422 Replies to “News Roundup”

  1. I want to be supportive of bus lanes and improving public transportation, but having just one lane of regular traffic on extremely busy northbound Rainier seems really problematic especially if it means that it adds 5 to 10 minutes to each person’s trip each day. That’s a lot of carbon footprint and increased commuter-hours so that a relatively few number of people riding the number 7 have a slightly faster trip along Rainier. Anecdotally, as a resident of the area, the recently added bus lanes further south have made it very difficult for drivers to turn left across the now single lane of traffic and have increased travel times. It also appears to have increased traffic on otherwise quiet side streets, which, unfortunately, due to historic city planning and due to geography, aren’t really set up for that.

    1. I think you have it backwards. Way more people will benefit by making the 7 faster than are hurt by it. The 7 carries a lot of people (I don’t know why you get the idea it doesn’t). Yes, it will make some driving trips slower, but driving, by its very nature, is inefficient. It can’t scale. You can move way more people on the bus than you can in separate cars. As the buses become faster, more people switch to using it.

      Driving is also fluid. As driving along Rainier Avenue becomes slower, more people switch to other roadways, like I-5. My guess, what is commonplace now (using Rainier Avenue as a bypass for I-5 traffic) will seem silly in the future. As far as using side streets as cut-throughs, that can be addressed fairly easily (by creating dead-ends).

      The city is growing. There will be car traffic either way. The best thing we can do is provide an alternative (a fast moving bus).

      1. An interesting corollary to this debate between the 7 and cars is Danny Westneat’s article in The Seattle Times today, following up WSDOT’s release that traffic through the Viaduct tunnel is down sharply post pandemic, and will result in around a $27 million/year shortfall in tolls. (Which of course is the real timebomb for ST: operations and maintenance funding, which surprise surprise ST underestimated by $3 billion).

        WSDOT sees the drop in traffic as a bad thing because of the funding shortfall. Westneat sees it as a positive because ideally it allows the road along the new waterfront park to be narrowed, although I think Westneat misses the really big issue: the loss of office commuters to downtown Seattle, which the commuters think is a good thing, but Seattle thinks is a bad thing because of the loss of tax revenue.

        Westneat argues that if tolls were eliminated in the tunnel — which would cost around $200 million — enough traffic would migrate to the tunnel to allow narrowing the road along the waterfront and make it more pedestrian friendly. I think he is right, although $200 million is a lot of money.

        Two problems are: 1. the rest of the state insisted on tolling the tunnel because of the cost (which actually after some legal rulings and a $77 million penalty for the contractor due to delays ended up within 5% of estimated cost) and the feeling by the rest of the state Seattle opts for very expensive transportation projects; and 2. users of 520 will want their tolls reduced or eliminated, which of course would help relieve congestion on I-90.

        But according to Westneat, the state found the money to reduce and eliminate tolls on the Narrows Bridge.

        Transit advocates see only the benefits to transit from reducing car capacity, and vice versa, although historically car drivers have won out. I think Westneat’s point is if you want less car (and bus) traffic along a certain stretch of road then move it somewhere better, which usually means faster at the same cost.

      2. Westneat made a very good point, which got lost in the whole tolling debate. There is no need for a wide surface street on the waterfront. Not when you have the tunnel (tolled or untolled). Having a toll for an express is quite reasonable. Building a wide parallel road at the same time is silly. Just narrow the road and continue tolling. My guess is, given the choice of slogging along the waterfront or taking the express tunnel, plenty of drivers will choose the latter.

        Transit advocates see only the benefits to transit from reducing car capacity, and vice versa, although historically car drivers have won out.

        That is not entirely true, and isn’t true in this case. There will be bus lanes either way. People advocating for a narrower street are doing so because they want the street to be more pedestrian friendly. They want cars to go slower, and for it to be easier to cross the street. These go together. One lane of cars going the same direction is much slower than two, as people don’t zip around, passing those who dare to travel the speed limit.

        As for history, you are correct, but only in the United States. Amsterdam (and much of Europe) had a similar debate in the early 70s, and the automobile advocates lost. As a result, Amsterdam is one of the most pedestrian friendly, if not prettiest cities on earth. (Rick Steves was once quoted as saying Amsterdam is the prettiest of European cities, if not the prettiest city he has ever visited (I can’t remember the exact quote)).

        I think Westneat’s point is if you want less car (and bus) traffic along a certain stretch of road then move it somewhere better, which usually means faster at the same cost.

        Yes, but I think it is also worth pointing out that all evidence suggests it is not a zero-sum game. Some traffic just disappears. This is why congestion tolling works. Charge money, and people find alternatives to driving (at the very least, driving at that hour). Again, we can look to Europe for what happens when transit (or biking) is significantly easier than driving. People drive a lot less. Even though the roads are outstanding, and traffic light — the type of driving that we can only dream of in much of the U. S. — relatively few people drive. It is just faster to take transit or ride a bike.

        Bit by bit, we are building that sort of city, even though most Americans think it can’t possibly exist. Or, worse yet, they think that it is dependent on particular modes (such as rail) instead of a fundamentally different way of looking at the landscape. If you prioritize the movement of people instead of vehicles, you end up with a city where both move quite well.

      3. There’s also quite a few other streets that could be used instead of Alaskan. People use Alaskan because it has a few fewer signals than, say, 1st. You could build a huge wall halfway along it to prevent through traffic, and eventually everything would adjust.

      4. I think Westneat’s point was if there is “traffic congestion” tolling on one road traffic migrates to another less expensive road. That is the real concern: the toll for the viaduct tunnel migrates a disproportionate number of drivers to the waterfront because it is free, which of course was not the point of the tunnel.

        We have seen the same thing happen on I-90 when 520 was tolled, and I was one of the few Islanders who thought tolling I-90 probably made sense, at least for MI since the amount of the toll would be the lowest due to the shortest distance east/west, and pre-pandemic congestion on I-90 was a real issue and obviously many would choose I-90 because it is free. Many people are adamantly opposed to tolls, and will put up with congestion on alternative routes to avoid a toll, which is why the toll on 520 should have been suspended during the I-90 closures.

        The problem is car traffic does not just go away unless there is some exogenous event like a pandemic. That was Westneat’s point. Traffic through the tunnel has declined because travel into downtown Seattle has declined overall due to WFH and other factors, and probably because congestion on I-5 (and the waterfront) is not as bad so more drivers take those roads because they are free. It was the pandemic and WFH that reduced the traffic.

        We all want pass through car (and bus) traffic on I-5 or major arterials or in the tunnel and not on surface streets, or certainly not along the waterfront. No one wants buses along the waterfront either; that is why we sacrificed 3rd Ave. Thinking car traffic will simply go away if traffic is made worse on one (major) arterial but not all roads usually does not work, and the U.S. is not Amsterdam (and I have been to Amsterdam many times and it definitely would not be in my top ten cities to live in). Pre-pandemic traffic congestion and artificially high parking prices in downtown Seattle forced many onto transit, but post pandemic those dynamics are gone, but unfortunately Seattle still has very high parking prices which is hurting its retail.

        A benefit of the pandemic and WFH is the lack of congestion means the tunnel, if free, would allow a reduction in the width of the roadway along the waterfront because cars will choose the tunnel, if free, because it is faster and more convenient than driving along the waterfront, which is where you don’t want traffic. If any road should be tolled it should be that road.

        Ironically WSDOT laments the decline in traffic in the tunnel due to the loss of toll revenue while Westneat thinks it presents an opportunity (if $200 million can be found), while at the same time Harrell and downtown interests lament the decline in commuter traffic to downtown Seattle due to the loss of tax revenue and retail vibrancy, while it offers opportunities to reduce traffic and benefits the former commuters. There is no free lunch apparently.

        It is the pandemic and WFH that have reduced car traffic and offer the kind of opportunity Westneat discusses, not some kind of traffic congestion pricing or lane narrowing. At the same time it undermines the funding assumptions for the tunnel, just like it does for ST and Metro, and worse undermines tax revenue and retail vibrancy for downtown Seattle.

        After all, people still have to get to the waterfront if they are going to spend money there, and you want to be able to accommodate those coming by car. But it would be nice if all the pass-through traffic used the tunnel or I-5 (and the design of I-5 that if changed could increase capacity around 25% with no additional lanes was addressed).

        Based on the commission’s refusal to suspend tolling on 520 during the closure of I-90 despite the mess it caused on I-90 through MI and 405 and I-5 north my guess is WSDOT won’t suspend or reduce the toll through the tunnel, and we will get the worst of both worlds: an under used and underfunded tunnel that will need around $27 million/year in general tax subsidies to make up for the lost tolls, with more and more car congestion along the waterfront because that road is free. Hoping those cars just disappear is usually not a good course of action. Westneat’s proposal understands that, and wants to move those cars someplace else, like the tunnel where they should be.

      5. I think Westneat’s point was if there is “traffic congestion” tolling on one road traffic migrates to another less expensive road.

        Yes, clearly. I don’t think anyone is arguing that.

        The problem is car traffic does not just go away unless there is some exogenous event like a pandemic.

        That is simply not true. Car traffic definitely goes away. That is why anti-congestion pricing works. It is why there is a lot less car traffic in areas where driving is worse than the alternatives. People use those alternatives.

      6. “Westneat misses the really big issue: the loss of office commuters to downtown Seattle”

        The 99 tunnel doesn’t serve downtown commuters. It’s a bypass of downtown. The nearest exits are at the stadiums south of downtown, and Harrison Street in SLU north of downtown. Not even freight can use it if they’re headed to Interbay. It’s for cars going from SeaTac/West Seattle to north/northwest Seattle or SLU. They value it as an alternative when I-5 is congested.

        The state insisted on the tunnel to avoid losing highway capacity. Seattle’s mayor and city council agreed but the people of Seattle didn’t. They voted against a tunnel twice. If Westneat is right that the toll is arbitrary and only added by legislators to stick it to Seattle, then I’d agree with taking it off. It was known beforehand that tunnel usage would be low, and that tolls would reduce even that. To make the tunnel as high-usage as the viaduct, you’d have to add downtown exits, bus exits, and freight/Interbay exits. All the things they redirected to the surface boulevard.

        “the toll for the viaduct tunnel migrates a disproportionate number of drivers to the waterfront because it is free”

        I’m not sure the waterfront is congested. It’s hard to tell while construction is underway: the roadway keeps changing and bottlenecks appear and disappear. The waterfront renovation will be finished in a few years, and then we’ll see what long-term boulevard traffic is like.

      7. There’s also quite a few other streets that could be used instead of Alaskan. People use Alaskan because it has a few fewer signals than, say, 1st. You could build a huge wall halfway along it to prevent through traffic, and eventually everything would adjust.

        I agree, but I think the simplest thing to do is just have one lane each direction, with a 25 MPH speed limit. That allows access, and cars move slowly. If someone decides to drive through, so be it; it is highly unlikely they will be going very fast, especially if they encounter someone like me (who drives slowly in places like that).

      8. The 99 tunnel doesn’t serve downtown commuters. It’s a bypass of downtown.

        Sort of. The first northern exit is Republican, while the first southern exit is Royal Brougham Way. While neither would be considered “downtown” in a traditional way, you can make the case that they are now. This is especially true if you consider wrap-around travel (https://goo.gl/maps/LtaCMmPDDqzfMfYF6).

        That being said, I don’t think that is a major factor. Commuter driving to downtown has been going down for years, as people switched to other forms of transportation (transit, walking, biking, etc.). If WSDOT expected a lot of commuters, they were stupid, and ignored the obvious trends*.

        One of the major factors that wasn’t mentioned until late in the article was the West Seattle Bridge. With the bridge out, there were fewer drivers on SR-99, which in turn meant fewer people in the tunnel. Then there is transit. Transit from West Seattle was horrible right before the tunnel opened, as buses got rerouted to very congested streets. I’m sure there were many riders who started working from home or worked odd hours before the bridge went out and before the pandemic. In contrast, I’m guessing that transit from West Seattle is about as good as its been in a very long time. The buses are as fast as a generation ago, and a lot more frequent.

        Thus it is quite likely there are simply fewer trips, as the article mentioned:

        Of those lost trips, about 10,000 shifted to I-5, city streets and transit, state monitoring found, while the rest were unaccounted for, perhaps including telework, bicycling, side streets or canceled personal drives.

        Of course it is difficult to isolate the effect of tolling, given that it occurred during the pandemic, and while the West Seattle Bridge was out. Still, it is reasonable to assume that some riders have switched modes (biking, transit) while others have avoided trips altogether.

        * Of course you can make the case that WSDOT was stupid in assuming that automobile traffic (in its many forms) would just increase automatically, but that is common for WSDOT, and many other agencies.

      9. “That is simply not true. Car traffic definitely goes away. That is why anti-congestion pricing works. It is why there is a lot less car traffic in areas where driving is worse than the alternatives. People use those alternatives.”

        I am not sure where “anti-congestion pricing” has been tried in the U.S. (I believe The City of London has it and NY has looked at it) but the cars don’t just stay in the garage. They go someplace else, unless like the City of London you absolutely have to go there (and probably write it off), which is great for the rich but not the poor.

        Seattle can’t afford that. Its existential problem right now is the loss of the work commuter and shopper. Did they stop going out? No, they went someplace else that has free parking (because Seattle’s only real “anti-congestion pricing” was the high cost of parking, and for the work commuter traffic congestion, and that is gone) and retail density.

        People have to get to the businesses, restaurants, and shops, or what is the point? You end up with a dead downtown core no one wants to go to anyway, which is not the ultimate goal of anti-congestion pricing. Who cares if there is a very expensive waterfront park and $4 billion tunnel if no one shops or dines there? Relying on traffic congestion as your anti-congestion pricing is not going to work in downtown Seattle today because the traffic congestion, worker, and shopper don’t HAVE to go there anymore.

        Yes, make alternatives as close to driving as you can, but don’t benefit your competition like U Village, Bellevue, Issaquah, the malls north and south, by making driving to downtown Seattle more expensive. Parking costs more than say tolls is a huge turn off, and people just don’t need to go to or park in downtown Seattle today. SDOT is trying frantically to reduce traffic congestion on 3rd Ave. SDOT is trying to get someone to go and shop on 3rd.

        If Harrell or the council suddenly have a problem with too many shoppers on 3rd Ave., or too much traffic congestion in downtown Seattle from workers and shoppers, then we can talk anti-congestion pricing. But right now there is no congestion. The tunnel isn’t full, neither is the roads along the waterfront park. It is just that one is free, and Westneat believes that the overall reduction of traffic through Seattle — which has its downsides too — would allow shifting those cars from the waterfront to the tunnel if the tunnel were free. Otherwise Westneat would have suggested raising the toll in the tunnel and tolling the waterfront road.

      10. “I am not sure where “anti-congestion pricing” has been tried in the U.S. (I believe The City of London has it and NY has looked at it) but the cars don’t just stay in the garage. They go someplace else, unless like the City of London you absolutely have to go there (and probably write it off), which is great for the rich but not the poor.”

        The US doesn’t have 5-minute driverless subways like Vancouver either, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. It just means the US is stuck in 1950s thinking. The Netherlands was too, until it reversed course in the 1970s.

        New York City wanted congestion pricing but the state wouldn’t allow it. If the city were a larger percent of the state’s population, or the state weren’t so backward-minded, it would have been different. New York City did pedestrianize a few blocks near Times Square (like Europe), made 14th Street bus-only (like Europe), built extensive bike paths in the 2000s (like Europe), built the High-Line (like Europe), and has two dozen subway lines (like Europe).

        “Its existential problem right now is the loss of the work commuter and shopper.”

        That’s a short-term issue. We can’t make long-term decisions on Alaskan Way based on the aftermath of the pandemic. Downtown Seattle either will or won’t come back regardless of whether Alaskan Way is narrowed or Third Avenue is reconfigured.

        Congestion pricing would have unknown effects in Seattle. It has constrained geography, so a lot of people go through downtown between south and north or to get to First Hill/Capitol Hill/SLU. If all those drivers switch to Boren, 12th, or 23rd to avoid the toll, it’s not necessarily better, they can’t handle congestion as well, and they’re hard for drivers to get to (especially 23rd).

        I sometimes go to Costco from southwest Capitol Hill in a car. The most straightforward way is Pine Street to 5th or 2nd Avenue (through downtown). A non-downtown way is south on 12th to Beacon Hill and the Holgate viaduct (on slow streets). If you try to just skirt downtown on Boren-Jackson, you might still get inside the toll area. If you go via Rainier-Dearborn, then it’s even more out of the way. These are all because of Seattle’s geography quirks, that most cities don’t have.

        “your competition like U Village, Bellevue, Issaquah”

        Those are only one set of shoppers, the most car-oriented and suburban-oriented. American cities tried to chase that clientele in the 1950s, and built freeways through downtown and large parking lots/garages. That ruined downtown, and it didn’t bring suburban shoppers anyway. There’s another set of shoppers who want a walkable area and don’t mind taking transit to it. Those high-volume car sewers downtown deter them. Then there’s people who live in Seattle north and south of downtown. They’re the ones who are more of downtown’s target shopper than Eastsiders. And Issaquah is too far away; that’s mostly a separate market from Seattle.

      11. @RossB:

        Your comment about DT’s comment style is an ad hominem. I would like to politely request the moderators to moderate it. Oh, wait, you are the moderator, too. This seems like a conflict of interest…

        In another post, you mused why DT’s opinion on Amsterdam matters. It matters because Mike Orr asked for it. You do read all the comments, as a moderator on the blog, so I am sure you knew that.

        I appreciate your opinions, and your level-headedness in 99% of the posts. I just wish that the remaining 1% were at the same level of quality.

        All the best in advance.

        –An old time reader who stopped commenting because of the 1% aforementioned posts from RossB, but returned because this one comment irked him a little too much.

      12. Mike, you should do a Page Two article about where in Seattle you would apply congestion pricing, and how much.

        I still think the fundamental problem though is there is no congestion in downtown Seattle to tax, although there is congestion on I-5 during peak hours, but the FHWA would not allow Seattle to apply congestion pricing to I-5 (which would shift traffic to Seattle’s surface streets), and the toll on the Viaduct tunnel is its congestion pricing, that unfortunately reroutes that traffic to surface streets including the waterfront that are not tolled, which was the entire point of Westneat’s article. Traffic is like water.

        For congestion pricing to work there has to be congestion, some kind of entrance, like to The City Of London to begin the congestion pricing, and the person has to have to go to the place despite the congestion tax (which ideally is a very wealthy place like The City Of London so it does not hurt poor folks because the rich will pay the congestion tax and write it off).

        So in Seattle, assuming there was congestion, if you taxed 4th Ave. you would have to tax the rest of the streets heading north, and so on. If you taxed Broadway you would have to tax 12th, and 15th, and 14th.

        Ross’s concept of “anti -congestion” pricing is just traffic congestion itself and high parking costs, not a congestion tax. But today there isn’t traffic congestion, and folks can avoid a congestion tax in downtown Seattle simply by going someplace else. So all a congestion tax would do today in downtown Seattle is drive away more workers and shoppers when that is Seattle’s biggest problem today that Harrell is desperately trying to fix.

        Return the office workers and shoppers and diners to downtown Seattle and then either like Ross wait for congestion and parking costs to serve as an anti-congestion tax like pre-pandemic, or come up with a congestion tax although it would have to apply to every street unless you want traffic to migrate to the smaller and more residential free streets, but get ready for a lot of pissed of Seattleites considering they own 460,000 cars among them.

      13. Oh, and Daniel, if you honestly want to know more about congestion pricing, I would suggest this report, based on several studies: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop08047/intl_cplessons.pdf. Just a snippet:

        In the three areawide pricing programs described in Section 2, up to 50 percent of those foregoing car travel to the priced zone in the priced periods shifted to public transportation. In London and Stockholm, the greatest shift was to public transportation while in Singapore it was to 4+ carpools and to the shoulder time just before the start of pricing.

        It is important to note that this is not the crux of the argument. Far from it. Congestion pricing is just one way in which people shift their behavior, from driving to other modes.

        You have a nasty habit of doing this. Someone presents several strong arguments under a general umbrella. In this case, I was simply countering your ridiculous argument that the number of trips by car is forever fixed (people will drive, no matter what). I listed a particular example, and alluded to many more. Yet you fixate on that one example, and write endlessly — with no evidence — about how that one example can’t possibly work. We cite contrary evidence, and then you suggest that we are completely different, and that it would never work here (again, with no evidence). You ignore the overall argument, as you spend paragraph after paragraph obfuscating the main point.

        I don’t know if that is on purpose, or if it is just some habit, like a nervous tic. But it is annoying, and is a big reason why many people on this blog choose to just ignore your comments. I was doing so for a while, thought you maybe had something worthwhile to say, but now regret even engaging you, as you are back at it.

      14. In another post, you mused why DT’s opinion on Amsterdam matters. It matters because Mike Orr asked for it.

        Right, but the first comment, as well as every single followup has absolutely nothing to do with transit. I can edit every single comment in that manner, but what is the point?

        Your point about my criticism of DT’s writing style is legitimate. I don’t think it is an actual ad hominem attack, since I am not criticizing him, but the arguments he is making. That being said, I can see how it could be viewed that way.

        But it is important to realize why I made the comment in the first place. His comments are part of a pattern. It is a pattern that has been repeated many times. The reason I pointed out the pattern is not to weaken what is obviously a very weak argument, but in the hopes that he actually changes his behavior. It looks like trolling to me, but I guess suggesting he is trolling could be taken as an ad hominem attack.

        I tend to let a lot go, as do most moderators. For example, you are clearly in violation of policy number 8, and most likely policy number 4. Does it matter? No, of course not. Whatever. I’m not going to erase Daniel’s long comments about European cities he likes and dislikes for that same reason. I’ll edit mine, since it bothers you.

      15. It is a long article Ross, but it appears the main benefit of congestion pricing is greater mobility and speeds for cars (and buses).

        “Areawide pricing in Singapore, London and Stockholm resulted in 10 to 30
        percent or greater reduction in traffic in the priced zone and has sustained the reductions over time. The speeds increased significantly within the zone as well as outside along approach roads. Ten to thirty percent increase in speed has been realized. Buses in Singapore and London have particularly benefited from speed increases.”

        Basically, what this describes are HOT lanes on 405. And of course, one of the benefits of congestion pricing in the article was revenue.

        Again, the fundamental problem with congestion pricing in downtown Seattle — or any part of Seattle not on I-5 — is there is no traffic congestion today, and Seattle does not have the density or traffic congestion that London, Stockholm and Singapore had pre-pandemic. You congestion price freeways and highways because folks have to use them, not surface streets in Seattle.

        People don’t have to go to Seattle or downtown Seattle today, so you are correct congestion pricing — which is just a tax on driving even though there is no traffic congestion — will encourage them to go someplace else, which is a good thing if like Singapore, London and Stockholm Seattle had traffic congestion and people who have to go to Seattle. Or maybe some will switch to transit if they absolutely have to go downtown and can’t afford the toll (which means they can’t afford the parking to begin with).

        This was the point of Westneat’s article and why I posted about it. Traffic congestion is down throughout Seattle, which is actually BAD, including the Viaduct tunnel, in part because alternatives are free, but you don’t want drivers taking the free route if it is along the waterfront which is why Alaskan Way is so wide.

        You see congestion pricing as a way to force folks onto transit to manufacture transit ridership. Ok, but I think planners in London, Singapore and Stockholm saw congestion pricing as a way to lower congestion to increase speeds on roads and highways because THEY HAD SO MUCH TRAFFIC CONGESTION.

        Like I suggested to Mike, you should consider a Page Two article on where you would place congestion pricing in Seattle, and how much you would charge (as noted in your linked article most congestion pricing is peak based, and post pandemic the peak is going away). Maybe the citizens will embrace paying to drive around an empty Seattle.

        I am not opposed to congestion pricing in Seattle because I don’t go to Seattle anymore, which is the huge problem Harrell is dealing with. If you or others want to tax Seattleites to drive around their city even though there is little congestion, go ahead, but don’t be surprised if even fewer non-Seattleites drive to Seattle to work, eat or shop.

        Recreate the traffic congestion in Seattle then worry about congestion pricing.

      16. It is a long article Ross, but it appears the main benefit of congestion pricing is greater mobility and speeds for cars (and buses).

        You completely missed the point. Congestion pricing reduces the number of automobile trips.

      17. I am not sure where “anti-congestion pricing” has been tried in the U.S. (I believe The City of London has it and NY has looked at it) but the cars don’t just stay in the garage.

        And yet all of the studies say otherwise. You have no evidence to support your case, and when presented evidence that runs contrary to your original claim, you ignore it. You state that the “article is long”, even though I specifically cited the key points. You conveniently change the subject in the process, ignoring your original claim.

        But again, that was not the key point. This is not about congestion pricing per se. It is about the idea that driving is immutable. Congestion pricing is simply one way in which people change their habits, and drive less. There are a number of other, very well researched examples — everything from higher gas prices to better transit. Driving is not inevitable.

      18. I agree anonymous that it is beyond ironic that Ross was left as moderator of this blog (and beyond humorous that he threatened to remove your post “under sections 4 and 8”, although becoming moderator was mostly by default.

        I also agree with you that no one and no thing has done more to suppress participation on this blog than Ross. He mistakes a conversation or discussion about issues like transit and zoning that are discretionary political decisions with personal insults and ad hominem attacks thinking the nastier he gets the more likely someone will agree with his argument, when what really happens is that person withdraws from expressing their opinion or participating in this post, especially females. As a result those who do participate continue to shrink.

      19. I also agree with you that no one and no thing has done more to suppress participation on this blog than Ross.

        Wow. So basically you are making a personal attack on me as a way to say that I am guilty of making personal attacks. You provide no evidence (of course) just vague allegations.

        Look, Daniel, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings by saying that your opinions on Amsterdam were irrelevant. But they were. Not a single reason you mentioned had anything to with transit. There was simply no reason to write that you didn’t like Amsterdam, let alone imply that it had anything to do with transit. If you hadn’t — if you had simply kept that irrelevant opinion to yourself — then Mike wouldn’t have bothered to ask your opinion on it, and there would be a lot less fluff for people to deal with when reading these comments.

        The same goes for your claims about congestion pricing. There was no evidence to support your claims, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. The idea that this somehow suppresses the discussion is ludicrous. Calling out weak arguments is what I expect everyone to do, with every discussion. It is nothing personal. I have had my share of weak arguments struck down repeatedly.

        At the risk of offending you again, Daniel, I suggest you research a subject before writing about it. I do this often, before making an argument, so as to avoid the very problem you were faced with on this very thread. Before I made the claim that congestion pricing leads to less driving, I looked for research. Sure enough, it wasn’t hard to find. Maybe if you had done the same, you would have saved us all going down this pointless little rabbit hole.

      20. Keep in mind, without Ross, this blog might very well do what the Urbanist did and just pull the plug on comments. Or, the blog itself could end. Anyone remember BlatherWatch? So, whatever complaints some commenters have about Ross, he should be recognized for stepping up to work for the blog during a difficult (transit-wise) time in its history.

      21. Um, Daniel, how exactly does “WFH”, which “Yes” has definitely decreased peak hour travel to and from downtown Seattle, affect a transportation facility which is a bypass of Downtown Seattle?

        Is it that the parallel “free” alternative is less congested, also from WFH? If so, isn’t that an excellent opportunity to reduce capacity on the free alternative, thereby “forcing” more people to ante up?

        Sure, the tunnel isn’t very useful to vehicles headed for LQA, Magnolia or Interbay, but if the tunnel became measurably faster to Ballard (via 39th) folks headed there would pay.

      22. “Keep in mind, without Ross, this blog might very well do what the Urbanist did and just pull the plug on comments.”

        The editors asked Ross and me if one of us could write a weekly news roundup, because they can’t write more than occasional articles anymore due to family and other commitments. I declined for personal reasons: I can write comments off the top of my head but I don’t think I can commit to being an official author or posting an article every week or researching and fact-checking. Ross agreed to do it, and I’ve been sending him links as I see them. Without Ross it could be weeks between articles, and each article’s comments close after so many days, so either way the blog could have died.

        The editors gave Ross moderation power as a side effect. He uses it occasionally in the most egregious cases, but it takes hours to police every comment and trim it, and none of the volunteers has time for that.

        STB has evolved from being an article-heavy site to an almost-all-comment site. That’s a different role but it’s still worthwhile. Most of the links come from SDOT’s daily news roundup, and many of those come from The Urbanist. So we’re effectively now the comment forum for The Urbanist, and a comment forum for other blogs that do write articles. That’s OK too. We have a large community that’s enthusiastic about commenting on transit, and most of the comments are higher quality than on some other sites because we’ve built up that culture. I still learn things from other comments every few days; things I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Maybe STB will evolve again and get more articles per week in the future sometime; we hope.

        If anyone wants to contribute more articles, Page Two is open, and then you can talk with the editors about writing for Page One.

      23. “Mike, you should do a Page Two article about where in Seattle you would apply congestion pricing, and how much.”

        I’m not sure it should. I wasn’t advocating for congestion pricing; I was just saying it would be particularly difficult to do in Seattle. London and New York are very large, have many times more destinations in the center, things that people won’t do without. We have a Fifth Avenue theater, a symphony hall, a few corporate headquarters, Pike Place Market, and three two one department store. New York has Broadway, Lincoln Center, Central Park, Wall Street, the High Line, large Midtown and Chinatown, and it’s the Big Apple. They’re also centrally located, with large populations on all sides.

        In London you can just draw a ring around Fare Zones 1 and 2 or the Circle Line. Manhattan is similar: you can toll the entire borough or up to Central Park. Many things are only inside the toll area, including dozens of corporate headquarters and theaters and tons of fine shopping, and several square miles of tourist attractions — things people won’t do without. They have much better transit than Seattle has, so it’s easy to avoid driving. London’s toll revenue goes to even more transit, so there’s even less reason to drive. Hundreds of thousands of people live inside the toll area and rarely leave it; millions more live outside it and rarely enter it.

        Downtown Seattle is in the middle of a narrow isthmus. The Sound blocks the west. Everyone going between the south and north ends has to go on I-5, 99, downtown streets, or small eastern arterials like Broadway or 23rd. The Eastside and West Puget Sound are miles away across water. The neighborhoods in all directions are less dense than London or New York. Downtown is much smaller and had fewer things. What it does have isn’t as different from the suburbs as Manhattan or Zone 1 are.

        So there aren’t a million people in all four directions within ten miles of downtown, who would be the ones crossing the boundary. Downtown doesn’t have a ton of destinations. It’s too small to live full-time within it and never go outside it. It’s hard to live in the adjacent neighborhoods without going through downtown to get to other areas outside it, because of Seattle’s geographical barriers. Seattlites/Pugetopolans are more car-oriented than in larger cities, and downtown doesn’t have as many distinct things from the suburbs. Who cares if people go to the downtown Target or another one?

        So I’m doubtful a downtown Seattle toll would be feasible, fair, lucrative, or contribute to downtown’s health. We probably can’t toll the I-5 exits and call it a day.

        The 99 tunnel is a different pickle. It’s not a bridge like the Evergreen Bridge or San Francisco’s bay bridges. It’s a one-mile freeway stub with a free alternative a mile to the east. It was clear from the beginning it would have a hard time attracting paying drivers. We told the state that and they didn’t listen. We voted for a surface+transit alternative or an elevated highway, but got a tunnel.

        The point of Westneat’s article is that toll revenue isn’t covering construction costs. That doesn’t necessarily mean tens of thousands of people are diverted to Alaskan Way or I-5. The first question to ask is, are they? Is Alaskan Way overcongested? If it is, is it because of the toll or because the waterfront is under construction? Did all those drivers disappear because of work-from-home or the pandemic or the West Seattle Bridge closure? Or were they never going to be there anyway, as we tried to tell WSDOT?

        I’m ordinarily in favor of tolled highways, but Westneat has a point that if we can shift cars from Alaskan Way to the tunnel by merely removing the toll, that would make the waterfront area more walkable and car-free. That would be a great thing. Seattle doesn’t have a Central Park or a pedestrianized shopping area or anything like that. We should have more of it, and if we can get it by removing 99 tolls, that would be great. But I’m not convinced that there are a lot of cars on 99 avoiding the toll, who would eagerly switch to the tunnel if the toll were eliminated. That still has to be proven.

      24. It would actually be a *good* thing if fewer drivers use Rainier to avoid I-5. I-5 was built for high volume. Even when congested, it handles volume better than Rainier. Meanwhile, Rainier cuts through people’s neighborhoods, it is the geographical “main street” for the valley. It is especially dangerous to all users as 4 lanes and no median, given the speeds of people trying to cut through. It should feel painful to cut through Rainier! So I call Good Riddance for anyone who “has to” switch back to I-5.

      25. “You have a nasty habit of doing this.”

        “I don’t know if that is on purpose, or if it is just some habit, like a nervous tic. But it is annoying, and is a big reason why many people on this blog choose to just ignore your comments. I was doing so for a while, thought you maybe had something worthwhile to say, but now regret even engaging you, as you are back at it.”

        These are just two examples of your ad hominem attacks, RossB. An ad hominem attack is one that attacks the person rather than the argument. Saying someone has a nasty habit, or that others ignore their comments, are an attack on a person’s character or behavior. These have nothing to do with congestion pricing.

        This kind of post has made me quite reluctant to engage your opinions, as is well documented on this blog.

      26. RossB used a good term, anti-congestion tolling. Thompson asked for a US example. Yet, he mentioned SR-520. That is a great example. The UPA imposed variable tolling and added transit service. Drivers responded to the pricing in the expected ways: they shifted their trips to times of the day with lower tolls, shifted to I-90, shifted to transit. Transit flow improved; transit ridership increased. It was win-win-win. Without tolling, SR-520 was quite congested in the peaks; more traffic was attempted to use the roadway than it could handle and congestion resulted. Capacity charts actually showed that maximum throughput was a 45 mph; without the tolls, the throughput curve actually curved back on itself and volumes declined.

        The WSDOT tolling has now encountered the pandemic and less traffic than was forecast. This shows the risk of relying on toll revenue to cover bond costs. The state would be better off to expand tolling to all limited access lanes between Marysville and Tumwater set to optimize flow; revenue should be targeted to maintenance. The HOT lane projects on I-405 and SR-168 lead to bottlenecks.


      27. I did mention the HOT lanes as a form of congestion pricing, but like tolling the Viaduct Tunnel their main purpose on 405 was to fund more lanes to allow more traffic. That was the goal: more car capacity, not less. So I think that is a little different than congestion pricing designed to reduce traffic volumes.

        If the goal was to just improve traffic speeds for transit or HOV’s then the HOV lanes on I-90 are the better method, although they don’t generate revenue.

        The HOT lanes did encourage drivers to try and make trips during lower cost peak times, or to find another route. The HOT lanes also created a divide between rich and poor. Traffic speeds increased for those who could or would pay the tolls in the HOT lanes, but stayed pretty miserable for those who could not, and even post pandemic 405 is a highway that is just maxed out peak hours. During non-peak hours the HOT lanes are free, because no one would pay otherwise. Without traffic congestion you can’t have congestion pricing if the lane right next to the HOT lane is free and is not congested.

        Tolling on 520 was to fund the project, not switch drivers to transit or reduce car volumes, although some drivers may have switched to transit to avoid a toll. Unfortunately, when you don’t toll all the parallel roads traffic migrates, and as Eddie notes traffic increased on I-90 and 520 because they are free, which is six one way and half a dozen the other. If the goal of the tolls or HOT lanes had been to reduce car traffic I don’t think they accomplished that goal (and WSDOT based their cost recovery assumptions on increased traffic volumes), and the HOT lanes actually increased car capacity, which as Eddie again points out was probably a bad bet for the Viaduct Tunnel post pandemic, necessary for 520 because it had to be replaced ans users should contribute something, and still a good bet for 405 because of the traffic volume on that highway.

        Personally I was in favor of tolling I-90 concurrently but I was in the small minority. I probably was wrong because post pandemic congestion on I-90 is pretty mild, and it is still free.

        If some kind of congestion pricing is to actually reduce car traffic, or force drivers to take transit, that is trickier. Seattle was looking at that (for Uber and just regular cars) for downtown pre-pandemic, but today there just isn’t the congestion to make congestion pricing practical, and the new goal is to return office workers, shoppers and diners to downtown Seattle, no matter how they get there. As I noted in another post, if you Harrell had to choose between too much traffic volume in the Viaduct Tunnel and along Alaskan Way or too little he would choose too much, because you can deal with that.

        If the goal is/was to reduce car congestion, and just car volumes, the best remedy was the pandemic and WFH. I-5 is still bad during peak times in part due to its poor design, and so is 405 (although more lanes are coming) because it feeds 167 to the south and Bothell to the north, but downtown Seattle has very mild traffic, and so does the Viaduct Tunnel, and my guess is 520 is also below estimated toll revenue, so WSDOT is going to have to find a lot of money in its budget to replace that toll revenue because the bonds don’t go away because the traffic did.

        We all got what we wanted: fewer cars on the road. Except Harrell and downtown Seattle, and WSDOT.

      28. I thought I heard that the new Alaskan Way was designed more for car traffic and less for pedestrians because those lanes were needed to alleviate freight bottlenecks at the (non-tourist) piers and docks. Is that accurate, or am I misremembering something?

      29. “I thought I heard that the new Alaskan Way was designed more for car traffic and less for pedestrians because those lanes were needed to alleviate freight bottlenecks at the (non-tourist) piers and docks. Is that accurate, or am I misremembering something?”

        When urban activists asked for a narrower street, WSDOT and the Port said the four GP lanes and two ferry lanes were non-negotiable. That was for through traffic, ferry queueing, and freight trucks going to Interbay (because the tunnel has no exit for that). WSDOT said the only thing that could be eliminated were the transit lanes. Activists said, “No, keep the transit lanes.” The widest part is only between Jackson and Columbia. At Madison the ferry lanes disappear. At Columbia the buses turn east and the transit lanes disappear. That leaves four lanes through the central waterfront and Pike Place Market. North of that the boulevard turns east, and the farthest north part to Pier 70 and the Sculpture Park is smaller and quieter. The northern part will be the third phase of the renovation, and I haven’t heard it’s designed yet.

        North-south transit circulation from the Sculpture Park to Pioneer Square is, in the waterfront plan, a battery bus or minibus in the outer lanes. Not in the inner transit lanes because those won’t have stops. The route is still unfunded. The plan has an optional addition, extending the route to Seattle Center.

      1. Yes, exactly. Because in the long run doing so will result in less driving and more use of alternatives (like transit).

    2. I agrée with you Scott.

      Several weeks ago, the new school construction at Massachusetts required closing one southbound lane on Rainier. The result was traffic backing up the entire loop ramp and onto I-90 into the tunnel about halfway to Lake Washington on the freeway mainline. This illustrates how much traffic uses Rainier and how removing one lane is catastrophic for traffic. I mentioned before that Rainier traffic volumes there approach those on Aurora and no one would expect or advocate that Aurora be reduced to a single lane in each direction for traffic.

      The problem is especially acute at 23rd Ave. Even with two lanes in one direction, it can take two or three or four light cycles to make it through. It’s like this all day too —rather than at peak times.

      There are some that believe that taking any traffic lane is good for buses. However, it’s not that simple. Traffic diverts. Drivers are now clogging up Massachusetts and jogging through many narrow side streets. That poses a risk to residents of those streets.

      Ironically, the City has another survey that is attempting to close Lake Washington Blvd, reducing north-south throughput even more.

      Who plans these things? White people with office jobs in City Hall. Who are these drivers? Most are poorer people of color that live in SE Seattle and don’t work in office jobs in Downtown Seattle. This whole thing has a racist dimension rooted in whites privilege and arrogance. It’s okay to create severe traffic congestion in SE Seattle because it’s “those” people.

      1. This is why community involvement is needed. Our discussions (read: speculations) of what others not represented on this blog want are epiphenomenal.

        However I would suggest that any change that reduces traffic deaths on one of two most dangerous streets in Seattle is a good start to doing well by the community.

      2. Who plans these things? White people with office jobs in City Hall. Who are these drivers? Most are poorer people of color that live in SE Seattle and don’t work in office jobs in Downtown Seattle.

        Are you saying that only white people ride the 7? Have you ever actually been on the 7? Come on, Al.

        Look, traffic adjusts. It may take a while, but it adjusts. Some drivers switch to other routes; some to other modes (like transit). There is no city in the world that has solved their traffic problem with more lanes for general purpose traffic. But there are plenty that have solved it with better transit. Driving may not be ideal, but at least people have an alternative. The idea that we can somehow solve the mobility problem by adding lanes in Rainier Valley simply flies in the face of all evidence around the world. The very fact that the buses are stuck in congestion is proof that too many lanes are set aside for the automobile. There never should have been two lanes in the first place. Reversing previous wrongs is never easy, but it should be done.

