• Seattle Times‘ Mike Lindblom has a long dive into light rail crashes on MLK. It’s too in-depth to summarize but well worth reading.
  • Meanwhile, Times Columnist Naomi Ishaka argues for more gates in the Rainier Valley to protect pedestrians
  • U-PASS is now fully-subsidized for all UW employees. Good on TRU for organizing around this effort
  • The Urbanist: Sound Transit opening back up the idea of skipping Paine Field to get to Everett on time
  • PubliCola: Josh Feit looks at ways to get small employers on board with transit passes

349 Replies to “News roundup: fully subsidized”

      1. It’s always useful commenting with the less informative article that didn’t break news.

      2. Its value is in showing that the change is recognized beyond a specialized media source like the Urbanist. That widens public awareness and hopefully builds more allies for studying a different configuration than just the ST3 2016 back-of-napkin plan.

        Of course, the article doesn’t add much new information. I don’t dispute that. Still, wider publicity is better than narrower publicity.

      3. I’ve been impressed by the Everett Herald. It punches above it’s weight class; especially when it comes to land use stories. Bellevue has been larger than Everett since 1970 but never had a “real” newspaper. The Reporter was essentially a free advertising circular with a few people that pen local interest stories so people would look at it before using it as a fire starter. FYI, Everett & Bellevue are almost identical in land area. I don’t know which one will add more people over the next 20 years. A great deal depends on Everett breaking the mold of being a one company town.

      4. I’ve been impressed by the Everett Herald’s articles too. Lizz Giordano wrote for STB as a part-time paid reporter, then moved to the Herald, and I guess now she’s writing for multiple publications including the Publicola article below posted by mdnative., So anyone who employs Lizz shows they have good judgment. I can;’t read most of the Herald links though because it’s behind a paywall, and since I don’t live in Snohomish County I’m not going to subscribe to it. I did suggest tongue-in-cheek that they might want to start a Seattle edition.

        Bellevue had the Bellevue American, the East Side Journal, the Journal-American (merged), an east edition of the Seattle Times, and I think an east edition of the Seattle Weekly. All of them are gone now as far as I know. I think it’s due to the general demise of full-sized newspapers, and tekkies being early adopters of alternative media and thinking of newspapers as something their parents subscribed to.

      5. I know our joint mailbox enclosure on the private road has only ever had boxes for the Seattle Times and way way long ago the PI. The Reporter was distributed with the weekly grocery ads. I’d have to check with the wife (born and raised Bellevue Girl) on the other publications.

        Main point was Everett was a “way back” city which had a real newspaper. Bellevue never did. Back when it overtook Everett in population in the 60’s it was just a bedroom suburb of Seattle.

      6. I haven’t heard of the Bellevue Reporter. It may be a more recent publication. When I was little my family subscribed to the Bellevue American (later Journal-American) and the Seattle Times. I never read the Bellevue American because it seemed like small-town unimportant trivia to me. My favorite was the P-I but I could only read it occasionally. I was glad when the Times and P-I formed a joint operating agreement and had a combined Sunday edition, so I could get the P-I editorials and comics then.

        When we had a house on Vashon Island we got the Beachcomber there; that was interesting.

        There’s a Kent Reporter in Kent. Sometimes it has transit scoops on things happening in Kent, Tukwila, or Renton.

      7. “I’ve been impressed by the Everett Herald.”

        I agree. As a Snohomish County resident for the last roughly 20 years, I have subscribed to The Herald for quite a while and overall have been generally pleased with their content for a paper of their size. We started with a delivered printed copy and now have a digital subscription. My spouse still gets the Sunday Seattle Times delivered (which gives access to all digital content) and I still have my NY Times’ subscription (now digital) which I’ve had forever.

        Guess which one is now drying out in the window this afternoon after being dropped off in a rain puddle in our driveway earlier today. :(

  1. No one likes airport shuttles (especially when they’re on a bus) linking the train to the terminal. It would be unfortunate for Paine Field to be subjected to that, by design. It’s not a major airport right now but it does have the potential to become one in the future.

    1. I disagree. Shuttles can be both cheaper and actually better (due to better station sighting of smaller vehicles) than a direction connection. LA, Miami, Phoenix, Oakland, Newark, and NYC all use automated people movers rather than direct connections. I found using Oakland’s a much better experience than Chicago (a loooong walk to the Blue line), for example.

      Particularly if Link uses the Evergreen route, a bus shuttle from the terminal to Link station would be just fine. Only serve the airport if it is on the way (like SeaTac)

      1. I don’t understand the Evergreen route. It gets closer to Paine Field, but nowhere near close enough to serve it, while still slowing down Everett commuters in perpetuity. Pick the spine or pick Paine Field. Or build a connector service from the spine to Paine Field.

        I can imagine the Stride 1 Line someday serving that purpose, stopping at Ash Way instead of Lynnwood City Center, and then proceeding on up the Speedway to Paine Field as its northern terminus.

      2. With Link opening twice as many stations in 3 years, it’s worthwhile to reopen the topic of shuttles in general.

        First, we need to change state legislation to allow for shuttle stops from private companies to be “rented” at Link stations. I’m fine with T-Mobile having a shuttle stop in South Bellevue — for a monthly fee, for example. The system could be set up using GoodToGo pretty easily, like charging $10 or $20 every time a shuttle vehicle enters the bus plaza. It could even double as a “fine” for any vehicle illegally in a bus plaza.

        Even if that can’t be done, it should be possible to allow for announcing a nearby shuttle where stations have paid billboard space. Maybe it can be across the street.

        I could see a direct shuttle between Paine Field and Lynnwood even starting in 2024. I’m doubtful it would be cost effective though unless Paine Field gets lots more flights.

        Shuttles add ridership to the system anyway, and if they can be monetized each time they arrive, it’s a double cash win for ST.

      3. I agree. Evergreen is a great corridor and I’ve always been perplexed why the 99/Airport Way station was provisional and not higher valued … but the Evergreen Way TOD corridor is very narrow and I think much better served by 4~5 SWIFT stops vs. a Link line will presumably have less stations.

        Also agree on Stride 1. Post Everett Link, Stride should service whichever corridor is not served by Link, either connect to Paine (or terminate at a Swift Green station and left Swift go ‘last mile’ within Paine) or follow I5 to Everett station (with an infill Stride station at Everett Mall if deserved)

      4. I don’t know that LAX is a great example of airport shuttles being done right. We were in LA a couple months ago, and it took 3 shuttles just to get from gate 52 (basically a Greyhound bus terminal for commuter planes) to the main terminal 5 building, and then got passed up by 4 crush-loaded shuttles to the Metro station before we decided to walk upstream to terminal 4 to get on when they were only SRO and still accepting passengers. Meanwhile, at least 4 nearly-empty shuttles to the Uber/Lyft pickup point went by.

        I’ll take grade-separated mass transit that actually stops within walking distance to the airport any day.

      5. “I don’t understand the Evergreen route”

        It’s the same reason we wanted Lynnwood Link on Aurora, and Federal Way Link on Pacific Highway. Those streets have the most potential for major housing and business growth that would serve the largest cross-section of people. With the right alignment and zoning, those boulevards could serve over a hundred thousand people better than their existing options. And growth on arterial boulevards has less nimby resistance than elsewhere. The industrial center can’t serve more than its workers because it’s industrial. The Paine Field airport can’t serve much because it has only a sliver of the destinations and capacity as SeaTac, and people don’t fly every day or every week. But people do leave their house every day, and shop a few times a week, and those can most easily be facilitated along 99, Evergreen Way, Aurora, and Pacific Highway.

        We’ve already lost some of the battles. Aurora wasn’t chosen for several reasons. Des Moines opposed the Pac Higway alternative to preserve its car-oriented strip malls, and Federal Way opposed it because it thought I-5 would be faster and more likely to be completed.

        Now we have the choice with Evergreen Way. We’ve heard Everett doesn’t want to rezone those lucrative car dealerships, but how accurate is that? Apparently Everett has rezoned some parts. It would be ironic if we finally got Link on an arterial on Evergreen Way but missed the greater opportunity on Aurora and Pac Hwy, but better something than nothing. And maybe Evergreen Way will rise to the occasion.

        I wish transfers to Swift were the first consideration rather than the last. It’s like how ST doesn’t priortize train-to-train transfers at Intl Dist, Westlake, and the proposed line at U-District. That should be the first consideration. Train-to-train transfers allow many more trip combinations than just one lines or two poorly-connecting lines do. Swift and Stride essentially extend Link’s reach to areas it doesn’t directly serve. The SODO busway functions like an extension of the DSTT because it’s as fast as convenient. Link functions as an extension of the DSTT. And Swift and Stride function as extensions of Link. We should leverage that with excellent transfers.

        A bus loop is a better way to serve the Everett Industrial Center anyway. It can have more stops than Link can, serving more of the scattered employers. That in turn would increase ridership and get more cars off the road. Or at least get them to park in P&Rs rather than driving all the way to the industrial center.

        I’m especially interested in in the Everett Link Stride linked in another Urbanist article from the first one. I’d always imagined it looping from Mariner to Everett Station as Link does. But Steven Fesler suggests starting from Everett Mall, looping through the industrial center, to Airport Way station (with Swift Green and Blue but not Link), then going further south to overlap with Swift Blue, down another road I’m not familiar with (the 405-Mukilteo freeway it looks like), to Alderwood Mall and Lynnwood Station. That’s an interesting corridor, and probably promising. It would serve several existing and potential activity centers. Travel time to Paine Field would probably be OK with the Casino Road and Mukilteo freeway routing, although that would have to be verified.

      6. Al S.

        “First, we need to change state legislation to allow for shuttle stops from private companies to be “rented” at Link stations.”

        Absolutely not. Private businesses have no place in public transit spaces for any reason whatsoever. The public domain is not the appropriate venue for private profiteering. If there is a need for a shuttle from a Link station, ST or Metro is the ideal service provider for that. A driver shortage is no excuse for jumping down that slippery slope. Honestly groups like First Transit and Hopelink are a bridge too far, and should be forced out too. But that ship has sadly sailed. Let’s not reward that bad behavior by adding more bad behavior on top of it.

        Public property for the public. Use fees almost never recoup the cost and are set far too low, like an order of magnitude or more. Taco trucks and outdoor restaurant seating do not pay hourly parking rates as an example. If they did, then maybe there would be room for this discussion. Maybe.

      7. Skylar, I think AJ is referencing the under-construction Airport Connector project, which is building an automated “people mover” tram from Tom Bradley Intl. Terminal to the Crenshaw Line station a mile or so east of LAX. They’re also building a “Consolidated Rental-A-Car Facility (CONRAC)” that will be connected to the people mover.

        Should be done in a couple years. Currently, LAX’s car alternatives are pretty poor, with the exception of the FlyAway bus service.

        Paine Field is a long way from having enough use to justify construction of shuttle in dedicated ROW – a bus shuttle would do fine.

      8. Orr answer is sound. Freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish. Link should link pedestrian centers. The objective of transit is to extend the range of pedestrians. Evergreen has potential land use changes. I-5 is a barrier. If reliable, freeways can carry buses fast between centers; they are not for pedestrians.

      9. Yep, we absolutely need to set up allowing private shuttles to load/unload at Link stations. The Redmond Tech Center station is a model for this – if you want suburban office workers taking mass transit, you need to come to where they are. South Bellevue should provide space for T-Mobile shuttles for instance.

      10. A Joy: if we should outlaw shuttles then we should outlaw Uber/Lyft stopping at Link too. Uber and a Lyft are literally private shuttle services.

        And why ban shuttles from being allocated a few reserved parking spots in a garage? If we can let other private vehicles do that, shouldn’t shuttles be allowed? After all, these parking spots may only add 6 or 8 riders to Link while a shuttle could add dozens.

        I’m sorry, but your shuttle hate is misguided and unfair. ST would be better to be able to allow shuttles, monetize their loading points, and design for their use now rather than let them go rogue and mess up circulation without collecting a dime.

      11. Al S.:

        I would be happy to ban Uber/Lyft, taxis, and any for profit vehicles from mass transit facilities. Private profit has no business in the public square. I take that view well beyond just transit matters, going so far as to find the annual Christmas merry go round at Westlake Park repugnant.

        Private shuttles are already rogue. That’s my point, and today’s current problem. The appropriate response is in no way to bless that status by bringing them into the fold. All that encourages are more rogues. The rogue elements need to be quashed hard long before the few willing to walk the line are thrown a bone and brought back into the fold. Stick first, then carrot.

      12. If this is your belief, A Joy, then we should also ban advertising in all transit vehicles and shelters/ stations, ban leaving Lime bikes and scooters on any transit station property, and close up any mezzanine access into private buildings at Westlake Center.

        The point being that putting in a public-private firewall hurts attracting transit riders..

      13. So, under your idea, you can park your car for free at a park and ride all day. You can get dropped there by a friend or family member, so long as you are able to find somebody willing to take you for free. But, paying somebody to drop you off at that same transit facility should be outlawed. Sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense.

      14. @Al S.

        “then we should also ban advertising in all transit vehicles and shelters/ stations”


        “ban leaving Lime bikes and scooters on any transit station property”

        A thousand times yes, and on sidewalks as well as bike trails too!

        “and close up any mezzanine access into private buildings at Westlake Center.”

        That one I see as the public demanding a boon from private business, not the other way around. Those buildings aren’t making any money from the access. They’re not charging tolls. If they were, I’d say shut them down.

        “The point being that putting in a public-private firewall hurts attracting transit riders.”

        How, exactly?

        @ asdf2

        “So, under your idea, you can park your car for free at a park and ride all day. You can get dropped there by a friend or family member, so long as you are able to find somebody willing to take you for free. But, paying somebody to drop you off at that same transit facility should be outlawed. Sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense.”

        Why not? Public transit is public. It is for the public. By design, law, and intention. The very nature of the setup is downright predicated on it making sense.

      15. Piling on A Joy isn’t productive. Based on my reading of her posts here and previously, she has consistently spoken out against private, profit-motivated endeavors intruding on public space. I don’t think that’s such a hard concept to grasp, and I appreciate her logical consistency despite the occasions she reaches conclusions that many people find disagreeable (such as the recent take regarding street-side food trucks).

        She’s consistently advocated for the provision of public services to meet people’s transportation needs, and uncompromisingly opposed the allowance of private enterprise to use publicly constructed space. I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent about disliking the use of public space by rideshare companies as well as private shuttles.

      16. I’m content with advertising as it is a revenue stream that helps lessen the burden of taxpayers and riders on the system even if it’s a small amount to be had, it’s on some level free money for someone willing to pay for ad space. As for the closing of entrances into private property from metro stations is a bit silly in my opinion. Many stations around the world connect into malls, commercial buildings, underground walkways (Toronto’s PATH for instance), arenas, etc etc. It’s a symbiotic relationship of sorts that drives people in and out of places/public transit.

      17. “she has consistently spoken out against private, profit-motivated endeavors intruding on public space.”

        Well I guess we should ban driveways and private business doorway entrances onto public streets too.

        Every mode we use that’s public has some private element to a trip. Trying to draw an altruistic line is arbitrary. The biggest private subsidies are parking garages at Link stations — and those garages don’t outlaw commercially owned vehicles from personally owned ones.

        Meanwhile, we expect transit operators to attract riders. It is a primary objective of any transit operator to attract riders. Preventing Link from maximizing the ridership by broadening modes of access is holding them back.

      18. The goal is to transport people on their optimal number of trips, and give them access to goods and services and jobs and housing. In our society, most of those goods/services/jobs/housing are privately owned. If you think they should all be public, then say so. The problem I have with “all the benefits go to the greedy owners/developers” is that it ignores the benefits to other parties. Citizens benefit when transit connects to everything, when they have a variety of goods and services available (including necessities), and when they have a variety of job opportunities. Maybe we don’t have the balance right between public/private, but we don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater and eliminate all private interfaces to transit. Making shuttle/Uber riders walk an extra block or two misses the goal of making non-SOV transportation as convenient as possible.

      19. Private access modes are kind of like alcohol. People are going to pursue them because it makes their trip more enjoyable. Outright bans of them will not ban the practice. It merely means that people will look for creative ways around them.

        Which is a reason why “legalizing” and planning for them works better for transit.

        Consider what banning Uber and Lyft pickups would do. People would quickly learn that a nearby quiet residential street a block away is the pickup point. Suddenly, that side street is full of traffic!

        Consider what banning line scooters would do. The scooters would be picked up as close to the station as possible and de facto scooter stations would emerge in quiet nearby residential areas

        Shuttles are the same way. Here is an example: In these many garages set to open by 2024/5, a shuttle operator only has to be early enough to grab a nearby space in the garage to “park”. From there, they can leave a vehicle plastered with ads as the “shuttle anchor”, and subsequent shuttles can slowly move through the parking garage and stop for a few minutes “waiting for the anchor vehicle” to pull out — which of course wouldn’t happen. Boom! Shuttle pick up point in the garage!

      20. The point of the Evergreen routing vs. I-5 is not “to get closer to Paine Field,” it is to enable more TOD/housing in traditionally more affordable neighborhoods (there are LOTS of underused surface parking lots that have potential) and to have a transfer with both Swift lines in south Everett, likely with the BRT stopping directly beneath the Link station. Personally, I’d just go straight up Evergreen all the way in to the heart of Everett, meaning you’d actually have a station *in* downtown Everett, which is the Snohomish County seat after all. (Or at least about as “serviceably close” as downtown Bellevue’s station will be). I would also be excited about the potential for the streetscape redesign as well.

      21. @Al S:

        “The biggest private subsidies are parking garages at Link stations — and those garages don’t outlaw commercially owned vehicles from personally owned ones.”

        RCW 9.91.025 would care to disagree with you on that one. Private vehicle use (defined as a vehicle not owned by a member of the public) on transit property is an unauthorized use of transit facilities, and a criminal misdemeanor.

      22. “The biggest private subsidies are parking garages at Link stations — and those garages don’t outlaw commercially owned vehicles…”

        This is a common misstatement. The biggest subsidies are feeder buses to Link stations, that are around 80% subsidized. The second biggest subsidy is for Link itself, in which right now farebox recovery accounts for around 20% of operations.

        If you want folks to ride Link you have to get them there, something that never occurred to ST. If you take an area like Issaquah/Sammamish/Snoqualmie/North Bend you have close to 150,000 high value residents, with about a 100% fare paying percentage. You can create a feeder bus “grid” with adequate coverage and frequency, but the cost would be prohibitive considering Metro has to share the fare with ST. Or move to a micro-transit/shuttle system, which again is cost prohibitive (and serves as a transfer) because then Metro has to pay for the driver, fuel, maintenance and vehicle.

        Or a transit agency can simply say tough luck, no park and ride, or it will charge for the park and ride (which ST inherited in many cases) which of course makes the cost of the park and ride plus Link fare the same as parking at work (when the feeder bus fare is a transfer, another huge subsidy), no micro-transit, and no feeder bus grid.

        That worked I suppose pre-pandemic, but now that Link is hemorrhaging operations revenue and the commuter transit slave is gone, I would not recommend forcing Metro to fund a grid system in east King Co. with its strained operations levy, or tell potential riders to F off, but vote for the future operations levy.

        The park and rides on the eastside are empty today, and those in ST 3 extended for decades to afford WSBLE. Let’s see if extending those park and rides creates a huge windfall for ST or Metro since they are so “heavily subsidized”.

        The real issue is how to fill those park and rides back up, and build more and fill them up, because ST’s operations and ridership assumptions are based on that kind of demand. It sounds pretty silly today for ST to threaten it will begin charging for eastside park and rides when what it really will have to do is convince that swing voter who no longer is riding transit to vote yes on an operations levy.

        What is really scary if you are ST or Metro is an empty park and ride.

      23. @A Joy

        “RCW 9.91.025 would care to disagree with you on that one. Private vehicle use (defined as a vehicle not owned by a member of the public) on transit property is an unauthorized use of transit facilities, and a criminal misdemeanor.”

        That RCW doesn’t mention anything about private vehicle use, although RCW 9.91.025(1)(h) disallows conduct which “obstructs or impedes the flow of transit vehicles or passenger traffic, hinders or prevents access to transit vehicles or stations, or otherwise unlawfully interferes with the provision or use of public transportation services”

      24. @Justin:

        (p): Engages in other conduct that is inconsistent with the intended use and purpose of the transit facility, transit station, or transit vehicle…

        You could try and argue it isn’t a misdemeanor until “and refuses to obey the lawful commands of an agent of the transit authority or a peace officer to cease such conduct.”, but ST currently uses that as a catch 22. If they refuse to ask them to stop violating the RCW, it isn’t a crime, right? The law is still clear that the problem is the unauthorized use of transit facilities. Turning a blind eye doesn’t magically make the illegal legal.

    2. I’m happy that these new corridors were added!

      I’m also glad that the importance of Airport/99 is included. As the crossing for Swift lines, the station location is very important for system access.

      Since 2 Line ends at Mariner and 3 Line continues, I think an easy alternative is just to send 3 Line to Everett and send 2 Line to a Paine Field stub or further into the employment district.

      It’s about the same time or even less time consuming for a Snohomish rider to transfer at a center platform at Mariner or Ash to get between Everett and Paine Field than it is to loop around to then get off the train and still have a schlep.

      If Snohomish wants direct service between Everett and Paine Field, it’s possible to do that with the right track configuration. Operate it as a separate line, or “run backwards” on a Line 2 continuation between Paine and Everett for some trains.

      It’s not in ST’s typical mindset to propose this, unfortunately. Certainly, I’m already seeing several post about doing something like this so maybe it will evolve.

      A second solution is to build a cable-pulled shuttle between Paine Field and Mariner, like the BART Oakland Airport connector. Of course, that’s even harder for the ST Board and staff to envision.

      A final note is that the actual ridership that could be expected from air travelers is most likely to not be much. They undoubtedly would have no more than 5 percent of the emplacements that SeaTac gets, (with very high parking costs) and 5 percent of boardings would amount to less than 400-500 a day. That’s lousy station ridership. Most of the riders would come from workers going to locations in the area that aren’t in the terminal. It would thrill some on this blog, but it’s overall utility is pretty low. I would rather spend lots less money and double the number of escalators in stations.

      1. Good luck getting ST to future-proof Ash Way or Mariner Station to allow for the line to split north of the station.

        In the meantime, having the Stride 1 Line continue over to meet up with the Blue Swift Line would be a totally sensible extension. Having it happen in front of Edmonds College for now makes lots of sense.

      2. And the Line 2 extension to Paine Field could be pursued as a separate project in a later phase, taking it out of the ST3 funding bottleneck.

      3. The thing about a “line 2 stub” to Paine Field is you still need a transfer to get most anywhere specific in the Boeing area, and historically the local busses have not been very frequent. The simplest solution is to convert the north terminus of the Swift BRT green line into a “Boeing Loop” with more local stops in the loop, instead of the current two bus stops (Paine Field and Seaway TC). The roads are plenty wide to accommodate it.

      4. The point of a Line 2 stub to Evergreen or Paine is to get to the OMF-N. Since track needs to be built to get to the OMF, might as well make it useful, with the transfer to Swift Blue is by far the most useful thing about the stub. From a phasing standpoint, the stub would be built first to access the OMF-N, and then the ‘main’ line built later (along Evergreen or I5 or whatever).

        If the OMF-N is built alongside I5, then there will probably never be justification to build Link to Paine and Swift Green will remain the long term solution. A spur to Swift Blue is nice future-proofing but not essential …. maybe Stride 2, rather than Swift Green, is the bus route that booms in the 2030s and merits an upgrade to rail, and Link line 2 turns east and south after Lynwood??

      1. Private enterprise serves the profit margins of specific individuals, not any public benefit. And if the SOV parking requires a fee that is higher than the taco truck’s site fee (which it most definitely is in this region), it is a net drag on the overall public good.

      2. It is ironic to blanket criticize private enterprises as solely focused on profit margins, never mind the existence of non-profits, Co-ops, public benefit corporations, and many other forms of private organizations, and then measure the public good solely through the metric of dollars of revenue, as if curb spaces exists to maximize government revenues.

      3. The benefit is access to tacos. Some taco trucks are in areas where there aren’t any other restaurants.

      4. Wow, “Free/cheap street parking for Food Trucks is a net drag on the overall public good” must be one of the hottest takes I’ve seen here in a while.

      5. AJ, maximizing government revenues is a better justification for existence than putting money in the hands of subsidized leeches.

        And “public benefit corporations” is an oxymoron. Some NPOs are decent, but they are mainly the ones that have more transparency and act as publicly as possible.

      6. It’s more important to get people out of cars than whether their shuttle is public or private. Metro and ST have all-day service: that’s the most important part. Whether the peak-hour supplemental shuttles are public or private is less important. Even if private drop-off space is subsidized, it’s ten times better than all those people bringing cars and demanding P&R spaces. We need to get SOV driving down to at least the average of industrialized countries, and if private shuttles are a quick and easy way to contribute to that, we should do so. Maybe some of those should have public bus routes, but I’ll leave it to Metro to study that.

        The Microsoft shuttle and the 545 stop at the same stop on Capitol Hill, and people take both. I don’t see a problem with that. The important thing is that they’re not driving SOVs to Microsoft.

      7. “The Microsoft shuttle and the 545 stop at the same stop on Capitol Hill, and people take both. I don’t see a problem with that.”

        Having been around Redmond during the evening rush hour, I cannot disagree more. At some transit centers there are so many Microsoft shuttles they force ST busses to stall in the turn lane, unable to get in.

        As it stands today private charter busses interfere with public mass transit service. If we were to permit more, it would only get worse. At TIBS, they already use a fire lane, a code violation and public hazard. At Seatac and Eastgate they use bus zones and loading/unloading zones. This kind of bad behavior should absolutely not be rewarded or permitted.

      8. I think the point some are making about private shuttles is if they are not allowed to use public facilities and transportation stations what will those mostly work riders do instead, remembering these are 100% fare paying riders who cost the public nothing to serve for first/last mile access?

        Obviously the first alternative is WFH, which is beneficial because it eliminates traffic congestion or congestion on transit completely. Either full WFH or part time, which is basically the reality today.

        The second alternative is to simply drive. After all, Microsoft is building a 3 million sf underground parking garage. With today’s congestion that might not be so bad, and of course it would remove that driver from transit stations and transit completely.

        The third alternative is to move closer to your workplace. Many companies like Amazon now let you choose the office you go into (one day/week). For example, why live on Capitol Hill these days if you work in Bellevue or at Microsoft. Move to Redmond, which is a lot more “happening” than it was in 2008. If you are going to end up having kids you will be moving east anyway https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/careersandeducation/best-school-districts-in-washington/ar-AASv3OJ?ocid=hplocalnews and the spread between eastside and westside house prices is only growing. So bite the bullet now.

        Run the private shuttle directly to the worksite. That is what I would demand if I worked for Microsoft, rather than a transfer onto public transit. After all, the entire (and obvious) reason I am taking a private shuttle is to avoid public transit, either because of the other “public” riders or because the feeder service sucks.

        Take a public feeder bus to a public bus or even light rail and eliminate private shuttles. But the entire reason folks are on the private shuttle is they don’t want to ride public transit, for whatever reason. Be careful though that you don’t turn off powerhouse employers like Microsoft and Amazon to the need for public transit infrastructure, which is not going to happen on the eastside because we like businesses. The old paradigm of the commuter slave is over.

        Subsidize buses like the 630 that originate in a specific area and run to a specific area with few stops and have access to any public transit stop or station.

        Raise everyone’s general taxes (if you pay taxes) to make up the lost farebox recovery, which will be necessary anyway, especially on Link due to the 40% farebox recovery rate and inflated ridership assumptions.

        Cut service to the bone if voters don’t approve more operations funding revenue.

        Raise parking minimums in all new office construction (which Bellevue foresaw), and if necessary, widen the highways.

      9. “But the entire reason folks are on the private shuttle is they don’t want to ride public transit, for whatever reason.”

        I thought they rode it because it goes more directly to their worksite and makes fewer stops, so it takes less time. Especially if you’re going from somewhere like Fremont to Microsoft, where the alternative would be take a local bus to the U-District or downtown and transfer, and the express segment alone would take as long as the entire Microsoft shuttle.

      10. Also, the entire shuttle is within Microsoft’s NDA zone, so they can work on the shuttle and count it as work time and don’t have to worry about people around them reading trade secrets over their shoulder.

      11. @DT, I feel that first/last mile access issues are incredibly overemphasized in transit discussions, and do not need any kind of solution, public or private. Individuals who use first/last mile access excuses as a reason to not use mass transit will never use mass transit, and are just giving that reason to justify their life choices. As such, your solutions are in search of a problem that simply doesn’t exist.

        And Microsoft shuttles do run directly to the worksite. They are picking up/dropping off employees on the way to work in the am and from work in the pm. It is the other end of the commute that they use mass transit facilities, the ‘home’ end. Which means at Park and Rides they are using spaces that should be going to dedicated mass transit users, further burdening the public system without paying the same dues/taxes/fares that others do.

        Mike Orr, that makes the issue even worse. If employees are being paid while directly inconveniencing the public, the business is financially incentivizing anti-social behavior. All the more reason to make it illegal and put an immediate stop to it.

      12. A Joy, there was a time when work commuters had to use transit, especially from the eastside to downtown Seattle due to parking costs and traffic congestion. So yes, they have to get to transit, which on the eastside is mostly park and rides. They may have not wanted to use transit, but had to. From these posts I am getting the idea we are talking about Seattle workers demanding private shuttles to the eastside, probably Microsoft. I can understand why they want that, and Microsoft probably thinks their time is too valuable to use public transit, although maybe they should just move to the eastside.

        I agree that maybe post pandemic those (eastsiders) riders are not a concern anymore. The Board extended the park and rides in ST 3, and park and rides are pretty empty on the eastside today, along with the east-west buses. I think you are correct that when transit becomes discretionary for this rider they won’t choose transit, and WFH, driving, private employer shuttles et al will be first choices.

        I don’t think these folks “will never use mass transit, and are just giving that reason to justify their life choices.” I think they are quite up front about the fact that if they don’t have to ride transit they won’t, because transit for their area is very poor, beginning with a first/last mile access “solution” that puts them in a car to a park and ride. With free parking and low congestion, they are going to drive to their ultimate destination.

        As a result I have argued against spending a lot of limited transit revenue on this potential rider, because the area is too large and undense to provide adequate first/last mile access, and if they can they won’t use transit. Some believe a transit grid, even on the eastside, with lots of frequency (but still no first/last mile access) will create “induced demand”, but I think that is wishful thinking and throwing good money after bad.

        It is unlikely eastside politicians or transit agencies however are going to tell Microsoft to not use a transit station for shuttles Microsoft pays for that was built next to Microsoft because Microsoft insisted and was a prime mover of East Link. That is not how things work on the eastside.

      13. Whether people choose to commute on a public bus or private bus is usually about what gets them there faster. Often, it’s the private bus, but not always. For years, I commuted from the U district to Microsoft, and found the public bus faster. In some cases, where the routes are similar enough, it’s whichever comes first, so being able to wait at one stop for both routes is ideal. So in general, private buses picking up at transit centers should be allowed. Now, if it ever got to the point where public buses get stuck in long lines behind private buses, I can see A Joy’s point, but, in practice, that’s a complete non-issue. Running buses is expensive, and a private company is only going to be willing to pay for so many of them, and not nearly enough of them to cause problems.

      14. Which brings up the question:
        Which bus gets priority?
        Who are the second class citizens?
        Who gets to wait?

        Are these buses blocking SOVs?

      15. “From these posts I am getting the idea we are talking about Seattle workers demanding private shuttles to the eastside,”

        We’re talking about shuttles in general. There are several kinds of shuttles.
        1. Short-distance shuttles provide the last mile to a workplace. (Caltrain shuttles, Everett Industrial Center shuttles.)
        2. Long-distance shuttles go several miles to a workplace, usually going perpendicular to the transit network (Fremont-Microsoft) or across transit boundaries (Renton-Everett) or where transit is impractical (undense area – company).
        3. Airport shuttles go from the airport to everywhere. There are airport shuttles to as far as Bellingham, Leavenworth, and the Olympic Penninsula.
        4. Residential shuttles are usually only at senior/high-disability complexes, but they could theoretically be expanded to more housing clusters.
        5. Church vans and school vans are a kind of shuttle too. As are last-mile services like Via.

        The original discussion in this and the last article was on how to get workers to the scattered Everett Industrial Center jobsites. Link could serve only one or a couple stations. A short-distance bus from Link stations could serve more of them. Private shuttles could serve all of them. The companies could even coordinate on two or more routes of shared shuttles from the nearest Link stations to all jobsites. Both the short-distance bus and the private shuttles can be considered shuttles, as in “traveling a short distance, whether alone or as part of a larger trip”.

        Microsoft is the largest and most visible shuttle fleet, so that’s why people tend to write about it. Microsoft happens to be located in the Eastside. But there are also Amazon shuttles to Seattle, healthcare companies’ shuttles to Seattle, and maybe the Expedia shuttles from the Eastside to Seattle are still running.

        The Bay Area is the most well known for shuttles. There are Caltrain shuttles from the station to many neighborhood office complexes: that’s the golden example of last-mile transit shuttles. Then there’s the long-distance shuttles from San Francisco and the East Bay to Silicon Valley. Those are also good because those workers aren’t driving, and the parallel transit is so busy it would probably struggle to carry all of them anyway, much less as quickly as the shuttles. But there are various complaints about those shuttles, similar to the complaints here. One, that they can displace buses at San Francisco bus stops.

      16. Caltrain stationS, plural. As in all the stations in Silicon Valley and probably the rest of the penninsula.

      17. @DT

        “I don’t think these folks “will never use mass transit, and are just giving that reason to justify their life choices.” I think they are quite up front about the fact that if they don’t have to ride transit they won’t…”

        That seems like a distinction without a difference to me. I don’t think anyone expects the SOV to be banned any time soon.


        “Now, if it ever got to the point where public buses get stuck in long lines behind private buses, I can see A Joy’s point, but, in practice, that’s a complete non-issue.”

        Between Bellevue and Redmond this was a weekday reality pre-pandemic at transit facilities Metro, ST, and Microsoft ‘shared’.

      18. I see shuttle drop-offs as similar to bike racks. If the bike racks are full, the proper response is to add more bike racks. If there’s not enough spaces for buses and shuttles to stop without getting in each other’s way significantly, the solution is to add more spaces. In contrast, with SOVs, it’s necessary to limit or discourage usage above a moderate amount. The reason is that SOVs have several times more impacts on others per person. You’ve doubtless seen the photos of a hundred people in cars, a hundred people in buses, a hundred people on bikes, and a hundred people on foot. The first takes up much more space than any of the others, so that’s the reason to limit them. That doesn’t apply to shuttles, which have ten or fifty people in one vehicle like a bus.

      19. By SOVs I mean cars parking. Drop-offs are more like a bus or shuttle stopping, and only occupy a space momentarily. Private drop-offs should be accomodated, and a reasonable amount of taxis.

        My hesitation on taxis is only that some people are pushing to expand them instead of transit, and some people take them because they’re too lazy to take a good transit alternative (as opposed to a bad transit alternative). Both of those make taxis more like SOVs, so we should be wary of unlimited growth.

      20. @Mike Orr:

        “I see shuttle drop-offs as similar to bike racks. If the bike racks are full, the proper response is to add more bike racks. If there’s not enough spaces for buses and shuttles to stop without getting in each other’s way significantly, the solution is to add more spaces.”

