more frequent now too, because I’ve heard of 15-minute service in the Rhine-Ruhr region.
All those lines start from Duesseldorf.
The trouble with American transit is the micro environment is often out of wack for transit to really thrive. City planners come up with crazy stuff like 10 story residential buildings and subways 150 deep because the political will to shoehorn more and more housing into places like Wallingford isn’t there.
There is no political will, but only because the politicians listen to the squeaky wheel. The majority of the city is renters. But a significant minority of people (in places like Wallingford) are able to resist so called “missing middle” housing. I don’t want to pick on Wallingford, as much of it actually has decent density (the result of development before zoning). But I think we are on the same page. Much of North America has embraced an either-or proposition when it comes to zoning. Either you have neighborhoods that consist of nothing but houses on big lots, or you build big apartment buildings (and some retail). It is an approach that is explored quite well in this essay: https://tinyurl.com/38vmjmp7. That’s not how they do it in Europe (or Montreal, as that essay points out).
I agree that we never should have looked at Link, or even rail as “the answer”. But we should look at rail as being part of the transit system. I contend that the biggest problem is not our embrace of rail, but the way we implemented it. It is still a version of quantity over quality, even though a lot of it is grade separated. We neglected urban stops in our zeal to reach distant suburbs, or build the most expensive regional rail system in the world (I’m never quite sure what to call Link). A relatively small amount of rail, implemented well, would have been much better. The line to the UW is a great example. It is arguably the only rail that should exist in the region. But if you can’t do it right — if you can’t even include First Hill — then you shouldn’t do it all all.
There is no question that most European cities are a lot more densely populated than most American cities. But a city like Seattle (and even some of its inner-suburbs) have enough density to support a good transit system. Vancouver has better density than Seattle, but it still isn’t European — not even close. Yet it has very good transit, and there is no reason we can’t have something similar, if we made better decisions.
I think the idea of density is also misunderstood here in America. Rural Low Germany and Denmark have pretty good village to village bus service, even with lower numbers of people. Public transit doesn’t work well in the Key Peninsula because the population is widely scattered across the landscape. If the same population was living in tight little villages, it’s not rocket science to develop a good bus system from village center to village center. People could also walk or just ride their bikes for short trips. It’s not really about transit as much as the way society is set up.
I think the idea of density is also misunderstood here in America.
I agree. A big part of the problem is that many urbanists push height over everything else. This makes it much easier for opponents to push back. Very few people who live in a house want to live next to a six story (or higher) building. The two forces compromise, allowing growth in only a handful of areas. Since the area is so small, it is relatively high, to compensate. It is often next to busy streets or freeways. This gives opponents even more ammunition (“look how ugly it is …”).
This cycle continues, and is made worse in areas of high housing demand (like Seattle). That’s because it is tough to build enough market-rate housing that way. As a result, one of the strong arguments for increasing density (lower housing costs) looks weaker to those who have trouble with cause and effect (and would find the economics of operating a lemonade stand very difficult).
I recently ran across this video, lauding some of the development in Montreal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYCAVmKzX10. What may not be obvious when you look at the video is that these are extremely attractive, very high density neighborhoods. Most of Seattle could build something similar to what exists in Montreal — increasing density substantially, while creating a very attractive city.
But we don’t, and fight the same stupid arguments instead.
I tend to agree, Ross. I was also going to share this video, too!
I particularly like the video’s comment about excessive front yard setbacks. Just revisiting the setback requirements can provide land to add thousands of units in Seattle through redevelopment. Add to that two and three full units on a lot and the regulatory hurdles depressing Seattle’s density goes mostly away.
I also like the video’s point about the areas being for higher incomes too. A big fear expressed by anti-density advocates is power property values, which doesn’t seem to be the case. That anti-density perspective is based on the bias that renters bring down a neighborhood, which unpeeled further exposes racist biases.
One other ingredient is the importance of neighborhood shopping. I believe it should be a goal of Seattle to allow convenience retail and dining into residential areas. A child of 7 or 8 should be able to safely walk a few blocks to get some groceries and snacks.
If you go out to the boonies and look at Ten Trails, you can see that new areas have smaller lots anyway. People attached to their 1945 to 1985 lots don’t often get that this 40-year period was an outlier in human urban history.
The other unspoken benefit is the creation of enough density for better transit service. It can double transit ridership on a route, so buses can run more often. In the right situations, buses can even become BRT lines or trams.
Al, yard setbacks (front, rear and side) are only one regulatory limit. You also have impervious surface limits which are designed to preserve trees and vegetation, height, and often gross floor area to lot area ratios to control scale, or what is called “massing”.
You can certainly change these limits in a residential zone but then it isn’t a residential zone so might as well call it a multi-family zone. And you will need to repeal Seattle’s tree ordinance in residential zones.
The other issue is the increased regulatory limits apply to any use in the zone, including a single-family home. This isn’t a problem in most multi-family zones because they have very large minimum lot sizes and have tall height limits and almost no setback or impervious surface requirements so multi-family housing is much more profitable than a SFH that makes little sense on such a large lot.
However on smaller residential properties, even with increased regulatory limits (unless you remove all height limits which then brings into play the cost of elevators under the ADA and steel/construction construction above 7 stories), the profitability of multi-family vs. a SFH on the same lot for the builder is close, or even favors the SFH because there is less risk building a SFH, especially if the property owner is paying for the construction.
Then what you get are SFH’s that are literally giant castles that have no yard setbacks, no yards or trees or vegetation, and look much like multi-family housing but really are SFH. Without any vegetation that is going to be one ugly neighborhood.
I also doubt many parents these days would allow their 6 or 8 year old child to walk alone several blocks to a store (or anywhere), certainly in Seattle. I wouldn’t do it on Mercer Island. The biggest problem with neighborhood retail is it is very hard to make a profit after rent and competition from large grocery stores and online ordering, although a neighborhood pub like the Roanoke on Mercer Island can do well. That is why many neighborhoods like Medina end up subsidizing their corner grocery store. It is more a novelty than useful (and serves as the mailbox area).
Dan, for someone who’s berated folks for their fear of the world in regards to the ongoing pandemic, you seem to harbor a deep fear of the danger of walking a few blocks. You must think all the parents that let their kids walk several blocks to get to school, and let them walk home past various convenience stores that exist on and off the main thoroughfares of my neighborhood, are just negligent morons!
It depends on the age Nathan. 6 and 8 are kindergartners and second graders. I don’t know too many parents who allow their kids that young to walk around outside alone. Certainly not in the big city.
I walked to elementary school and around the neighborhood at that age, in a neighborhood that can’t be much different from Mercer Island. I started taking Metro to school to and Seattle around age 14.
The idea that kids can’t go around alone seems to be increasing parental paranoia, caused by overgeneralizing sensational news coverage. And the parents in the safest neighborhoods are the ones who are the most paranoid.
You are probably correct Mike. On MI parents wait for their kids at the bus stop, but many pick them up and drop them off, especially when in elementary school (by middle school the kids don’t want mom dropping them off, and in HS they want a car, any car). The schools are like fortresses, and access to the grounds is very carefully monitored.
Kids are precious things. I wouldn’t leave my wallet lying around outside either, and I care about my kids more than my wallet. I certainly would not want to be profiled in a missing children’s article in The Seattle Times in which it noted I made my kindergarten child walk home alone in a city (or anywhere).
When we were young my little brother and I would walk from upper Montlake to St. Joseph School, from 1st grade to 5th for me, and 1st to 3rd for him. I did get robbed twice (which is why the family moved to MI), once my brand new bike I got for Christmas, a green Schwinn Stingray I only had for a few weeks. I was probably 10. I cried the whole way home, but it was a gang of kids bigger than me.
No way my wife and I would do that today. Once I asked my dad if he ever thought back and worried about driving kids around without seatbelts let alone car seats, or smoking in the car with them, drinking and driving which was not a big deal back then, or having us walk to St. Joseph when so young (he did the same in the 1930’s but he was one tough cuss). My dad said that when you have five kids you can afford to lose one. We only have two.
Seattle has a higher population density than Montreal. Montreal with a population of 1.7 million has a population density of 2205 residents per square KM whereas Seattle with a total population of 0.62 million has a population density of 2842 residents per square KM
Any kid who isn’t allowed to spent time outside alone is at risk of being emotionally stunted. Kids need freedom and an ability to assert their independence. Otherwise they never have a chance to build confidence in their abilities.
I would not be surprised to discover this sort of smothering no-risk behavior as the root cause of the epidemic of anxiety and depression among college students.
My son was walking home alone a mile at 9, across busy roads. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was adventure, and a time to test his ability to take care of himself in a pretty low-risk situation. I’d rather risk injury than stunt him emotionally for life.
This is how it is in most countries. Only in America are kids kept in bubble wrap to wither and rot.
At what age would you allow your children to walk around Mercer Island or take a bus to Seattle if they wanted to?
The first time I remember taking a bus to Seattle in junior high was to go to The Record Library, a record-lending company at Broadway & Denny, in a building called the Broadway Arcade, now demolished. I went to the downtown library because it had some books the King County libraries didn’t have. (That has now reversed because KCLS is better funded and has a wider selection, it’s one of the best in the country.) Suburban kids my age hung out in the U-District so I did too, and discovered the four used-record stores and several used bookstores there, which I frequented. And I went to the Neptune for its double-feature repertory, and a friend’s house on top of Queen Anne. The Queen Anne kids went to each others’ houses all over the hill, and on Friday or Saturday evenings went down to Seattle Center.
Oh, and the new record stores. Tower Records across from the U Bookstore, and Peaches at 45th & I-5 (now Petco). Later there was one at 45th & Roosevelt although I don’t remember the name.
Tower Records was really something. A large two-story space. The main floor had rock and pop and played it on the speakers. Upstairs was like another world: it played classical music and had classical and jazz. I remember going once with my parents: I probably got Rush, and they got jazz and Judy Collins.
“Seattle has a higher population density than Montreal. Montreal with a population of 1.7 million has a population density of 2205 residents per square KM whereas Seattle with a total population of 0.62 million has a population density of 2842 residents per square KM.”
The political geography of Montreal significantly affects its density. In 2002, Quebec merged 27 small cities into Montreal, increasing its population by 80 percent. A few years later, 15 de-merged, including some denser areas like Westmount and Mont-Royal.
So a citywide density comparison is essentially irrelevant.
That’s a reason why the video describes neighborhoods and not the whole city.
Imagine what it would Seattle city limits would look like if the WA legislature merged 27 other cities into it, and 15 then de-merged (with 12 remaining) a few years later.
For some reason STB won’t allow me to post the link comparing population densities. No doubt both Seattle and Montreal have significant SFH only zones. Still despite the mergers and demergers it is unusual for a city like Montreal with three times the population to have a lower population density.
I think a fairer comparison is to compare Montreal’s five multi-family neighborhoods in the video with Seattle’s multi-family zones and UGA’s.
What I do prefer about Montreal’s neighborhoods is the scale and architecture are much smaller, and more human and residential than our UGA’s and multi-family zones. Many buildings are only two stories, some three with backyards and parking spots. As the video notes many of these neighborhoods were created (and no doubt zoned for today) before investment became the driving theme in multi-family housing, especially in the U.S.
Multi-family housing in the U.S. and Seattle specifically is too out-of-scale IMO, and too commercial styled. Cheap flat walled construction as high as the zone will allow. As the video noted, that might because Montreal’s neighborhoods were created (and probably zoned that way today) before multi-family housing became so investment oriented in the U.S. Instead, we get out-of-scale very tall commercial looking multi-family housing because that creates the most housing and profit, but creates very sterile neighborhoods and no onsite retail.
What I would like to see are more multi-family and UGA zones downzoned to create the kind of modest housing in the video, with two, three and four story buildings with shared walls but back yards. Yes this would be a downzone and reduce housing capacity, but if you want this kind of neighborhood you need the zoning that creates it.
Mild upzones of the SFH zones will never create this kind of shared wall, modest height, no front yard retail rich neighborhood, and it doesn’t look like Montreal is pursuing that kind of upzoning of their SFH zones. Instead we will make the same mistake we always make, and that is mixing zones without carefully subzoning those zones, so the most profitable zone (height, scale, drab commercial exterior with little onsite retail) dominates.
In the U.S. if you want a neighborhood like one of the five in the video you will need to zone for it, very carefully and very specifically, and that new zone will likely be a sub-downzone of part of a UGA or multi-family zone (or even CID) which urbanists and developers will oppose. It really isn’t the SFH zones that are preventing these kinds of neighborhoods from being building in the U.S. or Seattle because this kind of scale will never be allowed in the SFH zone.
According to Wikipedia Seattle had a population density of 3,387.95/km2 in 2020. Even with the loss of ~6,000 people it would still be over 3,360/km2.
“Seattle with a total population of 0.62 million” As of the 2020 census Seattle population was 737,015. Looks like you’re pulling Seattle data from 2010. Seattle grew more than 20% in those ten years; the fastest rate of growth since the 1950s and the largest total number of new residents since 1900-1910. Montreal was at 1.7M in 2016. Using numbers from then the five largest neighborhoods had a combined population of 720,232 with a land area of 103.4 km^2. That’s twice the density of Seattle. If you take the top 9 neighborhoods you have a land area the size of Seattle and a population of 1.1M with a density of 5251/km^2. In Metro density Montreal has Seattle beat by almost 5X.
Montreal is famous for its one-over-the-other duplexes, compared to Vancouver’s side-by-side duplexes. Montreal probably also has 4-8 unit apartments in those same neighborhoods as Vancouver does. These are the missing middle housing that’s prohibited in Pugetopolis single-family zones. It’s typical of Boston and other northeastern cities. Seattle still has some duplexes and two-story courtyard apartments built before they were banned in the 1970s in single-family zones. So you like in Montreal what the rest of us want but you won’t allow it in Pugetopolis. That’s like saying you like Montreal’s subway but we can’t have it here.
There are several alternative models:
1. The status quo, where 70% of the buildable land is single-family only.
2. Allow duplexes in single-family zones.
3. Also allow small apartment buildings, restoring Seattle’s 1960s or 1940s zoning.
4. Allow large apartment buildings and highrises everywhere.
You keep saying urbanists want only #4, but I and many others would be satisfied with #3 or even #2. You can fit a lot of people in an environment like that, as Paris, Boston, and New York’s brownstones show.
For unknown reasons STB won’t allow me to post a link for the population density. But if you just Google population density montreal vs. seattle on the versus website it should come up. Montreal is not five times denser than Seattle although Al points out some relevant historical changes that affect density.
Mike the video suggests Montreal has quite a few SFH only zones, probably many more after the mergers Al posted about. It makes no sense to zone multi-family housing like in the video in those outlying zones.