      3. Put it another way, Al: What do you think the street will look like if there are twice as many people living in Rainier Valley (which is quite likely over the next 20 years)? I see three scenarios:

        1) Traffic is bad much of the day for drivers, but the bus moves smoothly and quickly. It is also quite frequent all day long.

        2) Traffic is bad much of the day for drivers. The bus is stuck in the same traffic. Because the bus is slow, not that many people ride it, and it is expensive to operate it. Thus it is not particularly frequent.

        3) The street is widened to accommodate more cars. Traffic is bad most of the day for drivers, but not as bad as with the first two scenarios. The bus does not operate as quickly (or as often) as the first scenario, but not as poorly as the second. With three lanes of traffic moving each direction, there are more accidents, especially those including pedestrians.

        In my opinion, there is only one logical choice, which is the first one. It is the one we should have made back in the day. It is tricky moving this direction, as you do have more temporary problems (as some traffic shifts) but over time, you create a safer, more pleasant and more mobile city.

      4. An ad hoc closure that most drivers didn’t know about beforehand (myself included, I ended up stuck in it at one point), and that the busses also get stuck in, is obviously different than a well planned road diet for cars and a dedicated right of way for busses. Also, the congestion there was just as much about “drivers don’t know how to merge” as it was about the lane closure. Zipper merge should really be formalized as state law, blocking people from merging should be a ticket-able offense in WA.

      5. I agree with both points Brandon. Temporary closures, like accidents, are always worse. There are only so many people that check their phone regularly for directions (especially if “they always went that way”). In contrast, drivers definitely adjust to new traffic norms. It is one of the fundamental advantages to driving (there are many ways to get there).

        I also agree about the zipper merge. It baffles me how many people can’t get it.

      6. There should be a version of this sign in the states.

        Roundabouts are an even more entertaining exercise in ‘Murican’ driving ability.

      7. You guys are completely ignoring the severe congestion at 23rd and Rainier that I mentioned.

        1. It’s not a one time thing. It happens many hours a day.

        2. There are many people using cut through on local streets today to avoid 23rd and Rainier.

        Also, lane reductions don’t really make safer streets. Speed reductions do — along with earlY ped light phases and turn prohibitions. However, speed reductions also reduce the number of cars that a lane can hold. The only way that lane reductions can make a street safer is if it moves too slowly so cars never reach 20 mph. And sure dude street traffic doesn’t result in deaths but it does create more traffic on streets that should be quiet And kids play next to.

        As to who drives on Rainier, SDOT doesn’t tell the public who is driving to a transit friendly area to one that isn’t . Heck you can’t go from this part of Rainier to even Harborview on a direct bus dnd it’s just 1-2 miles away. Some of you would rather blindly stick to your bias than admit that people who can’t get to the ER quickly and can’t afford an ambulance could even die. Substantial transit route restructuring is needed before more the lane needs to be given to buses.

      8. But Al, one of the only ways to slow down drivers effectively is to change the built environment. Lane reductions do slow down drivers.

        And yes, it’s true that that combined with slower speeds, that does reduce throughput. But time after time, closures of car facilities have not shown to increase traffic. Because of induced demand effects and other effects. Yes, we are reducing car throughput. But I don’t think we can say “this is going to cost lives” because the argument that it will increase congestion is tenuous.

        Not to mention; can’t ambulances use the bus lanes?

      9. I must strongly disagree with you, Andrew. The response you give is general. It is not specific to the situation.

        For example, Rainier Ave S studies on the lane reductions south of Columbia City added traffic to Seward Park Ave and MLK. While the number of accidents fell on Rainier, the volumes dropped further — so that the per vehicle accident rate increased! Note that this is a specific example just a mile away.

        Also, that section of roadway had viable alternative routes using these adjacent streets. The viable routes on this section of Rainier are very narrow neighborhood streets like 23rd south of Rainier.

        Finally, this part of Rainier has much higher volumes north of MLK. The SDOT traffic flow data puts the daily traffic at Walker at 38K — just below Aurora at 41K and Lake City Way at 37K. 45th at 12th Ave is only 35K.

        Your generic arguments do not convince me. Every impact is always unique to a situation. Generic statements read like some Pollyanna Urbanist who think the answer to everything is to wish cars away.. that’s just not how the real world works.

      10. One other factor needs to be mentioned: The planned Amazon distribution facility just off this section of Rainier. Can anyone honestly believe that many of those fulfillment drivers with packages and those semis carrying goods for distribution are suddenly going to be on the bus?

      11. The Amazon fulfillment center plan on rainier was cancelled.

        Also if you read the survey they have an alternative plan that keeps both lanes north and and south though at the cost of removing the middle turning lane instead.

        Regarding moving traffic to the side streets while that isn’t always the best it is part of the advantage of having a grid layout. Rather than one street in typical suburbia having all the traffic spread it out smaller.

        Regarding the car traffic flow data sure it is a lot — but so is the number of people on the bus around 8k (11k before pandemic) given there are five lanes giving one to transit isn’t some inequitable amount.

      12. You guys are completely ignoring the severe congestion at 23rd and Rainier that I mentioned.

        No, we’re not. We understand there is congestion. If there wasn’t congestion, this project would be stupid. The whole point of this is because there is congestion, and we need to do something about it. The answer, quite clearly, is bus lanes.

        It won’t solve general purpose traffic congestion. Nothing will. OK, congestion pricing would, but guess what — it achieves much the same thing. Fewer people drive, and more take transit (or other modes). If you want to argue for congestion pricing instead of bus lanes, be my guest. But I think that is impractical there, let alone a difficult sell for an American city that is largely ignorant of what is going on in the rest of the world (holy cow, we still haven’t adopted the metric system, let alone universal health care).

        Anyway, my point is, if you add more lanes, it won’t fix the problem. If you do nothing it won’t fix the problem. There is no way you can move as many cars on Rainier Avenue as many people want. The only way to deal with it is to give them a very good alternative, which is the bus.

        It is just geometry, as Jarrett Walker likes to put it (https://humantransit.org/2012/09/the-photo-that-explains-almost-everything.html). You can move way more people with transit than you can in their own vehicle. The idea that you can build your way out (with more and more lanes) just doesn’t work. It has been tried many times in the U. S., and failed. Congestion is as bad as ever. In contrast, there are many crowded cities throughout the world where it is fairly easy to get around — they just use more space efficient methods than a private automobile.

        What is being suggested only seems radical because you are an American. We aren’t used to taking lanes. But in other parts of the world, this is just normal, and they have much bigger steps. Charging people to use regular streets (on top of high gas prices) seems nuts. At first it seems crazy to me that in various cities they don’t allow you to drive in a straightforward manner towards your destination — reserving that right to transit, bikes and pedestrians. It seems like it would lead to terrible congestion in other places. Ironically, it doesn’t, as fewer people drive.

        Obviously I’m not suggesting that as a solution. Not for Rainier Avenue, definitely. But what I am saying is that if Rainier (and other streets) become faster for transit, and slower for cars (which will happen no matter what we do) more and more people switch away from driving.

      13. lane reductions don’t really make safer streets.

        Yes, they do. From https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/guidance/info_guide/ch2.cfm

        Studies indicate a 19 to 47 percent reduction in overall crashes when a Road Diet is installed …

        Road Diets improve safety by reducing the speed differential. On a four-lane undivided road, vehicle speeds can vary between travel lanes, and drivers frequently slow or change lanes due to slower or stopped vehicles (e.g., vehicles stopped in the left lane waiting to turn left). Drivers may also weave in and out of the traffic lanes at high speeds. In contrast, on three-lane roads with TWLTLs the vehicle speed differential is limited by the speed of the lead vehicle in the through lane, and through vehicles are separated from left-turning vehicles. Thus, Road Diets can reduce the vehicle speed differential and vehicle interactions, which can reduce the number and severity of vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. Reducing operating speed decreases crash severity when crashes do occur.

        Closer to home, here is a study of Stone Way:

        More dramatically, the number of motor vehicles exceeding the speed limit by 10 miles per hour or more dropped approximately 75%.

        The same thing happened on 125th (which is actually even closer to my home). The number of people going way over the speed limit (which at the time was 30mph, meaning they were going 40) went down dramatically. Yes, reducing speed limits help, but if you have been out on the roads much you know a lot of people are speeding (it kind of became a “thing” during the pandemic). Road diets limit the chances to do that (as the Federal Highway Administration report explained).

      14. “Anyway, my point is, if you add more lanes, it won’t fix the problem. If you do nothing it won’t fix the problem. There is no way you can move as many cars on Rainier Avenue as many people want. The only way to deal with it is to give them a very good alternative, which is the bus.”

        While Ross makes some good points, especially his comment that you can’t move as many cars on Rainier Ave. as people want, I am not so sure those drivers believe a very good alternative is the bus. Otherwise, why are they not taking the bus today despite the traffic congestion.

        The age-old irony is that every driver on a congested road wants every other driver to take the bus so their drive becomes less congested. But the reality is all those drivers willing to deal with the congestion on Rainier Ave. are doing so for a reason. First/last mile access, safety, ability to carry things, kids, convenience, weather, are all factors.

        Another factor is where are those people going to in their cars, which determines whether the bus is a good alternative. If I am ill and going to First Hill do I want to take a bus and wait outside and have to transfer. Do I feel safe walking along Rainier Ave. in the dark when it gets dark around 4 pm in the winter? How many transfers will my trip take. What about cost if I already have to own a car for other trips so bus fare is extra? And what about local businesses: how will a road diet and let car capacity affect their businesses, which are often hanging on by a thread?

        A road diet reduces overall car capacity. If congestion is bad now people are generally not happy if it is made worse. If you are a driver, doing nothing won’t improve the congestion, but it won’t make it worse either. The key is really how many of those drivers will switch to the bus if a road diet is installed, because that is the whole premise. The political reality is a lot of residents and drivers are going to be angry at the fact their trip got worse, especially if not many switch to transit.

        I drive Rainier infrequently so would leave the decision up to those who live there. I disagree having a grid system so overflow traffic can move from arterials to residential side streets is a good alternative, and maybe a road diet and less car capacity will need some kind of way to prohibit that (speed bumps, no through access, roundabouts), because traffic is like water.

        The Mercer Island council went through a very contentious road diet on Island Crest Way on Mercer Island around 6 years ago. Four lanes were narrowed to three with a left turn lane, mainly to allow left hand turns and allow safer crossings since high school students sometimes need to cross ICW. Of course, it was quite contentious (what isn’t on MI), but in the end the traffic volumes weren’t large enough to make a big difference, especially post pandemic. There wasn’t enough congestion to begin with to get “worse”, although I doubt any driver switched to transit on this very poorly served transit route. Speeds never really declined with a road diet. Really it is congestion that affects speeds.

        If the point however is the congestion is so bad it makes those willing to take the bus take a very slow bus so some kind of dedicated bus lane is necessary that is different. Transit has to have some kind of priority on congested roads, especially if the neighborhood has a significant population who have to take transit, and a large percentage already take the bus.

        In politics doing “something” often makes folks angry because they don’t blame the agency or politicians for the existing state of, in this case, the congestion on Rainier Ave. Drivers figure it is just too many drivers for the road, and blame the other drivers. But if you change the road, and make it worse for drivers, then they blame you. Now the politician or agency owns the problem, and any problem in this area will have “equity” involved.

        It will be interesting to see what is done if anything on Rainier Ave., how many drivers actually switch to transit to at least keep the current congestion at its current levels under a road diet, and how much blow back the agency and politicians get for any change.

        No doubt if the road diet forces drivers to take the bus, and they find out the bus is a good alternative, and drivers switching to transit results in less car congestion (or just the same) anger by the residents and drivers won’t be that great, like on MI (although no one switched to the bus). But that is a big “if”, especially when we really don’t know why all those drivers on Rainier Ave. are willing to deal with the car congestion rather than take the bus today, and where they are going to, or whether they will switch to the bus, so we don’t really know whether the bus is a good alternative for them. If the bus is not a good alternative the agency and politicians implementing a road diet will have stirred up a hornet’s nest.

      15. Why are [the drivers] not taking the bus today despite the traffic congestion?

        Various reasons. But the point is, if the bus is made faster, more people ride it. If they run the bus more often, more people ride it. There is plenty of evidence for this. (By that I mean studies showing that as transit is made faster or more frequent, ridership increases). I can dig up those studies, but this is fairly intuitive. It is worth noting that as a bus is made faster, it costs less to run it. This means that for no additional cost, the 7 could be made faster *and* more frequent with bus lanes — leading to increased ridership.

        Of course there are drivers who won’t switch. But there are plenty of people who will. There are plenty of people who consider taking the bus, but decide to drive, simply because the bus will be stuck in the same traffic *and* stop to pick people up.

        It is worth noting that the 7 is an extremely popular bus. It is one of only five buses that carry over 10,000 a day. Some of those buses are really fast — the 7 isn’t. If they run it faster (and more often) it will carry plenty of riders, including folks that switch from driving.

      16. I agree more people — really discretionary riders — will ride a bus that is faster and more frequent than will ride a bus on the same route that is slower and less frequent. I just don’t know how many drivers on Rainier Ave. will switch to the bus, even if faster and more frequent, because there are many reasons folks choose to drive rather than take the bus, from time of trip, safety, transfers, ultimate destination, kids, need to carry things, weather, and so on, no matter how frequent or fast the bus is.

        Many of those on the 7 already are probably non-discretionary transit riders, which accounts for the heavy ridership, either because they don’t own a car or can’t afford the parking where they are going. But we are talking about folks who currently drive along Rainier Ave. so by definition they are discretionary transit riders, and choose today to not ride the bus for whatever reasons, despite the traffic congestion.

        If they don’t switch to the bus after a road diet traffic congestion will be horrendous on Rainier Ave., and will likely spill into the residential neighborhoods, and they will complain. Loudly. Probably along the lines of all white people think Black people should have — or have — to ride a bus while white people drive, which is really not the case, but that argument will be made. One has to be honest and realize walking along Rainier Ave. in the dark is perceived by some or many as dangerous, and safety is usually a deal breaker when it comes to transit for a discretionary rider.

        If I were SDOT or the elected representatives I would wish I could look into a crystal ball in order to see if enough drivers will switch to the bus after a road diet so the traffic congestion is the same or better than today. I would want to know what kind of political blow back I will receive if the road diet is implemented, which depends entirely on how many think the bus is a very good alternative to driving in this area of the city who don’t think that today.

        It is one thing to make the bus faster or more frequent to attract more discretionary riders, and another to disadvantage cars to force drivers onto transit (although sometimes they are mutually exclusive when we are talking about dedicated transit lanes). I am glad I will not own the political blow back from a road diet on Rainier Ave., and admit I have no idea how a road diet will work or how many drivers will switch to the bus no matter how frequent or fast the bus is, although I have my doubts. At least on the eastside increasing bus frequency or time of trip hasn’t really increased discretionary bus ridership very much.

        I guess worst case scenario they could just restripe Rainier Ave. back if the road diet is too unpopular with the residents and businesses although that would be an unforced political error in a very sensitive neighborhood equity wise.

      17. Without a dedicated bus lane, congestion at 23rd/Rainier actually affects buses worse than cars. The right lane, which the bus has to use, has more cars in it, due to people turning onto 23rd or I-90. A car driving the bus route could just use the left lane. On top of this, you have nearside bus stops, so when the bus finally makes it to the intersection, it has to stop on a green light to opens its doors, and when it’s ready to move, the light is red, so it has to wait yet again.

      18. DT:
        There are cities throughout Europe where around 50% of trips happen on transit. This has nothing to do with Europe having different gravity waves, European governments ability to control weather, or whatever, but a decades long effort to make transit more attractive. That effort has primarily focused on speed.

        Once that has been dealt with, it is vastly easier to work on the rest, as people want to take transit, and demand better solutions to the other issues.

      19. Brandon, there are far too many fundamentally selfish people driving cars for “zipper merges” ever to be smooth. How do you “mandate” a certain behavior at a merge point, how far before the point is it in effect, and who will enforce such a law?

        The only possible way to do so is to put a barrier between the merging lanes from well in front of the merge point and end it a couple of car lengths before the point.

        That’s very dangerous, because non-Washington drivers would not know about the barriers and might get high centered on one or ricochet off and block one lane completely.


      20. Al,

        I appreciate your response, because it has gotten me into looking at SDOT’s traffic flow data.
        I also think you make a good point. What works ‘in general’ doesn’t necessarily work for all situations. I don’t think my overall position on Rainier Ave has changed, but I am thinking about it a little differently.

        Thanks again.

      21. The 7 will eventually be RapidRide R. That was stalled due to lack of funding, but it will probably be the next RapidRide line after G (Madison), H (Delridge), and J (Eastlake). Any rechannelization in the meantime will try to complement that future goal.

    3. Scott,

      I hear your concern about traffic backing up on side streets. But I think one possibility is that more consistent bus lanes will actually reduce traffic on the side streets. Road diets reduce the “highway mentality” that leads people to cut off onto side streets to save a bit of time. Also, right now the bus lanes are intermittent and kind of random, contributing to the sense of disorganization. If Rainier Ave were altogether calmer, and more organized, it might be easier to turn left as well. It’s often easier to turn left across one lane of traffic than two.

      This is part of a more general theme: Rainier Ave is in desperate need of being “rationalized:” it has far too many unsignalized intersections, and far too many places where there should be crosswalks and aren’t. If as part of these changes, they could also improve the signalizing to make it easier for people to turn left onto Rainier or to cross Rainier, it would be a “best of both worlds.”

    4. “relatively few number of people riding the number 7”

      I’m sorry, do we live in the same universe? The 7 has always been one of the highest-ridership routes in Seattle.

      Anyway, the purpose of a bus lane is to encourage people to take the bus instead of driving a car, to make the most efficient use of road space. Part of that is reducing the efficiency of cars.

      It might be worth revisiting the bus service – is there enough service, do buses on Rainier go where the people need to go, et cetera – but traffic congestion proves the need for the bus lane.

  2. Suppose we let the voters near Splainier Ave choose among a car lane, a bus lane, a bike lane, an expanded sidewalk, or a car parking lane on Splainier Ave.

    Which voting method would you prefer:

    (1) selecting just one option.

    (2) putting a check mark next to each option you like.

    (3) ranking the options from 1 to 5.

    1. Since the State requires a binary vote in November, Ranked-Choice is the clear best option, as long as it’s well explained that someone who wins via accumulated non-first-choice votes is just as dutifully elected as someone who wins via accumulated first-choice votes. I’m not sure we’d have Ann Davidson as our city attorney if voters could have selected Pete Holmes as a 2nd choice.

      The only relative benefits Approval Voting seems to have are that it’s slightly simpler to teach and moderately simpler to count. I personally don’t like the idea of my ballot implying I “equally” approve of all selected candidates, but it’s better than having my ballot imply I only like one.

      1. You have it backwards. Ranked choice is simply “Instant-Runoff”. It isn’t like Borda Count, or Minimax, where every ranked choice matters. Since this is an open, non-partisan primary, it only matters if your first choice is fourth or lower. In a three person race (like City Attorney) you would have exactly the same outcome, every time. Instant-Runoff is pointless as a way to narrow the field from three to two candidates.

        In contrast, with approval voting, every choice you make matters. In the case of city attorney, it is quite likely that more people approved of Holmes than anyone else, or at the very least, he comes in second. In a head-to-head matchup against either candidate (in the general) he would probably win.

        With an open primary, ranked-choice only matters if you have lots of candidates (specifically more than three significant candidates). This happens, but rarely. Even in those cases, approval voting is likely to lead to the same two candidates. If not, then it is likely to lead to the same consensus candidate as with the city attorney. I can give example of this if you want (it gets lengthy).

        Basically, approval voting is a scaled down version of a more advanced system. But so to is instant-runoff. They each have their advantages, but with our open primary system, approval voting gives voters more power more often.

      2. Crud. Yeah. Thanks for the correction and explanation. I guess I’m back on the fence about Approval vs RCV.

    2. I’ve long wanted ranked-choice voting, but Brent (or maybe RossB?) convinced me approval voting would be better. I like how ranked choice lets you express degrees of preference: great, good, mediocre, bad. But everybody’s scale is different: I may think my top 3 are great-good-mediocre, while somebody else thinks their top 3 are great-mediocre-mediocre. The formula is oblivious to that, so it’s unclear it will really do what people would expect in the second or third rounds.

      With approval voting, I can’t specify which one is #1, but I can say which ones are OK. There’s normally two or three. And since I can’t be sure the ranked-choice formula will really do what I expect at the #2 and #3 level, maybe it’s better not to try and just to go with who gets the most approvals. That says they’re a good person right there.

      The worst case with approval voting I can think of is if I have a strong #1 and two medium others. I can’t specify which one is #1. But the winner will be the one with the most approvals, and that says they have the most widespread support. And it avoids the problem of not being able to say two others would also be OK.

      And approval voting makes it easy to vote against the bad ones: you just don’t approve them. With ranked-choice voting, you can either rank them lowest or leave them blank. It’s not clear which is better, or whether it makes a difference. It could make a difference if your #3, #4, and #5 are bad, and somebody else’s #3 is OK, and a third person leaves those blank.

      1. If ranked choice voting used the minimax system, I would be in favor of it. If we didn’t have open primaries, then I would be in favor of ranked-choice. But given our open primary system, it would rarely make things better. In contrast, approval voting would lead to a better outcome in more cases with our current system.

        It is worth noting that there is no perfect system. There is no consensus among experts. Philosophers will argue about it, but like most things philosophers argue about, there is no consensus.

      2. One problem with this usage of approval voting is that the two candidates who advance to the general election will probably be co-candidates who endorsed approving each other (and urged their supporters not to approve anyone else).

        Ranked choice voting will probably yield finalists who have significant policy disagreements with each other.

        Regardless, I hope Julie Anderson gets elected Secretary of State and follows through on her promises to push through electoral reform legislation, so we can have ranked choice voting or approval voting among four or five candidates in the general election.

      3. Mike,

        If I convinced you to support approval over ranked choice, that was not my intention.

        I far prefer getting to express as many levels of relative support as there are candidates, rather than have to put each candidate in one of the two buckets for co-first choices and co-last choices.

        Also I am a big fan of the proportional ranked choice voting system that is on the ballot in Portland. Except for the messiness of districting that they chose to keep. I suppose they thought the Golden Rule of Representation needs training wheels.

      4. One problem with this usage of approval voting is that the two candidates who advance to the general election will probably be co-candidates who endorsed approving each other (and urged their supporters not to approve anyone else).

        That would only occur if the majority of the population supports those two candidates. Otherwise, that strategy is bound to fail. If the two candidates are overwhelmingly popular, I would think the ability to advance is a feature, not a bug.

        Realistically, I don’t see it happening. That sort of gamesmanship is unlikely to occur. People tend to vote based on the person running as much as their policies. For example, while I may agree with Sawant on many issues, I am unlikely to support her, as I consider her ineffective. If she was running with another (more effective ) Socialist, and there was a decent Democrat running, I would be more likely to approve of the other Socialist and the Democrat than vote some “party line”. I doubt I am alone.

      5. The Stranger just put out an interesting argument for voting NO on Prop 1, but Yes on Prop 1B, as a “signal” that RCV is the best voting system but only when it’s the general election, and explains that apparently there is interest in the State Legislature in allowing local elections to do away with Primaries if they want. Hence, they’re suggesting the city wait until they have the authority to combine the Primary and General into one RCV ballot.


      6. Ross is wrong about approval voting requiring a majority for anything.

        It would be very simple for the Chamber to anoint two candidates in the primary, urge everyone to approve both of those candidates, and only those two candidates, and have them be the two who advance, even if they are only approved by 30% of voters who cast ballots in the primary.

        We’ve already seen bullet-voting become the norm in Fargo. Read Sightline’s data-informed analyses of what has happened in the real-life large-scale elections where approval voting is used.

        If ranked choice voting is allowed in the general, with as many choices as there are candidates, then the eventual winner will have gotten a majority of votes among all voters who filled out enough of their ballot to not run out of back-up choices.

        An approval voting general would tend to devolve into something resembling single-choice plurality elections, with candidates urging their supporters to only approve them. We could end up easily having the winners not getting a majority. That strikes me as a big step backward.

        Regardless, I have faith that the electorate will be able to grasp the basics, and will choose RCV over Approval, just like nearly all the endorsement groups have done (including 6 of the 7 district Democrat clubs, the League of Women Voters, etc). So, be confident in voting Yes on question 1.

        Even though we’re stuck with two-go-forward at the moment, getting to rank a few candidates in the primary is a huge step forward from only getting to choose one.

      7. I far prefer getting to express as many levels of relative support as there are candidates, rather than have to put each candidate in one of the two buckets for co-first choices and co-last choices.

        That is understandable. My point is that most of the time, approval voting will either lead to the same result, or a better one. By better I mean one that more closely matches voter intent (e. g. the Condorcet Winner).

        Also I am a big fan of the proportional ranked choice voting system that is on the ballot in Portland.

        Portland is thinking about adopting “Single Transferable Vote” (STV). I would definitely consider this better than “Instant Runoff” (IR). They are both forms of ranked choice voting, but STV incorporates the opinion of winners, not just distant losers. In IR, the ranking only matters if your candidate is eliminated — otherwise, it is no different than the current system. In contrast, with STV, if your candidate wins, your second choice may determine who also makes it to the general election.

        Consider the race for City Attorney (https://ballotpedia.org/City_attorney_election_in_Seattle,_Washington_(August_3,_2021,_top-two_primary). The cutoff point becomes a third of the votes. NTK got 36%. It is quite possible a lot of her “excess votes” would have gone to Holmes (not Davison). Thus there is a good chance the race would have been between Holmes and NTK, with Holmes winning.

        With District 9, things wouldn’t have changed. This is a classic “weak middle” case (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IRVCopeland.png). The moderate simply didn’t have enough support. In this race, the top two candidates advance, simply because they had over 40%. So in this case, it is no better than the current system. In contrast, other RCV systems (like Copeland’s method) would handle that.

        I really think, though, that approval voting is underappreciated. It is a simplified form that works out quite well in most cases. As Wikipedia puts it, “Brams argues that approval voting usually elects Condorcet winners in practice”. I guess my first choice would be Ranked Choice with the Kemeny–Young method, but approval voting leads to similar results. In a vote amongst voting experts, approval voting was the plurality winner, although the vote itself was not necessarily representative of the opinion of the experts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_electoral_systems.

      8. It would be very simple for the Chamber to anoint two candidates in the primary, urge everyone to approve both of those candidates, and only those two candidates, and have them be the two who advance, even if they are only approved by 30% of voters who cast ballots in the primary.

        If they are only approved by 30%, it is unlikely they would advance. Consider a real world scenario:

        Two Socialists, one Democrat and one Republican are running. This is a typical Seattle scenario, although they might avoid the labels. Assume that the two Socialists run as a block. They encourage voters to vote for them, and just them. The Stranger does the same. 30% of the voters do that. So what? 50% of the voters chose a Democrat and at least one of the Socialists. The Democrat advances to face one of the Socialists.

        Strategic voting is possible with any voting system. It is just rare in most cases. When I think about local elections — especially in the primary — it is rarely a problem. Nor is the “wasted vote” situation common (which IR handles quite well). The most common problem is the consensus candidate — who would win in every head-to-head matchup — does not advance. Approval voting handles this situation, while IR does not.

      9. Even though we’re stuck with two-go-forward at the moment, getting to rank a few candidates in the primary is a huge step forward from only getting to choose one.

        I respectfully disagree. I can’t think of a single case where Instant-Runoff would have made a difference. I think it will be nothing more than political theater. We will feel good about ranking candidates, but at the end of the day, the result will be just the same as if we had chosen the current system (simply because we have an open primary).

        In contrast, approval voting would definitely made a difference in one, maybe two of the primary elections last time.

      10. Approval voting is not even contemplated under Arrow’s theorem, since it is not a ranked choice system. It is more in the same class as single-choice voting. Indeed, it tends to devolve into plurality voting in real-world elections.

      11. Approval voting is not even contemplated under Arrow’s theorem, since it is not a ranked choice system.

        No, of course not. It wouldn’t make sense for Arrow’s theorem to look at approval voting, because the theorem is specifically aimed at ranked choice systems. It is not a general theorem that can be applied to every vote, such as Condorcet Winner.

        I honestly don’t know what your point is by bringing up Arrow’s theorem.

      12. My point is that approval voting is barely a reform at all.

        If it is used among three or more candidates in the general, that could easily lead to a non-majority winner, which is actually worse than the status quo. RCV with instant runoffs and enough rankings allowed will get a majority winner (among those who fill out enough choices).

        Consider this twist though; Using a ranked ballot and awarding the victory to a candidate who achieves the Condorcet criterion (beating every other candidate head-to-head). Then use an instant runoff to eliminate the last-place candidate on first choices. Test for Condorcet again. Repeat until down to two, at which point there is either a Condorcet winner or (extremely unlikely) a tie.

        I haven’t studied all the game theory implications, but it would be a great way to end a multi-decade feud between the Center for Election Science (which likes the Condorcet criterion) , and Fairvote (which obviously likes ranked choice voting, in part because that moves elected bodies one step away from proportional representation).

      13. My point is that approval voting is barely a reform at all.

        I disagree. I’ve mentioned two races in the last primary (city attorney and one of the city council races) where the results would likely be different. You can’t mention one race where instant-runoff would make a bit of difference. In the case of those two races, we know they wouldn’t.

        As for alternatives, there are a bunch. Many of them would be better than both systems they are considering, but none are perfect. Just look at those Wikipedia pages.

    3. Fun fact: Fargo voters just passed term limits in June. So much for their confidence in approval voting to make elections more competitive.

      The candidates kept telling their supporters not to approve anyone else.

      Yeah, I know Sarah Palin told her supporters not to rank anyone else in Alaska’s first RCV election. That back-fired on her. (When I was up there, I heard how she pushed bike paths when she was Mayor of Wasilla, FWIW.)

      1. So much for their confidence in approval voting to make elections more competitive.

        Who said anything about approval voting making elections more competitive. Neither instant-runoff or approval-voting makes a race more competitive. If there is a widely popular incumbent, they will win regardless of the system.

        The advantage of instant-runoff or approval voting is that you don’t waste votes. The advantage of approval voting is that unlike instant-runoff, you elect consensus-candidates, instead of having to choose between extreme candidates in the general election.

      2. Palin asking for supporters to not rank anyone else just shows her stupidity. There would be a bloc that would have ranked her #2 — but by encouraging voters to only rank one candidate as an option, she discouraged voters from ranking second and third choices. Since the less popular candidates are who would get removed in the instant runoff counting and with her being #2 in the primary, she should have known better.

        I also think Alaskans had enough of Palin as there were multiple questionable things she did as Governor for personal gain. She charged the state for per diem lodging on days she worked ftom home!

      3. Candidates will say anything, but hopefully voters will rank/approve all candidates they’d be OK with. If one popular candidate asks people to vote for only one, or two candidates ask them to vote for only those two, hopefully there will be public pushback in The Stranger and other places saying that’s throwing away your hard-won democratic opportunity. In recent mayoral and city council elections, I’ve had one favorite and one or two others, so I’d rank/approve all of them. It may take some voter education to get people to realize it’s worth looking at all the candidates, not just the one or two who try to recruit you.

      4. With ranked choice voting, it is to your benefit to rank all but one of the candidates, so you still have a say in stopping the candidate you least want elected.

        With approval voting, it is to your benefit to approve only your favorite candidate, so you don’t help your second-favorite-candidate defeat your favorite.

        In Seattle’s specific case, it is to your advantage to approve exactly two candidates in the primary, Groups that figure this out will try to put together blocs of two candidates in each race, and dissuade candidates who could dilute their two-bullet-voting strategy. Yes , some will rank more, but most won’t, once they grasp the math.

      5. As I wrote before, both systems can have tactical and strategic voting. Wikipedia covers this quite well*. To quote one page:

        The Center for Election Science points out that any voting method is subject to tactical voting with more than two candidates, as pointed out in Gibbard’s theorem.

        I’m really not that worried that people will use such techniques. I’m more worried that once again, we will nominate people on the fringes, while the consensus middle candidate — the candidate that would easily beat either of the other two in the general election — doesn’t advance. (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/IRVCopeland.png). You are suggesting hypothetical scheming by various candidates, while I’m favoring a system that would have eliminated an actual problem that occurred in just the last election.

        * Here is the one for Instant-Runoff: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting. Approval voting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Approval_voting. Comparison of various voting systems: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_electoral_systems. Check out the chart at the bottom. Notice that instant-runoff has plenty of flaws, and we can go through the various scenarios all day, just like we can with approval voting. There is no perfect voting system.

      6. Candidates telling their supporters to only approve them is not “hypothetical”. It is what happened in Fargo, with most ballots only approving one candidate.

        Approval voting has not favored moderates as the approval voting think tank had long hypothesized. Real scientists would ditch their hypothesis once the data in experiments fails to come close to their predictions.

        Those who predicted bullet voting under approval voting, and that moderates would not be advantaged, now get to tell the CfES “We told you so.” (I’m not one of them. I predicted voters would be confused and confounded how to cast an effective approval ballot. I was wrong. And so was the CfES.)

      7. I can tell you plenty of races, like the last two mayoral races, where I would have loved to rank several candidates in the primary. The primary two races ago was close enough that additional choices had a strong possibility of advancing a different second-place candidate to the general election.

        That’s without even considering the effect RCV has on who is willing to run.

        Approval voting would also have likely changed the field. The Chamber would have likely recruited a co-candidate for Jenny Durkan, in hopes they could shut non-chamber-backed candidates out of the general.

        If approval voting was already in the general, Nikita Oliver would probably have told her supporters to only approve her. That would have been enough to ensure Durkan’s non-majority victory (and her campaign would have urged voters to only approve her).

      8. I’m undecided again now. There are so many plausable arguments for either ranked-choice or approval, that it’s hard to tell which is better or would meet my expectations more. We must get out of this wasted-vote situation, yet 1A or 1B? I feel like I don’t know now, and if I still don’t know when I vote then I’ll have to make an arbitrary choice. Many other voters must have similar uncertainty, or don’t even know this much about the options. Some may simply follow what their favorite campaign group suggests.

      9. I can tell you plenty of races, like the last two mayoral races, where I would have loved to rank several candidates in the primary.

        Yes, but the results would have been exactly the same. In the last mayoral race, the vast majority of people supported the two experienced, qualified candidates, even if more fringe candidates might have been their first choice. All three systems would have lead to the same result. The mayoral race is one case where the system really is working in terms of picking the consensus candidate. Harrell, for example, would likely beat every candidate in a head-to-head match. Likewise when Durkan ran (and her opponents were fairly weak).

        The Chamber would have likely recruited a co-candidate for Jenny Durkan, in hopes they could shut non-chamber-backed candidates out of the general.

        If that did happen, it is unlikely they would be successful. Even if they were successful, at worse we would have the exact same results as we had anyway.

        If approval voting was already in the general, Nikita Oliver would probably have told her supporters to only approve her.

        Maybe, but it is unlikely that The Stranger would have recommended that. If you read the editorials (by both The Stranger and The Seattle Times) they praised Thomas. The Stranger liked her, but felt like she wasn’t quite as good as Oliver, while The Seattle Times also like her, but felt like she was too connected to the existing city council. It was common back in the day for The Seattle Times to recommend more than one candidate (a Republican and a Democrat) in the primary. It would be quite likely that both papers would recommend approving at least two candidates (unless, of course, they felt like only one candidate merited serious consideration). Thus it is quite likely that both papers would have “approved” of Thomas. The Stranger, simply because they liked Oliver, and would love to see a race between Thomas and Oliver; The Seattle Times because they would essentially say “if you must vote for a leftist, she is the better one”.

        That is the part of this that everyone seems to be ignoring. Local politics in this city comes down to two opposing forces: The Seattle Times and The Stranger. I can’t think of a winning candidate that lacked support from at least one of the papers in the primary. In contrast, Holmes lost because he wasn’t supported by either one. It is really startling to think that Holmes — an incumbent who had breezed through previous races and was not involved in any sort of scandal — gets knocked off in the primary. It is quite likely he would have beat either candidate in the general election. But because he didn’t get the endorsement of either paper, he was out. The same is true of Thomas. She was the most experienced, qualified candidate and a progressive leader (largely responsible for the $15 minimum wage). She lost the race simply because neither paper endorsed her. We simply lack an editorial board in this city that is capable of representing the middle for this city. (Or if we do, it is largely ignored.) The voters don’t want Oliver. They don’t want Nelson. They really don’t want Davison, and sure as hell don’t want NTK. But our system — fed by the extremist editorial boards — leads them to those choices.

        Which, by the way, is why this argument is largely pointless. We all know what will happen. Neither proposal will become law, because both editorial boards oppose it. We will have what we have now, and go back to complaining about how ineffectual the candidates are (largely because solid, moderate candidates get ignored by the editorial staffs of the two most powerful newspapers in the city).

  3. DT: “[Amsterdam] would not be in my top ten cities to live in.”

    Why not?

    If we narrowed it to your top three European cities, would that make a difference?

    1. Oh man, for a second there I thought you meant the rapper died. This makes more sense, as this is a transit blog. Sad, but not as sad as the death of a relatively young artist.

    2. I met Eclipse, and got a selfie with her, at the release party for her picture book, “Dog on Board”. Bought one copy for my then-kindergarden nephew, and kept one for myself.

    1. I think they will get historic status. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing. The problem isn’t historic status, it is suggesting that historic status means you can’t change the zoning. I realize this has happened in the past, but it doesn’t mean it should happen now. So far as I know, the exclusion really didn’t mean much, either, in that houses could still be replaced by other houses. Someone feel free to correct me.

      Thus the historic status is just marketing, with maybe extra money from the state to maintain existing apartments (which sounds like a good thing to me). The key is to ignore it when it comes to wide-spread zoning changes, which hopefully will happen soon. Part of the reason why previous historic districts were able to carve out exclusions was because of the “all or nothing” nature of “urban villages”. Make changes throughout the city (e. g. legal lowrise everywhere) and the case for excluding these so called “historic” areas becomes especially weak.

      1. My guess is the goal of historic status is to prevent upzoning, past and future. Does anyone know what the boundaries of the new historic district will be? I could see a lot of areas wanting to be part of it.

        Usually a historic district comes with a design board with the ability to review and enforce what are basically covenants on new construction that supersede city zoning, not unlike Pioneer Square until the Board was stacked with cronies. I think there is already a Wallingford association because Doug Trumm at the Urbanist used to whine that they would not allow him to join (although IIRC he rented an apartment on Stone Way so I am not sure what his qualifications would be).

        I was really impressed with the gentrification that has occurred in Wallingford when I drove through it a few weeks ago compared to when I lived near there in the 1980’s. The SFH south of 45th were immaculate.

        I doubt the council or Harrell will adopt some kind of blanket wide upzoning of SFH zones in Seattle (in part because the city does not need such upzoning to meet its GMPC housing targets so why upzone) after the bruising MFH, so my guess is this application for historical status has to do with making sure the design of any new SFH matches existing architecture including a garage and yard, and maybe to eliminate the MFH allowance for three legal dwellings per lot, and lot vegetation, paint color, upkeep, etc. I don’t know why Wallingford would feel it needs to market itself. If anything the neighborhood wants to de-market itself.

        The other option I am surprised more neighborhoods have not pursued is a HOA, which trump zoning regulations. They take unanimous consent among those who want to join, and usually are created before the area is developed, but I would think that over time properties in Wallingford would want to join and the HOA would expand. There are lots and lots of places in Seattle zoned for multi-family with large lots ripe for development when the market and interest rates are more favorable. No reason to ruin a beautiful and historic neighborhood like the SFH zone in Wallingford IMO, which apparently is how Wallingford homeowners feel which is what matters.

        It is a new day in Seattle. The CID shuts down a second station for WSBLE and Wallingford wants to opt out of Seattle zoning.

      2. “Does anyone know what the boundaries of the new historic district will be?”

        The map in the article shows 45th to 50th, Interlake Ave N (east of Stone Way) to 5th Ave NE. It doesn’t include the buildings on 45th or Interlake, just the ones behind them.

      3. Before 1940, the Meridian Streetcar line served Fremont, Wallingford, Tangletown, and Latona. It would be great if SDOT and Metro would allow Route 62 to follow that pathway. Route 20 might go away. Route 62 would be several minutes faster if it served NE 65th Street, Latona Avenue NE, and NE 56th Street rather than deviating north to Woodlawn Avenue NE and serving the narrrow roads such as Kirkwood Place North. Yes, pavement management is needed along the entire route from North 35th Street to the north.

