Snow is expected today, although it continues to be unpredictable as it was three weeks ago. Here’s a fresh open thread to discuss it and other topics. Wednesday and Thursday will be unusually cold in the low 20s. Beware of black ice.

Metro’s Snow Guide dashboard has a map of which subareas are on snow routes or the Emergency Snow Network. The page has a map of ESN routes, and links to the route-specific Service Advisories page and to subscribe to Alerts.

In East Seattle I’ve found Pine Street is the easiest way to get around in the snow, as it’s relatively flat from 1st Avenue to 14th Avenue. The worst part is crossing I-5 at Boren, where the bridge sidewalk can be icy.

321 Replies to “Fresh Open Thread”

  1. The snow turned to rain last night in the Northgate/Lake City area. I expect most of the city is fine. Up north they may have had more snow.

      1. Same. In Kirkland, rain turned to snow in the last hour. It’s coming down fairly heavy and sticking. So far, it just looks like some northeast King county routes might be on snow route, and some north ST express routes may be on snow route.

      2. Heavy snow in east Seattle started a few minutes ago. So much for going to Bellevue before the snow to finish cleaning out my relative’s apartment, which must be done by the end of the month. The sidewalk is on a hill, the B may be rerouted, and Bel-Red Road where it would probably be rerouted to has construction and I don’t even know where the westbound bus stop is now to get back. And it sucks to wait for a bus not knowing whether it has started or ended a reroute, since sometimes they do it at the last minute.

      3. The Eastside and Shoreline are red on the Metro Winter map, indicating all snow routes. Seattle and South King are still green as of now. This parallels three weeks ago where the Eastside got it worst. Lynnwood and Everett usually gets more snow than King County so I’m guessing they’re buried now.

        There will probably be lots of snowmen and dogs at Cal Anderson Park this afternoon.

      4. The rain turned to snow in Bellevue just after 9… just after I’d driven into the office.

        Maybe I should’ve worked from home today. Oh well; I guess I’ll be going home early before sunset.

    1. Scottsdale is hardly “fly-over country”. It’s an international destination resorty place.

      “Fly-over country” is rural Nebraska and Rust-belt Indihio.

    2. I like Scottsdale too Anonymous, but listing and selling a home are not the same thing, especially when the listing has been viewed 939 times. Selling a house one year after purchasing it in a high mortgage rate environment suggests to me the property was an investment or the seller needs to sell, but isn’t ready to accept the new sales price. I owned a house in Phoenix from 1995 to 2012 and talk about a boom-and-bust city.

      “What is the housing market like in Scottsdale today?

      “In November 2022, Scottsdale home prices were up 17.3% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $833K. On average, homes in Scottsdale sell after 52 days on the market compared to 33 days last year. There were 384 homes sold in November this year, down from 774 last year.”

      Using Nov. 2021 to 2022 for data is tricky (so is using Scottsdale that extends well north into better housing developments and golf courses than the TPC). Mortgage and interest rates did not begin to rise until really July 2022, housing purchases especially SFH exploded during the pandemic, even though inflation in the housing market was red hot. Most economists and experts I read think the housing market is cooling quickly. Investors are bailing (especially for commercial office space), mortgage rates make it nearly impossible to sell and obtain the same rate or house per dollar; and citizens are slowly but surely burning through their Covid stimulus savings, while credit card debt is rising quickly. The key to me is the decline by around 50% in number of homes sold, including this listing.

      Car repossessions and used car sales are increasing quickly while prices are declining, and that tends to be a leading indicator compared to the housing market. Look for housing prices to decline and the market in general (number of sales) to increase in 2023 as more owners and investors have to sell so will have to lower prices. The Federal Reserve uses a lagging indicator for housing which makes up 40% of their inflation formula, so my guess is the Fed has overcooked quantitative tightening and interest rates that will lead to an increase in unemployment and lower earnings per share for companies in 2023 that will lead to layoffs and reduced cap X expenditures.

      My advice: if you like the house in the listing you will be able to buy it for a lot less in 2023, although your mortgage rate will be high to begin with if you go with an ARM. Same goes for Redmond, especially if tech layoffs continue and the commercial development game stays dead.

  2. Up in Bellingham we got about ten inches of snow last night. Buses are still running downtown and plows have been doing their thing. It helps that the snow fell while temperatures were in the teens, so the streets aren’t really icy.

  3. Can anyone find an update on the State v. Zachery Meredith case? The State Supreme Court heard arguments back in February and was supposed to deliver a verdict later this year, but I can find no verdict.