There is hardly any difference between a duplex and main house/DADU, and the regulatory limits for both are the same so the amount of actual housing is the same whether you use your gross floor area to lot ratio for the SFH, SFH plus DADU (or two DADU’s in Seattle) or duplex. You only create more dwelling units. You won’t create the retail density or neighborhood character found in the video. Duplexes are not going to create retail density, or retail at all. Plus since there is no transit to many of these neighborhoods you will need loads of parking.
The citizens will object to zoning like the neighborhoods in the Montreal video in the SFH zone. Zero-yard setbacks is the antithesis of the SFH zone. Those lots have very little vegetation (unless it is in the back yard). I doubt eliminating the front yard in a SFH zone is a good idea either.
So, if you want the human and street scale multi-family style housing in the video you will have to zone for it. That likely means some kind of subzone in the multi-family or UGA zone, which is basically your number 3. What I am seeing in the UGA’s today like the University District is ugly, inconsistent, out of scale, and cheap. The new development there disconnects the tenant from the street, unlike the neighborhoods in the video I find charming and vibrant.
We both like the neighborhoods in the video, and the eclectic retail scene (and yes the need for parking), the only question for Seattle is where to zone for that. I think in the SFH zone would be unlikely due to political opposition (and I haven’t seen any proposal that suggests the type of zoning necessary in the video in Seattle’s SFH neighborhoods). That leaves a multi-family or UGA zone, and the property owners and developers are going to object because our multi-family housing model is dominated by investment profit which is why too often it looks like shit and galvanizes the SFH zones against that shit.
Allowing duplexes in the SFH zone accomplishes little IMO, and is a big fight. Little to no additional housing will be created although more dwelling units which urbanists like because they tend to live alone. I would spend my political capital getting the city to downzone a multi-family or UGA zone to create a subzone that will create the neighborhoods in the video, although I am sure housing advocates and their lovers developers will claim the height will have to be 7 or 10 stories, and design regulations will be too expensive, so you will probably get shit.
Metro density 919/km^2 (2021)
Metro Population 4,018,762 (2020)
Metro Area (21,202 km^2)
Metro density 190/km^2
919/190=4.8 or “ almost 5X.“
Dan, saying Seattle is more dense than Montreal based on the simple math of population divided by municipal area is like arguing that LA is, um, actually, more dense than NYC, because the LA MSA is statistically more dense than the NYC MSA. Technically true, maybe, largely meaningless without the context of history, land use/geography, and infrastructure.
Nathan, I just relied on the comparison online. I didn’t do any independent calculations. Al pointed out some valuable historical information that accounted for the oddity that a city with 1.7 million residents would have a lower population density than a city with 1/3 the population.
I later posted what looks like a more scholarly article from the Fraser Institute that shows Montreal is denser than Seattle (but not five times as dense). At the same time I differ from many on this blog in that I don’t think density in itself is a greater good.
For example, Austin is on the list and is a very nice city but not very dense. Would it be nicer with more density? Probably not. Same with Charlotte. I have a feeling some cities like Mumbai would not included on the list that have incredible density. I think the metric GDP per capita is probably a better indicator of quality of life in any city but not always (Calgary is the highest GDP/ per capita ratio Canadian city and Houston is number 3 on the list).
I agree though that a city has or should have many different areas, or zones. Like Montreal. Increasing density in every single zone because density is some inherent good does not make sense to me. Choose the areas of density (why most cities have a commercial core) and use that zone to create what you want.
The real mistake I think Seattle makes is it has no zone for the kind of neighborhoods in the video, which normally would come from a multi-family or UGA zone but require a downzone to create the scale and design requirements to create the neighborhood in that zone. Maybe Ballard or Capitol Hill come close but lack the consistency and style of Montreal’s neighborhoods. But in this area the urbanists would object because density for density’s sakes is an inherent good, so we get multi-family crud that is often out of scale IMO.
I’m reminded why I try not to waste my WPM replying to Dan’s ignorance. As usual, he can’t even interpret basic facts correctly.
References, for the record:
City Population (2020): 737,015 (2021 estimate is 733,919)
Land Area: 217.54 sq km
City population per sq km of land: 3,387.9 (2021: 3,373.7)
Metro Population (Metropolitan Statistical Area [MSA]; 2020): 4,018,762
MSA Area: 21,202 sq km
MSA Population per sq km: 189.5
City Population (2021): 1,762,949
Land Area: 365.13 sq km
Population per sq km of land: 4,828.3
Metro Population (Metropolitan Statistical Area [MSA]; 2021): 4,291,732
MSA Area: 4,604.26 sq km
MSA Population per sq km: 932.1
Seattle City Density versus Montreal City Density: 3,373.7 : 4,828.3 (1 : 1.43)
Seattle MSA Density versus Montreal MSA Density: 189.5 : 932.1 (1 : 4.91)
Sounds like the Frasier Institute (quoting 4,916 people per km2 in Montreal) is referring to the City, so yes, Montreal is only about 40% more dense within city limits, but is about 390% more dense across its MSA.
What about Vancouver?
City Population (2021): 662,248
City Area: 115.18 sq km
City population per sq km of land: 5,749.9
Metro Population: 2,642,825
MSA Area: 2,878.52 sq km
MSA Population per sq km: 918
Skipping demonstration of a couple calculator steps: Vancouver is about 70% denser within city limits than Seattle, and its MSA is also about 385% denser than Seattle’s.
“The Seattle metropolitan area is an urban conglomeration in the U.S. state of Washington that comprises Seattle, its surrounding satellites and suburbs. It contains the three most populous counties in the state—King, Snohomish, and Pierce—and is considered part of the greater Puget Sound region. The United States Census Bureau defines the metropolitan area as the Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA metropolitan statistical area. With an estimated population of 4,018,598 as of 2020, it is the 15th largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the United States and is home to over half of Washington’s population.”
Gee, I wonder why Seattle’s MSA is low considering it includes three of the largest geographic counties in the country (King is twice the size of Rhode Island).
Dan, you misrepresent the argument that your bogeyman of an “Urbanist” actually presents, which in your mind seems to be that the entire city consist of some sort of Borg-ish MegaCube of residential towers.
In reality (and also on this blog, which sometimes diverge), most self-proclaimed urbanists take the position that policies that allow for greater density of housing units are a net good. This greater density of housing would look like allowing multi-plexes (the duplex, quadplex, sexplex, octoplex, etc.) that were generally allowed in the early era of urban zoning in the early 20th century. Many of the “great residential neighborhoods of Seattle” as you’ve described previous posts were platted and developed during this period, and a wonderful variety of vernacular forms constructed.
Then, people with mindsets like yours, decided that despite the ongoing growth of population and economic activity, these neighborhoods should not be allowed to continue to grow and densify as they previously were allowed to do, because change is scawy.
Now, we have to have to spend incredible amount of advocacy energy asking for the basic right to allow property owners in our oldest, lowest-density neighborhoods, to do the natural thing, which is to redevelop the property with a slightly higher density of residential (and potentially commercial!) units, which spreads the value (read: cost) of the land across multiple households/businesses.
This “Middle Density” housing (the quad-ish-plexes, the bungalow courts, the dingbats) are what’s MISSING from our current housing policy, because “gently density” like what’s referred to as the “missing middle” is perceived as some sort of gateway drug to high-density housing.
Nathan, do you think the fact the Seattle MSA is 21,202 square KM because it includes King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, whereas Montreal’s MSA is 4,604.26 square KM, might have something to do with the different population density ratios. Why not thrown in Kitsap County too.
If you take the land ratio (including all of King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties) of 4.60 between the “MSA’s” and multiply by Seattle’s population density you get 4.60 X 189.5 = 872.62 vs. 932.10 for Montreal.
Gee, I wonder why Seattle’s MSA is low considering it includes three of the largest geographic counties in the country
That’s because “Seattle” as a metro area sprawls. Part of the reason it sprawls is because of housing cost. Look at the average rental costs on the Wikipedia page for Montreal; you don’t have spend over an hour each way commuting to be able to afford a place to live. Montreal is also constrained by being an island. Here we provide freeways, sinking bridges and Marine Highways (aka WSF) so sprawl can continue into Kitsap County, Bainbridge Island and Whidbey Island. Note, the metro population of Montreal exceeds that of the Seattle metro by close to the entire population of the City of Seattle in 2010. You’re going to need a more convincing argument than “For some reason STB won’t allow me to post the link comparing population densities. ” if you expect the judge to allow your testimony to be allowed. Just looking at the numbers you’ve claimed I’ve found huge differences (a decade) in the time frame used. Do lawyers routinely try to take statistics out of temporal context and hope people will believe them?
Even with that math you have to concede that Montreal is more dense than Seattle; the opposite of what you originally contended. “MSAs are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and used by the Census Bureau and other federal government agencies for statistical purposes” so cross boarder comparisons are not apples to apples. But by any reasonable comparison of city centers Montreal has Seattle beat handily.
“The real mistake I think Seattle makes is it has no zone for the kind of neighborhoods in the video, which normally would come from a multi-family or UGA zone but require a downzone to create the scale and design requirements to create the neighborhood in that zone…”
This is are both good and bad points here. To me, the problem comes down to what’s allowed in each type of zone, and how much Seattle assigns land to each type of zone. Putting most of Seattle’s new housing in 65 or 85 foot towers and leaving most of the rest of the city zoning alone at single family + ADU is being too dualistic with the zoning approach.
I think the blocks along 14th Ave between Cherry and Union and North Beacon Hill are a good example of something that is denser but still very attractive for more areas than today’s zoning allows (modern architecture notwithstanding).
I could see places where downzoning would occur, but most of the adjustment would be to upzone a decent chunk of the single family zones around the city (like 30 to 60 percent). I think the step up from a mere ADU or two would be enticing for redevelopment.
A final perspective is financing and ownership. It is very hard for anyone to personally finance a 65 or 85 foot apartment or condo tower. However, a small investor could turn a single family lot into denser middle housing — living in one unit and selling the other two.
I’m not a housing economist so I could speculate on what the ideal percentages are. However, it’s clear from the quick sale of middle housing units that come up for sale that there appears to be more demand for middle housing zones than Seattle offers in 2022 .
Dan, see my previous comment regarding MSA density comparisons.
If you wanted to truly rebut statements about density, you’d do literally any amount of leg work to determine the definition of “Metro” means in Canada, and compare to the MSA definition in the USA.
You could also try to find the current land area of the contiguous UGA for the Seattle-Tacoma metro region, and then find the current population living within that, and get that density number.
Or you could just concede that Montreal is more dense than Seattle. Cranium density jokes aside, it’s rather incredible how you divert the argument to focus on your singular fact (“Montreal is not 5x as dense as Seattle”) to avoid recognizing the fact that your beliefs are often factually incorrect.
Comparing density can be difficult. First, you have different types of measurement, made worse by the fact that the U. S. still uses the imperial system. Then you have the problem of actually defining a city. Official borders can be misleading, and defining the “greater urban area” is bound to be flawed.
Another big problem is the desire to have one number be used to represent density for the entire city. Measuring density works reasonably well at a granular level, but fails as you get bigger. Assume that a neighborhood block is nothing but six story apartments. Now assume that is surrounded by parking lots, and other open space. The block itself has good density, but the neighborhood doesn’t. As you increase the scale, you start adding in acres and acres of green belt, highways, plazas and other areas that contain no one. Thus trying to generate a single number for the density of a city is futile.
But there are alternatives. For a summary, I like this map: http://luminocity3d.org/WorldPopDen/#7/45.879/-116.565. I’ve tried to find this data in table form, but can’t. Still, it isn’t too hard to use. Zoom in to a city you are interested in, then select the “Interactive Stats” checkbox on the left corner. If you aren’t zoomed enough, it gives data for the country. Either way, it breaks it down by the number of people living in a neighborhood with that particular density. I won’t copy the information (although I encourage people to look at it) but here is one way to summarize the differences (in rough numbers):
1,100,000 — Under 2k
1,100,000 — 2k to 4k
200,000 — 4k to 6k
50,000 — Over 6k
250,000 — Under 2k
1,000,000 — 2k to 4k
600,000 — 4k to 6k
1,200,000 — Over 6k
In both cases, the largest single group is actually the same (2k to 4k). That total is not that different. The big difference is that Seattle has way more people living under that in density, and Montreal has way more people living over that. If you define the city smaller, then Seattle might see fewer in that “Under 2k” range, but that doesn’t really change anything. Montreal has three times the number of people living in the 4k to 6k range. Montreal has a big city (with over a million people) living in areas with density higher than 6k; Seattle has a big town. It is worth noting that Seattle has grown since that data was generated, but not by that much.
I haven’t found a great census map for Canada, but here is a good one for looking at Seattle (or other American cities): https://mtgis-portal.geo.census.gov/arcgis/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=2566121a73de463995ed2b2fd7ff6eb7. If my math is right, to get from people per square kilometer to people per square mile you multiply by 2.6. Thus 4,000 people per square kilometer is equivalent to a bit over 10,000 per square mile. Since the map has a different color for density above that level, it provides a good starting point. Almost all of the neighborhoods over 4k density are in Seattle proper. There are a few in the suburbs, especially Bellevue.
To see the areas around Seattle that have over 6k requires more work. 6,000 * 2.6 is just a bit over 15,000. Unfortunately, the map doesn’t have a color for that (or for anything over 10,000 per square mile) so it requires manually selecting the census tracts. The general trend is amplified. I count one track in Snohomish County, none in Pierce County. There is a single census tract in the south end of King County, but otherwise, everything with that much density is within Seattle and Bellevue. In both cases, it is somewhat concentrated. For Bellevue, all the census tracts with that much density are right next to each other. In Seattle, it isn’t quite as concentrated, but there are only a couple in West Seattle, and a couple in Rainier Valley. The big concentration is downtown, and next to downtown (east to the Central Area, north to Uptown, etc.). There is also big density next to the UW and in Ballard.
Again, many neighborhoods are changing, and the growth just hasn’t shown up on the reports yet (e. g. Greenwood, Roosevelt). What is clear though, is that despite sky-high demand for living in Seattle (which has manifested itself in sky-high housing prices) we don’t have anywhere near the density that Montreal has in various neighborhood spread out across the city. It’s not because we aren’t building high enough, it is because we aren’t adding density in enough places (the way that Montreal did). The neighborhoods shown on that video are very attractive — I don’t know if the video does them justice. They are quite pleasant, and not as intimidating as many of the taller buildings that have been added over the last decade. But they still have lots of people, and most of the land containing housing in the city is like this. In contrast, Seattle is the opposite, with a handful of places that happened to have old density, and a handful of new blocks with six story buildings.
“Do lawyers routinely try to take statistics out of temporal context and hope people will believe them?”
The answer to this question is absolutely, 100% “yes.”