      4. Interesting. From what I can tell — based on this page the streetcar went this way after crossing the Fremont Bridge: https://goo.gl/maps/CXD61QXcSGhqWJY99.

        I agree about sending the 62 that way (between 65th and 45th). That would speed up the bus, and eliminate the need for two buses in Tangletown. I would not get rid of the 20, but send it to Greenwood. That would save a lot of service hours and serve a very important corridor that is one of the few that doesn’t detour to serve Northgate. (Unlike every other route, Northgate would be “on the way”). I would run it opposite the 45, which would double up service along 85th.

        This is actually similar to what the planners originally had in mind, except they wanted to run the bus on 80th. Overall, it was a good idea, but running two buses five blocks apart (with neither being anywhere near the point where frequency no longer matters) is a bad idea. Routes should be consolidated on corridors until they reach a saturation point (e .g 6 minutes, if not even more frequent).

  4. I am not saying Amsterdam is not a nice city, and there is a big difference between the touristy city center and the outer Dutch neighborhoods.

    Probably first would be I don’t speak Dutch, which is not an easy language to learn. Most of the K-12 public education is in Dutch.

    It is also cold, which might be the biggest factor if at my age my wife and I were looking to be expats. Housing costs are quite high, depending on whether you use social or private housing, and many citizens in Amsterdam spend up to 70% of their income on housing. I also don’t like how Amsterdam shops close so early, usually by 6. Plus everything is quite small in Amsterdam. A table for two at a bar is the size of a dinner plate.

    I like U.S. sports, and I like this country’s attitude and approach to life. Americans are usually very positive. I find the Dutch to be very reserved and somewhat pessimistic, like a lot of Europeans.

    Probably my top ten cities to live in would be in the U.S. including Seattle. I like San Francisco, and the cities around it like Tiburon if money is no option. Same with LA and San Diego. I love San Luis Obispo but don’t know what I would do there. Honolulu is great to visit but I don’t know if I could live there full time culturally. I really liked Phoenix when we had a house there but that ended in 2012 and it has really grown. The desert is a sea with its life underground. If I were going to be an expat at this stage in my life in Europe Barcelona would be high on my list. I really like Spain. I also love Paris but have never lived there, only visited over the years.

    Transit and transportation would have zero influence in my decision where to live. I like salt water and mountains and green spaces, I like some sun now and then, and I like positive people. I lived in Dublin for two years and only owned a bike, and biking five miles to the laundromat in the freezing rain was not my favorite thing. Or realizing I had a long bike ride home at midnight when I was drunk. Ireland was very poor in the early 1980’s and the Irish are clinically depressed, but artistically creative.

    I also lived in London. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time and London is very, very expensive so you feel like you are always looking in from the outside. What I could not stand about London was the class structure: just the way you learned to speak as a child categorized you, and how far you could go,a dn which universities. Very pretty and historical city, and I could speak the language, but cold and wet and very crowded. Wales is pretty but cold and as depressed as Ireland. I had a girlfriend from outside Le Mans in France, but the rural parts of France are so depressed it makes you depressed. On my first trip there I was informed the house where we were having dinner the father had drowned himself in a pond on the farm earlier in the year. They said it like that was normal.

    But in the end my wife will likely never leave our house on Mercer Island, or our house on Whidbey Island which she thinks is the perfect balance of urban and rural. I think Seattle is many, many times better to live in than Amsterdam, but just needs to get its shit in order. It was only around 5 or 6 years ago Seattle was considered the hottest city in the world to live. I would love to walk to East Link to jump on a train that drops me off in a vibrant downtown Seattle that was safe and vibrant from 5th to the waterfront.

    1. Most of the people in the Netherlands speak English just fine (around 90 to 93% fluency*). I just wanted to point that out in case someone decides to visit or move there. I don’t them to get the idea that they need to brush up on their Dutch or Frisian.

      I’m not sure why you mentioned any of this, as it has nothing to do with anything. I mentioned that Rick Steves considers Amsterdam very beautiful. Rick Steves literally wrote the book on European travel, which is why it matters. Who the hell cares what you or I prefer. I like more mountains — who gives a sh**. My greater point was that Amsterdam was pedestrian friendly, which was one of the many things that Steves likes about the city. If they had implemented a lot of the proposals (with major highways and freeways through town) the city would not have been as pretty.

      * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_in_the_Netherlands

      1. Mike asked Ross. Having been there several times I felt I could answer Mike’s question about why it would not be MY first choice to live, which is what Mike asked. I don’t know why you brought up Amsterdam in the first place, although it is an open thread. Many cities are “pedestrian friendly”,a nd most have some part that is pedestrian friendly. So what. Downtown Bellevue is pedestrian friendly, and it has no highway through its core along Bellevue Way. I still would not want to live in downtown Bellevue. Have you actually been to Amsterdam, or this is another opinion like Montreal.

      2. I don’t know why you brought up Amsterdam in the first place

        Then why don’t you read the comment! Seriously, it isn’t that hard. I’ll quote that part again:

        Amsterdam (and much of Europe) had a similar debate in the early 70s, and the automobile advocates lost. As a result, Amsterdam is one of the most pedestrian friendly, if not prettiest cities on earth. (Rick Steves was once quoted as saying Amsterdam is the prettiest of European cities, if not the prettiest city he has ever visited (I can’t remember the exact quote)).

        Not once did you address that argument. It is a pretty basic one — the city is more attractive and pedestrian friendly because they didn’t run freeways through the center of it. The overall attractive nature goes along with being pedestrian friendly, which in turn means fewer people drive. It is attractive enough that a premier travel expert that specializes in European travel considers it the prettiest city in Europe, if not the world. Are you really arguing that it would be just as attractive if they ran freeways through it? Do you think people would walk just as much?

        You then went on to write that it “definitely would not be in my top ten cities to live in”. As it turns out, every single reason you gave had nothing to do with transit, nor anything to do with my original point. This begs the question — why mention that in the first place? It is completely irrelevant, but that didn’t stop you from sharing your opinion (in a passive aggressiveness manner). It is as if you are alluding to saying something significant, when it turns out there is nothing that has anything to do with my original point, or transit.

        This all looks like trolling. Maybe it isn’t intentional. Maybe you just spout out your opinion, and have trouble sticking to the matter at hand. But the fact that we have spent paragraph after paragraph on side issues (like the merits of Amsterdam) is annoying. I really don’t want to go through your comments and rip out the various sections that have nothing to do with transit, or the comments based on those comments, etc. Nobody does. This is why I suggest you simply stick to the subject at hand, and not offer your opinion on things that have nothing to do with transit. It’s not that hard. Really.

      3. To be fair Ross, some of the reasons he noted are pretty valid even if not transit related for why it would be difficult to live there. But sort of do play a role in making overall quality of life appealing somewhere.
        – The Netherlands while very English friendly as a tourist, living there is a completely different matter. Breauacracy is done in Dutch, either speaking with civil servants or filling out paperwork. Dealing with any customer service issues you have need to be done in Dutch, making friends with locals beyond expats requires learning Dutch, and to be naturalized and considered integrated into Dutch society you need to learn Dutch.
        -Housing is expensive, the average price in Amsterdam is €400,000 for a house and getting rent controlled housing is a decade plus long waiting list. The rest of the Randstad is just as expensive. And the rest of the country is not far behind. There are Dutch folks I know who have moved to either Beligum or Germany for cost relief on housing.
        – The weather is like the PNW, winters are cold, dark, and rainy with high amounts of overcast and a blink it and you’ll miss it summers. Which some people like other people less so.
        – The Dutch are fairly reserved, very direct, time sensitive people. If you want to plan something with a Dutch person, spontaneous meetup are a rare thing for Dutch people. People will plan things a couple weeks just to meet for coffee unless they’re pretty close with the person. Which makes it difficult sometimes for new expats or immigrants to make friends with other locals.

        To be honest these are things I’ve considered when looking at moving abroad to Europe long term. I’m looking at both Beligum and France as a couple options to get my masters and then plant down roots there in starting a new life abroad. I’d consider transit important to me but at the same time, other quality of life factors are important to finding a place I’d really want to live. Amsterdam is beautiful, but it’s not a place I’d want to live either. It suffers a bit from Disneyland syndrome, which is to say it’s quaint and beautiful as a tourist but there’s a different reality to living there as a resident in such a city. I lived in Florence for 9 months and while I loved it there, it’s not a place I’d want to live more than a couple years or have a vacation home there that I can visit periodically.

      4. “I don’t know why you brought up Amsterdam in the first place”

        Amsterdam is a convenient example of a walkable, bikeable, transit-rich city, with middle housing. It represents other European cities that also have some of those things, like Düsseldorf, Zürich, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris, Barcelona, Granada, etc. Amsterdam has a good combination of these things in one convenient package, so it’s easier to talk about it than about all the cities like it. You can visualize one smallish city or neighborhood, and get pictures of it online and know people who’ve been there, easier than you can talk about European cities in general. The Netherlands is the same thing on a national scale. We could talk about Switzerland instead, but fewer people have been there, and its political/cultural situation is unique in many ways, so not as applicable to other European cities or something we could do in the US.

        I asked Daniel why not Amsterdam because I was curious how he’d weigh walkability/transit vs business contacts or high-end shopping or whatever other factors he considers important. I didn’t think about language, and I wasn’t really asking about that. I was asking how he’d weigh a generic city like Amsterdam. To see how that would apply to an American/Pugetopolan context. I’d rather live in a German-speaking country than a Dutch-speaking one, because I know German, it’s more useful in Europe and the world as a while, and it has interesting letters (äöüß) and sounds. But that’s irrelevant to the transit/commercial/retail/recreation issues I was thinking about.

        Dutch isn’t that difficult to learn; it’s easier than German. The US Foreign Service puts it in Category 1 — the easiest for English speakers — alongside Spanish and French. Dutch has a bit more case/plural/verb complexity. The Romance languages have a lot of verb complexity. German is in Category 2 because of the four noun cases. Russian is in Category 4, with six cases, different verb paradigms, a different alphabet, and palatized sounds English doesn’t have. (My professor said, “If you don’t grimace when you say “pyat'” (five), you’re saying it wrong.”)

      5. I agree, Zach. The reasons he gave for not wanting to live in Amsterdam are quite valid. I wouldn’t want to live there either — it is too far from the mountains.

        But none of them have anything to do with transit. None of them have anything to do with the original point I made. This is just being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. At best it is an attempt to weaken the argument by obfuscation.

        The whole point of bringing up Amsterdam in the first place was to counter the argument Daniel made earlier, which was that “historically car drivers have won out”. That is largely true in the United States, but not true in much of Europe, with Amsterdam being the classic case. Did Daniel address that point? No! Of course not. The secondary point was that because “cars lost”, the city was a lot prettier and pedestrian friendly; thus fewer people drove (and more took transit). Did he address the secondary point, about the general beauty, walkability and non-driving in Amsterdam? No! Of course not. Instead, he made a backhanded insult about Amsterdam. Mike took the bait, and asked him why he didn’t like Amsterdam, and thus we learn all about Daniel’s taste in sports, among other trivia. This of course was followed by more useless chatter (including some I engaged in).

        But again, all of that misses the point, which is why these sorts of discussions are so frustrating. We start by arguing a fairly simple thing. In this case: “Can public policy reduce automobile usage?” I think this is clearly the case. People drive less if the public transportation (or biking and walking) is better than driving. People drive less if it is a lot more expensive to drive. I think this is self-evident, but there is also plenty of studies to support this idea.

        But next thing you know, we are arguing a side topic of a side topic. We are even arguing whether I am being a good moderator, even though I’m not the main moderator of this blog! Martin is in charge. There are six other people who are “Current Staff”. The only reason I can moderate the blog is that I was asked to provide a few “Open Threads” to keep this blog going (and moderating rights come along with posting rights). Any one of the staff is free to step in, moderate the comments, including ones that I’ve made. Other than fixing typos (which I assume everyone appreciates) I have rarely moderated this blog. I believe I’ve only done it once, and it was for exactly this. Daniel had started a conversation that had nothing to do with transit, and that had devolved into paragraph after paragraph of arguments that have nothing to do with transit.

        I would rather not have to step in, and edit these comments. I prefer education over editing. That is why I told Daniel (admittedly in a very blunt and perhaps rude way) that his comments had no relevance *for this blog*. It would be like me talking about basketball. Of course my opinions on the sport matter, but this is not the place to share them. If you just stick to transit and the actual arguments that are being made, we wouldn’t have this problem.

      6. I think another poster had a good suggestion: Ross should just take his two themes he repeats over and over — 1. cars are bad; and 2. SFH zones should be upzoned (without really understanding the difference between use and regulatory zoning) and put them on Tik Tok so in the future he can just link to them and not feel the need to insult others.

        “The whole point of bringing up Amsterdam in the first place was to counter the argument Daniel made earlier, which was that “historically car drivers have won out”. That is largely true in the United States, but not true in much of Europe, with Amsterdam being the classic case.”

        Well yes, we are in the United States so I tend to focus on the U.S. Too often Ross romanticizes places in the world he has read about but never been to let alone lived there. I have been, and I prefer to live in the U.S. When you do know an area you learn the pretty pictures on the brochure don’t tell the whole story, like Montreal’s lower housing costs are because its AMI is so damn low. Is that Ross suggests we solve Seattle’s affordable housing problem?

        “We start by arguing a fairly simple thing. In this case: “Can public policy reduce automobile usage?” I think this is clearly the case. People drive less if the public transportation (or biking and walking) is better than driving. People drive less if it is a lot more expensive to drive. I think this is self-evident, but there is also plenty of studies to support this idea.”

        No, Ross YOU begin by ARGUING, when in reality there is no right or wrong when it comes to these issues. Amsterdam is not correct and the U.S. wrong, or vice versa.

        Some of these discretionary issues might be a fun argument for an obscure blog with like-minded folks, but if there is one thing I have tried to point out over and over on this blog is transportation, transit, and zoning are discretionary political decisions. If more people than you want something differently then that is what politicians will give them. STOP with the links to something you just found on the net, because you can find something on the net to support any argument and look at reality. If you want change you need more than obscure links to articles on the web. You have to get out of your bedroom, and still you will likely lose when it comes to many of the goals on this blog because around 80% of most Americans disagree. I hate to say it but most on this blog are well out of the political mainstream, even for this region.

        Are the voters wrong? NO, they are right, because that is how it is. They won. Forget about links to articles on the internet.

        Is the U.S. — or even Seattle — going to become like Amsterdam (let alone the eastside)? No. So why even raise Amsterdam? Would congestion pricing work in Seattle even if tried? Of course not. THERE IS NO CONGESTION, and Seattle does not have jurisdiction over I-5, 95% of the citizens would rebel, and folks outside would just avoid Seattle like they do already today.

        There is “theory” and there is reality. Seattleites own 460,000 cars. The West Seattle Bridge was reality, this blog is theory. If the goal is to improve transit, despite real financial headwinds, that is reality, but someone is going to have to find the money, something rarely discussed on this blog. You can upzone the world and ban cars but coverage and frequency depend on someone else’s money, don’t the. If the goal is to eliminate or prejudice cars to force folks onto transit that generally does not work in the U.S., especially post pandemic. Which is why the U.S. is not Amsterdam. If Ross has a plan to actually make any part of this country Amsterdam (and which parts of Amsterdam because it isn’t all good) then I would be interested to hear that because that is when reality comes into play.

        Stop telling me Tokyo or Amsterdam or Montreal are “better”, especially if you have never lived or even been there. Politics are local. You live in Seattle. That is reality. Tell me what you want in Seattle and more importantly how you will obtain it, and then we can have an “argument” about whether there is a chance in hell (especially if you are the folks without the money), because there is no wrong or right, except what a majority of citizens demand from their politicians or donate to their campaigns, and for those citizens and their elected leaders transit is around number 20 (or lower), and upzoning SFH zones not worth the fight because it is unnecessary and won’t create affordable housing, and the pros know that.

        My advice I got from my high school debate coach was rather beginning an argument by telling someone they are wrong, or insulting them, because you don’t who is right or wrong until the chips are counted, begin your “argument” by saying I respectfully disagree with your “position” and this is why. Then we can get to whether there is a chance in hell it is possible politically, and usually it is not because stasis is the natural state in politics.

        Harrell lives in the real world. The real world begins with money, because cities like Seattle need a lot of money. He just lost 60% of his downtown workforce, which were the folks with the money. He would much rather have a clogged tunnel AND Alaskan Way Viaduct than the situation today.

        The number one rule about money — for cities and countries — is money can move. If you love transit, and it is either 80% or 60% (actually closer to 80%) subsidized by general tax revenues for Metro and ST respectively. Money is moving out of Seattle. That is bad. It is moving to the eastside and other areas, and transit has almost nothing to do with it, although artificially high parking rates in Seattle don’t help.

        I don’t mind the ad hominem attacks or insults towards me because that just means someone’s argument is weak. I do mind it though when those attacks on something as discretionary as transportation, transit and zoning suppress voices I would really like to hear, rather than the repetitive and monotheistic posts I do see from very few readers.

      7. “The whole point of bringing up Amsterdam in the first place was to counter the argument Daniel made earlier, which was that “historically car drivers have won out”. That is largely true in the United States, but not true in much of Europe, with Amsterdam being the classic case. Did Daniel address that point? No! Of course not. The secondary point was that because “cars lost”, the city was a lot prettier and pedestrian friendly; thus fewer people drove (and more took transit). Did he address the secondary point, about the general beauty, walkability and non-driving in Amsterdam? No!”

        He did implicitly; he implies cars should win. I wanted to see how he’d apply it to an Amsterdam or European context, how much he’d really throw away all the advantages of being able to walk to your daily needs, or easily bike or take transit on high-quality infrastructure. Dutch people have taken highly to it, and our (urbanists’) belief is that Americans would too if they had the opportunity. Not just a few expensive urban villages that end after a half-mile or mile, but an entire city or country that’s more designed for humans.

        The issue is, it’s not just Daniel, it’s a lot of people in the suburbs and even in Seattle that have similar opinions and values and votes. As Amsterdam represents a well-functioning European city, Daniel represents all the people who think like him. Even among my family and friends there are people who have some of these opinions. We need to figure out how to engage with them and how to change public opinion if we’re ever going to get to the kind of city and metro we want. Because they have a lot of clout, especially in a democracy, and with land-use processes that gives individuals or small groups of nimbys effective veto power.

        So the question is, how did the Netherlands change? Not what they did, because that’s clear, but what enabled them to do it. Why did it succeed in The Netherlands but it keeps failing in the US? In the 1960s they were developing like Los Angeles, emphasizing freeways, car thoroughput, and more car-dependent designs. For the same reasons as the US: this was modern and looked like the utopia future. But a series of cars killing children on bicycles galvanized public opinion and made them prioritize transit/bikes/walking over cars.

        The 1970s oil-price shocks also happened around the same time, and Europe went a different direction than the US. Europe started trying to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. The tram renaissance in Germany started at the same time, with cities large and small getting surface light rail with downtown tunnels and generally good rights of way, and adding more grade-separated subways and S-Bahns and high-speed intercity trains throughout the country. The Netherlands did the same thing on a smaller scale, and other European countries did variations of it.

        So why did it succeed in Amsterdam/Netherlands/Europe when it failed in the US? How can we generate those factors of success in the US? Part of it is clear: oil/car-related corporations with direct access to congress, weaker corruption laws, propaganda brainwashing about the suburban utopia, strained race relations with whites wanting to get away from blacks, skepticism of environmental damage, and a belief that US exceptionalism could overcome all problems with the suburban utopia. But we need to engage with the entire population to figure out a solution that enough people will accept to make it happen. And I believe that as the advantages of walkable/transit-oriented areas become more widespread and accessible to more people, that they’ll eventually speak for themselves and show that, “Hey, this is more convenient, and something I want, and better for the environment and society.” It will probably still have a lot of car infrastructure so that people can choose between driving or non-driving, or drive some trips but not others. That car infrastructure would continue to require more subsidies per driver than non-driving infrastructure requires per everyone, but maybe we can at least lessen it. But we need to engage with all of society to get from here to there, not just preach to the choir in our own bubble.

      8. “The issue is, it’s not just Daniel, it’s a lot of people in the suburbs and even in Seattle that have similar opinions and values and votes.”

        Exactly Mike. Forget about me, although do recognize my views are in the majority, although not on this blog, and politicians play to the majority if you want to get elected.

        If you want change you have to reach folks like my wife (whom Balducci, Senn, Wellman play directly to) who is not paying attention to transit and would be opposed to changing the zoning in her neighborhood, which our council has already taken off the table. Plus you basically have to beat the folks with the money when your side has little money.

        If people wanted the change you hope for, or wanted to be the Netherlands, then it would have happened. Many, many Islanders have been to the Netherlands, and all came back, and few came back and said I want my city to be like the Netherlands. The two folks who apparently are familiar with Amsterdam, Zach and myself, both would not choose to live in the Netherlands.

      9. “So why did it succeed in Amsterdam/Netherlands/Europe when it failed in the US? How can we generate those factors of success in the US? Part of it is clear: oil/car-related corporations with direct access to congress,”

        Isn’t Biden draining down the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and didn’t he go hat in hand to Saudia Arabia, and beg U.S. oil companies to pump more oil and make more gas, because the midterm elections are coming up? I don’t see Biden or pretty much anyone in Congress at this point with the election weeks away telling voters the U.S. should be more like The Netherlands.

        The irony is high gas prices will likely result in changes in Congress that make the changes Mike would like to see to transportation and zoning pretty much impossible.

      10. So the question is, how did the Netherlands change? Not what they did, because that’s clear, but what enabled them to do it. Why did it succeed in The Netherlands but it keeps failing in the US?

        That is a great question. I think it was a few things. Charles Marohn attributes much of the auto-centric American city to Detroit. For various reasons, in the 1920s, Detroit had embraced the suburban model (everyone lives outside the city, and commutes in, via a car). Detroit handled the depression better than most cities. As a result, a lot of American (and Canadian) cities saw it as a model. That just wasn’t the case in Europe, before or after the war.

        Which isn’t to say that they didn’t build automobile infrastructure, or have suburbs. They did. They just didn’t build them the same way, with the same weak center. They often ended at the outskirts of town, as opposed to plowing their way through. This is an interesting report (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0096144219872767) and let me just quote from a section:

        Yet, in contrast to the United States, in Western Europe, most redevelopment schemes were stripped of their most radical elements. According to Peter Hall, European governments were quick to control and regulate the interlinked developments of suburbanization and renewal. In the words of Peter Mandler, compared with their American counterparts, most British cities preferred a form of gentle modernization: “. . . accommodating modern traffic, commercial and office space requirements while retaining familiar street-patterns, traditional and sometimes regional styles of architecture and a ‘feel’ for townscape that planners and ordinary citizens were thought to share.” In his recent comparison of American and West German landscapes of consumption, Jan Logemann demonstrates how despite rampant motorization the Germans remained attached to their historic city centers, or what was left of them after the war. In France as well, there was an urge to adapt city centers to the automobile age without giving in to the lure of suburbia, while Belgium built a complex road network to control its sprawling conurbations.

        It goes on to mention the Netherlands in more detail, and the way they handled the struggle with increasing automobile use. I mentioned Amsterdam earlier, because they almost embarked on the same path as a typical American city: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI5pbDFDZyI. Notice that they said the plans were stopped in the late 60s. I’m guessing the rise of the counter-culture movement (and mass protests) may have something to do with it. In contrast, a lot of the freeways were built long before that in America. Wikipedia has a great entry for I-5 history in Seattle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_5_in_Washington#Seattle_planning_and_construction). While there was opposition at the time (and people pushing for set-asides for transit) they basically ignored all that*. The downtown section was completed in 1962. In 1976, they added the freeway park — which is basically the opposite of the freeway (an attempt at healing the urban wound caused by the monstrosity).

        * It is interesting to see how often Peter Steinbruck was right. Hard to imagine them building what they have now — the guy was well ahead of his time.

      11. Ross, I don’t think that’s an accurate take on Charles Marohn/Strong Towns, or the history of Detroit. Detroit’s boom was driven by the automobile industry, but the city was still very streetcar oriented just like most other cities growing at that time; rubber tired busses were a 1920s invention but not central to urban planning until post-war when most cities ripped out there streetcar tracks. Also, Detroit was hammered in the depression – it led the nation in mortgage foreclosures.

        The suburbs were mostly a post-war phenomenon. built upon Federal policies sprung from the Roosevelt (mortgages subsidies) through Eisenhower (freeway subsidies) administrations.

    2. Here’s an idea: What if portions of Seattle were built around bicycling, walking, and transit, so that people could choose both transit/transportation and proximity to the outdoors? The two are not mutually exclusive! Perhaps look to Switzerland more than Holland;) Surely the Seattle metro area is big enough to have both transit/walk/bike centric neighborhoods along with car oriented ones, and let people have a choice in the matter? At the very least, don’t outright *ban* anything that isn’t car oriented. Freedom must include freedom of choice!

      1. Isn’t that what we have already? The problem is that we need to modestly expand the land area (which greatly expands the population) for non-car neighborhoods, to better reflect the demand for those types of neighborhoods.

      2. It’s remarkable how car oriented the “non-car” places still are. Seattle still doesn’t even have a pedestrianized street in any of them.

      3. Occidental Square is like a pedestrianized street running from Washington to King in probably the most historic neighborhood in Seattle. Yet when we left last month Pioneer Square and Occidental Square had very little retail density or vibrancy.

        Some well known planners like Brooks will tell you one of the keys to creating a “Main Street” with true retail density and walkability is obvious and adequate parking, usually street parking. Trying to create a vibrant retail zone without any parking is a pretty new concept, and so far has not succeeded. Even the densest cities in the U.S. have parking, although it is very expensive which is a tax on shopping and dining. For example, a person can pay for dinner at U Village or Bellevue for what it costs to park in downtown Seattle. So where would you go to get the best bang for your buck?

        I agree a pedestrian only zone (even Pike Place Market) like the River Walk in San Antonio can create a wonderful retail area, but you still need parking outside the zone if you want drivers, who make up 90% of all trips and generally have more money to spend, to come and for the zone to thrive. At the same time you don’t want a bunch of loud and smelly buses in the zone, which is why 3rd Ave. was sacrificed downtown.

        Probably the most vibrant retail area in Seattle is U Village while downtown is dead. U Village is the classic pedestrian only zone with free and obvious parking at the perimeter.

        I always liked Norm Rice’s vision of a pedestrian mall from the Convention Center to Pike Place. It wasn’t parking that killed that vision but a lack of public safety, same thing that hurts University Avenue.

      4. “For example, a person can pay for dinner at U Village or Bellevue for what it costs to park in downtown Seattle.”

        Hyperbole much?

      5. Drivers do not make up 90% of all trips to Pike Place market or anything close to that.

        There is also plenty of parking near Pike place market for those that want. It just seems like there isn’t because people are too cheap to pay.

        And, no, demolishing every other downtown building to put in a free surface lot is not going to make downtown more vibrant.

      6. A Joy, in my former parking garage on 3rd and Washington Street in Pioneer Square parking was $25 for the day or $20 for anything from 0 to 2 hours ($50 for events). Same for the surface streets around Pioneer Square. Uptown it is more. Very pricey around the Pike Place Market as I had to pay $20 for one hour (for a 10-minute stop) not long ago because I had to park someplace and got tired driving around the block. It is very hard to find street parking, and still street parking I think is $8/hr. although the CID gets lower rates.

        So yes, I think one can buy dinner without alcohol for $20 at U Village or in downtown Seattle if not at a fancy restaurant. Or do you know some cheap parking lots or garages in downtown Seattle because I would love to know about them.

      7. Street parking around Pike Place maxes out at a measly $2.50 midday. SDOT claims that they maintain parking rates to ensure an average of 10% street parking availability in each neighborhood. The highest curbside parking rate in the city is $5/hour.


        I think street parking should be charged at a rate at least equal, if not greater than, the cost of parking in a nearby garage. It’s not like garages actually offer any more safety than parking on the street, and street parking is much more convenient.

      8. “There is also plenty of parking near Pike place market for those that want. It just seems like there isn’t because people are too cheap to pay.

        “And, no, demolishing every other downtown building to put in a free surface lot is not going to make downtown more vibrant.”

        Asdf2, you are right paying for parking turns off a lot of customers, and just finding it turns off a lot of customers. My wife hates paying for parking.
        Which is why free parking — at least for retail or dining — is pretty much the norm in most other areas in this region. I am not sure they are just “cheap”, but if someone can go to a retail area and spend money they would otherwise spend on parking on clothes or food or whatever why wouldn’t they?

        I don’t think I recommended demolishing buildings in downtown Seattle for surface parking lots. But what do you think will make downtown Seattle more vibrant, because it ain’t vibrant now?

        Places like Bellevue Square and U Village seem to think free parking is important, and they are very vibrant. Norm Rice thought centralized, and low cost ($2 dollar) parking was key to revitalizing downtown the last time it was tried because the merchants thought that. I know retail planning experts like Brooks think free/low cost and obvious parking is critical to creating a vibrant town center. Virtually every eastside city thinks so.

        For the shopper or diner why downtown Seattle has little retail vibrancy is not their problem. Who cares? There are other areas that are vibrant, so go there, with the added benefit they can spend what they would have spent to park downtown Seattle on goods or food or a movie or whatever. If the option is to take transit to downtown Seattle that is a hard sale, because of safety concerns and hassle and first/last mile access for many non uber urban dwellers, and why take transit to someplace like downtown that has very little retail vibrancy to begin with?

        Now if Seattle had such great retail and restaurant vibrancy you just had to go there, and there were not so many better options today, then sure charge whatever the market can bear for parking. You make downtown Seattle that can’t miss retail experience and maybe more will pay to park there, or even take transit, although probably not. I love San Francisco and won’t drive downtown, but take Uber.

        Retail is the pro game among pro games. The competition is brutal, and really planners have no idea why retail vibrancy exists in one place but not another. All I know is it does not exist in downtown Seattle, for whatever reasons, and generally you want your urban core to be the retail hub, not the outlying neighborhoods, although the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement seems to recognize downtown Seattle may become a dinosaur.

        If the goal was to restrict parking or charge a very high premium for it downtown because there was just too little of it and too much traffic congestion pre-pandemic that makes sense, but those days are gon, and retail was dying downtown pre-pandemic. If the goal is to restrict parking or charge a very high premium for it to force visitors to take transit instead of driving to get there ok, that makes sense from a transit point of view I guess, but don’t be surprised if not many come, and instead drive someplace else with free parking.

        The point is go where the retail vibrancy is, and if free parking is important go where the parking is free and there is retail vibrancy. Like U Village. Or Bellevue Square. Or several other areas in this region. It very well may be those skyscrapers in downtown Seattle are dinosaurs no matter what, and are about as valuable as surface parking these days.

      9. Nathan, I agree streetside parking is considered safer and more convenient than a garage, although in Seattle I find it is hard to find because so little of the street is open for parking with all the bike and delivery lanes and access drives, and “obvious” parking is considered important by retail experts. I don’t mind paying a reasonable charge for parking but hate looking for it. I forgot SDOT lowered street parking rates, obviously hoping to attract shoppers and diners.

        “I think street parking should be charged at a rate at least equal, if not greater than, the cost of parking in a nearby garage. It’s not like garages actually offer any more safety than parking on the street, and street parking is much more convenient.”

        The question is why? What is the goal of charging a high rate for street parking, or restricting the amount? Obviously SDOT disagrees, but they are approaching the issue from a retail vibrancy goal. What is your goal. Do you think retail vibrancy should be a priority or goal at all?

        Something is causing the demise of downtown Seattle retail vibrancy. What is it, or is there more than one reason? I would start with parking (and SDOT must agree by reducing parking costs), and safety, and then once you get below a certain retail vibrancy that alone discourages shoppers and diners. It is a spiral downwards.

        My guess is downtown Seattle retail does not come back at this late stage, so it is very important for Seattle to make sure it does not damage the remaining vibrant retail areas in Seattle. What SDOT’s street parking rates tells us is it is the retail vibrancy that drives what SDOT can or should charge for street parking (and why most parking is free after 8 pm). If there is little or no retail vibrancy who cares what it costs to park on the street.

        People will find wherever the retail vibrancy is, and there will always be retail vibrancy somewhere. Some will make the cost of parking a factor in their decision (actually most) and some won’t. The market always sorts these things out.

      10. Even if you took out every bike lanes downtown, the amount of parking spaces it would create is negligible compared to demand – and to existing parking capacity in nearby garages. If you are going to insist on free surface parking, downtown, for everyone, there is no way to get except to demolish so many buildings that “downtown” hardly resembles a downtown anymore.

        And, no, such a move would not revitalize downtown. Numerous cities have tried that, and their downtowns are still run down and decayed. A better approach is for people to have more unique stuff downtown that’s worth paying for parking for. This means a focus on experiences rather than things because experiences are unique, things you can buy anywhere.

      11. Asdf2, it is important to understand I am not a retail expert, and like any customer I don’t care about retail vibrancy in downtown Seattle. Or parking. Or transit. I don’t know the answers although I can guess.

        We moved our office out of downtown Seattle after 32 years. I literally live 5 minutes from downtown Seattle and maybe my wife and I will never shop or dine there again. I used to go downtown 5 days/week but haven’t been back since we left. Jesus, Seattle used to be where it was at.

        Seattle doesn’t need me. There is a regional demographic that has shifted its work and retail/dining to the Eastside. Maybe we got old. Seattle will learn to deal with it.

        I do find it sad however as someone who spent almost their entire formative work and social life in downtown Seattle that the general consensus (on the Eastside)! is it is a dinosaur. What happened? Is this what progressives and urbanists wanted? I know the CID is angry.

        My son who is a student at UW finds it weird when I tell him about how vibrant — if “eclectic” — University Avenue was when I went to the UW long ago, but like my daughter the idea they would go downtown — or to the Ave. —is totally alien. They are the future.

        Who really ruined University Ave. and downtown Seattle? Or who cares (except that is where Seattle’s tax revenue came from).

        Charge whatever you want for parking because who is coming to downtown. What a tragedy for a city that 20 years ago was destined for greatness.

        Nothing would make me happier to know I had to pay whatever it cost to go to downtown Seattle because it was so exciting retail wise (although I would probably take Uber to avoid looking for parking and if I planned to drink alcohol).

        Make Seattle great again. I would gladly pay the parking fee for the old Seattle before some foolish people who never understood money ruined it.

      12. Daniel says abundant cheap/free parking makes cities great, just like the planners of the midcentury. “Make Seattle Great Again” is just “Urban Renewal” with a hint of fascism. Urban renewal really worked out well for Denver’s retail density: https://i.redd.it/l19ojrupvts61.jpg

      13. Tacoma is a poster child for why you down plow buildings and replace them with parking lots. The area of downtown where they did that is totally dead, with little prospect for recovery.

      14. Nathan, I think it is dangerous to flippantly throw around the word “fascism” when talking about something as discretionary and dry as zoning and land use. I don’t know if you are familiar with the history of fascism, but here is a good primer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism. People in concentration camps were not debating urban renewal or zoning or retail vibrancy, and when you use the word fascism for Denver’s zoning choices you do the victims of fascism a great disservice. Denver is not a fascist city.

        I never said, “Daniel says abundant cheap/free parking makes cities great”. I said those who make a living in retail believe adequate and obvious parking is critical for retail vibrancy, from Kemper Freeman to Roger Brooks to the CID to U Village to SDOT to Nordstrom. They could be wrong, but they put their money where their mouths are by building and siting parking on their own private property.

        I admit I am not a retail expert. I could be wrong about parking and retail. It isn’t my job and I doubt anyone relies upon me. My “job” is to simply go where there is retail vibrancy and density to spend my money. Since we drive, parking is a consideration, especially for my wife and she buys around 90 times more stuff than I do. Costco, Target, Uwajimaya, QFC, are not easy to shop and carry home.

        You can approach the issue of retail vibrancy from an extreme ideological point of view because you have no skin in the game. You don’t have a retail business downtown or in the CID, and my guess is you spend very little when it comes to retail or restaurants etc. I think it is a tragedy our regional downtown core, Seattle, is so dead retail wise. Is that “urbanism”, where the downtown core has no retail vibrancy? I thought it was the opposite.

        Now that our offices are on Mercer Island the irony is there is more retail vibrancy — by far — in the MI town center than in Pioneer Square. I don’t know why, but that sure sounds like a weird vision of urbanism to me.

        I am all for choice, especially when it comes to zoning. There will always be retail areas in this region that have lots of free parking. Maybe there will be areas that have very restrictive or very expensive retail parking. In the end, my guess is the customer will choose whichever is more vibrant and denser and walkable. Right now, the big loser is downtown Seattle, and my worry is it is too late to turn that around.

        The proof is in the pudding: where is the retail density, and what is the parking and zoning like there, and what do the actual business owners think about parking? No one cares what you or I think about retail or parking, except where we spend our money. The market figures these things out.

      15. Daniel thinks his opinions are worthwhile, yet doesn’t understand the connection between “MAGA” and rising fascism. SAD!

        Meanwhile, dense, walkable cities are able to be created and attractive anywhere other than the grand ol’ USA, as ASDF2 demonstrates.

      16. Fascism is treating part of your population as the enemy. MAGA is certainly going in that direction. Urban renewal, no, that’s too much of a stretch. At most any connection is small and indirect. And urban renewal in the 20th century wasn’t national or statewide or citywide. It was a few ad hoc decisions on scattered individual lots.

      17. Mike: Urban Renewal was definitely a national priority in the mid-20th century – the first title of the Housing Act of 1949 was a provision for funding of slum clearance for urban redevelopment, and the widespread adoption of outsized parking minimums resulted in many properties having the former structures replaced with parking lots to serve adjacent developments.

    1. Thanks Mike, for that first link. It is nothing especially new, but it is very funny. Well done.

  5. Japan has a first-class bus route, with 11 individual rooms. It runs overnight from Tokyo to Osaka, and costs $120. There are other luxury bus routes in Japan in other videos, with varying levels of amenities.

    And now one in the US ($). This one is called Napaway and runs from Washington DC to Nashville Tennasee. Each suite has two seats that convert to one bed, a built-in desk, and 13 square feet. The southbound schedule is 10pm-8am, northbound 7:30pm-7:30am (1 hour time zone change). Cost is $125 for the trip I queried (southbound Wednesday November 9th, 3 weeks away).

  6. The under construction Avenue Condos across from Bellevue Square set up a cam that watches the progress of the construction of the towers.


    Why can’t Sound Transit do something similar at a Link station? Either a live cam at an operating Link station, or a cam trained on a station under construction, like Downtown Redmond or Federal Way?

      1. Thanks, however, it looks like those cams stops working back in 2020. And, I’m sure the cam that I provided a link to as an example will also stop working once the condo project is complete. I think it would be kinda cool for ST to set up a permanent live cam somewhere. Like the kind you see on YouTube. Perhaps it could be directed at, for example, the Downtown Redmond Station. And, after the station is complete, and East Link is running, the cam can be kept on to view Link activity. Julie Timm, I understand you are a big fan of mine, and read my comment section-based transit journalism daily. I’d appreciate if you could make the ST Link live cam happen. I’ll let you pick the location.

        Best wishes, Sam

      2. ST could post a camera on the I-90 bridge span to document the progress on East Link. I don’t drive across the bridge twice per day like I use to but then and now there just isn’t a lot of activity going on, although maybe ST does not want to advertise that.

        Now if you want to see activity come to downtown Mercer Island. The roundabout, and landscaping and paths for the 80th St. station entrance, are like a war zone. There is an army of workers downtown and the lanes reconfigured every week along N. Mercer Way. Just today as I walked past I wondered will these stations entrances and the roundabout really just sit there until sometime in 2025 when East Link is now scheduled to open? I guess at least the landscaping will have matured by the time the station opens.

  7. About Rainier Ave bus lanes, my commute takes me from Skyway to First Hill, and so I drive that general area at least once a week each way. But when I take the bus, it’s usually the 106 on MLK, not the 7 on Rainier, because the 106 is easier to get to on the South end.

    I guess I don’t have direct skin in the game, because I really prefer to take Beacon or the slower MLK if I’m feeling it because Rainier feels like a mess. Right now, Rainier is probably the fastest option, but it isn’t much faster than Beacon Ave, which is notably a single lane almost the whole way. On Rainier, people drive crazy and block intersections, and there are areas where you have to keep constant watch for pedestrians. It’s an uncomfortable place even if you are in a car.

    I think it’s inevitable that Rainier serves fewer and fewer cars in the future. It is farther along in the process of pedestrianization than MLK. And I think it makes sense to change the built environment to reflect that, and to reduce casualties. Rainier is the least safe street in Seattle along with Aurora, which is saying something considering Aurora is a state highway that Seattle doesn’t have full control over.