    This is the case regarding the Consitutionality of ORCA card reading by fare enforcement officers, and as such counts as a transit issue.

    1. If it were held unconstitutional, would that effectively mean it would be illegal for sound transit to charge fares? If so, that seems a bit over the top.

      1. There’s two parts to the case/argument. The first is that fare inspection comes with a presumption of guilt over innocence. Which would make it illegal to check and see if fares have been paid absent of evidence they have not. The second is that RFID readings by fare inspectors is a breach of privacy, as it goes beyond a mere visual inspection. Visual inspections when in public are legal, but radio frequencies are not visible light.

        Neither of these have anything to do with how Link charges or collects fares. Only how they make sure they are paid.

      2. Absolutely. Point of payment access has nothing to do with post point of payment fare inspection. Punched or printed paper tickets might also excepted, as there is no visual right to privacy in public spaces. That part depends on the ruling.

        Which brings me back to my question. Rather than argue a court case that can be easily looked up and read for one’s self, can anyone find any information on the ruling, as it should have been delivered by now?

      3. Wow, that would be a real disaster if transit around here is unable to enforce payment by orca card.

        It’s been good to see the “Fare ambassadors” back on Link, but they’re still giving warnings and “education” rather than tickets. I recently got busted myself for not tapping… I reached the platform just as the train was about to leave so I jumped on the train instead of first tapping my card. I have a monthly pass through my employer anyway, so I planned to just tap when I got off the train. The fare inspector read my orca card and told me nicely to tap next time, even though I should have been issued a fine.

      4. Again, this case has nothing to do with enforcement of payment. It has to do with methods of fare inspection. These are two very different things. There are a myriad of different ways ST/Link can enforce payment. This case is only arguing that the present method of fare inspection is not one of them.

      5. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held it is a violation of the 4th Amendment to chalk tires for parking enforcement. But asking for a ticket on Link seems appropriate.

        Still it is an unusual and ineffective means of fare enforcement, and it is hurting Link ridership.

        The State Supreme Court is quite progressive but also quite political (for example striking down the $30 tab fee based on a preamble written by Bob Ferguson’s office because the funding had been bonded). My guess is the court allows fare enforcement, although it is anemic.

        ST ridership and farebox recovery for M&O is going to be a wake up call for progressives IMO.

        Free fares mean less farebox recovery means less coverage and frequency and dirtier and less safe trains. The only folks hurt are the non-discretionary riders. If it gets too bad I see areas outside downtown Seattle demanding change.

      6. If this gets struck down, then would it not also be a violation for airlines to read barcodes on a phone to determine if an electronic ticket is valid? It seems like that would be a similar intrusion.

      7. Glenn, this is a state case. International airports operate under Federal, not state, laws.

        And again, I ask for us to focus. My comment isn’t about what ifs, or liking the ruling, or what it might mean if it goes one way or the other. It is about two things, and only those two things. Has the ruling been issued, and if so what is it. Everything else is off topic.

      8. Lots of other transit systems around the country use proof of payment. Including Amtrak, for that matter – the conductor goes by every seat and scans everyone’s ticket. The idea that checking for payment constitutes an illegal search and presumption of guilt is ridiculous.

        I honestly don’t understand why people are bringing this case before the court in the first place? Are they anti-transit conservatives trying to starve sound transit of money? Or, are they extreme progressives who value the fares being free (or unenforceable) over actual service quality?

      9. “Still it is an unusual and ineffective means of fare enforcement”
        It’s a very common method in Europe. Germany, Poland, Scandinavia, Italy, etc. all have proof of payment systems in some or all of their systems. Its existence, at least in Europe, is because of either cost savings in terms of operating and maintaining fare gates along with the system at large or a cultural attitude in that honesty and following the rules is a virtue amongst a country’s culture as is the case in Scandinavia and Germany.
        Why it exists here is mainly the former with some of the latter in terms of our regions culture and on some level a bit of reverse psychology. Vancouver SkyTrain was actually proof of payment till about 2015/2016 when it switch over to fare gates. But Translink did the math to see if the savings from in person fare enforcement and lowering fare evasion costs to the system would overall be worth it for installation. But they also were implementing a new fare card with the Compass Card, so it made it easier to justify such an expense into the overall package in terms of station upgrades for the system.

      10. The question in front of the Court is if proof of payment via RFID constitutes an unreasonable search due to a lack of probable cause that a rider did not pay for a ticket. My understanding is that precedent allows for inspection of a visible ticket, which I believe extends to reading of a barcode, but this case is an actually interesting examination of what constitutes an unreasonable search in relation to “reading” a ticket. I’m sure there will be several unexpected side effects of this case regardless of the decision.