Dan is simply arguing as any lawyer would in this situation – he’s going to present an argument backed up by facts (or interpret facts) that only support the conclusion he is trying to advocate, regardless of the veracity or the reliability of those facts. If someone pokes a hole in the facts or the argument, he’ll simply change the fact pattern slightly, or argue that his facts are correct and opposing facts are wrong, or the re-word the reasoning in order to support the same conclusion.
What will not ever occur is the lawyer admitting that their facts or reasoning is flawed. They will NEVER cede that ground. If a judge or a jury finds against them, they will still not admit they were wrong, only that they weren’t able to convince the other side of the merits of their case (or state that the other side was wrong… thus the basis for an appeal).
Every 1L is taught how to argue the day they step into the law school building, and it carries with them throughout their lives as attorneys.
So if you get frustrated arguing with a lawyer, the best solution is to simply not engage because it won’t matter what facts or reasoning you bring to the table, the lawyer is going to defend their position regardless of the strength of their case. They will never admit defeat. And all you’ll do is waste time.
The difference Matt is that a lawyer learns to not let emotion — or what you personally want or prefer — to color your judgment of the facts, or to suddenly think since you think or prefer something so does everyone else.
If the discussion is density I think Ross has it correct, it is hard comparing apples to apples, and what are the boundaries for the comparison. For example, many European cities have density in their cores but almost no density surrounding their cores, something urbanists prefer. If you included those areas outside the dense cores it would skew the statistics.
Same with using a metro core for Seattle that includes Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, three of the largest counties by land mass in the U.S. with huge areas of very little density including public lands. At the same time how do you compare Laurelhurst with Capitol Hill in the same core, or the fact downtown Seattle is not really very dense population wise.
I have no emotion one way or the other when it comes to density. Some prefer to live in a dense urban area and I did that for many years in Seattle and in Europe. Some prefer suburbia with a little more space per person, which is what I like now although I work downtown. Some find suburbia too claustrophobic and live in rural areas like my in-laws. I don’t want to change how people choose to live.
When it comes to transit density helps solves first-last mile access issues. You can walk to transit if there is transit. Too often transit agencies like ST simply don’t understand that the first mile is the most critical to getting folks to ride transit, and when you move to less dense areas like suburbia or semi-rural areas it becomes difficult to provide first/last mile access. So those folks tend to drive.
I can understand those who think upzoning will create more housing and ideally more affordable housing, although for various reasons I don’t think you will get non-subsidized affordable housing from upzoning and new construction. But what you will get is a worsening of the problem of providing first/last mile access to transit if you move away from the urban core and upzone outer exurban residential areas, so what you really will do is increase car usage and reduce transit, because those folks can’t get to it, and unlike suburbia there are few if any park and rides.
Yesterday on the 550: Eastbound in the afternoon had 25 passengers. Three got off at Mercer Island. Westbound in the evening had 36 passengers. I had to sit in the back corner to find a seat for myself and three bags. I couldn’t see the front past the tall standees, and I forgot to pay close attention to Mercer Island, but at least three got off there and one on. Tell me again that nobody crosses the lake on transit. And that was just the people willing to put up with half-hourly headways.
I actually had to wait 35 minutes at Bellevue Transit Center because there’s a gap in the schedule between 6:50pm and 7:35pm, and my B arrived at 7:00. Fortunately I was still reading my new mystery by K Charlton.
Mike, no one is saying no one is crossing the lake on transit: just very few today. Car traffic is down too. Earlier posts were predicting 5000 riders on East Link from Mercer Island alone in 2024. If boardings are counted as riders you counted four off/on MI. That is why the 550 — once the highest ridership ST bus — is now half hourly frequencies.
I also think your post cuts against transit: if you have a long book you want to read then ride transit, when time of trip is probably the number one factor when deciding mode, after safety.
Mike, no one is saying no one is crossing the lake on transit
Well, no one but you. It wasn’t too long ago that you wrote:
There is virtually no purpose for anyone to go east on East Link from Mercer Island and none want to go west.
Which is another way of saying no one is using the Mercer Island stop, and no one will use it when it is part of East Link. Now you are seemingly rolling back this statement, and saying that unless the Mercer Island station gets 5,000 riders it is a failure. All of those statements are absurd. The stop should get around 3,000 (as originally expected) and be a small part of a reasonably good expansion.
Ross, what I said is that today very few Islanders are going east on transit, and I am not sure why they would after East Link opens on transit. They will drive if parking is free and there is little congestion and there is virtually no first/last mile access. Where is it, except perhaps Microsoft, they would take East Link to eastbound? S. Bellevue, Wilburton, Redmond, Overlake?
As for non-Islanders getting off on MI to transfer to a bus going to Issaquah/North Bend after East Link opens I address that in an earlier post. I would think they would drive to S. Bellevue Park and Ride, especially non-peak hours, rather than deal with the poor frequency on buses from MI non-peak. Who cares if East Link runs every 15 minutes non-peak if your bus runs every 30 minutes from MI when you use to have a one seat bus to your park and ride.
You were the one who posted MI will see 3000 to 5000 riders on East Link. ST estimated 3000 pre-pandemic which I thought was highly inflated even then. I highly doubt that figure post pandemic, because Islanders are not going west either on transit. They are not commuting by car either into Seattle. I-90 has little congestion, which is quite pleasant.
Yes, Mike took the 550. He saw four total boardings on MI. His 550 with 30 minute frequencies had 25 riders, which isn’t much different than peak ridership. That is a long way from 5000 Island daily boardings, and building four car light rail trains with capacity for 596 passengers to carry 25 riders, and not what ST estimated (43,000 to 52,000 daily boardings on East Link).
I could be wrong. The eastside commuter to Seattle could return. East Link could have strong ridership. But eastside transit today, especially cross lake, is weak. Really weak. I know some on this blog keep saying just wait until the pandemic is over, but I am saying on the eastside it is over. Restaurants, stores, gatherings, malls, sporting events, are packed, and schools are fully open, and I don’t see any masks. Folks are just not commuting to work, especially into Seattle.
I read today where Amazon is up to 10,000 workers in Bellevue and will go to 25,000. Maybe they will take transit, like the 554, or some on East Link from Seattle, but my understanding is Amazon is going to give its employees the option of which office to work in, so why live in Seattle and work in Bellevue, or vice versa.
East Link will open some day. I think its impact on the eastside will be muted, no different than transit today, in part because of first/last mile access (the same problem for buses), WFH, lack of traffic congestion, so much free parking, and the need for a transfer. 2008 was a long time ago. Things change. Will they go back? I doubt it, but the eastside will go on, and adapt, like any place, just like today. Without traffic congestion transit gets very little traction on the eastside. The good news is the eastside is not desperate for East Link to open like West Seattle is desperate for the W. Seattle Bridge to reopen. East Link will largely be redundant with a changing work force.
“I think its impact on the eastside will be muted, no different than transit today”
Even if ridership is no higher than today, it will be a higher-quality trip for passengers. That’s important in itself. It’s the difference between a good transit network and a bad transit network. The quality itself will attract passengers.
You focus on a few specific one-seat rides that will be lost, like Issaquah to downtown or Mercer island to First Hill, but the vast majority of people and trips couldn’t use those anyway. Meanwhile, Line 2 gains a lot of new one-seat rides that no bus ever served or would. And existing 2-seat rides like mine are improved because one seat is more frequent, faster, and goes to more stations.
I agree Mike. I think East Link from Seattle to Redmond will be a very pretty and comfortable ride, across the lake and on the surface through some pretty parts of the eastside. I could see a trip on East Link from downtown Seattle to Redmond being a tourist attraction like taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island.
Ross, what I said is that today very few Islanders are going east on transit, and I am not sure why they would after East Link opens on transit.
That’s nice. I wonder who you said it to.
What you wrote was that “There is virtually no purpose for anyone to go east on East Link from Mercer Island and none want to go west.”
Now you are talking (to someone) about Mercer Island residents. Those are two different things (one is a subset of the other, to be more specific). Not to be rude, but no one is overly concerned about people in Mercer Island and whether they take transit or not. I get how someone in your position would just assume that the world revolves around its residents, and that the only reason to put in a Mercer Island station is to benefit those on the island. I hate to break it to you, but that simply isn’t the case. One of the big benefits of the Mercer Island stop is to enable a better connection from the rest of the I-90 corridor (Eastgate, Issaquah, etc.). Mercer Island ridership is just a bonus.
Of course as I’ve pointed out, around 1,400 people a day used the Mercer Island stop on ST buses. I can only assume that some of these people are actually from Mercer Island. Maybe they are all visitors (who knows?). As Mike pointed out, there are still plenty of riders using the stop now. These are facts, which you are choosing to ignore in your self-centered hyperbole.
Like all transit, it is the combination of uses that make for a productive system. There are people who ride the bus from Mercer Island to Seattle. There are people who ride the bus from Mercer Island to Bellevue. There are people who will ride the train to both destinations, as well as Redmond. Then there are people who take express buses from Issaquah, and they will transfer in Mercer Island. As a result, the stop will get decent ridership.
The decent ridership of this stop will be combined with decent ridership at other stops, forming a decent line. That will be part of an improved transit network.
You were the one who posted MI will see 3000 to 5000 riders on East Link. ST estimated 3000 pre-pandemic which I thought was highly inflated even then.
No, it wasn’t, and I explained why. Just do the math. It really isn’t that hard. I even did it for your. Before the pandemic, there were 1,400 riders on the existing Mercer Island stop (on ST buses). There are around 6,000 people who rode the Issaquah-Seattle buses. Some of those riders never crossed the lake, but most did. Some of those riders will transfer in downtown Bellevue, but many will transfer on Mercer Island. If anything, the 3,000 number is very conservative.
You are doing nothing more than elite-projection. You have no interest in taking the train to downtown Seattle, and you just assume that no one else does. You are comfortable driving to downtown Bellevue and Redmond, and assume everyone would prefer parking there. You don’t work at Microsoft, so you ignore those riders. You live on the island, but don’t see why anyone would visit you, or any of your neighbors, or if they did, why they wouldn’t just drive. You think that the transit trips you used to take are exactly like the trips everyone else took. You’ve stopped taking transit, and believe that others have for the same reason (not much traffic). You ignore the main reason ridership is down (a lingering pandemic). You think Seattle is dying, even though it is merely exhibiting a national trend (from the pandemic). You think that ridership will never rebound because people now work from home forever, even though ridership is slowly increasing. You are basically wasting everyone’s time on this blog because you won’t do the slightest bit of research before making a comment.
Worse yet, you ignore the facts that are raised when others do the work for you! I told you how I got the 3,000 number, and cited my sources. Yet you questioned them as if I pulled them out of a hat. You have no facts to support your case, but just want to blather on some bullshit as if you are an authority. You are intellectually lazy, but seem oblivious to it.
Dude, if you want to make a case, do the damn work! Go ahead, find out how many people who took transit across the lake did so for commuting. Find out what percentage work at home. If you can’t get the exact number, at least come up with a ballpark number. You have repeatedly criticized the 3,000 number as too high, but you are too much of a coward to come up with a number of your own. What is your prediction — 2,000? 1,000? A few hundred? Make your prediction, then in a few years we can see who came closest.
If you believe 1400 Islanders pre-pandemic will become 5000 post pandemic using transit east/west then believe that. That is what ST estimated to sell the levies (actually ST was more conservative than you at 3000). Metro disagreed in the transit restructure but maybe Metro is wrong.
You believe all things must be viewed through the prism of transit, although you are realistic about transit. mode. I just don’t care about mode: let folks use whatever mode they want. I trust them to make the decision that is best for them. I just look at the data.
The pandemic is over on the Eastside. Eastside use of transit (buses) is probably at its new baseline. Who cares? Will East Link suddenly overcome WFH, first/last mile access, lack of safety in Seattle, transfers, slow trip time, dedicated buses and shuttles because eastsiders believe like you that transit is a superior form of transportation based on ideology I don’t know but I doubt it.
But I really don’t know why someone who so viscerally hates suburbia like you do cares. Why do you get so angry about things you can’t influence and can’t possibly know when they don’t affect you? Why do you care about ridership on East Link. Seattle will still get the free use of our trains whether eastsiders are on them or not. Do you really think transit influences anything?
If I were you I would worry about Seattle’s $178 million budget deficit I have predicted for some time and is just the tip of the iceberg. That deficit is the eastsider commuter you believe is coming back.
DT, the pandemic is not over anywhere on the planet, including the Eastside. We are in the middle of the pandemic, where our actions decide if this virus effectively goes extinct or becomes endemic.
The most dangerous words you have ever typed here, the words that made me lose a lot of respect for you were “The truth is the pandemic is over.”
A Joy, maybe I should have written the vast majority of citizens where I live act like the pandemic is over. My words will have little effect on them or those on this blog, who tend to be more concerned about the pandemic and personal infection. Whether the pandemic is “over” or not my point was these folks are doing everything they did pre-pandemic today — including schools — but have not returned to commuting to work, so I am guessing that is permanent, so ridership on East Link will likely be somewhere between pre-pandemic and buses today on the eastside, including on Mercer Island.
Pandemic experts say that a pandemic in a community is over when the public starts acting like it’s over.
It means the public is happy with the death rate, not that the pandemic is over.
Many of the new COVID-19 variants are originating in parts of the globe where access to the vaccine is still rather poor. As this is a global pandemic, the whims of the Eastside, or the entire United States for that matter, are irrelevant. So long as Africa is denied cheap and easy access to vaccines for everybody, the danger is high regardless of death tolls. We have to strike the petri dish, or risk simply accepting COVID-19 as a fact of modern life. Which would be a monumental failure of epidemiology *and* sociology.
Covid is never going away. Like the common flu to which it’s closely related it’s going to be around forever. Only one person I know who’s had Covid wasn’t vaccinated. That was early in the pandemic (before the vaccines) and they died. I know half a dozen people that have tested positive that were fully vaccinated and boosted. Some with mild symptoms and some that were sick as a dog. And speaking of Fido, Covid is endemic in the animal population and the virus can jump between humans and animals. Covid is not like Small Pox which has been essentially eradicated because once vaccinated you can’t be infected. Like the flu we will be getting a reformulated vaccine every 6-12 months but rather than immunity you only have a decreased chance of contracting the disease and likely less severe symptoms if you do.
If you believe 1400 Islanders pre-pandemic will become 5000 post pandemic using transit east/west then believe that. That is what ST estimated to sell the levies (actually ST was more conservative than you at 3000)
NO! Sorry for the caps, but Good God, man, just read what people wrote. The 3,000 or 5,000 number does not all come from people living on the freaking island! Wrap your head around that. Here, I’ll break it out for you. Ridership at the Mercer Island station will consist of:
1) People who live on the island.
2) People who visit the island.
3) People who use the stop as a transfer point.
Based on current ridership, the third is way bigger than the other two. Come on, dude, just read. This is the third time I’ve explained it — do I need to break out the puppets?
You misunderstand ST’s pre-pandemic ridership estimates on Mercer Island Ross.