        Yeah! Who cares about the public or pesky safety concerns like fire lanes? There’s money to be made! Think about the *profit*!


      21. Um, I think “done in a safe manner compliant with fire code” would be implied in all of the above comments?

      22. “Who cares about the public or pesky safety concerns like fire lanes?”

        You can’t be serious. There’s only one station mentioned that may overuse of fire lanes, out of dozens of stations and bus stops in Pugetopolis. We haven’t even addressed whether the design of the station is exacerbating the situation. Are there enough lanes for high-occupancy vehicles? Does TIB need better law enforcement? It’s an overreaction to say, “A few shuttles are violating a fire lane at one station, therefore shuttles should be abolished at transit stops and P&Rs everywhere.”

      23. @AJ, I disagree. Since things are not done in a safe manner now, any encouragement of expanded use would by nature and definition be less safe or downright unsafe.

        @Mike Orr, I can only attest to the stations I frequent the most. But there is no reason to assume these are isolated incidents. At Burien Transit Center and Seatac Station they just use the bus bays themselves, for example.

        And calling into question station design is simply reaching for a justification. Illegal and unsafe is illegal and unsafe. This isn’t a matter of corporate convenience. And ST has so little concern for enforcement at TIBS they have allowed temporary signage encouraging the use of the fire lane as a drop off zone. Specifically cheap signs zip tied up that look semi official (but lack logos, RCC numbers, or the right font). Security sits right next to them and allows it to happen in front of personnel, despite ST staff admitting it is all illegal.

        ST and Metro refuse to enforce parking or smoking laws at facilities right now. They say they cannot be expected to bother with such things. Hardly the atmosphere that problematic private charters should be added to.

        “It’s an overreaction to say, “A few shuttles are violating a fire lane at one station, therefore shuttles should be abolished at transit stops and P&Rs everywhere.””

        Quite the opposite, actually. The rational reaction is one of “We cannot reward bad behavior as it exists now. If this group wants more rights, it needs to show it can be responsible with the rights it has now first. Get under control, then maybe we will talk. But until then? Absolutely not.”

      24. A Joy: Presumably the taco truck is generating more sales tax revenue throughout the day than the handful of car drivers, who would probably just park somewhere else and spend the same money anyway. It’s not like you’re gonna drive into Town and notice that that *one* parking spot is now used by a taco truck and then just drive back home.

      25. Presumably the taco truck is generating more sales tax revenue throughout the day than the handful of car drivers

        Interesting point. If the higher value is to generate sales tax revenue (which a % goes to transit) then this is not a give away but clearly the best use of public resources. As a bonus to the save the planet group… you’ve just made it just that more expensive to drive/own your SOV and created a more walk-able community.

      26. Actually, it could be advantageous to advocate for public markets at Link stations.

        Pike Place Public Market is publicly owned.

        Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market got a permanent home through the station’s redevelopment layout and agreement.

        The City of Seattle weekly closes streets for public markets.

        So as offbeat as the taco truck post is, it’s actually pretty relevant.

        Maybe if the market had local arts and crafts it could be counted toward the station art set-aside. I’d actually be thrilled to take Link to a weekly arts and crafts market several times a year! It would be like having Etsy at ST (how’s that for alliteration)!

      27. I’ve always thought the plaza under Mt Baker Station needs a farmers’ market.

      28. “Etsy at ST.” Lol. Well done, Al S.!

        As far as AJoy’s arguments, he/she gets both the legality and the policy wrong. I’m not going to get into yet another back and forth on this with said commenter as I have in the past (e.g., Metro P&R’s, Everett Station) since it’s rather pointless. Thankfully the PABT in NYC never approached managing bus volumes in midtown from AJoy’s rigid perspective.

    3. @Brent White… I’m surprised Brent. I figured you appreciate the Evergreen route as it stays off of an unproductive I-5 corridor and serves density. I understand serving an airport with rail is important but PAE is not SEA and deviating Link to serve it is not worth picking up the new passengers who’ll board/exit there.

      I’d much rather see Link effectively serve local riders in Everett rather than cater to park & rider commuters.

  2. Many thoughts on Everett Link.

    If the priority is cost, just build Link to Mariner, run ST Express to Everett, and punt the rest to ST4. As soon as there is not sufficient projected ridership to run both lines (plan is still for one line to simply end at Mariner) there is almost zero value created in running light rail along a freeway alignment that already has an HOV lane. If the question is how to get to Everett “quickly and cheaply” then the answer is “don’t build Link any further north than it is needed”

    Route 512 current running time isn’t a useful comparison, and nor is Link Option A vs Link Option B. Under the Paine Field alignment, the fastest time between Everett and Seattle is to catch an I5 bus (presumably heading to East King) in Everett and transfer at Ash Way. Ignoring the bus to shortcut Link would be like criticizing East Link for Redmond to UW travel time, while ignoring the 520 buses. Unless the I5 alignment itself is chosen, there will still be buses running on I5 between Everett and Ash Way.

    Don’t talk about ‘bus spurs’ when the operating plan is to simply end one of the two lines at Mariner. A ‘bus spur’ isn’t a real thing; it’s a bus transfer, which we have at every Link station.

    If there is a good reasons to run Link towards Paine and direct to Everett (along I5 or Evergreen), then that mean it’s the perfect spot to put in a branch. The ST2 frequency imbalance between north and south of Seattle has always meant there should be a branch somewhere north of Seattle. If Snohomish is conflicted on where to go once Link arrives at Mariner … than that means it found its branch.

    Choosing the I5 option will result in a crap Mariner station walkshed. One of the more promising outcomes of early design was pulling the Mariner station away from the interchange. Running north along I5 and putting the OMF within the station walkshed is even more crappy.

    1. I agree with your analysis on this one. I can’t help thinking about how shortsighted it was to delete the additional two northern stations on “Lynnwood Link” between ST2 version one in 2007 and version two in 2008 that would have made Ash Way the northern terminus for the time being. In other words, I think the calculus for the Everett Link/STX optimal configuration was forever changed because of that one decision.

      1. The framing is now all wrong, but the political calculus shouldn’t be any different? Get the train to Ash Way asap and then pause, accrue subarea equity, and then figure what which alignments to prioritize. Maybe don’t even build the Mariner station in this next phase, just some tail track norther of Ash Way.

        IMO, the best outcome for Everett is Stride between Everett station and Bellevue TC, with some 5/405 interchange work to allow a bus to serve Ash Way freeway station and then directly access 405 HOT lanes. Everett gets a fast, frequent, reliable connection to Spine and a 1-seat ride to East King. I hope with Stride 405 opens, riders & politicians are able to draw the conclusion, “this gets me 80% of the value of Link for 10% of the cost.”

    2. “If the priority is cost, just build Link to Mariner, run ST Express to Everett, and punt the rest to ST4”

      That’s the default fallback in the realignment. Mariner and Everett are in two nominal phases now, so ST could terminate at Mariner and say that’s as much as ST3 can afford, and then debate what to do after that. Mariner is the new Ash Way.

      “Everett is Stride between Everett station and Bellevue TC”

      That’s an interesting idea. Stride 2 is already in design between Bellevue and Lynnwood. There’s no conceptual reason it couldn’t be extended to Everett, since we already have express buses going that far to Seattle. It probably wouldn’t be in ST3 due to cost and lack of voter approval, but ST could figure out how to address those.

      1. Yeah, within the ST3 context, Stride 2 will need to run to Lynnwood since that’s the commitment to voters, so Everett-Bellevue “stride” would technically be a strong ST Express route, but as mitigation for the delay of “phase 2” of Everett Link it would be awesome if there was a project to allow for direct access between the 405 HOV/HOT lanes and the I5 center lane, to allow for a bus to go direct from the Ash Way freeway station to 405. Getting that bus all the way to Lynnwood TC ceases to be important when Link reaches Ash Way.

        Post ST3, this Everett-East King route could be upgraded to Stride – potentially with infill stations such as Everett Mall – either in lieu of or in addition to Lynnwood-Bellevue. If there are also HOT/HOV ramps at the 405/520 interchange (in WSDOT’s 405 long term plan), an elegant system design would be an X operating pattern (Lynnwood-Bellevue and Everett-Redmond, for example) with same-platform transfers within the Bothell/Kirkland Stride stations.

      2. Presumably, ST2 will replace the 535. I don’t see any reason to change the 532 though (other than to match the stops on I-405). Stride has several aspects, but the most important are better stops, speed and frequency. A regular bus can take advantage of the first two (the 535 can run on the faster 405, and serve the new 522/450 transit hub). In contrast, it would be hard to justify a really frequent 532, given the lack of all-day demand.

        I also don’t think there is much advantage to branding, and while off-board payment is nice, it doesn’t make much difference if you have only a handful of stops used mainly by commuters (who have ORCA cards).

        You could combine Stride 2 with the 510 (which I think you are suggesting).
        In the middle of the day (when the 535 isn’t running) the Stride 2 could be extended to Everett. I’m not sure if that is the best combination though. There are only so many people going from Everett to Bellevue in the middle of the day, especially since it still requires going down to Lynnwood and then back. I think I would rather extend the 510 further north. The tricky part is working with the 201/202 in Everett. Do you complement it with service on a parallel street, or run on the same street, increasing frequency? Hard to say, but I think that is more important than extending it to Bellevue.

        If the 510 is sent somewhere south of Lynnwood, Bellevue might not be the best choice. Bellevue is a big destination, but it takes a while to get there. Maybe it could run to Edmonds College. Again, this would be done with the cooperation of Community Transit, but the connection between the Lynnwood Transit Center and the college seems like a very important one that will generate plenty of rides.

      3. Argg. I meant 512 instead of 510 in my previous comment (sorry about the confusion).

      4. it would be awesome if there was a project to allow for direct access between the 405 HOV/HOT lanes and the I5 center lane, to allow for a bus to go direct from the Ash Way freeway station to 405.

        First thing they need to do is connect Ash Way to the HOV lanes of I-5 both directions. That would be a very inexpensive improvement (https://goo.gl/maps/djzJnFKpK7KvRdpz7) and make 512-style service significantly faster. This would essentially make Ash Way “on the way” for all of the express bus service headed to Lynnwood.

        Unfortunately, connecting the HOV lanes of 405 with I-5 would be a lot more expensive, and do nothing for the riders going from Lynnwood to Bellevue. In neither case are there a a lot of riders. It would be a great improvement, but it would be hard to justify the cost. Then again, WSDOT has spent way more money on way less important projects.

      5. Yeah I don’t have strong take on whether Everett-East King should be a single Stride route or a series of 51X routes that overall into good frequency.

        But I do think the I5-405 direct access is worthwhile. Likely the most important inter-subarea problem for ST to solve post-ST3 is how to better connect Pierce and Snohomish to East King job centers.

        If they build Link along I5 all the way to Everett downtown, then inter-regional express buses never need to go north of Ash Way. 405 buses to/from East King could truncate at Lynnwood or Ash Way; either way a I5 HOV to 405 HOT lane direct connect is super helpful.

      6. Likely the most important inter-subarea problem for ST to solve post-ST3 is how to better connect Pierce and Snohomish to East King job centers.

        Maybe, but even then it isn’t clear what it means to “solve” these sorts of problems from a macro level. A particular issue can be solved (e. g. the delay caused by going from Ash Way to 405) but in terms of meeting the needs of the riders, it is a lot more complex. Transit involves a mix of frequency, stop locations and speed. To deal with all of these issues we need a range of improvements. It gets tricky figuring out which ones are worth it, and which ones aren’t.

        For example, fairly soon, trips from Tacoma to Seattle will be better than ever. You will be able to take a bus that is fast and frequent all day long. I think this solves the biggest issues with frequency as well as stop location (the bus runs through downtown Tacoma and downtown Seattle). But there are other issues. During rush hour, the HOV lanes can be bogged down. Sounder helps mitigate the problem, but I wouldn’t say it is solved it, as it isn’t particularly fast from Tacoma (it curves southwest before heading north). If Link gets to the Tacoma Dome, it doesn’t solve this problem, as taking Link is slower than Sounder (and often much slower than the bus). The simplest way to solve this problem is to just convert HOV-2 to HOV-3 on I-5, and add HOV ramps to the Tacoma Dome. This would be relatively cheap, and improve the lives of thousands of riders a day.

        Now consider Everett/Ash Way to Bellevue riders. They have express buses to Bellevue during peak. Outside of peak, riders take express buses to Lynnwood, then transfer to an all-day express bus to Bellevue (Stride). The 532 is frequent (and busy) during rush hour. The few reverse-peak buses run only every half hour, and carry very few riders. The low ridership may be because of the poor service, or it may be because there is very little demand outside of peak direction. If it is the latter, then the biggest problem with the 532 is not low frequency outside of peak, but congestion during peak. Some of that congestion will be fixed as HOT lanes expand. But we are left with the congestion from Ash Way to 405.

        But here is the thing: Not that many people ride the 532. Southbound, less than 600 people board before Canyon Park. Even if the ridership were to increase ten-fold (a huge, very unlikely increase) it would be hard to justify a major, multi-million dollar set of HOV ramps. If this particular issue is the biggest overall inter-subarea problem, then inter-subarea problems are minor. Yes, these riders get delayed getting to 405 (or detouring to Lynnwood). But compared to the thousands upon thousands with worse problems, it isn’t that big of a deal. Just on the 532 it isn’t likely the biggest issue. Canyon Park has about 400 riders headed to Bellevue, not that much less than the Ash Way and Everett stops combined. But my guess is, those riders have a problem that hasn’t been solved — getting to Canyon Park. Maybe the best thing to do is run a bus from the neighborhoods (e. g. SR 527) to Canyon Park that continues to Bellevue. Likewise, maybe we should do the same thing from Ash Way, given more people ride the 532 from Ash Way than Everett. This means splitting the 532, but even if you kept all the 532 trips, and the new bus didn’t get that many riders, this would still be a lot cheaper than building a new ramp, while saving them a considerable amount of time (and a transfer).

        By the way, the 535 is similar. There are only about 450 riders from Lynnwood (most trips are between Canyon Park and downtown Bellevue). These numbers will definitely increase with Stride. That should give us a good idea as to whether that HOV connection (which is different than the one we mentioned) is worth the money. My guess is it isn’t.

        I get it. It is tempting to focus on big projects, especially when they have a clear benefit. I’m also a big fan of bus-related infrastructure improvements in the suburbs (I would much rather have HOV ramps to connect Issaquah/Eastgate to Bellevue than a train line). You just have a lot more flexibility (like splitting the 532 at Ash Way). But sometimes the ramps are just too expensive, and you have too few people headed that way. This is one of those times.

        In contrast, imagine a bus that goes from Woodinville to the 522/I-405 hub, then goes south on 405, then west on 520 to the UW (making all of the freeway stops). This bus could run all-day, connecting UW Bothell to the main UW campus, as well as plenty of other popular connections (e. g. Totem Lake to the UW or pretty much anywhere in Seattle would be dramatically faster). Ridership on this bus would dwarf ridership on the sections we are talking about, even if we solved the I-5/405 problem, and did nothing about the 520/405 problem. Simply adding this bus would be a huge improvement for thousands of riders, and cost very little. This is the sort of thing that would be a much better value before or after ST3.

      7. I’m keen to see Everett-East King ridership performs post-COVID, post-Amazon Bellevue boom, post-East Link, and post-405 HOT lanes and Stride investments. In the before times, the 53X was mostly shoulder running, didn’t provide good frequency or service, and there simply wasn’t as much “there” there at the Bellevue TC. With Stride/HOT lanes, dramatically improved speed and reliability, and with East Link, much more powerful transfers opportunities at Bellevue TC to destinations elsewhere in East King. Unless East King’s job centers have a major slump, I think ridership on this corridor will dramatically improve.

        I have simillar thoughts on 167 to East King corridor. In the before times, an anemic long range express, but in the future, with the 167/405 flyover ramps and HOT lanes the length of 405, this could also emerge as a productive express bus corridor.

        If ridership north of Bothell continues to be anemic, then fair enough, Everett-East King likely doesn’t merit HCT investment and the improvements I suggested should not be prioritized. As you note, it will be interesting to see which has more riders traveling from Snohomish to East King, Lynnwood to Canyon Park on Stride, or Everett to Canyon Park on STX. I suspect the latter (Lynnwood-Canyon park should get good ‘Seattle’ bound ridership)

      8. In the before times, the 53X was mostly shoulder running, didn’t provide good frequency or service, and there simply wasn’t as much “there” there at the Bellevue TC.

        The 532 ran every ten minutes peak direction. Bellevue had most of the skyscrapers it has now (there is plenty “there”). This explains why lots of people were riding the 550 from Seattle, even after they mucked with it. The 532 had good ridership — a lot of the buses were full — but that was because of riders closer to downtown Bellevue, not folks from Ash Way or Everett. You could blame this on speed, but a lot of those delays are felt by other riders. Riders into Seattle encounter the delays on I-5, while riders from Canyon Park (which outnumber the two Everett stops combined) had to deal with the same delays south of there. Absent any other changes, ridership should definitely increase as the buses get faster. But the existing numbers are so small, there would have to be a radical change to get even 1,000 a day from Everett.

        Frequency on the 535 was different. Even during rush hour the bus ran every half hour. It made for an interesting combination. ST assumed that most ridership would come between Canyon Park and downtown Bellevue (they were right). They also felt like folks from Ash Way and Everett were taking trips that were more peak oriented, while Lynnwood was more of an all-day activity. I’m not so sure about the latter. I think ridership will increase significantly as they add more service between Lynnwood and Bellevue, especially during rush hour. But again, there just isn’t a lot to start with. Let’s say ridership doubles because of the increase in frequency. Assume it does the same with the increase in speed. That is a dramatic 4-fold increase in ridership, which is very rare. But even if it did happen, you are looking at about 1,500 riders from Lynnwood. That is after all that work is done. To then invest in a very expensive project to benefit those riders (or hope that the number gets bigger) seems excessive. I’m all for cheap improvements (we should have connected those Ash Way ramps years ago — we should start planning on doing it now) but connecting the HOV lanes of I-5 to 405 would be an extremely expensive project.

        Regardless, I think they are doing things in the right order. There is no sense in guessing what 405 ridership is going to be like, as it will be here fairly soon.

      9. I have similar thoughts on 167 to East King corridor. In the before times, an anemic long range express, but in the future, with the 167/405 flyover ramps and HOT lanes the length of 405, this could also emerge as a productive express bus corridor.

        I think this is a trickier corridor (it always seems like the southern suburbs are trickier than the northern ones). Part of it is that Renton is a significant destination. Ash Way is not. The 567 skipped Renton, but also didn’t go as far as Auburn. It was meant as an express to take off some of the pressure on the other route (similar to how the 301 took the pressure off the E). The problem is, neither the 566 or 567 carried that many riders from Kent/Auburn.

        To be fair, the schedule wasn’t great. The 567 ran every twenty minutes, as opposed to the 532, which ran every ten. It also only ran during rush hour. The 566 ran all day, but in an odd pattern. During rush hour, sometimes there were gaps of 5 minutes, followed by gaps of 25, then a 5 minute gap again. It was goofy. (Now it is more sensible, but always infrequent.) During the rest of the day the bus ran every hour, and hardly anyone rode it (averaging around 10 riders per bus).

        Hard to say what to do. I think I would make the following changes to the routes:

        566 — Same routing.
        567 — Extend to Auburn.
        568 — New route, which goes from Auburn/Kent to Renton.

        Ideally, we would run the 566 every 15 minutes during rush hour, and every 30 minutes outside it. Run the 567 opposite it every 15 minutes during rush hour (only). Chances are, the 566 would not get many riders outside of rush hour, which would lead to:

        Run the 566 every 15 minutes during rush hour (only). This helps connect Auburn/Kent with Renton, while also reducing the load for Stride. Run the 567 opposite it every 15 minutes during rush hour (only). Outside of rush hour, run the 568 every half hour. The 568 would not get a huge number of riders, but it also wouldn’t cost as much. Don’t run the 568 when the other buses are running. Thus it becomes like the 510/512. If riders see the 512, they take it, knowing it will be a while (maybe a full day) before they can take the faster 510. People would do the same with the 568. If you see it, you take it, knowing you missed your chance for the one-seat ride to Bellevue.

        I could also see that same pattern, but without the 568. Outside of rush-hour, ridership on the 568 is terrible. Frequency is bad as well, but that isn’t all of it (e. g. frequency is bad at the edge of rush hour, and yet it gets a lot more riders). There is an alternative, which is Metro’s 160. Essentially the new 568 would be an express version of that, and may not be justified outside of rush hour. It would be a pain to take the 160 and transfer to Stride to get to Bellevue, but the alternative would be very costly. You could run any of these buses every ten minutes, and none of them would get more than ten riders a trip (based on current ridership patterns). While I am all for increasing frequency, I just don’t see this working.

        There is another option. Once the 44th Street freeway station (and Stride line) are added, the 567 will certainly stop there. Thus riders can backtrack to Renton. Run the 567 every ten minutes during rush hour. Run the 566 every 15 minutes (or so) during rush hour, which helps reduce crowding on Stride. The rest of the day, you only run the 567. Ridership from Kent/Auburn to Renton was significant, not huge (roughly 10%). Those riders also have the 160.

        Tough to say what the best option is. The basic problem (and this is true to the north as well) is that there simply aren’t enough riders, no matter what we do. There are people going between Bellevue, Renton, Auburn, Lynnwood and Everett, but not huge numbers outside of rush hour. Those numbers are tiny compared to the number that funnel into Seattle. Riders from Totem Lake to the UW (and pretty much everywhere in Seattle) have a long slog on the 255. Riders from UW Bothell have a long slog to the main UW campus via the 372. Yet those buses carry around 15,000 riders, some of which are certainly making those trips. Thus a Woodinville/UW Bothell/Totem Lake/UW express would carry way more people, and save those riders a lot more time.

      10. Yeah there are two different problems to solve – connections to Renton, and connections to East King – and it’s a hard trade-off with 1 route, at least until there is a Stride station on the north edge of urban Renton (likely Renton).

        There should be two routes, one that stay on the HOT lanes and connects to Renton via the Stride station at 44th (i.e. 567), and another that serves the local Renton streets (i.e. 566), connecting to Stride at S Renton TC. The 567 will have an immense speed & reliability advantage; not only does the 566 take local streets, it doesn’t have HOT direct access to either 405 or 167 in Renton; it’s basically Stride ROW but turning toward Kent rather than Burien. The 566 is moderately useful as a connection between southeast King and Renton, but it’s really about picking up riders traveling between Renton and Bellevue, so I’m not sure how compelling a 568 is?

    3. It would still be worth it to put the terminus at Airport Way and Evergreen, to allow the bus transfer to/from the Swift BRT blue line. That intersection can easily become a TOD hub, light rail plus two BRT lines, plenty of land and parking lots to work with, though you’d really need Las Vegas style ped bridges to deal with the crossings of what are essentially two highways.

  3. One of the outcomes of distance-based fares is that Everett-Seattle commuters will get soaked for even more for diverting to Paine Field than they would have had to pay for going straight to Seattle.

    Let’s be real about the effects of distance-based fares. They won’t impact anyone’s decision about how far to live from Seattle, but they will impact whether riders will lobby to keep a “cheaper” express bus, operated by ST. Granted, the train will always be cheaper than filling the gas tank, thankfully.

    1. Distance-based fares aren’t a fixed formula and don’t need to be a linear function. ST has complete control of its fares and can have any Express bus cost the same as Link serving the same trip pairs. CT is not going to price undercut ST (which admittedly does happen in other regions but I think CT is committed to not serving express routes south of Lynnwood TC)

    2. CT actually charges a higher express fare than either ST or Metro for distances longer than Lynnwood-downtown. So it does the opposite of undercutting.

      1. CT’s first 2024 route restructure proposal has no commuter routes going all the way to downtown Seattle. It has one really long “express” route through the eastside of Snohomish County to Downtown Bellevue Station. I doubt the commuter fares will exist any more after Lynnwood Link opens, certainly not just to charge a premium for one route with a small number of trips that otherwise get very sparse service from CT.

        ST gave into pressure from Everett commuters, keeping ST Express 510 during peak, all the way to downtown Seattle, for a mere $3.25. There is no guarantee that it goes away with the opening of Lynnwood Link. I doubt it stays around, but who knows? It turned out there was plenty of room at the Northgate bus bays to have a peak STX 510 to Everett.

        Now, they’re probably feeling glad they kept the super-express, so they can avoid the 1 Line like the plague. (literally – It is to be avoided by anyone not wanting to get COVID now — it really is that scary to ride — since ST is bizarrely declining to recommend masking on the train, a move that would cost them nothing, save lives, and almost certainly improve fare revenue)

        CT did itself no favors by charging the same fares for the 800-series routes as for the 400-series routes. Every trip that gets shifted from a 400 to an 800 is a dramatic savings for CT.

        Anyway, expect fierce resistance to getting rid of STX 577 or that portion of STX 578 when Federal Way Link opens. Some of that resistance would go away if STX charged a premium for its longest express routes and a local fare similar to Metro’s for its short and BRTish routes. The 1 Line (hopefully post-pandemic) will compete well time-wise during peak traffic jams, but that is when the political demand for keeping STX 577 will be most pronounced. If peak 577 sticks around, so will off-peak 577/578 to downtown, because it is actually time-competitive with the 1 Line. And then the frequency upgrade on 578 won’t happen.

        AFAIK, BART is the only other all-day frequent passenger train system in the country that employs a distance-based fare system, AFAIK. Whether it is great at improving fare revenue from suburban riders, loses fare revenue on the majority of trips that are short, or discourages suburban ridership is something that would need a deep dive into its fare revenue and ridership.

    3. Link is not a regular subway. If it was, it would not go into Snohomish or Pierce County. The New York Subway System charges a flat fare in part because it is a regular system. It serves a city that dwarfs that of Seattle. It could extend trains well outside the city, and carry thousands more than Seattle. But like most subway systems in the world, it doesn’t.

      Your comparison to BART is apt, because it is similar. These are hybrid systems, combing commuter rail and a traditional subway. Just about every commuter rail network charges distance-based fares. For that matter, Link is essentially regional rail. Look how many people are pushing for the elimination of stops (!) so that the train can get to Everett faster. A train from Everett to Seattle is clearly regional rail, so of course distance-fares make sense. I expect to pay more for an Amtrak ticket from Seattle to San Fransisco than I do a ticket from Seattle to Portland. The same is true with this hybrid regional rail/commuter rail/subway system.

      There are several reasons for this. First, it costs more to go farther. You have more miles of track to maintain, more drivers to pay, more trains to buy (and bigger places to put them). This all adds up. Smaller systems tend to be far more cost effective. They move way more people per dollar spent (and save them more time). Another is that you are adding more value. This is fairly obvious when you consider the alternatives. A cab from Everett to Seattle is going to cost a lot more than a cab from Lynnwood to Seattle. Thus people are willing to pay more (and usually do pay more) for other ways to make that trip. All fares try to strike a balance. You want to raise money for the system, but you don’t want to price people out of riding. With larger distances, people are willing to pay more (because they are getting more).

      Thus a flat-fare subsidizes long distance riders. Often this occurs just for practical reasons. Riders on buses like the 7 give riders on longer, less popular routes a discount. The two-zone fare system was too much of a hassle. But with the proof-of-payment system on Link, this becomes trivial. Yes, it is sometimes hard to remember to tap-off, but it’s not that hard.

      Anyway, expect fierce resistance to getting rid of STX 577 or that portion of STX 578 when Federal Way Link opens. Some of that resistance would go away if STX charged a premium for its longest express routes and a local fare similar to Metro’s for its short and BRTish routes

      I agree that there will be plenty of people who want to save the 577. I think a better example is the 590, especially as it gets better service. At some point (hopefully soon) folks in Tacoma will have a fast one-seat ride from downtown Tacoma to downtown Seattle with 15 minute headways all-day long (both directions). A couple years later, Link gets to Federal Way. At that point, ST has a choice: they can truncate those buses in Federal Way, or have them serve that stop and continue on to downtown Seattle. The vast majority of riders would prefer the latter. Should ST charge more for this service?

      Absolutely. This has nothing to do with how much Link charges. Link could be free; they could charge ten bucks for that trip — that is largely irrelevant. People will much prefer the express bus. Of course there will be some riders who transfer to Link (to get to SeaTac or Rainier Valley) but most of the folks are headed to downtown Seattle. When you throw in the riders from Federal Way who also prefer an express, it actually makes for a decent bus line (some riders get on, some get off).

      But it is still extremely expensive per rider. Thus having those riders pay more the service is quite reasonable, especially when you consider how popular it is for those riders. There aren’t huge numbers of people taking the bus, but those that do probably really like it. Speaking of which, the 586 should have been axed a while ago, but if we keep it, we should charge more for it.

      The challenge with the 590 is how to do so. Southbound is actually trivial. You can charge more for boarding in Seattle than boarding in Federal Way. That could be all you do, which means that it would be similar to the ferries (it costs more to go one way than the other). Otherwise you need some sort of “tap-off” system in Federal Way. That wouldn’t be that difficult. For ORCA riders it would be trivial. Those paying with cash would get a ticket that they could use at a machine in Federal Way to get money back. An alternative would be to just charge full fare for cash riders (assume they are headed all the way to Seattle).

      1. Thanks for explaining that distance based fares make sense for longer systems, Ross. DC MetroRail also has them in addition to other systems like BART.

        I would also add that a flat boarding fare also ultimately makes short-distance trips on transit less attractive. To offer a uniform boarding fare means that a base fare has to be set, and that gets paid for any trip long or short. Besides charging more for longer trips, I would like to see a short-distance discount fare like charging only a dollar full fare to travel between Downtown Seattle stations.

      2. Best practice is likely to get the vast majority of the riders paying a flat fare, via either a day pass or a monthly pass. Ross illustrates a number of clever policy solutions to nudge riders who pay by the ride, but goal should be for the vast majority of riders to be fare-agnostic when traveling within the region, especially when it comes to choosing between modes and transfers.

      3. @AJ — From that article:

        Zonal fares: fares are in zones, rather than depending more granularly on distance as is common in Asia. Zones can be concentric and highly non-granular as in Berlin, concentric and granular as in Munich, or non-concentric as in Zurich.

        In other words, they have distance-based fares. It is just that they work in zones. Also from that article:

        Monthly and annual discounts: there is a large discount for unlimited monthly tickets, in order to encourage people to prepay and not forget the fare when they ride the train. There are even annual tickets, with further discounts.

        My understanding is that these “unlimited” monthly and yearly tickets are based on zones (https://www.mvv-muenchen.de/en/tickets-and-fares/frequent-travellers/index.html).

      4. Ah, that Munich link was helpful. I was having trouble visualizing how zones would work with monthly/annual passes.

        But I don’t see where the zones would be for Puget Sound. Roughly matching the subarea boundaries could work, but then that creates a disconnect with bus fares. If KCM is going to run flat fares across the county, then I don’t see how Link can be different without creating perverse incentives (cost-sensitive riders choosing slower buses). Do the bus systems for these cities also have fares based on zones?

      5. In some cases, riding just in the surrounding towns/suburbs is more expensive. So if we implemented that, it would cost more to board in Lynnwood than Westlake, even if you are only going to the next stop. That is because Munich (and Germany) doesn’t have a “tap off” system.

        I’m not sure exactly how the buses work. I think the buses that carry people into town are on the zone system, whereas local buses are not.

        I think there was some talk about adding some sort of “outer zone” combination that would be cheaper. So if you only stay in a few of the outer zones, you can get a cheaper fare. If you are caught in an inner zone, you pay the fine. Thus riders still don’t have to “tap off”, but it does mean the ticketing system is more complicating. I’m pretty sure they don’t have anything like ORCA cards — you either buy a monthly pass, or a ticket for the ride you are interested in.

      6. A few points on the flat vs. distance fare debate:

        (1) Every rider is being subsidized by the taxpayers or their employer. No rider is subsidizing other riders, except through their payment of taxes.

        (2) To get to the question of whether a lower fare for short trips on the train compared to short trips on a bus matters, we have to drill down to the set of occasional riders who don’t have a pass covering both — the set of riders who are “fare agnostic”. Anyone who has a reduced-fare or free-fare pass is “fare agnostic” because they are thankfully held harmless from distance-based fares under ST’s current fare system.

        Then we have to make a value judgement that we *want* riders to prefer to take the train for those short trips. That may vary by bus route.

        (3) Sound Transit would probably be getting more fare revenue if the base fare on Link were set to the same as the Metro bus fare. Having the fare lower pushes more revenue toward that bus route you are trying not to give preference to.

        ST could easily experiment by setting the base fare equal to Metro’s fare, and seeing if it impacts ridership (post-pandemic).

        Sans such a noticeable negative impact on ridership, giving short-distance riders a discount over the local bus fare is a really weak reason to soak suburban riders.

        (4) The dropping of the distinct sounds for tap-on and tap-off is a hint that ST doesn’t care if some if its warnings and fines are for false positives (i.e. for riders in possession of clear-and-obvious proof of pre-payment).

        ST has smartly figured out that they get more fare revenue by removing the ability to “cancel” trips. However, it is unclear whether the next tap at a different station is treated as “tap off” or a new ride, with transfer credit applied if applicable, or something different and possibly new, perhaps a hybrid of the two. If checking your balance at the second station shows you got charged for the appropriate-length trip, the next step is to take that second trip, and see what the vending machine at the next station says.

        Charging the maximum fare possible for a one-tap trip, by concealing the ability to “tap off”, will still soak those riders living close to the end of the Line the most, and has always targeted tourists the hardest. Some may see that as a “feature” rather than an unethical business practice.

      7. “it is unclear whether the next tap at a different station is treated as “tap off” or a new ride, with transfer credit applied if applicable”

        I did extra taps the first few days to see what it would do, and occasionally since then I couldn’t remember if I tapped so I tapped again, or tapped and changed my mind. I have a $99 pass ($2.75) and an e-purse for surcharges. When I check my balance at a TVM occasionally to refill it, the e-purse has never been drained more than expected, in spite of the ambiguous message at Link and bus readers. So it looks like it’s honoring transfers OK, and the only people who might overpay on a trip the don’t take are those who pay e-purse without a pass.

        The Link reader message has also changed slightly. At the beginning it always said “Thank You” and a uniform beep, regardless of whether you’re tapping in, tapping out, or tapping to cancel. Recently I got a “You already paid” message when I retapped at a Link station. I think I got one of those on a bus too when it registered my tap twice, an update of the “PASS BACK” message.

        The agencies lauded ORCA 2 software as more flexible, and say more features will be rolled out one by one over the coming months. So it’s possible that a distinct tapout message and beep may be coming with that. I just wish ST would say so definitively. Is this one of features it couldn’t get in initially because it was focusing so much on making sure existing cards would still work?

  4. One reason small businesses do not subsidize transit is because it is no longer a business deduction after the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Employer subsidized transit has a benefit because those riders have a very high payment percentage since they are not paying. I would also not be surprised if the rising minimum wage is a factor in small employers not subsidizing transit.

    If the goal is to revitalize transit to downtown Seattle that will require a revitalized downtown Seattle. In the past, peak transit downtown was high because of traffic congestion and high parking costs, and because the jobs were downtown (jobs that lend themselves to WFH), not that commuters like riding a packed bus (after finding a way to get to the bus) for two hours every weekday of their life. Link has more capacity and is more comfortable, unless of course you add in transfers and first/last mile access to the feeder bus (which of course is why many will just drive to the park and ride that serves East Link).