    Adding bus lanes will make the area more pedestrian friendly, by instituting a road diet. I think it’s a good thing. Importantly, it will make the bus lanes more consistent. At the moment, the random way that they start and end encourages two things: one, weaving as people try to dodge the bus lanes; and two, people ignoring them and plowing right through bus lanes. I don’t like the rewarding of bad behavior and the inconsistent bus lanes allow it. I also wish there were better enforcement, to reduce this problem.

    Extending bus lanes would add a significant level of organization to Rainier, one of the least organized corridors in Seattle. I also think longer bus lanes will support the walkability of the corridor, which the Columbia City Business Organization names as one of their values. Overall, I see this as a net benefit.

    1. @Sam,

      That is a great video. Good to see all the progress. I just wish the video had started at Northgate Station and showed the entire extension.

      Lynnwood Link will make a huge difference to my in-laws. They bought a new construction townhouse near the 185th St Station in anticipation of Lynnwood Link opening. They don’t drive, so it will change their world when it opens.

      The opening of Lynnwood Link will also benefit Seattle since it will allow an even greater shift from buses to rail of riders heading downtown. Fewer buses downtown should improve the overall downtown environment.

      Can’t wait.

  8. About the Elliott and 15th West lanes: the same thing that would occur were Mike’s suggestion to narrow and calm Alaskan Way adopted. Both actions will work to divert traffic into the tunnel.

    This is a win for both the City and State. The City gets a more welcoming waterfront and the State gets revenue to pay off its bonds for thr tunnel.

    I grant that folks living along North 39th and NW Market will have more traffic than they otherwise would.

    1. As a routine off-peak RR D rider and occasional 15x rider, I would strongly support making all the bus lanes along Elliott & 15th Ave W/NWfrom Denny to Crown Hill 24-hour.

      As a compromise, I’ll concede opening the bus lanes from 10pm to 7am to general traffic.

      I’ll make the bold claim that there are no businesses facing 15th Ave W/NW between Galer and 87th St which can sincerely claim to be critically supported by the customer base induced by free curbside daytime parking. All of the avenue-facing businesses have either been redeveloped to include off-street parking, or only have space for 1-2 parked cars in front of their stores at any given time, which is not a critical customer volume.

      15th Ave W/NW is a loud, dangerous, unpleasant practical-highway which should be carefully dieted to slow general traffic (thereby discouraging SOV volumes) while maintaining reliability of freight accessing Salmon Bay, Interbay, and Smith Cove, and improving the speed and reliability of transit.

      Bus + Truck lanes, anyone?

      39th to Leary and 46th to Market are both already at SOV throughout capacity in my experience, so it’s time to make space for higher-capacity transit options to keep people moving.

      1. I agree with all of your points. As for 39th to Leary, I see a couple of future alternatives:

        1) Faster 40. They will add a bus lane southbound along 36th to the Fremont Bridge.

        2) Add a Fremont bus stop to Aurora above the troll. This idea has been around a long time, but never acted on. It would be nice if the E stopped there (although at least the 5 does).

        None of these make the 28 faster, which means they don’t provide a really fast transit option. When there is no traffic, the 28 is fast, but infrequent. 39th is largely one lane each direction. You could build a few skip-ahead sections, but you would need to run the bus more often to justify that.

        I could see some red paint on Fremont Way (the approach to Aurora) especially given that it serves both the 28 and 5. How that would work is not obvious.

      2. I like the idea of “large vehicle lanes” [e.g. sharing bus lanes with trucks]. It seems particularly appropriate along Elliott/15th West.

        However, if 39th and Market “are at SOV capacity”, then there is going to be a problem allocating those lanes. SOV’s have to be able to go south from Ballard via some route! Far from every trip can be met with transit.

      3. Ross:
        It is curious that there is no stop at 39th on Aurora. Although, what route would be worth transferring to? The 5? The 28? Some diversion of the 62?

        There’s already a short bus lane on Fremont Way between N 38th St and Aurora. It would be nice if it extended all the way to Fremont Ave, but that would likely require a near-total rework of a 6-way intersection.

        You are correct that not all trips can be done via bus or bike, but where there’s curbside parking, there’s space for better uses. There’s most definitely space for bi-directional bus lanes on Leary after 39th dumps onto it; and most definitely space along Market (at least until it turns to climb Phinney Ridge). As you’ve noted, the apparently complex part is getting car traffic from Aurora to these larger thoroughfares via 39th or 46th.

        The Route 40 and 44 improvements are good incremental steps in the meantime, though.

      4. “It is curious that there is no stop at 39th on Aurora. Although, what route would be worth transferring to? The 5? The 28? Some diversion of the 62?”

        It’s to take an elevator down to Fremont.

      5. Nathan, both 39th and “diagonal” Market headed up the hill are three narrowish lanes in width. Probably 30 or 32 feet, though I haven’t measured. Thirty-ninth uses about seven feet for a south side parking strip, but it’s interrupted a couple of times with curb bulbs, presumably to prevent a second lane from developing.

        Market is a bit wider and has two pretty narrow lanes eastbound to let faster vehicles pass bogged down heavy ones on the climb. Since the 44 stops a couple of times on the grade, it’s intermittently a “bus lane”.

        There’s no way either street can be widened, and 39th especially needs a couple of marked crosswalks to calm traffic.

        Red lanes on both 15th and Leary would isolate Ballard badly.

      6. TT, I am very aware of the width of 39th and Market’s hill climb – while I’d like to see better transit prioritization on both, there’s not a lot of space to do it, as you mention. There is another dense form of transportation that’s worth encouraging, and usually is functional with only a few feet of space. Have you ever tried to climb westward up to Phinney Ridge on a bicycle? It’s rough.

        If transit priority can’t fit without fully kicking out cars, I would like to see better-protected E-W connections between Upper Fremont/Phinney and Ballard for biking. There’s space on diagonal-Market for at least a protected hill-climb lane, but today, the only protected, contiguous bike pathway out of Ballard (in any direction!) is the Burke towards Fremont.

        Ballard is already relatively hard to get to (impacting at least one of my friends’ dating life) because the streets are already saturated with cars. Many of those drivers (sometimes including myself) are driving because it’s still the most convenient option. The 44 is still very slow, and biking in or out of Ballard is a dangerous slog if you’re not on the Burke.

        Maybe the 40 and the 44 (and the 45!) should be upgraded to RR and run every 5-10 mins before painting the lanes red (and definitely should be RR *after* painting lanes) but to say that taking lanes from general traffic on both 15th and Leary would somehow significantly further isolate Ballard is… silly.

        Leary’s curbs are given over to parking 20 hours a day. Give it to the RR-40 all day and see ridership explode.

        15th’s curbs are also given over for parking 21 hours a day, and then are bus only for 3 hours a day. Stiff the parking, get the D out of daytime traffic, and see it soar.

      7. I always assumed the station would be at 34th or 35th Street, closer to the center of Fremont. Is there some reason 39th is better?

      8. I thought the idea of a 100-150’ elevator from a mid-bridge bus stop on Aurora was a joke.

        I also conflated 39th with 38th.

      9. I like the Troll funicular! Alternative could be a gondola along 38th or 39th which could even cross the ship canal and connect SPU.

      10. Instead of a new station on 39th, you could run a gondola up on Fremont Ave to 46th to catch RR-E there. It would also help people get up the Fremont hill. And while you’re at it, you could even continue it along 45th to the U-District station so that people along Aurora can go to UW or CapHill.

      11. “I thought the idea of a 100-150’ elevator from a mid-bridge bus stop on Aurora was a joke.”

        It’s a concept transit fans have come up with to improve Fremont transit. No politicians or agencies has acknowledged it, and no engineers have vetted it. The E is the fastest route around, and Fremont is much larger than anything else on the E north of SLU. It’s the kind of village that should be on a RapidRide line. It’s what Alon Levy would call a missed connection: the bus passes above it but you can’t get to it. From Femont it would be faster than the existing routes to downtown, and give access to the north Aurora corridor. From the north Aurora corridor it would give access to the center of the universe.

      12. With the 40 getting bus lanes along Westlake north of Roy, it will be interesting to see how the speed improvements induce ridership.

        For the first time, I’m noticing that there are no good north-south bus connections between “upper” and “lower” Fremont other than hoofin’ it along Fremont Ave between 36th and 39th. That’s rough.

        If we ever get around to putting rails on George Washington Memorial Bridge, maybe that would be the opportunity to stick a pair of elevators at 35th st.

      13. There’s already a short bus lane on Fremont Way between N 38th St and Aurora. It would be nice if it extended all the way to Fremont Ave, but that would likely require a near-total rework of a 6-way intersection.

        Exactly. That was basically what I was getting it. There is enough room to add (southeast bound) BAT lanes, but how exactly that would work is not obvious or trivial. That being said, some of the work being done for the 40 was not obvious, but very clever, and should speed up that bus quite a bit. To a certain extent it is a matter of handing the problem over to the traffic engineers and having them go to work. Ultimately the problem is money and political effort. Money, because there are only so many engineers (and for the work itself). Political effort because people are bound to complain, as they fantasize of a Seattle where driving was as fast and easy as it was back in the 70s.

        As far as street width, a lot of 39th is narrow. I almost mentioned that earlier (I was about to essentially give up). But a lot of it isn’t. It widens before it reaches Fremont Avenue. You could easily take out a lane of parking, and make that right lane a BAT lane (eastbound). You would have to alter that intersection, making the left lane all-way, and the right lane BAT (right turn or buses only). Again, it probably isn’t worth it for the infrequent 28.

        Fremont Way is definitely wide enough (there is just parking on the right side).

        Market has some narrow sections. But it also has wide areas. This adds to the complexity in coming up with a solution (you can’t just add BAT lanes the whole way) but done right and the buses can move quite fast. They will be doing something similar along Eastlake that should help the buses quite a bit (while also improving a very important bike corridor).

        It is curious that there is no stop at 39th on Aurora. Although, what route would be worth transferring to? The 5? The 28? Some diversion of the 62?

        Basically the buses that run through lower Fremont (31/32, 40, 62). But a large part of it would be to just connect to Fremont itself. This wouldn’t require an elevator or funicular, or anything that fancy — just a bus stop. The work would not be trivial, but it wouldn’t cost a fortune either (https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/04/04/connecting-fremont-to-rapidride-e/).

      14. For the first time, I’m noticing that there are no good north-south bus connections between “upper” and “lower” Fremont other than hoofin’ it along Fremont Ave between 36th and 39th. That’s rough.

        Depending on where you are, you can also walk up and catch the 5. If you are trying to get from Phinney Ridge to lower Fremont, that is how you do it. The problem is that you can’t get from the Aurora corridor to lower Fremont without walking from 46th (hence the previous article by Bruce Nourish).

        An elevator (or something similar) would be great, but probably too expensive to justify unless they put a Link stop in there. I would. An underground station (close to the troll) could connect to both upper and lower Fremont with a bit of work.

      15. From 3rd and Pine, the E running as-scheduled would take ~10 mins to get to 38th. The 40 or the 62 would take ~15-20mins. To walk from Aurora down to the Center Of The Universe would take about 5-10mins. Seems like a savvy rider would be better off taking the slower bus for the shorter walk? Riders heading to destinations around 38th have the 5…

        I assume that’s why Metro hasn’t bothered publishing any considerations of a stop at 38th; a lack of demonstrable benefit to the network.

      16. I lived at 38th and Fremont for nearly a decade and worked downtown. The 5 was the only option. I literally never took the slow buses over the always open Fremont bridge.

      17. “I’m noticing that there are no good north-south bus connections between “upper” and “lower” Fremont other than hoofin’ it along Fremont Ave between 36th and 39th.”

        Has that ever been good? I’ve had to walk up or down the steep hill between 34th, 39th, and 46th occasionally for decades.

      18. “some of the work being done for the 40 was not obvious, but very clever, and should speed up that bus quite a bit. To a certain extent it is a matter of handing the problem over to the traffic engineers and having them go to work. Ultimately the problem is money and political effort. Money, because there are only so many engineers (and for the work itself).”

        It’s cheaper to install a pair of transit lanes than a grade-separated subway. We’re essentially building Ballard Link because of the political inability to convert parking or GP lanes to transit lanes on either the Ballard-UW or Ballard-downtown corridors. The main issue is priorities. If American cities and states prioritized transit like Canadian, European, Asian, and Latin American cities did, it would be done. There’s money to do it, just not the political will. There may be a short-term engineer bottleneck due to rapid construction growth in the 2010s and pandemic disruptions in the 2020s, but that can be mitigated by adjusting priorities and reassigning engineering work.

      19. From 3rd and Pine, the E running as-scheduled would take ~10 mins to get to 38th. The 40 or the 62 would take ~15-20mins. To walk from Aurora down to the Center Of The Universe would take about 5-10mins. Seems like a savvy rider would be better off taking the slower bus for the shorter walk? Riders heading to destinations around 38th have the 5…

        You are going the wrong direction. Think Licton Springs to Fremont. What are your options? Google suggests taking two buses: https://goo.gl/maps/moWDKzKt7tuoETQC7, even though the E will be right above you. Notice that Phinney Ridge to Fremont doesn’t have that problem. Since the connection from the Aurora corridor to Fremont is so bad, other trips are bad. For example West Green Lake to SPU requires backtracking (https://goo.gl/maps/vP3qyizkpD7NCQhe9). It isn’t really the transfer (even though it involves a bit of hill, with no elevator) but the backtracking. It is worse for other parts of northern Queen Anne (https://goo.gl/maps/CdwEDfmuUP7RtnKp7). That is a three seat ride for a pretty short trip.

        That is the problem. As Mike put it, this is a “mixed connection”, which means it breaks the grid. One of the most popular corridors in our system (Aurora) is cut off from Fremont, and the buses that go east-west on it.

        I think we stumbled upon a bias that still exists. You assumed it was about trips to downtown. To be fair, I started out thinking that as well. The E is so fast between Green Lake and downtown, that we think of it as just an express. It does that (very well) but there are a bunch of riders that just travel along the corridor, or make transfers to get to other places. If there was a stop above the troll, it would be a lot easier and faster to make those other trips.

      20. We’re essentially building Ballard Link because of the political inability to convert parking or GP lanes to transit lanes on either the Ballard-UW or Ballard-downtown corridors.

        I don’t think it is that simple. There are always going to be limitations to what you can do on the surface through the city. Ballard to UW has some narrow sections, and a lot of major intersections. Ballard to downtown has the bridge itself, as well as the area around Uptown. By all means we should make the buses faster first, but it is unlikely it would ever reach the speeds of a typical express.

        Neither Ballard Link nor Ballard to UW is a huge “leap frog” when it comes to rail (unlike the rest of ST3 rail). Ridership per mile is pretty good. If you make it fast, ridership would increase, quite likely justifying grade separation.

        Anyway, I think a better example of political inertia leading to very poor transit decisions is on the freeways. Replace HOV 2 with HOV 3 and very few would want the train.

        I also don’t think any of this excuses the poor planning with ST3. With a modest investment, the relatively little congestion for West Seattle buses would be eliminated. If we are going to build a second tunnel downtown, it should be for a trunk-and-branch BRT system, especially well suited for West Seattle and Ballard. Even with HOV 2, buses make more sense north of Lynnwood and south of Federal Way. Issaquah to South Kirkland is just silly.

        My point is, even if we did have a very good set of surface treatments, there would be a handful of rail project of merit, along with silly ones that ST would pursue.

  9. Imaginary bus ride in Sweden and Denmark. You’ve been at a party visiting friends in Riksgränsen in northern Sweden, and take the last night bus home. It’s a very long milk run, following a chain of local bus routes across Sweden and Denmark, making all of their stops. You don’t mind because eventually you’ll get home. The driver announces all the stops, and the video shows the neighborhoods it goes through on Google Maps. (Every stop has a name. I saw this in Germany.) Amazingly it’s only a few seconds between stops, so the entire trip takes an hour. The video is in a soft-spoken droning voice to be calming for sleep. The author (ASMRctica) has a half-dozen similar bus rides in Sweden.

  10. For anyone interested in how individual Seattle streets got their name, you might be interested in this site. Not every Seattle street is listed, but many are. It’s interesting how a street’s name origin can be tied to other street names through family connections. Here’s an example …

    “This street (Virginia street) is named for Mary Virginia Bell Hall (1847–1931), daughter of William Nathaniel Bell and Sarah Ann Peter Bell. Belltown and Bell Street were named for her father, Olive Way for her sister, and Stewart Street for her brother-in-law. She was just four years old when her family, as part of the Denny Party, settled at Alki Point in 1851.”


    1. Thanks Sam. I find a lot of the naming interesting, as well as many of the streets themselves. For example, a lot of the NW streets and avenues are numeric. There are some big streets (like Market and Leary) but most of route finding is trivial, because it is all numbers. But then you have streets like Mary, Baker, Earl and Dibble. I always thought it was odd. I assume those streets came first, and then they later added the numbered ones. The story about Dibble is definitely worth a read.

    2. Thanks. I always wondered about John and Thomas Streets being together; they sound like the Christian saints. The article says John was named after two relatives of Arthur Denny. There’s no article for Thomas, or Summit or Bellevue.

      I’ve always thought of Summit as meaning the top of the hill, although it’s not really the top because most of it has streets above it, and the real top of Capitol/First Hill is at 15th & Madison where the radio towers are. Likewise I think of Prospect Street as “You have a prospect of getting to the top of Queen Anne”, Highland Drive as “You’re getting close”, and Galer as “This is the top, or at least the top of the counterbalance, although the name is non-geographical.”

      The Hunter Blvd article says, “Mount Baker Park was designed to be an exclusive single-family residential community” and “[This committee] was involved in enforcing the restrictions contained in the deeds regarding single family housing only and the restrictive covenants that prevented non-whites from purchasing property in the area.” It lists two black people who bought or built a house there and not getting the deed or getting sued, but in both cases the judge upheld their right to own a house there in spite of the covenants. It’s interesting that Mt Baker now is not wholly single-family: there’s a block-long row of businesses and a community club, and they look like they go back to at least the 1920s. That may be outside the Hunter tract, but it is a non-single-family part of the “Mount Baker Park” plat, and directly across the street from the park.

      One of the funniest names I’ve seen on street signs is “East North Street”. The article says it’s north of a canal that was never built. (The ship canal was built further north.)

      There’s a Red Avenue East in Eastlake somewhere. “Instead of naming a street directly after themselves, [the Greenes] dropped an e and named the north–south streets in the plat for (most of) the colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo, and Violet. Only Red has survived to this day.

      The Rollin Street Flats at Westlake & Denny are named after a former name of Westlake Avenue.

      Wallingford Avenue is named after a John Wallingford, not the town in England.

      U-District history/. Capitol Hill history, part 1 and part 2.

  11. One looming factor I think should not be ignored in the driving vs. transit/traffic congestion debate is vehicle electrification, and I think the shift happens with the masses, rather than just the affluent, it will result in more driving and less transit use, all else equal.

    The reason why is that, once you have the car, electric vehicles are extremely cheap to drive – especially for those able to home charge – and it is well documented that cheaper driving directly translates to more driving and less transit use. To illustrate how cheap, $2.75 adult bus fare powers a Chevy Bolt a distance of 70-100 miles, depending on weather and driving conditions. This is roughly cost-equivalent to a 30 MPG gas car driving on $1/gallon gas, regardless of the actual price of gas, and not even getting into the fact that electric cars generally require less maintenance.

    The inevitable result will be people choosing the car over the bus because the car is *cheaper* (at least, once all of the fixed costs of ownership are sunk costs) – even in those rare cases where the bus is faster (e.g. due to dedicated bus lanes). Vehicle electrification will also probably increase the level of exurban sprawl, as the direct pocketbook cost of 40 mile/day commutes decreases, even if the time cost of such commutes don’t.

    Without some sort of road pricing, the net effect of all this is inevitably going to be more traffic congestion. The good news is that, at least, with electric vehicles, somebody eating lunch at a sidewalk cafe along a congested street won’t be listening to idling motors and breathing nitrous oxide spewing out tailpipes. The bad news is that, as far as road space goes, a car is a car, regardless of power source, and people who sit in traffic will have to pay with their time what they’re not paying with their wallet.

    I also have a suspicion that, once batteries get cheap enough to make an EV with 300 miles of range cost-competitive with a similar gasoline car, consumers will respond to cheap driving by purchasing larger and larger vehicles, until eventually, the average EV of 2080 costs just as much to operate as the average gasoline powered car of 2020. This will be very bad news for road safety, as while bigger cars have more armor to protect their own occupants in the event of a crash, they are more deadly to whomever outside the car they hit, and cyclists and pedestrians have no armor to protect themselves.

    1. Good point, as the data shows transit use clearly correlates with gas price. I think you summarize it well – electrification does wonderful things for pollution, in particular in an urban environment, but does nothing for congestion or safety, and may make both worse.

    2. That is an interesting analysis asdf2.

      Until recently the price of gas has been relatively low. Since most need a car anyway the cost differential is gas for a car vs. transit fare. The real problem is when there is more than one person or the trip is short. $2.75 X 4 for a round trip on transit is more than the cost of gas or Uber.

      As Ross has noted, the effective road pricing has been parking costs and traffic congestion.

      I think people choose to drive rather than take transit for many reasons, despite of cost. The cost differential between gas and transit really doesn’t apply to the non-discretionary transit rider, because they don’t own a car or can’t afford the parking.

      EV’s will take some time to trickle down to lower income folks. They are risky to buy used because having to replace the batteries, which gradually lose their charge, is very expensive. This idea WA will only sell EV’s by 2035 is just political grandstanding. No way WA or CA will have the electricity capacity for that, especially while at the same time everyone is installing AC.

      The hope is new batteries are lighter and cheaper. My guess is people will want EV’s that look like what they drive today, especially the SUV because it is very convenient.

      Most people don’t drive — especially in an urban environment — just for the fun of it. Same with transit. They need or want to go somewhere. My guess is WFH will only increase over time as a new generation of workers enter the market and robots become more ubiquitous, and this will allow the PSRC to reach its vision of many self-contained cities like Issaquah rather than large urban centers like downtown Seattle which should reduce travel on any mode.

      The very high parking rates in Seattle today are counterproductive because so many no longer need to go there, and other areas have free parking and every city is competing for the discretionary worker, shopper and diner. Having parking rates that are much higher than surrounding areas, including U Village, is like Seattle enacting a congestion tax for downtown. Congestion taxes like high parking rates only work if someone has to go there and does not have other options.

      I don’t think EV’s or transit or road diets are the existential issue for Harrell. He inherited a downtown core that is dying, for many reasons. He has to figure out how to get those tens of thousands of workers, shoppers and diners back downtown because that is where 2/3 of Seattle’s tax revenue came from. It is the same dilemma ST has: how to lure the discretionary rider, worker or shopper back when everyone is suddenly discretionary except the poor and gave other options.

      1. No way WA or CA will have the electricity capacity for that, especially while at the same time everyone is installing AC.

        Everybody HAS A/C in California already. Everyone has it in Eastern Washington as well, and 80% of people have it in Portland and points south. Yes, it will add to City Light’s headaches, but the cost per KwH will surely rise, and, magically, the growth in demand for electricity will fall.

        Do not think that the cost to drive an EV 300 miles in 2040 will be any less that four times what it is now, in real terms.

      2. The EV modeshare won’t be high enough for anything I said above to matter during Harrell’s tenure. Especially, since the drivers most budget conscious will be one of the last to switch to EVs (they won’t bite until it’s possible to buy a 10 year old used one, with decent range, for under $10k). This will be a problem for some other mayor decades into the future. Not Harrell.

        Even the state mandate to end new gas car sales in 2035 won’t matter as much as you think. The rule, as I understand it, only says the new cars after 2035 must be capable of plugging in, not that they must plug in. The inevitable result will be lots of plugin hybrids with teeny-tiny electric ranges that exist only to technically comply with the zero emission mandate, knowing full well that most customers will just fill them up with gas like they have been doing before and never actually plug them in.

        But, eventually when full EVs become cheap enough, they will trickle down to the masses, and everything I said about EVs inducing more driving will start to become true. It just may happen in 2050 or 2060, not 2035.

      3. asdf2, if electrification — and in fact “transitification” — is delayed ujtil 2060 as you predict, there will be no Northwest left. The forests will have burned aggressively, and everyone will have asthma or be dead.

        The southwest and California will be dessicated and deadly hot, and the Confederate states will be overrun with gruesome and deadly pests. The “rust belt” states will be “it” once more, because winter will be a fond memory and they will still have plenty of water.

        The Bible is wrong as to the source of the Horsemen — it won’t be “God”. But the Horsemen will come, from our own willful, destructive urges to decorate ourselves more sumptuously than our tribesmen are able to do.

    3. Right now, road maintenance and construction is paid for in large part with gas taxes. There has already been talk of shifting that to a mileage tax. I would oppose that. Gas taxes should be much higher, simply because of the damage gasoline consumption does to the environment. It would also be premature, given the relatively small number of gasoline cars on the road.

      As time goes by, though, a shift to other taxes seems inevitable. You would probably keep the gas tax, but add on a mileage tax, if not higher car tab taxes. None of that would make driving an electric car as expensive as driving a gas powered one. But even though electric cars use a cheaper form of energy (especially around here) and require less maintenance, they still aren’t cheap. The cost for an electric car may eventually drop, but it is still likely to relatively expensive, and the more you use it, the more money you spend (one way or another).

      The shift will definitely have an influence, but I think it will be minor. Gas prices were rarely a significant cost of operating a car in this country, and cars have generally required a lot less maintenance for years. A lot of people can’t afford to pay cash for new cars, so you have interest payments. These are also volatile, and we have no idea what they will be in the future. Insurance is a big cost, as are things like tires, which are the same for every car. I think owning an operating a typical electric car may very well be cheaper than owning and operating a gas powered car, but I doubt either will be cheap (the way that owning a bike, or using transit is).

      1. Quite a lot of local road maintenance is covered by property and sales taxes, depending on the city. Road vehicles have quite a number of costs not directly paid for from their taxes and fees.

      2. Owning any car is never cheap and never will be. But, classic conventional wisdom says renting cars is a pain, so if you ever need a car, you have to own one, and once you own it, and are paying all of the fixed costs, the marginal cost to drive one additional mile is so cheap that you may as well just drive the car everywhere whether you need to or not.

        With gas cars, the marginal cost per mile is at least enough that driving two miles to a park and ride, then riding a bus 20 miles to work saves money over driving all the way, even with no tolls or parking fees. But, electricity is so cheap, an EV driver will actually find it cheaper to drive all the way to work than to ride the bus because the electricity costs less than the bus fare (unless, of course, the employer pays for the bus fare, as many employees do, or driving involves tolls or parking fees).

        This is the calculations I was referring to.

      3. Good old “Conventional Wisdom”, and its cousin “Common Sense”.

        ” …. classic conventional wisdom says …. you have to own [a car], and …. the marginal cost to drive one additional mile is so cheap that you may as well just drive the car everywhere whether you need to or not.”

        AAA lists the average operational cost per mile as 27.67¢

        Operating Costs 2022 Weighted Average
        Operating Costs per mile = 27.67¢
        (fuel = 17.99¢/mi + maintenance = 9.68¢/mi)

      4. Jim, transit isn’t free either, and each rider doubles the cost.

        I doubt drivers see the overall costs of driving each mile above the cost of gas once they own a car. And if the trip is work related the car owner can deduct over 60 cents/mile.

        When you say someone drives “when they don’t need to” I don’t quite understand what you mean. Are you talking about purely pleasure drives? I don’t think many people do that these days. They drive to get somewhere.

        I don’t think cost is the major factor whether someone drives over transit, unless you can’t afford a car. In many ways owning a car and using it for trips is discretionary, and the cost of car ownership is seen as one of the costs of life.

        I also think focusing on cost reinforces the stigma that transit is for poor people.

        First/last mile access, safety, time of trip, ability to carry things, weather (hot and cold) are factors drivers feel justify the additional cost of driving, and the gap transit must close in a post pandemic world in which very high parking rates and traffic congestion don’t disadvantage driving as much.

        I think that if you told most drivers they could save a buck or two on their trip by taking transit rather than driving they wouldn’t care.

      5. “When you say someone drives “when they don’t need to” I don’t quite understand what you mean.”

        You’ll have to ask asdf2, I was quoting him/her/… whatever.

      6. “Jim, transit isn’t free either, and each rider doubles the cost.”

        That’s only true for driving, since most cars only have a single occupant (average is about 1.3). Any other form of transportation is has only very tiny increases in expense for each additional rider.

      7. There’s really two factors at play here. From the perspective of transit ridership, even if the vast majority of drivers will not switch to transit because of a spike in gas prices, just a teeny tiny percentage who will can still have a noticeable impact on the number of people riding the bus. The reason boils down to simple math, and the lower the transit agency’s ridership was to begin with, the stronger this effect. For example, an agency with 5% modeshare can increase its ridership by 10% from just 0.5% of all commuters switching to transit. If the starting transit modeshare is 1% of commuters, just 0.1% of commuters switching increases ridership by 10%. So, even seemingly tiny numbers can still move the needle.

        From a perspective of emissions and road congestion though, the dominant impact of low marginal cost per car-mile comes not so much from mode-switching between car and transit, but from cancelling discretionary trip, or replacing longer trips with shorter substitutes.

        And, by discretionary trips, no, I am not talking about pure pleasure drives, which are a tiny percent of overall driving. I’m talking about stuff like optional social events at the other end of town. Shopping at faraway places out of habit, rather than looking for closer stores that sell the same things. Visiting the same dentist you’ve been going to for 20 years, even though you’ve moved and are now at the opposite end of town from them, rather than looking for another dentist closer to home. Or, somebody who works from home deciding to drive to a coffee shop and work there for a couple hours because being at home all day is too isolating. Even something as mundane as paying the toll for the 520 bridge, rather than detouring to I-90, in response to a gas price spike, reduces vehicle miles traveled *for the same exact trip*. People in Seattle also make a lot of outdoor recreation trips, which is entirely discretionary driving, and very easy for anyone looking to save gas money to cut back on. This is especially true with more distant trailheads, such as North Cascades, and anecdotally, I notice a difference at trailheads during $6 gas compared to $4 gas.

        And, if you’re talking about long-term, rather than short-term decisions, reactions to lower marginal costs per mile may include living further away to get a larger house for the same amount of money. Or taking a job that’s further away for a slight increase in pay.

        All of this stuff definitely impacts VMT, and since it has nothing to do transit, it does so, even in cities where there is no transit, or nobody rides transit. The vast majority of car trips – particularly outside rush hour – are not economically essential, but discretionary. And when the marginal cost per mile traveled goes down, the number and length of these discretionary trips inevitably goes up.

      8. Asdf2, I agree the price of gas impacts discretionary car trips, especially vacations by car, which of course hits the working class the most. And no doubt some will switch to transit.

        But they won’t be happy. A fundamental principle of post war America is mobility in such a huge and sparsely populated country.

        So they take that anger out at the polls, which is finally dawning on Biden and Democrats. I think by 2024 R’s will control all 3 branches of government (they already control 2/3 of the states) and if they take one house this November the progressive agenda stops. And the price of gas which is a central component of inflation is considered to be one of the major campaign themes, along with crime.

        So there is a cost to that marginal increase in transit ridership from high gas prices, which is why Biden is drawing down the strategic petroleum reserve at a dangerous rate, for politics, despite his campaign rhetoric about fossil fuels.

        Artificially high parking costs, high gas prices, road diets,upzoning, bike lanes come with a political cost. If the goal is to increase transit ridership — and the only point post pandemic such a goal makes is to raise farebox recovery to increase levels of service — then make transit more competitive with driving for the discretionary rider.

        My question is if R’s take all three branches of government how will that affect spending the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. High gas prices in the long run may harm transit.

      9. “I think by 2024 R’s will control all 3 branches of government (they already control 2/3 of the states) and if they take one house this November the progressive agenda stops.”

        You might like the result. Democracy and role of law may stop too, and the government oriented to personally enriching the president and congresscritters, and jailing people they don’t like, and enacting spiteful policies to be painful to those they perceive as elites, minorities, or opponents. What kind of $1 trillion infrastructure bill they do or don’t implement may the least of our worries.

      10. Considering the current GOP platform includes overturning election results they don’t like, there’s no question they put an end to anything that has popular approval.

      11. Sorry to be rude, but you’re all whistling past the graveyard. We have no choice but to reduce GHG emissions, and very rapidly. The world is teetering on unstoppable “positive” [not in the sense of “good”, but “self-reinforcing”] feedback loops which will quickly spin out of control.

        We need to reduce the human population buy at least 75% by 2060 or so, or nature will do it for us and not stop until she reaches 95%.

        So all this primping (and pimping) for the auto interests that Daniel is doing — and being acquiesced to by the rest of you — is King Canute shouting at the tides to stop washing over him.

        There’s no way that humanity is going to get to 1 billion people by 2060 except one good old fashioned blow-out, no holds barred, nuclear war. Yes, it will play hell with the carrying capacity of the world for a few years, and mess up genetics for longer. But it will stop the wholesale rush to Carbon death, which is irreversible and leads to a Venusian death trap.

        There aren’t enough trees to extract Carbon, and the oceans are saturated. We do this — BE POOR and DON’T TRAVEL — or we take most of life with us.

      12. TT, if I can trust Factfulness, then the world is already on the way to stop population growth, if you have not read the book, it’s a great read. Now we just need to figure out how we can reduce our current GHG emissions.
        To bring it back to the topic of this blog, why do we have to spend 3 million tons of carbon on WSBLE? Just to put this into perspective: in 2020 ALL road transportation (road&light trucks) generated 1.68 million tons of carbon (see Seattle’s latest GHG inventory).
        Before we build more concrete monuments, let’s please assess the impact to our city!

      13. Martin, we need to go WAY past “stop population growth”. We need to crash population in order for the wild world to have room to right the world. Sorry, but nine billion people is not sustainable. I include myself as being extraneous.

      14. China now has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, below Japan. Which is why investors are so worried about China.

        Virtually every first world country has a negative growth rate. Unfortunately the world, and U.S., have a disproportionate number of living elderly who consume but produce nothing, and now live to over 80. This is unnatural.

        Bismarck started Social Security in order to fund his war without a “tax increase”. So he chose age 65, which was above the average death age at the time although we all think we are going to live forever. When FDR proposed SS he used the same age for the same reason. It was a fraud at the time and cost the average worker and employer one cent per dollar of wages.

        Eisenhower was able to fund the interstate highway system because he did not have a crushing burden from SS and Medicare that now consumes 15.3% of every dollar of wages which affects the working class the most.

        Tom is correct the world is strained due to its population without quite understanding he is the problem. The immediate and most productive response is to eliminate the unproductive group, although that group believes the remedy is to increase the tax rate or income the taxes apply to. Ah, greed.

        Personally I thought it was obscene our last election for President pitted two 80 year old morally and mentally damaged candidates against each other, and can only wonder what my kids thought as they paid 7.65% out of their wage working in restaurants this summer to support those who have received many times more than they paid in for SS and Medicare, without any cost or experience rating for awful healthcare decisions while their employer paid the same rate which of course my kids paid too while the cost of education has become obscene because we spend so much on the elderly.

        At least increase Medicare for smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, and a disregard for exercise. And stop the COLA for SS except for the very poor. My father worked until 90. We have too many elderly in this country consuming but not producing, contrary to nature, and as a country we are allocating money from those who can change the world, the young, to those who can’t, the elderly.

        In 20 years most of the baby boomers will be dead, and my guess is SS and Medicare fundamentally reformed.

        Tom is correct. If nature had its way the elderly would be eliminated which would free the young to live their lives. The world could easily go to 4 billion people tomorrow and the economy and environment would boom. Except Tom would be gone.

        Or is Tom actually talking about reducing the number of newborns so nature could be even more out of balance, with no one to pay his SS and Medicare, both of which are Ponzi schemes that unlike Bernie Madoff most seniors will die before being found out.

      15. First-world discussions of population shrinkage as a necessary step in the reversal of climate change are fundamentally deranged. Have any of you actually looked up the latest global birth rates by country?

        There’s a name for the idea that the global population must be actively controlled, regardless of justification; that name is eugenics. I do believe there was a pretty big war fought a while back in regards to whether eugenics is bad or not.

        Quit the eugenics chatter, and discuss actual ways to decarbonize the economy. This is a transit and land use blog, after all.

      16. If we want to talk about those who are consuming but not being productive, there are a few dozen billionaires that are responsible for a huge portion of the climate disaster due to their lavish lifestyle, and who survive on the labor of all their employees. Maybe the tax on them isn’t high enough?

      17. “We may have ruined the world, but for one beautiful moment, we made our shareholders very happy”

      18. Carbon is only one factor from global population growth Nathan, although 3rd world population growth will be the major factor in future carbon emissions.

        No one is suggesting some kind of Nazi eugenics. But the unfortunate reality is managed population growth like China has its drawbacks, and unmanaged population growth like birth control and abortion have their drawbacks. Both create an unnatural imbalance between young and old.

        The reality is the number one factor for birt rates is the level of education for women. Mexico in one generation has gone from 5+ children per woman to two, except such a sudden decline in a poor country with longer life expectancies is not sustainable. Ideally you have a young population like the baby boom.

        Tom is correct that total population growth is likely the most pressing issue facing the world, and the issues we discuss on this blog are meaningless in the big (global) picture. Some love to extoll the virtues of European land use, except it is powered by Russian gas.

        My point is if the solution is to restrict new births that will have a devastating effect because the ratio of young and old will become even more skewed, although my guess is the main issue 50 years from now will be population declines and too few births. Of course every time history has seen the imbalance between male and female births like China has that country has gone to war.

        I am not really sure the economy can be de carbonized if third world population growth continues at its current pace. Poor countries use coal for electricity, and many burn wood to cook. We could electrify every vehicle in the U.S. and still make no impact in global warming if massive population growth in poor countries results in fossil fuels used for electricity and transportation.

        The reality is if mankind is really causing global warming from carbon we are doomed because right now there is no viable alternative for poor counties where all the population growth will come from. Tesla won’t help in Africa. So I guess we can skip the debate over EV’s and BAT lanes.

      19. Dan finally comes out as anthropomorphic climate change skeptic.

        And he expects to be taken seriously. What a joke.

      20. It is ironic our energy czar John Kerry flies around the world in a 747 for himself and a few staff, as do Pres. Biden and Nancy Pelosi. Gov. Inslee emitted more carbon during his hopeless campaign for President than the rest of us will emit in our entire lifetimes.

      21. Nathan., I believe carbon emissions are exacerbating climate change. I just don’t think the world will do anything about it, especially the third world. They certainly haven’t yet. What makes you think things will change?

        Take blue Washington State. The only time we have come even close to our carbon goals was in 2012 during the height of the recession.

        But as long as there are naive but well meaning people like you politicians will continue to fool you, while releasing record amounts of oil from the SPR. You are in some ways are lucky: you really don’t look behind the curtain. I envy you in that, to live a life without understanding hypocrisy or deceit.

      22. I think it’s sad that you live without understanding of the purpose of advocating for meaningful change – or maybe you’ve just given up. I’m not sure which is worse.

        At least I’m clear-eyed about what needs to change; I’m not the one putting “if“ in front of “mankind is causing global warming”.

      23. ” SS and Medicare, both of which are Ponzi schemes”
        Pretty gross for someone to call these social welfare programs ponzi schemes.

      24. “The immediate and most productive response is to eliminate the unproductive group…”

        This is eugenics coming from you, DT. Declaring others to be unworthy of life due to them failing to meet your definition of productivity is exactly what was proposed in the eugenics era, and countless people died as a direct result.

      25. If we lose democracy we lose the ability to reduce carbon emissions, especially with the autocrats-in-waiting being pro-gas, pro-coal, pro-car, anti-transit, and having a grudge against environmentalists. Even if they someday become enlightened, it’s subject to their arbitrary whims.

        The population trends are coming down. Last I heard the population will go from 9 to 12 billion and then stabilize. Per Peter Zeihan, China’s population will rapidly shrink due to the legacy of One Child, boy-girl imbalance (female abortion and infanticide), and urbanization. Russia’s population has been decreasing since the 1990s. Much of Europe is shrinking. The US has avoided that through immigration but that’s now decreasing. Mexico’s population will peak in the 2050s. The biggest population-growth spurt will shift from Asia to Africa and then disappear.

        Social Security, Medicare, and the budget are too many issues to address concisely. Other industrialized countries manage to offer more services while spending less on them (public+private combined) than the US does, and leaving a far smaller percent of their population in poverty, housing insecurity, or destitution.

      26. “No one is suggesting some kind of Nazi eugenics.”