ST estimated 3000 ISLANDERS (using caps to make it easy to understand) out of 26,000 residents would use East Link when it opens, which was about 40% above pre-pandemic levels.
ST estimated that with the bus intercept — based again on ST’s pre-pandemic ridership estimates — closer to 14,000 daily boardings would occur on MI based on Islanders (3000), the bus intercept (the optimal service configuration would have brought 20 articulated buses to MI from off-Island per peak hour), and the park and ride (453 stalls).
Mercer Island always agreed to the “original/limited bus intercept configuration” that provides for 12 buses per peak hour, which together with Islanders (again 3000 as estimated by ST pre-pandemic) would have resulted in way more than 3000 daily boardings on MI.
In the eastside transit restructure Metro looked at what actual ridership will be on East Link, including from the eastside to Seattle, and went with the “limited” intercept configuration that is 12 buses per hour. However that was not based on full buses to MI; the 12 buses/peak hour is because at this time Metro thinks it must run peak intercept buses at least every 15 minutes (longer from North Bend). Post pandemic my guess is those buses will be half full.
During non-peak hours the number of buses accessing MI going east drops considerably, which is why I think riders will continue to S. Bellevue Park and ride to either catch a bus or to their car. If you lived in N. Bend would you risk getting off on MI and catching a bus that runs every 90 minutes. There isn’t a lot to do on MI for 90 minutes, and the south side bus stop going east is next to I-90 and not all that pleasant.
If ST’s position had been 3000 (or even 5000) daily boardings would occur on MI after East Link opens between Islanders, the bus intercept, and the park and ride, MI would have never litigated, and of course bus drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way would not have been necessary, just like they are not necessary today except for bus layovers (the passengers have to be able to disembark before the driver takes his/her break).
Sure, depending on the bus intercept I could see 3000 or even 5000 daily boardings on MI after East Link opens, which is a lot less than 14,000/day, but to be honest I don’t even see 3000 to 5000 for all boardings based on ridership on buses today and the empty park and ride. For those numbers to be reached after East Link opens eastside commuting into Seattle would have to rebound dramatically from today’s levels (because that is the sole purpose of the bus intercept on MI), and I don’t think it will for many reasons already discussed on this blog.
Will there be 3000 TOTAL boardings going east and west on East Link post pandemic? That is very possible, and completely acceptable by Mercer Island, but represents a tiny fraction of pre-pandemic eastsiders who commuted to downtown Seattle.
The irony is the litigation between ST and Mercer Island over the bus intercept has nothing to do with capacity today. Drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way are not necessary to handle 12 buses/peak hour, especially if half full. The litigation is because MI does not want to be a bus layover area which does require drop offs on the N. side of N. Mercer Way, although if the buses are electric and need charging during a layover (it is a long way to N. Bend) MI does not have that capacity, so the bus layover like the intercept may become obsolete due to the pandemic and ST’s ridiculous ridership estimates.
Or we can wait I suppose until the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line is built. I would be ironic if MI is the stakeholder that demands the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line be built because that is the promise in ST 3 to eliminate MI as the bus intercept for that area, originally in 2041 and now 2041. Imagine MI losing all the litigation, the pandemic making it all moot, and then MI being the stakeholder that insists the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line is built.
Bernie, coronaviruses are never going away, no. But COVID-19? That there was a decent chance of eradicating if we took things seriously. Which we globally and regionally did not. Had contact tracing been implemented earlier, vaccines been more available more quickly, and vaccine adoption more rapid, that would not have been the case. It is a sign of incompetence and regional tribalism that we are not beginning to see the end of COVID-19.
ST estimated 3000 ISLANDERS (using caps to make it easy to understand) out of 26,000 residents would use East Link when it opens
Citation please. I can’t find any report stating that.
For that matter, I can’t find the 3,000 number you keep citing (in any context). What I did find was this: https://letstalk.mercergov.org/Transit-Interchange?tool=qanda#q2381. This puts the ridership at that station at 4,200 which is pretty much exactly what I predicted as well. It clearly states that this includes passengers transferring from buses.
This estimate may decrease because more people transfer at South Bellevue. These numbers were estimates before we had a good idea of what the bus service would be like. This is a process that is in flux. But if people transfer at South Bellevue instead of Mercer Island, it doesn’t necessarily mean a huge drop in the number of people crossing the lake.
As I wrote before, it really doesn’t matter what Mercer Island residents do. They may embrace Link. They may find it distasteful. It really doesn’t matter, because in the grand scheme of things, they represent only a tiny portion of the ridership of that line. The station was not put there primarily to serve them — it was largely added as a connector for the buses. The fact that they even get a station is a huge bonus (for the folks on the island that do ride the train). They just happen to be “on the way”, as Jarrett Walker would put it.
“That is why the 550 — once the highest ridership ST bus — is now half hourly frequencies.”
It was always half hourly Sundays and evenings. The reduction you’re referring to is peak hours, when it went from around 5 minutes to 10 minutes. The 5-minute frequency was extra to avoid overcrowding, not the baseline frequency.
I focus on off-peak frequency because that’s usually the most neglected, and what prevents us from having major all-day ridership like other countries have.
“if you have a long book you want to read then ride transit, when time of trip is probably the number one factor when deciding mode”
Would you like to have all roads reduced to 20 mph, and a gate at the end of all driveways that let a car out only at a certain time every half hour. Reading is a mitigation for a long trip, not a reason to say bus trips don’t need to be any shorter. You’re forcing people to rely on cars because there’s no good alternative. You’re expecting transit riders to put up with things that drivers wouldn’t put up with.
Daniel – from the Let’s Talk Mercer Island site: “Sound Transit has provided the following information about daily boardings (i.e. number of people getting onto light rail) at the Mercer Island Station: “The 2011 FEIS included a projection of 1,500 daily boardings at the Mercer Island station in 2020 and 2,000 daily boardings in 2030. A more recent projection from 2016 included an approximate 4,200 daily boardings for the current year (this is an estimate of the ridership if East Link was operational in 2016 and all ST2 projects were complete). This number does include passengers transferring from buses.”
“How will bus volumes change along North Mercer Way when Link light rail opens?
“Bus volumes from off-island locations will decrease when Link light rail opens. Today, there are over 30 buses per hour serving Mercer Island from off-island locations during peak commuter periods. When Link light rail opens, bus service from off-island locations is anticipated at about 20 buses per hour during peak commuter periods.”
“[Note: FAQ’s not updated after Oct 2020]”
Frank, much of the Let’s Talk site was prepared by ST and is out of date. For example, in the FAQ’s section is the quote above which is obviously out of date after the eastside transit restructure. As quoted above the site’s FAQ section has not been updated since 2020. Also as most may know East Link did not open in 2016.
The 2011 EIS and 2016 projection were before the 2017 settlement agreement and before ST decided to truncate all buses on MI. You certainly would not need 20 buses per peak hour to handle 2000 daily boardings, and MI would not have spent years litigating the intercept over 1500 — 2000 daily boardings, which was the number of Islanders pre-pandemic. IIRC most recently ST (pre-pandemic) estimated 3000 Islander boardings/weekday on East Link. 4200 Islanders in 2016 would have been three times the actual number using buses, and even higher than today. If you add 20 articulated buses per peak hour and I guess 4200 Islander boardings you get closer to 14,000 day if buses are SRO and you include the park and ride, which is what ST used because it wanted to inflate ridership.
The actual ridership on East Link, IMO, will be close to what it is today on buses, including on Mercer Island.
Daniel – you may have missed that the 4,200 boardings includes bus transfers (so not just Islanders). The absolute highest published figure for boardings I have seen for MI Station is in the 2017 FEIS Addendum. That document projects 6,000 total MI Station boardings in 2035 (including transfers, P&R users, and those who arrive by other means). This assumes the optimal “77th Avenue and 80th Avenue Configurations.” With these modifications, total East Link Ridership would rise to about 62,000 boardings in 2035 with full ST2 buildout.
Frank, I am not familiar with a 2017 FEIS addendum. There was one in 2015. In fact ST insisted in the Nov. 2017 settlement agreement that there would be no further EIS or addendums (probably knowing Metro would demand the optimal service agreement that would require drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way).
Re: the 4200 boardings on Mercer Island all I can say is ST is not honest with numbers, whether it is opening dates, ridership estimates, farebox recovery rates, or project costs. Even post pandemic ST clings to that number, although ironically it is much closer to reality post pandemic.
In 2017, pre-settlement, ST “offered” Mercer Island three bus intercept configurations: limited/original (12 buses per peak hour); improved (16 buses per peak hour); and optimal (20 buses per peak hour). MI chose limited/original, and so the settlement agreement prohibits drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way because the south side can handle 12 buses/peak hour for drop offs and pick ups.
However in March (I believe) 2018 Metro told the city council it would need the optimal service configuration (20 articulated buses per peak hour) to meet ST’s ridership estimates. Metro estimated based on the intercept there would be 3000 Islander boardings. MI objected and filed suit.
ST then claimed total boardings on MI under the optimal service configuration would be 4200 per day. Let’s look at that number.
Islanders pre-pandemic made up around 1750 bus passengers (in part due to the poor first/last mile access a new commuter parking garage was going to improve). There is also a 453 stall park and ride that the traffic engineers stated represents 1.2 to 1.5 riders per stall, some from MI (around 47%). So between Islanders, and off-Islanders using the park and ride, figure around 2250 daily boardings on MI on the bus.
Most were peak, and most went to Seattle, like most transit ridership on the eastside, as was expected future ridership on East Link pre-pandemic. This was pre- Metro eastside transit restructure so the 554 was scheduled to truncate on MI too.
So basically, the entire Issaquah/Snoqualmie/North Bend/Sammamish Plateau ridership going to Seattle would truncate on MI. Does it sound reasonable that a total of 1950 riders (4200 minus 2250) out of an area of almost 150,000 residents would take the bus to MI to catch a train to Seattle when ST was estimating all riders from this area would take this route rather than go to S. Bellevue?
ST arrived at this number by manipulating the number of passengers per bus. An articulated bus can hold 65 seated passengers, and around 100-105 SRO, which is what the 550 and 554 and other buses from Issaquah were peak hour pre-pandemic. ST would use figures that excluded standing passengers, basically reducing the number of riders coming to Mercer Island by almost half.
MI’s argument at that time was why run 20 buses per peak hour which required drop offs on the north side of NMW if they are not full. Why not run 12 like originally agreed to.
Metro told the council because the estimated boardings on MI were closer to 10,000 to 14,000 per day, using ST’s East Link ridership estimates. So Metro (which is not keen on running half empty buses during peak hours from Issaquah to MI) told the council 20 articulated peak buses were necessary and would be full. ST claimed that since Metro was not a “party” to the settlement agreement it was not bound by the agreement’s prohibition on drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way.
That is why MI spent the next three years fighting over capacity, because we didn’t see how there would be capacity on East Link on MI, the last station going west, based on 20 articulated SRO buses arriving each peak hour. This was also the period of time during which post tensioning arose, possibly limited trains to 20 mph across the bridge span or two car trains (the hinge issues had been “solved”).
So ST’s 4200 total boarding estimate was low balled to counter MI’s argument that 20 articulated buses per peak hour would overwhelm MI and the station on MI, but ST was still stuck with its inflated ridership estimates of 43,000 to 52,000 total boardings per day on East Link that Metro was working off of.
Then of course the pandemic hit, well after MI and ST had begun another round of litigation.
Ross’s position that — post pandemic — 4200 total boardings on MI including the intercept might be in the ball park is very possible, especially after the eastside transit restructure. 4200 TOTAL daily boardings would be around 2000 from off-Island if the park and ride is full and Islanders using East Link equal buses pre-East Link, and would not need 20 buses per peak hour, or even 12, although Metro states that 12 buses are necessary to meet 15 minute peak bus frequency even if they are not full.
The concerns Islanders had pre-pandemic had to do with having 10,000 off-Islanders coming to the Island, capacity at the station which is quite narrow and 35′ below grade, and just traffic in general when N. Mercer Way is the key east-west arterial on MI from an articulated bus every three minutes going west, taking the roundabout, going east, then onto 80th.
Based on today’s bus ridership, especially cross lake to Seattle, I think 4200 boardings/day on MI is likely high, and the estimates for actual total ridership/boardings on East Link in 2024 will be closer to 25,000 per day.
It hardly makes sense for East Link to have a higher estimate than actual ridership on Northgate Link.
Even if the cross-lake commuter does return I still think many from Issaquah/Snoqualmie/North Bend/Sammamish will drive to the S. Bellevue Park and Ride to catch East Link to avoid a bus and transfer with not great frequency on MI going east, even peak, and Bellevue and Issaquah for that reason will demand some one seat buses like the 630, at least to First Hill or SLU.
Today, all the litigation between MI and ST beginning in 2016 and still ongoing is about bus layovers on the north side of N. Mercer Way, which require drop offs on the north side of N. Mercer Way even though all parties agree that is dangerous because bus passengers will race across N. Mercer Way to access a train that runs at best every 8 minutes (there was a bad car/bike accident at this area yesterday).
I suppose the best irony is ST used the 4200 total boarding figure to low ball the number of riders on the intercept coming to MI, when ST will be lucky to reach 4200 total boardings on MI when East Link opens in 2024, if then. If today’s bus numbers are any indication future boardings on MI on East Link will be probably less than 3000/day, but you can never predict the future.
The 550 is still 10-minute frequencies during peak hours. Combined with the 554 and a few other (peak) buses frequency was around 5 minutes cross lake although the different buses had different routes. In practice however it was not uncommon to have two buses show up together and then wait 10 minutes for another.
With the eastside transit restructure when East Link opens (now around July 2024) the 554 will instead go to Bellevue Way for a one seat ride from Issaquah to Bellevue Way from Main to NE 8th. During peak MI will have four buses accessing it, with a total of 12 buses per peak hour.
However what is not discussed is the number of riders on those buses coming to MI. Originally Metro/ST insisted on the “optimum service configuration” that ST claimed would be necessary to meet estimated ridership. This would be 20 articulated buses per peak hour, with each bus holding 100 riders including standing room, all disembarking on MI at the same time (as opposed to the four you witnessed getting on and off). MI always agreed to 12 buses per peak hour (what ST termed the “original” or “limited” service configuration) because that is the same or fewer number of buses than today. But 20 articulated buses per peak hour standing room only all disembarking at once would overwhelm the city and station (again based on ST’s inflated ridership estimates).
Metro was pretty honest during the restructure, much more than ST. East King Co. is not an easy place to serve with a stretched budget. Metro believes it must run the peak buses to MI at least every 15 minutes (North Bend is longer), but now the thinking is those buses will be half full. If the commuter to Seattle returns I believe some areas like Issaquah will demand one seat buses like the 630, at least to SLU or First Hill, and many will likely just drive to the 1500 stall park and ride at S. Bellevue. So at some point Metro will have to determine whether it is cost effective to run 12 buses per peak hour to MI if they are half full.