    The other issue is that WFH part or full time saves small employers in the downtown area — where rents tend to be the highest — a lot of money by reducing the amount of office space needed. For example, our firm will be leaving our downtown office space at the end of summer for office space on the eastside, and although smaller we will save almost 60% in rent, plus free parking for us and staff.

    Workers have gotten use to WFH part or full time. A friend of mine was just hired by Amazon for a fairly senior position, and he was told he could work in any office (he lives on Capitol Hill) and Amazon would like him in the office one day/week unless his supervisor waives that requirement. So probably no matter what happens in downtown Seattle peak transit will never return to pre-pandemic levels, and overall could see a 20% to 40% reduction, maybe a bit higher in this area (I think 23% of Seattle workers have returned to the office so far).

    The real issue in the future (not unlike the TransLink article noting it is getting into the property development game because farebox recovery is down so much) will be how to scale transit to meet farebox recovery — which won’t be easy for ST with a 40% recovery assumption pre-pandemic that was 30% on the UW to downtown line and no objective way to enforce fares — or how to raise additional general tax revenue to maintain coverage and frequency, and most importantly where.

    1. Most small businesses are outside downtown Seattle, so those are the workers impacted the most by the lack of subsidized passes or bus service. More of them are being concentrated in growth centers or existing commercial centers, which would make them easier to serve with transit. Others are in isolated office parks or other random locations that are the hardest to serve by transit.

      But this is where public policy comes in. In Germany, as we’ve discussed, you can’t build an industrial center without a high-capacity transit plan for the tens of thousands of workers. You probably can’t just locate other businesses in random non-transit-accessible locations or car-dependent strip malls (which probably don’t exist either). All of that should be part of regional planning and zoning: locating offices and transit together so workers and customers have non-driving alternatives, and also thinking about the other end of their commute, the homes they’re coming from. King and Snohomish Counties are doing a better job than they did thirty years ago of concentrating businesses in transit-accessible locations and sometimes providing transit, but there’s room for improvement.

      1. Decades ago I visited a friend in NYC (Laange Island) to take a ski trip to Vermont. I wasn’t shocked by the Big City. I’d been there before. Laange Island (Oyster Bay) is/was as suburban as the eastside. What shocked me was after leaving NYC on the turnpike it turned rural in a finger snap. Even back then it would have been 30+ miles to see that level of density leaving Seattle. Maybe that’s changed?

      2. The claims that “Los Angeles is denser than New York” are based on the fact that, LA is more uniform medium density citywide, and the other Southern California cities are probably similar. New York City is dense, but parts of it are not, and it drops preciptously in the tri-state area, enough to bring the average down below Southern California. But if you calculate it with population-weighted density, the number of close neighbors every person has in every neighborhood, then you get at what kind of environment people truly live in and want to know about other places. Namely, that Manhattan is dense, much of Brooklyn and Queens are dense, but parts of Brooklyn aren’t as much, Staten Island is reportedly less, and when you get out beyond the inner suburbs it gets a lot less. So population-weighted density is the most useful, but most sources report average density. Average density is like leveling Seattle or King County or Puget Sound to a single average. But people can’t live in averages, they only live in particular neighborhoods with particular densities.

      3. L. A. has more population density than New York? Yeah, right, and 8 out of 10 dentists recommend Colgate (https://www.geckoboard.com/blog/sources-of-misleading-statistics/).

        Density is hard to measure, and yet according the Wikipedia, New York City has higher raw density (number of people divided by land mass). That sort of number is often misleading and unimportant. Like so much in transit, you have to look at things at the neighborhood level. This is what they do with the census. This allows us to see how many people live in neighborhoods of various density. In short, New York has way more density.

        There may be an easier way to display the difference, but this is the only way I know how to do it: Look at this map, centered over L. A.: http://luminocity3d.org/WorldPopDen/#10/34.3066/-118.1209. Now select the “Interactive Stats” checkbox, and move the cursor over the city. A popup graph should appear, showing how many people live in particular density ranges. Now do the same with New York (http://luminocity3d.org/WorldPopDen/#10/40.5978/-73.6867). L. A. isn’t even in the same league.

        It is hard to summarize the difference, so I encourage people to look at the graphs. For those that can’t, consider this tiny table (which is rough):

        Under 4k: New York: 30%, L. A. 50%
        Over 12k: New York: 40%, L. A. 3%

        It is common for people to explain that L. A. has better density than you might expect. I agree with this. But that doesn’t mean that it comes close to having the kind of dense neighborhoods that New York has. New York has literally millions of people living in high density neighborhoods (of various types). L. A. doesn’t.

      4. I suppose a question not asked is whether the density of NY is better than living with the density in LA. Which city would you rather live in. We list cities in terms of density without asking whether that city is better to actually live in.

        I suppose that is a judgment call. But I have lived in both NY and LA, and while I did not have a lot of money.

        NY to me is way too dense, certainly if you are not rich. I slept on a kitchen floor and could hear the cockroaches when the lights were turned off. The vibe is uber aggressive and ambitious, and I felt like a rat without the money to afford any privacy, or most of the amenities of NY. Now if I were very rich, and could afford a luxury apartment and could avoid public transportation NY is different, and when I returned when older (and with more money) staying in a hotel on vacation with money to afford the nicer things NY was a lot more fun. However I would not raise a rat in NY city, let alone a kid.

        LA is much nicer to live in if you don’t have a lot of money. There are more housing options, and the beach and weather. Plus the girls are waaaaaaaay prettier. It is a younger city, and much more relaxed when compared to NY, and not surprisingly many residents moved to LA from NY. It can be expensive, but there are more non-expensive places and options. You need a car, and traffic congestion can be a bear.

        If I had to choose which city to live in I would choose LA in a second, both back then and today. Especially if I had some money. Maybe because I am west coast and not east coast. I think LA gets somewhat of a bad rap for a city (and region) with a lot of things to do, natural beauty with the mountains and ocean, and just a much happier outlook on life (when both cities are pretty miserable to live in if you have no money, but so is Seattle).

        I never thought I would say this, but with the same cost of living, and if I had the same income, I would choose LA over Seattle, especially today with WFH because the peak commute in LA is its real downside. Density has very little to do with it, no matter which city you are talking about.

      5. Dan, LA has a very similar cost of living to Seattle (or, more accurately, Seattle’s cost of living has risen to meet LA’s in the past few years).

        I have suggestions where you’d probably like to live in LA, Dan – you’d make a great Santa Monica NIMBY. Although, you’d just be another transplant who has no idea what LA actually is, and you’d likely never take the time to learn and understand its history.

        Also, you’d probably be equally annoyed at the larger visible homeless population, the extreme cost overruns that LA Metro faces with its 2016 Measure M projects, and completely opaque City Council. One thing that’s nice about Seattle is that it’s City Council offices haven’t been recently raided by the FBI investigating extreme corruption associated with downtown construction permits.


        “Plus the girls are waaaaaaaay prettier.”

        Are you an actual child?

        “NY to me is way too dense, certainly if you are not rich… I would not raise a rat in NY city, let alone a kid.”

        What a sad thing to think about the nation’s largest city. I’m not sure why you thought this sentiment was worth sharing, but based on your posting history, you must be afraid that increasing residential density would result in Seattle (or any other densifying place) turning into a city that’s an unfit place to “raise a rat” in your eyes. And yet, that city that’s unfit for children (in your eyes) is the home of about 2 million of them.

      6. Nathan, my comments were based on my personal history living in NY and LA. I was not speaking for anyone else. I think most Los Angeles residents are concerned about the homeless situation (which like Harrell the mayor is trying to deal with), the cost overruns for Metro, and any council that acts illegally. So what? Do you support those? Do you support them here? If I am not mistaken the DA will be part of a recall election this fall, not unlike in San Francisco. Like the voters who elected Harrell, if crime and public safety are issues on the ballot they are the only issues.

        Whether it is LA or NY or Seattle it isn’t hard to understand where folks want to live in certain areas: the housing prices tell you that. Surely if you are looking for a house your real estate agent has told you housing prices reflect demand, and demand usually comes down to location, public safety, schools, and neighborhood character. And your suggestion I (or anyone my age and demographic) would want to live in Santa Monica tells me you know very little of LA. Maybe 40 years ago. Are you surprised I would want to live in the best neighborhood I could afford in LA, although unfortunately that would not include on the ocean?

        I don’t know if you have lived in NYC (Manhattan), especially if you have little money. Very difficult. Many young people move there and burn out.
        And raising a kid in such an urban and concrete dense area is not my ideal. Just the competition to get into pre-schools, and the cost, is impossible. My guess is you have not lived there, or maybe even visited.

        Density is not a good in itself, and it is foolish to think that. Or move to Mumbai. Plus everyone has different tolerances for density, and most of the U.S. land mass has very little density, and quite frankly when I visit those areas I like them, their openness and kindness, and the beauty of the land.

        For me NY, which is the extreme of density in the U.S., is too much density. Without extreme wealth I think it would be difficult to live in Manhattan below a certain line. I want less density. But that is just me. At the same time I am not looking to buy a ranch in Montana where my dad’s family came from and the density is about 4 per square mile. I like visiting, but not living, and would not want to raise a kid there either.

      7. “Without extreme wealth I think it would be difficult to live in Manhattan below a certain line.”

        That’s exactly the problem. There should be more of Manhattan or Manhattan-like areas. That would saturate the market and dilute the price premium Mahattan has. It’s artificial scarcity that’s driving the prices up.

      8. Manhattan has relentlessly been gentrifying Harlem to the north but it hasn’t done much to lower housing or living costs. Just too many people for the area bounded by water with too many people with extreme wealth. Lovely to visit, difficult to live in without the same high wealth. In the past you could move to Brooklynn or other areas not on Manhattan Island, but the prices of those neighborhoods have skyrocketed, ironically because many are zoned brownstone and for middle housing (actually less).

      9. Dan, again, you ramble but have no point other than to project your own preference for your lifestyle onto everyone else.

        I left LA for a reason. I don’t expect you to understand that reason.

        I have a very dear friend who got lucky and lived in the East Village for a few years, and I had many opportunities to visit him and sleep on his too-small couch in his 300 sqft, 2bd apartment. He now lives in Brooklyn, since that’s where he could afford an apartment to himself after working his way upward at his job. Again, if you think the observation that Manhattan is now only comfortable (or even affordable) for the wealthy is a novel one, I’ve got a floating bridge to sell you.

        I’m glad you can grasp the basic concept that housing prices reflect the value people are willing to pay to live in a place – the next step is understanding prices are not indicative of intrinsic value (we’re not trading mineral rights, here), but simply that the more people who want to live in a neighborhood (demand), the higher the prices are going to rise until more housing is built in the neighborhood (supply). So, if housing prices begin excluding low-income workers who want to live there, then more housing should be allowed to be built to ensure there’s something everyone can afford. Rich people can always buy larger or new housing that doesn’t need fixing. Poor people can only afford what’s leftover. When you allow for “natura” densification, the provision of housing to all incomes leads to the very density that you find so vile.

        I don’t have a problem with you choosing not to live in NYC, or in being uninterested in the “dense” parts of LA. I do have a problem with you implying that these places should not be allowed to be built. But to you, it’s apparently idiotic to think that if 10, then 20, then 30,000 people want to live in the same square mile, it should be legal for property owners to continue to redevelop the land to provide that housing to enable that density in a safe and practical manner.

        With your rebuttal of Santa Monica (which was a very nice and expensive part of LA when I lived in the Valley, then Downtown, then briefly Pasadena), I guess you’d prefer… Bel Air? Beverly Hills? The Hollywood Hills? Actually, Beverly Hills makes sense for you. Another small, grotesquely exclusionary city wasting millions of dollars suing LA Metro in opposition to a mass transit station being constructed within its borders as Metro works to connect the Westside to Downtown, and eventually to high density transit over Sepulveda Pass.

      10. https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ny/brooklyn/real-estate#:~:text=With%20a%20population%20of%202%2C736%2C074%2C%20972%2C314%20total%20housing,of%20the%20most%20expensive%20in%20all%20of%20America.


        I don’t know Nathan, housing and rental prices in Brooklyn don’t look very affordable to me. The average rent for a 654 sf apartment is $3124/mo.
        Better than Manhattan, but if you are correct that “So, if housing prices begin excluding low-income workers who want to live there, then more housing should be allowed to be built to ensure there’s something everyone can afford” what is Brooklyn doing wrong?

      11. I forget, Dan, that you struggle with reading comprehension, and so I have to simplify my comments.

        Why don’t you try it again? Focus on these words: “more housing should be allowed to be built”

        … the problem is that once I’ve simplified my comments to a level that is easily understandable, then the nuance gets lost, and you start saying tired takes like “but new market-rate construction is always unaffordable after the market rate becomes unaffordable”. And yes, that’s observably true. However, the point isn’t that new construction is what is affordable – when densification is allowed via new construction, the measured effect is that would-be gentrifiers preferentially move into new homes, which leaves old construction left over for lower incomes. Admittedly, this is a point that’s been thrown at you (what seems like) a thousand times already, so I’m not really sure why I’m bothering to repeat it. But here we are.

      12. Thanks for the article, Ron. It is a little ironic on this blog to see “middle housing” NIMBY’s in New York.

      13. New York City is ironically where both American big-city density and single-family zoning and and car-dependent parkways started. So it’s kind of both the problem and the solution all in one.

        In recent decades we focus on New York’s high density, high transit, high grid aspects because they’ve become increasingly unique in American cities. New York is the only American city you can go to where 70% of the residents in large areas don’t drive or have cars, where over a dozen subway lines run 24 hours, where traveling to Manhattan by commuter rail is the norm, where you have the most choices within walking distance, and you can get practically anywhere on transit. In other words, the only place in the US like London or Paris or Tokyo. But that’s not all New York is or its influence on other US cities has been.

        Jane Jacobs can be interpreted as both the savior of cities and a nimby, depending on which aspects you focus on. That’s kind of a metaphor for New York as a whole.

      14. “Manhattan has relentlessly been gentrifying Harlem to the north but it hasn’t done much to lower housing or living costs. Just too many people for the area bounded by water with too many people with extreme wealth”

        You answered the question yourself. There’s a scarcity of housing, so many people compete for each unit, the wealthiest bid the prices up because they can afford to live where they want, and lower-income people are shut out. You need walkable neighborhoods over a much larger area. Then eventually the demand will be saturated and prices will stop rising. Manhattan may always have a premium because there’s only one Wall Street and 5th Avenue, but if you build more walkable neighborhoods with convenient transit to the rest of the region and cultural attractions, then people who just want the generic environment will live in the other neighborhoods, and those who want only 5th Avenue will live in Manhattan. That would reduce the number of people trying to live in Manhattan, which would lower Manhattan’s price premium to a moderate level. Apartments all over New York are tight and hard to get into, so that indicates more are needed.

      15. Which city [New York or L. A.] would you rather live in?

        It is hard to choose, but only because of the *natural* advantages of Los Angeles. If New York had the same climate, beaches and proximity to the Sierras as L. A, it would be easy: New York. In other words, if I just stayed in the city, never went to the beach, and could somehow avoid the humidity of New York summers, I would choose New York, and it wouldn’t be close.

        You don’t need a car in New York. The architecture is a lot more interesting. There are way more shops and other places to visit on foot. This means that walking in New York is just a lot more fun and interesting. I can’t think of anything more fundamental to human existence than walking (it largely separates us from the other primates) and it is just a lot better in New York.

        The cultural advantages to New York are enormous. Not only is there more going on, but it is much easier to get to those things. In L. A., you might want to see a band, but they are playing across town. Good luck with that. Here is an example. Both cities have two basketball teams: L. A. Lakers, L. A. Clippers; New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets. Here is what it is like to get between areas in L. A.: https://goo.gl/maps/XTj9EXGReyhEB6VT9. Here is what it is like in New York: https://goo.gl/maps/7FPXEV1h9pEArhX27. Can you drive to the area? Sure, good luck with that.

        There really is no reason to favor L. A., other than the things that existed before it was a city (beaches, mountains, climate).

    2. I used to collect Metro bus transfers back in the day, store them in my wallet and ride the bus for free all the time…. questioned more than a few times by drivers, but never actually kicked off a bus, or ticketed. I think riding the bus cost 85 cents back then? I worked as a security guard and a short order cook, so stiffing Metro out of 85 cents was a pretty big gain for me. There is, and always will be, a big group of working poor who are going to figure out ways to ride for free. Long live the free riders! Without them doing all the crap jobs, Seattle wouldn’t function.

      Having employers pay for transit passes is making a deal with the devil. Once companies like Microsoft are on the hook, there’s not reason to keep fares low. So Transit outfits ratchet up fares for huge monthly payouts from Big Biz while the folks making pizza pretty much take it in the shorts.

      The trouble is now, with WFH finally happening is….

      1. White collar workers are seeking out WFH employment because nobody really wants a commute to work. Ever.

      2. WFH has a sliver lining for business… less rent and less money buying transit passes. The Golden Goose for transit…. that corporate paid pass money… is fading.

      3. Sound Transit is going after the free riders hard…. and most of them are the working poor who can’t make pizzas at home. They have to get to work somehow. Back when Transit had the White Collar money rolling in, there wasn’t a reason to clamp down on the Great Unwashed…. but not any more.

      4. Local government and transit outfits (starting with ST) aren’t getting the new reality. Over the next 5 years, the fare box isn’t going to be bringing in pre-pandemic levels. I actually see a bounce with transit over the next two years as workers come back from the office, but leave for WFH in the next couple of years after that. I can’t fill you all in on the details, but a couple of Big Insurance Companies in Seattle Metro view WFH like they do global warming. It’s the new reality and there isn’t a way to turn back the clock. The whole insurance industry is revamping customer service training around WFH and that’s the heart and soul of the business. We’re talking years of change and millions of dollars.. And Transit is the big loser here

      5. So who’s still riding transit in 5 years? Janitors? Immigrants? Old people? Students? Folks who can’t pay over 3 bucks to ride the #@^%&*%$ bus?

      Things are going to have to change.

      1. Having employers pay for transit passes is making a deal with the devil. Once companies like Microsoft are on the hook, there’s not reason to keep fares low.

        Good point. Although one approach is to simply tax employers to pay for transit. This could work for Metro, since Metro fare recovery isn’t that good. Just get ride of fares. The buses would run faster too (saving additional money).

        ST gets a lot more money for fares. It also gets complicated because ST is not focused on one county. You could charge an employer tax based on the subarea (in addition to what we are already paying) but that might go over like a lead balloon. At best we would have a hybrid model (lower the fares, and make up for the difference with more taxing). Or we shift money from new projects into maintenance and operations (delaying ST3 further).

        I don’t buy what you are predicting in terms of ridership. There will be a hit to transit, but it won’t be huge. There are too many reasons to go into the office (something I’ll get into later). There are plenty of jobs — not just low paying jobs — that can’t be done at home. Medical work for example. Not just doctors and nurses, but aids, technicians, support staff. There are too many other reasons to take transit. Let’s say half the transit trips are commutes. Also assume that half of those jobs can be done at home, and half of those workers actually decide to work from home. That works out to a loss of 1/8 the ridership. Significant, but not devastating (you could make up for that loss by just running the buses more often).

        Relatively few riders actually don’t pay. A fair number of those riders wouldn’t use transit if they were forced to pay. This is why heavy-handed fare enforcement is unnecessary. This is different than a lot of crime. Relatively few people shoplift, but they can cost the store a huge amount of money. In contrast, fare violators are unlikely to cost the agency much at all. If 10% of the people don’t pay, and 5% would pay if forced, then the agency is only losing 5% of their fare revenue. This is why Metro doesn’t freak out when people don’t pay. They know they are a small minority (less than my example) and it just isn’t worth it.

      2. ST now has a low-income fare, which will soon be $1 — on all its services — a lot less than the 85 cents you were charged decades ago when accounting for inflation.

        ST also participates in the very-low-income adult free-pass program and hopefully soon the free youth pass program.

        Employers aren’t losing employees willing to do the worst jobs because of transit fares. The worst jobs right now are any public-facing jobs where customers can and do come in without wearing face coverings. Only people who are desperate or ignorant of the science of the pandemic are signing up for those jobs right now. If elected officials gave a darn about the health and safety of these public-facing blue collar employees (or about trying to bring this pandemic to an end), they would re-instate masking requirements.

        But back to transit …

        It feels incredibly Orwellian to encounter ST employees with uniforms proclaiming them to be “Safety Officer”s, when said employees are exposing their mouth and nose to everyone around them. I’m very tempted to channel my inner d.p., but WTHey Sound Transit???!!!

        The quickest path right now to getting more fare revenue is to be accessible to more riders. The trains have been taken over by the unmasked, and many other riders rightfully don’t feel comfortable setting foot on those trains. They feel kinda like restaurants. (And the vast majority of restaurants have become pigsties.)

        But Transit is not a restaurant. It is an essential service. It needs to be accessible. Right now, it is not. Please bring back the mask mandates, starting with your own employees who are mingling with the public, and setting a very bad example.

  5. Good on The Seattle Times, both Lindholm and Ishaka, for speaking to neighbors in the Rainier Valley and bringing the dangerous conditions created by the light rail to light. Both provide simple and affordable mitigation solutions that would reduce injuries and fatalities. This would be an easy early win for incoming CEO Timm.

    For too many, the Rainier Valley is only a series of stops on the way to the airport. People forget that others live here. Including, apparently, the commenters on both pieces who managed to get those threads closed in rapid fashion with their callousness.

    1. Mike Lindblom does a good job of describing transportation situations and including the pertinent facts.

      The interesting statistic is why was there a spike in incidents in 2019. Could part of the problem be that residents are just getting used to it?

      Complacency around large moving objects, be they trucks, trains, cars(SUVs), planes, ships… is at the top of the list of why serious accidents happen in the various industries.

      One thing I noticed from Mike’s article was the photo of people waiting between the tracks (in the safe zone). It wasn’t that they were doing anything wrong, what interested me was how dingy everything looked.

      When Link opened in the valley, the red areas were distinctly red, and the raised portions (where traffic wasn’t supposed to) were obvious. (In a Google maps street view, one of the locations I came across was a road that ‘ended’ at the southbound tracks, i.e. not a through street, and you could see tire tracks over the tracks where people ignored that fact, and drove from the side street over the tracks and onto the northbound lanes of MLKing Way.

      Maybe they made the mistake of trying to have the train blend in to the environment too much. Better warning lights, gates, etc. will restore peoples attentiveness to the fact that trains are also present. I mean, after all, we in the PNW have the reputation of waiting for the ‘Walk’ light even if there are no cars for miles in each direction!

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Jim. You are right it is very dingy. The lights at MLK by the Columbia City station very much encourage crossing against the red from the station, because the walk signals are set to only give the green when the full crossing (both legs east/west from the platforms) is clear. So people ignore the signals and go on their own initiative when cars are turning and the crossing for their leg is protected. Dangerous! But what would you do if the alternative was waiting 2-4min for the cycle to clear.

        There was a pedestrian crossing signal at Dawson and MLK that a car hit last Fall. It was left blocking that entire crossing for over a month before anyone got to clearing it, and even longer before it was replaced.

        This is simple stuff that could be solved if anyone with pull at ST or SDOT regularly used these stations. They clearly don’t. I encourage you and other readers of this blog to take a trip down to Othello, Columbia City, or Rainier Beach stations this summer to see it for yourself. Othello and Columbia City have great food options you can’t find elsewhere in the city. And Rainier Beach is a great spot to enjoy the water when the sun is out. Make a day of it!

      2. That Street View link is one of the better stretches of MLK! Note, no fog line on the right; the curb is your lane. Same to the left of me, curb and train car. This section actually has street lights that are above the trees. Not so for much of MKL which is a pot hole waste land that yes Seattle drivers still speed through at 10+ over the Limit; or whatever they can weaving and cutting people off. Ride a bike at 5PM in December… not me. But what I see on Rainier every day is people on bikes (not the spandex set) riding the wrong way in traffic like they can just ride/camp where ever they like. Enforcement of existing laws has been better under Harrell but the problem was promoted for so many years to increase the budget that it’s sort of out of control.

      3. street lights that are above the trees
        I should have added, if they work because a large number of SDOT lights are burnt out.

        I drive through the new Spring Blvd all the time. Link is surface running (or will be some year from now… TBD). Contrast this with what Bellevue designed (it wasn’t ST) with MLK. SDOT did an OK job with the AK WF design. They failed on MLK. I think it’s SDOT’s problem now. Of course choosing this alignment to the airport in the 1st place to “help the poor people (loose their homes)” was fundamentally flawed.

      4. Jim, thanks. It looks like there are curbs there, now at least. The curb drops down at the pedestrian cross-walk on the near side, but it looks like it continues on to the south unbroken. Do the cars just jump the curb, or has it been added because they drove over the rumble strips?

        I say “boll-ards”; you say “bo-lahrds”, but we mean the same thing: put some in the middle.

    2. For too many, the Rainier Valley is only a series of stops on the way to the airport. People forget that others live here.

      Those people must be stupid. Ridership in Rainier Valley greatly exceeds the number of riders headed to the airport. Of those that do go to the airport, a significant number come from Rainier Valley (which makes sense, given the express nature of the trains).

      1. And the fact that there was never a bus route between Rainier Valley and the airport before Link, express or non-express. You’d have to backtrack to Jackson Street to transfer, or take the 50 (which didn’t exist before Link), or walk across the long overpasses to SODO.

    3. Welcome to a blog that hasn’t been overrun by troll-bots.

      It’s hard to miss all the housing along the track on MLK, so I don’t know why anyone would get the idea that people don’t live there. (Well, maybe some car drivers are properly-focused on driving safely through the Valley on their way to the airport, but passengers have the luxury of sightseeing.) There are some of us who wish we could live there, and cringe at how low-rise some of the newest housing around the stations and along the track is.

      With Jimi Hendrix Park Station coming online in 2024, ST and SDOT have a heckuva lot of work to do to make the Rainier / I-90 pedestrian environment a lot safer. But then, like the train ended up making MLK safer to walk along with much-improved sidewalks, the new station will hopefully yield a reduction in pedestrian deaths in the area notorious for being the worst for pedestrian safety. Perhaps part of it will be that pedestrians will avoid those intersections and take the shorter path on 23rd Ave S to the other station entrance.

      The biggest traffic design flaw for the MLK segment of Link was the emphasis on preserving car capacity and lane width. You know the counter-science argument: The traffic is moving so fast, so there is obviously no room to narrow the lanes! (cough, cough) That’s the NIMBY argument, not the ST or SDOT argument. They know better than that, but car capacity was prioritized, despite the evidence the streets are too wide.

      Yes, we should reduce the ways car drivers manage to collide with the trains, and it is to ST’s advantage to avoid the hours-long line shutdowns caused by these drivers. But let’s get the whole picture, and see how we can reduce car-pedestrian and car-bike collisions too, and the rare pedestrian-Link collision as well. SDOT has had a dangerous penchance for letting neighborhood input make intersections more dangerous for pedestrians. I won’t miss the previous administration’s abysmal safety practices and record.

    4. I look at the ST Rainier Valley mess the same way I look the broken elevators throughout the system. Things need to be fixed. It’s not rocket science.

      And also for all the HS football fans reading this….
      Go Vikings!!!!!!

  6. It would appear that the fastest and most cost-effective solution to reduce collisions is to reduce train speeds through this area:

    “His team is also looking to lower speeds through MLK Way to 25 mph, said a Sound Transit report after the fatal July 2 crash.

    “Trains require 7 to 8.5 seconds including operators reaction time, and roll 180 to 257 feet, to brake from Sound Transit’s standard 35 mph cruising speed to zero.

    “In Metro’s opinion, dropping to a 25 mph standard will be essential to improve the line’s official “undesirable” safety rating (probable vehicle collisions, and/or occasional serious pedestrian injuries) to “acceptable with management review,” a report said.

    “Passengers would lose 2½ minutes per trip, studies say. That could make transit a less-appealing alternative to driving for airport travelers and South King County commuters.

    “Morales wonders if greater frequency could offset time losses, if trains arrive every 7½ minutes rather than 10 minutes apart.

    “That might require more railcars at $4 million each. Signal re-timings would snarl motorists. “This is likely a multi-year process,” the safety-team log acknowledges.

    “For now, safety administrators have enacted an experimental 20 mph operating rule since September, just before trains approach three Rainier Valley stations.”

    I am not sure how local area residents will feel about slower speeds. On one hand lower speeds will be (and are) safer for the local residents, but on the other hand the lower speeds highlight a belief that this area got surface rail that is not grade separated while the wealthier northern neighborhoods got tunnels, even a neighborhood like Roosevelt to Northgate (although parts of East Link are surface non-grade separated):

    “The pro-tunnel group Save Our Valley filed an unsuccessful federal lawsuit accusing Sound Transit of civil-rights violations because it chose surface tracks in the ethnically diverse, lower-income Rainier Valley, while offering underground trains to the whiter and wealthier North End.”

    This resentment may be intensified by West Seattle’s and Ballard’s demands for tunnels (that ST now claims are the same cost as surface lines, except of course in S. Seattle), or the increase in frequency from CID north to Northgate when East Link opens when I doubt Line 1 going south will have close to that level of frequency despite a new focus on equity in transit allocation.

    1. Seattle has been on a Vision Zero rampage, lowering arterial speed limits to 25 and residential speed limits to 20 across the city, from 30 and 25 respectively. 15th Ave NE and NE 65th Street are two that have been 25 for a few years now. MLK is one street that hasn’t gotten it yet, but a full implementation would lower it too for cars, and Link would probably go down with it.

      Ultimately, rail needs to be competitive with driving or ideally faster, not slower. People choose transit if it has advantages, not if it doesn’t. And even if MLK and Rainier are both lowered to 25 for both cars and Link so nobody can get across the city quickly, I-5 won’t be lowered, so it makes the travel-time advantage of the freeway bigger. Grade-separated Link isn’t subject to this; it can run at its full speed of 55 mph. But lowering Link to 25, with or without also lowering car lanes to 25, makes driving on the freeway relatively more attractive, which is the opposite of what we want.

      1. @Mike Orr,

        You are absolutely correct. The better approach to improving LR safety in the RV is to lower car/vehicle speeds while maintaining LR speeds at the current level.

        Lowering car/vehicle speeds gives LR operators more time to react, and has the added benefit of reducing the number and seriousness of car/pedestrian and car/car accidents in the RV, both of which far out number accidents involving LR both in seriousness and in total number.

        Additionally, part of the issue with left turn type accidents is that drivers just aren’t used to having an LRV pass them on the left. Typically cars are driving over the speed limit and faster than the LRV, so they don’t consider the LRV on the left much when doing a quick and illegal left turn. Human factor considerations would indicate that the LRV on the left should always be faster than the adjacent cars. I.e., increasing LRV speeds might actually reduce collisions and improve safety.

        But hey, 130ish LR/car accidents over a total of 13 years just isn’t very many. And most of those were non-injury accidents anyhow. So I’m not really sure why we are even talking about this now.

      2. Lowering car/vehicle speeds gives LR operators more time to react
        No, lowering LR speeds gives them more time toe react. That’s just basic physics.
        drivers just aren’t used to having an LRV pass them on the left. Typically cars are driving over the speed limit and faster than the LRV, so they don’t consider the LRV on the left much when doing a quick and illegal left turn.
        100% agree. Don’t have a great solution. SDOT failed to figure this out so it’s on them to engineer the fix.
        130ish LR/car accidents over a total of 13 years just isn’t very many.
        It’s 13 too many and is getting worse. Bat Shit Crazy design. Bellevue didn’t put up with this crap and Seattle had way more influence on ST than Bellevue ever did. Bellevue didn’t even have a seat on the board until after the alignment was set. Not saying East Link is remotely ideal but it’s not the disaster we have on MLK.

      3. It’s 13 too many and is getting worse
        Oops, off by a factor of 10X; too many by 130

      4. strongly agree.
        i had read years ago that city council would have to (and could) approve 50mph for Link.

        the current pattern is cars turning left into a train coming up from behind.
        having Link faster than cars would dramatically change (reduce) that scenario.

      5. The primary reason to lower train speeds on MLK (and around intersections on the Busway) isn’t about the cars. The vast majority of fatalities have been pedestrians. A significant chunk of collisions have also been with immobile objects (and therefore “preventable”).

        The speed should be set to give the operator enough time to react and stop when they see something on the tracks ahead of them. If they don’t have enough time to stop, then their speed is unsafe. That’s even if cars were banned from MLK.

        Topography and visual obstructions may impact how much stopping time/distance is needed at different segments of the line.

        Additionally, consideration has to be given to the safety of the hundreds of passengers on board. If the train has to slam the breaks, a lot of riders could get hurt. The train needs to be able to come to a halt smoothly.

        If the City and ST are upgrading pedestrian crossing gates/fences, consider adding electronic devices that flash to stop cars and the train, and that sends a signal to the trains that someone is attempting to walk across the track. Ideally the train doesn’t have to come to a stop, but the operator should be able to see the pedestrian, blow the horn, and keep decelerating until it is clear the pedestrian sees the train.

        Car speed limits should still be about eliminating car-pedestrian, car-bike, car-train, and car-car collisions, but being the same speed as the train ought to be a useful guide to drivers.

      6. Thanks Jim C. Your comment made me think of my grandfather and brought back a lot of memories. He told us stories about the dummy boys, aka cowboys, and how my dad wanted to do that at some point but my grandmother wouldn’t have it. It’s “funny” hearing 10th/11th referred to as “Death Avenue” since he often called them by that name. I guess it stuck with him.

      7. @BW,

        Ah, no, the simplistic data Metro provided does not provide any insight into the role of speed in these accidents.

        Take for example pedestrian accidents. My understanding is that most pedestrian collisions happen in the vicinity of existing stations, which makes sense since stations are situated in high traffic areas and attract, you know, pedestrians!

        But Link LRV’s are also traveling at their slowest speeds near stations, because, you know, they need to stop at the station! After all, that is sort of the point of LR.

        So if the bulk of ped accidents happen where trains are already moving their slowest, does it really make sense to conclude that they are moving too fast?

        And if slower is always better, then what is the safest speed for LR? Zero mph? Clearly that is not the answer!

        Additionally, total ped accidents includes people falling off the platform in front of a train and things like people leaning over the railing and being struck. Such accidents often don’t allow any time for the operator to react, so it is unclear why slowing down the LRV would have any impact on the outcome.

        Na, there is always room for things like improved signage and signaling, and ST should aggressively improve such things. They have been proven to work.

        But a knee jerk reaction to slow down LR through the entire RV? Na, better data and a more nuanced look at it is required before anyone could come to that conclusion.

      8. Just to add a comment about pedestrian-rail fatalities: while there have been horrible accidents due to design problems and train speeds, there are a not insignificant portion of these fatalities caused by suicide or impaired judgment due to alcohol or drug consumption. I’m not saying that we should accept bad design, but I am saying that they will not go away with slower trains.

    2. If the MLK speed limit were lowered to 25 mph, you can be rest assured that very few drivers would actually obey it. As long as the road feels like a highway, people will drive on it like it’s a highway. The only vehicles that would actually obey a 25 mph speed limit would be Link trains, and only because the Link trains are GPS-monitored in ways that ordinary car drivers aren’t. People on the trains at 25 mph will watch the cars zoom by at 45 mph, feel impatient, and start driving themselves.