        No, but you (and Tom) are suggesting a very American type of eugenics, which that radical right-wing party infamously observed, modified, and attempted to apply. I don’t really care if you’re so evil as to truly believe in it, but I strongly suggest you shut up about it here.

        I also missed this nugget: “unmanaged population growth like birth control and abortion have their drawbacks”

        Tell us, Dan, what are the “drawbacks” of reproductive freedom?

        What a sad way to view the world.

      27. Alright folks, lets try and keep this on topic. Discussing worldwide population growth is interesting, but I don’t see the relevance to transit. In contrast, asdf2’s hypothesis is that electric vehicles will be fairly cheap to operate, which means that per-mile costs go way down (once you’ve bought the car) and this will lead to an increase in driving, and a decrease in transit use.

        This is a reasonable argument, but I think the effect will be minor. Most people don’t think in those terms. They buy a car, and use it. Their decision to take transit for some of the trips has to do with a number of factors, but my guess is they don’t calculate the actual costs. The one exception is for insurance — your rates go down if you don’t commute to work, but drive “for pleasure only”. This wouldn’t change. But other factors include the time difference. If taking transit is competitive with driving, folks prefer it. It is less hassle and in many cases, less stressful. But this is a very personal thing — some people just prefer driving, others are the opposite. I really don’t think electric cars will have a huge impact on these decisions.

        On the other hand, I could definitely see how self-driving cars would. Basically, every car becomes a taxi-cab. You get dropped off, and don’t worry about parking. You can pick up your teenager, who doesn’t have a license, and drop her off somewhere else while you are busy at work. Oh, and real taxicabs — ones you don’t own — charge a lot less per ride.

        But then transit becomes very cheap as well. Transit still scales much better than taxi-cabs or privately owned vehicles. You can carry way more people in a bus than a car. It is simply more efficient in terms of total cost of vehicles, as well as the maintenance cost of them (even if the maintenance costs go down because they are electric).

        Getting back to asdf2’s original point, the issue of congestion and geometry becomes an even bigger factor. It becomes a tragedy of the commons. Left to our devices, individuals will be nice self-driving electric cars, and they will drop them off and pick them up, leading to a huge amount of congestion. Unless, of course, we recognize that this simply can’t scale (as Jarrett Walker explained in the previous link).

      28. “I also missed this nugget: “unmanaged population growth like birth control and abortion have their drawbacks”

        “Tell us, Dan, what are the “drawbacks” of reproductive freedom?”

        This will be my last post on this issue Ross.

        The drawback is with the invention of birth control, which as a straight person I can appreciate, population control has become ahistorical. Since the availability and use of birth control depends on a woman’s education level and income it is the first world countries that have plummeting birth rates while poor third world countries that struggle more with increased population have very high birth rates, with correspondingly higher rates of famine and disease. If India had been able to maintain its population at 500 million from the 1960’s it would today be a very wealthy country. Instead at 1.3 billion it is very poor overall, even with a fairly good education system.

        Second, the world is seeing a reverse in population turnover. As birth rates in first world countries plummet life expectancy has increased pretty dramatically. So there are fewer and fewer workers per elderly person. Some of this can be addressed by immigration (and current inflation is due in part to a shortage of young workers), some hopefully by breakthroughs in medicine like a cure for cancer that is less expensive, and some will have to addressed by lowering end of life costs for medical and housing.

        When it comes to abortion, which I support, the concern is the disproportionate number of fetuses of color who are aborted in the U.S.

        There is no good or bad Nathan. Demographics are the river, and everything else small eddies in the river. I did my part: I had two kids, and it was not easy.

      29. I agree Ross. Overall I don’t see much of a difference in overall ownership costs between EV’s and combustion cars. Certainly not today based on friends who have EV’s.

        EV’s will need to charge outside the house, and will need rapid charging, and there will be a cost for that, along with some kind of mileage tax to make up for lost gas tax. The bigger problem is the technology for EV’s, especially the battery, is not yet competitive. https://cowboystatedaily.com/2022/10/13/wyoming-ev-road-trip-15-hours-from-cheyenne-to-casper/

        There is the road capacity for non-peak travel because we built our roads to meet peak travel, or tried to, and then WFH happened. By and large people don’t drive for the fun of it, and contrary to asdf2’s analysis don’t drive long distances if the same item is nearby (or can be ordered on Amazon). The vision of the PSRC is more self-contained “villages” or cities that require less travel rather than major urban areas like downtown Seattle, although the 2050 Vision Statement did not envision the pandemic and WFH which just accelerated this vision.

        We are a ways away from driverless technology except in defined routes. But you raise a good point that was raised in a seminar on ACES (autonomous electric shared vehicles) I co-hosted with Bellevue in 2017: if everyone has their own driverless car buzzing around all day doing errands the roads will be clogged, even with driverless technology. There will have to be some “shared” ridership component.

        At that time there will need to be some kind of central traffic control, and I imagine some kind of mileage tax. I think the likely end result is most folks will go from two personal cars to one for trips (to go skiing for example), and a combo Uber/Ford/Avis will operate a huge fleet of driverless cars that folks will pay a monthly subscription for plus some kind of per trip charge, which eliminates parking and parking costs, and will be in perpetual motion, which likely will be better in urban areas where congestion is an issue rather than rural areas.

        An issue at that point is whether it is more economical to subsidize poor folks use of that service or to maintain a separate transit system grid wide.

        But changing the engine in a car or SUV won’t change human behavior, although it can reduce carbon emissions over time. The keys will be driverless technology, and probably robotics and more online purchases and more WFH.

      30. “By and large people don’t drive for the fun of it”

        And many people drive who don’t want to because alternatives are inadequate or nonexistent.

      31. For the record, Daniel, I would choose a lottery system which favored the citizens of countries with the lowest cumulative emissions per capita.

        This would clearly put Africa and the “Global South” in the “winners” category and would be very hard on Churchill’s beloved “English-Speaking Peoples”.

        I do think that your blaming me for climate change is a bit over the top, though. I didn’t own a car between my 22nd and 34th years of life and walked or rode transit at least half the workdays in each year after that time except for one year during the post-2008 recession when I had a long-distance commute.

        Since the time I ceased working for compensation (at 67) I have taken two long driving trips, one to Alaska and back via the Canadian parks one way and one around the country except for New England where I had lived in the past for a while.

        I still walk to the store for groceries and carry them home. I do it for exercise primarily, though I do like “avoiding” a bit of GHG production in the process. I don’t care for becoming a target for Trumpers in their monster trucks, though.

        So though just by being an American citizen I have been the generator of an unconscionable amount of atmospheric Carbon, I’m not the primary “cause” of the problem. The layout of our cities and the insistence on absolute “property rights” for owners of productive agricultural land to repurpose it into large-lot sprawl are.

        You reactionary worshippers at the totem of unrestricted “private property” will not escape the horrors of the coming disasters, and neither particularly will your descendants. That is just.

      32. Tom, I never meant to imply you are causing global warming, or any more than the rest of us.

        I agree with you current and future population levels are maybe the most critical issue for our planet. My point was we are dealing with that by reducing births (at least in the first world) but extending life expectancies, which is contrary to how nature (and The Catholic Church) did it.

        It will take a generation or two for birth control to trickle down to third world countries and for the baby bust to work its way through the system and all the current elderly who come from a high birth rate generation to die off. It is going to be traumatic because of the declining number of workers supporting each retired, elderly person.

        Eventually though, in around 50- or 100-years, things should balance out, and birth rates in third world countries will match first world countries, and the big issue at that time is across the board birth rates will be below replacement rates (around 2.2 kids per couple) while so many of the childless elderly will have no family to help or care for them. Be nice to your kids because no one changes diapers for free after age two.

      33. Daniel, your long-term prognostication of a balanced human population is quite reasonable and would be likely in a steady-state world. It is a devoutly to be hoped-for scenario.

        However, humanity cannot be assured of a steady-state world. Last night on Amanpour John Kerry noted that a scientist at the Potsdam Institute in Germany [I didn’t catch the scientist’s name] has asserted that five potential “tipping points” have moved into acceleration. IIRC Kerry named “the Arctic” [meaning Greenland and reflectivity of sea ice I believe], “permafrost”, “Antarctica”, and two others I don’t remember exactly right now.

        One can certainly disagree with any of the five being having truly “tipped” — that is, entered an irreversible feedback state wherein each increment of change makes the next increment more likely — but the probability that all five are misinterpretations of the data is pretty unlikely.

        Any one means that limiting cumulative warming to two or even three degrees C becomes very unlikely.

        Mass starvation for ourselves and much other animal life becomes inevitable at three degrees of average warming. We are completely dependant on natural rainfall watering the grain fields for ourselves and our animals. As has been shown in a stark manner, historic rainfall patterns are being replaced by alternate flood and drought around the planet.

        Yes, therre have always been droughts, and many have been severe. The tree ring records, though, say that they have never been so random and “correlated”, at least not in the past four thousand years that the data series reaches.

        Those four-thousand years are remarkably well matched with human recorded history.

      34. A Joy, Daniel isn’t advocating “Eugenics” or differential reductions in the population of any specific group other than mine: old people. He’s a GenX-er, and as a group they’ve always been pissed at Boomers. We had thirty-minute Rock’N’Roll fantasies, “free love” and Kennedy, but they got stuck with Disco, AIDS and Reagan, so I can empathize.

        He’s not coming for LGBTQIA+ folks. Actually, I give him credit for being an ally insofar as tolerance goes. He seems generally skeptical of “preferences”, but a genuine supporter of live-and-let-live.

    4. I don’t necessarily agree. Electric cars may be cheaper to own and operate than internal combustion cars, but traffic and parking will still be problematic. Even if I had an electric car that was a joy to drive, I’d still take the bus or Link to a Seahawks game, because I don’t want to fight traffic or squeeze into a $50 parking space. Cheaper and less stress to use public transit and let a paid professional handle getting us to the game and back home.

      1. Right, some people take transit only to work. Others take it only to ballgames, or only when they go to downtown Seattle. They won’t pay $10/hour parking or sit in ballgame traffic. The 550 becomes standing room only some Sunday evenings, especially on game days.

        What percent of sports fans drive to the stadiums?

        There’s also the fact that parked cars take up several times as much space as a fan sitting in the stands. This can be mitigated if there are four or five people per car.

      2. @Mike Orr: I remember studying the EIS documents for the aborted SoDo arena. For those who would’ve driven to games and parked in their lot or nearby, they calculated something like 2.3 people per car. I would guess very few people drive alone to games, unless they’re losers like me without friends (just kidding).

        @Nathan: I think the majority of fans going to Seattle games drive Especially for the Seahawks and UW football as they draw a lot more from outside the city than the other teams do, and then add tailgate culture. However, I think an increasing number of people are taking transit to games because they don’t want to deal with the parking and traffic hassles. IIRC the SoDo EIS also took Link access into account, and a lot of fans would’ve used the Stadium station and a pedestrian overpass to get to the arena.

  12. ST doesn’t like the idea of First Hill at all, so how about taking the second line through downtown to the west?

    By that I mean build the line from West Seattle to Sodo, but at Sodo have the line from the RV diverge to the west. Find a route so that a station could be placed near Starbucks HQ, the west side of the stadium, and then up First or more probably along Alaskan Way on the waterfront. All of this could be elevated cutting down the cost, and you still have the service pattern of Tacoma to Ballard and West Seattle to Lynnwood. Too, there would certainly be station along the waterfront to service the ferry and waterfront, and probably one close to Pike Place.

    Figure out then how to get to the Seattle Center, and then build to Ballard as planned. Possibly repurpose and/or modernize the old Battery Street tunnel (cut and cover there?) with a station directly serving Belltown.

    Sure you skip SLU, but there is the street car there already for that which you could upgrade if you want. Sure there could be some developers and wealthy folks along the waterfront who wouldn’t relish the idea of another elevated structure there, but this would be much slimmed down from the old viaduct.

    1. Tempting to sacrifice serving SLU & Denny Triangle to gain an elevated line, but for all those riders coming from RV or Ballard to downtown, are they all expected to walk up the hill from the waterfront?

      It would be ironic to run another viaduct along the waterfront – there’s plenty of ROW! – and like the car viaduct the views would be stupendous.

      1. “RV or Ballard to downtown, are they all expected to walk up the hill from the waterfront?”

        Yes. or transfer to a bus at Belltown or Seattle Center, or transfer to monorail at seattle center, or ride to sodo and transfer there to backtrack up into town. Or maybe Seattle figures out a way to get people up the hill some other way.

        The point is that the community in Chinatown Internation District doesn’t want the construction, and transfers and access to the proposed 2nd tunnel will be awful, and the second tunnel means RV folks lose access to Stadium Station and good stations downtown anyway, and this new tunnel duplicates everything that is already there.

        This way at least a new section of town is served, and there would be a stadium station on the west of the stadiums so RV wouldn’t lose access to that, and there would be options. It’s not ideal, but the current proposal isn’t either, and I’m not sure what would be ideal anyway. There are tradeoffs for everything.

    2. “Cheap” is really not a good yardstick for judging the value of a transit facility.

      I do like the idea of using the Battery Street tunnel; WSDOT should certainly have left half of it empty. But, they didn’t, and removing the rubble wouldn’t be as easy as digging a whole new tunnel.

      1. There’s nothing ‘cheap’ about building a transit line anywhere.

        A line on or near the waterfront can only be termed less expensive compared to building the 2nd tunnel they have currently designed.

        And sure. If battery can’t be used again then dig another tunnel. It would at least be shorter, and yes ‘cheaper’ than what they are thinking of.

      2. There is no reason not to use buses for both Ballard and West Seattle, except peoples’ vanity. The Repugnants are going to “re-purpose” the portion of the Infrastructure Bill dedicated to transit and stop the annual formula grants in the name of “deficit reduction”. There won’t be any money for anything that the City can’t raise itself.

        Building another “train to nowhere” (to match the lines south of Midway and north of Lynnwood) is not a good use of the City’s funds.

      1. Edit: not the Middle East’s only subway, but oldest; it’s Israel’s only subway until the Tel Aviv line opens.

    1. Carmelit isn’t really a subway but an underground funicular like Ankara has – something to consider to extend the Pioneer Sq light rail station up to First Hill.

      1. Isn’t the Madison St. “BRT” supposed to be the hill-climbing transit with the capacity to bring the masses up First Hill?

        The next step would be to do a similar upgrade to the 3/4 up James to Cherry.

      2. Fun fact Nathan: The Harborview entrance is over 1/4 of a mile from Madison BRT. Add to that the stops on Madison BRT are too steep for a wheelchair user except for the First Ave stop.

        A Jefferson St funicular seems very worthwhile. It could even have a midway stop for King County government offices!

      3. I’m aware that Madison is distant from the hospital facilities, hence my suggestion to give similar treatment to the 3/4, which do serve Harborview quite directly.

        A funicular subway would be cute, but I think we have better ways of spending transit cash – unless, somehow, the County decided a couple hundred million dollars for a half-mile funicular, for the almost-exclusive purpose of carrying folks from PSQ to Harborview’s facilities, would be worth it.

      4. How about diverting some of the DSTT2 money to First Hill? I bet it would increase ridership far more than a midtown station.
        I wouldn’t have to be an underground funicular, it could also be above ground (going over I-5) urban gondola and could connect Pioneer station with not only Harborview but Broadway – much faster and more frequent than the streetcar and any other bus connection.

      5. Isn’t the Madison St. “BRT” supposed to be the hill-climbing transit with the capacity to bring the masses up First Hill?

        The next step would be to do a similar upgrade to the 3/4 up James to Cherry.

        I agree. It may not raise the 3/4 to the same level (with center running buses) but it would be great if it was significantly faster, as the 40 will be when that work is complete.

        It is also worth noting that Harborview is just one location on First Hill. It used to be that First Hill was very “spiky”. By that I mean from a population or destination standpoint, you had areas that were very high density and low density. It isn’t that way any more. There are plenty of skyscrapers on First Hill, along with very dense areas like Yesler Terrace. The hospitals have grown outward. What is true of First Hill is true of the greater Central Area (of which First Hill and Capitol Hill are a part). Basically everything east of the freeway and west of 23rd has a lot more density, everywhere. Speeding up the 3/4 would not only make trips to Harborview (and the rest of First Hill) much faster, but it would make trips east of there much faster — trips that thousands of riders endure right now.

        None of that means that some sort of conveyance system isn’t worth it. Seattle has plenty of downtown elevators. But it depends on cost. These sorts of things can be cheap compared to light rail, but it doesn’t mean that say, an urban gondola weaving its way through skyscrapers is going to be cheap. For now, I would rather put the money into making buses like the 3/4 faster.

      6. RR-G is estimated to cost $135m. Before we do the same for 3/4 line, I do think that it would make sense to look at an aerial option.
        For comparison, the Kirkland 3 station gondola is estimated to cost $81m.
        Annual operation for it is estimated at $6.7m.
        Does anybody have any idea what RR-G will cost the city/Metro?

      7. I agree that some sort of conveyance between Harborview and Pioneer Square Station is so obvious as to be a slap in the face. I have advocated a funicular in the past, because it’s a proven technology for distances such as that between 3rd and 9th. But I’d be fine with a gondola, and it’s probably cheaper and probably somewhat “safer”. [Don’t like the idea of sharing with the threatening guy in line behind you? Step aside and let him have his own cabin.]

      8. Tom, I’m curious, why don’t you think of the routes 3 and 4 as a good way to get from Pioneer Square Station to Harborview? The routes 3 and 4 stop at 3rd and James, one block away from the Link station, and they also stop in front of Harborview.

      9. RR-G is estimated to cost $135m. Before we do the same for 3/4 line, I do think that it would make sense to look at an aerial option.

        Who said anything about “doing the same”? No one has suggested that. What we have suggested is that we can make the buses faster, which would be much cheaper than a gondola weaving around skyscrapers, or even a funicular.

        I really don’t know why the RapidRide G cost so much. It is hard to find details. Some of it certainly went into new buses. But those buses replace other buses — a gondola wouldn’t replace anything. Second, some of it was for expanding the street. They bought property, which is expensive, so that the street could be wide enough for bus lanes and bus stops in the middle of the street. No one is suggesting that for the 3/4. Finally, I’m sure some of it is for work on the street itself. They didn’t just paint the streets. They tore them up. They basically used this as an excuse for doing work they would need to do anyway. We’ve seen this play before. SDOT had ridiculously expensive bike lanes, only because much of the money went to underground utility work that would eventually need to be done anyway. The same thing is true here. The street probably did need new concrete, but that would be the case with the old buses as well.

        The point is, no one is actually suggesting that. What they are suggesting is that they do the same sort of work for the 3/4 as they are doing for the 40. Make the bus really fast. It would not be that expensive. A little planning and some paint — that is about it. It would benefit the entire line (from Queen Anne to the C. D.).

        That is the part of this that folks seem to be ignoring. Harborview is only one stop! The reason the 3/4 carries so many riders is because it has lots of stops like it. A lot of people who go to Harborview come from the other direction. A lot of people go to other places. It is an urban bus route, with urban stops pretty much the entire way. I’m sure the number of people going from one stop downtown to Harborview make up a tiny portion of the ridership.

      10. My comment re: the 3/4 could be construed as advocating for a RR-G-style BRT for the 3/4, but I agree that bus lanes and spot intersection treatments like the 40/44 improvements would be a great start.

      11. My comment re: the 3/4 could be construed as advocating for a RR-G-style BRT for the 3/4, but I agree that bus lanes and spot intersection treatments like the 40/44 improvements would be a great start.

        Fair enough. I guess I shouldn’t have written that no one suggests that.

        My main point is that if we are comparing costs, we should be clear that RapidRide G likely didn’t actually cost that much in terms of pure, transit-related work. We did need new buses with doors on both sides, but I would bet that we didn’t compare the cost to similar buses that we would need if the bus ran curbside. There is a huge amount of street work being done — I doubt that is being done just for the buses. If you compare this to a project that only involves paint it is a bit more expensive, but not $100 million more. Some property was bought, you have some kiosks, but it is not a fundamentally expensive project.

      12. Sam, because James Street is slow, though not as excruciatingly so as pre-pandemic. A funicular or gondola could also accommodate wheelchairs more readily.

      13. Sam, because James Street is slow

        So make it fast. That is the alternative. Consider the two choices:

        1) Build some sort of point-to-point system from a single stop downtown to a single stop in Harborview.

        2) Make the 3/4 significantly faster by turning general purpose lanes into BAT or bus lanes. If you are headed to Harborview from anywhere along the 3/4 corridor it will be faster and more reliable. It will make other trips that involve the 3/4 faster and more reliable as well.

        The first option is likely to be way more expensive, while helping far fewer people. It only serves one trip pair, while the second option serves every trip combination on the existing bus routes. That one trip pair (a downtown stop to Harborview) is significant, but still a relatively small portion of the overall 3/4 ridership.

        I think we should stop trying to leapfrog, and build things in order. Make the buses fast. Run them more often. If they are still crowded after you run them often, then build something else. If buses are cruising up the hill, running every six minutes all day long (like the G will) and they are stuffed to the gills between downtown and Harborview then we should definitely provide an alternative. Until then, let’s just make one of our most productive buses faster.

      14. James St is a mess and should be improved for 3/4 regardless as even a cable option won’t replace the bus lines, I agree, Ross. I talked to the Swedish transportation coordinator – they recommend taking Lyft from Cherry Hill to Broadway or Harborview for reliability and accessibility reasons. Getting on a bus at a slope on James can be quite tricky, even if you don’t have mobility issues. Just for Ada access Metro may want to consider a hospital gondola, the hospitals may even chip in as it would reduce their parking needs.

      15. Ross, if the City of Seattle were going to “make the 3/4 fast” — assuming that’spossible– the bus would be fast today. You are NOT going to get two lanes out of the main access to and from the freeway for the Central District.

      16. I agree Tom: residents who live east of I-5 won’t agree to reduced lanes to get to I-5. Or downtown workers going east up the hill to I-5.

        Plus let’s be realistic: in a city that does not investigate or prosecute misdemeanors, and is down 30% in police officers, any kind of “bus lane” is voluntary. Once one car dives out of the congestion into the empty bus lane so will others,

        You also have to ask why a cash strapped MI — and probably other cities unless thise residents just drive to the park and ride on MI to catch the 630 — is willing to subsidize a bus directly to First Hill to avoid a transfer from Link in Pioneer Square.

        Part is time of trip since the street car may be the worst transit in the world, but even before that it is a perception of safety. Not only would you need to make the transfer 5 minutes or less and the trip direct to the medical facilities with bery few stops, you have to make the transfer 100% safe in the minds of the riders. That means women who make up a large percentage of these essential healthcare workers but don’t get free parking (at least on First Hill) and it means in the dark. Same reason our firm could no longer get Eastside female staff when buses were kicked out of the transit tunnel.

        Which oddly enough might be the one location some kind of gondola could work. Fast transfer, few stops, a trip above everything the riders want to avoid although a depart fee would likely be necessary and strict fare enforcement so it doesn’t become an amusement ride. Ideally it would terminate inside of or directly next to the Pioneer Square Link station because my guess is ST will have to secure the downtown stations in the future.

      17. No matter how hard Metro tries, any Route 3/4 improvements are still unable to resolve the slope problem. It’s pretty scary to hold a rolling suitcase, a stroller or a small child with that slope. It’s difficult for those in wheelchairs or holding canes. Even the average standee has to hold on like they are riding a San Francisco cable car.

        The solution that’s needed needs to be level. It’s the same structural problem as RR-G. That’s the big appeal of an incline of some type. Even bicyclists couLd easily use it.

        Some people think it’s ok to make others suffer as long as they don’t personally suffer.

      18. The solution that’s needed needs to be level.

        Sorry, but that is absurd. We are a city of hills. It is impractical to think that we can possibly build out our system and make the hills irrelevant. The 3/4 makes dozens of stops. What would you replace it with — light rail? Even if you shared the downtown stations, you would have around 30 stops to cover. Go on a stop diet, and you can down to maybe a dozen (if you want to build anything resembling urban stop spacing). We simply can’t afford that.

        Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to do all that? You only want to provide a good connection for one particular stop pair? OK, fine. But guess what? You haven’t replaced the 3/4. You have merely replaced one small subset of it. You will only get a handful of riders, while the vast majority will simply keep taking the bus, as it makes its way up steep hills.

        Look at the Beacon Hill Station. It is a very good station. It covers the most urban part of Beacon Hill (a hill). Prior to the pandemic, it had pretty good ridership — around 3,000 a day. The connection to various destinations like the UW, downtown and the airport was very fast. Frequency was also good. The trip is level. And yet, even with all of that, the 36 and 60 had way more riders on Beacon Hill. We can’t possibly build a system that makes the hills irrelevant, and even if we did, a lot of riders would ignore that system.

      19. Ross, if the City of Seattle were going to “make the 40 fast” — assuming that’s possible – the bus would be fast today. You are NOT going to get two lanes out of the main access to and from the Fremont Bridge

        And yet that is the plan.

        Sorry, Tom, but the idea that “they would have done it already” is absurd. There are changes happening all the time in this city. Changes people wanted for years. Changes that others thought were crazy, and would never happen. Changes that even transit advocates — like Al — think go too far. They are happening simply because Metro and the city of Seattle decided to look at a particular corridor and do something about it.

        James would be challenging, to be sure. But it isn’t impossible. I’ve looked at it before and come up with some ideas, but I’m sure the professionals would be better at it. Just look at page 3 of the most recent proposal for the 40: https://tinyurl.com/ynxwtrh4. Rather clever. The bus turns left from the far right lane. Thus it avoids all of the congestion in that turn lane. This might be overkill for some streets, but that particular one is unusual (https://goo.gl/maps/NShMxsxoAgA9HrPK7). I trust the engineers came up with a solution that is quite effective and saves riders a considerable amount of time.

        Yet the bus isn’t fast today, nor did they come up with this idea initially. It was only after feedback that someone took another look, and came up with what I consider to be a very clever solution that will eliminate plenty of delays. The idea that we can’t possibly do the same sort of thing on James is absurd. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but there are lots of lanes to play around with, and James isn’t special. There is talk all the time of closing freeway ramps. Not “taking a lane”, but closing them altogether. For example, 45th NE (and pushing cars to 50th). To old timers this seems radical — like getting rid of the viaduct and replacing it with something that lacks ramps on Western and downtown. But in a few years, no one will miss it, and the city is much better off without it.

        [Just to be clear, I’m not actually proposing we get rid of the ramps on James. I’m suggesting that we take lanes so that buses can avoid most or all of the congestion. We’ve clearly reached the point where automobiles will never run quickly through those streets during rush hour, which means the only feasible alternative is run higher capacity vehicles (buses) in their own lanes. ]

      20. OK, I know I said I wouldn’t share my ideas on James, but I will anyway. Again, I’m sure the professionals could do better, but here is a first crack at it.

        Eastbound (up the hill): Make the right lane a BAT lane, and disallow right turns from James to 6th. Drivers have to use Cherry or Jefferson (or Marion, Spring, etc.) to get on the freeway from downtown. Next, ban right turns from James to Fifth*. That eliminates a potential backdoor to the freeway, and also makes James a faster street (especially for buses in that right lane). So that basically takes you all the way from the beginning of the bus on James up to 9th, where … wait for it … the bus turns to serve Harborview. This means that the BAT lane on James disappears east of there. Traffic in that left lane actually runs fairly quickly as a result, since suddenly general purpose lanes on James goes from one lane to two (eastbound). It is actually not that different than exists now. Right now, the freeway exits onto 7th. If you are headed eastbound on James, you have one lane. It is only after you turn that you have two lanes. So basically this just delays that “one lane to two” process until you are up the hill a ways. From the moment the bus turns onto James (from Third) the BAT lane would be empty until 8th (which is a short dead end) and 9th (when the bus turns anyway). Nice.

        Westbound (down the hill): Same basic idea. BAT lanes on James from 9th to 3rd. No right turn from James to 7th. Drivers headed north have to use Cherry (many driver do anyway). You can turn left onto 7th though. Drivers are free to clog up the left lane as they try and get on the freeway. Fourth is the only other northbound street, and so far as I know, it isn’t a big problem. You could eliminate right turns, but it is probably not worth the bother. One more minor change: Northbound 7th (which is essentially the off-ramp) has three lanes. Right now it is left, left/straight, right. Instead it will be left, straight, right. If you get off James and are heading north (to Cherry, Columbia, Marion, etc.) you actually come out ahead.

        That’s it (for that section). Nothing in here sounds radical. Drivers from downtown have to use a street other than James to get on the freeway. Drivers getting off the freeway (at James) have only one lane heading to downtown. Once drivers get used to it (which won’t take long, given that most drivers get directions via their phone) I see no significant problem. Some drivers will be delayed, some drivers save time. But the main thing is, most people (if not drivers) come out ahead.

        * An alternative would be to make Jefferson a dead end at 6th. That way drivers don’t use 5th and Jefferson (off of James) to get on the freeway, but they can still access 5th from James.

      21. Or the city could close James entirely to cars. Or make James one way transit only eastbound and Cherry one way transit only westbound. They could then be like 3rd Ave.

        If an east/west lane(s) are going to be transit only a better street would be Yesler which is along the Pioneer Square station. Get rid of the bike lane that is too steep to be practical. Using Yesler would remove I-5 exist and entrances from the route. Or Washington. Those two streets are not as critical to drivers and access to I-5. It doesn’t benefit a city to create huge backups and congestion up and down James which is bad enough today during peak hours.

        Or reroute the street car to avoid the loop. Or use a more frequent bus on the streetcar’s route. Or have folks going to Capitol Hill take Link to the Capitol Hill station and transfer to a bus south on Broadway which is flat. Either way someone has to transfer from Link to a bus to get to Harborview or to First Hill. This would eliminate Al’s concern about stations on steep streets which require a lot of stops since it is hard to walk up the hill to a stop.

        I agree with Tom taking two lanes on any east/west street would be a tough sell, since the lanes would be taken for transit because the existing east/west transit is poorly routed and a dumb mode. James is just too important for a BAT lane.

        Capacity on this route up the hill is not the issue. It’s just the current transit is slow up the hill in this southern hilly part of the city.

        Better route, better mode, fewer stops. The “hill” starts on 1st and begins to level off at 9th. It is the grade that makes walking a few blocks up the hill tough. I would avoid any turns if possible. Straight up the hill with as few stops as possible on a street less critical than James if transit only lanes are a consideration.

      22. I’ve taken the route 3 and 4 up and down James plenty of times. While going between 3rd ave and 9th ave, I’ve never once thought to myself, “What’s taking so long?” Is this just the comment section once again trying to find solutions to problems that don’t exist, like you did a few weeks ago when you tried to solve the non-existent Husky bus special problem?

      23. Metro’s plan to improve the 3/4 was to move it to Yesler between 3rd and 8th. It stalled in the late 2010s because there still wasn’t funding to install trolley wire on Yesler. Then people objected to losing the station at the jail and the project was canceled.

        “I’ve taken the route 3 and 4 up and down James plenty of times. While going between 3rd ave and 9th ave, I’ve never once thought to myself, “What’s taking so long?”

        I worked at Harborview in the 90s, and lived a block from Harborview in 2003-2005. The 3/4 was as slow as a snail. Eastbound I was always happy when a 27 came first because it’s normal speed. The 3/4 is signficantly slower than another route in east Seattle, and it’s all because of James Street’s freeway traffic and the turn on 9th. I don’t understand how people on East Jefferson, Cherry, or 23rd can stand it because I’d go out of my mind. I’m surprised Metro hasn’t been forced to improve it already due to an overwhelming number of complaints.

      24. Improve it how Mike? I think that was the question.

        Tom’s point was if improving the 3/4 was not worth moving it to Yesler the chance of turning 50% of James St. into BAT lanes is unlikely. James St. — especially at 6th but all the way to Broadway and beyond — can be slow because so many cars use it, in part because it continues under I-5, like Madison, and because it gets a driver to I-5 south, or someone exiting I-5 on. 7th to downtown without the mess at Madison. If you really want to see complaints double that congestion which will ripple throughout the city.

        If Yesler of all streets is not open for a bus lane or installing wires then obviously slow speeds on James isn’t that big of an issue. I still think looking at Yesler or Washington has a better chance than reducing car lanes on James. Or more likely doing nothing. How many riders take the 3/4 up to 9th or beyond? During non peak times traffic on James isn’t too bad.

      25. Daniel is right. Moving the wires to Yesler is a one-time expense that would save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on operating costs, forever…..

        You used to think so, tok, Ross. Why not now?

        It separates bus and auto traffic all the way from Third to 23rd!

      26. Moving the wires to Yesler is a one-time expense that would save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on operating costs, forever…

        Yes, that would work too. We just came up with two solutions, both of which are much cheaper and much more useful than a funicular or gondola. I’m sure if we spent more time — or handed over the problem to real traffic engineers — they could come up with other solutions as well. That is my point. Just make the bus faster.

        I don’t have a strong opinion on any solution. Using James is shorter, and has one fewer turn. But the turns going the other way may be faster. It has been years since I rode the 3/4. I don’t know where all the bottlenecks are. You might “fix” James, only to find that turning on 9th takes a long time (whereas approaching from the other direction is faster).

        As Mike mentioned, there was an objection to the Yesler move because of the loss of coverage. I think you could backfill that with another route (e. g. the tail of the 106). Any time you move a route, you have to consider all the other routes in the area. I think the best time to do this would be with the RapidRide G.

        In contrast, adding paint — like that done with the 40 — means you largely keep the same stops. There will be a few bus stops that move, but only a few feet. The fact that the 40 project seems to be going along without a hitch suggests that from a political standpoint, it might be easier to add BAT lanes (and otherwise “fix” the current route of the 3/4). But again, I have no preference for either solution. My main point is that both would be way more cost effective — and just plain effective — than building some new point-to-point system to Harborview.

      27. James is just too important for a BAT lane.

        Important for what?

        We’ve got BAT lanes on most avenues downtown. There are BAT lanes on Columbia Street, on what is essentially the main feeder route from SR 99 into downtown. There will be BAT lanes on Madison, which is a major east-west street running by the biggest skyscrapers in the city and connecting to a major freeway. A little bit further east — but still in the land of skyscrapers — the buses will run in the middle of the street, and there will be one lane, each direction, for all the cars. There will be only a handful of places where cars will be able to turn left (and the wait will be long) while cars trying to go straight will be forced to wait for cars turning right (that will be forced to wait for all the pedestrians). James is an important street, but the 3/4 only runs on a tiny bit of it. Madison is far more important, and the changes there will be far more disruptive than anything anyone has seriously proposed for James.

        It doesn’t benefit a city to create huge backups and congestion up and down James which is bad enough today during peak hours.

        That is not how congestion works. It is a zero sum game. Anyone who has ever waited to get on to the freeway at a metered ramp understands this. They are experiencing a major delay, and yet the folks on the freeway go a little bit faster. Close 520 and northbound traffic across the ship canal moves faster.

        If you read carefully, you will have noticed that congestion would actually be reduced for parts of James. Eastbound past 9th will move especially well. Traffic will move to other streets (just like with Madison). Again, it is a zero sum game. There are winners and losers no matter what you do.

        The only way to reduce congestion is to reduce the number of cars. Giving people an alternative is one of those ways. Even if it doesn’t reduce congestion, it reduces the number of *people* experiencing congestion. The cars may be stuck in traffic in New York City, but most people get around just fine because they aren’t in those cars.

      28. “The only way to reduce congestion is to reduce the number of cars. Giving people an alternative is one of those ways. Even if it doesn’t reduce congestion, it reduces the number of *people* experiencing congestion. The cars may be stuck in traffic in New York City, but most people get around just fine because they aren’t in those cars.”

        Yes and no. For example congestion on I-5 could be improved dramatically by design changes rather than closing access to 520 or reducing the number of cars. For 405 it is increasing the number of lanes. Just restriping the exit onto 7th and James so one lane is a through lane has helped congestion at this busy intersection.

        But what you are talking about is reducing the number of lanes, not cars. To assume all those car drivers now stuck in congestion that is twice or four times as bad will switch to the bus is, to quote Earl, “optimistic”. There is congestion on James now and those drivers haven’t switched to transit.

        There are many, many reasons folks drive rather than take transit, although congestion and parking costs can be two drawbacks, except congestion is much lighter post pandemic during peak hours, and parking in downtown Seattle is irrelevant to someone who no longer needs to go into downtown Seattle because the WFH or work somewhere else with free parking, Seattle’s real existential problem.

        I agree there are winners and losers in your plan. The point Tom and I are making is the number of cars and car drivers have the political upper hand which is why James has its current configuration. I think there would be less pushback if the BAT lanes are on Yesler. Compare the number of cars using James and transit riders on James during any weekday (this really is only an issue during weekdays, and peak hours).

        You are a transit advocate and so advocate that transit be the “winner” in this situation. I respect that. If James was completely closed to car traffic you would support that. Post pandemic the congestion on James is less so this issue has less immediacy. Then there are car advocates, and business interests, and they want to be the winner. It also wouldn’t hurt if SDOT and Metro made current transit along these east/west routes better, like replacing the streetcar with a better, faster and more immediate route. Restriping Madison from 5th to 6th has resulted in increased congestion at this important entrance to I-5f and so moved that congestion to James. Part of this problem is transit’s fault. Routing may goose ridership overall, but it also has a big impact on time of trip.

        I also don’t see why someone heading east on transit can’t take Rapid Ride on Madison. That is a flat and reasonable walk once you reach Broadway.

        My guess is in the current financial and political environment nothing will be done to James, which I guess makes drivers the winners. But as Sam has noted, the speed up James for the 3/4 is not terrible and isn’t even an issue except some peak hours on weekdays. If isn’t worth sacrificing Yesler or Washington it isn’t worth sacrificing James IMO.

      29. I’m not aware of any city anywhere that has ever successfully reduced congestion on any road simply by adding lanes.

        It gets into induced demand. Adding lanes adds capacity, and more people will drive that route until it quickly reaches the same congestion level as before.

      30. When I-90 went from 3 to 4 lanes in each direction it significantly reduced traffic congestion, even with one lane being transit/HOV, in part because it increased capacity and in part because it removed some bottlenecks.

        Adding lanes to 405 also reduced congestion (at least in the HOT lanes) although certainly didn’t eliminate traffic congestion.

        I don’t think induced demand is the reason people are driving or a road like 405 is congested. People are driving because they need to go somewhere, although we have seen WFH has helped with peak congestion. Many areas, especially along 405 to 167 or the Maple Valley Highway, have effectively no transit, and many of those residents need tools and trucks.

        It would be like me arguing increasing frequency on buses or trains does not reduce rider congestion because it will only lead to induced traffic demand and negate the increased frequency, so instead do nothing and force folks to stay home due to congestion or have long waits for buses or trains. Or drive.

        We have built many of our roads and transit systems to handle peak demand, and with WFH post pandemic and a move away from commuting to key urban areas that peak demand has declined, so for the most part our roads meet demand today. Those are good things, except for farebox recovery.

        Some exceptions are I-5 in large part due to its poor design and entrances/exits and the bottlenecks at the convention center and bridge, and 405 southbound because areas south along 167 have boomed, and of course those highways then back up traffic into feeder roads and cities.

        It looks like population growth in King Co. and Seattle has flatlined or decreased, although it is not clear if that trend will continue. With more WFH and doing a better design job on some roads and streets (and not letting bridges fail) along with more lanes where possible on 405 there should be plenty of capacity for cars and transit.

      31. Just restriping the exit onto 7th and James so one lane is a through lane has helped congestion at this busy intersection.

        Yes, and added congestion somewhere else. It is a zero-sum game. You can’t build your way out of congestion — many cities have tried (and failed). You reach a point where you have diminishing returns. With more lanes you have a bigger chance of something going wrong (e. g. accidents). Automobile traffic just doesn’t scale. Transit does.

        There are many, many reasons folks drive rather than take transit

        Yes. We also know — for a fact — that as transit speed increases, so does transit ridership. There are many studies to back up this intuitive idea. We also know that as frequency increases, ridership increases. Frequency can increase at no extra cost if the buses run faster.

        The point Tom and I are making is the number of cars and car drivers have the political upper hand which is why James has its current configuration.

        Yet you provide not a single shred of evidence to support your case. I have pointed out numerous examples of the opposite. I have mentioned major changes — much bigger than what I propose for James. They are happening despite whatever objections occurred from those who want to drive faster through the area. You have not provided a single example of the opposite. What transit plan was forced to be rolled back because of traffic concerns? You think there is some mythical group of drivers with pitchforks, ready to complain about new BAT lanes downtown. That is absurd. The vast majority of people in this city who go downtown don’t drive there. They take transit, bike or walk. Then you have the increasing number of people who live there. Again, they walk, take transit or bike.