For MI this is a relief because the number of buses is the same or fewer, and the number of riders on the bus much lower than standing room only.
On the flip side frequency going east on a bus is so bad from MI during non-peak hours the wait could be very long to catch a bus, which probably means East Link riders going east will continue to S. Bellevue and transfer. Or of course just drive. I think frequency to North Bend is every 90 minutes. Surely anyone taking East Link off-peak to/from Seattle would be better off just driving to the park and ride at S. Bellevue to catch East Link to Seattle, even a MI resident.
“The 550 is still 10-minute frequencies during peak hours.”
That doesn’t help me Sundays or after 7pm.
“Combined with the 554 and a few other (peak) buses frequency was around 5 minutes cross lake”
The 554 doesn’t go anywhere near downtown Bellevue. In the future it will, but also in the future East Link will rectify the Seattle-Bellevue frequency problem.
I’m a bit sick of hearing about high-speed rail in the US. But I get it: the only form of mass transit 99% of Americans ever ride is airplanes. So intercity trips are all they ever think about.
The irony is that not even most intercity trips are made with airplanes. They’re mostly made by car. And are many of these car trips – which are overwhelmingly going from low-density suburb to low-density suburb – going to be made by train instead? Nope.
There is one way that I think high-speed rail could succeed here. Consider that the Amtrak route which has seen the lowest drop in ridership recently is the Auto Train – which not only goes from one low-density suburb to another low-density suburb, but also lets you take your car with. This is how high-speed rail can conquer the airplane.
HSR equipment isn’t heavy enough to carry a bunch of autos. The Auto-Train actually has bi-level auto transporters within the consist. There is no way anything like that could be made “high speed”.
It’s a nice idea, but a “hybrid” HSR/autoveyor train would be a mess.
If I remember correctly, the Auto Train functions more like a “Snowbird Train”. It has a seasonal ridership pattern, as opposed to acting as a commuter/vacation train for the rental car adverse.
Although the article I saw was a long time ago, at least 5-10 years ago.
What would be more useful is rental car facilities at downtown locations convenient to the train station.
It’s a given that airports have them, heck they even built massive facilities to accommodate them.
I remember there used to be a Hertz call-phone at King St Station.
That was definitely a long time ago.
It isn’t HSR but the Chunnel Train hits 100mph (160kph) in the tunnel and a good portion of it’s business is semi trucks.
Bernie, OK, I guess that there are platform cars which can move very quickly, so it might be successful. Driving I-95 is pretty much a congested bore.
Good news. Every other train will turn back at Stadium ($) during tile replacement at Columbia City, so central and north Seattle frequency will be normal. The article also clarifies that “tile” means the yellow strip at the edge of platforms, and the problem is the weather deteriorating the glue. “The new tiles will be 2-by-4-feet, made of polymers instead of porcelain, and fastened using screws.”
This was after “transit riders pounded the agency in social media and public comments [over reducing frequency by half systemwide], while The Urbanist called the plan “Tile-maggedon.” To degrade service sends the wrong message, activists said, now that trains are refilling after the worst of the pandemic. Low frequency would compound public frustration over escalator failures.”
I still think a bus bridge to supplement frequency would be appropriate in the southern half.
The idea that it takes public pressure for ST to change their proposal and reverse half of the trains where a third track was built for reversing trains is still quite a significant agency culture problem. ST should have planned this from the outset. Do they even care about their riders?
And yes ST should meet each reversing train with a replacement bus or two running southward, at least when demand is high.
Finally, they need to apologize for announcing such a stupid, infrequent service scheme at first.
Here’s a suggestion that would have prevented this whole time mess:
Since the whole purpose of the yellow tiles was to be a “visual clue” to stand back, don’t waste money on tiles when you can simply paint the damn concrete yellow!
This is just another example of Sound Transit making stupid, expensive decisions when all you have to do is simple tasks.
What a waste of money. Unbelievable.
I don’t disagree that ST did a shoddy job, but you can’t just paint the concrete yellow. The tactile textured surface is very important for visually-impaired riders.
To expand on Justin’s response, the textured yellow tiles are a standard ADA-fulfilling accessibility feature. They’re everywhere. ST probably went with fancy porcelain textured tiles in 2006 to avoid looking like they “cheaped out” on the Rainier Valley stations. However, the plastic, screwed-in tiles are very common on curb ramps and likely much cheaper to install and eventually replace.
“The idea that it takes public pressure for ST to change their proposal and reverse half of the trains where a third track was built for reversing trains is still quite a significant agency culture problem.”
It’s better than never acknowledging it\, or acknowledging it only after years of pressure. The fact that ST reversed course after a week of listening to riders sounds like a success. It’s one of the few so let’s be glad of it.
Architect Breaks Down 5 of the Most Common New York Apartments
That’s a great video. Thanks for the link.
5 Reasons to never live in NYC.
Thanks for posting this wonderful video. It made me long to go back to spend some time in my orginal hometown, which my spouse and I will be doing later this summer to visit family. I can’t wait as I haven’t been there since going back in early 2020 to lay my brother to rest and sit shiva with the family.
I wish the author had spent some time discussing the various apartment styles in the commercial areas, i.e., the units above the various kinds of small shops, restaurants, bodegas, etc. These are frequently overlooked in such limited discussions, as is the case here with this particular video. With that said, I think it’s still a pretty good primer on the subject matter.
Why are the exposed yellow textured tiles at CID or Stadium different? Or will they need to be replaced next? I heard SODO has or had that problem already.
From what I’ve read, it seems ST’s explanation for the failing tiles is that the exposure to rain and snow (specifically, the freeze-thaw cycle). I’d bet money that at some point, someone working on the station made a note that the tiles would fail with exposure to the elements but some manager said “this is what the design team chose” and figured they’d be working for a different company or retired by the time the tiles failed. It’s been 10 years, so these little maintenance things will continue to pop up as the system ages.
According to what I read in The Seattle Times the adhesive or glue holding the tiles in place deteriorated from the weather.
Of course, the plinths across the I-90 bridge span to hold the elevated rails in place are also being “glued” to the concrete surface since the span cannot tolerate bolts or other fasteners to the concrete.
I hope ST uses a different glue for the plinths that will handle four car light rail trains traveling at 50 mph every 8 minutes than ST used for the tiles.
Daniel, do you remember when the I-90 bridge used to have a bulge, reversible lanes, and an entrance and exit at the west end of the bridge, before the entrance to the tunnel?
“Daniel, do you remember when the I-90 bridge used to have a bulge, reversible lanes, and an entrance and exit at the west end of the bridge, before the entrance to the tunnel?”
Of course I do Sam. My family moved to Mercer Island in 1970. At the time the bulge and that stretch of I-90 was the most dangerous stretch of highway in the country. Folks unfamiliar with the bridge, especially at night, would never expect basically a roundabout in the middle of an interstate highway and would run into the bulge, which had the weird effect of flipping the car towards the lake. Modern freeways, especially interstates, have eliminated head on traffic, which has been very successful in reducing fatal head on collisions. One of life’s initiations was your first trip driving across the bridge and the bulge at age 16.
The current bridge is a very good bridge, especially with post pandemic travel levels. Hopefully the center roadway works for East Link (although complementary forms of transit like buses can’t use it due to the raised plinths and rails if there is an issue with East Link). The restriping from three lanes to four in each direction — which I thought would be dangerous — has worked very well and eliminated a couple of bottlenecks when four lanes would convert to three (a la I-5). Buses do very well with the HOV lanes. Originally there was concern buses would have a difficult time getting to and from the HOV lanes on the inner part of the outer roadways, which was true at first, but with today’s light traffic buses often just stay in the outer lane across the bridge.
The elimination of the entrance/exit going west right before the tunnel (into Leschi) was what Kemper Freeman calls the birth of downtown Bellevue. At the time the number one grossing restaurant in King Co. was Daniel’s in Leschi. Eastsiders thought going out meant going to Seattle, it was a great restaurant, and easy and safe to get to.
The owners of Daniel’s thought he was ruined when that exit/entrance were removed in the new bridge design. Kemper told him to open a restaurant in downtown Bellevue, which the owner of Daniel’s thought was ridiculous because eastsiders don’t go out for a fancy dinner in Bellevue or on the eastside.
The Daniel’s restaurant in downtown Bellevue (along with the Keg in Factoria) became the highest grossing restaurants in King Co., which told eastside business owners how much money was on the eastside, and thatr eastsiders would prefer to stay on the eastside if the retail/restaurant density was there. Today it is, and now large businesses are following because eastside workers would rather not commute to downtown Seattle to work.
I remember they used to call the reversible lanes “suicide lanes”. If I remember right, they had a little arrows where you were supposed to drive, and an “X” where you weren’t. Drivers would get it wrong, and get in a head-on collisions. They eventually fixed that, and they operate more like the I-5 express lanes (with gates).
Another Spring District parcel sold to housing developers. Here’s the ad for the parcel, emphasizing TOD and light rail. It sold to a company that will build 96 townhomes on it.
Cool. Looks like a huge improvement, in every way. I like the nice pedestrian paths everywhere, making it easier to walk through there. One of my big complaints about big developments is that they often lack pedestrian easements, and people are forced to walk around (often long distances).
I shouldn’t have written “in every way”. Obviously it sucks for the retailers to be kicked out. I was thinking more from a physical standpoint. Aesthetically, this will be much nicer. It will be better for people walking through the neighborhood. It will also provide a lot more places for people to live. Overall it is a huge improvement, I just hope that the retailers find good places to move their businesses.
Seattle is divided on single-family zoning. The city is currently asking for public input on this as it updates the Comprehensive Plan. A pro-housing view among the public is growing. I don’t know whether it’s large enough to reverse the policy but it’s getting closer.
In the late 2000s or early 2010s the city switched to council districts. This was pushed by single-family homeowners to get more influence on growth and limit it. But ironically the new district representatives were more permissive on multifamily housing and other variations than their predecessors were. This was most notable in North Seattle, showing that single-family homeowners weren’t as universally against apartments and missing middle housing as they may have been in the past.
Also in the last decade, renters became more than 50% of residents. That’s an inevitable outcome of allowing growth only in multifamily areas.
In the Comprehensive Plan update the city is considering expanding urban villages, planting new urban villages, allowing fourplexes in single-family areas, allowing fourplexes on corridors near frequent transit, or a combination of the above. That’s four alternatives that would increase density, and only one (the status quo) that wouldn’t.
In the 2010s a city commission published the HALA proposal to increase housing supply. It had several provisions including one to abolish single-family zoning.
It’s good to see you finally calling out Rainier Valley’s and Beacon Hill’s exclusionary zoning. (80% of the Rainier Valley is single family homes). Too often you only point the finger at suburban sf neighborhoods. The only thing left I want to see you do is admit Capitol Hill is an exclusionary neighborhood that fights against 30+ story residential towers that First Hill allows.
“ In the late 2000s or early 2010s the city switched to council districts. This was pushed by single-family homeowners to get more influence on growth and limit it.”
I disagree that this was the motivation. I believe Seattle was either 1 or 2 of the most populous cities without district elections. People who have lived in other major cities expect to have neighborhood council people so that they know who to call about complaints. Enough finally moved to Seattle to result in approving the change.
I felt that the full citywide only council elections were controlled by the business community. It costs lots of money to run for office across a large city, and name recognition with advertising and careful PR meant that many that served had a bent towards SFD owners.
In contrast, district elections provides some diversity on Council. I seriously doubt that Sawant would win citywide, for example. In several districts (2, 3, 4 and 7), renting is prominent and may even reflect around 40-60% of the district electorate.
It was sold as a way to slow growth and keep “downtown and big business” from dominating. That’s code for having single-family nimbys dominate instead. I felt like, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The districts were drawn by an anti-urban geography professor. (I had taken one of his classes at UW. He had said, “It would be less expensive to have subsidized taxis going to every house than to have buses.” That was the attitude of Metro’s then-director, who favored carpools over buses, which explains why Metro was so skeletal and long-milk-run based in the 80s.) The districts the professor drew split up multifamily areas to dilute their influence, and joined them to long narrow single-family areas. That was especially prevalent in north Seattle where the districts were north-south, even though similar people live east-west of each other. This was to maximize single-family influence. I’d never lived in a city with districts, but districts make more sense when they’re longstanding distinct units like Brooklyn and Manhattan, not when they’re arbitrary and cut through the middle of similar areas.
And Sawant is hardly an example of good governance or an improvement. She’s intelligent one-on-one and understands the issues, but fails to use it in her rhetoric, grandstanding, and obstructionism. She’d be better if she compromised more and cut the grandstanding. She did do a good job on passing the minimum wage raise though.
The ironic thing is, it was single-family nimbys who spearheaded the restructure so that they would have somebody to complain to to block growth, but after it was established and the district members were seated, it turned out that single-family voters as a whole weren’t as monolithically nimby as the squeaky wheels had claimed. At least not in Seattle in the 2000s, when there was more sympathy for walkability, equity, and the environment even among single-family homeowners than there may have been in the suburbs.
Vanpools have proven to be very cost effective. If they are home to business that takes several cars off the road at peak. They are relatively cheap to operate since Metro doesn’t have to pay an operator or have bus base area. This is pretty much a 100% diversion from private vehicles to “transit” since it’s unlikely these users have bus connections at either end short of using a P&R. If the van goes to a P&R that’s even better since it boosts bus ridership while taking up less $tructured parking. If P&R lots return to 100% capacity Vanpools scale well because you know what the demand will be every day and simple reserve that many spaces. Bonus, there’s 100% fare collection without the racist fare ambassadors.
“ It was sold as a way to slow growth and keep downtown and big business from dominating. That’s code for having single-family nimbys dominate instead. ”
Somehow I have serious doubts that big business interests aren’t also almost exclusively single family homeowners. I don’t see district elections as depredations. Every major American city except Columbus and Portland has them including the ones that transit advocates adore — San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, etc. Columbus will soon implement a hybrid district system where districts choose the two runoff candidates for the general election.
It’s Federal law that district populations must be balanced. There are four proposals to redraw the districts listed here based on the 2020 Census:
The Redistricting Commission is still taking feedback for the next month. Feel free to comment to them!
“Somehow I have serious doubts that big business interests aren’t also almost exclusively single family homeowners.”
“Business interests” meant people pushing for office towers and developing large apartment buildings. They may personally live in an SFH but that’s not the point. The point is that the activists want the towers and apartment buildings stopped.
“It’s Federal law that district populations must be balanced.”
There are ways to gerrymander equal-sized districts.