      Of course, if the intent is to get drivers to actually drive slower, the only real solution is to make MLK not feel like a highway through some combination of curves, narrower lanes, fewer lanes, more stoplights, speed bumps, etc. Of course, none of these options are politically feasible because they are all either prohibitively expensive or would generate too much “war on cars” pushback. So, the end result will be drivers speeding on MLK forever, SDOT reacting by lower the speeds of the one vehicle class it is able to actually control, and transit falling further behind.

      1. rest assured that very few drivers would actually obey it.
        I posted my experience driving this deadly highway last winter. Complete dark, crap lighting, useless lane marking and people were 10+ over the limit and weaving lanes to do it.

      2. The MLK speed limit has already been lowered to 25, but since the road is designed for highway speeds, it is almost universally ignored. Link still does 35 since the speed limit doesn’t apply to the railroad. I doubt that slowing Link down would result in cars slowing down.

    3. It needs to be pointed out that MLK has two major operational problems which go unaddressed.

      1. The track bed is very visually porous. There is no fencing to discourage walking into the tracks. That lack of making it clear to anyone that there is danger I think contributes to the problem.

      A Jersey barrier median between the tracks, low fencing on the track bed edge, LED flashing embedded in the sidewalk and a “gateway” feature like an archway st pedestrian crossings are four design techniques that could be considered at various places.

      2. SDOT is not maintaining the signals. The system is set up to give priority (but not absolute priority) to downstream signals, and there is an increasing number of train stops at minor streets and pedestrian crossings caused from signals sensing people or cars that are not there.

      The result is that there are regularly signals that say that a train is coming when no train comes. It runs for a minute and stops, and no train comes — because it is stopped upstream. Then, pedestrians think the train approaching signals are a joke and take risks. Warning signs that go off for no reason make people less inclined be heed the warning. I don’t think anyone is keeping track of how many times the warnings go off for “ghost trains” every day.

    1. This comment didn’t nest correctly. It was meant as reply to Mike Orr’s comment above:
      “CT actually charges a higher express fare than either ST or Metro for distances longer than Lynnwood-downtown. So it does the opposite of undercutting.”

    2. CT must have changed its fare policy. There used to be two commuter zones, and the longer one was noticeably more expensive than ST Express or Metro. Maybe the short zone was eliminated in the October restructure, or CT consolidated some fare levels as ST and Metro have both done.

      1. Zones were eliminated years before Northgate Station opened, on Metro, ST Express, and Community Transit. ST Express kept zone resets by operators a couple extra years as a result of a poorly-thought-out amendment from the dais during someone’s re-election season.

        CT has had one commuter fare (for each payer category) since then, regardless of route length. In 2024, expect CT to go to one fare for all services (for each payer category), given how short most of the 900-series “express” routes will be.

        Also, expect CT to put forward a proposal to end youth fares, in time for the state’s October 1 deadline, because the state is offering CT a lot more money than it will lose from giving up youth fares.

        ST, however, seems to be making a staff argument that giving up youth fares will be a money-loser for ST. It’s all hypothetical, on paper, and doesn’t attempt to account for operational costs or savings, or the financial cost of political ill will if ST says No to Governor Inslee and the Lege on free youth fares.

      2. ST doesn’t have to worry about liberal pro-transit legislators. It has to worry about conservative or suburbanist anti-transit legislators. And I would guess that those legislators don’t care about free youth fares, or at least not enough to cause trouble for ST.

      3. “ST doesn’t have to worry about liberal pro-transit legislators. It has to worry about conservative or suburbanist anti-transit legislators. And I would guess that those legislators don’t care about free youth fares, or at least not enough to cause trouble for ST.”

        I think there is too much demonization on this blog, probably because it tends to be an echo chamber. It begins with labels like NIMBY, suburbanite, car sewers, and so on, for people who disagree when it comes to housing, density, transportation and so on, but are not the ones trying to change an urbanist’s lifestyle.

        The idea that suburbanite legislators care less about young people than urban legislators is untrue, and in fact if you read any eastside blog they would claim progressive legislators are the ones who have taken parks away from young people for the homeless, allowed crime to make it unsafe for young people to be out in public without adult supervision, and basically created an urban society that is hostile to kids because so often they don’t have kids. Suburbanites are people with kids who moved to suburbia for their kids to get away from the urban setting they see as dangerous and immoral.

        The problem with transit in the suburbs is the same problem I have raised a million times: it doesn’t work very well. Mainly it begins with first/last mile access, because it is too expensive and difficult to provide first/last mile access to such a large and undense area, and to get anywhere is a huge waste of time, particularly if you work.

        People drive in suburbia because it is a far better mode of transportation in suburbia for their lifestyle, and this exists in Seattle neighborhoods as well from West Seattle to Ballard to Rainier Valley and most other neighborhoods. There is a reason MLK is overrun with cars.

        When I read ad nauseum on this blog that running tens of billions of dollars of light rail to remote areas like Everett or Tacoma can be justified if we just upzone these remote areas with the mantra if we build it they will come (to live next to an interstate) I just have to shake my head. The spine was stupid to begin with; putting lipstick on it still makes it a pig, which means farebox recovery rates will be below 20%. It is as if ST read in Wikipedia that the Seattle Metro Area included all of Snohomish, King and Pierce Co.’s and believed it, with some fantastical population growth estimates.

        People in suburbia are not “anti-transit” either. They just don’t care, especially now with WFH and so much less commuting to Seattle for work, because transit does not affect their lives at all. It is like claiming they are anti-curling.

        The other factor is their experience with transit has been so bad, mostly packed buses they drove to a park and ride five days/week to catch to stand in high heels to go to downtown Seattle when they never go to downtown Seattle otherwise. Transit had a chance to win these folks over, or at least make them more sympathetic about funding transit for others, but failed, because transit is so damn arrogant, and has never understood the customer approach to service.

        So yes, when they do think about transit they have very negative memories which is why 23% have returned to downtown Seattle when bars, restaurants, airports etc. are packed. They truly, truly hated taking transit, and you can’t blame them. Since they will likely never take transit again on the eastside with WFH, little congestion and free parking, there is no way to change that perception.

        When I see the word “anti” used as above what it really means is someone is angry because suburbanites don’t want to give more money to a transit system they see as urban, bloated, arrogant, and crummy, and they don’t use. You place a local school levy on a ballot and it passes on the eastside by huge margins (which was the basis for McCleary). They are not “anti-youth”. They are anti-urban, at least from what they see in Seattle, and Metro missed its chance to win them over when they had them captive as commuter slaves. Instead it treated them like slaves. The good news on the other hand is if East Link never opens on the eastside no one will notice, or complain. That isn’t “anti-ST” or anti light rail. It is East Link never even enters their mind. Ever. If it did it would only raise unpleasant memories of transit.

        If you want free fares for youths (considering fares are free on ST for everyone in Seattle these days) do it subarea by subarea. I think more and more transit advocates need to think subarea by subarea because they have lost the swing eastside voter for any regional transportation levies or funding.

        The eastside subarea has more ST revenue than it knows what to do with, even after Issaquah to S. Kirkland, and paying for Link across the bridge span, and ST express buses to Seattle and back, East Link trains continuing to Northgate when both Judkins Park and Mercer Island have turn back capabilities, and our park and rides being “extended” in the “realignment” we no longer need, but I guarantee you the eastside would approve free youth fares, although transit is just as crummy on the eastside for those under 18 as those older than 18, which is the real issue. Which is exactly why like mom and dad every eastside kid who turns 16 wants one thing in life: a car.

        If you want taxpayers to pay more taxes for something you have to show them some benefit for them generally, certainly something as profligate as Link. Believe me, few if any kids on the eastside are begging mom and dad for a free transit fare.

      4. “When I read ad nauseum on this blog that running tens of billions of dollars of light rail to remote areas like Everett or Tacoma can be justified if we just upzone these remote areas”

        They’re two different issues. The Everett extension is still questionable. But if it is built, it’s better if the stations have more housing and retail rather than less. Because all those are people who can ride it. Even if they don’t, it’s available. And people who want to live near transit will gravitate to those areas, while people who don’t care about transit won’t. The number of people who want to live near transit is larger than the number that can live in downtown Everett’s and Lynnwood’s and Seattle’s upzones; that’s why it’s important to have more locations beyond those.

        “It is as if ST read in Wikipedia that the Seattle Metro Area included all of Snohomish, King and Pierce Co.’s and believed it, ”


        ST didn’t invent the idea of the Spine and shove it down the cities’ and counties’ throats. It’s the other way around. It was the cities and counties who wanted the Spine so much they got Sound Transit created to build it, and they’ve been the ones pulling ST to that goal ever since. If you can’t see that, you’re not looking.

        If it hadn’t been for them, there wouldn’t have been an ST3, it wouldn’t have gone all the way to Everett Station and Tacoma Dome, and there wouldn’t be an Issaquah-South Kirkland line. And now in 2022, it’s because of them that ST is still pursing Everett and Tacoma Dome, rather than possibly falling back to Mariner or Ash Way.

      5. “I think there is too much demonization on this blog, probably because it tends to be an echo chamber. It begins with labels like NIMBY, suburbanite, car sewers, and so on, for people who disagree when it comes to housing, density, transportation and so on, but are not the ones trying to change an urbanist’s lifestyle.”

        Public Transit debate in America is very classist and there’s no beating around the bush about it because that’s the reality of the debate at hand. A lot of NIMBYS are from my personal experience people who thumb their nose down at people who ride the bus when that is all they may have at their disposal. They view them as inferior There’s no sugarcoating that can be done to make the bitter medicine go down easier about it.

        “The idea that suburbanite legislators care less about young people than urban legislators is untrue, and in fact if you read any eastside blog they would claim progressive legislators are the ones who have taken parks away from young people for the homeless, allowed crime to make it unsafe for young people to be out in public without adult supervision, and basically created an urban society that is hostile to kids because so often they don’t have kids. Suburbanites are people with kids who moved to suburbia for their kids to get away from the urban setting they see as dangerous and immoral.”

        These suburban legislators are the same people who fight tooth and nail against new housing developments, upzoning, new public transit projects, and addressing the homeless problem. While the cities are partially to blame for this problem getting worse, the suburbs are just as guilty in this problem as well. We’ve seem time and time again, homeowners fight against anything that would address the problem of housing and homelessness because that would mean using taxpayers money on welfare and social safety nets even though said welfare and safety nets brings stability to homeless people. Finland had homeless issues and they addressed it by building housing for homeless people and now Helsinki only needs a small homeless shelter and it puts less of a burden on City of Helsinki to need specialized services for homeless people.

        “The problem with transit in the suburbs is the same problem I have raised a million times: it doesn’t work very well. Mainly it begins with first/last mile access, because it is too expensive and difficult to provide first/last mile access to such a large and undense area, and to get anywhere is a huge waste of time, particularly if you work.”

        It’s only this bad because American suburbs are not designed for anything but a car. A lot of the infrastructure is actually hostile to anything that isn’t a moving vehicle. I’ve been to suburbs around Europe during my 9 month study abroad and I can say with affirmation that it’s not that they are undense, it’s because they’re not designed for human scale. I visited Sweden and Copenhagen in September of last year and the suburban areas outside the city center were well designed for people; bikes, buses, and cars to coexist alongside each other. I walked from the train station in Humlebæk to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a short 10 minute walk. There was a 2 lane road for cars but there was also bike and pedestrian lanes for people to use next to the road so it meant separation of of each mode of transport having it’s own separate lane. There was also traffic calming on the main road and on residential streets. All of these together make for a more pleasant experience for everyone.

        “People drive in suburbia because it is a far better mode of transportation in suburbia for their lifestyle, and this exists in Seattle neighborhoods as well from West Seattle to Ballard to Rainier Valley and most other neighborhoods. There is a reason MLK is overrun with cars.”

        It’s not a far better mode of transportation I can reassure you. The only reason why people drive in the suburbs is because they have to. Rarely is there the option to go somewhere without a vehicle in many cases because American suburbs and the surrounding infrastructure again weren’t built for anything other than the car. There’s a reason why European urbanism goes viral periodically in the US on social media. It’s because the American suburbs are dystopian hellscapes that are depressing to look at and live in. I know plenty of Americans who lament leaving Europe because they have human scale infrastructure that is so good it makes the American infrastructure look sad and horrible in comparison. Does Europe have crappy suburbs or infrastructure, sure I can name plenty of instances. But I can also point to many things American Suburbs can learn from European suburbs in terms of building for people and not just for cars.

        “People in suburbia are not “anti-transit” either. They just don’t care, especially now with WFH and so much less commuting to Seattle for work, because transit does not affect their lives at all. It is like claiming they are anti-curling.”

        I know plenty who care, there’s plenty in my generation (Millennials and Zoomers) who hate living in American suburbs and want to be living without a car to get everywhere and just walk or bike to go to work, school, rub errands, meet up with friends, etc. Or just be less reliant on it. I know plenty of folks who would gladly take car share or have a small vehicle for the ocassional trip or errand that is outside their normal trips if they could. I also know plenty of WFH people who would like to be able to hop on a car or train to go somewhere instead of getting things delivered or taking their car somewhere. We’re seeing people who are realizing that the Great American Suburban Experiment was on some level a farce of sorts and something that is killing us longer term.
        Like America has an obesity problem and it connects back to how the US has car dependent infrastructure that makes people fatter as there’s no easy means to walk or bike somewhere here without almost getting hurt in the process.

        The Great American Suburban Experiment has played out and the result is one in my opinion of failure. We have a country where people can’t afford homes or rent apartments and in turn leads to the Homelessness epidemic that is seen as a point of failure to hollowing out of Downtown Seattle even though the reality is one where the suburbs have fought against building more housing to protect property values.

        I’ll just leave this from Not Just Bikes as to why Dutch Children are some of the happiest on earth ( https://youtu.be/oHlpmxLTxpw )
        and something that should be seen as a reason why Americans need to wake up to the fact that this experiment can’t go on for any longer if we want to ensure our Children’s future across this nation is a better one.

      6. I’ll add this other video from Not Just Bikes as to why business parks in the US don’t need to suck and as to why public transit doesn’t work in the suburbs myth is a very wobbly argument.

      7. I’ll add this other video from Not Just Bikes as to why business parks in the US don’t need to suck and as to why public transit doesn’t work in the suburbs myth is a very wobbly argument. https://youtu.be/SDXB0CY2tSQ

        Right, but the key is to transform the landscape, and not just believe that running a train there will fix things. That is the basic argument with this video from the same author: https://youtu.be/MnyeRlMsTgI. It is also one of the takeaways from this study: https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/economics-of-urban-light-rail-CH.pdf

      8. That video did make me optimistic about Swift Green, if Everett is thoughtful and disciplined about managing growth in the MIC and evolving it into a 21st century job center.

      9. I scratch my head every time I see someone express resentment toward being compared to the original NIMBYs who stopped deadly pollution that was encroaching on their neighborhoods.

      10. The idea that the current concept of a NIMBY is remotely similar to anti-industry/pollution NIMBYs of old is about as laughable as modern partisan neoconservatives claiming righteousness because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.

      11. “The idea that the current concept of a NIMBY is remotely similar to anti-industry/pollution NIMBYs of old is about as laughable as modern partisan neoconservatives claiming righteousness because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.”

        A few days ago someone on this blog posted a link to an article about NIMBY residents in a New York neighborhood of brownstones and middle housing objecting to having those buildings torn down and replaced by very tall steel and glass residential towers.

        That very same night my wife was watching a rerun of Murder She Wrote. The story was about a New York neighborhood fighting a developer’s plan — who was clearly modelled after a young Donald Trump — to tear down the brownstones and evict the tenants from their rent-controlled apartments to build gleaming steel and glass residential towers.

        The developer’s argument to the local retailers was how much better business would be with a thousand new “affluent” tenants in the neighborhood rather than a bunch of old rent-controlled tenants in old brownstones. (Of course today the developer’s argument is the very expensive units in the steel and glass towers will create affordable housing someplace else).

        Since it was TV, and Murder She Wrote, the NIMBY’s won and the planning commission (that was on the take) was forced to reject the development plan.

        I wonder if many on this blog understand which person they actually are in this story: the NIMBY residents who didn’t want their neighborhood and community torn down and upzoned, or the Donald Trump developer.

      12. Didn’t you, literally that same night, remark how unaffordable Brooklyn is? Can’t possibly be due to a lack of housing supply.

      13. Brooklyn is very expensive according to the online data. Over $3000/month for a 654 sf apartment (depending on rent control). Whether tearing down the middle housing in those neighborhoods and building tall steel and glass residential towers with doormen will create more affordable housing that won’t be rent controlled is unclear, but somehow I doubt it.

        Here are some more NIMBY’s south of LA.


        It drives me nuts when NIMBY’s like this don’t understand gentrification is good for them.

        “But a handful of life-long locals sense the creeping suffocation to come, beginning with those first dreadful dominoes of high-priced menus, bars full of bogus bohemians, and art galleries that can swiftly lead to displacement and cultural white-washing.”

      14. Who were the original NIMBYs? If you mean the people who created zoning in the 1920s, they didn’t just isolate polluting factories, they restricted more than half the land to single-family or residential. They didn’t need zoning to restrict polluting factories; they could have done that under public health laws. Their goal was establishing upper-income white residential neighborhoods.

    3. “It’s because the American suburbs are dystopian hellscapes that are depressing to look at and live in.”

      James Howard Kunstler, the anti-suburbanist, said that many of the Americans then serving in Iraq came from strip-mall suburban hellholes that were so depressing they weren’t worth fighting for. You finish the war and go back to that life?

      Obviously, there are more factors than just the physical design of the cities, and they are our cities, and it’s better to live in a democracy than a dictatorship even if the cities are bad, and those cities could still change…. But it is an apt if imperfect metaphor for our car-dependent, non-human scaled cities, whose most prominent feature is huge signs towering above stroads to identify businesses.

      1. “It’s because the American suburbs are dystopian hellscapes that are depressing to look at and live in.”

        I am interested to know the definition of “suburb” in this region. Are Kent, Des Moines, Federal Way, West Seattle, Mount Baker, Madison Park, Washington Park, Windemere, Laurelhurst, Ballard, Lake City, Wallingford, Blue Ridge “suburbs”?

        Maybe because I live on the eastside but work in downtown Seattle I get two different versions: on this blog I get the “suburbs” are selfish dystopian hellscapes, and on eastside blogs I get Seattle is a dangerous and immoral hellscape filled with freeloaders. Both are a little dramatic, but both sides cling to them because they understand so little about the other.

        “James Howard Kunstler, the anti-suburbanist, said that many of the Americans then serving in Iraq came from strip-mall suburban hellholes that were so depressing they weren’t worth fighting for. You finish the war and go back to that life?”

        As someone who handles defense base act cases, which are civilians hired to serve on overseas military bases, I can tell you the recruits are not from “suburbia”. They are from rural, often conservative, small towns in states with poor education that leaves these young people with few employment options. Do you want to make $8.50/hr. in Alabama or $85,000 in Iraq, although you may die or get maimed. I can tell you these small towns in rural America are not Issaquah. Kunstler sounds a bit like an ideologue to me.

        What the pandemic and WFH have done is balkanize this divide between urban centers and the surrounding suburbs, exurbs, and smaller cities. No longer does the worker have to commute — usually by transit — to an urban core. So they don’t. After all, would someone in the urban core take a packed bus to suburbia five days/week and back home again if they did not have to?

        It really has nothing to do with transit, because those in the suburbs and exurbs and small cities do not think about transit, at least post pandemic, including the neighborhoods and cities I list above. It really does not exist for them, good or bad. East Link is virtually non-existent on the eastside. It isn’t ill will towards transit: it is just something that never enters their minds or lives for 90% of them. To tell them to change their zoning so something as irrelevant (to them) as transit might survive is pointless.

        The real impact of this balkanization is an urban center like downtown Seattle depends on people who don’t live there to come into the core to conduct business. This creates tax revenue and retail vibrancy and jobs. Those people were the work commuter. Without this commuter or visitor an urban core simply does not have the revenue to thrive, and we are seeing that across the U.S. today. Transit has lost the 100% fare paying commuter, and the urban center has lost the work commuter too.

        Suburbia however is based upon the goal of keeping people out, especially anything to do with the urban core, because most of the folks in suburbia fled the urban scene. Suburbia does not want visitors, or more density, certainly if that density is transitory. To tell them more density will lower the property values so lower income folks can move in — mostly transitory renters in the residential neighborhoods — is not an easy sale. And that includes all the cities and neighborhoods I list above. The eastside is just the most expensive, so folks on this blog think of eastside cities when they think of “suburbs” which is a mistake.

        So which model survives better in this balkanized world? Obviously suburbia. All the transit and sales tax and business revenue that flooded the urban core each day now stays in suburbia.

        At the same time Mike and Zachary make a fundamental mistake: it is not the eastside suburbs that are cheap when it comes to free fares for youth or transit (good Lord, we have subsidized N. King Co. with billions for ST), it is the smaller towns south and north of Seattle that vote no. Regional levies pass when the eastside swing voter votes yes. With this new balkanization the eastside swing voter will likely vote no on most levies, especially if they seem “urban” in nature, like transit, or more than the current $1 billion/year this region spends on homelessness and housing many see as a Seattle problem.

        There is no point trying to tell these “suburbanites” their model is wrong when their housing prices are much, much higher than the urban core, their schools are much, much better, and their neighborhoods are safer. After all, these folks fled the urban city for these goals.

        So as some who are not quite as ideological on this blog have noted, the key for transit is to plan for a future with about 50% less farebox recovery, and in some areas like N. King Co. much less general tax revenue. So focus that money. Don’t build grids in areas where folks don’t use transit, and I would have also argued don’t spend the wad on light rail. The “induced demand” model for transit is too expensive when budgets have to be cut.

        The future I believe for most taxes and levies and expenditures and tax revenue is subarea equity. I think it is critical Metro and ST understand that (i.e. WSBLE) and plan for that.

      2. “I am interested to know the definition of “suburb” in this region. Are Kent, Des Moines, Federal Way, West Seattle, Mount Baker, Madison Park, Washington Park, Windemere, Laurelhurst, Ballard, Lake City, Wallingford, Blue Ridge “suburbs”?”

        There are multiple definitions of suburb. Up until the 1970s Seattle had 90% of the county’s population. In 1990 the built-up commuter ring was mostly Bothell, Redmond, Renton, and Kent, and secondarily Mountlake Terrace and maybe Lynnwood. Auburn, Tacoma, and Everett were separate job markets for the most part. Except for Boeing workers, who commuted everywhere to all the plants. Bellevue started this era as a small town and became a bedroom community. So if you go by historical development, Seattle is the city and the rest of King County is suburbs. And now that the commuter ring has extended out beyond Tacoma and Everett, they’ve all become suburbs too.

        Another definition is that Bellevue is now a principle city like Seattle. So it has suburbs but it’s not a suburb. And Everett and Tacoma were historically principal cities, so they still are. Certainly, Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland have added a lot of jobs, reverse commutes, much of the shopping market share, and medium/high density in parts, so that makes them more city-like.

        A third definition is more about character than size. Suburbs are areas that are car-dominant, full of strip malls and gas-station mini-marts and huge interchanges, where an overwhelming majority of the land is single-family-only. That’s “suburban” even if the cities are as large as Phonenix, Dallas, Atlanta, or Los Angeles. It contrasts with predominantly compact, walkable, transit-rich cities, which are “cities” and “urban” even if they’re small. When we talk about the evils of the suburbs, we’re usually talking about this third definition.

      3. “As someone who handles defense base act cases, which are civilians hired to serve on overseas military bases, I can tell you the recruits are not from “suburbia”. They are from rural, often conservative, small towns in states with poor education”

        Those rural towns have the same characteristics as suburbia: car-oriented strip malls, car-dependent housing developments, etc.

      4. “As someone who handles defense base act cases, which are civilians hired to serve on overseas military bases, I can tell you the recruits are not from “suburbia”. They are from rural, often conservative, small towns in states with poor education”

        “Those rural towns have the same characteristics as suburbia: car-oriented strip malls, car-dependent housing developments, etc.”

        No they don’t Mike. You previously stated in a prior post that nearly every city or neighborhood outside the downtown Seattle core is a “suburb”. But just using the eastside, those cities or “suburbs” are nothing like the small rural towns many enlisted military recruits and defense base act workers come from. Not even close. In fact the eastside cities in this region have much better education and wealth than the urban core you use to compare suburbs to.

        You need to get out and see more of America, especially rural America. They drive trucks, not cars. It is a big and undense place. If there is one distinction it is wealth, and education. In this region the eastside suburbs are very wealthy, so those kids naturally do not sign up to go to Iraq as a defense base act worker or enlisted military person because they are probably in a pricey college.

        To compare rural towns in the south with Issaquah and claim they are the same, and supply the same number of enlisted military personnel or defense base act workers, because one drives a car and one drives a truck, or they live in a “car-dependent housing development” which in rural America is all housing (and is called a house) is just ridiculous, just like Kunstler’s claim makes him look foolish.

      5. What I meant was the design of the built environment. We’re not talking about level of education or wealth. You can be educated or uneducated, wealthy or poor, in a compact town or a sprawling town. In a sprawling town, people have to drive more because things are spread out unnecessarily, and even things that are close together are often designed in a pedestrian-hostile way.

      6. “A third definition is more about character than size. Suburbs are areas that are car-dominant, full of strip malls and gas-station mini-marts and huge interchanges, where an overwhelming majority of the land is single-family-only. That’s “suburban” even if the cities are as large as Phonenix, Dallas, Atlanta, or Los Angeles. It contrasts with predominantly compact, walkable, transit-rich cities, which are “cities” and “urban” even if they’re small. When we talk about the evils of the suburbs, we’re usually talking about this third definition.”
        This is what I’m getting at when I say I dislike US suburban sprawl and car dependency along with saying it’s dystopian or hellish. I don’t hate suburbs or rural area for that matter, as I do see the benefit of having lower density development that aren’t tall condo towers or mid rise developments everywhere as we need green spaces or areas for people who want more space. I’ve also seen suburbs done right while studying abroad last year in Europe, there were plenty of suburban areas close to cities or small villages that never felt like you couldn’t easily walk or bike around.
        I just dislike how the US generally does it as it’s done without any regard for pedestrians or keeping things to human scale. There’s a reason why people like Capitol Hill, Ballard, Belltown, Downtown Redmond, etc because these areas while they have density, also feel like they are built for people to use and explore instead of just being a complete sea of parking lots, power centers, and strip malls. It’s also why said areas have vibrant retail and recreation and is not the case so much in areas with lots of strip malls, large multi lane strodes, and cul de sacs.
        For me, I like the Streetcar Suburbs that were commonplace in most cities before WW2 and the tearing out of the streetcar rails. These places are the sweet spot between dense enough but still enough space to breathe and feel comfortable. They have tree lined streets, usually have single way laneways, and usually have small grocery stores or shops littered throughout the neighborhood. I currently kind of live in one here in Tacoma, though we don’t really have a vibrant retail area per say but it easily could have one. The suburbs can be great when they are well designed for people, when they’re not they just plain awful and frustrating.

      7. There are multiple definitions of suburb.

        Exactly. It is one of the confusing aspects of the definition. I think there are two common definitions, and then differences within that. Both are rough definitions, with blurry lines.

        According to Wikipedia: “A suburb (more broadly suburban area) is an area outside of a principal city of a metropolitan area, which may include commercial and mixed-use, but is primarily a residential area. The name describes an area which is not as densely populated as an inner city, yet more densely populated than a rural area in the countryside.” I’ve heard the term “inner suburb” to describe areas that are outside the city (usually as defined from a political standpoint) but still close to the main city. This allows for the seemingly contradictory “high density inner suburb”. For example, if Mercer Island decided to get really dense, and replace most of its houses with apartments, I still would call it an inner suburb because of its history and the fact that it is a different city. Bellevue is a mix. Much of it acts like a suburb (neighborhoods are low density residential) but it also acts as a satellite city.

        Then there is the development styles, which is another common definition. Many post-war neighborhoods are bedroom communities. Thus areas like Laurelhurst or west Magnolia are often called suburban (whereas they wouldn’t be under the other definition). They are surrounded by urban areas, but are also clearly bedroom communities. Often you have to walk a very long distance before you see anything but housing.

        Within that neighborhood definition, there are development types. The cul-de-sac style epitomizes what many people consider to be suburban.

        When Kunstler referred to a “dystopian hellscape”, it likely had something to do with the cul-de-sacs, but more to do with what often surrounds them. The retail and office centers and huge highways that are, to most people, butt ugly. This video describes North American office parks, but clearly the same is true for most commercial establishments as well (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDXB0CY2tSQ&t=2s). To get a bite to eat, have a beer, buy fresh produce, or do just about anything, people in that sort of community have to endure that sort of landscape. Almost everyone drives, and yet driving there also sucks.

        It is one of the great ironies of many post-war suburban developments. There are suburbs in old cities (and in Europe) that are quite charming. Many have now become part of the urban core (e. g. various neighborhoods in Boston). These are areas that most people would have no idea were once suburbs but they were, back when the city was small and more industrial.

        Not so in the post-war period. We embraced the automobile, but also recognized its dangers. So cul-de-sacs were invented to prevent accidents and drivers cutting through neighborhoods. But they forget to include pedestrian egress (something that newer developers do a better job including). But it gets worse.

        They pushed the stores outside the residential neighborhoods in part because they didn’t want the neighbors to have to deal with parking or congestion. The result is, everyone has to drive, even to get a few eggs. Since everyone drives, the areas where they allow stores have huge parking lots. With more and more driving, roads become bigger and uglier. Roads become stroads, and the whole thing is butt ugly. People visit Europe and talk about how charming it is, and think that the key is to run streetcars, ignoring how different everything else is. Oh, and since everyone drives, neighborhoods in the U. S. are more dangerous than places around the world. This is why it is common for kids in other parts of the country to get around without adult supervision, but rare in the U. S. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHlpmxLTxpw).

        It all began with the best of intentions. Create quiet, safe, pleasant neighborhoods. But when taken as a whole, it created the opposite.

  7. This 2017 Seattle Times article lists the city’s most dangerous intersections for pedestrians and bicyclists. All are north of Jackson street. Also, the article’s pedestrian accident map shows most of Rainier Valley’s accidents occur on Rainier Ave, not MLK. But, I can’t blame her for writing the Link-pedestrian story. I’d do the same.


    1. While mitigating the human toll of light rail accidents is very important, it’s also reasonable to consider the impact to rail operations. Accidents disrupt service on the entire corridor. Even auto-rail accidents that have no injuries can disrupt service.

  8. Looking at the Everett Link plans, I am reminded of something d. p. used to write: It would be really fast if you don’t have any stations. Given the provincial nature of the Northwest, and our historic lack of subway systems (or metros) it is understandable that we really don’t understand how successful ones work. It isn’t about shuttling commuters to the big city, or connecting various distant cities together (although both are laudable goals). You don’t spend huge sums of money for projects like that, because even the best ones carry relatively few riders. Metros only make sense when you can connect together multiple destinations in a busy city.

    We can see that now with Northgate Link, as many of those stops are big destinations. With each addition you add new combinations that didn’t exist before. At every stop there are people getting on and off, all day long, for various reasons. I just don’t see that with Everett Link.

    The only Everett Link proposal that comes close to providing something similar is the original plan. Everett is likely too small to pull that off, but they have a shot. Boeing and Paine Field are employment destinations, if nothing else. Even then there aren’t enough stations.

    But the new proposals are laughably bad. Replace three stations with a stop at the mall? Yes, the mall could be repurposed, and made into something grand. But why would it, given that there is only one stop to the north, and a handful of largely feeder-based stations to the south until you get all the way down to Northgate. Are people supposed to take a feeder bus and then transfer to the train to get to Everett Mall? Good luck with that.

    Then there is the location of the mall itself. It is tucked right next to the freeway. We know from experience (and previous studies) that this just doesn’t work. You can make it really nice, and add lots of attractive new apartments . But at the end of the day, those residents drive to most places, ignoring the train. Partly because it is so damn convenient to use the freeway, but also because so much of their daily life requires driving. This sort of environment does not encourage walking: https://goo.gl/maps/bt7uhQL5ALW5DENn7. This does: https://goo.gl/maps/1K9JJh3aTRNxtCfU7

    Not only does rail compete with driving, but it also competes (at least at an abstract level) with express buses. For some trips, the bus is much faster. For other trips, the train is faster. If ridership is dominated by trips that are faster by express bus, then spending enormous sums replacing those trips with a train is bound to fail. On the other hand, something like Northgate Link is the opposite. Sure, the 41 was really fast for getting from Northgate to downtown in the morning. But that was about it. In the evening it was terrible. More importantly, it was extremely slow getting to Roosevelt, the UW or Capitol Hill. It isn’t any more. So while some commuters are worse off, it is more than made up for by trips to those other (extremely popular) destinations. That just won’t happen if you run the train along the freeway. The new proposal adds very little value. Riders would often have a slower trip, but they get a chance to … visit the mall? In contrast, at least the Paine Field proposal ran trains along corridors that aren’t super-fast. For those headed over there, it would be considerably faster most of the day (at least I assume it is).

    Meanwhile, running along Evergreen Way could have merit — if there was something there, and they added more stops. It is nuts that they want to avoid Paine Field and Boeing to run along a road while adding nothing*. If it turns out that Paine Field and Boeing just won’t generate enough ridership to justify the cost of rail, then you are better off giving up. You tried to draw an inside straight, but came up empty. Time to fold and do something else.

    It is quite possible that the alternative would be better for the vast majority of riders. Boeing is a sprawling employment center in a sprawling area — it is better suited for buses. Airports rarely do especially well when it comes to mass transit, especially small ones. You should be able to handle the load with buses. Likewise, buses should run from the north end of Everett to the south, get on the freeway, and then quickly connect to Lynnwood. In many cases this would mean a faster trip, and one less transfer. Some trips would be faster, some would be slower, but given that Community Transit plans to run their buses rarely (even after Link gets to Lynnwood) they could at least be more frequent. Lynnwood makes a pretty good northern terminus, and likely the best transit hub you are going to get. Might as well take advantage of that, and put the money into bus service.

    * To be fair, there doesn’t appear to be much along Evergreen Way between the two stops, unlike the highway to the south. It is crazy to think that Link avoids places like Swedish Edmonds and Edmonds College only to run the train by car lots and self storage centers. That’s not exactly a great place for infill stations.

    1. “Yes, the mall could be repurposed, and made into something grand. But why would it, given that there is only one stop to the north, and a handful of largely feeder-based stations to the south until you get all the way down to Northgate. Are people supposed to take a feeder bus and then transfer to the train to get to Everett Mall?”

      The same reason people live in other less-glamorous or less-convenient neighborhoods. They can’t find a place in central Seattle or Bellevue or Everett because they’re full or too expensive, so they go to a lesser place (the future Everett Mall). The long-term population increase shows no signs of ending, so any apartments or condos at Everett Mall will get filled up, the same way those on 164th (Ash Way) got filled up. And Link would be useful for the people who live there. As for people who shop there, it depends on what the future businesses will be. Everybody needs things — even minimalists sometimes need to buy something — and shopping centers are where those things are concentrated, so people will go there for them.

      1. The station walksheds get filled up because the zoning limits what can be built.

        Would it be cheaper to build another station and the track thereto, or to change the zoning before the walkshed gets filled in to allow buildings to be twice as tall?