        Oh, and building a BAT lane on James to ninth also builds an emergency lane to Harborview — the major trauma center for the region. My guess is there are political forces throughout the county that will look fondly at something like that.

        Speaking of politics, consider the representatives in that area. The borders could change, but at most you have Morales, Sawant and Lewis. They have their differences, but each one is a very strong supporter of transit, and transit infrastructure. They have had their chance to complain about how RapidRide G will “screw up Madison for cars”, but they have said nothing of the kind. Quite the opposite. Again, the change I propose for James would be much smaller, and allow parts of James to actually move faster.

        Driving is extremely flexible. People change driving patterns. They will move to other streets — streets that make less sense for transit (like Cherry).

      32. When you add a freeway lane to a congested freeway, it can (at the maximum throughput) move approximately 2500 vehicles per hour.
        That maximum throughput happens at somewhere around 35 mph. Faster speeds mean bigger following distances, so the total vehicle count is a bit less. Slower speeds means less vehicles making it past that checkpoint in a given hour.

        When you add that extra lane, you immediately draw 2500 ‘riders’ from the adjacent lane. No ‘selling it’, no TOD necessary, it’s an immediate move.

        At a particular growth rate, (the one used in the development of the I-405 Master Plan), each lane added was effective for approximately 5 years each. That’s why adding 2 lanes in each direction fell within the positive cost/benefit ratio. Add too many lanes (or Light Rail), and the ratio goes ‘negative’. Too high a cost and the payback takes too long based on the horizon year that is used. (In the I-405 analysis it was 2030 (20 years of ‘benefit’, added to the construction time (the assumption being the whole project was going to have been finished somewhere around 2010-ish if the legislature approved the funding)).

        The real question for drivers is – who is paying for that congestion relief?
        If you use all of the ‘gas tax’ burnt, and filled up the additional lanes from the get-go, in 30 years, the drivers getting that ‘congestion relief’ would only pay approximately 30% of the capital costs.

        Where does the rest of the money come from?

        This is where Daniel is spot on…
        It’s all Political. As he related to us about what Senator Horn said about getting in early and manipulating things to go your way, or just being able to shove a gas tax increase down our throat, because well… This is ‘Murica, and we want the Freedom to Drive!

        I don’t mind you wanting to drive everywhere, I just want you to actually pay for it.

        That’s not the way it’s happening now.

        The extreme ‘market solution’ is to privatize everything, including the road system. You’d find out how much everything costs if someone needed to ‘make a profit’.

        If that’s unacceptable because of whose ox is getting gored, then let the public vote on it.

        Put a Roads-Only measure on the ballot, so I can see what goes where, and I can make the cost/benefit evaluation myself.

      33. Based on links I have posted in the past I think 30% is low Jim. And if you include sales tax on vehicles and tab fees and the $40 fee the state allows local jurisdictions to impose for transportation related projects and tolls you start to get well above 50%, maybe around 80% of the cost of roads paid for by users that buses get to use for free. This figure does decline as you move to rural areas like I-90 through Montana but cargo and folks have to drive through Montana to get from A to B. It is why the federal government created cross country rail.

        I know citizens approved ST 1, 2 and 3, but those levies were so dishonest in their cost and funding assumptions I truly wonder whether any of them would pass today. I don’t see ST 2 or 3 passing on the eastside today. You can’t really point to inherently dishonest levies and say the vote was fair.

        I just paid a fortune in property taxes today, and a fortune in income taxes on Oct. 15. I read today where 72 million households pay no income tax at all (and that figure would be much lower if the 2017 tax act did not raise the standard deduction for couples to $28,000 that expires in 2025).

        Not only that but I own four cars but walk to work. I fill up my gas tank at most once per month these days.

        So if you are advocating for a pure use tax in this country for everything sign me up. Like you, there are a lot of expenditures and taxes I would love the opportunity to vote no on. But I highly doubt politicians will ever give up the authority over whom to tax and where to spend the money.

      34. @ Daniel Thompson

        “Based on links I have posted in the past I think 30% is low Jim.”
        Based on a link I have posted in the past I can tell you 30% is HIGH, Daniel. What link is that? Here’s the Report. Plus, having spent a lot of my free time on that Citizens Committee, up to my eyeballs in the numbers,(not having the funding to hire retired highway engineers to help me), I know where I stand. I think 2 years worth of trying to understand what those numbers mean give me a good perspective.
        When I signed up and got selected to be on that committee, representing transit/rail advocacy groups, I figured I’d at least speak for the ERC, since I had seen the 1992 report that was done (no, it’s not available online, I had to review it in the Seattle Library) on a starter commuter line. I also thought that Light Rail was ‘pie-in-the-sky’, and that roads actually paid for themselves. Roads are expensive as hell, and I don’t mean in the intangibles, they are plain expensive.

        “And if you include sales tax on vehicles…”
        Please, this old canard again? “I buy a car, so I think all the sales tax should go towards car related stuff”. I buy a big screen TV, I think that sales tax should subsidize free wifi/cable access. Maybe the tax on prepared food should subsidize my gym membership fees.
        “…. and tab fees…”
        which actually are going up because the gas tax doesn’t cover the cost and go to roads anyway.
        “… and the $40 fee the state allows local jurisdictions to impose for transportation related projects…”
        Which you got to vote on, right?
        “…and tolls…
        The only unavoidable toll I know of is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
        “…you start to get well above 50%, maybe around 80% of the cost of roads paid for by users …”
        I would like to see the analysis on that.
        “…that buses get to use for free..” Ah yes, the transit rider, the pariah living on the backs of the REAL TAXPAYERS.

        “This figure does decline as you move to rural areas like I-90 through Montana but cargo and folks have to drive through Montana to get from A to B. It is why the federal government created cross country rail.”
        I not going to try and parse this one out and reply, other than to say…
        Keep your eye on November 19th.

        “I know citizens approved ST 1, 2 and 3, but those levies were so dishonest in their cost and funding assumptions I truly wonder whether any of them would pass today. I don’t see ST 2 or 3 passing on the eastside today. You can’t really point to inherently dishonest levies and say the vote was fair.”
        Now where did I put Timmy’s phone number?

        “I just paid a fortune in property taxes today, and a fortune in income taxes on Oct. 15. I read today where 72 million households pay no income tax at all (and that figure would be much lower if the 2017 tax act did not raise the standard deduction for couples to $28,000 that expires in 2025).”
        Wow! You know, lost my mortgage deduction on that tax act, and the standard deduction didn’t make up for it. It turns out that I pay $400 more per year in income taxes. (Yes, I looked it up to see if there was more in my paycheck, since after all, Donald and the rest of the GOP are looking out for us working class, union slobs, right?)

        “Not only that but I own four cars but walk to work. I fill up my gas tank at most once per month these days.
        I own two, fill up twice a month (my brodozers don’t get that good of mpg, but I save on repair costs because I do all my own work.

        “So if you are advocating for a pure use tax in this country for everything sign me up. Like you, there are a lot of expenditures and taxes I would love the opportunity to vote no on. But I highly doubt politicians will ever give up the authority over whom to tax and where to spend the money.”
        Right now it’s working in your favor, and it’s the Transit supporters who have to fight for funding and have to tax themselves IN ADDITION to the other taxes that go to roads to get out from under having to use a car for every trip.

      35. Daniel, please don’t forget that MOST of he streets on which buses operate (not STEX obviously) are “urban” or “suburban” arterials or county roads. They get zip, zero, nada from the State or Federal fuel taxes or from tabs.

      36. Adding lanes to 405 also reduced congestion …

        I don’t think induced demand is the reason people are driving or a road like 405 is congested.

        So basically adding lanes reduces congestion … for a while. Then eventually, people start using the road more often, leading to congestion. That is basically induced demand. You don’t have to believe in it — just like you don’t have to believe in evolution, climate change or germ theory, but there is plenty of evidence to support it.

        It would be like me arguing increasing frequency on buses or trains does not reduce rider congestion because it will only lead to induced [transit] demand

        Yes! Absolutely. If you run transit more often, ridership increases. This is induced demand. The difference is that transit scales. By that I mean, every investment is a better and better value. The system is more cost effective, and is better for riders.

        Consider the frequency section of this blog post from a transit expert: https://humantransit.org/basics/the-transit-ridership-recipe#frequency. Note the graph. The more frequent the transit, the better value it is. Doubling frequency costs twice as much to operate, but because you’ve increased ridership, your productivity has actually increased.

        Meanwhile, you’ve also increased the quality of the service. If you add a lane to a freeway, it is fundamentally no different than before. Absent congestion, your trip will be exactly the same. In contrast, if you increase frequency on a bus, you have less waiting. Even if the bus isn’t crowded, this is better for the rider.

        This is true for every improvement. Stick with buses for a second. Imagine a bus goes from hourly to every half hour, to every fifteen minutes to every ten and then every six minutes. Each improvement was meaningful, and beneficial for riders. At this point, many people would consider the frequency very good. If you go more often, it could be considered overkill. But there are other options. If it is a long corridor with big destinations far from the center, you can run express buses. If that bus is full, it not only provides a better experience for users, but is more cost effective (since it takes less time). If the corridor is congested, you can invest in improvements to the infrastructure. These not only make the bus faster, but keep the bus more consistent (so that it can run every six minutes all day long, instead of bunching). Or you can invest in grade separation. Eventually (probably with grade separation, although not necessarily) you invest in rail. Assuming ridership is strong, this greatly improves productivity. The vehicles carry huge numbers of riders, for relatively little cost. This is what I mean when I write “transit scales”. More cost effective *and* better for riders.

        Unfortunately, it is the opposite for automobile infrastructure. This is why some urban planners have essentially called for no new lanes (or new roads). It has nothing to do with aesthetics, and everything to do with money. Notice the first thing they mention is “financial solvency”. In other words, we can’t invest in new roads, because they are a bad government value. They cost too much, and don’t provide enough value for the city or region. They create a huge long term financial burden, that the country simply can’t afford. The head of this group is not some wide-eyed hippy with radical ideas. Quite the opposite*. He is certified Professional Engineer with over 20 years experience as a land use planner. He has done the math. It is like an experienced actuary telling your state that you have a problem with your pension system, or a good corporate lawyer telling you that your company is in trouble. It makes sense to listen.

        * Charles Marohn Jr. has described himself as a fiscally conservative Republican, although it is a more complicated than that.

      37. Ross, you make a common but critical mistake: you confuse “use” with “demand”.

        It is true that if you eliminate all roads you will eliminate use, but not demand. Similarly if you reduce I-5 to one lane you will reduce use, but not demand. All those folks driving on I-5 are on I-5 because they need to go somewhere. Demand does not go away because use or capacity is reduced (even by congestion obviously, otherwise there wouldn’t be congestion). Reducing capacity and “use” only causes frustration and more congestion, which of course backs up into cities and feeder roads.

        That is not how rational transportation policy works unless you are a single “urban planner” who thinks transit will solve the world’s problems and missed the pandemic.

        Instead, a transportation agency tries to figure out where people want to go, and how they want to get there. Then they try to first build capacity, and if capacity is inadequate either increase capacity or use some other method. The only ideology (or more accurately morality) that is involved is where the citizens want to go, and how they want to get there. Or if things change asymmetrically, like a pandemic.

        “If you run transit more often, ridership increases. This is induced demand. The difference is that transit scales.”

        This is a common theme among transit advocates without any context: that cars don’t scale. It depends, like all things in life.

        In this region post pandemic cars scale everywhere during off peak hours, and during peak hours the only two places they don’t scale well are I-5 (which in large part is due to poor design) and 405 south, which they are attempting to fix with more lanes and capacity, and HOT lanes, and better exits and entrances along with metering. WFH alleviated the one place and time they did not scale: work commutes to downtown Seattle. The capacity stayed the same, but demand decreased with WFH during the one time per day and one area capacity was an issue. That is why ridership on express buses has declined so much.

        What I really think some are saying or hoping on this blog is if traffic congestion is artificially increased for drivers (or artificially high parking rates) drivers will be forced to switch to transit even though they don’t want to ride transit. That is the real “induced demand” they are hoping for. Disadvantage any other mode so transit gets the riders it needs to fund operations and coverage, and ideally attract the discretionary rider, when probably a transit levy is a better idea if transit is that popular among the citizens.

        Congestion, lane diets, and artificially high parking costs worked pre-pandemic for workers commuting during peak times to downtown Seattle, but those are gone. Cars even scale in downtown Seattle during peak times today (most congestion is really backups from I-5, and if you really want to alleviate congestion on James fix I-5). Unfortunately, that is Seattle’s existential problem because that is how Seattle raised 2/3 of its tax revenue. It needs those workers back even if they come by horse.

        If drivers felt cars scaled before the pandemic they certainly feel they scale today, which is why at least on the eastside (and apparently on I-5) most trips today are by car. With both King Co.’s and Seattle’s populations remaining flat or declining that should remain constant unless there is a big return to commuting to downtown Seattle, which I doubt, or very large population gains who all want to drive, which also looks unlikely at this time.

        I also think you missed my point about transit. I wasn’t advocating for less frequency (which is effectively use and capacity). I was arguing that reducing frequency would probably reduce use by a little (since many transit riders have no other option) but create tremendous frustration and anger. Same with artificially reducing lane capacity and “use”.

        If drivers felt cars scaled pre-pandemic and were willing to deal with traffic congestion, they are going to feel the same today, so plan for it. Transit will have to create its own “induced demand” by providing a superior service despite some structural deficits like safety, time of trip, first/last mile access, ability to carry things, and a general de-urbanization in the area but a small advantage in cost, which is a large part of the congestion on 405 south: there is effectively no transit to large population areas south along 167 and Maple Valley which is geographically huge, and the work demographic does not work in a cubicle doing IT in an urban area (which is not unlike I-5 to areas south of Seattle). They drive for the same reason many take transit: they have to. Reducing lanes will not change that, and if possible on 405 increasing lanes (or RR) or better exits/entrances or HOT lanes may help increase capacity and use.

        If one believes one mode is not morally superior to another mode (like bicyclists thinking biking is morally superior to transit) then the analysis is pretty simple: figure out where people want to go, how they want to get there, build as much capacity as possible, and if necessary, congestion will likely do the rest (if not artificially increased by crummy design). If the issue is transit funding then increase funding or pass levies. Tell drivers “cars don’t scale” post pandemic in this area is a waste of breath. THEY think they scale, which is why there are so many of them buzzing around on roads that luckily were built to meet pre-pandemic capacity and so more than scale today.

      38. Jim, here is an interesting list of projects our transportation dollars support: http://www.infrafunding.wa.gov/downloads/Transportation-Funding-Sources-WA.pdf

        This link states that in WA user fees pay 63.5% percent of road funding. https://files.taxfoundation.org/20191017125655/Road-Funding-19-oct-f-01.png?_gl=1*tq9rnv*_ga*MTU0OTUzNTQ0My4xNjY3MjcyNjIz*_ga_FP7KWDV08V*MTY2NzI3MjYyMy4xLjAuMTY2NzI3MjYyMy42MC4wLjA. If you add in sales tax on cars as I believe you should since it goes into the general fund my guess is user fees and sales tax fund nearly all the cost of roads.

        To Tom’s point, there are many dedicated taxes for local transportation projects. A city can implement a $40 tab fee without a vote (MI has a $20 tab fee that raises almost $400,000/year for transportation) and REET 1 and 2 can be used for transportation projects.

      39. Dan, your problem is you have a clear belief (whether you’ll admit it or not) that the private automobile is the best mode of transportation for most cases. Your oft-repeated justification for advocating for this belief is that the vast majority of people own cars and 90+% of “trips” are by car because everyone wants to drive everywhere.

        You misunderstand that the “demand” for transportation isn’t a “demand” to drive oneself everywhere; it’s a “demand” to go places. You can get more people more places in a smaller area by bus, or train, or teleporter.

        Cars fundamentally don’t scale because they’re so space-inefficient. Cars are great for rural folks – I like to think that if it would have made sense for you to own a horse at the turn of the century, then it would probably make sense for you to own a horse today. You have to feed it, maintain it, and horses were even somewhat self-driving; but few folks built streetcar lines connecting their farms to the markets. Can you image a horse highway in 1890? It’s fundamentally silly. However, we do the exact same thing with cars because of *waves hands* history.

      40. “Dan, your problem is you have a clear belief (whether you’ll admit it or not) that the private automobile is the best mode of transportation for most cases. Your oft-repeated justification for advocating for this belief is that the vast majority of people own cars and 90+% of “trips” are by car because everyone wants to drive everywhere.”

        No Nathan, I believe the automobile is the best mode of transportation for me. When in downtown Seattle I think Uber is the best mode if parking is going to be an issue or I plan to drink. I think everyone can make up their mind about what is the best mode for them. I have zero desire to choose your mode for you.

        “Cars fundamentally don’t scale because they’re so space-inefficient.”

        This is you choosing a mode of transportation for others based on false facts. Of course cars scale today in this region. There is very little congestion, and unfortunately where there is congestion — 405 south — transit is not an option. Since you don’t drive how does whether cars scale affect you?

        I am sure if car drivers came to the conclusion scale (which is really congestion or cost of parking) is not there they will choose another mode. But outside downtown Seattle most parking is free, and there is very little congestion. Telling them cars don’t scale makes no sense to them. It is just more urban planning faculty lounge talk.

        There was a time pre-pandemic when cars “did not scale” in downtown Seattle, due to congestion and parking space/costs and I-5’s terrible design which causes a lot of congestion in downtown Seattle, but those days are over. Our firm just left Seattle after 32 years and cars scaled downtown very well post pandemic. I-90 was wide open peak hours.

        You believe but don’t like to admit that you think transit is more moral than driving (same with zoning). But 99% of Americans don’t look at transportation — flying, bikes, transit, cars, trucks, trains, even EV’s, — as something that is moral. They just choose the best mousetrap for their trip from A to B.

        It is a mistake IMO for transit advocates to try and preach transit or force drivers onto transit because drivers don’t know what is good for them, rather than making the transit mousetrap better. As I like to say, it is very, very difficult to make citizens do what they don’t want to do. Instead like downtown Seattle they go someplace else, or elect different representatives, which I am afraid we will see in this year’s elections. The price of gas is looking like it will result in a red sweep. Ironic if cars don’t scale. I guess is the voters are saying make them scale.

      41. Ross, you make a common but critical mistake: you confuse “use” with “demand”.

        No, I did not. I would appreciate it if you didn’t make assertions like that. I know what I wrote, and not once did I confuse “use” with “demand”. Saying I did is an attack on my intelligence. I’ll let it slide this time, but please don’t make it a habit.

        I did write about “induced demand”, which is phenomenon in economics. Here is a nice summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand. As that Wikipedia entry shows, there is plenty of evidence to support this idea.

        It is counter-intuitive. But to quote Wikipedia:

        Induced traffic occurs when new automobile trips are generated. This can occur when people choose to travel by car instead of public transport, or decide to travel when they otherwise would not have. … In the long term [these] development patterns encourage automobile dependency which contributes to the high long-term demand elasticities of road expansion.[²²]

        Anyway, I won’t repeat an entire, well established theory. As usual, Wikipedia does a great job. You are free to argue that it doesn’t apply in any particular case, but I think most would agree that it exists to some degree locally.

        I also wrote about the “zero-sum” nature of traffic. By that I mean that when you have winners you also have losers. So the term may be misleading, as the total outcome (if it can be measured) is not always equal, but there are winners and losers. I can’t cite studies for this theory. It is largely based on basic game theory as well as recommendations made by traffic engineers. We see this with ramp meters. Ramp meters purposely create congestion (to get on the freeway) to reduce congestion (on the freeway). Those entering the freeway lose. Those on the freeway win. There are countless examples of this in any city that has congestion, including ours.

      42. “There is very little congestion, and unfortunately where there is congestion — 405 south — transit is not an option.”

        So, if we can only do one to allow for increased transportation capacity along this corridor, which should we do: 1) one more lane, or 2) new mass transit?

        “Since you don’t drive how does whether cars scale affect you?”

        Another ad hominem – the idea that if someone doesn’t drive, they can’t make worthwhile arguments regarding infrastructure which reinforces automotive dependency.

        For your records, though: I actually do drive fairly often for work since my job has a significant fieldwork component for a wide variety of sites. I commute via bike or bus, then use the company truck.

        I do think building new car-dependent communities in the 21st century is fundamentally immoral, though, since it limits residents’ transportation freedom. I also think it’s fundamentally moral to provide more transportation freedom, and I think it’s fundamentally moral to allow for more flexible non-polluting land uses on all properties. Limiting transportation options and limiting land use is what forces people to live certain ways, not the other way around.

      43. “It is a mistake IMO for transit advocates to try and preach transit or force drivers onto transit because drivers don’t know what is good for them, rather than making the transit mousetrap better. “

        How about this:
        (And I’ve done this numerous times when friends and acquaintances, and even strangers complain about traffic congestion.) I explain in more detail how the funding works (rather than that vague taxfoundation.org map), what the traffic counts are(, screenline counts at points on I-405 as examples), … until their eyes glaze over.

        Then I tell them to STFU with their complaints. I’m not interested, because ‘drivers’ already have a rigged system. They don’t understand that they are the cause, and that they’re really too cheap to pay for the solution.

        Highway “Improvements” are automatic. Do you know what LOS is?

      44. Jim, who is complaining about traffic congestion today? Except maybe peak travel southbound on 405, and I agree if they won’t buck up for the HOT lanes (which are coming to south 405) then STFU (unless of course they can’t afford the HOT lanes; as Ross would point out from his Wiki article on induced demand, they should not be on 405 during peak hours if they can’t afford the toll, and God forbid you increase capacity so they can use 405 during peak times). Or Nathan who thinks you can serve 167 and the Maple Valley Highway with transit.

        My research suggests in WA use taxes (including sales taxes on cars and trucks) cover a huge percentage of road construction and maintenance. You disagree. And even if they didn’t roads are a public good: police, fire, ambulances, buses, shuttles, cars, Uber, work trucks, taxis, general travel, motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, freight, etc. (Now if you want to talk about Medicare we can discuss subsidies for those too cheap to pay their own way).

        Traffic congestion is pretty good today. A breeze on I-90. Pretty much everywhere on the eastside, even peak hours. Certainly, we don’t need more lanes there. As far as I know LOS means levels of service. LOS is good today. Isn’t that what we all wanted? Fewer miles driven, especially during peak times (except WSDOT and Seattle).

        The irony is the drop in congestion from WFH and the pandemic didn’t create induced demand, or release latent demand, because the decline in congestion and car travel had nothing to do with road capacity, and there wasn’t a well of latent demand, a critical distinction from induced demand.

        It is just very, very hard to get folks to switch from cars to transit when congestion is low and parking is free. You don’t see car drivers trying to switch transit riders to driving. Even the price of gas seems inelastic (except if you are running for Congress).

        If you prefer to ride transit then ride transit. If you prefer to drive then drive. If you prefer to bike then bike. If like me you prefer to walk to work then walk to work. If you prefer to stay at home (and most do if the trip is a commute to work) then stay at home. If you oppose transportation funding then write to your representative. Don’t worry about the rest of the world. That isn’t your jurisdiction, and no one is listening, to any of us.

      45. Okay, so we’re in agreement. With WFH, we don’t need to do any construction adding lanes to I-405.

        Can I have my gas-tax money back? (it’s the part of the ‘road user fee’ I pay that gets funneled to mega projects like 405).
        I could use some local pothole relief.

        The point you’re missing Daniel, is that if you add up the fees (license, gas tax, (the arguably specific car related fees)) that all of the drivers on 405, at what were painful levels of congestion (before Covid), and calculated the per mile contribution that you could point to and say “at 3.5¢ per mile, I… the 405 driver, am contributing to this highway (I-405), so I’m paying for the use of this road I am driving on”.

        Once you add up that cost for all the drivers, every day, for 30 years, it comes to roughly $1.5 billion. Even at the original ‘budget’ amount back from 2002, adding 4 lanes on 405 was around $6.5 billion.

        Who pays the difference?
        Everyone else who’s not using 405.
        I’m taxed in excess for a transportation system I don’t use.

        It sounds like I’m SUBSIDIZING someone else’s choice for travel.

        And before the rural folks get their panties in a wad, if they were to rely on that same formula, they’d be driving on gravel roads.

        Suburban drivers on local arterials are the closest to actually paying for their roadways. (and my back of the napkin calculation for SR522 between Monroe and Woodinville would qualify, as long as the per lane cost was $7million per mile)

        Again, funding road ‘improvements (capacity increases)’ is automatic, we have to keep the LOS F devil at bay.

  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10UWuD8_9HY

    Check out this light rail derailment video. It happened about a month ago in Aurora, Co. I never heard about it until now. This was the RTD R Line. My question is, could that happen here with Link? If a Link train, for whatever reason, was going too fast through a turn, could the train go sliding off the tracks, or flying off an elevated guideway? And if so, where would it most likely happen? Which section of current or future track has the sharpest curve?

    1. Wow, that certainly looks like the operator either had a heart attack or stroke or was a terrorist trying to kill the riders. It’s the LR equivalent of the Bypass derailment.

      And to answer your question, “Of course it could. On elevated structures there are always check rails next to the running rails to keep the wheels from moving sideways in a derailment. But if the speed were high enough to cause the cars to tip over, as the first two in the video did and it was an “outside curve”, the cars would crash to the ground.

  14. Daniel, I don’t believe you’ve written a Page 2 or Guest Post yet. I want you to start thinking about a topic. If you don’t know what to write about, and need help, ask me, and I’ll give you a few ideas. I’ll check back with you in a week to see what you’ve come up with.

  15. We now have a price for restructuring the MLK alignment. ($) ST, Metro, and SDOT are considering 53 safety measures for the surface segment. Bell volume will increase this month as a pilot.

    Gates like SODO would cost $1 million per intersection due to the narrow right of way, which would require taking a car lane or properties. Moving the tracks overhead or underground would cost over $1 billion. I’m not sure if that considers a trench option, which would likely cost less than a tunnel. There’s no mention of street overpasses.

    One bad alternative would be bad is lowering Link’s speed, which is already 35 mph on MLK, vs 55 mph in grade-separated segments.

    1. What if we lower Link’s speed even further along MLK, but use euphemistic labels to explain it? Call that section of track Heathy Tracks, and call the lower speed limit a rail calming measure. Riders will still be pissed off at the slower speeds, but it will be harder to argue against it because it has the word healthy in the title.

    2. Did they bother looking into dropping the cross streets below grade? Bend, Tukwila, and many, many other cities have lines where that was done.

      1. Even when the line is running down the center of the street? you’d have to make the cross-streets go under MLK, too, or take lots of land for ramps.

        It’d be easier to less difficult to “just” elevate the line.

      2. Glenn, I think it ought to be investigated. Nathan, yes, it may take a bit space, but may not cost a billion, but it takes a bit of creative thinking.
        Some cross streets may need to get blocked. Both MLK and LR would stay at grade, but Alaska, Othello… would go underneath and may get limited to one lane per direction plus – a bike and walkway would be a bit higher on at least one side of the underpass and have access to the LR – center platforms may be easier to access. If you move the stations a bit away from the underpass, you may be able to have enough of a ramp leading to the underpass so that you don’t need staircase/elevator.
        The biggest challenge would be right/left turns from MLK, drivers may have to do a little detour by taking side streets to enter the underpass earlier.

      3. Elevating the line means taking the existing line out of service. It’s easier to divert auto traffic.

        It really doesn’t have to take up extra space. In fact, you might be able to eliminate some of the left turn lanes and probably take up less space.

        There’s a bunch of different ways to do this. 1. Many of these cross streets are 4 lane roads. Drop the middle two lanes and make those the through lanes. It’s only two lanes, but those lanes don’t have to stop as much. The other two lanes become the surface interchange for right and left turns. You still wind up crossing the tracks, but only for left turns (which are a minority of the traffic and can thus be interrupted).

        2. Same as above, only maintain the current space taken up by the left turn lanes. Left turns onto MLK have to happen under the tracks. Right and left turns off of MLK use the space formerly occupied by the left turn lanes, with the through lanes shifted. If there is space used for a right turn lane, that probably becomes a right turn ramp.

        3. and more: Any number of other possible configurations. You wind up with a retaining wall separating lanes, unless you go full freeway interchange, but that’s really not needed.

      4. Dropping the streets for underpasses without acquiring more real estate would mean taking a through lane out.

        Orillia Road (So 180th) under the UP tracks in Kent, required about 250′ ft approaches on either side to go below RR grade. Along MLKing Way, that would mean any street deemed important enough to require crossing MLKing Way would use up the approaches from about the adjacent avenues (29th and 27th).

        The UP/180th project was around $40m way back when it was done.

        So, it would be worth comparing the Elevated/Trench/Tunnel/Underpass options to see which works best, as Glenn suggested, with up-to-date numbers.

      5. It definitely requires some adjustments, modifications to traffic flow, etc. if the side lanes are retained for business access (the ones that are now turn lanes) it shouldn’t be any extra space if that is done: This happened in Bend with some of their streets, and it seems like there are a few around Aurora and a few other places (especially around the bridges over the ship canal) around Seattle where this type of interchange has been built, but only road to road.

      6. It seems quite likely that anything resembling grade separation would be costly and disruptive. Elevated, cut-and-cover, tunneling or underpasses for the cars are not cheap. The cheaper the option, the more disruptive it is likely to be (for cars, trains or both).

        The thing that bothers me about this is that they are starting with the absolute cheapest option, even though it is clearly bad for the neighborhood. Suggesting the answer is something very expensive and disruptive misses the point. Sure, maybe that is the best solution. But that won’t happen for years if not decades (if ever). In the meantime, there are things we can do besides just make a lot of noise.

        We can have gates, for example. I get why they want to start with the cheapest possible solution, but making things noisier just seems like a giant insult to the neighborhood. For years ST has been pushing to develop the area around the station, even though one of the reasons for the lack of development has been the oddly shaped lots they helped create (when they bought up land for the stations). Then they lower the property values by blasting noise — not as a last ditch effort, but as an opening move.

    3. I wasn’t saying gates or grade separation are likely. I’m just saying we now have a price estimate.

      Ideally, we should do it so that transit can reach its potential and be more competitive with driving. We should prioritize resources to design a transit network that’s at least the average of other industrialized countries. But political factors hinder it.

      1. I agree Mike. Creating a bottleneck due to reduced speeds reverberates throughout the entire system.

        For example, when I-90 went to four lanes in each direction it eliminated a couple of bottlenecks on Mercer Island that created a bunch of unnecessary congestion, because that is what bottlenecks do, even if traffic is mild.

        Probably the worst offender is I-5. Its capacity — even with the terrible decision to build the convention center over I-5 when the city could have bought all of Two Union Square for a fraction of the cost at the time — could be increased 25% without widening I-5 by addressing the odd entrances and exits and lane narrowing across the bridge. (The only remedy for 405 is more lanes; it is just maxed out based on population growth).

        The cheapest and likely least effective method is louder bells, and the article even states many wear headphones today so auditory warnings are not very effective. The next cheapest but marginally effective remedy is to slow train speeds, even slower than today, which is how the city is trying to deal with collisions between cars and pedestrians. It works, and probably makes sense on residential streets (and is pretty much voluntary) but no one would suggest it for a freeway.

        It is unfortunate folks can’t avoid getting hit by a loud train that is on a fixed course and pretty much comes at the same time during the hour. But a lot of citizens are just very, very stupid. Elevated or burying this part of Link (which should have been done originally except ST was too “optimistic” in its cost projections) would be way too expensive at this time, and the subarea does not have the money. Same with building underpasses. ST’s Board wants “new” things like a station at 130th, although improving capacity and frequency at this area of Link I think is more important.

        I agree with Ross some kind of gate makes the most sense, and that is how most areas deal with train crossings without spending a fortune. Except usually the trains don’t come every 6 minutes so cars are backed up all day.
        But the cost is $1 million/gate for a subarea that doesn’t have that money, and no way will the area give up an entire lane of traffic because a few pedestrians or drivers can’t avoid getting run over. I agree with them.

        I represent injured workers. The reality is you could get close to Vision Zero injuries and deaths if you work very, very slowly, but that is not how it works, and people want low cost which means working fast to earn more. Just like a goal of zero traffic fatalities. Never going to happen. It is part of the cost of doing business.

        So the area will end up with in some ways the worst of both: slower speeds (35 mph because slower is not worth it) which still limits frequency on the entire line, and some injuries and deaths from collisions.

        If this sounds a little heartless ST’s choice to increase the bells is just the same thing. ST knows it won’t really work, does not have the money for anything else, and wants to keep trains at 35 mph. It is the money that is driving this decision. My advice is to pay attention around trains.

    4. I see that a fundamental “what is the problem” analysis is needed for MLK before we start rolling out money for solutions. IF we are thinking small, I can think of a few concepts that could help.

      Is it pedestrians or car conflicts with Link that we are out to fix first? If it’s pedestrians, the solutions can be things like redesigning the station access by closing minor street crossings at Edmunds and Myrtle — and perhaps building a slight elevated “hump” on MLK’s traffic lanes to allow enough room for a pedestrian underpass. Similarly, shifting one of the Henderson approaches at Rainier Beach to align a block or two north or south could also help the scary crossing there. I will note anecdotally that pedestrian volumes seem highest around stations. Yes these are more ambitious than putting up loud crossing signals and gates, but I think they would make the station areas safer for everyone.

      If it’s car crashes with Link, I have no issue with closing some of the minor street crossings, but that may be unpopular with local businesses. There are plenty of arterials where drivers have separations in the median and they have to drive several blocks up a street to get to a turning spot to get to the other side.

      I also think some low-level fencing would help to create a sense of separation between the train and cars on MLK. Fencing also would make driving MLK feel a tad more claustrophobic and that would cause drivers to drive a bit slower. Having no fencing makes MLK feel like a wide racetrack.

      I also see that the Graham infill station project probably should be the impetus for a wider corridor reconfiguration. Traffic lane shifts and property takes look very probable with the infill station construction anyway, so a more comprehensive approach seems like it could address some of the safety problems around there. For example, build the Graham station as a cut and cover station under the northbound lanes or elevated on one side of the roadway, and close the tracks for a few weeks to drop in the new rails to tie into the existing tracks.

      1. “If it’s pedestrians, the solutions can be things like redesigning the station access by closing minor street crossings at Edmunds and Myrtle”

        No, that simply increases walking distance to access Link for no good reason, and doesn’t make things any safer.

      2. I should have been clearer, asdf2. I would suggest closing those crossings to vehicles but not pedestrians. The intent would be to attract pedestrians to cross there rather than at Alaska and Othello.

  16. It doesn’t sound like grade separation is being considered due to cost (that at $1 billion for a bottleneck on the entire line south of Seattle is around 1/20th the cost for WSBLE and around 1/4 the cost of DSTT2, when my guess is grade separation would produce more actual capacity than either WSBLE or DSTT2).

    The interim solution is louder bells, which ST naturally likes because it is free, although might not be popular among neighbors or those waiting at the station (by the way 80db is above the federal noise threshold and why the MI station needed a noise variance). It was interesting to read about how many wear headphones today, and so using auditory warning systems is not always effective. Maybe more will wear headphones if the bells will be 80 db. I know I find it annoying that announcements in an underground echo chamber of a light rail station are at volumes designed for the deaf, and usually totally unrelated to time of arrival. Personally, I would think a normal person paying even a modicum of attention near a speeding train on a fixed track could avoid getting run over.

    The cost and hassle of installing gates sounds like that project will not get off the ground. It would require purchasing private property and eliminating a lane of traffic, plus $1 million/gate. I could see ST and SDOT going to slower speeds before grade separation (and believe ST already tried a 25-mph speed limit) or deciding to spend the money to install gates and purchasing the necessary land for gates and eliminating a lane of traffic.

    So either it is louder bells or slower speeds, because N. King Co. doesn’t have a lot of spare cash at the moment, although this bottleneck does/will affect all traffic through this bottleneck.

    1. Seattle’s Vision Zero has been systematically lowering arterial speed limits from 30 to 25, and residential streets from 25 to 20. 15th Ave NE and NW 65th Street are two that were lowered to 25 in the past five years. I haven’t heard of Link slowing down to 25 anywhere, unless for temporary construction.

      1. I thought Link through this area of town went to 25 mph after the most recent fatality, at least through Sept. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/the-worst-spots-for-light-rail-crashes-in-seattle-and-how-to-fix-them/

        I suppose if lowering car speeds on arterials and residential streets reduces collisions and fatalities that is the remedy for transit that is not grade separated, although I wonder how many drivers actually follow the new speed limits. Maybe Vision Zero should follow ST’s lead and just have cars blow their horns as they drive. Does anyone know how going from 35 mph to 25 mph in this area of Link will affect frequency and capacity? Don’t buses now limit their speeds to 20 and 25 mph depending on the street?

        I agree with Nathan the cost and logistics to build underpasses at all the crossings in this area rules that out, plus the construction disruption. Taking a lane of traffic for gates — plus the cost at $1 million/gate — is also very unlikely.

        The subarea has very little money to spare for this area of Link, especially if ST is really serious about building WSBLE and DSTT2, plus stations at 130th and Graham St. that are exploding in cost. Just like areas of I-5 it just seems crazy there are these bottlenecks in the line that limit capacity for the whole line/I-5 through Seattle, but that is how it is. The cost to remedy some of these bottlenecks is probably some of the best money spent per capacity, including elevating the Link line.

        Maybe increasing the volume of the bells will work. If not, it is either live with the accidents and collisions or lower speeds like on arterials and residential streets. You will never get to Vision Zero for cars or light rail, but close enough.

      2. Louder bells is not the solution, and prevents residents from sleeping at night (although, if it induces people to leave the area because they can’t sleep, maybe it will help lower housing prices).

        Are people really getting hit by trains on MLK more often than cars on MLK? Or, does it just seems that way because pedestrians getting run over by cars are routine enough that the media doesn’t bother to report them.

      3. I can’t say anything about Rainier Valley specifically, but generally the loud warnings are more for auto traffic than pedestrians. The key piece of the Bush Administration railroad safety initiative was to increase the volume of locomotive horns to 120 db so people playing their car stereos loudly would hear the horn.

  17. Nathan D’s picture says it all. Tons and tons of free, obvious parking, no retail vibrancy. By contrast, you can visit Copenhagen and see what real retail vibrancy looks like:


    Now, let’s compare this to my Bellevue example of retail density done all wrong: https://www.google.com/maps/@47.613181,-122.1841569,3a,75y,242.57h,95.25t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sZvNFABAvnZRflqjZJ45yMQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    Here, the layout is designed to encourage people to drive to one specific store, shop there, get back in the car, and drive straight home. If you want to shop at, say, both REI and Target, you can do it, but it’s a pain. There is nowhere to cross 4th St. except for the light at 116th, which requires beg buttons and a long wait, and has lots of turning traffic to watch out for. 4th itself is also way too wide relative to the car volume it gets, making the crossing unnecessarily dangerous and precluding non-signalized crosswalks. On top of this, while there is certainly lots of parking, every single last parking space is reserved for customers of one particular store, so anyone who drives to one store and walks to the other puts themselves at risk of getting their car towed. Or, if you don’t like walking from the REI to Target, you can get in the car and drive literally across the street. But, that’s also a pain. Both of the parking lots have constant traffic of cars getting in and out, requiring lots of 5 mph parking lot driving and lots of waiting for cars backing out. Crossing 4th, you have no signal, so you need all of the lanes to be clear at once, and the driveway angle is such that you can’t wait for a gap in the eastbound traffic without blocking two lanes of the westbound traffic. Again, yes you can do it if you really want to, but the street layout strongly discourages it. What is really wants you to do is to shop at once store, and one store only, and simply go home, and do the other store another day. At which point, you procrastinate, maybe decide that what you wanted to buy, you don’t actually need all that badly, or maybe you buy off Amazon instead, rather than making another trip; either way, the end result for the businesses along 4th St. is fewer shoppers and fewer sales.

    Now, I’m not going to argue that the 4th St. retail should have zero parking – the transit there is very subpar, and people do have to get there. But, the parking doesn’t need to come at the cost of discouraging walking or trip chaining. A narrower 4th St., with just one lane in each direction instead of two, midblock crosswalks with flashing beacons and no waiting for a traffic light, and stores getting together and realizing that people walking from store to store is in everyone’s interest, and updating their parking policies to allow that, would make all the difference.

    1. I have a friend who is a long time resident of Denver. I sent him Nathan’s photos. He seemed confused because like Seattle Denver has been developing rapidly. The photos seem to suggest Denver property owners have demolished existing multi-story buildings for surface parking lots, something that has never occurred in Seattle. Or Denver according to him because where is the profit.