“Vanpools have proven to be very cost effective. If they are home to business that takes several cars off the road at peak”
They only work when a large number of people are going from the same place to the same place at the same time. In other words, only for large companies. But most people work at small businesses, where there’s one person coming from each direction. Even if they can find other people coming from the same place, they’re often not traveling at the same time or on the same days. And for off-work trips, when I go to Northgate or the Aurboretum, it’s just me or one or two other people, we decide on short notice, and there’s no time to arrange a vanpool and find other people who are going to the same place at the same time we are, and will stay there for the same amount of time. So vanpools can serve only a tiny niche of overall trips, and can’t replace transit.
When Kemper Freeman and that former Metro director spoke at the Eastside Transportation Forum a couple years ago, they said the only major mobility problem was peak-hour commuting, and the solution to that was autonomous vans instead of buses and trains. Off-peak was not a problem because there’s plenty of capacity for cars. So we can just shut down the bus network and everybody can take carpools peak hours and drive off-peak. That completely ignores those who don’t have cars or don’t want to drive, the space those cars take up on the landscape, the impacts on the climate, and how it makes us dependent on autocrats.
They only work when a large number of people are going from the same place to the same place at the same time. That critisim is more valid for bus serve and way more so for light rail. Outside of areas with >3k/mi bus service isn’t practical except for a few that live on fixed routes and don’t mind wasting a bunch of time waiting for transfers. Small companies tend to be clustered in office parks so better advertising and or incentives could make the program more effective. If autonomous vehicles become a reality the more point to point service becomes a reality. It’s a big if and if/when it happens the private sector might fill that niche better than a public transit agency. One thing for certain is increased used of Vanpools would offset what looks like a long term driver shortage. It doesn’t replace bus service but allows bus service to be concentrated to where it’s most effective. There needs to be a multi pronged approach to solving the the post covid world because this is the new normal. Another plus for Vanpools is the possibility of decent contact tracing which is impossible on buses.
“That critisim is more valid for bus serve and way more so for light rail.’
The advantage of buses is you don’t have to coordinate with other people. The bus comes when it’s scheduled, and people take it then. You don’t have to round up the other people or find a van and driver and arrange payment and off-time parking: the bus just comes and you pay the established fare, which is probably much less than a vanpool ride. If the route gets ten or more riders an hour, it’s efficient and cost effective. If it gets only five, it’s still more efficient and cost effective than Uber & Co, and we can consider it a worthwhile public cost. The 11 works well when I go to the Arboretum, although I think it should run every 15 minutes instead of every 20-30 minutes.
“If autonomous vehicles become a reality the more point to point service becomes a reality.”
Yes, it’s easier with autocars. What the Kemper Freemans don’t understand is a quarter or half the cost of a bus is the driver, and if you replace buses with carpools or Ubers the number of drivers doubles or quadruples.
You’re right that vanpools take several cars off the road, and they’re often long-distance trips that wouldn’t have a bus route, like Silverdale to Harborview or UW, or Crossroads to Everett. But the total number of people who can take a carpool is small, so it can’t take many cars off the road or be any more than a niche.
I agree with Mike. Of course “politics makes strange bedfellows”, but the organization pushing for districts was made up of anti-urbanists (for want of a better phrase). Most of the financial backing for the proposition came from Faye Garneau (source: https://ballotpedia.org/Seattle_City_Council_Districts_Proposition,_Charter_Amendment_No._19_(November_2013)). Some articles about Garneau:
The biggest proponent of the districts proposal was one of the biggest opponents to urbanism. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Districts often penalize urban areas. We see this with the House of Representatives. Even without gerrymandering, there is a natural advantage for the right. Urban areas tend to vote for left wing causes at very high numbers, allowing them to be “packed”. Packing is a common form of gerrymandering (here is a great example: https://www.wiscontext.org/packing-cracking-and-art-gerrymandering-around-milwaukee) but in the case of urbanism, it is natural packing. It is a fairly well known and simple situation, and as it turns out, there is a book about it (https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/jonathan-a-rodden/why-cities-lose/9781541644250/).
Districts in the city were definitely intended to do the same thing: give anti-urbanists more power. Apartment dwellers tend to be more mobile. You move to a different apartment, and when it comes time to vote, you have no experience with the incumbent. This is really the heart of the strategy — give representatives an incentive to avoid urbanism. By keeping the neighborhoods the same, you can establish a relationship with these home owners. If your district is mostly apartments, the voters may not be familiar with you.
There are other ramifications. Districts that add more people than average will shrink. This could mean that a representative is pushed out of their district, making it tougher for them to keep their job. Even if the lines are drawn to keep their home, they may lose the connection to people they have helped in the past. You might “bring home the bacon” (e. g. have a new community center added in your district) only to see that district shifted elsewhere. As a result of all of this — and just the nature of districts themselves — NIMBY opposition becomes easier. NIMBY opposition becomes opposition in general, and the city doesn’t change (or changes very slowly).
This is exactly what proponents of this measure had in mind.
Oh, and if proponents of districts were really just trying to improve our representative democracy, why focus on districts? The first thing to do is get rid of odd-year elections. There is nothing more fundamental to a democracy than voting, and odd-year elections suppress voting.
The second thing we could do is implement some form of second-choice voting (something that proponents are pushing for right now). This gets more complicated, but the goal is better representation (by electing consensus candidates). They were never focused on any of that, because that wasn’t their goal. Their goal was to give home owners extra power, and slow (or eliminate) the transition from single-family housing to apartments.
I felt that the full citywide only council elections were controlled by the business community.
So you think that Teresa Mosqueda is in the pocket of big business? Sorry, but that is ridiculous. She is probably the most-feared, most-hated politician by big business. They aren’t afraid of Sawant, because Sawant is a demagogue. She accomplishes very little, and at best is merely a firebrand. Big deal; with all due respect, those folks are a dime a dozen. It takes real work and real skill to build a consensus and actually implement legislation. This is scary to big businesses in Seattle: https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/the-case-for-employee-hours-tax/. This is not: https://www.seattle.gov/council/meet-the-council/kshama-sawant/tax-amazon.
Bellevue has city wide council positions and it works just fine. My concern with districts is it creates Balkanization. That said, Bellevue is much more homogeneous than Seattle. The student profile and performance is pretty even across the district. East Bellevue has it’s own special representation and they are never focused on what’s good for the City as a whole. Seattle was created by the merger of several cities and there are distinct differences between Capitol Hill, West Seattle and Ballard. Although getting less so with gentrification I can understand why smaller populations felt their voice wasn’t being heard. Also, it’s generally less expensive to run in a district than city wide which takes away some of the clout of big business. Although they can still target key seats and outspend an opponent it’s easier for said opponent to get their side of the story across to a smaller audience; especially if they have cred as a community organizer/activist/etc.
Every major American city except Columbus and Portland
The key word in that sentence is “American”. The United States is a not very good democracy. By some rankings, we are a “Deficient Democracy”, just barely missing out on being a “Working Democracy” (https://www.democracymatrix.com/ranking). If you look at the ranking, the Scandinavian countries come out on top. If I’m not mistaken, not a single one of those countries has districts like Seattle. They elect their candidates at-large, through a complicated party-based, proportional-representation system. (If someone here is an expert on Scandinavian voting, please correct me, or bring further insight).
The point is, just because a lot of American cities do this, doesn’t mean it is good. We don’t have a good record on health care, policing, or transit for that matter. Other than higher education, we suck, despite having lots of highly qualified, very creative people, a ton of wealth, and great natural advantages. Sorry for the digression, but my point is that electing people by districts has many flaws:
1) You limit the number of good candidates. The odds that the best candidates for higher office are equally spread out between the districts is very low.
2) You increase the chances of gerrymandering, as well as what I call “natural gerrymandering”. I made reference to that above, but you can see how that can easily happen in Seattle. Imagine if 55% of the city lives in apartments, and want to see the number of apartments go up. 45% live in houses, and want the opposite. With at-large elections, it is unlikely that apartment dwellers get less than half the seats (no matter how you choose the representatives). With districts it is common. If a couple of the districts are overwhelmingly apartments, then people living in single-family houses would have a solid majority of the seats.
3) Redistricting causes unnecessary churn. Council members can be pushed out of their position, or forced to compete against other existing members.
4) Districts can become fiefdoms, with representatives only interested only in what benefits their local area. This increases the chances that policy is based on political swaps, not what is best for the city.
I’m not saying what we had before is great (it wasn’t) but neither is what we have now. In my opinion, it is worse.
I can’t say what’s right for Seattle or if the Districts are better or worse than before. My observation is that the City Council has become more radical and less “main stream”. What’s “good for the City” might not be so good for some neighborhoods. Gentrification being the big issue. I can say for the reasons Ross listed, except one, I’m glad Bellevue has city wide members. The exception is “unnecessary churn”. For years it was impossible to unseat an incumbent and some members were clearly living in the past or had no clue about the future. But we got a lot of retail and office space that keeps the City coffers full.
You guys are lashing out about district elections with surreal reasons.
1. Most people want to know their district rep when they have something remedy to seek and not theoretical Urbanist policy. Who do you call if the police lets a camper person throw garbage on the street? What about that signal that doesn’t work? What about that unpatrolled playground that has needles in it? City departments can take months and sometimes years to fix things. (This week, several signals on MLK are making Link trains stop for phantom pedestrians or side street cars in several locations. SDOT has let this go for months!) I know from living in other cities that copying a district rep gets action much quicker!
2. If districts are so bad, why were densities lower when there were all citywide council members? Seattle’s density policy has not gotten worse since district elections began. The problems with single family neighborhoods are traceable to citywide elections.
I think you guys just want to have more candidates on your ballot. Most modern transit friendly cities have districts including Tokyo, London and Toronto as well as 95 percent of major American cities. It’s just what big cities do!
I don’t see anyone “lashing out”. RossB has professed a preference for City wide seats. He’s pointed out some the things that can happen with district rather than city wide seats. Some of the points he makes reflect his values and are a “feature” for those that favor districts. There is a bias on this blog for density uber alles and SF homes are vilified. Mayor Harrell countered in his election bid that the ownership of a home is the number one way to create generational wealth which is disappearing with gentrification and large swaths of traditionally minority neighborhoods being gobbled up by apartments that require a developer/owner with deep pockets. Density isn’t happening in Laurahurst or Montlake that are walking distance to UW. It’s wiping out traditionally minority areas where land is (relatively) cheap. But yeah, with city wide seats I can see where it’s easier to push though density that creates more housing for those that can afford it. The kicker is, poor people get screwed… but that’s the American way and people at the margin of society are risking their lives to get here any way they can.
I’m glad Bellevue retains city wide seats. Although you don’t have a go to guy/gal it’s easy for neighborhood associations (Bridle Trails has a strong one) to get the attention of multiple people on the council. People that favor district seats would say that’s a problem because Bridle Trails with a high number of lawyers and politically active citizens punches above it’s weight class. According to the official City neighborhood maps Bridle Trails has a good number of multifamily dwellings. However, being active in the association I know their representation is non-existent. They’re welcome, they just don’t care.
Which brings me to the point of eliminating off year elections. With mail in ballots its really not disenfranchising anybody. Would you get more votes if it were on up year ballots. Yeah, duh, but who are those voters. Their the uninformed ones that don’t care diddly about local politics. In an off year election you have the ability to focus the voters on local issues. More so with district elections (grassroots)… pros & cons. One plus is it’s cheaper. On the flip side, your not keeping that well oiled political machine operational. People that only have a job to do every two years probably aren’t going to be as on the ball as those that get to rinse and repeat every year.
Most people want to know their district rep when they have something remedy to seek and not theoretical Urbanist policy
Yes! Absolutely. That is my point. When that happens, there is a political advantage for the representative to be in a district that is made-up of single-family houses that haven’t changed since they’ve been elected. There are a couple reasons for this:
1) People in houses are less likely to move. It behooves the rep to favor those that aren’t going to move into another district.
2) If your district doesn’t add people, then it adds land. This means that every person you helped who hasn’t moved (i. e. the vast majority of people in houses) is going to remember you, and support you.
If districts are so bad, why were densities lower when there were all citywide council members?
Come on, Al. The council only has so much power. The main reason density has increased in Seattle is because Amazon decided to locate here. It is also why housing is so damn expensive. The supply has increased, but demand has increased even more. By the way, Bellevue has seen a huge increase in density; it has at-large elections.
Seattle’s density policy has not gotten worse since district elections began. The problems with single family neighborhoods are traceable to citywide elections.
You could say that about just about anything. Since it is pride week, how about we talk about that. Clearly things haven’t gotten worse over the last 20 years. But things aren’t nearly as good as they should be. Until a couple years ago, people could be fired in about half the country for being a sexual minority. In a lot of states, it is perfectly legal to refuse service to homosexuals in public accommodations, like restaurants, theaters and other businesses. You can trace these oppressive policies as far back as you want.
You are missing the point that Mike made, despite his explanation. First, districts were clearly designed to favor anti-urbanists. Second, they have had a mixed result. As with other issues, we are making progress, just not nearly as fast as we should be. Maybe this is because of districts, or maybe it is just the nature of politics. But that is a different issue. Neither Mike nor I are claiming that districts have created, or are now causing the conservative nature of the council when it comes to zoning. What we are claiming is that districts were designed to do so.
In that sense, it is like Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Donald Trump didn’t put Neil Gorsuch on the bench so that he could rule in favor of LGBTQ rights. But the tide has turned. An interpretation of a law written in 1964 that would have been hard to imagine 40 years ago is considered sensible in this day and age. But we still have a long ways to go.
“Bellevue has city wide council positions and it works just fine.”
Um, Bellevue is a lot smaller than Seattle. Bellevue is about the size of one Seattle district.
I don’t feel strongly either way about Seattle district. I didn’t think it was necessary to split the city up, but they haven’t been that bad. I’m not happy with my current representative, Kshama Sawant, but I don’t blame the district system for that. It’s just a fact that District 3 has a majority of leftists, and it will be hard to replace Sawant with a moderate rep. But she’s only one person on the council, not the majority.
As to going to your district member for a problem, I’ve never had occasion to. If I were concerned about trash or the street configuration, I’d complain to SDOT or the sanitation department or all the councilmembers.
“In the 2010s a city commission published the HALA proposal to increase housing supply. It had several provisions including one to abolish single-family zoning.”
Somehow I didn’t finish this. Mayor Murray rejected this item thinking it wouldn’t have enough support and might hinder his reelection chances, but he accepted and pursued the other items even though it was the same people opposing those. So round 1 of abolishing single-family-only zones failed, and future rounds may fail too. But it shows that even among the city council and a substantial chunk of voters then, there was support for it. Since then that support would only have grown, not shrunk.
Agreed. HALA was a compromise hammered out by various groups. They came up with a set of moderate proposals, that was then watered down heavily by the mayor. The mayor basically ignored the recommendations of his own committee. Another reason he was a terrible mayor.