      2. I’m not saying that the mall can’t eventually add apartments, but I’m saying it is unlikely to become the next Northgate, let alone Capitol Hill. It is unlikely it will become a major destination, even if it adds density. We know from experience that similar stations (across America) perform poorly, even after the TOD. To quote this study:

        Many cities have seen new developments on “New Urbanist” principles: apartments with mid-rise units and a mix of commercial and residential development aimed at satisfying most residents’ daily needs without having to drive. Many of these developments are also transit-oriented, to allow for travel outside the development, such as to downtown jobs.

        Because of strict zoning laws in developed areas of cities, these developments often must be built miles from established downtowns. As such, transit-oriented developments frequently disappoint. New, isolated developments are rarely large enough to be self-contained or offer the amenities of true city centers. Residents who want to travel to specialty stores or jobs not readily accessible by the existing transit network—and in typical low-density U.S. cities, this is almost all of them—will need to own cars. Once they own cars, there’s no reason not to use them for all trips, especially if zoning policies guarantee copious parking.

        Light rail lines along freeways are undesirable for several reasons. First, the freeway takes up much of the land accessible from rail stations on foot. Second, because freeways are convenient to access by automobile but unpleasant to live near, they tend to be surrounded by lower-value land uses. Third, trips on a light rail line that runs alongside a freeway are competing directly with the region’s fastest car trips.

        But that isn’t the worst part. If this was just one of many stations, spread across an urban landscape, it would be fine. Roosevelt isn’t a big destination, but it sits between bigger destinations in an urban area. But this is the opposite. The lack of stations is abysmal, and most of the stations to the south are not destinations. I forget the term, but when transit expands, you get more and more riders because of the new combinations. Northgate Link added only three stations, but it meant you have a lot more combinations (Northgate to UW, Roosevelt to Capitol Hill, etc.). There just aren’t that many people that are trying to get to Ash Way, Mariner or Shoreline North. You basically have a string of residential areas, very widely spaced, a long ways from the urban center. There is just no way it is worth the money. The mall would have to be a destination on the scale of downtown Bellevue or the UW for this pattern to be worth it, and then we would wonder why there aren’t more stations to make it easier to get there.

        Put it another way. Consider the cost per rider of Everett Link. There are a number of ways of measuring this, but this essay lists subsidy per rider for example. This is quite high compared to other ST3 projects (which means it is extremely high compared to most transit projects). Even though the construction and operation costs go down, ridership would go way down, making the freeway option extremely expensive per rider. You would be subsidizing a handful of riders to a ridiculous degree.

        And it isn’t like they would be saving a huge amount of time. We already have a frequent, all-day bus that goes from downtown Everett to South Everett to Lynnwood. Everett Transit already runs a bus from the mall to South Everett, which means all you really need to do is run that bus more often. Or run some sort

        It just doesn’t make sense to spend that kind of money on an area with such poor existing transit. It is tempting to think Everett Link is just a response to a very “spiky” level of development. There are areas that are high density/high demand, and areas of the opposite. You can pick out (or create) those special spots, and string them together like pearls. That approach doesn’t work, and Snohomish County just isn’t that spiky. Oh, and the plan here is to bypass one of the few spikes that does exist, in Boeing/Paine Field!

        Consider downtown Everett. This is one of the few areas that really is a significant destination (a big spike, relative to the rest of Everett Link). Now look at ridership to Everett, from before the pandemic:

        145th: 38
        Mountlake Terrace: 27
        Lynnwood: 66
        Ash Way: 32
        South Everett: 31 (the 512 and 511 combined).

        In some cases there are alternatives (via Metro) but it is clear that there just aren’t that many people taking transit along I-5 to Everett. Even with really fast reverse-commute buses, there just aren’t that many people. You will only get a handful of people taking trips from the mall to Everett, and only a handful of people headed to the mall from Everett (or anywhere else). That leaves the riders headed there to Seattle, which is just too small to justify a rail line. Ash Way got about 600 riders a day (combined 511, 512) and since the mall is further away from Seattle, it would likely have even fewer riders.

    2. The Village at Totem Lake sure seems like it’s focused on walking and transit use. Sure there are basement parking garages (you have to dig deep to find that) but there’s no mention in the advertising of how much it costs. With the astronomical pricing you might think each unit comes with a Tesla but since I can’t even find a policy or pricing I’m pretty sure it’s a big up charge. Mall redevelopment as mixed use is where it’s going. Bel Square is doing it. Sure Everett is next to the freeway but it may be more important that it’s next to light rail. Capitol Hill was essentially built out decades ago. You can’t just manufacture new ones. And as Mike points out, even if there was Seattle Subway only the top wage earners are going to be able to afford to live (let alone buy) in Seattle, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue.

      1. I think Ross’s point is that the Everett mall isn’t large enough to sustain a car-free or car-light lifestyle is it’s an island of density with easy freeway access, and therefore riders won’t use the Link station much beyond commuting or the occasional trip ‘into the city.’ The Village at Totem Lake is good design, but it’s really only all-day-transit-oriented if the overall Totem Lake neighborhood builds out to midrise density.

        Would Everett Mall be a great place for an infill freeway station to support express bus serving a thousand-ish housing units? Yes! A great place for a cheap infill Link station? No.

        Now, if the Link alignment follows the interurban ROW, leaves the I5 alignment north of 112th, places the Link station on the west end of the mall such that both the mall and all of the strip malls along 99 are within the 15 minute walkshed, that would be interesting. Shoot, with light rail technology, the station could be at-grade for easiest station access before elevating to cross 99

        But then that’s a much more expensive project than simply running along I5, and also a much different regional goal (grow S Everett Mall as an urban node alongside Lynnwood and Everett downtowns) than the original ST3 regional goal (sustain and grow the Paine Field MIC as a regional employment center)

      2. Would Everett Mall be a great place for an infill freeway station to support express bus serving a thousand-ish housing units? Yes! A great place for a cheap infill Link station? No.

        Exactly, well put.

    3. I agree with RossB that building the Evergreen Way segment without stops seems pretty unproductive. It looks good to be off of a freeway, but it’s the stops that create riders rather than just the tracks.

      The solution would appear to be to add at stop near 100th St and Everett Way. The added station should only happen if there is a commitment to upzone the area though.

      When it comes to walkshed, SR 526 is a wall to walking similar to I-5. I’d like to see study of station sites that avoid stations along freeways in every alternative (and especially busy interchanges that take even more land away as well as attracts higher speed traffic that increases safety issues) regardless of which corridor it is. The only reasons to put a station at an interchange are either to be a major bus intercept or offer a huge park-and-ride garage.

      I like how Redmond ultimately got stations each with individual primary functions — a village (Overlake), a major employer and bus intercept (Technology Center), a parking intercept (Marymoor) and another village (Downtown). Of course, three of these are next to major 520 interchanges so their ultimate TOD benefit is somewhat restricted.

      1. The solution would appear to be to add at stop near 100th St and Everett Way. The added station should only happen if there is a commitment to upzone the area though.

        I think you would have to add a bunch of stops, not just one or two. But there are fundamental problems that make it difficult to pull this off. This is why they fail just about every time, and are rare outside of the United States (a country where losing at transit is as common as the Mariners losing at baseball*). You really only have a few choices:

        1) Try to build a traditional subway line very far from the urban core. This means stops every 1/2 mile or mile or so, all the way out there. Build TOD if you need to and hope for the best. The problem is, you then sacrifice long distance trips. This is usually fine, but in this case, it means your goal (fast Everett to Seattle travel times) can’t be met. There are very few cities where this would work — L. A. being one of them. That is because L. A. is essentially a bunch of small cities all pushed together. Greater Seattle isn’t. If Seattle disappeared, Everett wouldn’t build a light rail line, they would just keep doing what Community Transit is doing (building BRT-lite and trying to run the buses more often).

        2) Skip most of the stops in between and make a bee-line to the next city. The problem is, you don’t get that many riders that way. Intercity rail and commuter rail always pales in comparison to an urban metro. Downtown Everett is a significant destination. But it is only one stop, and it isn’t *that* big. You want lots of stops, otherwise you won’t have a lot of riders. The combination of 510 and 512 actually serve downtown Everett reasonably well, and yet about 600 riders use the Everett stops. There is no reason to think that number would go up significantly just because riders get to ride a train.

        3) You try and split the difference, while picking up and creating significant stops along the way. This is more or less the original plan. Boeing really is a significant employment center. Paine Field is likely to grow as an employment center in the future.

        The problem is, you really can’t do everything. You want to have a fast train from Everett, but also serve enough places along the way to boost ridership, and justify the very high cost. You can’t do both. (By the way, Tacoma has the same problem, only bigger).

        That is why the best solution is to just stop at Lynnwood and focus on improving bus service. Everett simply isn’t big enough to justify a light rail line, even with Boeing. It is roughly the size of Bellingham, and yet no one in Bellingham thinks they should build a light rail line. It is too small and far away from Seattle to have that many riders going and back and forth even if you build an express metro (it isn’t Bellevue). Boeing is a significant regional destination, and it is tempting you can combine all of these features, but I doubt you can pull it off.

        * My apologies to all you Mariner fans, as I know that hurt. Hey, I’m a basketball fan — at least you got a team.

  9. Even aside from collisions, we’re already running into a problem where road traffic is interfering with Link performance. MLK should be grade-separated. Elevated, open cut, whatever.

    1. There’s a simple solution to preventing general traffic impacts on mass transit: install driver-operated ticket cameras on the front, sides, and rear of every bus and train that operates in Washington. If a bus or train is illegally blocked by a vehicle, the operator ought to be able to snap a photo like any other pole-mounted traffic camera. It could get stored on the bus, and then uploaded to a central database when the bus returns to the base. Then the photos can get processed the same way traffic light camera photos get processed. Fines in the mail.

      I don’t have the historical knowledge to understanding why WA Leg is so hesitant to enable this, though.

    2. Given that elevated is cheaper than tunneling, maybe that should be what is proposed for the next phase of MLK.

      What is important is that for better performance, Link should run in exclusive ROW. This would mean minimal interference from traffic, even at-grade.

      Where is this exclusive at-grade ROW?

      Well, between Northgate and Lynnwood, there is the Interurban ROW.
      Why wasn’t that used?
      Why wasn’t the ERC evaluated as an at-grade cost-effective solution in the I-405 corridor?

      Ah, yes, those damn environmentalists that want to save them as bike trails!
      They’re the ones to blame!

      1. True for the Seattle-Everett Interurban, but it was NIMBY’s on the ERC. It’s a walking trail for them, not a bikeway.

    1. Based on the timing of those photos, I’d be willing to bet that the photo of the streetcar was one of the last, if not the last streetcar to run that track before it was torn out. I sometimes wonder what the context of these apparently random street photographs are that got preserved in municipal archives – if this is was known to be the Last Streetcar on the route, it would have been a photo worth preserving.

    2. Technically, that’s not in the “Rainier Valley”. It’s along Lake Washington at the foot of Skyway. And the car is an interurban bound from Renton, not a “streetcar”, though I believe it used the Seattle Municipal Railway tracks through the Valley.

  10. Research Query
    I’m an historian working on a novel about post WW II Seattle. I’m hoping to get some help from some of you dedicated transit bloggers. I found a news story about Seattle Transit’s first African American driver, Thomas Allen, in 1945. According to news reports, a woman and her husband refused to board a bus at First and Lenora because it had a black driver. Allen apparently let it go and continued the route. At the end of his shift, Allen changed into civilian clothes and road the same bus home as a passenger, and took a seat near the front (he lived in the Central District). The same couple boarded the bus and took the only open seats in the back. They then started throwing around racial slurs, which led to a scuffle on the bus when other white passengers started defending Allen who they knew was a driver and a decorated veteran. Angered, Allen got off the bus and walked home. He quit the next day. To its credit, Seattle Transit apologized and convinced Allen to return.

    The news reports are sketchy and leave questions.
    • What route that stopped at First and Lenora would have taken Allen to the end of the line where he changed clothes?
    • Where was the bus yard located? White Center? There must have been an office where he would have clocked out and locker facilities for changing.
    • Would his bus have been gas-powered or trackless trolley? The city was operating both types at that time.
    • What color were the buses?
    • What color were the driver’s uniforms?
    • What was the approximate pay for drivers in the 1940s and ‘50s?
    • Do you know if black drivers earned the same pay as white drivers?
    These details will help me flush out this important story. I thank you in advance for any information you can provide. David

    1. Jepsen: I will email your text to Mike Bergman. He recently published a book on Seattle Streetcar history and is now working on the transit history since 1940. He is a retired transit planner.

      In 1945, 1st Avenue had electric trolleybus routes. The ETB base was north of Jefferson Street at 14th Avenue and the land is part of the SU campus. 1st Avenue may have also had motor coach routes. I have not heard of a White Center base.

      1. Thanks for forwarding my message to Mr. Bergman. Not sure how to make that work, but I very much like to speak with him directly.
        The Jefferson base makes sense. My mistake was assuming that Allen went home after the end of his shift. We know he lived in the CD, so the only explanation for him to be on that route in civilian clothes is that he was headed back downtown and did not go directly home. Please correct me if you disagree.
        Thanks to Nathan for the link to the photos. They’re wonderful.
        I welcome any other thoughts or ideas.

    2. Based on this map, and assuming it’s true that Thomas Allen drove the same route that he took home, the only route that served 1st and Lenora and went through the Central District is the 11, which was a “trackless trolley”.


      The Atlantic Base was, and still is, the only bus base serving trolleybuses.

      The wikipedia article for trolleybuses has some nice color photos of the 40’s era buses: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolleybuses_in_Seattle#/media/File:Seattle_1940_Twin_Coach_trolleybus_643_in_1990.jpg

      1. I amend my comment to include the historical Jefferson Bus Base, which was closed in 1982 (operations apparently consolidated to the Atlantic base) and was likely where Mr. Allen changed from being a driver to a passenger on his trackless trolley. I had forgotten about the Jefferson base!

      2. Jefferson Garage opened and closed a couple of times in the 1960s and 1970s. The final closure was 1982.

  11. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/institutional-investors-have-bought-hundreds-of-thousands-of-single-family-homes-many-in-black-communities-critics-say-its-creating-a-generation-of-renters/ar-AAYZXGU?li=BBnb7Kz

    “Corporate ownership of single-family rental homes — which comprise about a third of the nation’s rental housing stock — has risen significantly since the 2008 financial crisis, when firms swooped in to purchase foreclosed properties, according to a committee memorandum. And the third quarter of 2021 marked the fastest annual increase in corporate ownership in 16 years, the memorandum said. What’s more, as the housing market grew hotter, and prices skewed higher, the investors had the advantage of being able to purchase homes with cash, trumping first-time and lower-income buyers.”

    This is an important article and something I have raised before about the price of housing, especially single-family housing as investors buy more and more, especially in lower priced neighborhoods they hope gentrify.

  12. I recently read a few reports about working from home. It largely confirmed other information I had read or heard, as well as information I’ve gleaned from being around folks who have worked from home (since about 2010, give or take). There are a lot of interesting tidbits, but I think there are a couple big takeaways:

    1) Workers will be rewarded for working at the office. Typically this means getting paid more, or having a bigger chance at advancement.

    2) The worse your commute, the more likely you are to want to work from home.

    There are plenty of exceptions of course. There are jobs that are solitary in nature that have been shifting to the home for years (e. g. phone support). Typically these don’t pay very well. If these shift exclusively to remote work, I wonder if they will increasingly become dead-end jobs, and be outsourced more and more to foreign countries (or low wage parts of the U. S.). But a lot of office work is collaborative, and thus this trend should continue.

    This simply reinforces one of the key tenants of transit success: density and proximity. If you live close to the Roosevelt Station, you won’t hesitate to work downtown, especially if they pay you better, or you feel like it is good for your career. If you live in Mill Creek, it is a different story. You might accept lower pay to avoid the long slog into work.

    The steep drop-off in ridership as Link expanded outside the city was expected, and is quite consistent with other, similar systems. There are a number or reasons for this (largely having nothing to do with work). Unfortunately, working from home will only increase this difference.

    1. “1) Workers will be rewarded for working at the office. Typically this means getting paid more, or having a bigger chance at advancement.

      “2) The worse your commute, the more likely you are to want to work from home.”

      I agree with these two comments by Ross. As someone who lives in suburbia, I can say I enjoy living there but also enjoy working in an urban environment. Most of those I know who worked 100% from home during the pandemic found it claustrophobic. Also, if you look at Microsoft the more senior the worker the more they are expected to work in the office (although no doubt they drive to the campus).

      However, I think there are some other factors that will affect the percentage of workers who WFH, or take transit.

      1. The Stanford Study predicted one to two days WFH post pandemic. I still think that is in the ballpark for most. I think many workers have realized commuting five days/week is too much, especially if you have kids or as Ross notes the commute is long. There is also a movement in the U.S. to go to a four-day work week and over time I think that might come to be. For a very techy area like this maybe three days WFH, which is still about twice the 23% who have returned to in office work in Seattle so far. So, although I think the number of workers who go to full time WFH will be lower than today I think the number who commute to an office five days — or even four days — in the future per week will be low too, and maybe decline over time as Tacomee predicts.

      2. An employer today has to be more careful about how much office space to lease, especially leases that run 5 or 10 years. In the past large employers were able to lease extra space at very good rates and sublease the space they did not need yet. With the sublease market flooded employers really can’t do that anymore, and so need to carefully determine how much space to lease, based on WFH and other factors, especially if their competitors have a cost advantage because they have less overhead for office space. Employers can’t afford to have the most expensive office space in the region empty. That will restrict the number of workers who can work in office at any one time, which suggests a rotation.

      3. Changing demographics. The U.S. is getting older. Over 800,000 workers left the workforce during the pandemic and never returned (which is why unemployment numbers are so low). Recently I went to a golf tournament and was surprised to learn all of my contemporaries (I am 63) are retired and some have been retired since the pandemic. My dad retired at 90. There are just fewer workers, and so far population increases are not making up for that, and based on other first world countries like Japan, S. Korea or Italy without immigration the U.S. could face a population decrease.

      4. For workers like healthcare workers who cannot WFH (and many like radiologists can) look for more one seat direct buses like the 630. I think Island healthcare workers — especially women — would take Link to First Hill (if there was space at the park and ride) but won’t take it downtown to transfer to First Hill. Just like private shuttles to Microsoft they want to ride with other healthcare workers from Mercer Island to First Hill and back. Ross’s point number 2 that “The worse your commute, the more likely you are to want to work from home” means number one safety, two convenience, three time which includes any transfer, and four first/last mile access.

      5. It is a downward spiral in that the reason folks like to live in suburbia but work in an urban setting is the retail vibrancy and folks (eyes) on the street. But as the number of commuters to the urban core declines so does retail vibrancy, and the percentage of crazies to normal people declines (like at 12th and Jackson yesterday when I went to pick up my daughter’s car because some scumbag stole her catalytic converter, and it was an open drug market with folks smoking something from tin foil right at the bus stop with medics trying to resuscitate someone dying on the sidewalk. It looked like someone had opened the doors to an insane asylum).

      For transit in this region it means IMO:

      1. ST will need an operations levy. It used an unreasonably high farebox recovery rate of 40%, over-estimated ridership, has a system that relies on voluntary fare payment, and ran into a pandemic and WFH that took away most of its best paying customers who were commuter captives.

      2. Metro will also feel the impacts of fewer work commuters, including the reality that ST’s pre-pandemic ridership estimates using Metro to access Link were inflated (which is reflected in the eastside transit restructure). Metro will have to concentrate its resources based on “equity”, which means non-discretionary riders who tend to live in denser and less expensive areas to serve. The grid or “induced demand” are concepts that are not affordable in undense areas that are car centric, and it does not look to me like folks plan to switch from cars to transit. When the West Seattle Bridge reopens, we will see that.

      1. The problem with routes like the 630 is that it arbitrarily choose some specific commuters and dedicates a bunch of money prioritize their commute over others’ commute. For instance, why does Mercer Island deserve a direct bus to First Hill more than Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, or even Ballard, for that matter?

        Even within the realm of Mercer Island, why do commuters to First Hill deserve a special bus that commuters to Fremont, South Lake Union, UW, Microsoft, etc. don’t? If routes like the 630 are necessary, all of the above seem equally necessary, but funding all of the above is cost-prohibitive, since you can’t get past the math that a direct, point-to-point connection between N origins and K destination requires (N*K/2) bus routes, which quickly balloons to an exceedingly large number whenever N and K are not both very small.

        So, when you say the 630 is important, what you’re really saying is that the specific subgroup of commuters between Mercer Island and First Hill is more important than all of the other commuters throughout the entire Seattle/eastside region, who don’t have direct Link connections, and deserve special privileges accordingly.

        When nobody gets special privileges, you don’t have routes like that, instead, you spend the money to boost service on the core routes, which spreads the benefit more evenly. Yes, many still have to transfer, but whether that transfer is to First Hill, SLU, Fremont, or anywhere else, the wait for the transfer is shorter.

      2. asdf2, Mercer Island (partially) pays for the 630’s operating hours, so it’s something of a moot point – pay for special service, get special service.

        Dan, the observation that ST will need an operations levy is obvious – the real question is “when?”. I’ve said it before – there will be a levy on a ballot in the 2030’s or 2040’s to extent ST’s funding in perpetuity. The other real question is whether that funding will include money for more large capital projects (as discussed: unlikely), or just maintain funding for operations to subsidize fares.

        Your second point is… pointless. Folks take transit when buses are faster than traffic (which includes how long people have to wait for a bus, which is where the “induced demand” models come in – increased frequency means less waiting, which means faster travel, which competes with more driving trips), or cheaper than parking.

      3. ST already has an operations levy in perpetuity, there is no need for an additional vote. Once the capital expansion program is complete and the bonds paid off, the ST Board is required to roll back taxes, but only down to a level the board determines is sufficient to continue to fully fund both O&M and SOGR.

      4. asdf2 is correct, Route 630 is deeply flawed. It is not cost-effective; it is one-way peak-only; it duplicates Link. Link is grade separated; Route 630 will be stuck in I-90 are arterial congestion. Riders will accept transfers when they frequent-to-frequent services with short waits. There could be frequent bus routes between several Link stations and First Hill (e.g., Judkins, IDS, PSS, USS, and Capitol Hill). Why did ST2 fund the First Hill Streetcar? To mitigate the deletion of the First Hill Link station; to connect the Capitol Hill and IDS Link stations via First Hill. Even if MI contributes funds, those funds, along with Metro funds, would be better spent on shorter headway and waits on Route 204. First Hill workers have varied shifts; they are not nine-to-five workers that can be well-served by a Route 630 with its limited span. Route 630 began with a separate pot of service subsidy as the council reacted to the fall 2014 reductions that included deleting routes 202 and 205; those routes had the same flaws as Route 630 does.

      5. As a Mercer Island taxpayer I would prefer it if the medical employers on First Hill subsidized the 630 rather than local taxpayers. These workers are likely mostly female, and work in probably the most essential field. During the pandemic local streets were converted for their parking.

        I am not surprised by the 630. It is basically the same concept as a private shuttle subsidized by a major employer(s).

        The 630 does not duplicate Link. If East Link went to First Hill I doubt there would be the 630. The streetcar from Pioneer Square is a joke as a mode of transportation, and Pioneer Square — like all of 3rd Ave. in Seattle — is perceived as dangerous. No Mercer Island woman I know of is going to transfer in downtown Seattle to a bus going to First Hill (let alone take a bus). Safety is a deal breaker, plus you throw in a transfer and slow trip time and East Link fails from MI to First Hill.

        The 204 has nothing to do with it. It also has poor first/last mile access, and the 630 accesses some residential parking lots (plus the park and ride which probably will still not be full in 2024). All the 204 does, if you can get to it, is take you to the light rail station and to a train that does not go to First Hill, and adds a transfer.

        The reality is these are not fast-food workers or people who are commuting to a tattoo parlor on Capitol Hill. These are RN’s, nurses, radiological techs, and so on (obviously the doctors and senior administrators drive and park). They hate just being on transit, and never take transit except when they have to commute to a job in Seattle.

        Right now they are the most coveted — and essential workers — in our economy. If you build a light rail system that does not access our main medical area then you have built a bad Link system. If you have a city and avenue that these workers legitimately perceive as unsafe they will not go there, and they will not transfer there, and they are not all that keen on First Hill either. I went to 12th and Jackson the other day and I would NEVER allow my wife or daughter to transfer or go there. I work in Pioneer Square and feel the same about it.

        You can’t blame MI for subsidizing the 630 as though the Island wants to spend their money to fix the errors of Link. You can’t blame the workers since they work to save our lives and don’t get free parking, which I am sure is their first choice. Don’t tell them the streetcar is adequate transportation, or they can just transfer in downtown Seattle after a grueling shift when all their friends work on the eastside or WFH, or find first/last mile access to the 204 (which most never take) to add a third leg to work.

        Sometimes transit advocates have to step back and recognize when transit does not work. Skipping First Hill was a tragic mistake. But don’t expect riders to make up for that tragic mistake with dangerous transfers, or extra transfers on the 204.

        I have no doubt that Issaquah will subsidize their own one seat buses to areas in downtown Seattle if their commuter returns. Issaquah has lots of money, and my guess will insist ST subsidize the one seat buses and ST generally does what Issaquah wants. It isn’t as if the subarea is hurting for revenue. Some will drive directly to the S. Bellevue Park and Ride, some will switch to employers in downtown Bellevue and take the one seat 554, and some will take a one seat bus like the 630, especially if they work on First Hill or in SLU.

        You can build a flawed transit system and deny all day long it is flawed — at least in parts — but don’t be surprised when the market finds an alternative to transit. It is critical to remember these workers absolutely hate being on transit to begin with, and never take it in their lives outside work. They are the ones who save lives, and make all those hospital, medical and dental clinics a fortune, and they will never take transit or transfer if safety is even a hint of an issue.

        Yes, the 630 is unfortunate (especially since I am subsidizing it on top of the exorbitant taxes I pay to ST and never use), but its need and existence is an indictment on ST and Link, not MI or the workers going to the hospitals and medical/dental clinics so the rest of us can get care.

      6. “ST already has an operations levy in perpetuity, there is no need for an additional vote. Once the capital expansion program is complete and the bonds paid off, the ST Board is required to roll back taxes, but only down to a level the board determines is sufficient to continue to fully fund both O&M and SOGR.”

        Of course ST 1, 2 and 3 included operations and maintenance funding in those levies. They also included funding for capital projects, but that doesn’t mean the project costs or funding assumptions were correct, because as we know they were not, and cost contingencies were ridiculously low.

        The question is whether ST estimated the correct cost amount based on the assumptions ST used for O&M, and whether it accurately estimated general and farebox revenue. After all, look at all the transit systems on the east coast that also included O&M in their funding models but reallocated those funds and now require billions for O&M.

        There are three elements to ST’s O&M budgets and funding: 1. Farebox recovery (40%); estimated vs. actual O&M costs; and 3. general fund tax revenues for O&M.

        1. Farebox recovery looks like it will be closer to Metro’s: 20%. Central Link from UW to downtown pre-pandemic was 30% and that is by far the busiest line. Lynnwood, East and Federal Way Link all had inflated ridership estimates (even pre-pandemic), and farebox payment percentages have gone down because the system was really based on employer subsidized fares which have a 100% payment percentage. My guess is at some point ST will have to spend the money to construct some kind of turnstile system, both for station/train safety and for revenue.

        This is an immediate problem, one Rogoff has raised, and waiting until 2034 or 2044 to reallocate or continue bond payments to O&M won’t solve this. So ST has a 20% deficit in its O&M budget right off the bat, that like many transit systems was papered over with federal stimulus money that runs out in 2023.

        2. Estimated O&M costs vs. actual costs. If ST is true to form it underestimated future O&M costs, certainly for things like escalator repairs/replacement or prematurely failing tiles. The other big issue is the assumed inflation rate for future costs, just as ROW and construction costs far exceeded ST’s estimates for capital projects.

        Eventually the higher inflation rates we are seeing today will bleed into CBA wage increases, labor costs for repairs and maintenance, and so on. ST is a fairly new system, and maybe driverless technology may help lower costs, or less frequency or operating costs, but at this point I am guessing ST lowballed future cost escalation and inflation to sell the levies. So actual future costs will be higher than estimated, some ST’s fault, some the fault of inflation overall.

        3. General fund taxes make up 60% of the O&M budget, or are supposed to. In some ways this is a subarea issue. The pandemic and WFH have not only reduced ridership, but reallocated it, and reallocated general fund taxes which are often allocated to where the business or person makes the transaction. This will be a particular problem for N. King Co. where the highest ridership and O&M costs are, but my guess is especially with a recession general fund transit tax revenue will decline in all subareas while inflation may continue to rise or will not go down. Even when inflation rates do go down the price increases remain in effect; they just don’t go higher as fast.

        ST is not alone in this dilemma. It is just a newer system. Typically transit systems raid their O&M fund over decades to make ends meet until eventually like D.C. or New York they get so old and run down they need to ask for billions more from taxpayers. Can the Board simply continue the same taxes and tax rate once the capital projects are completed? I don’t know, and maybe that will be a political question, but another “realignment” is just smoke and mirrors, and the O&M deficit is a now problem.

        From what I am seeing with ST right now my suspicion is its O&M budgets are severely strained. The realignment proved this with capital projects, except it is ridiculous to claim that extending project commencement five years during a period of high inflation in order to extend taxes five years at the back end creates any kind of net revenue. In fact you go backwards, and like I have noted before it is like waiting to buy a house in this region when your income will stay the same thinking the house will be cheaper.

        The one solution I see is if ST is able to shift capital revenue for projects it cannot afford — e.g. WSBLE — to its O&M fund. So far I haven’t see that kind of honesty and realism from ST. ST still believes just build it and the taxpayers will have to find a way to fund O&M, not unlike the decrepit transit systems on the east coast.

        I agree with some on this blog that now is not the time to begin very questionable projects like WSBLE, but instead to see what the capital and O&M revenue actually is for each subarea over the next few years, and then decide what to do (such as more infill stations) but making sure that O&M is fully funded first.

      7. Thompson: yes, the FH streetcar was a sad mistake of ST and McGinn. We will miss the First Hill station forever. Instead of a slow costly streetcar, the ST2 funds could have provided very frequent electric trolleybus service between East Aloha Street and Pioneer Square; the overhead existed; the pathway is more direct. Yes, the sad state of our unhoused neighbors need to be addressed; solving homelessness and transit security are interrelated. Route 630 is sad, one-way, peak-only, and has a short span of service. Hope Link has a shortage of drivers and some of its few trips are suspended. See: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/schedules-maps/hastop/630.aspx

      8. I have nothing against the idea of a private employer paying for private bus routes like the 630 with their own funds. All the big tech companies do it. My company does it. I’ve ridden their shuttles on occasion, when it makes sense.

        However, understand that if a hospital were paying for a commuter route to the eastside, it would probably not meander down the local streets of Mercer Island, itself. In fact, it would most likely bypass Mercer Island altogether, since Bellevue is a much larger commuter market. If I were designing an Eastside->Harborview commuter shuttle (at Harborview’s expense), I’d probably have it just run nonstop between Eastgate P&R and the Hospital, since Eastgate has tons of free parking for shuttle drivers to use. Literally, the *only* reason Mercer Island gets a route like the 630 is that Mercer Island, not the First Hill employers, is paying for it.

        That said, I’m curious whether Mercer Island is really paying for the entirety of the 630’s operating cost, or whether it’s split between Mercer Island and King County Metro’s budget. If the latter, the existing of the 630 is still coming at the expense of bus routes elsewhere. Unlike the 204, which is usable by anyone visiting Mercer Island, regardless of where you’re from, the 630’s schedule effectively means that you have to actually live on Mercer Island to use it(*), so taxpayers that live anywhere else get nothing for it.

        (*) Well, technically, somebody from Bellevue could drive or bus to the 630, but the limited parking at Mercer Island would making driving to the 630 difficult and, if you’re going to bus to the 630, you may as well just ride the bus downtown, since you’ll have more options and a shorter wait time for the connection.

      9. asdf2 is correct, Route 630 is deeply flawed. It is not cost-effective; it is one-way peak-only; it duplicates Link.

        Agreed. It is simply not cost effective. What is cost effective is a better urban network. It is a shame that there is no Link First Hill stop. But we shouldn’t throw up our hands and have buses that spend a considerable amount of their time (on the freeway) picking up no one. We should build a modern network for a modern city. There was a time when “downtown” had sharp borders, that didn’t include First Hill. There were a few hospitals, and that was it. But those days are gone. Not only are there lots of hospitals, and clinics, but residential and office towers every bit as impressive as anything in downtown Bellevue. It doesn’t stop there. It stretches east, on almost every street. There are pockets of old-school low-density Seattle, but mostly it is a mix of modern higher density apartments, and high density uses that have existed for years. The only efficient way to serve *all of it* is with a good network.

        For example, the G will definitely help. It will serve thousands of people along the corridor, as well as many more that arrive via some other bus or train. But we need a bus line on Boren to do the same. Connect people in the neighborhood, and connect to those coming in from the East Side (as well as north, south and west). Of course this may mean making two transfers. That is life in the big city. The key is to make everything frequent, and straightforward.

        Will this be great for those that travel long distances? No. But relatively few will do that, no matter what sort of transit is provided. It is like the 586. What a magnificent bus it must be for the riders. I’m sure people who ride it brag about their commute. From Tacoma it gets riders right to the UW, without a single stop along the way. It then runs through the U-District, giving riders their choice of stop. Yet with all of that convenience and speed, it gets about 25 boardings per trip. Just because a bus is really convenient, doesn’t mean it will be popular; it certainly doesn’t mean it will be a good value.

      10. why do commuters to First Hill deserve a special bus that commuters to Fremont, South Lake Union, UW, Microsoft, etc. don’t? If routes like the 630 are necessary, all of the above seem equally necessary, but funding all of the above is cost-prohibitive

        The 630 has a cost per boarding of $4.20. Metro/Dart (don’t know why they roll those together but Dart is a tiny proportion) has an average cost per boarding of $5.22.
        If you want to go after pilot services, Trail Head inDirect has a cost per boarding or $16-$63. Somehow that isn’t “fatally flawed”?

        Numbers from my previous post with a link to Metro’s latest System Evaluation Report. King County Metro Transit is a niche mode of transportation. Maybe it should all just go away.

      11. The 630 has a cost per boarding of $4.20. Metro/Dart (don’t know why they roll those together but Dart is a tiny proportion) has an average cost per boarding of $5.22. If you want to go after pilot services, Trail Head inDirect has a cost per boarding or $16-$63. Somehow that isn’t “fatally flawed”?

        Right, but this is another reason why it makes sense to focus on the network. One way to do that is to look at the alternatives. If the 630 goes away, what do the riders do and how much time does it cost them? Obviously they take Link then another bus. It costs them a minimal amount of time depending on where they are going. In contrast, there are no public transit alternatives to the trailheads.

        The 630 is a pilot, and performs way better than the other pilot programs at the time (e. g. Burien Community Shuttle) but that doesn’t mean that it is anywhere near as cost effective as other routes. Nor is it anything special. It operates like a normal bus route. It does provide a little bit of extra coverage on Mercer Island and Boren. For the former it provides a tiny bit of coverage, but mostly just overlaps the 204. For the latter is operates so rarely that it can’t provide what would otherwise be one of the better connections in the city. It only runs a few times during the day, which adds to the cost.