      11. Proof-of-Payment is a very common system for fare enforcement globally (as opposed to fare gates).

        Again, the question is if the scanning of an ORCA card constitutes an “unreasonable search”, not whether proof of payment is legal. What I wonder is if the Court holds that scanning an RFID card is an unreasonable search, could ST not “simply” put a QR code on the new ORCA cards which “fare ambassadors” could scan “visually”?

      12. There is no presumption of guilt or innocence when checking fares. Everyone on the vehicle gets their fare checked.

        Occasionally, they ignore clear-and-obvious proof of pre-payment, but this case does not go there. (And I am grateful to ST for the restoration of double-beep on tap-off, a feature that could be jeopardized by this case.)

      13. Perhaps somebody missed the lesson in high school Physics where radio waves are the same as visible light waves, just at a different frequency.

      14. Brandon, nobody forgot anything.

        “Visual inspections when in public are legal, but radio frequencies are not visible light.”

        Key word: visible.

      15. It seems rather eccentric to me that they read his fingerprints in order to determine that he had felony warrants in another state, but the invasion of privacy case isn’t about that particular part of the incident. It seems like that would have been a more important part of the invasion of privacy.

      16. Because the rider always has the option of purchasing a paper ticket, the decision to use an RFID card is a choice to enable a rider’s convenience. I don’t see how a rider can turn around and claim asking for proof of its use it is an invasion of privacy.

      17. I get how law interpretation is a gray area. Here’s my take on the proof of payment issue:

        I believe that any law officer can inspect for an expired license plate without cause like in a public park-and-ride lot. I see fare inspectors in the same vain as to me it is essentially a temporary permit to travel like a car license plate is “temporary “ for a year. If a rider displays their fare payment/ proof to travel visually, the inspector wouldn’t have to ask for it.

        Law enforcement can ask for ID if there is probable cause of a violation. So if you get caught breaking the law by riding for free, it seems to me that they have justification ask for ID — just like if you are going over the speed limit in a car.

        It’s also a crime to lie to law enforcement. So if you have your ID and deny that you have it, you’ve committed a minor crime.

        I get how there is some gray legal aspect in Washington about needing cause to ask for an ID and issue fines for non payment. However as long as proof of payment is separate from a license, it seems pretty legit. I may be wrong, but surely the courts will uphold POP with RFID cards and fare inspectors.

    2. The State’s response to Petitioner is readily google-able, but I can’t cut or paste the link from my device.

      I see no Decision posted.

      Nor injunctions.

  4. Spent a bit of time exploring the area over the past couple of days.

    • I’m somewhat surprised by the addition of the third track at IDS. It seems like a really unsafe place to have operators change ends or otherwise be outside the train. Seems like a center platform would have been far more useful.

    • The 128 sure makes some eccentric twists, turns and one hairpin (South Seattle College)..

    • The 50 plunging down the hill east of the Admiral district was definitely planned by someone looking at a flat map.

    • By far the biggest improvement needed for OneBusAway is a map and arrival time screen. If there is a way to get that I’ve not found it. Arrival alarms would be nice too.

    • The new ORCA card system works vastly better. I never had any issues loading a day ticket onto the card, unlike the old system.

    • Northgate Link sure makes getting to Green Lake a lot easier.

    • West Seattle has a lot on new development since I was last there, but very little of it will be in the areas served by West Seattle Link.

    • That whole rats nest of tangled routes that does serve that density seems like it could use some work. Eg, what is the purpose of the two block eastward jog, that has the 50 trying to turn left at two stop signs (Glenn Way, Alaska and 44th) instead of going straight and turning at a traffic light? Northbound, the 128 does the same thing.

    • I looked at taking route 775, but the OneBusAway map only showed the route along the water to the marina. It didn’t show the loop up the hill, so I just walked instead.

    • Bellevue definitely had more high rises than the last time I visited it. Looks like they’re entirely offices though?

    • I like having the ORCA readers at all doors of RapidRide buses.

    • It sure would be nice to get Amtrak off the Union Pacific in the Willamette Valley.

    1. “I’m somewhat surprised by the addition of the third track at IDS. It seems like a really unsafe place to have operators change ends or otherwise be outside the train. Seems like a center platform would have been far more useful.”