I also agree that the tide has turned, and more people than ever support changing the zoning to allow more density. Reaching a consensus as to what that would look like is a different matter. Perhaps we need another round of HALA, with the hope that this time the mayor would actually agree to its findings.
“It doesn’t replace bus service but allows bus service to be concentrated to where it’s most effective.”
We don’t have a problem of too many ineffective bus routes, especially after the many restructures in the past twenty years. We have a problem of too little bus service and underserved corridors, where there’s latent ridership demand according to the fundamentals but no bus service for it, or too limited bus service like the 11 that makes transit unattractive.
And saving operations budget with Vanpooling addresses the issue of too little bus service. 10 people an hour doesn’t cut it. That’s $30 in revenue that doesn’t cover even half the cost of the operator; the operator that isn’t there so you don’t catch the bus “on schedule”. And if you do, outside of core areas you’re looking at long transfer times so you schedule your life around the bus. Again, Vanpools are a tool that lets Metro concentrate limited resources where they are most effective. You seem to be looking at this like “cost is no object” when in fact peanut butter service is what leads to the death spiral. I don’t know what the subside is for Vanpools. I’m sure it’s not zero. But the cost is determined by distance (distance based fares, what a concept) and the size of vehicle used. Vehicles range from a Prius to a 12 passenger van (IIRC, the largest you can drive w/o a CDL). So no, you don’t need large numbers going to from the same place; in fact the opposite. The monthly cost includes fuel so that is less per mile with the Prius than the 12 passenger van. Of course you divide the cost by more people with the larger vehicle. It’s a supplement that helps improve bus service vs running empty buses all over the east side. Had a good look inside a 249 last week during peak. Zero riders where back when I used it there were on average ~10 people at that point in the route. Why are you so opposed to something that provides incremental help. It’s sort of like the all or nothing approach that’s stymied gun control until this latest compromise.
Which vanpopl do I catch if I’m a few minutes late?
When does the next available come by?
I’m pretty sure that unlike a bus the Vanpool will give you a few minutes grace as long as you don’t make a habit of it. Can you call your bus driver and tell him your running a few minutes late? Next bus on the Eastside is likely a 1/2 hour. And when you’re not at your stop 5 min early and the bus is you wait. and if the next bus is late because it had to pick up all the riders missed by the first bus that ran early you miss your transfer and wait another 15-30 minutes. Been there, done that.
But your argument is aimed at Vanpools being a replacement for regular routes which I’ve made clear they are not. Most people that use Vanpools are switching from drive alone. Right, you read that part? It’s not taking riders from the bus it’s reducing the number of SOVs and creating new ridership. And if they go to a P&R they are, if not new bus riders, at least taking up far less parking spaces.
Which just makes the point that vanpools are a niche mode, as are carpools. They are inherently inflexible.
You miss the meeting time, there is NO NEXT VANPOOL.
There is NO ALTERNATE ROUTE as a work-around.
Driving yourself is the only option.
I want to know how many who think van/carpooling is the answer have actually commuted that way.
Why…. Let us ask Kemper Freeman !!!
He is a transportation expert after all.
What exactly do you mean by vanpool in a non-Boeing-commuter context? Are you looking at the size of the vehicle, being non-scheduled, going to where buses don’t, or trips oblique to the transit network?
If you must mean small vans would be better on low-volume bus routes, I agree, but I assume Metro is properly sizing the vehicles to the load. We don’t see the spikes when we’re not riding, and it’s not necessary to double up in seats or have standees to be efficient, and doubling up became even more undesirable in the pandemic.
If it’s the non-scheduled nature and arbitrary point-to-point trips, and not a full van booked hours in advance or once a day, how is it different from Uber and other demand-response taxis?
I assumed by vanpool you meant something like Metro’s vanpool program, where a group of people agree to ride together on a certain trip, repeatedly like once a day, one person volunteers to drive and gets the van, everyone pays the established fee, and the driver gets a discount. But that doesn’t scale down to one-person ad hoc trips, non-repeated trips, etc. So I don’t see how you could apply it to converting existing Metro routes. Metro also has other programs like semi-fixed routes (with dial-a-ride areas), non-Metro-operated routes (the Snoqualmie Valley Shuttle), and demand-response areas (Via, Ride 2, Crossroads Connect). So what exactly are you talking about?
vanpools are a niche mode, as are carpools.
Duh? That’s exactly what I’ve been saying… repeatedly.
I assumed by vanpool you meant something like Metro’s vanpool program
No, not “something like”; I’m talk specifically about Metro’s Vanpool program. Note that I have capitalized Vanpool. It’s been a successful program in reducing SOV trips and is an economical way to serve areas where there isn’t the demand for regular routes to be viable. Metro has a driver shortage. Vanpools reduce SOV trips without that constraint. The crap about “what if I miss my ride” is just that. Do you expect a bus to roll by your house in the Issaquah Highlands every 15 minutes? Even most of Bellevue isn’t within walking distance of regular service. “Yeah, but you can drive to a P&R.” There’s you answer to what if the dog ate my homework I miss my ride. Most people drive on occasion because they have a Dr. appt, need to work late, etc.
You are aware of how a vanpool is set up, aren’t you?
It’s not operated like a bus.
People JOIN a vanpool.
The “(dog ate my homework) What if I miss the departure time for my vanpool? ” issue is a specific deterrent for commuters not joining and continuing to drive alone.
How many people here actually vanpool?
If vanpooling is the answer to congestion, and now skyrocketing gas prices, then everyone would already be doing it.
“It’s been a successful program in reducing SOV trips and is an economical way to serve areas where there isn’t the demand for regular routes to be viable.”
Only if you and several neighbors are all going to the same large institution at the same time. It doesn’t work for non-large companies, or when you’re the only employee in your neighborhood, or for non-work trips. In other words, it doesn’t work for 98% of total trips. It works for those who are currently using it, and not much more.
“Do you expect a bus to roll by your house in the Issaquah Highlands every 15 minutes?”
I expect it to serve the Issaquah Highlands P&R every 15 minutes. All houses are within walking distance of that, because that was the point of the new urbanist design.
“Even most of Bellevue isn’t within walking distance of regular service. ”
I also expect buses on most of Bellevue’s arterials every 15 minutes. Maybe not on West Lake Sammamish Parkway, which is ultra low density. But only a few people live there. And Somerset Hill is a basket case, and Phantom Lake is a maze. But there are no existing Metro routes there to delete, so nothing to cut.
Are you saying some Bellevue routes should be deleted? Which ones? I thought I’d be the only one on the 226, but there’s usually at least three and sometimes seven in the short mile I’m on it.
The 250 is surprisingly less, much less than either the 226 or the B. Sometimes I am the only person on it or there’s one other. I guess people don’t ride from Bellevue to Kirkland, and Kirkland may have few riders too. That may be what you’re bemoaning so much. But that’s a Kirkland problem, not a Bellevue problem.
asdf2, how do you see Kirkland’s ridership?
@Jim Cusick, As you correctly point out; people join a Vanpool. Nobody is forcing you too. I’ve not suggested it will replace existing fixed routes. They are a cost effective solution to reducing VMT. By acting as a “clearing house” Metro is able make car pooling more attractive. Where I previously worked one person drove a Vanpool from Monroe into Kirkland. None of the other people in that Vanpool worked where we did but because they’d signed up with Metro as interested they were able to form the group. There’s really no down side. If you don’t like it don’t use it, simple.
“I’ve not suggested it will replace existing fixed routes.”
You said, “It doesn’t replace bus service but allows bus service to be concentrated to where it’s most effective.” And, “Outside of areas with >3k/mi bus service isn’t practical except for a few that live on fixed routes and don’t mind wasting a bunch of time waiting for transfers.”
That’s what I was complaining about. It implies Metro has too much coverage service that should be contracted and replaced with vanpools. If so, where? Metro’s many restructures over the past twenty years have generally consolidated service more toward frequent corridors (e.g., B), matched similar ridership segments together so it could adjust bus size and frequency (e.g., 249), or joined a potential growth segment to a strong segment (e.g., 62), withdrawn service (northeast West Lake Sammamish Parkway and far northeast 24th), or converted to lower-cost alternative modes (Fall City).
If you’re simply saying that vanpools are good at what they do, yes they are, and nobody is suggesting to eliminate them. But what they do is very limited, and they’ve already reached their saturation point. If you’re saying that some areas don’t deserve bus service or have too much service, which routes are we talking about? We may agree or disagree on certain ones, but I wouldn’t make a blanket statement because Metro has already made a lot of strides and is continuing to do so. There must be some all-day route between Bellevue and Kirkland, and Kirkland and Bothell. If should be at least half-hourly, or better every 15 minutes, and it will inevitably go through McMansion Land where ridership is lowest, but it’s still needed for an effective transit network, because Bellevue and Kirkland are two of the Eastside’s largest cities.
People using Metro’s Vanpool likely don’t live close enough to regular service and Metro needs to downsize so there is zero chance these areas will ever get coverage routes. Metro is downsizing or rightsizing since post Covid there is less peak demand, revenue is down and they can’t hire enough drivers. The 2020 System Evaluation talks about “Flexible Services”. Mercer Island Route 630 appears to be the clear winner in the Pilot Services. More like the 630 and less of the <10 riders per day please. Same for the fixed routes. Look at all the Suburban routes that have <10 riders per hour as a place to redeploy resources to core routes that are currently suffering random trip cancellations. Enumclaw (186), North Bend (208) and Duvall (224) were routes I questioned just looking at the map before checking the numbers. Sure enough, they're pathetic.
Vanpools definitely have their place. They work well in low density areas, which means much of America. They are relatively cheap to operate, because you aren’t paying the driver. I’m not sure what the cost per rider subsidy works out to, but my guess is it is pretty low.
That being said, I don’t think it would make much of a dent in the driver shortage, or deal with the bigger problems when we finally solve that shortage (which is basically Mike’s point). Vanpools can replace the worst performing peak-only service, and that is about it. For the most part, those runs are suspended anyway (and even some pretty good express service remains suspended). As mentioned (by everyone on this thread) it is a niche service. Vanpools by their very definition are small. If you can fill a bus during rush hour, it is probably a better option to do so. It might be hard to find a place to park the van. The bus might be part of a “spine”, combining frequency on an area with more riders. Most express service runs several times during the day, even if it runs only peak-direction, giving riders a wider range of options.
One exception I’ve noticed is Community Transit. They seem to have a fair number of buses that run once or twice a day. It makes sense to replace these with vanpools. It is quite likely they tried. Community Transit has a very extensive vanpool program, and it makes up a significant portion of the ridership (8% as of 2018). This makes sense given overall ridership, travel patterns and car usage in Snohomish County.
It’s hard to find data on the KC Metro Vanpool program. I’ve searched for the rider subsidy and can’t find it (one frequent poster has access to super secret government databases at the Firm ;-). The cost is calculated based on distance and the size of vehicle provided. They make it sound like this is break even cost. But Metro has admin and advertising which probably aren’t factored in. King County employees also get (or did in 1999) a full employer reimbursement but that’s different than transit dollars.
From Houston Metro:
One vanpool has the potential of preventing up to 65.9 tons of CO2 per year from polluting our region’s environment. (Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency)
If 8% of CT ridership is vanpools that’s pretty significant. KC Metro won’t match that percentage but may have close to the same total number. Again, stats are hard to find. Vanpools adapt better to WFH. If everyone agrees to one day they don’t run the rest can pick a day off of their choice and it still pencils out. You can’t just flip peak fixed service from Mon-Fri to Mon-Thur.
Fixed routes are going to have to be cut. It’s not that Metro wants to replace them with Vanpools but they just can’t keep running commuter buses from Enumclaw, North Bend and Duval. A Vanpool likely shortens your commute and may allow a household to get rid of one automobile which is a huge savings. The cost of the Vanpool would be more than paid for.
If peak ridership recovers to where major P&Rs are at 100% then Metro should encourage Vanpools by providing reserved parking. Not adding more parking (especially structured parking) is a huge saving for Metro. Pay to park seems to have a stigma that prevents it from becoming a reality. But if people know they can have a parking spot and not have to get there by 6:30AM you’d see a lot of people signing up.
Vanpools are a gateway drug. Most people that sign up don’t ride the bus and maybe never have used public transit. If they see this working they might be tempted to use light rail to go to a sporting event or concert. Empty nesters down size and with a positive experience may decide to move to a transit enhanced area.
Saw this piece yesterday and thought I’d share with the gang here as I found it rather interesting and relevant to the discussions on this blog. A new TOD model from our neighbors just over the border.
Very relevant, thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, it is in direct conflict with our current regional and state policy of using Sound Transit real property (and therefore ST’s ROW capital budget) as a subsidy for permanently affordable housing. I don’t see ST ever generating a material profit from real estate*, at best market rate housing revenues will be recycled into denser/large mixed-income development, which will produce better ridership & fare revenue.
*structured parking may be the lone exception … probably still not a technical profit, but with the capex mostly a sunk cost, market-rate parking revenues could still be a robust source of net revenue in the future.
I don’t think it’s legal for a transit agency to build real estate and lease it out or operate a retail business. That has always been the argument against the Japanese model, where the transit agency builds a shopping mall at the station and uses the profits to defray the costs of transit. The former property owners would also be annoyed at being expropriated for a non-transit purpose. So ST has to sell the property in a timely manner when it no longer needs it for right of way or construction staging.
Originally it sold to the highest bidder, to minimize its tax needs. Now under a new law (advocated by ST), it first tries to donate the land to an affordable-housing entity who can build and own affordable housing (or resell it as price-restricted condos). This is unfortunate for transit finances and some people’s opinion of ST, but it does address the region’s most critical need of more affordable housing, which the politicians are hardly willing to address any other way. So I’m ambivalent about it.
Of course, the county or city could own the housing on behalf of ST. But they’ve been unwilling to tax that much for housing.
Canada has a much more nuanced view of the interface between the private and public economies.
A 1988 Metro system map shows three different bus routes used to travel on the road in front of where I now live in Kirkland. Back then, it used to be a one-seat ride to downtown Seattle.
A 2022 Metro system map shows zero bus routes on the same stretch of road. There’s now just one route a block away. And it’s now a three-seat ride to downtown Seattle.
I’m not saying my neighborhood doesn’t currently have the appropriate level of service it deserves for its density and public transit use. All I’m saying is bus service hasn’t gotten better in the last 34 years.
“Back then” everything was a one seat ride to DT Seattle. Metro had virtually all eastside routes set up as a “star” or “hub & spoke” where if you wanted to go from Kirkland to anywhere it was via DT Seattle. Some bus service is better, like Redmond/Crossroads/DT Bellevue. Where it’s lacking is largely because not everyone works in DT Seattle anymore and scattered demand makes decent service uneconomical. There used to be a bus five minutes walk from my house that went, you guessed it… DT Seattle. Now it’s a 15 minute walk and if I want to go anywhere other than DT Bellevue it’s a transfer and an hour commute vs 15-20min driving. As the eastside has gotten richer there’s just less people interest in taking the bus. Safety concerns and erratic service take a big bite when the population by and large has the choice of driving and/or working from home.