        In contrast, consider the alternative I suggested. Keep the 204, which is DART service, so it can deviate a little bit to pick up Mercer Island residents that would otherwise have to walk a long ways to the bus stop. Now run a bus on Boren all day long. That bus would be a lot more cost effective than the 630, and save its riders a lot more time.

        Meanwhile, service like Trailhead Direct is in a different category. It is like intercity bus service. The cost per rider is huge compared to an urban transit system, but the benefit is huge as well. There is no public transportation alternative. Even taking a cab is expensive and problematic (there is no cell service at the trailhead, which means you have to agree to a certain pickup time). Like good intercity public transportation, it provides an incentive to live without a car as well as an opportunity to those that can’t or won’t drive. It is also designed to reduce parking and congestion in those areas as much as anything. It is a very different type of service, unlike the 630.

        Which doesn’t mean that the Trailhead Direct service can’t improve. It is silly to go from Seattle to Bellevue, as the 550 does that. I suppose some could take advantage of the direct connection to Eastgate, but since it only operates on weekends (when few students are in class and the offices are largely empty) I doubt that is the case. I would start at downtown Bellevue, swing by Eastgate and then head to North Bend. When East Link gets here, it makes sense to either start at North Bend (relying on the 215 for the first step) or start in Mercer Island, replacing many of the 215 trips. It is also reasonable for Trailhead Direct to charge more, given the extra distance the bus travels.

    2. Danny Westneat had an article in the $eattle Times, As Microsoft is showing, workers may never come back to the office . One of the take home conclusions was, “workers love it, bosses hate it”. Yeah, with the leverage workers have now, “you’re not the boss of me”. The highest skilled employees can work anywhere they want; literally since WFH means you can work anywhere in the world. Bosses are expendable and many were counter productive and just using a power play pre-pandemic to assert their relevance.

      Downtown Seattle offices are still only 38% occupied, according to an office-space tracker from the Downtown Seattle Association. This is only slightly above what it was in February.

      I commute across I-90 into Seattle (now only 3 days a week) and traffic is doing 80mph in the AM. PM commute is more like 60-70 until east of MI where the SB 405 gridlock kicks in (I exit at B’vue Way & go north).

      Workers will be rewarded for working at the office. Typically this means getting paid more

      It certainly costs the company more to provide not just a cube but in most cases a parking spot. Any increase in salary probably doesn’t cover the cost of commuting and other costs (like cloths) of working in office. If you can reduce the number of vehicles owned by one then that salary increase is going to have to be immense. Sounds like bosses trying to be relavant.

      or having a bigger chance at advancement.

      Definitely bosses trying to be relevant. What the current market has made the C level people aware of is that valuable employees are more relevant than “bosses”.
      The other take home was that people work longer to be “just as” productive. The article claims 10+ hours/week. But people I’ve known that worked at MSFT worked 50-60 hours/wk (salaried) “in office” because that was just what was expected. I’m hourly and admit I work more hours “for free” when working from home. But I also save a huge amount of time not commuting and can work what would be out of shift with no great inconvenience. This is especially important when coordinating with field crews.

      1. Yes, that is one of the many articles I’ve read that lead me to write what I did up above (summarizing all of that). Nothing in there is a big surprise or contradicts my own experience going back years (if not decades).

        The folks I knew who worked from home had really bad commutes. Bosses preferred people coming into the office, because they could be more productive. This was especially true with collaborative work (which tends to pay more). I’ve worked with fellow developers and testers and the ones that weren’t in the office were much harder to work with. There was a period in software when every developer thought that their job was going to be “shipped” to India. Some of that happened, but companies found that they couldn’t be that productive. A lot of jobs have gone overseas (and to low wage states in the South) but those tended to be low wage jobs to begin with (e. g. phone support), as opposed to programming or testing positions. Collaborative jobs tend to pay more because you can be more productive. As a result, the move to working from home may lead to even more stratification.

        The idea that managers are dragging people into the office to make them relevant flies in the face of history. Outsourcing shifts money away from developers and towards managers. It takes skill to manage a dozen workers from different time zones (I knew more than one program manager who was really good at it).

        There are exceptions of course. If you are outstanding or have a special skill (or both) you can get away with working from home and make big bucks, but generally speaking, folks who come into the office are paid more simply because they are more productive.

        For example, there was a piece of code created at Microsoft that was named after Burgermaster. I think it was within Windows, but it could have been DOS. In any event, the folks in charge had a very difficult problem, and they all decided to go out to lunch and try and brainstorm a solution. They figured it out (together) and the rest is history as they say. It is quite possible this little bit of collaboration saved the company millions if not billions of dollars. They couldn’t have done it over Zoom.

      2. I remember discussions with co-workers about how much problem solving we did with a given programming issue at home… in the shower, gardening,.. etc.. and we’d say “We (salaried fools) should be paid for all the ‘at-home’ work we do!”
        Of course, that sentiment was tempered with the realization of how often we’d be “In the Bahamas” whilst cooped up in our cubicles.

        Ah, outsourcing… the last refuge for the pointy-haired. Was there ever any consequence to those decisions? Not that I ever found out. One thing that became obvious was that if you’re having your code written overseas… You’d better have your specifications be accurate. Otherwise you’d get exactly what you asked for.

        Ah… time-shifting. “Sorry, you can’t be helped today, it’s a holiday in France! Call back next week.”

      3. Complete WFH is very different than working 2 days a week from home. That seems to be what most companies are adopting. You have plenty of time to talk sports collaborate and still have days you can go to a doctors appointment, schedule the furnace guy etc. Bonus for the planet you’ve cut your commute time and milage by 40%. That’s also a win for the company because they can cut back the number of parking spaces which is a factor in determining the lease payment and what building/locations are suitable.

        While some things are still true what we “knew” about remote work 10 years ago is completely different today. Ten years ago remote meetings generally required special hardware and it was mostly a one way experience. With high bandwidth and HD video streaming common place there are a lot of things you can accomplish with Zoom or Teams. I’d think this would be especially true if you’re working across the country or across the globe. I’m not going into the office at 8PM for a meeting but if I take a couple of hours off to mow the lawn then sure I’ll log on after dinner. When I was supporting field crews I would often start the day with a 6AM phone call that said until they got additional calcs they were sitting doing nothing. No big deal to walk upstairs in my bathrobe, knock out 30-60 minutes and then get breakfast.

        The other change is just the way the new generation of workers is use to communicating. I’m talking about the people that walk side by side with headphones on texting each other (and friends). They’ve grown up in a digital world. My first hands on experience with a computer in HS was an acoustic coupler modem attached to a dumb terminal. Things have been changing fast over the last 40+ years. We were the last class that had to buy a slide rule for physics.

      4. One thing that became obvious was that if you’re having your code written overseas… You’d better have your specifications be accurate. Otherwise you’d get exactly what you asked for.

        Yeah, exactly. It is all about collaboration (or lack thereof). Problems that would usually be worked out in seconds between the tester/programmer/project manager would require endless emails or worse yet, having the code “thrown over the fence”. It is yet another reason why companies moved away from the waterfall methodology to agile. You can do agile with video meetings, but the entire principle is based on making little steps, and communicating those little steps with your co-workers. I find it interesting that developers often hate meetings, and yet working from home has caused the amount of time in meetings to increase (presumably because a lot of problems that would otherwise be solved with a quick chat are being worked out in an official meeting).

        Complete WFH is very different than working 2 days a week from home.

        I agree, and I also agree that companies are shifting towards that.

        That’s also a win for the company because they can cut back the number of parking spaces which is a factor in determining the lease payment and what building/locations are suitable.

        Or they could move downtown, knowing that the vast majority of people won’t arrive by car. But yeah, if you locate in the boonies, you might be able to get by with fewer parking spaces. But you would have to stagger the work schedule by groups. You can’t have a company-wide policy (e. g. everyone is expected to be in the office M/W/F) otherwise you are back to where you started.

        For what its worth, I worked in a lot of places, but most of the time I didn’t have free parking. The times I did drive, I had to park in the neighborhood. I’m sure there are a lot of people who drove and paid to park in a lot. Maybe ten years from now those lots will be dirt cheap (e. g. $20 a month). I doubt it.

        Anyway, I do agree that I think it will be common for people to work a couple days at home in the future. So let me do the math again. Half the trips are commutes. Half of those trips involve jobs that can be done at home. Half of those workers work at the office full time. The other half work at home 2 days a week. That works out to around 1/16 fewer transit trips. Yeah, I know I’m making huge approximations, but overall that sounds like a very minor hit to transit.

        Oh, and it generally hits transit where it hurts the least. It is common for certain bus routes to be very crowded during rush hour, and only during rush hour. Often these buses add trips that don’t actually provide anything for a rider. A bus might arrive every two minutes instead of three. Big deal. This is completely different than a bus that arrives every ten minutes instead of every half hour. Extra bus service to deal with crowding is also especially expensive (https://humantransit.org/2017/08/basics-the-high-cost-of-peak-only-transit.html). The idea that working from home is a major blow to transit is highly unlikely. There are other factors that are a lot more important.

      5. “Ah, outsourcing… the last refuge for the pointy-haired. Was there ever any consequence to those decisions?”

        Yes, the supply-chain bottlenecks we’re having now. China stealing intellectual property. Changes in administration, international relations, and wars periodically making immigration difficult, which now affects companies’ operations, college studies, and universities’ revenues. Outsourcing went along with just-in-time manufacturing, another invention by that same generation of pointy-heads.

      6. But were there consequences for the pointy-haired managers that orchestrated it, was my deeper question.

      7. “Complete WFH is very different than working 2 days a week from home.”

        Agreed. I have worked completely remotely since 2004 in a few different positions and there are defintely tradeoffs involved. For me personally, overall it has been a mostly positive experience. The technological improvements over the last decade or so have made things much easier than when I first began working remotely all those years ago.

        It’s not for everybody of course, and there is a tendency to not “punch out”, so to speak, when fully working remotely (imo), but in my case I have made it work and thus I have no regrets. Admittedly my transition to full-time remote work wasn’t as big of a change as it is for many other individuals since at the time I was working for a national concern that had multiple subsidiaries, operational divisions and functional units scattered around the country. Thus working M-F(or S) out of my local office week after week wasn’t my normal work routine anyway. The biggest advantage for me has been the two hours plus of commute time per day I got back (by bus when I still lived in Seattle and then by car once I moved to Edmonds). Additionally, over time my need to travel to other locations around the country has declined dramatically due to changing business practices and acceptance of virtual meetings. That was already happening in the “before times” of course but the pandemic has certainly hastened, expanded and even solidified these changes.

        Regarding the discussion of “pointy-haired” executive management decisions related to outsourcing, I witnessed this first hand at an industrial sector company I once worked for that attempted to outsource its financial management and reporting function to accenture. It was a disastrous move and within 24 months the company’s senior management pulled the plug and took all these functions back in house.

      8. The Pointy Hairy managers are from Dilbut. Outsourcing wasn’t a manager decision but a C level decision. Yeah sure, you might be able to hire someone in India to write the code for something for way less than doing it domestically but then you you want rev 2.0… your screwed. More than that there is such a security risk I don’t understand why any company that wasn’t just waiting to be bought would allow it. My wife is now 100% remote and the hospital repurposed all the office space for her entire department (i.e. ain’t never going back). They now hire nationally and it works well. But, even if someone is an employee they absolutely can not under no circumstance log in from a foreign country. HIPA simply won’t allow it.

        I wonder how defense contractors deal with this since NATO has firms working across the globe on weapons systems.

    3. Actually my suggestion as someone subsidizing the 630 is to encourage Eastside health care workers to shift to Eastside jobs. They are in high demand and the Eastside health care industry is booming.

      I actually ask some of my friends — doctors, nurses and healthy care workers —!why they choose to work on first hill when they could easily work on the Eastside.

      As much as they dislike Seattle and First Hill, they tend to either be adrenaline junkies or have skills that suit major trauma centers.

      My suggestion is why not have folks in Seattle who are ill or dying take transit with two or three transfers to the Eastside for medical treatment rather than the other way around. Because I can guarantee you that is the future in every major city.

      The 630 is stupid, mostly because downtown Seattle is a shithole and we spent $142 billion on Link to nowhere but forgot the urban healthcare core. Nice job.
      But the solution is all those
      healthcare workers work on the Eastside and treat folks with private health insurance, which is exactly where healthcare is going.

      Unless some on this blog are trauma nurses or RN’s.

      1. “My suggestion is why not have folks in Seattle who are ill or dying take transit with two or three transfers to the Eastside for medical treatment rather than the other way around. Because I can guarantee you that is the future in every major city.”

        Hollowing out central cities and throwing away the infrastructure we’ve invested in them is counterproductive. That was the thrust of the second half of the 20th century: turning metropolitan areas into doughnuts. That’s another thing Europe doesn’t do. A collection of small cities is not better than the central city it pretends doesn’t exist. And if you continue the logic further, in thirty years your star suburbs will be old-fashioned and then the money will move to the new glittering ones beyond it, in an everything-is-disposable cycle.

      2. Cities die by first becoming donuts. A good example is Detroit. For years the overall population was roughly the same, as manufacturing moved to the suburbs. Then, as the central city shrank even more, so did the suburbs. Next thing you know, the whole thing collapses.

        The only hope at that point is to rebuild the center (like Cleveland or Pittsburgh). Detroit is trying to do that, but it would have been a lot easier if they hadn’t become a donut in the first place.

      3. we spent $142 billion on Link to nowhere

        Um, er, ah, “we” are a very long way from having spent hundred and forty-two billion dollars.

        Central Link [downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport] cost $5 billion. U-Link cost $1.7 billion, and Northgate Link another $1.9 billion. So ST is into the poor beset Holy Taxpayer for $9.6 billion. Yes, it cost $163 million to run the system in 2021, but this was the first year with full 26 mile operations, so the initial eleven years would all have been less, so maybe a total of $1.5 billion to be generous.

        Now I grant that DSTT1 was a gift from the taxpayers of King County to the region, but it cost only $469 million in an era of cheaper construction.

        The grand total so far, including operations, spent on Link is $11.5 billion. So your hyper-ventilating is off by an order of magnitude. Did you mean “will have spent”, counselor? Would you like to amend your statement?

        Current projects for the extensions to Lynnwood ($3.7 billion), Federal Way ($3.16 billion) and Redmond Tech Center ($4.03 billion) will double that, let’s say $25 billion.

        The seventeen miles to Everett, all elevated or at-grade within reserved right-of-way and flatter than Federal Way, plus the ten miles to Tacoma (ditto) and the twelve miles to Issaquah and South Kirkland (hillier, more like Lynnwood) are going to total something around another $25 billion.

        So if we stipulate “will have spent” instead of “spent”, you are essentially saying that WSBLE and the BRT projects plus operations through 2045 will cost $94 billion.

        That is absurd on its face. First, it’s hard to imagine that a twelve mile subway, even one tunneled all the way would cost six billion per mile. [Leaving twenty four billion for twenty years of operation]. Even the Second Avenue Subway, if completed all the way to the south end of Manhattan, would be only a bit more than two billion per mile. And of course, WSBLE would not be tunneled every mile. The industrial districts through SoDo and Interbay will be elevated or surface.

        Either the line will be shortened or costs will be lower. We can’t know which will be true yet, but the total cost will be no more that $25 billion, of that you may be confident.

      4. $142 billion is also in future dollars, so it’s less than $142 billion right now would be.

      5. @DT:

        “My suggestion is why not have folks in Seattle who are ill or dying take transit with two or three transfers to the Eastside for medical treatment rather than the other way around.”

        Luckily for you that already happens. I have had to from Seatac to Issaquah Highlands for neurology and gastroenterology appointments.

        “…because downtown Seattle is a shithole…”

        Ah, there it is. The Seattle hatred. It’s been a while, too.

      6. The figures are from Tisgwm Tom, post realignment. But you are correct that $142 billion “will be” collected and spent, if not more.

      7. A Joy, I hope your rehab is going well and you are recovering.

        I really wasn’t serious about having Island healthcare workers switch to Eastside hospitals or “hollowing out” Seattle, although I agree Swedish Issaquah is a great facility.

        I just think it is foolish to look at this issue through the prism of transit. These are critical essential workers in one of Seattle’s most important industries. Yes, they probably have a lower risk tolerance than most on this blog, but than most on this blog can’t do their job.

        So find out what mode of transportation to and from work they are comfortable with and will use — with the understanding that their first choice, driving to work, is not available — and provide them with that mode.

        My guess is that was the process the City of MI and First Hill employers went through to come up with the 630 that accesses a few residential park and rides and is a straight shot to First Hill with no stops in Seattle. I just don’t understand why the employers are not subsidizing the 630.

      8. My sleep clinic is at Cherry Hill, Issaquah, and Edmonds. I went to the one in Cherry Hill. The doctor is at Issaquah so I’ve never seen him. I see a nurse practitioner, who was at Cherry Hill when I started but is now at Edmonds. So my annual follow-ups are now via Zoom or phone, since it would take a long time to get to the Edmonds clinic on transit, and I don’t want to change from a good nurse.

        If I lived in the Eastside and had to go to the Issaquah clinic, that would be a hassle to get to. It would be easier to go to Seattle, even with “two or three transfers”. For instance, mid or eastern Bellevue to Cherry Hill would be B+550+3/4. All those are frequent daytime, and it would take an hour. From mid Bellevue it might be B+271+554, B+550+554, or 245+554. All of those would take the same hour or more because the 271 is slow and the 554 is infrequent. It’s just easier to go to Seattle.

        My friend in north Lynnwood walks 40 minutes to the Ash Way P&R if she can’t get a ride to it, and then 512+Link or 415 to Seattle. She cleans houses and her long-time clients are on Capitol Hill, so she commutes a few days a week. She also comes to Seattle to shop at Central Co-Op, Goodwill, Grocery Outlet, and other places because the equivalents in Lynnwood are harder to get to without a car and scattered widely. Compared to that, going from the Eastside to Seattle is easy, and easier than going to Issaquah.

      9. Cherry Hill is not only a hassle for Eastsiders to reach, but those of us in SE Seattle south of Mt Baker Station area have to transfer to an infrequent 4, do a double transfer, or go all the way down to Third and Cherry only to ride up the First Hill through Harborview traffic. It amazes me that you can get a direct bus to places outside of Seattle from Cherry Hill, but not SE Seattle (which has lots more residents than Mercer Island does).

      10. It was indeed Swedish, and it really is a quite good facility. I am impressed every time I go there.

        And my rehab has gone rather well, thank you. I am probably around 90% recovered, that last 10% or so rather difficult and slow going with these kinds of injuries. You wouldn’t know I had suffered my accident just by looking at me anymore. I still feel it if I turn on the wrong side in my sleep though.

      11. Daniel, no, it won’t, simply because people will not agree to continue. You have that repulsive, smug Republican belief that urban voters are stupid, and it’s just not correct.

        To be an urban voter in a super-expensive technocratic city like Seattle, one has to be smarter than average — usually considerably smarter — simply to be in the electorate. The folks without critical thinking skills are stuck in ‘bama and West Virginia, those inimitable examples of the superiority of theocratic Republican public education by $2,000/month “teachers”.

        Sure, there are lucky but slow folks who inherited a house or bought one in 1974 when the lights were out, but they’re an ever-smaller proportion of the Seattle electorate.

        IF WSBLE would actually cost that $72 billion you so confidently forecast, it will be cut back to some sort of stub through SLU and Lower Queen Anne and the difficulties of connecting to DSTT1 for non-revenue moves will be solved. It won’t cost more than the $25 billion or so that North King will raise during ST3’s capital expenditure period.

      12. Tom, I don’t quite follow your point. I never said urban (or Seattle) voters are stupid (although S. King and Snohomish Counties did convince N. King Co. to pay for the bulk of the spine).

        WSBLE is not estimated to cost $72 billion. ST has the cost at $12 billion, although with a 30% cost contingency and the preferred alternative with tunnels and underground stations in Ballard and West Seattle, plus the true cost of a very deep DSTT2, the potential cost is likely around $20 billion, compared to around $5.5 billion for all of East Link. At least best practices suggest ST should have around $20 billion before beginning digging. Spending less on stubs seems like a mode for mode’s sake mistake to me.

        In January 2021 Rogoff announced ST had an $11.5 billion deficit, which I thought was suspiciously close to the $12 estimated cost for WSBLE. The Board claims that dropped to $6 billion, and it covered that with a “realignment” that extends taxes five years but delays project completion five years in a high inflationary environment, something admittedly I don’t understand.

        It is N. King Co.’s money, but also its responsibility. I personally think WSBLE is a poor use of transit funding when calculating rider mile per dollar. The four other subareas need to have their exposure capped (at $275 million each although I doubt three of those four subareas have an extra $275 million). ST states third party funding may be necessary, and if that is a SB5528 levy because R’s retake Congress and the Presidency (which means DOT) and ST accurately estimates the amount of a SB5528 levy plus 30% cost contingency I think Seattle voters are plenty smart enough to decide whether that is a good deal for their neighborhood.

      13. I really wasn’t serious about having Island healthcare workers switch to Eastside hospitals or “hollowing out” Seattle …

        Oh, sorry Daniel. It is so hard to keep up with your subtle sense of humor. Obviously so much of what you write is just a joke. No argument here.

      14. Daniel, I’m just doing the math. You repeatedly forecast that ST will spend 140+ billion dollars by 2045. If one subtracts the costs thus far incurred, the scheduled costs of the remaining surface extensions of Link, which won’t be subject to much underestimation, the minor BRT projects and a billion per year for operations, around $70 billion remains. Heck, go big and say $2 billion a year for operations, land you still have nearly $50 billion. Whatever, that logically then must be your projection of the cost of the remaining project, WSBLE. You can’t feign surprise and mumble. “I said $12 billion.”

        The voters of North King will not — indeed, cannot — double their tax contribution to ST, so the project will either fit within to the subarea’s taxing capacity or it will be truncated. End of story.

        I have never written that I think that the West Seattle end makes sense, and a full extension to Ballard doesn’t do much that BRT on 15th West doesn’t already. Well, except avoid the mess around Western and Denny Way.

        But SLU and Lower Queen Anne need a connection to the greater system, made at an intelligently designed transfer station. That will happen, even if the Fifth Avenue Folly to the south of Westlake doesn’t.

      15. So fringe websites are now the standard for process management? Good to know.

        These people are all idiots. The region simply can’t afford $140 billion for Sound Transit by 2045, so it won’t spend $140 billion on Sound Transit. Just stop saying that it will.

        You can reasonably make all sorts of criticisms about the proposals in ST3, but asserting that the region will DO what the planners say they will do in the face of this is dumb. If something can’t happen, it won’t.

        You could look at lot less like a logorrheic troll and more like a responsible citizen if you EVER ONE TIME praised an alternative idea.

      16. Tom, I thought you would click on the blue link “$142 billion” to Mike Lindblom’s article in the Times the linked article relied upon for the $142 billion figure but figured you do not subscribe and so would get a paywall. I should have just linked to Lindblom’s article.

        The point is the $142 billion figure is not my figure. I didn’t calculate it. But it seems to be the consensus from Tisgwm to Lindblom.

        You seem certain ST won’t spend $142 billion. Is there something the Board has said or done to support your certainty? The realignment and DEIS for WSBLE suggest to me the Board will spend whatever it takes to complete ST 3, albeit within subarea confines.

        I don’t see any indication the Board does not intend to build Issaquah to S. Kirkland or the preferred alternative for WSBLE. I just don’t think N. King Co. will have the revenue for WSBLE as desired by the stakeholders, and assume the admission “third party funding” will be required means a SB5528 levy, and was the whole point of SB5528.

        I hope you are correct ST finds an off-ramp, and not just a bunch of stubs.

      17. Tom, I have consistently proposed “alternatives”.

        First I voted no on ST 3 (but voted yes for ST 2).

        I was the first on this blog to recommend using DSTT1 for WSBLE.

        I thought the DEIS would be the opportunity for the Board to admit WSBLE is not affordable but the draft and preferred alternatives tell me the Board believes they are affordable.

        I have suggested many times to postpone the DEIS for WSBLE until costs and revenues are clearer and to focus on infill stations like 130th and Graham St.

        I have called for cancelling Issaquah to S. Kirkland.

        I don’t think beginning with stubs when WSBLE is not affordable — and even if completed — is a poor investment is wise.

        I have also suggested beginning the DEIS with the SB5528 levy because I think the stakeholders will demand a design that is the most expensive for WSBLE and the DEIS notes that will require third party funding.

        I am really not sure what more I can do, or why I should have that responsibility since I live in the Eastside subarea. The only alternatives I can see are to not build WSBLE, or Issaquah to S. Kirkland although the subarea can afford that white elephant.

        Tell what other alternatives I am missing.

        What you say is very rational: ST would never spend $142 billion through 2044 or begin WSBLE unless it was sure it had the funding to complete it. You are being rational; I just don’t see any indication the Board agrees with you.

      18. No you weren’t the first person to suggest using DSTT1 for WSBLE. MANY of us have been advocating similar projects for YEARS, well before ST3 was even proposed.

        Of course, they weren’t exactly the WSBLE project, because that didn’t exist until ST3, but we have been searching for ways to use the tunnel more efficiently since it went to shared operations.

        Ross has been strongly critical of the second tunnel since it was proposed; he even wrote a long article about digging a second bus tunnel instead and making it the “Rapid Ride” path through downtown Seattle. It would have had a facility to connect to Aurora for the E Line. That was in late 2015, before ST3 passed. He originally did so because he’s a “Ballard-UW” diehard, but his bus tunnel was a good idea. Unfortunately, it would have suffered the same explosion of costs that has beset DSTT2.

        The Board and Lindblom are simply wrong, because the region simply cannot raise and spend that much on extensions into hayfields. There is no defensible reason for Issaquah-South Kirkland, nor the Everett and Tacoma Dome extensions. They are all three “political” subways, pandering to the unattractive neighborhood jealousies that rack the region.

        The ONLY useful project in ST3 — other than the BRT’s — IS WSBLE, but not the West Seattle stub, anything north of Smith Cove or the tunnel south of Westlake. Place the Smith Cove station directly above Elliott with side-platforms in order to make in-direction bus transfers into the rail system as easy as possible and go ahead and run the buses on downtown. Folks headed to SLU, Pioneer Square or points south will transfer to the quicker train. Those headed to Belltown, the retail core or the financial centers will just stay on the bus.

      19. I agree with all of your points Tom. A little clarification though. I didn’t come up with the idea of a new bus tunnel. I think it was d.p. who originally came up with the idea, on this blog. I think it started as an off-hand remark, but lots of people (including me) thought it made a lot of sense. The Seattle Subway folks jumped on it. They wrote this: https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/02/18/westside-seattle-transit-tunnel/. That got picked up by Mike Lindblom, in cooperation with d.p., Seattle Subway and me. He wrote this: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/second-bus-tunnel-proposed-downtown/.

        Side Note: Several people suggested that tunnel include First Hill, but for whatever reason, we decided to keep it simple (likely to have Lindblom’s article match Seattle Subway’s).

        Anyway, there is no question that a new bus tunnel would have the same cost overruns and same challenges that the new train tunnel has. Transfers would have been difficult, and building in the I. D. challenging. But it still would have been cheaper, simply because you save a considerable amount of money by not running rail to Ballard or West Seattle (which essentially duplicates the existing freeway). It would make sense to budget very high for each station (instead of the opposite, which is what they did). That would put us in a much better position to argue for better, more expensive stations downtown. We would still have to spend money making buses faster outside of the tunnel, but that would be considerably cheaper (likely saving billions) because we could leverage the existing (very fast) infrastructure.

        For the vast majority of riders it would be better. From inside the tunnel you have much better frequency. Thus a trip from CID to Uptown would be much better. From outside the tunnel you avoid a transfer and have better frequency. Riders from the heart of Ballard (17, 18), Ballard High (D, 15), Alki (37, 56, 57), Fauntleroy/California (C, 118, 119), High Point (21) and of course Delridge (120) would all come out ahead. You really have only a handful of people that would be better off with a train instead of a bus.

        Unfortunately, the idea didn’t go very far. That Times article was the high water mark. It’s really a shame, given how messed up things are. Again, the new bus tunnel would have the same sort of issues as everything else. But it would have been inherently smaller, allowing for more float, a shorter timeline, and the opportunity for improvements in the meantime. For example, West Seattle buses used to get bogged down at the West Seattle Bridge/SR 99 interchange. They probably will again, once the bridge gets fixed. By my reckoning, you could extend the Spokane Street Viaduct, and avoid a lot of the mess there. I think fixing this problem would cost around 200 million (meaning it could be done first, while we wait for the tunnel to be built). Similarly, a Dravus Street bus stop (under the overpass) could be built without a lot of money, and speed up the peak-only buses and the D. An extra ramp for the Ballard Bridge (so that the buses could get to the front of the line when the bridge opens) would cost more, but probably in the same range as the West Seattle fix. It would also improve bike travel. All of this could be done in the next few years, instead of waiting a really long time for something that won’t even be very good.

      20. A replacement bus tunnel would actually be two tunnels, right? Most (all?) of the original was two side by side tubes between stations. Would it be possible to bore new tunnels just outside of the existing tunnel and have them open into the existing stations? And if so would there be a way to have transfers to both directions of Link without having to go up to the mezzanine? If this location isn’t possible then where; 5th Ave?

      21. One other question, if need tunnels are bored and they come with track and OCS installed how hard would it be to switch the existing Link service and put buses back in the bus tunnel? All the stations were designed for buses to be able to pass which is a lot of intrastructure not needed for trains which make the stations bigger (more expensive) and made cross platform transfers pretty much impossible when converted to rail.

      22. Bernie, I’ve wondered that, too, but come to the conclusion that it’s not possible. The wall behind your back at University or Pioneer Square is supporting hundreds of thousand of pounds of mezzanine, fill dirt and roadway above. It’s certain that there’s no way to puncture them for access to platforms on the other side. They were not designed to be demised, so they won’t have the excess capacity required to bear the load over a shorter distance.

        Maybe you could go around the ends, but it would be clumsy. And, the same load bearing issues are true for the ends of the station boxes also.

        There are also doubtless foundations that have been built right up to the station box walls in the decades since, so there would be no place for the new tubes.

      23. What about under the existing tubes. I know that makes for deep stations. Again move Link to the new tunnel. It would likely require phased closures of the existing platform areas but seems workable. Rerouting Link and keeping connections to the existing track would be tricky but allow for redundancy. As rail frequency increases gradually transition with a period of dual operations as the existing tunnel was designed to support.

    4. If the 630 to First Hill were eliminated the alternative would be an employer subsidized private shuttle, or switching jobs to the Eastside. I assume Metro, the employers, and employees studied this before the subsidized 630 was chosen. These are very difficult workers for Seattle’s health industry to replace.

      The 204 is not a help. Once it begins to deviate from ICW on a very hilly Island it becomes a milk run. Then you have a transfer at the park and ride and then one in downtown Seattle to First Hill. To go maybe five miles from MI to First Hill.

      At best they will drive to the park and ride, which is how they will get to the 630, either the main park and ride or a satellite park and ride that today are empty.

      Here are the two realities with the 630: 1. These workers will not transfer in downtown Seattle; 2. They won’t transfer at all but don’t consider driving to a park and ride a “seat”.

      This reluctance of Eastside work commuters to transfer is going to be a significant issue for East Link, and is highlighted by the 554 running directly to downtown Bellevue (Bellevue Way). For those still commuting to Seattle in 2024 they will either drive directly to a park and ride that serves East Link, or demand one seat buses from their powerful councils, and these folks are good at organizing. For areas not served by East Link like SLU or First Hill they will demand a one seat bus with few stops in downtown Seattle. Just like the 630, except Issaquah/Sammamish carry a lot more clout, especially if ST is “extending” the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line five years to supposedly afford WSBLE, which Issaquah so far has been pretty sanguine about.

      It is very hard to make citizens do what they don’t want to do, especially if they have money or important jobs. Telling them to add transfers or transfer in downtown Seattle because ST fucked up with routing when they hate being on transit to begin with because it is better for the “grid” is not a compelling argument for them.

      1. “This reluctance of Eastside work commuters to transfer is going to be a significant issue for East Link,”

        It looks that way from Mercer Island because the distance is so short to major transfer points that you’re getting on-again, off-again every few minutes. That’s not the case if you’re going from Bellevue or Redmond to Seattle and transferring, or Renton to Bellevue and transferring, or from Issaquah to anywhere. In that case some of the segments are longer, so the transfer is a smaller part of the total trip, and you can settle into your seat for a while.

        “and is highlighted by the 554 running directly to downtown Bellevue (Bellevue Way)”

        As if it never would have otherwise. There are three places the 554 could go to: Mercer Island, South Bellevue, or downtown Bellevue. Downtown Bellevue has the advantage of being the Eastside’s biggest destination and transfer point, not a small consideration. The current proposal kills three birds with one stone: a straight transfer to Link to Seattle at South Bellevue, addressing Issaquah-Bellevue trips, and backfilling south Bellevue Way that the 550 will abandon. It’s actually pretty innovative, and I hadn’t expected it.

        In my theoretical Bellevue to Issaquah Swedish trip, the biggest problem is getting from Bellevue to Issaquah. Current ST Express is peak only. The 271 takes a long meandering time, and is 30-60 minutes sometimes, even when its UW-Bellevue half is more frequent. It’s really difficult to get from Issaquah to Bellevue or the rest of the Eastside. This 554 innovation fixes it, and with it being increased to 15-minute frequency will make it easier to get into and out of Issaquah, as appropriate for a regional center.

      2. This reluctance of Eastside work commuters to transfer is going to be a significant issue for East Link,

        I doubt it. It is all about frequency. I like to tell this story, but now I have an update to it, which offers an interesting twist:

        I have a friend that lives in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle, close to 65th and 25th. When Link got to the UW, he had two choices. He could catch the express that ran on 65th and got him right to downtown (the 76) or he could catch the 372 and transfer to Link. He would stand on the corner, and take either bus (whichever came first). On the way home, he would always take Link.

        Except this isn’t exactly true. I mentioned this to him the other day and he said I have it wrong. He didn’t wait for the 76. In fact he ignored it, and just looked for the 372. Thus he often paid a time penalty, and always paid a transfer penalty, to avoid the wait penalty. Keep in mind, this transfer is much worse than the one at Mercer Island. Getting from campus to the UW station takes a while. Thus he also paid a walking penalty. He could have timed his mornings (and evenings) to minimize walking and spend less time commuting. But he didn’t, because the advantage of being spontaneous — that comes from a minimum amount of waiting — is huge.

        This is anecdotal, but there is a fair amount of evidence for this (based on studies) and it fits with my own personal preference as well. I have taken Link several times from my house I feel the same way. One of the reasons that people in Seattle hate transfers so much is that we are used to them being so bad. I grew up with half hour frequency being the standard, and for the East Side, it still is. There are some buses that run more frequently, but not a lot of them. In contrast, there are a lot of buses that run through relatively low density neighborhoods (https://goo.gl/maps/sXjqixuRtJiH47sJA) but run every 15 minutes all day long. During rush hour, the buses are even more frequent.

        There will be a transfer penalty, and it will likely cost some ridership, but with very good frequency, the loss will be minimal. It is quite possible that midday ridership (which will see an increase in frequency) will more than make up for it.

  13. New research question for drivers
    Assuming a driver was trained on both gas-powered buses and trackless trolleys in 1945, how would the driving experience — the feel and power behind the wheel — differ? Which did driver’s prefer?