      He would like the following information:

      1. Where exactly in Denver is each photo depicting. Are the photos of the same location?

      2, What is the date of each photo.

      3. What is the source of each photo.

      My friend is a land use attorney. With answers to the questions above he can search title records and Google maps to verify Nathan’s claims that Denver is de-densifying downtown urban land to surface parking lots is accurate.

    2. For your Bellevue picture, the pedestrian frontage is around the corner. It is as representative as this view is of Ballard’s retail frontage: https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6679636,-122.3878157,3a,60y,352.96h,86.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s68I8aE0lWi_Orvft-Lu7sQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

      I actually like that backside of REI/Trader Joe’s because there is an outside escalator, so someone less abled can use that escalator to help navigate the elevation difference between 116th and 120th, using the short sidewalk that run along the side of the parking lot.

      1. Yes, the store pair of REI and trader Joe’s is good, but it’s the only store combination that’s pedestrian friendly. Want to combine REI with Best Buy, Home Depot, Target, or PCC, the streetscape is actively trying to discourage it. Plus, if you drive, you cannot park at either store and walk to the other without risking getting your car towed, and moving the car from one busy parking lot to the other between stores is a pain in the ass.

    3. That area used to be Bellevue’s “Auto Row”, filled with car dealerships, so walkability was never part of the design calculus. The area was also the site of a proposed arena to host the Sonics/NHL, probably picked because of potential large parking and access to 405.

      As for narrowing 4th., Bellevue probably wanted multiple lanes to relieve rush-hour traffic coming from 405.

      Plus, that area is filled with big-box retail; there’s a Home Depot and Best Buy nearby. Retailer-specific parking comes with the territory in suburban big-box retail. Unless Spring District-type development comes to the nearby areas, the closest you’ll get to walkable retail there is the strip mall a bit north with Uwajimaya and Total Wine.

      1. At 120th, 4th St. simply ends, so there’s no reason for someone driving to use it unless they’re actually shopping there. For those that are shopping there, there’s a limit to how many cars per minute can exit or enter the parking lots, so 4th will never have enough cars to fill up a 4 lane street, even if the parking lots themselves are quite busy. There’s really no reason for 4th to be so wide, other than, perhaps with 100 feet of the traffic lights at 120th and 116th, other than the knee jerk wider-is-always-better assumption.

        Also, as I stated in earlier comments, the need for local walkability is still important, even if every single person visiting the area gets there by driving there. Anytime the streetscape is telling people to get back in their cars to drive literally across the street, that is a design failure. And, it has consequences, both increasing congestion levels in parking lots, and in reduced sales as people, once back in their car, put off the other store to another day, then later decide to just order off Amazon, instead.

    4. Here’s an article providing context for the historical photos of Denver: https://denverite.com/2017/05/17/destruction-rebirth-16th-street-lodo-three-images-skyline-urban-renewal/

      I never claimed Denver was currently de-urbanizing; it’s a striking historical example of what happens when a city goes down that road. For reference, The Daniels & Fisher tower (the clock tower in the center of the photos) is a well-known landmark in Denver. Strange your land-use lawyer friend didn’t recognize it.

      The DenverInfill blog is documenting the rapid refilling of these properties. https://denverinfill.com/

      1. This is an interesting read, but hardly fascist (or Seattle and most every other city in the U.S. is fascist). It is called gentrification, and it commonly happens in all cities with any kind of wealth including Seattle, and naturally impacts the poor residents the most since “their” land is the often the cheapest. Upzoning is just gas on the fire of gentrification, like in Denver. You know that along with the demolition came a big upzone.

        Yes the older buildings had exterior charm, but also had contaminants, were run down, and expensive to rehabilitate, and usually those kinds of areas don’t have marvelous retail. Just like in Seattle, the first buildings to be demolished for new steel and glass buildings are the older concrete buildings due to the low cost of demolition. The mistake the government made was thinking it could incentivize development in the area just by demolition. My guess is the proliferation of parking lots had a lot to do with the nearby airport, not unlike SeaTac.

        My guess is also the federal aid to relocate the folks who lived in this “slum” was in good faith. Again, the government has historically done a pretty terrible job of designing and building affordable housing, first with intense multi-family density called “projects” assuming poor people like to live all together, and today pursuing a policy that is just not affordable.

        It is also a good lesson I have tried to point out: in any “mixed-use” zone commercial is more profitable than housing is more profitable than retail, just like downtown Seattle, and now The Spring District. The new zoning for this area of Denver predicted exactly how it would turn out. If cities are not going to segregate uses in their zoning but plan to allow all uses the same height and GFAR they need to learn this reality and zone for it. Otherwise post pandemic with WFH we are going to end up with more commercial wastelands like in the Denver article and downtown Seattle.

        The urbanization of this area of Denver did add both office and residential density and will continue to do so. It won’t be affordable, and who knows if there will be retail vibrancy, which usually does not do well in a commercial zone like this (e.g. downtown Seattle and soon The Spring District).

        From an architectural point of view the demolition of these old buildings is sad (and Portland has done a much better job than Seattle in preserving its historic buildings but has a dead downtown core for other reasons) but the cost to rehabilitate them and repurpose them was prohibitive, and even then does not guarantee any kind of vitality. If modern architecture was not so cost conscious the loss of these old buildings would not be a big deal.

        Look at Pioneer Square: it is likely the most historic district, a fortune has been spent trying to earthquake proof and rehabilitate the buildings (until the preservation assoc. basically gave in to Paul Allen and Weyerhaeuser et al) and the area is dead both commercially and retail wise, and the housing is hardly affordable. The only poor people are on the streets.

        Zoning is designed by its nature to restrict and to preserve, when usually the market has the opposite incentive. What you see in the article is what always happens when you massively upzone an area, both use and regulatory limits. Anyone could have predicted it, and Denver hoped for it, just sooner than it did happen. I doubt the city and its planners are upset at the change.

        Denver is a very nice city and I have enjoyed it the few times I have been there. The people and city government are not fascist, and some areas are pretty and some utilitarian, like Seattle. Preserving all those old run-down buildings was just not economical (even after demolition and upzoning it took many years for development to begin) or practical. The people who lived there needed a better place to live, and the buildings just were not practical anymore. This will go on as long as people are alive unless like Paris you have very, very strict zoning.

      2. I never described city planning or urban renewal as fascist, so I don’t really know what you’re babbling about.

    5. I went back to Ohio
      But my city was gone
      There was no train station
      There was no downtown

      South Howard had disappeared
      All my favorite places
      My city had been pulled down
      Reduced to parking spaces
      Ay, oh, way to go, Ohio

      1. Mike, very interesting portrayal of a very young Chrissie Hynde in London in the miniseries Pistol, and a sympathetic portrayal of Sid Vicious contrary to his public persona.

    1. That Asset Age chart is interesting- I’m curious what “steady state” average asset age they’re aiming for with their replace/refurb program.

  18. The new developments in Bellevue have all been a disappointment to be honest. Spring District feels like a Meta suburban office park. Even Kirkland Urban is meh at best, but better than Spring District and that cluster of an area around Sparc apartments in Bellevue.

    South Lake Union has been one of the few successes of modern development in the region, and I attribute that to a strong grid system that it’s on. The irony is that SLU has worse public transit access than these Bellevue developments.

    1. +1. I was driving around the Spring District, and was looking around, because I heard all this hype about the area, and I don’t see what all the hype is about. Where are the East Link trains I hear about? Where are all the multifamily buildings that are in the development pipeline? Where are all the future retail and restaurants? Here’s a link to all the parks, trails, and open space that is planned for the Spring District in the years to come. When I was touring the area, I didn’t see any new parks, trails or open space! I’m also very disappointed!


      1. Ah the plans! They always look better in the plans than reality. Even the plans you posted in the PDF have pictures of Seattle neighborhoods like Wallingford as an example of awesomeness lol.

        Spring District sucks.

      2. Aloha, let’s say someone drove around SLU in 2008, the first year of its redevelopment, and they told you, “Duh, I heard that SLU was supposed to be great and stuff, and I drove around there, and I gotta say, I wasn’t impressed.” Be honest. Wouldn’t you think they sounded like a moron?

      3. Sam, the thing is SLU in 2008 was already more happening than Spring District now. The Spring District lacks a lot of the ingredients that make SLU a more dynamic area. Nothing in those plans suggest to me it will be anything like SLU and not a glorified suburban office park in twenty years.

      4. Aside from the street grid (which is a stretch, because it is a rectangular grid in Spring-District/Bel-Red as well), what ingredients are missing that existed in SLU pre-Amazon, pre-biotech?

      5. AJ, that is more like a mega-block they got going in the Spring District. It’s not much like the tight street grid in most of SLU. One looks like an office version of U Village, the other looks like city streets.

      6. what ingredients are missing that existed in SLU

        Let’s see, off the top of my head, I would say … the lake.

        Seriously though, South Lake Union was bound to be successful. It was essentially a warehouse district, at the edge of downtown. But unlike a lot of warehouse districts, there weren’t huge amounts of land taken up by railroad tracks. Mercer street is terrible, but otherwise it isn’t bad in terms of roadways. To the north you had Eastlake, an attractive, robust neighborhood. Even further north you had the UW. Simply sitting between the UW and downtown guaranteed success — having lake access just added to it.

        I don’t have a great feel for the Spring District. Are there good parks nearby? What about adjacent neighborhoods? Clearly 405 cuts it off from downtown Bellevue, but maybe there are other destinations that are worth walking to. What about bike paths?

        Overall, the Spring District might be fine, but it might also be very isolated. In contrast, South Lake Union is just part of gradually transitioning area. It is reminiscent of First Hill. You can’t tell exactly where it starts, and Capitol Hill begins. There are bigger buildings there, but there are plenty of big buildings in every direction. There is a clear “downtown” to Seattle, and it just spreads outward from there — but it doesn’t become low density until you are miles away from downtown.

        Maybe the Spring District will feel like that in a few years, but I doubt it.

      7. I guess I have mixed feelings about the Spring District neighborhood. It’s great that there are taller buildings with higher density and mixed land uses in the aggregate. There will also be some plazas to have green space. On the other hand, it feels rather sterile and most buildings seem insulated from street interaction — like a tall county jail.

        The value to Link will ultimately be how parking charges get managed in the neighborhood. Downtown Bellevue has them and Overlake does not.

      8. Aloha – the street grid is still being built out. Most of those super blocks will be subdivided with public streets once they get built out. Look at before/after Esterra Park for a good example:

        Bel-Red was more of a light industry rather than warehouse district, but otherwise Ross’s descriptions is the same – the neighborhood sits between Bellevue CBD and Redmond’s Overlake, just as

        RE: Parks, Eastrail runs through it, otherwise parks in the immediate area are a bit limited (I believe a creek is being day-lighted) so it could really use a new urban park like Estera in Redmond, but slightly further afield the Bellevue botanical garden, Wilburton Hill Park, and Kelsey Creek are all ~1 mile to the south and are wonderful, and Marymoor park will have easy access via Link.
        RE: adjacent neighborhoods – Wilburton to the west is also in the early stages, but it should mature as the CBD spills across 405. To the east, Crossroads mall is vibrant, and the area around Msft is already built up.

      9. I was going to write the same things Ross pointed out. Just two additions.

        The scale and building massing of The Spring Dist. is much greater, and much more sterile. There will be virtually zero charm. Plus as Ross notes it rises from a pretty sterile area in the minds and memories of eastsiders, unlike S. Lake Union that has had restaurant vibrancy going back to when I partied there beginning in the 1970’s.

        The Spring Dist. will disappoint westside urbanists because it was designed for the eastside demographic who tend to commute to work and commute back to their SFH and families, and has almost nothing to do with TOD. It is a very large office park, and will have almost no nightlife (which is pretty rare on the eastside anyway).

        SLU has… the lake as Ross notes. At one time Belltown was very vibrant, but IMO the out of scale development targeting an elderly retiree crowd and crime has hurt Belltown, and I think urbanists are learning retail vibrancy does not always follow height. The key will be if the Amazon worker remains and Harrell’s plans work. There was a time when Belltown was the restaurant hub of the entire region.

        The other key difference is the eastside demographic — especially in this kind of building and zone — is older, and often married, which is why they found themselves living on the eastside. Rather than drinks after work it is soccer games and pizza in cleats. SLU has a much younger demographic/worker that is much more interested in walking and retail walkability, and socializing.

        One thing I have tried to point out when some want to allow retail in the SFH zone is an area can support only so much retail, and retail density is critical to create walkability. East King Co. is huge geographically but not very dense because those folks don’t want housing density mostly, so that rules out retail in their SFH zone. This is why eastside zoning condenses the retail zone, and we are learning commercial is not always the friend of retail vibrancy when mixed.

        There are a few pockets of retail density on the eastside. Downtown Kirkland, Bellevue Way between Main and NE 8th, Redmond in a kind of residential retail vibrancy, Old Front St. in Issaquah (which is completely different than the big box store zone), and that is about it. Mercer Island, Factoria, Eastgate, Crossroads, Rose Hill, Bothell, Renton have very little retail DENSITY.

        Since the vast majority of eastsiders will need to drive from their SFH to retail, and the parking will be free, they are going to choose one of the few areas with real retail vibrancy, which we never had before so are thrilled we have any today. If The Spring Dist. decides to charge for parking (except maybe work staff) it will have even less retail than I expect. Plus it is a $6 Uber ride from Bellevue Square.

        I live on the north end of Mercer Island, so Seattle and Bellevue are six one way and half a dozen the other. I would much rather see Harrell succeed in revitalizing retail in areas of downtown Seattle and SLU than wait for The Spring Dist. to “open”. I guess when it comes down to it, if I am going out I would rather accept the small risk of crime and death in SLU than the certain sterility of The Spring Dist.

        Finally is nesting. The pandemic and WFH have led to folks partying closer to home. For example, on Saturday night we are meeting with some friends who live on MI for dinner. Very sophisticated Japanese couple. Usually they prefer Seattle, especially for sushi, but decided they just didn’t want to leave MI. The sushi is not as good as say Shiro’s, but it is “comfortable” and we will know everyone in the restaurant (although they will be old like us).

        If you want retail density urbanism, I believe you need two elements: 1. young people; and 2. height limits to around 5 stories which is something I think urbanists who once believed more height was the solution to everything are beginning to understand. In land use parlance it is called “massing” and massing is a turn off, especially if the building is steel and glass. Those concrete plazas are just awful. Zoning for retail density and vibrancy is very, very tricky, and The Spring Dist. will prove that.

      10. I think a good analogy would be if you walked up on Michelangelo back in the day, and he was just starting to paint the Sistine Chapel, and he had only made his first couple of brush strokes, you couldn’t say, “not impressed.” You’d have to wait until wait until the masterpiece is finished. “Sam, are you equating the Spring District with the Sistine Chapel?” Yes.

      11. It’s pretty simple. Just walk along 108th Ave. NE from Main St. to NE 8th. if you want to see the future of The Spring Dist. This development is consistent with that planned for The Spring District. I worked in the blue glass building on 108th and NE 8th in the early 1980’s, and if anything retail has declined along 108th during the last 40 years (even pre-pandemic), and it is within walking distance of Bellevue Way.

        Retail vibrancy takes more than renaming Overlake and Auto Row “The Spring District” (and is that referring to an actual spring of the season?) The Spring Dist. will be a very dense commercial office park which almost precludes retail vibrancy, and that was its intent.

        It will have a few lunch places, maybe an afterwork pub, but that is about it. All those eastside married office workers who drove to work are not going to stick around after 5 for a party. If you think they will then hang out in the office parks in Eastgate north of I-90 after 5 pm.

      12. BTW, when I say the Spring District, I’m not talking about the official defined boundaries. I’m usually talking about the entire area that is bordered by 140th to the east, 120th to the west, Bel-Red road to the south, and 20th to the north. But, yes, I agree, the neighborhood around Meta is pretty much just office and apartment buildings. However, from about 130th to 140th, it’s going to be a better mix of apts and retail. I also expect the area to gentrify a bit.

      13. The new Spring District buildings are disappointing to look at, but so are most recent buildings. Developers default to modernism and large-scale because they think that’s what the public wants, and cities don’t give them any better guidance. It’s the same on Market Street in Ballard, Roosevelt in the U-District, downtown Bellevue, etc. The few exceptions tend to be brick or restorations, like Main Street in Bellevue, the Issaquah Highland residential buildings, restored facades on Pike Pine or that restored hotel/restaurant at 2nd & Pike. Even when developers build something meeting basic mixed-use/walkability requirements, it’s “large” scaled to inspire awe and authority, because that has been an aesthetic trend since WWII. Changing this requires changing city regulations and public expectations, to say things should be human-scaled, pedestrian-scaled, intimate and inviting, not large-scaled to inspire awe and fear and be seen from a speeding car.

        The nearest parks to the Spring District I can think of are the emerging north-south Eastrail trail, Marymoor Park in Redmond (on Link in ST2), Bellevue Downtown Park (near Link), the Bellevue Botanical Gardens (no direct transit, 1 mile away), Bridle Trails (no direct transit, 1 mile away). The Lake Bellevue shore is all privately owned, and you can only catch tiny glimpses of it unless you go to a restaurant on it. When i lived in Bellevue, Bel-Red was a decaying industrial district, so there was no thought of parks. I haven’t heard of any new parks planned in the Spring District.

        SLU is also disappointing, for the same reason as the Spring District. The buildings are large-scaled. A few businesses attract non-workers, non-residents, but not many.

        Emerging bike infrastructure is the north-south trail to Woodinville and Renton, connecting at NE 4th Street to an east-west path to downtown Bellevue and Meydenbauer Park on Lake Washington, and the 520 trail to Redmond.

        Bicycling to Bellevue Botanical Gardens is feasible. 124th is being widened north of NE 8th Street, and residential south of it. That goes straight south to the school buildings at Main Street (The International School)? Turn right for the Botanical Garden, or walk south through the school field to a trail entrance. I’m not sure if that’s Kelsey Creek Park or some other woods, but it’s a good place to spend an hour, and I think it connects to the Kelsey Creek Farm somewher.e

      14. Kirkland Urban is also a work in progress. They’re starting a Phase II that includes more office, housing and retail, plus an iPic movie theater. It’s also adjacent to a new PCC that’s underneath multifamily housing (possibly townhomes).

    2. Well I kind of agree Aloha, except that is what I expected, although I don’t know what you expected.

      It was natural that the zoning and regulatory limits would favor commercial space in The Spring Dist., and not housing, and that was Bellevue’s design I believe. The eastside does not have an urban mindset, or urban village mindset. That is a PSRC construct.

      There is only so much retail an area can support, and with Bellevue Square and Bellevue Way from Main to NE 10th it was always going to be hard for retail in The Spring Dist., so developers avoided it. My guess is current market conditions will delay much of the development in The Spring Dist.

      I think what ruined the charm of Kirkland was the massive development and upzoning along the waterfront (and the fact the average age of all the folks in the huge multi-family buildings now is over 60 so hitting the bars in Kirkland is like an AARP convention). SLU from just the development is good, or at least interesting, especially since it has the lake, but WFH and crime have really hurt it at least south of Mercer, and today retail vibrancy is poor for such an area. The city really missed out on Allen’s plan to build a huge park.

      Transit from the eastside to SLU is awful, and won’t be great with East Link in several years. I like the restaurants around the lake and most have adequate parking, but avoid Belltown. Went to The Who concert last weekend at Climate Arena and it was very nice and The Who were fantastic, but afterwards headed up to a dive bar on Queen Anne Ave. and then Dicks before Ubering home late. To me SLU is very “gentrified”. My guess is The Spring Dist. will be very sterile, especially retail wise. Not too many vibrant urban commercial centers these days. People will go to work there, and then drive home to their SFH on the eastside.

      1. The nice thing about SLU is that it blends in well to the surrounding areas of Westlake, Eastlake, LQA, Seattle Center (like a The Who concert), as well as Belltown. It feels coherent yet organic despite its planned nature. It works. The vibrancy is also picking up I feel.

        I guess I was expecting an SLU in the works for Spring District. Instead it just felt like a Microsoft office park with a brewpub. It was thoroughly disappointing and actually gave me hope for Seattle again.

      2. And thanks for articulating what always bothered me about Kirkland restaurants and bars by the water lol.

  19. New ST video of pedestrian bridge installation over Bear Creek in Redmond. Not sure where this is. Does anyone know? Good aerial view of Link tracks heading to Downtown Redmond Station at end of video.

      1. The new crossing is likely part of the connection between Redmond and the East Lake Sammamish Trail. This area has been closed for construction for some time now, so it’s good to see they’re working on it.

    1. More or less here: https://www.google.com/maps/@47.6692705,-122.1089868,3a,60y,280.1h,90.31t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1ssDUH6clxBm7fJzA-ALuhOw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

      Redmond Link will at-grade run under SR520, including the on/off ramps to Redmond Way which have been elevated as a part of this project. Immediately next to the Link alignment ST is completing the missing link between the Redmond Central Connector and the East Lake Sammamish Trail. The video is of the crossing of Bear Creek, south of Redmond Way and North/West of SR520.

      At 0:32, you can see the Link crossing of Bear Creek is already in place and the team is placing the pedestrian bridge immediately to the north (or south, but I think it’s north)

    1. Reading that, I was considering the idea of government simply buying existing stock directly from developers so that they can then reinvest in new projects. Use it to to rapid-rehouse people experiencing homelessness on a substantially shorter timeline. We could also considering leasing from current landlords at a 20% premium, and bringing in security and services.

      It would remove much of the Nimby backlash of building from scratch, and likely cost substantially less as well.

      The key to both of these proposals is for their to be land for developers to invest in to replace what they sold. That would take massive upzoning. Or what I think we should consider; complete unzoning.

      1. (zoning aside), isn’t this what government does already when it buys an old hotel or apartment building? My understanding is this is already someone common. KC bought several motels during COVID.

      2. It does.

        But to scale to the massive problem, it needs to do much, much more of it. We’ve purchased just about all aging, low-margin motels left in Tacoma already. We need whole apartment buildings. Older, more affordable stock as much as possible. In every corner of every city that has substantial 0-30% AMI that could never afford market rate, or even “affordable” (70-80% AMI) housing stock. We need a building boom. We need to fund it with government coffers, but let the pros do the building. And overpay them for their investment, skills and savvy at building housing that isn’t triple the price it needs to be.

        This will put strain on middle-class housing, and we need to free the developers from our zoning (and to some extent) regulatory constraints. Let the pros do what they do best. Don’t stand in their way. And pay them well. Our cities will blossom, and our citizens will recover.

      3. Back of the napkin, it would cost about what we pissed away dropping the narrows bridge tolls a buck or two to get a roof over everyone who wants one in Pierce County. Our priorities are shite.

      4. Oh, I think you’d still get plenty of neighborhood opposition. Some of residents would be mentally ill, and people don’t want to live near them. Past attempts to house homeless in existing hotels have all drawn plenty of neighborhood opposition.

      5. Of course. But the endless legal blockades the accompany building a new building will no longer exist.

        Plus it will all often remain a truly mixed income building. Only moving low and no income folks in as units become available, distributing high needs folks more equitably throughout the city, so that all neighborhoods share in helping those who need some stability and helping hands.

  20. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/sound-transit-takes-ownership-of-aging-downtown-seattle-tunnel/

    Finally. Oh my gawd, FINALLY!!!

    ST will now finally own the DSLRT, and this sad chapter of Metro ownership, and Metro deferred maintenance, will finally be history. Thank gawd.

    Cost? $0, although ST helped payoff the remaining $87m in Metro tunnel debt. One has to wonder why Metro couldn’t pay that off themselves, particularly since they weren’t exactly spending lavishly on maintenance.

    Now ST can get to work and fixed ALL the maintenance issues, because I guarantee you that Metro was negligent in a lot more areas than just escalator maintenance.

    The future is bright. Get to work ST!

      1. @AJ,

        I beleive the add revenue thing is not completely new. Metro just insisted on not being cut off from this revenue stream, at least imeadiately.

        So ST agreed to continue this split, at least for awhile. But the good news is that ST now has language that will allow them to terminate this agreement at some future date. And that is very good news.

        But hey, this ownership transfer has been under discussion since 2006. Thank gawd it is finally done and we can all move forward.

      2. @AJ,

        I believe the add revenue thing is not completely new. Metro just insisted on not being cut off from this revenue stream, at least immediately.

        So ST agreed to continue this split, at least for the short term. But the good news is that ST now has language that will allow them to terminate this agreement at some future date. And that is very good news.

        But hey, this ownership transfer has been under discussion since 2006. Thank gawd it is finally done and we can all move forward.

      3. (Sorry for he double post. The software has really been problematic today. I got error messages multiple times posting this, the then it posted twice. Errr…)

    1. Now ST can get to work and fixed ALL the maintenance issues …

      Love the optimism Lazarus, but I really doubt things will be great. ST has escalators in stations that are not within the old tunnel. Many of these are broken, even though some of these are quite new. For example, just yesterday one of the escalators at Northgate state was broken. People could walk, but it took them well out of their way. At least the station designers gave people an alternative (besides waiting for a very crowded elevator).

    2. Where did I see a closed escalator yesterday? Oh yes, Capitol Hill, the south platform up escalator.

      1. @Mike Orr,

        An occasional escalator out is not an indication of a systemic problem. It is simply unrealistic to assume a 100.0000% availability. Just won’t happen. In fact, the ST goal is 95%.

        But how bad was the DSLRT escalator problem before ST got involved in escalator maintenance? Pretty darn bad! Let’s look at real data (Oh. The horror. The horror!).

        Here is the data from July of 2021:


        Note that all ST stations meet the 95% criteria with the exception of SeaTac station which clearly is an outlier. But the Metro stations in the DSLRT?

        Na, not so good. Even the best Metro station was not as good as the worst ST station. And not a single Metro station even came near the 95% criteria. And the worst only made 22%.

        I don’t really care how you slice it, 22% availability is pretty darn bad. I don’t know how Metro ever thought that was acceptable.

        But hey, ST has took over maintenance of escalators a little over a year ago. They fired the Metro contractor and got Metro out of the loop. The result? The DSLRT escalator availability is now 71% on average in the tunnel. That represents a huge improvement. Huge!

        So, ya, I have confidence ST will fix this. They have already made great progress in not a lot of time. I don’t have any reason to believe the situation won’t continue to improve.

      2. As I’ve said before, the 95% standard seems impressive until you think about it. That’s 19 days a year. If you need to ride 2 escalators, it’s 37 days a year that one could be out of service and the standard is still met. If you make a round trip at Capitol Hill, 74 days a year 10.5 weeks) you could encounter closed escalators on one of the four escalators you may use during the day and the standard is kept.

        The standard needs to be higher when there is only one exiting escalator. The standard should be higher if a rider must use two escalators.

        And there is no punishment if ST doesn’t meet the standard. They simply announce it at a committee meeting.

        The escalator standard is just one more PR stunt that ST rolls out to make themselves look like they do a better job running things than they do.

      3. @Al.s,

        Really? Not happy with 95%? Then how can you possibly be happy with the 22% availability that Metro was providing at Pioneer Square Station before ST took over escalator maintenance? Because that is pretty bad. And at that level it is getting to the point where ADA dependent people won’t have any viable way out of the station, and that is simply unacceptable.

        The Metro DSLRT average prior to ST taking over maintenance was 55%. How is that acceptable? ST has it up to 71% now.. That is great news. It isn’t perfect, but it is a very large step in the right direction, and only after one year. And there is no reason not to expect more progress by ST.

        The transfer of the DSLRT to ST ownership is great news. It took too long, but it is finally done. We are finally on a path to put these DSLRT maintenance issues behind us, and that is fantastic.

      4. Americans could be less obese. I thought the goal of transit and “upzoning” was to create a walkable utopia. What kind of walkable utopia exists without stairs? Or hills. Does first/last mike access havevto be flat? Especially in an a hilly area like King Co.

        Maybe all those “urbanists” live in multi-family buildings with elevators because stairs in a SFH are “privileged”.

        There is one thing with 100% reliability and they are called stairs. Too often in this country “disability” is obesity and a total lack of exercise.

        Sure escalators should work considering we are spending $142 billion on ST. And it would be nice if all of East King Co. had link before 2025-26. But is it too much to ask urbanists riding transit to actually use stairs, or I guess the elevator despite the urine?

        Maybe if North Seattle didn’t insist on very expensive tunnels those residents wouldn’t need escalators. I don’t hear a lot of complaints about escalators from residents in South Seattle. Must be a first world white problem.

        We are having a debate on MI about bike and pedestrian access to Link although there is no secured bike storage, but what is the point if someone can’t fucking walk up or down some stairs? In 2025 or 2026.

        If Americans need anything it is more exercise. If urbanists want the rest of us to walk everywhere how about starting with some stairs in zillion dollar light rail stations.

      5. Good spot Nathan. Alcohol makes me less tolerant of hypocrisy. My punishment will be my run tomorrow morning which includes the stairs from Mercerdale Park to 24th.

      6. It’s not Metro’s fault. The county built the tunnel, and the county should have had an ongoing fund for escalator/elevator maintenance. But that wasn’t the norm then. Metro doesn’t have that kind of money; it can’t spend hundreds of thousands to replace all the escalators/elevators. Metro barely has enough for less-than-2019-level of service (which it can’t do because of the driver shortage), And that level is less than ideal, and less than what cities in other industrialized countries have. So any additional money needs to go to service hours and fixing the driver shortage, ro get the frequency up to the level that maximizes ridership and usefulness. Metro also can’t raise taxes to establish an escalator-maintenance fund. So instead when the DSTT escalators break, Metro applies for a federal grant to fix them, and that can tame months. Metro can’t do anything else: only the county council can raise taxes or reprioritize budgets to get Metro the money to fix/replace the escalators/elevators. And it has never done so. And when it was decided to transfer the tunnel to ST for ST2, Metro and the county just stopped spending money on the escalators/elevators, because it wouldn’t get the long-term benefit of them. And any money Metro would have spent would have come out of service hours, which would be bad. I don’t know why it took so many years to transfer the tunnel. They decided in the 2000s, and buses vacated the tunnel at the beginning of 2019 if I remember. I thought the tunnel would be transferred then, so I don’t know why it’s taken so long. That could be a reason for the long period between 2019 and now with minimal escalator repair. A gap that was stretched. Like the gap between the opening of UW Station and U-District Station, which was supposed to be four years (and even that was long), but it ended up being six years.

      7. I used to walk up and down stairs but it has gotten harder as I’ve gotten older. Partly because my knees get sore during each step, and partly because I’ve gained weight so it’s more tiring. So I use escalators/elevators when I can, and stairs when I have to. I envy the people who just walk up the long escalators at UW Station as if they’re nothing. Maybe I did that when I was younger.

        There’s another issue. Department stores and public buildings have full bidirectional escalators because customers expect them, and will take their money elsewhere if the store is too cheap to have them. Yet it’s OK if transit stations have less because it’s “just transit riders” and they’re a captive audience. Transit stations should be on par with the rest of public/commercial infrastructure in the US.

      8. I see none of your clients have ever lost mobility due to their injuries. Who needs escalators? ADA be damned, he says!

        Incredible, coming from a lawyer nonetheless.

      9. Some are too disabled to walk so an escalator is no help. Some have cars modified. The rest drive. Transit is a terrible option for the disabled. First/last mile access, especially in a suburban/rural living arrangement.

        If first/last mile access (or escalators) are the major issue for healthy people taking transit what do you think it is like for the truly disabled.

        Escalators are not designed for the truly disabled. They can’t even get to the station.

      10. @Mike Orr,

        Metro most certainly could have afforded to do routine maintenance on the tunnel, but for whatever reason they didn’t. The odd thing about infrastructure is that maintaining it is cheaper than replacing it. If Metro had performed the standard routine maintenance we wouldn’t be in this situation today. It is cheaper to change the oil than to replace the engine.

        And Metro has an annual budget of, what, over a billion dollars? Why should any billion dollar agency be operating a station with only 22% escalator availability? It boggles the mind.

        Bus systems are by their nature not very infrastructure intensive. The transit agency doesn’t own the roads, the buses themselves are relatively cheap and often treated as disposable, and bus shelters and a maintenance base don’t amount to much.

        It could be that Metro just had no experience maintaining real infrastructure and didn’t understand what it would take, or what the risks of deferred maintenance were.

        Or it could be that Metro intentionally diverted maintenance funds to other uses out of spite once it was clear that the bus tunnel would become a 100% ST asset.

        Or it could be that Metro put no value on maintenance and instead bowed to union pressure to get more operator hours.

        How to know for sure? There really should be an investigation into what Metro did to the DSLRT. It could be done by the State AG or some other fully independent body. Unfortunately I don’t think anyone even remotely involved has the political stomach to really investigate what went wrong.

        But hey, I wouldn’t entrust Metro with any more infrastructure of any substance until it is understood what went wrong with Metro and the former “bus tunnel”. Because, without knowing what went wrong before, how do you know you aren’t doing it wrong again?

        I would certainly support an independent investigation into Metro and the bus tunnel.

      11. The escalators in the downtown tunnel are old. They have been there for many years. I don’t remember them ever having trouble until recently. Clearly the hand-off to ST didn’t go well, but it is common for agencies to put off maintenance, or not replace aging infrastructure. The situation was complicated because ST was going to be taking care of it. If Metro replaced the escalators, it would make sense for ST to be part of the discussion. It is like putting up with ugly tile in the bathroom before selling the house. The new owner is going to remodel that anyway.

        I’m more worried about the new escalators. There have been major problems almost immediately. In some cases, these caused major delays for riders. This is a combination of bad design (no redundancy) as well as bad infrastructure. But if you are completely dependent on a particular system, you better make sure it works. It better be high quality, and you better maintain it well. Clearly they didn’t. This does not bode well for the future.

        Nor does it look promising for the newer stations. You would think with the fiasco at the UW station that the Northgate Link stations would be rock solid. Yes, I understand that some escalators will break, but you would expect all of the Northgate Station escalators to be working now — the station isn’t that old. I don’t see why I should be optimistic about the maintenance of escalators 40 years from now, when they break within the first year of operation.

        I see no reason to believe ST will do better than Metro. ST is not focused on maintenance. They are primarily a construction company. I’ve never heard anyone at ST suggest a certain path of action because it will be easier to maintain in the future. You could ask any civil engineer, and they would make recommendations, but ST simply isn’t interested. It is the opposite. There is a movement against running on the surface — a type of station that is particularly low maintenance. They are a quantity-over-quality organization. They are planning a massive construction project that will actually lower the number of riders per mile! The cost per rider just to maintain the system will therefore go up, not down. That is before you factor in the again nature of the system. The escalators will be the least of our worries — we will be happy if the trains run consistently.

      12. As for an investigation, that is silly, when the article clearly explains what happened:

        During the Great Recession of 2008-09, the county spent down its capital reserve fund, she said. That tactic averted harsher service cuts, higher fare increases … King County managers believed Metro’s limited money was better spent on keeping more buses rolling, said Diane Carlson, Metro capital projects director.

        “Overall, the escalators are in poor condition and have exceeded their service life expectancy,” said a mid-2019 study by Vertical Transportation Excellence. The average life is 25 years, but only one was newer than 32 years, it said.

        Sound Transit, richer than Metro …

        It really isn’t complicated. Metro was cash strapped, because of the great recession. It could cut service, but waiting for an elevator or walking up stairs if better than not having a bus at all. It is worth noting that while lots of people use the tunnel, it is still a relatively small portion of the overall number of riders in the county. With less money, they couldn’t afford to replace the escalators.

        But the main thing is, ST is loaded, while Metro is broke. A lot of the buses that ST has run for years would have been canceled by Metro the first year of operations. They are just too expensive — Metro couldn’t afford it, but ST can. Even after U-Link opened (and before the pandemic) ST ran buses from Tacoma to the UW. In contrast, Metro can’t afford decent service for most of the growing East Side. Seattle had to take things into their own hands to get decent service.

        The move by ST to take over the escalators early was smart. Under smarter leadership the transition would have been made sooner. Like it or not, this is often how government works. Agencies loaded with money take over projects that agencies strapped for money can’t afford. For example, after the Patriot Act passed, there was additional funding for investigating money laundering. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) went from being a tiny agency to being flush with cash. So now the IRS — which didn’t have much money — simply delegated a lot of its work to FinCEN. If you have ever worked in a large corporate bureaucracy, you have seen the same sort of thing. People in middle-management quietly shift things around so that important work can leverage some muckety-muck’s pet project.

        So yeah, Dow could have made this happen a lot sooner. He was head of both the county and Metro. I’m sure he could have talked to people in both places, and avoided a lot of the mess that eventually occurred. You can investigate if you want, but the basic problem is one of communication and imagination. Either people weren’t communicating very well, or they didn’t imagine the obvious solution (hand responsibility over to the agency with lots of cash).

      13. “The escalators in the downtown tunnel are old. They have been there for many years. I don’t remember them ever having trouble until recently.”

        They’ve been breaking down for decades, both escalators and elevators. Escalators were often closed for weeks. Metro focuses mostly on repairing elevators quickly because ADA requires elevators, and it impacts the guards’ time when they have to assist disabled people who get stuck on a platform with no working elevator. Escalators are irrelevant to ADA because they’re not accessible: they’re just for convenience or high-volume circulation.

        What’s astonishing is how often Roosevelt’s escalators and elevators are closed, after just one year of operation. Capitol Hill and UW still have closures too, less than in 2016-2020, but more than normal infrastructure has. I don’t know about Northgate because I’ve only been there a few times.

        “Metro most certainly could have afforded to do routine maintenance on the tunnel, but for whatever reason they didn’t. The odd thing about infrastructure is that maintaining it is cheaper than replacing it. If Metro had performed the standard routine maintenance we wouldn’t be in this situation today. It is cheaper to change the oil than to replace the engine. And Metro has an annual budget of, what, over a billion dollars? Why should any billion dollar agency be operating a station with only 22% escalator availability?”

        Are you an accountant? Have you studied Metro’s budget figures? How many buses does Metro have? How much does it cost to maintain them, and the total cost of operations and maintenance? How close does that get to a billion dollars? If you don’t know that, your assumption is meaningless, and if policymakers adopted it just like you said, they could harm Metro and decimate transit availability without realizing they’re doing so.

        “During the Great Recession of 2008-09, the county spent down its capital reserve fund, she said. That tactic averted harsher service cuts, higher fare increases … King County managers believed Metro’s limited money was better spent on keeping more buses rolling, said Diane Carlson, Metro capital projects director.”

        I remember that at the time. Metro dropped everything else to keep the service hours up. At the time we noticed that Metro laid off its long-term planners, so there was no strategic plan for years, and restructures just followed inertia and a few squeaky wheels and county councilmembers’ whims. But this says Metro drained its capital budget too. (And that was the right thing to do, if you can’t afford anything except operations, because there’s no point in cutting operations now to avoid cutting them later. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)

      14. [The escalators in the tunnel] have been breaking down for decades

        Yeah, I should have been more specific. I don’t remember them breaking down in the first couple decades. More recently (the last ten or twenty years) they have certainly had problems.

      15. @Mike Orr,

        “ They’ve been breaking down for decades, both escalators and elevators. Escalators were often closed for weeks”

        You are absolutely correct. Escalator issues in the tunnel under Metro ownership and maintenance are not a new issue. They have been around for decades. And, although the problems have been getting steadily worse, they are clearly not tied simply to a simplistic notion of “service life” of the components.

        Metro had many options as the various components in the tunnel aged. They could have instituted a full replacement program, or a phased replacement program, or simply upped the maintenance level to maintain availability. As near as can be determined, they had no such plan.

        And it is hard to tell without an independent investigation if blaming the 2008/9 downturn is simply a mistake by Metro, or a bit of a smokescreen, or CYA by Metro management, or a mix of all the above. Because let’s face it, deferring maintenance is disastrous. You can’t just skip maintenance and expect not to have a big bill come due down the road.

        So, ya, we really need an open and transparent look at how we got here and why. Because clearly the 22% escalator availability that Metro was providing at PSS is unacceptable. And you can bet that escalators weren’t the only system suffering. What about the safety systems?

        As per ST taking over the tunnel from Metro, it is very good news for regional transit riders. ST has already made good progress in improving escalator availability over just the last year (even with long lead times for many of the components). There is no reason not to expect continued progress.

      16. @Lazarus — I think you are missing the point. The tunnel escalators are very old. They have been breaking down as they got old. The escalators in the new stations are very new, and have been breaking down almost immediately. Clearly the situation is much worse with the new stations.

      17. @RussB,

        “ Clearly the situation is much worse with the new stations.”

        Huh? Absolutely not. There is no data anywhere that indicates that the situation with the new stations is worse than the situation in the old Metro bus tunnel. In fact, all available data indicates exactly the opposite. New stations are better than the old Metro stations. Ditto for old ST stations being better than old Metro stations. At least according to the data.