And of course I’m not saying bus service for everyone, everywhere has gotten worse. I’m just making an observation about my hood. Other areas where I notice bus routes used to be, but are no longer … 100th ave on the west side of Bellevue Square. Evergreen Point Rd. The southern half of Juanita Dr. West Mercer Way. 132nd next to Bridle Trails. But, I would imagine some of those routes were either subcontracted or peak-only service.
That’s an interesting map from 1988. The house was in the family then but we had just bought our first home out in Woodinville and had been in Lake City since the early 80’s. The only Metro buses I remember ever seeing on 132/134th was the purchased service that BSD used for HS students (800 routes IIRC). The map shows the 262 in blue (Rush Hour Limited Service). It’s not the “school bus” because it turns west on Northup rather than going to Bellevue or Sammamish and the International School. There was a bus that went over NE 24th for some years that my brother-in-law and a neighbor used to commute directly to DT Seattle. The 262 went to S. Kirkland P&R which makes sense because from there you’ve got decent connections to Bellevue, Kirkland & Seattle. The current Metro 895 appears to be special service to Lk WA HS. But more than half of the route goes from Overlake P&R down to Lk Sammamish Pkwy and then “doubles back” on 40th to 148th. All of that is Bellevue School District. It makes a loop of the MSFT campus so my guess is it’s a coverage tail to make the shift minimum for the driver. It would have been very helpful if BSD service to the HS had been open to general ridership.
Yep, that’s the network I rode throughout junior high, high school, and college. The 255 went from Kingsgate to Kirkland and Seattle. The 235 went from Totem Lake to Kirkland, Bellevue, Beaux Arts, three stops on Mercer Island, and Seattle. There were several peak expresses: 3/4 of Metro’s routes were peak expresses to downtown. So if you’re referring to a local route, yes, it went downtown, but it took a long time to get there, and it only ran once an hour.
That map has a 230 instead of 235, so that indicates the 550 had started. The 230 went to Bellevue and was through-routed with the 231 to Crossroads, Overlake, and Redmond. So they were like the current 250+B. If you had a one-seat all-day ride to downtown then, it must have been the 255. That means you’re on the same route as Oran was in the early 2010s.
My mom’s biggest complaint about Metro was losing the 230+231. “I could take it one way to Kirkland and Evergreen Hospital, or the other way to Crossroads, Overlake, and Redmond. It was so nice to have so many destinations on one route.”
One thing I’m concerned about is that in the proposed East Link restructure, the neighborhood I grew up in will lose all bus service. It’s near where Northup crosses 8th east of Crossroads. Metro suggests having Crossroads Connect serve it instead. That means only people with the smartphone app can get transit, and they’d have to use it every time they go to/from the area. I’m glad it wasn’t like that when I lived there in the 70s and early 80s. The bus was hourly but at least it was a regularly-scheduled bus. But Bernie is probably smiling because it’s closer to his vanpool vision.
The 251 and 254 travelled on Lake Washington Blvd in Kirkland, and both went downtown. The 251 was regular service, and the 254 was peak service, according to the 1988 map. It says the 230 also travelled on LW Blvd.
Today the 250 take Lakeview Dr part of the way to and from the Kirkland TC. Back then, the 230, 251, and 254 didn’t use Lakeview Dr. They stayed on LW Blvd all the way to dt Kirkland. The only buses that do that these days are buses on snow route.
I didn’t know the 251 went downtown or I forgot. The 251 and 254 were the Kirkland-Redmond routes. But I never went to Kirkland a lot. Lakeview Blvd is just a variation, so I don’t consider it significant. The 230 was for the most part the successor to the 235 on Lake Washington Blvd, NE 85th Street, and 132nd Ave NE. Then around 2010 it was renumbered back to 235, and now 250. This series of routes was on north Bellevue Way, but was moved to 116th after the hospital district grew. And when the 250 joined it to the Bellevue-Redmond service, that was moved from 70th and 80th to 85th, where I thought it should have been all along.
I liked the Lake Washington Blvd routing because of the view, but it got heavy traffic congestion so Metro wanted to get the buses off it.
Here’s an anecdote for you. In the early 80s I was living on north Bellevue Way at 29th. One Memorial Day I was in Kirkland and wanted to go to the U-District. I took the 255, and was the only one on the bus. Downtown I transferred to the 71/72/73X, and it was articulated and standing room only.
That’s a metaphor for Eastside vs Seattle ridership.
Now I’m confused. The 550 didn’t start until the late 90s, so ten years after that map if it’s really 1988. And it shows the 226 on I-90 but not the 235. I was at UW then and living in the dorms, so maybe the 235 was deleted and the 226 truncated before the 550 started. I don’t know why that would be; there may have been another Bellevue restructure while I was in college. It was still before the DSTT so it can’t be that restructure.
It says 1988 along one of the edges of the map. It took a fair bit of zooming and panning to find it. The 249 was on Bel-Red but then detoured out NE 24th to Lk Sam Pkwy. Group Health is listed on the map. I don’t think the low income house existed at Overlake P&R. Sears is also listed but not Fred Meyer so maybe that came in the 90s? MSFT wasn’t the dominant land holder it is today but was clearly growing. It must have been some time between 1980 and 1988 that 520 was extended past 148th. The more things change the more they stay the same ;-)
Right, the 226 was on 8th (Seattle-Bellevue-Overlake), the 249 on Bel-Red (Bellevue-Redmond), and there was no all-day service on Northup Way. When the B started, the 226 was kicked north to Bel-Red, and the 249 north to Northup. That confused me for years because I was used to the 249 being on Bel-Red. But two years ago I started riding the 226 again, and now that I experience it on Bel-Red I remember it.
The Fred Meyer lot was White Front in the early 70s, then Valu Mart, then Leslies, then Fred Meyer. All of them were discount department stores. I don’t remember when Fred Meyer came, but it was smaller than it is now, so Sears was still the big one.
Group Health was there in the early 80s and maybe late 70s. When I was in high school (1984), a woman at my church lived on Mercer Island and was a nurse at Group Health. (She drove even though the bus ran practically door-to-door. :) At some point the P&R was built, and the 226 terminated at it. Later it was extended north to Redmond. The apartments probably went in after the P&R, and I never knew what income levels they were, they were just “the apartments at the P&R” — the beginnings of TOD.
It’s possible that the 520 extension from 140th to Redmond, Microsoft’s relocation to Redmond, and the 226’s extension to Redmond all happened around the same time. Certainly, there was nothing at 40th or 56th before the freeway exits opened and Microsoft grew. I rarely went north of 24th, but my impression is that civilization ended there and downtown Redmond was a small town.
Oh, the 235 is still there, in Beaux Arts and on Rainier. It’s on Mercer Island too, I just missed it.
So this tells me the 226/235 were truncated to serve downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue, and the 230+231 replaced their tails north and east of downtown Bellevue. I thought that happened when the 550 started, but it must have happened before then.
Yes, there have been winners and losers over the years. There have been two shifts. First, to areas with more people. Second, to new areas, that are just about as dense as the old areas, but farther out. Greenwood is better off. The Issaquah Highlands are better off. West and central Magnolia are worse off.
What I find interesting about the 1988 map is how much coverage there is. The buses weren’t very frequent, they often required going downtown, but they did cover a wide swath of the region.
1988 was the golden era of 80/20 (I think that was the split?) where 80 of new service went to outside of Seattle to play catch up from when most of the county was paying for a baseline service of zero. Outside of commuting to the Seattle CBD and the UW there wasn’t much interest in riding the bus. Very few people decided to live on the eastside that didn’t drive. Mike Orr may have been one of a few dozen exceptions. But there were $$$ to spread around like peanut butter.
Hey Sam, throw us a map from 1980. That’s when I graduated from UW.
The area from 152nd to 156th, and from 24th to 31st used to be forest. I’m not sure of the years, but Group Health was there first. Then came the P&R. Then came the apts over the P&R. Then throughout the 80’s came all the other stuff. Here’s a couple of Metro transit maps from 1977.
I’ll assume the links are 1977. It took a long time to find the 1988 date stamp on the previous link. Sounds about right that I took the 252 directly from DT Redmond P&R to the HUB at UW in 1980. Shortly after that UW banned Metro routes from Campus.
It sort of confirms my recollection that 520 ended at 148th ~1980 and for years there was a Matterhorn of dirt from construction stored there. I’d forgotten or never knew there was a P&R.
When we moved here in 1972, I think 520 only went to 405. In elementary school and junior high it terminated at 148th. My mom went to see the new extension to Redmond and was puzzled it didn’t cross 156th, but it curved back so it didn’t until further north.
Group Health was there during junior high and high school, so 1980-85, and maybe earlier. The P&R was built at one point. My route, the 226, terminated at it, and was later extended to downtown Redmond.
Seattle neighborhoods were mostly 2-4 stories. Condos started in the 80s, but were still few by the end of the decade. Urban villages and the growth of 4-7 story buildings started in the 90s, when the Elektra was built.
So, going back to the discussion about vanpools…if you’re starting from nothing and your goal is solely to get 2% of cars off the road during peak commuting hours for the lowest possible cost, vanpools are the way to go. They also have the nice appeal of not depending on any walkability or transit infrastructure, and can function in the most car oriented or areas. My dad, in Houston, has commuted to work on a vanpool for years.
The catch is that vanpools require a lot of up front organizing effort on part of the participants and, even with that, it is very rigid – you get one round trip per day, and that’s it. You can take it only to work, and nowhere else. You get no ride home if you need to stay late. Any day, the vanpool might not run at all if one particular driver gets sick, or has family commitments, and if you don’t have a personal car as backup, you’re not getting to work at all on such days.
For these reasons, vanpools can never act as a car replacement, and are, therefore, not a substitute for conventional bus service.
Overall, I think it’s good that vanpools exist, and more people riding them is a good thing.
Rideshare, and particularly vanpools , have been declining for years. Vanpools are a fraction of 1% of commuting options. Rideshare in general dropped from 9% to 3% of mode share during the pandamic. it’s simply not a solution. It helps at the margins, but is more a distraction from solutions that scale and that will make a meaningful dent in congestion and climate change.
What do you mean by rideshare? Uber is called rideshare, and I keep hearing it’s still very popular. All my friends seem to have forgotten that regular taxis exist.
Although it’s odd that I see more “For Hire: Flat Rate” vehicles around, but I’ve never known anyone to use one here. I’ve used one only once, in San Diego, and that’s because somebody in our group knew the driver, and the driver gave us his card so we could call him again during our visit. I’ve seen those vehicles in Seattle and Bellevue in the past few years.
Yeah, including Uber. And carpool and vanpool.
I’m not sure about nationally, but Uber and Lyft use in the Seattle area is plummeting.
Only the rich can afford to use it regularly.
I don’t think anyone is arguing vanpools are a replacement for transit? Vanpools are a part of the overall transportation toolkit and are a good way to reduce VMT.
I think there is value in investing in HOV infrastructure, particularly when aligned with transit priority, to reduce VMT. Other good demand management tools (tolls, charging for parking) also supports sharing of vehicles. With all that in place, organizing vanpool with (large) employers, especially with shift work, is then low hanging fruit.
So I wouldn’t start with vanpool as a solution, but within a well designed transportation system vanpools are a useful tool.
UW Station, 6:30pm Sunday (Pride march day). I was waiting for a southbound train. Northbound trains were coming every 2 minutes. One was still boarding when the announcement for the next train came. The first two trains were pretty full. The third was less, the fourth less still. The fourth train went out of service and kicked everybody off, then it parked on the track and took a siesta.
A couple minutes later the doors opened and a voice said the train would be going southbound. The voice was hard to hear so I barely heard it, and others didn’t. I tried to clarify it was going southbound, and showed people how to press the door button to get on or off. Then the train went southbound on the northbound track. The destination sign said “Sound Transit”, but a minute later it clarified it was going to Angle Lake.
I got off at Capitol Hill. On the other platform was a northbound train to Northgate. I was confused, were both trains on the wrong tracks? But they were on the right tracks, so my train must have switched south of UW Station. That explained why the door opened on the opposite side I was expecting. Now the northbound train was leaving, and an announcement said another one was coming in two minutes.
So that shows ST can run trains every two minutes. It never said it couldn’t; it just said it can’t guarantee they wouldn’t bunch under 3 minutes so it didn’t want to. I guess that goes out the window on parade days, when everybody expects things to be off-kilter.
When I went to Bellevue in the morning at 11am, the crowd was already on 4th Avenue, and 5th Avenue was a traffic jam of cars. The street display said there was an event 11am-3pm. But it was 6:30pm when I came back, and Link was still clearing the crowd. I don’t know if it really ended at 3pm and took three hours to clear out the crowd, or if it ended later.
The Pride parade was today, first since 2019. The Seattle Times estimated the crowd size at 500,000 in downtown Seattle, so I’d say that every transportation system in the region would have been strained. The parade itself ended at 3PM but celebrations are probably still ongoing even now that’s in the evening, and crowds of that size can’t be cleared in less than a few hours anyways.
I rode Link on Saturday. I went northbound from Columbia City, and had to stand when I boarded as the train was already crowded.
When the train reached Stadium, there was a crowd leaving a Sounders game and the car wert from crowded to packed. At ID-C it left people on the platform.
I’m sure this weekend may have been the highest ridership weekend on Link ever (noting that Northgate opened nine months ago).
One frustration: Riders do not yet know how to step out of the car to let riders off on a crowded train. Many just stood in place, blocking the doorways.
Al S., I do think many people are out of their transit habits, or maybe need to be introduced to them for the first time. It was only a few months ago that people were still gaggling by the doors to avoid sitting next to someone, which seems odd since standing by the doors means you’re passed by basically everyone as they get off…
A couple weeks ago I happened to get on the train after a Sounder’s game. I didn’t go to the game, but boarded in Capitol Hill as the train was heading north. I notices several different transit rider snafus:
1) The people getting on the train stood right in front of the door as people were getting off. You could tell the train was full, and of course there were bound to be people getting off, but they did this anyway (I stood off to the side).
2) Inside the train, people stood next to the doors while people were getting off. They could have squeezed into a different spot, or gotten off and back on again*. They did neither, and people had to squeeze through them.
3) People from the back of the train made their way to the front at the last second. By then there were people getting on.
4) People who had been riding the train for a while and standing next to the doors for a while (i. e. people in group 2) didn’t make their intention clear as we reached the station. Turns out they really were getting off at the next stop (Roosevelt) and yet they were facing backwards (towards the crowd). A large group said nothing (instead of say “This is our stop”).
All of these made for big dwell times. Of course it doesn’t help that our trains are poorly designed for big crowds.
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