    1. David, I am sorry you did not have a chance to connect with Mark Dublin. My suggestion would be to reach out to the transit drivers union to get some contacts with older transit drivers who are still alive. I am sure they have many stories they would love to share, and you may find some have self-published or written draft manuscripts on some of the issues you are exploring, and have a wealth of documentation that would be good for your book.

    2. One thing to remember from that era is that anything that size with a gear shift was really difficult to shift. Electrics would not need that, but would have their own issues, such as desiring at inopportune times, etc. I imagine some preferred one while others preferred the other.

    1. Well written, as always from Lizz. Not much else to say that hasn’t been hashed out here ad nauseum already.

    1. Fun with Numbers (remember, all estimates):
      King County population grew by 17,375 people (0.77% of previous population) 2020-2021, then by 30,650 people (1.34% of previous population) 2021-2022.

      Seattle accounted for 31% of the 2020-2021 County growth (5,385 people; 0.73% of previous city population), and 65.6% of the 2021-2022 County growth (20,100 people; 2.71% of previous city population. Seattle is now home to 762,500 people.

      Non-Seattle King County grew by 11,990 people 2020-2021, and 10,550 people 2021-2022.

      Seattle is now larger in population than the next 7 highest-population King County cities (Bellevue [153,900], Kent [137,900], Renton [107,500], Federal Way [101,800], Kirkland [93,570], Auburn [78,690], and Redmond [75,270]) combined.

      1. The problem with these numbers is that they don’t provide insight into how this is impacted by the housing shortage. How many more people could have been added to Seattle, given better housing availability?

      2. Seattle is now larger in population than the next 7 highest-population King County cities
        How far back to you have to go for when that wasn’t true? I’m thinking at least before Ballard became part of Seattle (1907).
        How many more people could have been added to Seattle, given better housing availability?
        Don’t know but the bigger the number could be considered a negative.

      3. That’s a bit philosophical, isn’t it? We just had a whole discussion about urban density – if all of Seattle (~83 square miles) somehow developed to the density of Manhattan (~70k people per square mile), then that’s about 5.6 million people. Could the trade capacity of the Ports, freight lines, and regional production actually support a population of that size? My guess is that long-term, the city could probably hit an average density of around 20-30k/square mile (1.7-2.5M total), but the timescale for that is completely arbitrary with regional migration and changing climate. At the recent pace of ~2.5% growth every year, Seattle would hit 1.5M almost exactly at 2050.

        Population is a junction of jobs, housing, and culture. It’s almost impossible to know how fast the local population would actually grow if the city removed all restrictions on residential and commercial development – I’m sure most would agree it would a fair clip faster than we’ve been seeing, though!

      4. Technically wasn’t true last year (used to be “only” larger than the next 6, by a few thousand).

      5. Part of Seattle’s annual growth from 2021-2022 is likely related to UW and SU students getting back to campus and nearby apartments. Pullman, Bellingham, Ellensburg and Cheney lost population in last year’s estimate then they rebounded in the same publication. While it doesn’t explain the full increase of Seattle, it is obviously a factor.

    2. Part of Seattle’s annual growth from 2021-2022 is likely related to UW and SU students getting back to campus and nearby apartments.

      Yes, and the drop in numbers for Seattle (reported here: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/while-seattles-population-declined-another-king-county-city-saw-fastest-growth-in-wa/) was caused in part by the same thing. Many people said so at the same time. They pointed out that people aren’t fleeing the city (otherwise housing would be a lot cheaper) and that any loss in population was merely temporary (caused by the pandemic). Of course that didn’t stop Seattle Times commenters (or even folks here) from coming up with their own narrative, which has now been proven false.

  14. Seattle’s population growth rate dropped 0.6% from 2020 to 2021. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/while-seattles-population-declined-another-king-county-city-saw-fastest-growth-in-wa/ Al probably is correct some of that was UW students returning, although like my house we had a kid returning home during the pandemic from college.

    King Co.’s recent population dropped over 1% year over year. The Seattle Times had an article yesterday analyzing King Co.’s population drop, and noting most of it was white citizens leaving.

    I doubt either decline portends a decades long decline in population, but I do think the growth of the past decade was an anomaly, and Seattle and King Co. will basically have slow or flat growth over the next decade at least. In many ways I think that is a good thing because Seattle especially was not doing well with such sudden growth, although we are spending an absolute fortune for a light rail system from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond based on some crazy idea this region will increase dramatically in population by 2050.

    The problem is the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement, much of our recent zoning proposals, and ST’s budget and spine and TOD are based on very large population increases, and ideology like urbanism and folks giving up cars for transit by moving into TOD. The PSRC said it would revisit its assumptions in the 2050 Vision Statement after the pandemic but has yet to do so, although the region continues to plan based on the PSRC’s 2018 data used in the 2050 Vision Statement.

    The other issue regionally is the population is going places less, especially to work. Some is WFH, some is moving closer to their worksite as major employers open more offices and offer employees the choice where to live. Most roads and highways today have little congestion even during peak times. Meanwhile the average cost of housing on the eastside is now around 40% higher than in Seattle, and the sublease market in downtown Seattle is flooded as tenants wait for leases to expire (some may stay in Seattle but need much less expensive space).

    These are market forces that are the river, whereas zoning amendments or transit are just eddies in the river. It is very, very hard to get folks to do what they don’t want to do, (TOD being one of them unless subsidized for low income but that is not what they want) and the pandemic and WFH and just a different outlook on life has changed what they want, which is basically less urbanization in their life and less commuting.

    Unless you are a committed urbanist or transit advocate these are healthy changes. More time with family and less on a train or bus going to an urban center you don’t feel safe or happy in. For employers it will cut their overhead, when their leases expire. Roads are much less congested, and so is transit. As Martha Stewart would say, it is a good thing.

    1. “ I do think the growth of the past decade was an anomaly, …”

      “The Seattle Times had an article yesterday analyzing King Co.’s population drop, and noting most of it was white citizens leaving.”

      These kinds of statements should be presented with actual data. Wikipedia cites decent sources:


      1. Only in two decades over the past 15 has Seattle lost population. 7 of the last 12 decennial Census have shown increases of over 40,000 residents including in the last 3 decades. The anomaly is population loss between the 1960’s and 1980’s and not Seattle’s growth.

      As far as “white people leaving”, that’s King County rather than Seattle. Plus a substantial proportion are retirees to the sunbelt, who comprise a much higher proportion of white population than is found in the 18 and under group. Suggesting that the motivation is race related rather than age related not only misrepresents the likely driver, but also is pretty divisive and rather offensive.

      It should be noted the huge rise in mixed race residents in Seattle, reaching 7.3% in 2020. That’s now higher than those defining themselves as black (6.8%). Like the rest of the US, exclusive racial categorization is shrinking much to the frustration of racists.

      1. Al, my point was not that Seattle will lose population, but that population growth over the next decade will be much lower than during the last decade. The data you cite did not include a pandemic, and the reality is Seattle has declined in livability which will attract fewer workers to move here, along with Bellevue rising as a work center. I don’t know why some on this blog see slower future population growth for Seattle as threatening.

      2. Population growth in any of the major cities is going to be severely limited because, unless people live in tents on the sidewalk, there isn’t that much growth in actual housing availability.

        Where would any of these additional people live? The added apartments and condos are scattered around and not really that many total units added.

        Compare this to, say, London, which has a massive housing boom going on to keep up with the demand.

    2. “I do think the growth of the past decade was an anomaly”

      I always thought the super-rapid growth between 2012 and 2019 was an anomaly. Amazon launched AWS ca. 2008 and moved into its larger headquarters around the same time. AWS was a runaway success that spurred a cloud-computing industry, and Amazon also expanded in other areas, so that led to rapid job growth in Seattle and the hiring of out-of-state workers. That rapid growth couldn’t have lasted forever, and another wave that big is unlikely.

      “PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement, much of our recent zoning proposals, and ST’s budget and spine and TOD are based on very large population increases”

      The PSRC’s projections have been pretty accurate. A slowdown was widely expected but nobody knew when or how much. Since the slowdown started in 2019, I assume the PSRC will make any downward adjustments as appropriate. Upzoning and the spine are based on the current population’s needs, not some higher-population future. We’re way behind in transit infrastructure, so this is just a way to partly catch up. Have you watched the video by Not Just Bikes about office parks that Zachary B posted? Other countries have more extensive transit and more walkable land use even in small cities. So it’s not that a county of 2 million in a metro of 4 million isn’t large enough. It’s just backwards American thinking.

      1. The PSRC’s projections have been pretty accurate.

        I think their long term projections are way off. They essentially ignore the long term trend, which is the popularity of urbanism in King County, and random sprawl outside it. Despite very high prices, and highly restrictive zoning, Seattle is still growing faster than the suburbs. Even with the pandemic and the short or long term changes to lifestyle that it has brought, Seattle is growing faster.

        Which is not to say that the East Side isn’t bound to grow, or be more popular. If anything, it is that people seek out the “new urbanism” on the East Side, both because of the proximity to software jobs, and because of the social advantages it offers over more low density areas. A lot of this isn’t reflected in the numbers yet, because a lot of the construction isn’t finished. The buildings have to be built, people have to move in, and then they have to be counted. This takes a while.

        But the increase in population in Seattle (and eventually Bellevue) is part of a long term trend. Last year is really an outlier, and should be thrown out (because of the pandemic). I’m even suspicious of the 2020 numbers for the same reason. I think it is better to look back five years and compare it now to find meaningful trends. I was able to download it here: https://ofm.wa.gov/sites/default/files/public/dataresearch/pop/april1/hseries/ofm_april1_intercensal_estimates_2010_2020.xlsx.

        I had to do some manual copy-pasting (and some Excel work) so it is possible I got the numbers wrong. But here is what I got for the last five years and I’m pretty sure they are right. These are the areas within King County that added over 5,000 people:

        King County: 167,790
        Seattle: 67,987
        Redmond: 11,319
        Bellevue: 9,931
        Kirkland: 8,122
        Kent: 7,926
        Auburn: 6,501
        Unincorporated: 6,603

        Thus Seattle accounted for about 40% of the growth in King County. It has nowhere near 40% of the land, nor did it start out with 40% of the population. The major East Side cities accounted for another 17%. Clearly the city is growing from the center out.

        In contrast, consider Snohomish County. Here are the areas with growth of over 2,000:

        Snohomish County: 73,401
        Unincorporated: 31,300
        Lake Stevens: 8,900
        Marysville: 6,818
        Everett: 6,130
        Lynnwood: 3,637
        Arlington: 3,236

        Almost half the growth in Snohomish County is in unincorporated areas. Lake Stevens and Marysville each added more people than Everett. During this period, Snohomish Counts sprawled, with more distant cities making up much of the growth. Growth is not centered around its biggest city (Everett). It isn’t even centered around its biggest Seattle suburb (Lynnwood). (To be fair, much of the growth in unincorporated Snohomish County may be close to those cities). Still, there is no doubt that growth in Snohomish County is *not* around a center (either Seattle or Everett). It is basically growing willy-nilly. This is extremely difficult to handle from a transportation standpoint. From a public transportation standpoint, your best bet is buses, but you spread yourself out too thin, and during rush hour (the one time you can get decent ridership) you have major bottlenecks even though you don’t have huge numbers of people (it is just that they are all on the road in their own cars).

        Finally there is Pierce County, which has also grown over the last five years:

        Pierce County: 58,964
        Unincorporated: 33,612
        Tacoma: 8,225
        Edgewood: 2,907
        Puyallup: 2,251
        Gig Harbor: 2,226
        Lakewood: 2,023

        Tacoma has shown solid growth, but not enough to change the dynamic in Pierce County. It remains a sprawling mess, with most of the growth outside the City of Destiny.

        This isn’t what PSRC predicted or wanted. They are likely pleased with the way Seattle is growing, but disappointed with everything else. They wanted growth centered around a handful of cities, and with the exception of Seattle (and parts of the East Side) that just hasn’t happened.

      2. I’m focusing on the total number of people moving to the region. Which city they live in, the governments have control of, because they’ll move to wherever additional housing is available to live in. So the distribution among cities within King County isn’t something the PSRC simply mispredicted like a coin toss wrong, it’s where the county and cities chose to channel growth. Ultimately it was King County that chose the regional growth centers, and I guess the county distributed the city population targets. So the county decided to do it in “metro towns” fashion (its own 1980s term), planting growth centers in the middle of nowhere (northwest Issaquah, Totem Lake, Federal Way — at least that one’s downtown). It could have channeled all the growth to Seattle, or to Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond/Eastgate/Renton/Tukwila for instance.

        Snohomish County is where King County was thirty years ago, letting growth gush into unincorporated areas and limiting it in the cities. That’s the wrong way to go. And what’s this about Lynnwood reducing its downtown capacity? That’s the opposite of what it’s promised for years. It has too much growth already? Is there anything around the transit center now besides one-story buildings with large parking lots? It wants to preserve that?

      3. So the distribution among cities within King County isn’t something the PSRC simply mispredicted like a coin toss wrong, it’s where the county and cities chose to channel growth.

        I suppose, but these *specific* growth targets are a major part of PSRC planning. These drive planning, and influence transit, even at the county level. When things don’t work out as PSRC planned, you end up with urban areas getting shortchanged, and suburban areas getting way more service than they know what to deal with. If neighborhoods like Greenwood, Roosevelt and Ballard add more people than entire cities like Puyallup, you really have to wonder why the latter is considered an “urban center”, while the Seattle neighborhoods aren’t.

        I think the PSCR is simply caught off guard by the trends that have happened. Suburban cities have been reluctant to concentrate their growth. The growth management plans (designed to reduce sprawl) has major leaks, and sprawl continues, even further away from urban centers. But more than anything, they underestimated the move-to-the-city movement that has resulted in multiple major urban centers *within* Seattle. The map shown here just doesn’t make sense, nor will it make sense in 28 years: https://www.psrc.org/sites/default/files/vision-2050-plan.pdf#page=87

    3. Interesting – the State Office of Financial Management estimates no such loss in King County’s population: https://ofm.wa.gov/washington-data-research/population-demographics/population-estimates/april-1-official-population-estimates

      WA OFM:
      King County (April 1, 2020): 2,269,675
      King County (April 1, 2021): 2,287,050 (+17,375; 0.77%)
      King County (April 1, 2022): 2,317,700 (+30,650; 1.34%)

      Statewide (April 1, 2020): 7,706,310
      Statewide (April 1, 2021): 7,766,975 (+60,665; 0.79%)
      Statewide (April 1, 2022): 7,864,400 (+97,425; 1.25%)

      USA Census:
      King County (April 1, 2020): 2,269,675
      King County (July 1, 2020): 2,272,571 (+2,896, +0.13%)
      King County (July 1, 2021): 2,252,305 (-20,266, -0.89%)

      Statewide (April 1, 2020): 7,705,281
      Statewide (July 1, 2020): 7,718,785 (+13,504; +0.18%)
      Statewide (July 1, 2021): 7,738,692 (+19,907; +0.26%)

      I’m routinely frustrated with Gene Balk’s “FYI Guy” columns, because the entire point of the column seems to be to discuss new data, but he almost never provides a direct reference to the data he’s crunching, and rarely does anything more than a surface-level reading of the data itself.

      I mean, look at this: he wrote a piece in January on the OFM’s 2020-2021 estimates:

      And then 4 months later, he writes this article:

      Seriously? Not a single mention of the conflicting results? Did he just forget about the January article? He’s really not going to take the opportunity to explain how estimating population is hard, especially we’re looking at comparisons of less than a percent of change? Simply disappointing.

      1. https://patch.com/washington/seattle/king-countys-population-shrunk-2021-census

        I didn’t know you had such issues with Gene Balk. But I think Balk was relying on the U.S. Census Data, as was yesterday’s Seattle Times’ article noting much of the decline was white. I don’t think Balk personally calculated the decline in King Co.’s population estimates but imagine the Seattle Times does have a section devoted to confirming his claims are consistent with something as accessible as U.S. Census data.

        I wasn’t really relying on Balk’s analysis of the population decline, just the fact the U.S. Census Bureau found King Co.’s population declined around 0.6% from April 2021 to April 2022, which I think is probably more accurate than the “estimates” by the office of financial management. What it means, if anything, is open to debate.

      2. I pondered the possibility of your illiteracy because I literally directly referenced the Census Bureau’s data in my comment and dug out some pertinent data points from it and the OFM to demonstrate the divergence between the estimates. And yet you still saw fit to tell me that the data he refers to is from the Census Bureau.

        The Census Bureau’s data is an estimate, too, if you didn’t realize – the Feds only actually try to count everyone every 10 years. Any intermediate data is estimated by a variety of methods. Even the ACS-based data is an extrapolation from a moderate sample size.

        I just think it’s not unreasonable to expect a journalist to remember that they wrote a story about an important estimate for planning released by the State in January while they’re writing a story about a similarly important estimate released by the Feds in May that you’d think would report the same thing, but instead are finding opposite results. Maybe talking about how the State uses a more complex model that may be thrown off by unexpected factors could be an interesting article, in contrast to how the Census uses a relatively simple model that may be miscounting, too. Maybe some investigation to find the truth! Maybe an inquiry to the OFM and the Census Bureau to get them to explain! Alas, we just get two more useless columns where data is presented “For Your Information” without question or even a single critical thought.


    4. “ King Co.’s recent population dropped over 1% year over year.”

      Around 3/4 of the counties in the USA lost population 2020-2021, due to the higher death rate and radically reduced immigration.

      Current trends, however, tell us that much of the southwest will run out of water by 2035, and temperatures will continue to push the habitability limits in much of the rest of the country. Vancouver BC is preparing for a significant influx of climate refugees.

    1. I don’t think the link is working correctly. 6th is supposed to push through to provide HOV/Transit access from the east of 405. Pedestrian distance from bus to train will IMHO always suck because the Council screwed the pouch on East Link design (partially to save their own parking garage). The compromise was to have the worst pedestrian connections using the most expensive and tortured tunnel routing. 4th is also designed to cross 405 taking part of Best Buy and the BSD bus base. Just what we need, more traffic lights in DT Bellevue… Brilliant! FWIW, traffic currently on 112th is light both AM & PM.

    2. I like the idea of a light-colored intersection to give it a more pedestrian aesthetic. That’s been done with other intersections. The raised intersection may function like a speed bump to slow down cars, and of course it would be more convenient to walk on. How will the signal timings be “improved”? If it’s just an all-way pedestrian scramble, then people will have to wait longer between each cycle.

      The intersection looks gigantic from the bottom left to the top right. That must be an illusion because the real intersection isn’t that big. The striped design may contribute to it. The arrows on the rim look OK for a raised rim, but they’d be ugly for regular crosswalk; I’d want double white lines.

  15. I’m going to do Daniel’s Mercer Island walk Saturday. I understand the first part about going north along the west side of Luther Burbank Park and south along the east side. Then I’m not sure about the western part. I’m going west along North Mercer Way, south on 76th Ave SE, west along the I-90 trail to the western edge of the island (60th Ave SE), and south on 60th? Is 60th where the “lovely houses on both sides of the street” are? I’m going south on 60th to where it ends at SE 32nd Street, and then going east on 32nd all the way to Mercerdale Park and downtown? There’s a dotted line on the map between 69th and 70th; I guess that’s the stairway. Then there’s a blank gap between 74th and Mercerdale Park. Is all that Bicentennial park? There’s an east-west trail through it?

    1. And where is First Hill, the “nice older neighborhood with more modest homes and smaller lots”? It’s along SE 32nd Street?

      1. 60th is along the western waterfront. It has houses on both sides.

        Once you take 32nd to the top of First Hill you are in a SFH only zone so houses are pretty much everywhere. 72nd is the main road so I would walk along a street east or west of 72nd because there will be no traffic and the houses have fewer hedges or fences to screen out traffic.

        First Hill has lower minimum lot sizes so you may see a few “McMansions” which we remedied with a new residential code in 2017 that lowered house to lot area ratios and eliminated a few tricks and deviations in the code and preserved mature trees during development.


      2. Before the construction of the bridge in 1940, Mercer Island’s town center, named East Seattle, was located on the western shore of the island, just south of the bridge. The lakeside location made sense because the only way off the island was by boat. But, after the bridge was built, the town center moved to its current location.

    2. OK, other views of Google Maps have a trail on 32nd across the gap in what I guess is all Bicentennial Park. 76th northbound has a dotted line east at 29th, a green line north, and a dotted line east and west at 27th, so I guess those are pedestrian paths. The trail on 29th looks like it might be more interesting, and intersects with north-south trails.

      1. There are three trails from the top of First Hill through the green belt to the town center. 32nd is all stairs which is easier but as you note not as interesting as the trails without all stairs.

    3. I did the first half of the Mercer Island walk today. The loop around Luther Burbank Park, the art gallery in the community center, and the trail detour around the P&R, and the sculpture garden. I got to the west end of the detour and decided that was enough for one day. That was across the street from Haps Burgers. Across another street from Haps a bus was laying over; it said “Mercer Island Community Shuttle”. I guess that’s the 204.

      I saw some things I remembered in Luther Burbank Park, like the amphitheater and dog park. I’d never seen the little beach at the north end, the several lakeside viewpoints, the boathouse that reminded me of the one at UW, or the wooded trails. I’d never seen the I-90 trail, or the sculpture park, which is right around the corner of the Link station on the south side of the freeway. There’s construction around the station, so the middle of the trail is closed with a detour, and some sidewalks are closed, so I couldn’t go past both station entrances, but I saw the western one.

      Sometime later I’ll do the western half, past more houses and through Bicentennial Park. Or I might go to the part from the other side downtown.

      Thanks for the tour recommendations. I’d definitely recommend doing the walk I did. It makes a nice afternoon, and several different things are all together that I wouldn’t expect.

      1. Thanks for the report! I’ll try to come up with a better experience for BT than you had previously.

  16. There was a KUOW interview yesterday morning where the guest said Seattle’s median rent is now $3000. That seems impossible, so I think it’s wrong. The Times this morning said median 1 BR rent is $1600 something. And my own rent is going up this month by a tiny $30 to $1925, for a 20-year-old, centrally-located, well-maintained Capitol Hill 1 BR. If I moved in now it would probably cost up to $2200 but not $3000.

    My impression is that below-median units are rising fastest and are full, brand-new buildings are the most expensive and remain empty the longest, and areas that got the biggest price rises in the 2010s like Capitol Hill are rising the slowest because they’re already had a big rise. As to where that interviewee got $3000, maybe she meant renting houses.

    The whole thing got me thinking, what if Seattle’s median rent were $3000. In other words, that San Francisco levels were not just coming maybe but had already arrived. That would change the calculus considerably. First, I’d be wondering how long until my rent reached $3000, and whether I’d have to move out of Seattle then. In other words, the Spine would become even more important because a hundred thousand people would have to move to the burbs and need good transit there. Also, we’re adding a third person to the lease, and one of the things I had to do was certify my income is at least 2 1/2 times the rent, or he’d have to certify his is. I can do that at $1925, but not at $3000. So if I were really looking for something at $3000 I wouldn’t quality, and then I’d have to move to the burbs. And that would make me more of a Spine advocate.

      1. SeattlePI put out a piece in April on rents based on data from Apartmentlist.com (which they provide a handy link to, unlike FYI Guy columns).



        “Seattle rents have increased 2.8% over the past month, and are up sharply by 12.2% in comparison to the same time last year. Currently, median rents in Seattle stand at $1,667 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,015 for a two-bedroom… Seattle’s year-over-year rent growth lags the state average of 13.8%, as well as the national average of 14.1%.”

        There’s a neat table comparing year-over-year rent increases in cities across the region. I’d love to see a direct comparison of rental rate increases to rate of new housing construction.

      2. Interesting that there is such a big difference in the reported average rent ($2,190) and the median ($1,667). I guess the average is pulled up by some insane luxury units and the fact that so much low rent housing has been replaced with fancy pants new construction. I wonder how public assistance and mandated below market rate units factor in?

      3. @Bernie,

        About a year ago I ran into my old landlord out in front of the apartment that I rented in the 1980’s during grad school. He was watching it get torn down.

        I talked to him for awhile and he said he had sold it to a developer. He said that at the rent level the building could support all he could get were “problem tenants”. (His words, not mine). And with LR going in nearby his costs were going up (I read that as property taxes). So he sold out at a hefty profit.

        It’s going to become twin 25 story towers, and I can pretty much guarantee they won’t be renting below the median. Not even close.

      4. @Lazarus, Thanks for sharing. While one off stories aren’t statistics they often paint a picture that you don’t see with just the data.. My (now) wife and I rented in the early 80’s a wonderful home in Lake City. It was a “one bedroom” with a view of the Lake and a block off Sand Pt Way. There was an (illegal, no egress) bedroom in the basemant where we started and had a couple of roommates after we moved upstairs. It was owned by a retired UW prof who had become an ex-pat. He had ~6 properties he rented. It became a new single family home decades ago. They kept the river rock fireplace (which was really cool) I’m sure so that it was a remodel rather than new construction. Previously the pretty small lot next door had been cleft in two and two fish bowl homes built.

    1. There are a lot of house rentals in Seattle? I thought most houses were owner-occupied and only a few were rentals. And a significant number of people are paying $3000 or maybe up to $6000 to rent a house?

      1. I’d expect the number of apartments to be more than the number of houses. But there are a fair number of rentals that people have bought over the years as investment property (and what an investment it’s been). Number of rent-able bedrooms would be closer since most apartments are one, maybe two bedroom but most houses are three or more. Although there are still some bungalows that are one or two bedrooms.

    2. As a homeowner, property taxes, insurance, general maintenance and utilities add $2500 to $3000/mo. to my mortgage payment.

      1. MI’s sewer system is King Co.’s system., including the main lines on the Island (King Co. will spend the next three years replacing four miles of sewer line under the bike trail). We just pay a fortune to King Co. each month.

        We get our water from Seattle. Our gas and electricity come from PSE.

      2. Oh, Seattle’s sewer rates have gotten high too. I was paying $80 a month for water/sewer/garbage but it has gotten up to $200 the past few months. The water itself is still low, $37 for 5000 gallons, but the sewer counterpart is three times higher, $115. That’s due to a surcharge added a couple years ago to upgrade the sewer system.

      3. We run our own “sewer district” being on septic. We don’t flush anything that won’t biodegrade. A well functioning septic tank never needs service. But we’re still saddled with Bellevue’s outrageous water bills. We could go back to a well (two exist on the property) which is our plan but the City makes that as hard as they can because, even thought they admit they have an impeding supply crises, don’t want to give up the revenue. And now they want to use immanent domain to take our property for a reservoir to serve the Spring District.

  17. The Seattle Times has an article today noting 2300 new apartments or multi-family units have opened or will open soon surrounding U Village, which may result in U Village becoming its own district neighborhood.

    Does anyone know what the average median — or average — price or rent is for these 2300 new units.

    This also highlights what I have noted before: probably the most difficult thing to do is zone or create a retail dense area, and the housing follows the retail, not the other way around, because living in an urban area without dense street retail is pointless. Which is why housing costs are usually higher is these urban zones, including Bellevue Way.

    1. The first thing I noticed about the article was the picture of an urban park with a cheesy artificial lawn (hopefully that’s temporary). I thought, “Is that in Seattle? I don’t recognize it.” Then the article clarified it was U-Village, and I recognized some of the buildings, although I’m not sure exactly where it is.

      The article says, “Monthly rents at the Arista Residences range from $2,276 for some studios, to $6,099 for some three-bedroom units…. The average monthly rent within a quarter mile of the shopping center is $2,213 for all units, and $2,344 for units added since 2017.” I assume future units will be priced like the Arista, since that’s typical as we discussed yesterday.

      I expect there will be a variety of responses to a “new” urban village not directly on Link. But Metro has saturated U Village with ultra-frequent buses to Link, and for many people that will be convenient enough.

      “This also highlights what I have noted before: probably the most difficult thing to do is zone or create a retail dense area, and the housing follows the retail, not the other way around, because living in an urban area without dense street retail is pointless. Which is why housing costs are usually higher is these urban zones, including Bellevue Way.”

      Costs are higher because there’s more competition per unit. More Americans than you think want to live in neighborhoods like this, to the point that the price per square foot is higher.

      33% of Americans prefer to live in a walkable urban neighborhood, 33% in driveable “suburban” area, and 33% are equally satisfied either way. But only 20% of the units are in walkable urban areas. So there’s a 13% gap of people living in lower-density, more single-use areas than they want. That’s what’s driving the price increases in urban villages. And if we turned everything into urban villages, a full 66% of Americans would be satisfied. In other words, if we made American cities like European cities. Like that Not Just Bikes video about an office park in The Netherlands.

      I don’t know about this “housing follows retail” theory. It may be just a different wording of what I’m saying, but I’m not sure. People who want walkable neighborhoods want the convenience of walking to a variety of retail and community choices, to their nearby friends, and to a frequent transit stop. And if they’re right-minded they’ll want as many people as possible to have that opportunity too, thus why multistory units for other people are important.

      The article says U-Village growth is already reaching its zoning limit, so the limit should be raised soon. That should be out, not up. Having a larger area of 7-story buildings is more important than a few 20-story buildings. Both alternatives can accommodate the same number of people, and 7-story buildings cost less to build and maintain.

      Another thing that struck me is, “large apartment buildings [are] barred by zoning laws almost everywhere between U Village and Lake City.” While I always knew this, it’s more obvious when it’s stated in print. There’s clearly a missing village at 65th between 20th and 40th. There are some existing shops and some new apartments, but the whole thing is still small, so not many choices.

      1. That cheesy park is permanent and was built by the University Village and replaced a parking lot.

        I am at the U Village a lot as I do my morning walk there and shop at the various stores and that little park is an oasis in the middle of the shopping center. It is surrounded by plants, trees and tables and chairs and on nice days it a great place to sit down and relax. On certain days in the morning hours it is a kids play area where they can play in a safe place.

        For about 8 weeks in July and August on Wednesday evenings there is live music where bands play and there is food available from several of the restaurants at the U Village.

        I know some of you will say it is a shopping center with parking garages and lots but you need various stores and more so with the apartment complexes that have been built around the U Village. They also try to make it as nice as possible as when I do my morning walks there are workers taking care of the plants and trees and watering them. It is not like an enclosed mall but more like a small-town shopping area and they are very successful as right now there is only one vacant store front and that where Amazon closed their bookstore when they decided to close all their bookstores and I am sure it won’t be long before another retailer moves into that space. From what I have heard there is a list of companies that want to open in the U Village.

      2. I agree Jeff. That is a nice little park (especially for little kids).

        In general the toughest problem with U-Village is the giant parking lots. I get it. That is the way it (and every other mall in the U. S.) evolved. But it makes for a tougher walking environment, cutting off the stores inside the mall from those outside it. Even when you drive it feels unfortunate (which I realize is hypocritical, but I know people complain about freeway noise on certain hikes, even though they obviously used it get to the trailhead).

        Anyway, the great thing is that it is evolving in the right direction, which is true of many malls. There is a big shakeup that has occurred over the last ten years or so — mall stratification if you will. Either the mall evolves to have housing and be more pedestrian friendly (like Northgate or U-Village) or it dies.

      3. @Ross B.

        There is really only one surface parking lot at the U Village and that one is west of QFC. Over the last several years they have built 3 garages and each one has retail on the ground floor. Each garage was also built to blend in with the rest of the buildings so they don’t stand out as garages. QFC has its own garage north of the store and that replaced a surface parking lot and even that one doesn’t stand out as much. As far as traffic noise I don’t hear it when I do my morning walks except for the occasional ambulance heading for Childrens Hospital.

        By the way QFC technically is not part of the U Village as they own the property the store is on. If you go to the U Village website and look at the list of the stores QFC is not mentioned. They are the busiest store but as far as the U Village is concerned they are not part of the complex.

      4. Fair enough. I tend to conflate the general area with the mall. Still, it appears that that there is quite a bit of surface parking (https://goo.gl/maps/hLPCcstbtttWTTkJ6) within the mall itself. Good point about the parking garages. The southern one has surface retail (https://goo.gl/maps/HwQ9sVmxNSF4pH5V8) as does the northern garage (https://goo.gl/maps/FroQNafz6iC6oUwM8). The one by the QFC (which is outside the mall) does not. Nor does the West Garage, although that has some shops adjacent to it. Overall, it seems like quite a bit of land used for parking, given it is very much inside the urban core.

        But that is the nature of Seattle in general, and malls in particular. Neighborhoods like Bryant, Laurelhurst and Hawthorne Hill seems particularly out of place. They are like Medina. You can walk to skyscrapers from them, and yet they look like they are in distant suburbs. Like much of greater Seattle, it was built around the car, and just hasn’t caught up.

        Which gets me back to the mall. It is still too car-focused, but it is making good progress. The neighborhood is also too car-focused, but needs a lot more work. By the mall, 25th is five lanes wide. Two of those lanes should be BAT lanes. NE 45th is much worse. It is seven lanes wide, with no BAT or bus-lanes. The UW puts up a huge fence around its property, which isn’t exactly inviting for a public university. Seattle U (a private university) is more inviting, and has better egress. This part of the UW really isn’t designed for walking, despite connecting to nearby walking trails — it is designed for driving.

        The mall, the city and the UW still have a lot of work to do before it is anywhere near as pedestrian friendly as the U-District. 15th is a very ugly street (I avoid walking along it) but the nice part is, you don’t have to. Every crossing street (41st, 42nd, 43rd) feeds right into campus in a very pleasant manner. That just isn’t the case around the mall.

    2. “probably the most difficult thing to do is zone or create a retail dense area”

      It’s only politically difficult. Technically it’s just a matter of repealing the restrictive laws. Several cities have future expansion areas already outlined, they just haven’t done anything to upzone it sufficiently, add infrastructure and amenities, encourage growth to go there, etc. Bellevue still has Factoria/Eastlake.

      And Bellevue apparently created an imbalance in the Spring District by allowing too many offices and not enough apartments, so that more people will have to commute from elsewhere to it, including Snohomish County.

      Oh, the percentages in my last comment were from Christopher Leinberger’s “The Option of Urbanism”.

      1. I agree. If you talk to anyone in retail in Seattle, they will tell you the same thing: rent is very expensive. It is just like housing — they only allow a little bit of it, so of course the cost is really high. Change the code and neighborhoods evolve. It is worth noting that retail feeds off of retail. It is why small town centers became centers long before there was zoning. Same with commercial downtown districts and malls. A neighborhood with lots of food options (say, Greenwood) is a lot more popular than one with only a handful. Add a really good toy store, a supermarket, drugstore and you have a thriving community that was tiny back in the day.

      1. They said that no changes were planned?

        It seems that they had plans and didn’t want to disclose them at that time because the U Village has changed from being a neighborhood strip mall to an upscale shopping center.

        One of the first changes was that they didn’t renew the lease of the Azteca Restaurant that was on the south side. Then some later years they didn’t renew the lease of a Hallmark Shop because it didn’t fit the image of what they envisioned of what they wanted. There was a restaurant called Mom’s on the west side which also didn’t fit their image. They wanted it gone but waited until the owner had passed away before doing so.

        They knew what they wanted for the U Village and the changes that have been made over the years proved them right as the U Village is one of the premier shopping centers in the country and considering the health of most shopping centers and malls.

        It has allowed them to charge high rents. Verizon had a store and they decided not re-open after the pandemic because the company decided that the rent was too high.