        As for older equaling less reliable, also not true. Older usually means more maintenance and higher maintenance cost, but that does not equate to lower performance or availability.

        Because if older meant less reliable, then how would you explain that ST is already improving escalator reliability in the tunnel over what Metro was able to provide? Because the hardware is the same, and it certainly isn’t getting any younger, but somehow it is getting more reliable. How?

        Hint: it’s the “M” word, and I don’t mean “miracle”. It’s maintenance, real maintenance. Because maintenance matters.

        We really need to understand where Metro went wrong with the bus tunnel.

      18. There is no data anywhere that indicates that the situation with the new stations is worse than the situation in the old Metro bus tunnel.

        OK, fair enough. There is an absence of hard data.

        In fact, all available data indicates exactly the opposite.

        Nonsense. Here is what we know:

        1) Escalators in the new stations have failed repeatedly in their first few years of operation. These failings have been reported on in the paper more than once (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/escalators-continue-to-fail-at-light-rail-stations-frustrating-riders/, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/sound-transit-will-add-stairs-and-stronger-escalators-to-fix-uw-station-breakdowns/). The escalator problems with the UW station were so prevalent they warrant a paragraph on the Wikipedia page. Sound Transit changed their escalator protocol. They were going to replace all of the escalators, but backed off. No wonder the newspaper reported on this — this is very big news.

        2) There is no evidence of similar failings with the bus tunnel stations in the first few years. Granted, it was a long time ago. Memories are hazy. A search of newspaper articles is bound to be challenging. It is theoretically possible that it had the same problems, but I doubt it. There is simply no record of it. On Wikipedia, the only mention of escalators in those tunnels have been recent (as part of the “hand-off”).

        You are simply comparing an old system with a new one, while ignoring the fact that the new system has had plenty of problems. Problems so bad they were major stories in the paper. My point is, if the escalators in the new stations have had so many problems right off the bat, why do you assume they will be great in 20 years? Every system gets old, but if it breaks down the first year of operation, it doesn’t bode well for the future.

      19. @RossB,

        I stand by everything I wrote.

        And there is not an “absence of hard data” on the matter. The data is available on the ST webpage and has been linked to multiple times on this very blog.

        The data shows that escalator availability is at the 95% goal at ST stations, and is around 70% at historically Metro stations in the old bus tunnel. When I went to school 95% was better than 70%, and I’m pretty sure that hasn’t changed.

        The data also shows that ST has made significant improvements in escalator availability in the DSLRT since ST took over maintenance from Metro a little over a year ago. Unfortunately it will take many more years to fully correct the situation Metro presented ST with.

        As per where ST is with escalator availability in 20 years, your comments are little more than baseless speculation. Where ST is in 20 years will depend on one thing – maintenance. This is something ST understands, and hopefully ST will act accordingly.

        And I’m not too worried about outages in the new NG Link stations – they are more than likely just teething pains.

        You can install a new system like an escalator and run it empty and everything looks just fine, but you never know for sure until it is run under actual load and real world conditions. Tolerances change, sensors trip, etc. It takes awhile to get everything dialed in, and usually the contracts reflect this. It’s a known unknown, and is usually planned for.

      20. @Lazarus — I can’t tell if you don’t understand the argument, or are just trying to obfuscate things. Let me try and make this as simple as possible:

        1) The stations in the tunnel are old.
        2) The stations outside of the tunnel are new.
        3) Generally speaking, older things break down more often than newer things.
        4) There is no evidence that the stations in the tunnel broke down often when they were new.
        5) There is plenty of evidence that the stations outside the tunnel broke down often when they were new.

        With me so far? If you have any doubt about any of these points, feel free to argue them (the numbers should make it easy). The next is merely speculation, based on those points.

        6) Given all that, it would make sense that the stations outside the tunnel will break down more often when the are old. If you buy a car and it immediately starts breaking down, that is not a good sign for its long-term reliability. Most likely, after 100,000 miles, that car will have more problems than a car that was reliable its first year. I see no reason to think that the elevators will be any different.

        You are focused entirely on point number 3. Of course old escalators break down. In fact, the escalators were older than their stated service life by several years! It is extraordinary that they lasted this long. It is point number 5 that is alarming. You are completely ignoring the fact that many of our new escalators break down at a remarkable rate. Not compared to an old escalator, but compared to a new escalator. This does not bode well for the future.

      21. @AJ,

        Thanks for attempting to inject some sanity into this discussion. You are correct, failure rate is not a linear function of age. And “service life” is not a hard and fast number.

        The parameter “service life” is best thought of as being an economic parameter, not a hard physical limit like the typical layperson might assume.

        It essentially represents the manufacturer’s estimate of when the cost of maintenance gets to the point where the operator should consider replacement. But a lot of things go into that calculation, and the primary drivers are maintenance level and maintenance cost.

        If the operator follows the OEM’s recommended maintenance schedule, and maintenance costs estimates are representative, then the product should function at the FULL reliability level for the FULL estimated service life. But shortchange maintenance and the product is almost guaranteed to fail early. And add additional maintenance and the product’s effective service life is almost guaranteed to be extended.

        But the really interesting part is what happens when the product nears the original manufacturer’s estimate of “service life”, because the operator has choices! The operator can go for replacement, or for increased maintenance, or something in between. And all options (except do nothing) can deliver full system availability.

        Essentially increased maintenance can be used to flatten out the RHS of your composite bathtub curve. But nothing is free, and increased maintenance brings increased cost.

        So what is an operator to do? That depends on the specific situation. A cash flush operator might just do full replacement as a proactive measure, while a cash strapped operator might go for increased maintenance while they work to secure long term funding. Likewise an operator of a unique piece of equipment whose replacement is no longer available might go for indefinite increased maintenance as opposed to remanufacturing the system from scratch. I.e, they might try to avoid the $600 hammer syndrome.

        But the bottom line is that the laypersons concept of “service life” is overly simplistic and deeply flawed. Complex systems can function reliably for many decades past their original service life estimates given proper maintenance. And complex systems can fail early given poor maintenance.

        So, to get back to the original point, what exactly was Metro thinking when the drove the bus tunnel escalators into the ground? Did they simply not understand what they were doing? Was it misplaced budget priorities? Or was it intentional?

        The answer to those questions need to be answered before we ever again trust Metro with operating a piece of infrastructure like the bus tunnel. Because I’m pretty sure we can all agree that 22% escalator availability at PSS was unacceptable.

  21. Mike, at least Capitol Hill has an escalator, even though it does not work. Every day on my way to work I walk by the ST construction on N. Mercer Way and 80th for the bus intercept, bus layover area, and station entrance. It looks like a war zone, but honestly I think it will turn out prettier than I thought once the vegetation is planted, especially the station entrance on 80th that looks like it will be a large garden. ST bought/condemned two entire residential lots along the north side of N. Mercer Way for the roundabout and barely used 10% of the land, which will end up like a park.

    And then what? Tend our gardens until late 2025? Wait for eastside buses that are never coming. Serve the empty buses that come today? A “bus bridge” from Seattle for a truncated East Link that can’t use the bus bays or turn around?

    I feel like writing to our city manager to find out whether any testing has been done on our two escalators for the 77th and 80th station entrances which have been completed for a few years. Can you let escalators sit for years or do you need to run them even if empty. ST leaves the station and entrances lighted at night. Maybe ST could throw a block party on the narrow station platform to keep things oiled, although at 80db I don’t know how pleasant the party will be.

    1. “ST bought/condemned two entire residential lots along the north side of N. Mercer Way for the roundabout and barely used 10% of the land, which will end up like a park.”

      Anytime you build something, the construction footprint is always larger than the thing being constructed. Plus, taking only part of a property really screws over the property owner; if you need half the land, it’s fairer to just buy out the entire parcel and end up with a nice park when the construction is all done.

      1. ST tried a partial condemnation but the owners objected.

        I can’t really complain. East Link won’t open until 2025 and I am not sure light rail across the bridge span will meet capacity estimates anyway. The landscaping so far is beautiful if a little new.

        The roundabout and bus bays are a huge white elephant from a time long ago. Bellevue and Issaquah gutted the bus intercept on MI. Still we got some very nice landscaping and around $11 million in mitigation that seemed totally inadequate in 2017 but today seems a waste because there is no place to spend it.

        No one on the Eastside is going west. And no one is riding transit. As I told the mayor of MI today — a brilliant guy — what a total waste of time the litigation has been since 2016. At best MI gets 12 buses per peak hour that are half filled beginning in 2025 or 2026, until Metro decides it can’t afford that frequency, unless it cuts frequency on the 7 and other “equity” lines while MI is subsidizing the 630 and Issaquah is doing the same. “Frequency ” to North Bend is 90 minutes

        Imagine MI and South Seattle agreeing the bus intercept on MI is racist, which it will be with declining Metro budgets.

      2. Anecdotally, ridership on the 255 has been slowly increasing over the past year. I don’t get a whole bus to myself anymore, or anything close to it. The statement that nobody on the Eastside ever rides transit is simply not true.

    2. On MLK, ST took the smallest amount of land it could. to minimize the number of buildings it displaced. That seemed like a good idea at the time, and better than previous projects with a larger construction footprint. But after construction was finished it left awkwardly small or irregularly-shaped lots that are difficult to build on and undesirable for developers. You see them along the route: shallow lots with a chained-link fence around a blank lawn. In ST3, and maybe ST2, ST went back to a traditional larger footprint

      1. By law a government agency is suppose to condemn the minimum property necessary. ST is a transit agency, not a housing agency.

        Eastside landowners got wise to ST’s condemnation scheme in which ST condemns property based on pre- upzoning values and began to insist on condemnation leases.

        On MI the council refused to downzone the residential lots ST purchased/condemned for the bus intercept so each lot was below minimum lot sizes to develop after the intercept despite the small amount of lot area the intercept uses. which according to the SFH zone could only be a SFH.

        I would think urbanists would celebrate more park land on MI considering our subarea has more money than it knows what to do with (and won’t have Link until 2025, if then).

        It really is surreal compared to when I started this fight in 2014. MI got beautiful landscaping and open spaces but no Link.

      2. ST took an even smaller amount by squeezing the construction staging space. Most public projects take a conventional amount, which is more than ST took on MLK. You can’t expect ST to take less than the conventional amount that other public transportation projects take for their staging area. That’s like saying ST and only ST must squeeze it, because it squeezed it once.

        I like the park idea. Mercer Island’s problems are much bigger than a few missing units on these partial lots. There’s several times more missing units downtown, and on the single-family lots in the station’s walkshed. It’s ridiculous to have single-family zoning within a half-mile or mile of a station, yet Mercer Island does. That’s the thousands or tens of thousands of units that don’t exist so people can’t live in them. A few units on one or two partial lots is a drop in the bucket compared to that.

        “On MI the council refused to downzone the residential lots ST purchased/condemned for the bus intercept so each lot was below minimum lot sizes to develop”

        Or MI could reduce the minimum lot size. Or make an exception for those lots, because both a transit station and more housing are a compelling public good. Is the minimum lot size larger than comparable lots in Seattle? If so, it’s just Mercer Island acting privileged, as it usually does.

  22. I poked around ST’s updated ridership data (which now shows monthly ridership per station!) and noticed that from January to March of 2020, Pioneer Square saw upwards of 4x the “normal” ridership – then I remembered Connect 2020. Seems like ages ago.


    Observations in comparing September 2022 to September 2019:

    1. Weekend ridership (~671k total in September) is only slightly below pre-pandemic levels at most stations, but about 32% higher systemwide (increase of ~163k). Northgate Link (U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate) totalled ~211k weekend rides in Sept. 2022, indicating a loss of ~48k monthly weekend riders elsewhere in the system. Since weekend ridership is generally not impacted by changes in commuting patterns due to widespread WFH, it’s still a worthwhile measure of transit recovery.

    2. Weekday ridership in DSTT (Westlake, University, PSQ, CID) is around 70% of 2019 “normal”. PSQ is at ~50%; likely due to many government offices still being ~100% WFH (and perceptions re: safety), whereas data indicates, private offices are at “only” ~60% WFH today. Total weekday ridership in the DSTT in Sept. 2022 was 1,652k, versus 1,539k in Sept. 2019 (but 1,836k in Aug. 2019, versus 1,775k in Aug. 2022).

    3. Northgate Link ridership totalled about 741k in September 2022 (~32% of overall with only 3 of 19 stations); total weekday ridership was ~530k. Northgate Station ridership contributed about half of this (~369k total; ~263k weekday); I don’t know of data regarding what proportion of these riders are former-one-seat-riders transfering from truncated buses. Anecdata appreciated!

    4. The March 2006 Northgate Link FEIS predicted the following average daily boardings in 2030 under the preferred alternative: Northgate = 11.5k; Roosevelt = 3.5k, U-District = 11.5k. Assuming ~30.4 days per month, that turns into monthly estimated ridership of ~350k, 106k, and 350k, respectively, or a total of ~806k. September 2022 ridership was ~92% of the 2030 estimated average, and this was with a model that was blamed on overestimating ridership for U-Link. Northgate Link is overperforming!

    5. Weekend ridership at the UW Stadium station was still way down in August (~23k in 2022 vs. ~56k in 2019), but nearly equal between 2019 and 2022 in September. I would have blamed the lack in rebound between October 2021 and August 2022 on diversion to the U-District Station, but the jump in September is interesting since it was not observed as strongly in 2019, and UW started earlier in 2019 than in 2022. Weekday ridership at UW Station in September 2022 was ~122k vs. 192k in 2019 (down ~37%).

    6. ST Express weekday ridership is still down ~58%, and weekend ridership is down ~32%; overall ridership in September 2022 was 44% of ridership in September 2019. Route 580 is still down ~96%, averaging 37 boardings per day in Sept. 2022 vs 896 boardings per day in Sept. 2019. The 560, 574, and 578 are doing the best, hitting nearly 70% of Sept. 2019 ridership in Sept. 2022 (aka “only” down ~30%).

    7. Sounder ridership was still way down in Sept. 2022 vs. Sept. 2019, with the Southline down ~69% and the Northline down ~78%. Adding up the boardings and dividing by 2 (assuming all trips are round trips), Sounder North carried ~135 commuters per day in September (roughly matching 131 average northline boardings at King Street Station per day), and Sounder South carried ~2,575 commuters (a few hundred more than the 2,117 boardings at KSS per day). Sounder ridership data is also allowed to be sorted by individual train, so folks familiar with the Sounder timetable could do some interesting analysis on any shifts in time of commutes, if observable. Sounder North will be a zombie until it’s finally killed by Everett Link – its route is simply not worthwhile for passengers. I’m thinking the Sounder South improvements should be shelved indefinitely.

    8. Tacoma Link data is being flagged as unreliable, so no reliable observations are possible there. However, it does seem like T-Link ridership is recovering similarly to Central Link, so that’s nice to see.

    I wonder if I can ask ST for the raw data – there is some interesting analysis we could do!

    1. Wow, thanks for the tip. I didn’t realize you could look at individual stations. Cool. That being said, I wish they had data by direction (like they used to) or better yet, station-to-station data (like some agencies have). Still, this is better data than we’ve had for a while.

      As to your particular points: For @5, there were four Husky football games this September, which is unusual. I could see how that would tip the numbers for the weekend.

      I think when looking at the UW, it is worth pairing up the stations. When you do, you see a big increase in ridership, even though ridership at the “UW Station” is actually down. Saturday ridership doubled, but there are big increases across the board.

      In contrast, the opposite has happened in the south end. If you look at the three stations to the south of Rainier Valley (TIBS, SeaTac, Angle Lake) ridership is way down. Interestingly enough, it is Angle Lake that is the most resilient. It has taken a big hit, but nothing like TIBS or SeaTac.

      Speaking of resilient, Capitol Hill Station ridership is higher than in it was four years ago. Not quite “higher than ever” but that will likely happen in the next few months. In contrast, the Rainier Valley stations as well as the Beacon Hill Station are still way below what they were before the pandemic. Likewise SoDo is way down. As you mentioned, so is downtown.

      On the other hand, Stadium is way up for July, August and September (Go Mariners!).

      Overall, it is clear that Northgate Link has been huge. Northgate Station is now the most used station. Obviously, a lot of that is the terminus effect. Many, many people come from the north, and start their Link journey there. But that also shows the importance of the stations between there and downtown. Capitol Hill is one of the few (if not the only) station that saw an increase. The combined UW stations are bigger than any individual station, and rival downtown (with twice as many stations) in overall ridership. Roosevelt has more ridership than three out of the four downtown stations. If not for the addition, we would be looking at Link the way that we look at many of the bus routes — hoping that someday ridership would equal what it once was.

      As for anecdotal stories, this is the first time I really treated Link as a regular subway. Obviously I don’t live in Beacon Hill. I just feel like Link now works for a big mix of spontaneous trips for me. These trips often involve taking a bus — maybe even on each end. But the ability to connect to fairly close, but very busy destinations makes all the difference in the world. I’m not especially surprised at any of the data. I thought this would happen.

      1. I’d speculate Angle Lake ridership as been resilient due to being at the end of the line – the P&R ridership likely skews towards early morning essential works commuting up from the south, as it is first-come first serve, plus the station get steady ridership from people who forget to tap-off.

      2. Yes, there is definitely a terminus effect to Angle Lake. I’m sure that when Link is extended, Angle Lake ridership will go down. I should also emphasize that Angle Lake ridership is definitely down from before the pandemic. It just isn’t down as much as SeaTac or TIBS.

        But every station except Capitol Hill is down. If not for trips that simply didn’t exist before (e. g. Northgate to the U-District) ridership would still be way down. Trips involving the new extension (to the north) are carrying Link. What is more surprising to me is that the downtown stations are still below their 2019 levels. Trips from Northgate, Roosevelt and the U-District to downtown isn’t enough to make up for the general downturn in ridership to the south. For that reason, it isn’t that surprising that Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill are down. Since there aren’t that many people riding Link from the north to downtown, it shouldn’t be too surprising there aren’t that many riding from the north to Rainier Valley. Maybe instead of bypassing Rainier Valley, we should build a bypass for Rainier Valley [just kidding].

        One interesting takeaway from the graph is that either we haven’t peaked for the year, or we peaked in September. This is different than four years ago, when we peaked in July/August, and started going down each month. I don’t know if that is normal (they only have data going back to 2019) but it may be that people are still slowly returning to transit, making up for what is normally a seasonal downtown.

    2. Build it in a dense walkable area and they will come. There was enormous pent-up demand in North Seattle. I posted the travel-time differences earlier.

      Roosevelt to Capitol Hill:
      Link: 9 minutes
      67 + 49: 29 minutes (9+20) + 7-15 minute transfer
      67 to UW + Link: 22 minutes (19+3) + 5 min transfer + 5 min transfer walk

      U-District to Capitol Hill:
      Link: 6 minutes
      49: 20 minutes

      Westlake to Capitol Hill:
      Link: 3 minutes
      10/11/49: 10 minutes

      Northgate to Westlake:
      Link: 15 minutes
      41: 12-30 minutes depending on traffic and whether the express lanes are going your way, with less reliability.
      Buses got caught in southbound traffic between 1pm and 7pm almost every day. There was also overhead in getting from the Stewart Street exit to the tunnel.

      Angle Lake is also a terminus, so it represents Auburn, Federal Way, and Tacoma. When I attended Vegetarians of Washington dinners at the Mt Baker Club, I met a couple from Auburn. They said they drove to TIB and took Link from there. They said when Angle Lake and Federal Way opene, they intended to take it from there.

      I don’t know why Rainier Valley would drop off so much. It has a high percentage of essential workers and people without cars, and a low percentage of office workers who are most likely to work from home. Metro has been adding frequency to the 7, 36, and 106, so perhaps people switched to buses? Or maybe it’s an illusion in the statistics. Also, Raunier Valley was single-tracked for several weeks, with half-frequency. That’s enough to make people who normally use Link take buses, because all the bus routes have better than 20 minute frequency, and in some cases the routes overlap. That’s what I did when Link was 30 minutes weekends in 2020.

      1. Does the Rainier Valley Link ridership reflect the broader RV demographics? I’d speculate that housing around Link stations is more gentrified and therefore skews more towards office works relative to RV bus lines, and this is why Link ridership in the RV has been less resilient that bus ridership in the RV. I’d wager it’s less about ‘switching’ to buses and more that the bus routes serve different sub-neighborhoods than Link.

      2. I don’t think there is anything extraordinary about Rainier Valley or Beacon Hill. When we write about “resilience”, for the most part it is all relative. Metro ridership is still well below what it was. I have no idea if the 7 has matched the pre-pandemic ridership levels, but I would be surprised if it has. My guess is the only bus routes that have seen an increase have added something. Either they are more frequent, or connect to a new Link station. The same is true of stations, which is why Capitol Hill is the only station to see an increase. It used to connect to the UW and the places to the south. Now it connects to much of the north end.

        Stations in Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill are now connected better to the north end as well. My guess is, the difference is just the time it take to get there. The shortest combination involving a new station is Beacon Hill to the U-District, at 20 minutes. This is definitely great, but that is about twice the time it takes to get from Northgate to Capitol Hill. Twenty minutes isn’t bad at all, but maybe it is just enough to discourage spontaneous trips.

      3. Mike, I think Nathan’s numbers and Ross’s analysis show that build it and “they” will come is wrong.

        Ridership is high where ridership was high on buses and exactly where one would v expect ridership to be resilient.

        Link is now expanding into ST Express territory. These folks have left transit in large part because they don’t need transit. They are probably not coming back unless forced to and I don’t think they can be forced back.

        The one figure I don’t see is dollar per rider mile. This is the ticking time bomb because ST underestimated future O&M costs and overestimated farebox recovery which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Dollar per rider mile would likely mirror ridership, and then the question is whether the increased mobility of Link over buses is worth the increased costs or dollar per rider mile. In some areas it is, but in some areas it is not, and if the figure is not worth it for Express Buses it will never be worth it for Link.

        Build it does not mean they will come. If Ross has been dead on when it comes to one point it is build “it” (in graduated modes) where they already are. Praying for future density or “walkability” to support Link in a HUGE three county area along an interstate where people choose to not live now is not a good transit policy.

        The real number is Link ridership today vs bus ridership along the same routes. Then the question is whether ridership and increases mobility over buses validates the enormous cost of Link. Northgate to downtown is the one line one could predict Link was worth the cost. After that it gets less and less validated, and now Link is expanding into areas in which Express buses hardly make economic sense.

      4. Northgate to Westlake:
        Link: 15 minutes
        41: 12-30 minutes depending on traffic

        I think this is one of the few trips that takes longer for most riders. The 41 was often slow in the evening (heading to downtown) but it wasn’t that slow. Getting to the station from the surface takes a while, and it is a long walk from the apartments and retail. I’m sure a very large percentage of people who used to take the 41 have to transfer. Likewise, those who transferred from the 41 to some other bus (e. g. 347/348) have a worse transfer*.

        Yet with all of that, Northgate is the most popular station, averaging more than 10,000 riders a weekday. That is way more than boarded the 41 heading downtown (before the pandemic). The trips to other places (Roosevelt, UW, Capitol Hill) which are almost always much faster are enough to make up for any loss to downtown. Not only the loss due to the transfer (or people taking alternatives, like the 320) but the loss due to fewer people heading downtown.

        I know I’m preaching to the choir, but it bears repeating: A subway is not about getting riders downtown. It is about getting riders all over the core of the city. People may argue what the core is, but certainly the UW, Roosevelt and Capitol Hill — stations that must make up a huge portion of Northgate’s ridership — are within it.

        * The bridge makes a huge difference as well. It makes me wonder what ridership on the 41 would have been like if they built the bridge sooner. But even with that, the dynamic doesn’t change. If you are headed to the college, Link is more useful than the 41, simply because it covers more of the city.

      5. “Yet with all of that, Northgate is the most popular station”

        I’m wondering if that’s a mistake in the data. I see more people at Roosevelt and U-District than at Northgate. Sometimes I worry Northgate isn’t getting enough ridership.

        Capitol Hill dwarfs all the three northern stations. I regularly see 10-20 people getting on/off all day. But it’s not part of “Northgate Link”, so “Northgate gets half of Northgate Link riders” may be true for the three northern stations, except my lyin’ eyes see the opposite. My most common Link trip is Capitol Hill-Roosevelt, and I don’t see many people on the train north of Roosevelt. I only go to Northgate Station occasionally, but every time I’ve been there I see fewer people than at any of the stations north of Westlake except UW.

        ” The 41 was often slow in the evening (heading to downtown) but it wasn’t that slow.”

        It feels slow when the bus is stopped or almost stopped around 45th, SLU, or at the Stewart Street exit. That happened to me many times on the 41, 512, and 522. The 41 even went to a different southbound entrance in the afternoon, Banner Way instead of Northgate Way, to skip some of the traffic, but then it took a while to get to Banner Way. The worst part is, you never know which days are going to have the worst bottlenecks, so you never knew how long the trip would take until it’s finished.

        “The bridge makes a huge difference as well. It makes me wonder what ridership on the 41 would have been like if they built the bridge sooner.”


        “But even with that, the dynamic doesn’t change. If you are headed to the college, Link is more useful than the 41, simply because it covers more of the city.”

        At the opening ceremony the North Seattle College president said the college was the primary champion for building the bridge, and that it would make things much easier for students traveling between Roosevelt High School and NSC. I didn’t know that many high school students went to North from all the high schools but apparently they do.

      6. Another thing with Northgate Station is it was planned when Macy’s and Nordstrom and the southern half of the mall were there. Now they aren’t, and no comparable retail has replaced them, and we don’t know when or what retail will be in the “future development” buildings. So that eliminates some trips to Northgate.

      7. It feels slow when the bus is stopped or almost stopped around 45th, SLU, or at the Stewart Street exit.

        I get that. It was common for the 41 to feel very slow in the evening (heading to downtown). But that is common on the freeway. It feels extremely slow, but when you actually time it, it isn’t that bad. I’m not saying Link isn’t ever faster — but my guess is that most of the time, the old 41 was faster for riders heading downtown (when you include the transfer time).

        I’m wondering if that’s a mistake in the data. I see more people at Roosevelt and U-District than at Northgate

        I don’t, but that is purely anecdotal. It does seem weird for Northgate to have that many riders. But it doesn’t seem crazy. It is the terminus for a lot of buses. My guess is Capitol Hill has very little in the way of buses that act like feeders. Yes, you can connect there with a bus, but if you are heading south (or in some cases, even north, to the UW) you just stay on the bus. Roosevelt has some feeder bus action, but it isn’t like Northgate.

        Northgate also has a huge amount of parking, and when the legal parking is full, people park by the mall (during a Husky football game I saw Husky fans clearly ignoring the rules). People may be avoiding buses like the 512, and just driving to Northgate instead. Speaking of the 512, it is consistent with the rest of the data. Ridership is way down, but around 1,700 people ride it every weekday. In the past, almost everyone rode it to get to downtown or the UW. That means that most of that 1,700 is feeding into Northgate ridership. Same with the 511, 513 and the Metro buses (both express and local). Even if these buses are carrying a lot fewer riders than before, they are still carrying quite a few to Northgate.

        With the UW, ridership is spread out between the two stations. Same is true of the downtown stations. I am a bit surprised that Capitol Hill isn’t the most popular station (or, as before, Westlake) but not shocked. Then again, it wouldn’t shock me if they just made a mistake.

      8. I attribute the RV drop to a few things:

        1. Most large residential projects next to 1 Line stations were open by the end of 2019. The big construction area in SE Seattle now is just south of Judkins Park. That means no large natural increase due to more housing like there was 3-9 years ago..
        2. I think the job locations of RV residents has been changing. I know it’s emerged as a good home location for Eastside and Airport workers. I suspect WFH also has played a part.
        4. The retail demise of Downtown Seattle has played a part. RV residents are driving to SouthCenter, Downtown Bellevue and Renton more.

    3. The ST Express numbers are sobering. It looks like ridership is down for every existing bus at every time. The north end buses are especially depressing:

      510 — Down 58%
      511 — Down 80%
      512 — Down 59%
      513 — Down 59%

      Total ridership then and now is roughly:

      Weekdays: 9,000 to 3,250
      Saturdays: 4,750 to 2,350
      Sundays: 3,300 to 1,800

      Ouch. These used to be highest performing parts of the ST Express system. Hard to say now. Worth noting: this is with added functionality. Lynnwood to the UW used to be very difficult. Now you can make an easy transfer. Yet it is performing much worse than before.

      Another depressing bus is the 522. It is down 70% (although not as bad on weekends). So basically:

      Weekdays: 5,200 to 1,500
      Saturdays: 2,500 to 1,700
      Sundays: 2,000 to 1,300

      Again, ouch. This is with added frequency (in the middle of the day). While the 522 was peak oriented, it also had competition from the 312. It is possible that some riders have switched to the 20 and 75, but that appears to always be slower. They may be taking the more direct express buses to downtown (320, 322) but there aren’t that many of them. I think ridership to downtown from north of Seattle is just way down, and whatever increase from Lake City may be occurring is not enough to make up for it.

      Overall, these are just bad numbers. They may get better over time, but if they don’t, it doesn’t bode well for future expansion. The 522 looks especially bad. The new Stride will make for a faster connection, but it is essentially the same sort of trip, but without Lake City (which used to make up around 40% of the ridership). At best you are looking at maybe 2,000 riders, which just isn’t that good, and way below what they expected.

      Obviously things can change. The numbers keep going up, which is a great sign. But if they don’t — if this is “the new normal” — even some of the better values in ST3 will struggle.

      1. My friend in north Lynnwood says the 512’s Northgate truncation adds ten minutes to travel time, because when you get to the bus stop, the bus has just left. She also wishes there were signs telling where the Snohomish bus stop is, and which escalator/elevator to use. Taking the escalator or elevator that goes all the way down to the surface rather than transferring at the mezzanine can make the difference in whether you catch the bus or not.

        So she’s frustrated about longer trips to downtown, but she’s grateful for faster trips to Capitol Hill, the U-District,. and Northgate. Her house-cleaning jobs are in east Seattle. She also shops mostly in Seattle, because comparable businesses in Lynnwood are over an hour’s walk from her house and scattered in different directions, and there’s no transit to them.

      2. Does anyone know if there is a way for me to compare a Metro pre-covid route’s monthly ridership vs the same route’s 2022 monthly ridership? For example, B Line, April 2019 ridership vs B Line, April 2022 ridership?

      3. Sam – as far as I’m aware, Metro only publishes ridership by route annually in their System Evaluations.

      4. She also wishes there were signs telling where the Snohomish bus stop is, and which escalator/elevator to use.

        I agree that the Northgate layout is a bit confusing. But I think that is true of most of the stations. I used to take a bus to Westlake Station every day, and yet I still get confused. Oh, and good luck finding the elevator to the monorail.

        With all of that said, it gets easier the more you use it. The express buses to the north are actually relatively easy. For Shoreline you want bay 3; for farther north you want bay 4 (https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/service-change/10022021/pdf/northgate-station-map.pdf). This means that you basically take the escalator to the south end.

        It is hard to find a map of the station itself, which is rather odd. You would think ST would publish one. I did find this though: https://hewittseattle.com/project/northgate-station/. This has a few good maps. I think this is the best: https://hewittseattle.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Longitudinal-Section-website-small-1920×481.jpg. You can see the two pairs of escalators that you would take to get on an express bus heading north (you want the “South Entry”). I wish it had more detail (showing stairs) but it is the best I can find.

        From this streetview picture: https://goo.gl/maps/UuiBHLxaZP6cWTMx7, you can barely see a set of stairs behind the ST bus, next to the bike locker. Those are the ones I usually use, as I want Bay 1. That being said, using the escalators works fine. You really can’t go wrong if you take the escalators to the south end, and then start looking for your bus.

        The kiosks are very handy if you are like me, and can take several buses to your destination. I have my preference, which means I’ll skip a bus if I know the better one is coming along in a couple minutes.

        My only pet peeve is that you need to tap on the bus after tapping on the train. This really should be a fare paid zone. It should just be a matter of settling the fares between Metro and ST, instead of the stupid system we have now. I suppose there are other agencies (Community Transit) so maybe they can explore that after those buses avoid Northgate. Even if Metro added a bunch of bus readers it would speed things up. You would need very little in the way of enforcement, as the chances that someone will walk there (or drive and park) to catch a bus is very slim. Even if that did occur, the agencies could simply assume that if someone took a bus and then the train, at some point they will do the reverse.

      1. It 2021 evaluation covers September 2020 to March 2021. That was so abnormal a period that it’s irrelevant to ridership now — what we need is September 2021 to March 2022. “Metro will not be using fall 2020 data to make near-term service change decisions. Instead, Metro will continue to use 2019 as the baseline to inform
        these decisions.” 2021 was also abnormal. It’s only in 2022 that we can start to see a new normal emerging. So I’m not sure route performance in March 2021 matters for anything now.

        The high/low map on page 15 is interesting though. The 15 highest-ridership routes are all in a swath from north/northwest Seattle (south of Northgate Way, west of University Way), continuing south through all of central and south Seattle, and all of south King County (west of 108th) to Federal Way and Auburn. The 15 lowest-ridership routes are all east of that, in northeast Seattle and the Eastside. None of the top 15 routes are in the Eastside. There are two exceptions: the E pushes north to Aurora Village, surrounded by lower-ridership routes. And the 125 is the only bottom-15 route in central/south/west Seattle.

      2. It 2021 evaluation covers September 2020 to March 2021. That was so abnormal a period that it’s irrelevant to ridership now

        Yeah, there were some really unusual numbers. For example, the ridership per hour of service was better in the middle of the day than at peak for just about every bus. This is the complete opposite as before.

        We won’t get good numbers for a while. The earliest they would start is with the last restructure, which I believe is October of last year. Starting then could still give you misleading results, since ridership is still climbing (outside of the usual seasonal variation).

    1. And exactly how many of those comments were actually meaningful?

      This blog is circling the drain. It might be time to shut it down.

      1. Idea. Cut back or eliminate open threads on the main page, and create a Page 3 that is dedicated just to open threads. Main page comments must stick to the topic of the post. If commenters want to go off on a tangent, or start their own topic, they have to take it to Page 3.

      2. I think that it’s really hard to keep interest in a blog unless it’s driven by a particular personality and it has substantive impact to create change.

        These past few years have featured:
        1. Dramatically fewer transit riders than 2019 had. Transit service expansion is more interesting than service reductions. Having to cut resources back from under-budgeted and lower-value projects is not fun either. It’s hard to engender excitement.
        2. Agencies not valuing the forum. Why comment on STB when it’s no longer effective? Why comment on STB when the posts are often not open ended? I think many are more exasperated with trying to offer strategic perspectives when agencies are so hard headed. A good example is the evolution of the CID deep station alternatives that no one liked or wanted on STB or anywhere else. I see ST looking very hard-headed to considering any change — and SDOT isn’t far behind.
        3. Posters subjected to unreasonable ridicule. Why comment on STB when one gets subjected to ridiculing or belittling language if the comment doesn’t exactly align with their views? Ridicule breeds disinterest, and ironically ends up encouraging more combative and hostile comments about other posters that no one wants to read.
        4. The availability of other forums. STB is not the only forum to read about and discuss transit issues in Seattle.

        I don’t have solid solutions to suggest. Social media generally seems to increasingly seem as an evolving place to rant rather than create. The sad thing about it all is that the agencies’ public outreach processes are increasingly designed to work like refuse removal — collect comments like they are trash and throw them into a summary report that never gets read or discussed. It’s all discouraging.

      3. Those are good points Al. But at the same time there is very little happening relating to transit at this time. It is hard to manage a transit blog or post articles if the news is bad. Or there is no news.

        Link won’t open a new line until 2024 at the earliest, maybe 2025, and those lines are going into suburban areas that just are not that excited about Link. (P.S Balducci just let slip the concrete problems east of The Spring Dist. are much worse than thought so an early truncated East Link could only run from MI to The Spring Dist., which is a development in theory only right now. Express bus ridership is naturally down. No one knows if the peak commuter to urban areas will return. Metro is cutting service to meet budgets. The discretionary transit rider who mostly used transit to commute to Seattle is way down. The operational and capital budgets for ST including WSBLE, DSTT2 and subarea equity all suggest big funding problems lie ahead for Link. In the last election for Seattle mayor — and on the eastside — transit just was not an issue. The Move Seattle levy doesn’t expire until 2024. Spotts is very new and really not up to speed, and I am not sure Harrell is into transformational transportation ideas at this time, and who has the money.

        Then you have over $10 trillion wiped out of the stock market, especially Microsoft and Amazon, and these companies actually beginning job cuts. Local and regional population growth looks unlikely to ever meet the PSRC estimates.

        When it comes to housing policy we really end up debating theory, and any zoning changes tend to be ideological because they would take decades to become implemented, although they are very emotional for everyone involved since a house is your largest investment. We talk about “affordable housing” but what we are really talking about is supportive housing, a very expensive nut to track. Although I would suggest everyone who is interested follow the affordable housing legislation at the county level right now, that is totally unworkable and ideology over the market, which never works. You want affordable housing (0% to 50% AMI) you need either public funding or for folks to live together.

        Finally you have the pandemic, which really created a nesting mentality and changed a lot of things, maybe permanently, and in my experience with a high school and college student during the pandemic changed their behavior the most. Politics at the national level is not very exciting either. War and inflation and a likely recession.

        By far the biggest issue IMO is the revitalization of downtown Seattle because at one time that was a world class city, and its vibrancy forced folks to take transit to downtown which really helped fund transit. And it drew tourists. Harrell has done a good job with the tents, but the loss of over 300 police officers has damaged his ability to deal with crime, and unless he can get those work commuters that funded retail and restaurants (and transit) he might be out of luck (and I think developers in The Spring Dist. and Wilburton are way out over their skis). The waterfront park always struck me as a great idea, except we learned no one wants to pay the toll through the new tunnel so they are using Alaskan Way.

        I think it will take a few more years for citizens to get the emotional energy back to do some things that are big and exciting after the pandemic. Right now we are in stasis, which sometimes is not bad. Pre-pandemic (and post) the Seattle Council made some catastrophic mistakes that has taken a city I didn’t think could fail to the brink.

        I wish I saw good news on the horizon but I don’t. This blog allows me to read views I normally don’t get to see or read so I do appreciate that.

  23. “how many of those comments were actually meaningful?”

    That’s in the eye of the beholder. You tell me.

    I did a quick tally of each thread/subthread (not every individual message; there’s too many). I divided them up into “Good” (timely topic, new information, or exceptional entertainment value) or “Bad” (rehash of perennial topic, vacuous, trolling, mediocre entertainment). And the result is… 37 good, 33 bad. Or 52% good.

    It was hard to categorize some topics because I wanted to put them in both or wasn’t sure, so when in doubt I tended to put them into Bad. That’s not a final opinion, just a starting point and an explanation of the tally. My own topics had both Good and Bad ones.

    Good (tentative):
    Rainier bus lanes
    Westneat article on 99 tunnel
    Ranked-choice vs approval voting
    Bus Doggy Dogg
    RMTransit videos
    Link drone tours
    15th Ave W/NW
    Imaginary bus ride in Sweden
    Seattle street names
    MLK grade separation
    Bear Creek ped bridge
    2021 ridership report

    Bad (tentative):
    Make driving less attractive
    Wallingford historic status
    Design cities around walkability/Europe retail
    Luxury intercity bus routes
    Bellevue construction camera
    Electric cars’ impact on transit ridership
    Waterfront Link alternative
    Spring District
    Homeless in Los Angeles
    James Street
    Colorado train derailment
    Second DSTT subthread
    MLK construction footprint (resulting in small hard-to-build vacant parcels)

  24. STB has suffered a loss of authors and editors. These open threads and occasional topic-articles are the best we can do until more volunteers write topic-articles. I still get significant value from the open threads, and would miss it if the 52% good topics weren’t there. I’d be a less informed voter, transit rider, and transit advocate. Before STB there was no discussion forum like it, and most people didn’t know about the agencies’ hearings and open houses and actions. I don’t want to go back to that. If some people are tired of the current state, then leave, but I think enough of us are interested to keep it going. The number of comments and commentators is much larger than a year ago, so even if we’ve lost article volume I think we’re having more thorough discussions in some ways, and getting a wider variety of viewpoints, and giving more readers information on transit. We’ve also gotten a niche as a comment forum for Urbanist articles, since they stopped having comments. STB, even with its worst examples, has a higher average comment quality than many other forums.

    I’ve never read Slack or Reddit or Nextdoor so I can’t compare, but I find STB like the pre-2010s and pre-2000s forums, with higher quality than I find in the Times or Stranger or the Urbanist comments, and that’s why I read STB.

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