    3. I’m rather curious about the student versus working adult renter housing split. Before Link, there has been a strong historic perception that anything near UW should be marketed towards students.

      After Link opened — particularly last year when a second station close to UW opened — this is no longer the case. Link’s reliability and frequency broaden where students can live without a car and still get to campus.

      Conversely, the upscale nature of U Village makes it more interesting to people who are not UW students. This appears to be what this new proposal is targeting. It suggests that either the resulting demographic won’t be boisterous students partying on a Friday night or it suggests that parents will shell out extra rent money for their kids to live here while attending UW. Which is it?

      I can’t really point to a specific policy change that’s needed. It’s really just an observation.

  18. If you prefer to live in an urban setting the whole point is to be within walking distance of retail density, which is why that housing is more expensive. The recent development followed U Village. I Village did not follow the housing development. There is little point to upzone “out” because that is not within walking distance of U Village, and so are you are building is multi-family housing without the retail density within walking distance. Who wants that?

    For me the concern is this housing is not following retail in the downtown core where zoning is not an issue, which is the goal of must successful urban areas. Seattle has very little true housing or retail density with the decline of retail in the downtown core.

    1. It is within walking distance. 55th is within walking distance of the village, and even up toward 65th. Some students walk or bike from there to campus because they’re used to walking long distances between classes or to the U-District and they’re fit teenagers or twentysomethings. Going east you could upzone to 35th or beyond, which is within walking distance of at least QFC and Safeway, which could be made mixed-use in the future. You can even imagine an extended village from 25th to Children’s; the only thing missing is lower density in between.

      And people who live around 55th, 60th, and 35th don’t just go to U Village. They take the frequent buses every direction for all sorts of reasons. That’s what people in a city do. Upzoning the periphery of the village would allow more people to live there and to do the same. There’s also the Burke-Gilman trail, which gives biking access to a large area.

    2. “Housing follows retail” about as reductive as saying “eggs follow chickens” and ignoring where the chickens come from.

      Here’s the housing & jobs dashboard tracking each since the adoption of the 2015 comprehensive plan “Seattle 2035”: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/e405125f0082485fb250e29c58a48a4c

      In the “Seattle 2035” comprehensive plan update adopted in 2016, the city explicitly planned for housing to be built in its “Urban Villages”, and so that’s where 84% of new housing (52,337 units) and 87% of new jobs (91,546 ) have been created since 2015.

      In 2015, the City planned for 70k new housing units and 115k new jobs by 2035. As of Q1 2022, 75% of the housing and 80% of the jobs have already arrived.

      U Village was built as destination shopping mall, just like any other mall in the region. It just followed the latest trend of outdoor shopping malls being designed as sterile facsimiles of dense, walkable neighborhoods.

      Honestly question: how do you think the retail density of the various neighborhoods in Seattle got there in the first place? Before the freeways and the shopping malls, how do you think neighborhood retail cores like Ballard Avenue and California Avenue came to be?

      As someone who’s actually studied the historical aerial photographs, topographic maps, and old Sanborn fire insurance maps of many neighborhoods in the city, it’s obvious to me that historically, retail and service shops opened after a local potential customer base was established with new housing. Since urban planners decided to force new development into suburbs in the midcentury, new businesses have had to build a private transit hub (aka a parking lot) in order to have a sustainable catchment area of customers. “Urbanists” want to end the prohibition of the kind of “organic” densification (residential and commercial) that enabled neighborhoods to survive without enormous parking lots.

      1. https://communityinnovation.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/what_difference_can_a_few_stores_make_retail_and_neighborhood_revitalization.pdf?width=1200&height=800&iframe=true

        Here some academics answer your chicken and egg question (and actually use the chicken and egg analogy but in an academic manner). Retail is critical to both revitalizing urban neighborhoods and attracting (and gentrifying) urban neighborhoods surrounding vibrant retail. However creating retail density is very difficult. If housing alone created vibrant retail density downtown Seattle and Belltown would have at least the retail vibrancy U Village has. Don’t expect The Spring Dist. to come close to Bellevue Square when it comes to retail density despite the housing density.

        However you yourself answer your own question: as you note U Village was created as a car destination outdoor mall in an area of the city with housing wealth (Windermere, Laurelhurst et al) but poor retail, it was very popular among a wealthier demographic, and so housing followed. Unless unlike the Times you think the new housing was just coincidental to U Village. Same with Bellevue Square.

        You may not like U Village but you are not their targeted customer, just like you are not the targeted tenant for the new development. But the housing developers are attracted to U Village like bears to honey, and so are folks with money which is all the U Village and developers care about. That is why rents will be quite high (and the fact it is brand new construction).

      2. Answer the question, Dan: which do you think came first in the fledgling neighborhoods of the city in the early 1900’s: housing or retail?

        A more advanced question: what is most likely to draw a potential retailer to a new (or old) location that does not offer significant off-street parking?

      3. “Housing follows retail” is about as reductive as saying “eggs follow chickens” and ignoring where the chickens come from.

        Exactly. Look, I get what Daniel is getting at. Building housing with no plans to ever add retail is stupid. But that has only become common in the post-war period. Before that, as a village got bigger, you would transition from village markets to an actual city (which largely meant retail under housing). To quote https://misfitsarchitecture.com/2018/03/19/living-above-shops/:

        Living above shops is so common in urban societies it can probably be regarded as a defining characteristic, unlike say a rural or village society where the buying and selling of things takes place in the open-air or at covered markets.

        And yet in the post-war period we had huge swaths of housing that has no retail whatsoever. This continues to this very day. It isn’t dense compared to urban housing, but it is a lot denser than a farm (where land is not measured in square feet, but acres). And yet these suburban areas — from West Magnolia to Somerset — have become so common we think they are synonymous with suburbia. But they’re not. They are an historical aberration, brought about by the automobile and overzealous zoning. It makes no sense to have block after block of houses miles away from the closest store. Unless, of course, you expect everyone to drive. Everywhere. All the time.

        But the problem is not the housing, it is the zoning. Left to simple market forces — even with a reasonable amount of restrictions — such places wouldn’t exist. I once sold candy to my neighbors the way kids sell lemonade. It was sold at market prices. The only reason my friends bought it was because it was much more convenient than walking to the nearest store, a five-and-dime about a mile away. Retail did follow housing, it was just in the form of a ten year old kid who bought twelve-packs of Snickers at the Cash and Carry.

        If they allowed it, there would have been another five-and-dime much closer. And restaurants, supermarkets, bars — the works. It is only because of the misguided zoning laws that they weren’t allowed. The same is true for just about every neighborhood in the city and in the suburbs.

        That’s the takeaway. Don’t pat yourself on the back just because you have built a moderately dense neighborhood like Talus (https://goo.gl/maps/cznu6AywtWmjjgzy9) if everyone has to drive to buy anything. Otherwise your only hope for retail is some punk kid selling Tootsie Rolls. Believe me, you don’t want that.

      4. “what is most likely to draw a potential retailer to a new (or old) location that does not offer significant off-street parking?”

        The simple answer to that question is, you need foot traffic, and lots of it. A simple example: during the Fremont parade a couple weeks ago, there was no available parking nearby to speak of. But, the bars and restaurants were teeming with customers. The reason: foot traffic.

        Increased housing density can help with foot traffic, but, by itself, it can only help so much. If people don’t get out and walk the neighborhood very often, the apartments aren’t providing much foot traffic. To get residents to explore the neighborhood on foot, you need retail density. I’ve walked by plenty of large apartment buildings where residents enter and leave almost exclusively by car, and the surrounding neighborhood is a ghost town. (Even people walking to their car doesn’t generate foot traffic if the car is in an on-site parking garage).

        The places that do have a lot of foot traffic tend to have either a lot of retail all clustered together. Of course, to make it work, people that don’t live nearby still have to get there. In Europe, transit plays a huge role in this. In the US, it tends to be mostly parking. But, to make the parking thing work, you need to consolidate the parking into a few central garages so the path from store to store invites people to walk, rather than filled with seas of asphalt.

        The U-village has recently been trending in this direction, replacing surface parking with garages, allowing for more retail density in the same space. And, of course, the extreme case of successful retail density is the indoor shopping mall. None of the businesses in Bellevue square complain that customers cannot drive *into* the mall and park right in front of the entrance of their particular store. The mall succeeds because, once you get inside, everything is at human scale and encourages people to browse on foot.

        At the other extreme is the retail on the other side of 405. There’s a lot of good retail there: Trader Joes, REI, Best Buy, Home Depot, Target, and PCC, all within a block of each other. But, the layout is so car-oriented that shoppers are strongly encouraged to shop at one store, and one store only, get back in their car, and drive home. Nobody walks from Home Depot to Best Buy, or REI to Target, even though these are stores which are literally across the street from each other. This is the example of retail density done wrong. Yes, there’s a lot of retail in close proximity, but each store was developed in isolation – they could all be a mile apart instead of across the street, and it would make little difference. It’s a big missed opportunity.

      5. I have long expressed frustration and U-village and their missed opportunities regarding pedestrian connections, and to some extent bike connections.

        They are blessed with one of the nation’s most popular rails-to-trails projects right along side the complex, yet the connections are frustrating and dangerous.

        They have 45 thousand young, healthy folks living, working and going to school less than a mile away, yet they have not just ignored, but fought connections, other than by car.

        The nieghborhood NIMBYs fought expansion of Children’s tooth and nail, and forced non-SOV centric soloutions. Where is their activism when it comes to U-village?

        Where is the path along the creek connecting U-village to LINK (This was supposed to done years ago in partnership with UW)?

        Where is the no-brainer non-vehicle bridge over 25th connecting the Burke and campus?

        Where is the seperated connection to The Burke on the northside?

        This area could easily be a pedestrian paradise with barely the need to own or use any cars at all. Instead, it’s a car sewer I avoid like the plague, if I can.

    3. Belltown and the Waterfront are loaded with housing, and there is abundant retail at their point of connection: The Pike Place Market. First Avenue through Belltown is store after resyptaurant after service shop.

      Is there a lot of housing around Fifth and University? Of course not, the land is too expensive. Real estate 101. Even in ultra-dense Manhatfan there are large areas of office- and hotel-only buildings and others where housing of various types, local retail and restaurants are clustered, mostly in rings around the offices and hotels.

      This happened even before zoning, mostly based on transportation infrastructure.

      The modern “housing only” zone is a middle-class perversion of Royalist estates.

      1. Downtown retail is largely useless to the non-rich or non-tourist. Working downtown and and off for 20 years, I relied heavily on REI and Bartels on 5th for any day-to-day needs.

      2. Downtown retail is largely useless to the non-rich or non-tourist.

        I wouldn’t say that. There are a ton of restaurants and bars — enough to suit various tastes and incomes. You can get fresh produce at a reasonable price at Pike Place. If you need some T-Shirts or other basic clothing, Old Navy will do. Better yet, go to the Army-Navy surplus, which is way cheaper than REI. There is an Ace Hardware and as you mentioned Bartell’s (back when it was independently owned). There may be some specialty item, or particular restaurant that is outside downtown that folks want to visit, but that is a long way from saying it lacks those things.

    1. I left the PNW for 5 years, so I apparently missed some history here. What happened to all the old, long-time authors? Was there some sort of shake-up, or did everyone get old, bored or die?

    2. STB started in 2007 to promote ST2. Around then I started reading HugeAssCity (Dan Bertolet’s blog). That led to Orphan Road (“building(?) Seattle’s next infrastructure upgrade”). In 2012 Orphan Road consolidated into STB. I started reading STB sometime between those. For over a decade there were daily articles. At times we’ve had a part-time paid reporter, which produced more-researched articles. The daily articles ended around 2021 simply because we couldn’t find enough authors able to commit to regular articles, and the volunteer staff got burned out and had other family commitments. There were no articles for a month or two, and then it’s managed to recover to its current rate. I used to write occasional articles, but as I’ve gotten older I don’t have the energy to put hours into an article and fact-check it, and I’m already not doing other things I’d like to but I know I don’t have the energy for. Maybe others are feeling similarly. If you have an inclination to write transit articles, Page 2 is a good place to start.

      1. Thanks, Mike. That is helpful. I’ve tried contributing to blogs like this in the past, and I’m not particularly productive. And transit is like my 10th passion, not my first. Also, I no longer live in Seattle. Down in Tacoma now.

        Maybe if I can think of an angle associating transit and health…

  19. I’ve been hearing great frustration from my North Seattle friends about escalator and elevator failures at the three new stations opened just nine months ago in October 2021. Unlike the problem of UW Station discussed widely in 2017, why is this not widely being discussed? I think riders have been subconsciously trained by ST to believe that failure is normal and expected.

    I think transit advocates may have to again complain loudly about this. I also shudder to think about the new stations now being built and ST taking possession of them upon completion without assuring vertical conveyances reliability . This problem should have been solved with the U-Link situation and the fact that it’s still occurring says to me that the ST Board and management still has not solved the problem.

    1. It is widely discussed here. I think there’s just a feeling that we’ve beaten our heads against the wall enough times about it and more won’t make a difference.

      P.S. A day or two ago I heard a new one: the elevator is out at the South Bellevue P&R. The garage that just opened a few months ago.

    2. Having an escalator or elevator fail is not the problem.

      Having all the escalators going a certain direction between two floors is a problem, if it is upward or there are no stairs available to the public. Having too many escalators going a certain direction between two floors to meet throughput capacity is a problem, if it is upward. Repeat with downward escalators, with no stair alternatives available.

      Lack of working elevators between two floors is a problem. Insufficient elevators between two floors is a problem.

      For purposes of defining “floors”, side platforms should each be considered their own “floor”. Side platforms are therefore generally undesirable and to be avoided if at all possible in any multi-story station. Having a barrier breaking a mezzanine into two sections is malpractice. Having side platforms at Mt. Baker and TIBS was also malpractice, with no experienced train system riders involved in approving the design apparently, but pretty much unfixable now, short of adding more vertical conveyances.

      Each conveyance ought to be functional at least 95% of the time. That standard should be in place even with redundancy. But there should be an additional standard that each vertical connection should be available at least 99.9% of the time. That requires redundancy, especially among elevators, and stairs. Stairs plus working elevators can keep a path open, but should be the last resort for upward movement, especially for egress. Their presence may be one reason there isn’t a lot of noise about some particular escalator being torn up.

      There really shouldn’t be any places where there is only one elevator between two critical floors. That means each platform at Mt. Baker Station needs an additional elevator, each platform at TIBS needs an additional elevator, and the west entrance to SeaTac Airport Station also needs an additional elevator. These should be very high on the retrofit list, as the standard for vertical conveyance availability for those who need elevators is perpetually not being met. Just because we don’t talk about the problem all the time does not mean the problem has gone away.

      Beacon Hill Station has a programming problem with its elevators. Only one at a time can be called to either floor. If someone presses the call button while an elevator is at that floor, the doors will open, even if someone has already pressed the button to go to the other floor. This is a perpetual nuisance in both directions, but it is also a fire hazard on the platform, where the four elevators function in practice as if only two are available, and large clusters of passengers pile up in the elevator waiting area. Most of the time, there is enough time between trains to eventually clear the crowd. But ST should not push its luck that the programming errors will eventually lead to a growing blob of passengers trying to exit the station. Again, just because we don’t discuss this all the time does not mean it isn’t a problem.

      If the various groups of riders with differing mobility issues aren’t involved in the station design process, that is a cheap-out of enormous consequence, and, really, malpractice.

  20. I have thought of a possible way to connect an SLU/LQA stub into the tunnel northbound. I know I have said it is not possible and this may not work, but please read on.

    I have never looked into the vault just east of the Paramount, but it looks triangular from satellite images, so I assume it is that way all the way to the bottom. Look at this 3d Satellite view: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Seattle,+WA/@47.6129901,-122.3310916,101a,35y,39.53t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x5490102c93e83355:0x102565466944d59a!8m2!3d47.6062095!4d-122.3320708

    Assume that a turnout to a diverging track can be placed about the end of the curve from Pine. It would essentially just continue the curve. Ask yourself the question, “Does it look like a third track can exit the vault through the southernmost corner of the triangle?”

    It seems likely to me since the tunnel did not under-run the Paramount and the tracks from Capitol Hill enter the vault at the raised structure with a protrusion to the northwest in the picture. The northbound track, I believe, passes south of the protrusion and the southbound to the north of it. A photo taken of the TBM after holing through shows a wall to the right of the machine, behind the two men in the foreground: https://www.flickr.com/photos/57978228@N00/8446374218/ That wall is the trapazoid-shaped protrusion into the vault in the center of the long wall parallel to the freeway.

    If you look at the satellite image, it’s pretty clear that there is a massive structure underneath the asphalt between the darker “S”-shaped section and the freeway right of way. That structure is, I believe, the demising wall through which the TBM bored twice.

    It looks to me like the lower end of the demising wall turns pretty much due west for ten yards or so, and that is where I think we might find a place to connect a diverging track. I would hope that someone at ST will look at that possibility when the budget becomes unsustainable.

    So it may be possible to diverge northbound trains to Smith Cove through that demising wall into a tunnel which initially heads southeast (yes, exactly the wrong direction!) dives and then curves back north and west under the existing tunnel. That could serve an additional station in South Lake Union right about Minor and Virginia. The southbound track would connect through the end of the Pine Street box at the curve into the vault as I have described before.

    It might be possible to put a station at the apex of the “belly” for the edge of First Hill, though it would of necessity be one-way only. Passengers wishing to go south would have to get on a northbound train and reverse at Minor or Denny Way if that weren’t built, and those coming from the north would reverse at Westlake.

    I grant that this would be grotesque on a map, but it would be far cheaper than digging an impossibly deep parallel tunnel through downtown.

    Smith Cove to Westlake (or if a closer connection is possible there, Capitol Hill). That’s what’s needed on rails and ALL that’s needed on rails (Well, sure, go on into downtown Redmond; it’s cheap). With this connection there could be “infill” or “overlay” trains from Tacoma and the Eastside which take the diversion and loop through SLU and Lower Queen Anne to terminate at Expedia.

    Ross, you should be very happy about this possibility, because I do think it may be “doable” without much impact on the main tunnel services at all.

    1. I get your frustration, Tom! Many of us would like to see alternatives to DSTT2 put on the table, including me. Even back before the giveaway to the WSCC, I was openly asking for a tail track around Convention Place on this blog. Of course, I got little support then.

      It’s asking ST to do things differently. It seems impossible. How many years did it take complaining to put in better signage stating the train direction? Something simple, low-cost and obviously needed took years. And even now, station audio announcements still say “northbound” and “southbound” even though there is no platform sign that states “northbound” and “southbound” and 2 Line will run in all four Cardinal directions at different points.

      The point being that ST culture has evolved into an authoritarian bureaucracy with people acting as robots on staff, and a board who publicly says nothing objectively critical, and backroom players making things bend to their will at the expense of riders.

      And now ST hires a new CEO who has never maintained a multi-level rail station while ours are riddled with vertical conveyance failures that ST is supposed to maintain.

      All in all, it’s a structural disaster. I fear greatly that ST2 stations and services will be rife with problems. I fear greatly that the agency’s obstinante will mean long delays for DSTT2 as well as another few decades of taxes to pay for it because the cost estimates were so terrible and ST won’t let alternatives see the light of day.

      There is one solution that we need to face. That is to hold every Board member accountable. Yes that means Constantine, Harrell, Bslducci and every one else. I hope that every one of their opponents call them out and shame them in the next election if they don’t start being proactive about major changes to the ST culture. It’s gotten that bad.

      1. There is one solution that we need to face. That is to hold every Board member accountable. Yes that means Constantine, Harrell, Bslducci and every one else. I hope that every one of their opponents call them out and shame them in the next election if they don’t start being proactive about major changes to the ST culture. It’s gotten that bad.

        A big part of the problem with the board is that unless they do something terrible with ST, none of this matters when it comes time for reelection. They are basically trying to avoid big mistakes. They are pushing away from having a station at 14th, but not pushing towards a station at 20th (even though the big advantage to 15th is if the train goes above ground, which seems less and less likely. They are not making any recommendation with the CID plans, trying to avoid paying any sort of political penalty for whatever happens. They are keeping an arms length away from the engineers and contractors, which allows the politicians to blame them for any flaws or delays. It will be years if not decades before anyone actually uses these stations, and by then every politician will have moved on. The escalators don’t work, but people blame an abstract entity (ST) not the folks who are supposed to be in charge (the board).

        The members of the board all have much bigger, more important jobs for which they will be measured. Harrell has focused on homelessness, policing and the revitalization of downtown (as well he should, in my opinion). I may disagree with his approach, I certainly disagree with his rhetoric during the campaign, but those are more important issues than whether Seattle screws up their multi-billion dollar light rail line. At worst we will be yet another city that wasted money on transit projects that don’t work very well. On the other hand, if we screw up housing and security, we can turn into a dysfunctional mess. A city without a vibrant downtown eventually falls apart. Housing is a right. Freedom from fear (from police or criminals) is also a right. Having a faster transit ride to Ballard is not. At worse we can always take a bus.

      2. Ross is exactly right when it comes to the Board. Although I think Balducci is in way over her head when it comes to ST the fact is transit will be issue number 29 in her next election. In fact the fact East Link will still not have opened will be a positive because eastsiders will still think of East Link — if think of it at all — like the picture of the new, clean train filled with eastsiders going to work across a pretty lake.

        So what will be the top issues in Balducci’s next election? The usual:

        Crime, public safety, exploding property taxes without any noticeable increase in services, development, residential zoning, parks, maybe abortion because of the female suburban vote although that is a non issue in WA, maybe guns but there is little gun violence on the Eastside. Or something vague about climate change. In the past traffic congestion.

        Will Balducci do anything about any of these? No, except perhaps as part of the subcommittee on affordable housing targets if she is not careful.

    2. I would hope that someone at ST will look at that possibility when the budget becomes unsustainable.

      I don’t think that will ever happen. ST can have massive overruns, and as long as they weather the political storm, they are OK. There is no deadline for all of this to get done. The Big Dig was 9 years late, and $5 billion over budget (going from $2.8 to $6 billion) but it still got built. The Healthcare.gov website was supposed to cost $93.7 million — it ended up costing $2.1 billion, and had a flawed launch. My understanding is that ST has taxing authority that lasts indefinitely, so they can just keep delaying these projects, regardless of cost overruns or flaws.

      We need to force ST to change course. It really comes down to this:

      1) All of the current tunnel plans are bad for riders.
      2) All of the current tunnel plans are bad for the community (specifically CID).
      3) Sharing the tunnel isn’t needed, and would be better for riders and the community.
      4) We need the engineers to study sharing the tunnel.

      Once we get to the study stage, hopefully ideas like yours bubble to the top. It is quite possible that it would work. It is possible it won’t. It is quite possible that some other proposal is the best we can do, and that proposal is expensive and disruptive. However, it seems very, very unlikely that it would be more expensive than a new tunnel. It also seems likely that a range of options (with various trade-offs in terms of disruption and cost) will be found. That is the case with the new tunnel and each new station. For the most part, they avoid a major disruption in train operations, but some options would cause long time detours of buses that carry tens of thousands of people a day.

      These are trade-offs that can be discussed, but they need to happen after ST makes a commitment to studying a shared tunnel. It is quite possible there is some engineer who has looked at this, and come to the same conclusion as you, or found some other way to make this a (relatively) easy connection. But it doesn’t mean anything until ST commits to officially studying a shared tunnel.

      I’m not sure how to make that happen. I’ve tried to reach out to the CID community, but a lot of them are hard to get a hold of. There are phone numbers, but no email. I’m hard of hearing, and talking on the phone isn’t my strong suit. Lindblom (who writes for the Seattle Times) has not focused on the issue, but largely taken it as a given that we need a second tunnel for capacity reasons. Maybe I should reach out to him and explain why this wouldn’t actually increase capacity in the short run (and the only way to increase it in the long run is to make big changes in Rainier Valley and the East Side). I like some of the new writers at The Stranger, but I don’t think anyone is focused on transit, and is willing to get into the nitty-gritty issues like this one. It would be nice to have Seattle Subway on our side (given their increasing credibility with The Stranger) but they seem to be focused on extremely long range planning that will never happen (like two lines to Woodinville). Even the Urbanist (which has cranked out a lot of good articles lately, surpassing the output of this blog) is focused more on the trees than the forest.

      It is easy to see the flaws with the station placement and think that the solution is to have better stations. I disagree, and think the solution is to simply not build a new tunnel.

  21. If I’m wrong about the demising wall being what looks like a large bulky object under the ground in the image, then it is probably closer to the I-5 right of way border and hence longer, leaving more room to add a tunnel portal to the right of the existing northbound portal.

  22. Suburbia has retail density because of its zoning, which is especially critical when population density is just beginning in suburbia. If you allow retail/restaurant density to extend through all zones in suburbia you lose retail density and retail becomes even more car centric.

    Suburbia will always have its large stores like Costco, Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, QFC et al with large parking lots but this is because that demographic is buying lots of heavy things that can’t be carried.

    U Village is just a theme based on the suburban mall with the CA twist that you walk outside which today is considered chic. It existed before the recent housing growth based on the car customer. To suggest U Village abandon car customers because if its success with car customers attracted housing density is counter to its success. Every mall at least in this area depends on the car customer. U Village feels zero obligation to “urbanism”. In fact it is a piece of suburbia in an area that is urbanizing which is why it attracts what is the quintessential suburban customer.

    Jeff is correct that U Village has been innovative in blending parking in with retail, although that is expensive to do. But without that parking you wouldn’t have U Village, or the recent housing density. Just look at The Ave. 30 years later the Nordstrom Place Two space is still vacant on the prime lot.

    If you understand the prime customer for U Village —women — and 99% of retail in the U S you understand why they cater to the car: safety, kids, ability to transport lots of things.

    People like malls like U Village because there is retail density and people density without many crazies. Even if you don’t have a lot of money you still enjoy mingling with those who do. Or most do.

    So you want very defined zones for retail and adequate and obvious parking, and for a “mall” like U Village the prime customer expects the parking to be safe and free. So it is.

    Sometimes an area becomes dense enough to support retail density without the car customer but that is usually only downtown cores. But Seattle proves that just because there is population density in a core doesn’t mean vibrant retail density. IMO downtown Seattle made many mistakes when it comes to retail, but one was believing it didn’t need the car customer when it did which requires safe, obvious and low cost parking (which Norm Rice understood 30 years ago).

    The real thing we should be discussing in this thread is why there is no U Village in the downtown core, or why Issaquah has so much more retail vibrancy of every kind than the downtown core. One part of that is zoning that restricts retail to a condensed retail zone. Instead Seattle allows its retail to disperse when there just isn’t enough retail in the area to create any kind of retail density everywhere. The other issue is the quick profit is so much higher is housing it crowds out retail if mixed. If U Village had come after the housing boom in the area it would be all housing if the zone allowed, especially very tall buildings, which is what will happen to the CID if city planners are not careful and zone based on academic ideology.

    1. Suburbia has retail density because of its zoning

      Ha, that’s funny. That’s like taking all your money, throwing out a good chunk of it, and then piling it all into one place and saying “I’m Rich!”. Suburbia has relatively little retail (dense or otherwise) because of the zoning. There are acres and acres of suburbia with a retail density of zero. Many of the places that do have retail spend huge swaths of it building gigantic parking lots. You can certainly make the case that suburban retail is more “spiky” because of zoning, but it is hard to argue that is a good thing. The suburban landscape is riddled with large malls that have collapsed, and the retailers have suffered as a result.

      There are malls that aren’t car-oriented of course. These tend to exist in other parts of the world. Westlake Center is sorta-kinda like that. But this clearly isn’t about that. For sake of discussion, I will refer to all car-oriented malls as simply malls.

      By and large, malls are found in areas where land is cheap. There are exceptions, but that is usually because the land got more expensive, not because the land was expensive to begin with. That’s because malls are typically centered around driving. Parking garages are expensive. Surface lots are cheap. The most common mall is a strip mall. These typically have a tiny amount of land for the retail itself, and lots of land for parking. Here is an interesting history of strip malls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yIswZLu_cY.

      The real thing we should be discussing in this thread is why there is no U Village in the downtown core

      Because that would be moving backwards. A development like the U-Village downtown would be seen as a huge collapse of downtown retail. A few facts to consider. Downtown Seattle has the greatest concentration of retail in the region. You can see that if you look at census data (https://onthemap.ces.census.gov/). (Let me know if you need help using the site. It isn’t that intuitive, nor is there a way to just link to the maps you get when using it.) Downtown Bellevue shows up as a retail center, as does Southcenter. But they are both smaller in size (when it comes to the highest level of retail employment density). U-Village is similar to the U-District in never reaching those levels.

      Speaking of which, that is not what makes the U-Village interesting. The fact that it has retail roughly equal to that of the U-District is interesting, but not worth writing about. What is noteworthy is the housing density that has erupted around it. Of course you could say the same thing about Northgate, the difference being that Northgate was dying when all of the housing was going up (showing that the mall itself was largely irrelevant). Likewise, U-Village itself has little to do with all the housing that has gone up. Those apartment buildings would be going up if there was a mall or not. There are similar apartment buildings that went up all over Seattle (Lake City, Ballard, Roosevelt, Central Area, etc.). There usually is plenty of retail, but only because of the zoning. It is rare in the city to build an “urban village” and allow only housing. If we had more of a free market, we would see a lot more retail and housing going up everywhere. They would go up together, of course, with see-saw growth at times (sometimes a lot of housing, sometimes a lot of retail). This is the way cities grew for thousands of years.

      Car-oriented malls are really nothing special, and certainly nothing to emulate. They concentrate ownership into a few hands (the mall owners) as opposed to lots of different landlords. They are far more likely to collapse, as it is easy for business to shift to other malls (unlike urban or neighborhood centers, that rely on a lot of local business). If there is something unusual about U-Village it is that it is becoming more of a neighborhood center, as opposed to a classic mall. But for that to happen, it would have to be more like the U-District, which I think is unlikely, simply because of the way it is operated. There are plenty of thrift stores and cheap places to eat on The Ave but few in the U-Village. There are about 20 places to get bubble tea in the U-District but only one in the U-Village (https://goo.gl/maps/nCqL1SM7VCcDAHQ39). The University District is responding to the retail interests of the people who live, work or go to school nearby. U-Village is aiming for the high-end regional shopper. That could change over time (with a lot more people within walking distance) but I wouldn’t bet on it.

      1. If suburbia has acres and acres with no retail allowing retail on all those acres is not going to result in retail density. Just the opposite.

        There is only so much retail a certain population can support, and zi agree suburbia should have done a better job in the beginning of condensing retail by zoning more restrictively. That is the point of a Main Steer in small towns. With zoning you can concentrate that retail, and make the property more affordable by eliminating competing uses like commercial or housing. It doesn’t hurt when those same residents want their housing zones (at least SFH) housing only.

        Depending on the area or zone, housing is much more profitable than retail which is why Mercer Island is rewriting its town center code to preserve existing retail space in new development (MI has lost 30,000 sf of retail space despite adding thousands of residents in new “mixed-use” developments in the town center that replaced single story retail strips), or Bellevue requiring both housing and retail in new tall towers in its core because office space is more profitable.

        Whether a mall succeeds or fails often has more to with the surrounding area/city, which allows the property owner to upgrade. Bellevue Square has thrived for decades despite low population density over those early decades, and almost no population density next to the mall. Downtown Seattle should have vibrant and dense retail but does not. I think it is unfortunate that residents have to go to U Village for retail density.

        Comparing The Ave. and U Village in the same general area with the same zoning is constructive. Just because an area is zoned retail does not mean it has dense and vibrant retail. Generally any landlord is looking to maximize rent and profit and so wants to lease to the highest grossing businesses (and many leases include a cut of the lessee’s gross). The businesses on The Ave. are low rent but the best those property owners can attract, whereas we know many shoppers/diners with more money to spend go to U Village just down the hill. The question is why, and the answers fairly obvious.

        I don’t know how many landlords or retailers read this blog but I doubt they have a passion about “urbanism” or forcing people out of cars. Whether urban or suburban they want as many customers with as much money to spend as possible, and know retail density is critical. Bubble tea is not high on the list. Not because they don’t like bubble tea but because there are other higher grossing businesses.

        A mall recognizes shoppers don’t want to mix cars and pedestrians (like much street retail does) but also wants to attract shoppers. If 90% of regional trips are by car (certainly during non-peak time when a lot of shopping is done) and those folks have proportionally have more money you better allow that shopper or diner to get there by car, and park outside the retail area. Whether surface parking or garages has a lot to do with how expensive or limited the property is.

        I think U Village does have a lot to do with why developers are building near it, and generally such high scale development in a university zone that usually supports less expensive housing (even those this area is not served by Link, although Seattle doesn’t seem to consider Link when zoning (SLU) or development has little to do with Link). The listings for new units certainly tout the U Village. These high end tenants (for multi-family) will have a clean, safe vibrant retail area to walk to, something they would not have — (or perceive) on The Ave. despite a Link station while the coveted SFH shopper will have obvious, safe and free parking.

      2. From my experience being abroad in Italy and Europe, malls are pretty popular but never were as prolific as they were in the US because the retail density is spread more evenly throughout a city and you even have small sporadic amount of shops in residential or suburban areas. That’s not to say they aren’t gone but they’re either small scale or a big regional mall.
        I will add thar Europe does one thing generally better than the US does and that’s having supermarkets attached to their malls or shopping centers. Like in Florence where I lived, the local mall Quartiere San Donato had a COOP (major italian supermarket chain) which was a nice option if I was visiting the mall and needed to grab something on the way home.
        It’s one thing that surprised me as to why not a lot of malls did that in the US. But I guess we view grocery shopping and other goods as separate things that don’t go together as part of the mall experience in the US even though I feel like people would probably appreciate it as an option.

      3. Malls used to have grocery. One of the original anchor tenants at Totem Lake was a grocery store. Crossroads has bucked the trend and still has a QFC. The decline I think is due to grocery stores just going poof everywhere. When Ilived in Lake City we had JP’s Market walking distance from our house quite a way from the main retail strip. Even strip malls have lost grocery. Woodinville had a Stock Market, then QFC that later became a thrift store. Rose Hill lost an Albertson. There’s been lots of grocery stores in Seattle that have closed their doors.

    2. FWIW, the Walmart in Factoria closed April 22 of this year. I don’t know if this is a sign that the owners are planning to start the redevelopment of the Marketplace Apartments at Factoria. On the leasing map it’s shown as empty but not available for lease.

      I can’t think of any big box store that would want to go in there; maybe Fred Meyer or possibly a Lowes. FYI, it’s actually only 75% the size of Target. Access by car or transit is pretty bad. Perhaps Factoria is going down the donut hole?

      1. If it’s big enough, I could see a Costco go in there, but I don’t think it’s a big enough footprint. Wal-Mart wasn’t the right fit for the demographics, so maybe something more upscale?

        Hopefully it gets a Totem Lake treatment and gets converted to mixed use midrise; bike access to Seattle and Bellevue CBD is excellent.

  23. I attempted to go over to Orcas Island to see if Orcas Shuttle had made any improvements in how things worked since their first year. Unfortunately the inter-island ferry was having issues that day, so I just did more stuff on San Juan Island.

    I do hope to finish the Transit Day experience report I have saved as a draft in the STB system, but thought it would be best to get at least one more trip in to see how they’ve adapted.

    Flexible route on-call transit service software has….some issues they need to work on before it’s ready to be usable, based on last year’s experience. Using it in an area with spotty cell service is particularly challenging.

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