      Transit fans argued repeatedly for a center platform for opposite-direction transfers like the Eastside to the airport. ST said it would consider reorganizing the station but never did. I’m not sure what you mean by third track or why operators would change ends there. The third track must be the east-to-south turn track, which ST installed in 2019 to get trains between the Eastside and the SODO base. During the conversion there was a temporary center platform because everybody had to transfer between north and south trains, and afterward transit fans asked ST to leave it there in case it can be used in the future. It remained there for several months at least; I haven’t been paying attention whether it’s still there.

      “The 50 plunging down the hill east of the Admiral district was definitely planned by someone looking at a flat map.”

      I’ve always been surprised at that; Genessee street seems borderline be too narrow and steep for buses.

      “The new ORCA card system works vastly better.”

      The messages and beeps have gradually improved since it was introduced last summer. (Or wass it the summer before?) Initially there was no distinct sound for tapout, but recently I’ve gotten two beeps, although they’re lame because it’s the same pitch as tapin and the pause between them is a bit long. It now shows various messages like your balance and when your pass or transfer expires. One thing we’ve lost is the ability to cancel a Link trip. You used to be able to tap twice at the same station within 15 minutes and it canceled the trip, but now it just says “You already paid.” That means you’ll be charged the maximum fare if you don’t travel and can’t tapout at another station.

      “Northgate Link sure makes getting to Green Lake a lot easier.”

      And Ravenna Park. It’s four times faster between Capitol Hill and North Seattle than it was on the 49 and 67.

      “West Seattle has a lot on new development since I was last there, but very little of it will be in the areas served by West Seattle Link.”

      The Junction area has gotten significant growth in the station area. Some of it was in the mid 2010s so that may before you’re thinking. I think there’s growth along Delridge, which will be on RapidRide H. Where else are you seeing growth?

      1. “During the conversion there was a temporary center platform because everybody had to transfer between north and south trains, …haven’t been paying attention whether it’s still there.”

        What’s there right now is a third track, crammed between the northbound and southbound tracks. There’s a fence down one side, so maybe they’ve a narrow section for changing car ends, but it seems really tight.

        I can’t think of a single case where they do this on MAX. Virtually every single regular train move is an in-service move of some sort. It leads to some really strange stuff on the timetable (Eg, green line trains that only go from Clackamas to Gateway that turn into blue line trains going the opposite direction as a blue line train to Ruby Junction, blue line trains that turn into yellow line trains at Rose Quarter, etc). It seems like, with all the space in the tunnel south of ID that used to be bus related infrastructure, they could have a better location than valuable station space at one of the most important transfer sites in the region.

    2. “Bellevue definitely had more high rises than the last time I visited it. Looks like they’re entirely offices though?”

      The most recent highrises are around the transit center and are office-heavy. There’s a pho restaurant next to the transit center but it closes at 3pm and is closed on weekends; that tells you what’s around it. Either the Link station should be further west, or the streets around the station should have more of retail and housing, so that a 20-hours-a-day line is matched with 20-hours-a-day uses.

      “I like having the ORCA readers at all doors of RapidRide buses.”

      And they actually work. I use them pretty often when I don’t have time to tap offboard before the bus leaves. Other new buses have a flat panel for a future reader.

      1. Several stations where I used RapidRide this time don’t have readers. Eg, Angle Lake Park on the A doesn’t have them on the northbound station. A bunch of people used them on the B at Bellevue Transit Center. Not sure where the platform reader is there, but if they have one I didn’t see anyone use it. They all used the ones at the doors.

      2. My understanding is that RapidRide have “stations” and “stops” (as shown on maps). Stops are just like regular bus stops. Nothing much in terms of amenities, and you have to pay as you board. Stations, on the other hand, have ORCA readers on the street, displays and are generally nicer bus stops. From what I can tell, Angle Lake Park is 195th, which is a “stop”, which would explain why there are no readers ( Bellevue Transit Center is definitely a “station”, so it should have readers.

      3. Bellevue Transit Center has one next to the benches. I transfer from the 550 to the B, so whether I use the platform reader depends on whether the B is leaving in a minute or not.

      1. I should not post by phone.
        Route 50 is like a horse designed by a committee, leading to a camel.

        Route 128 was implemented in 1998; the TIBS deviation was added in 2009.

      2. What specifically is wrong with the 50? We can restructure specific problems. We can’t do anything about a general “it’s bad”, and different readers may have a different idea of what you mean.

        One of the principles of route planning is some routes aren’t designed for end-to-end use, but instead are two routes interlined for operational efficiency or overlapping trips. The 50 looks like an Alki-SODO route and a SODO-Seward Park route. Likewise the 62 looks like a downtown-Roosevelt route and a Roosevelt-Sand Point route, and the 226 looks like a Bellevue-Overlake route and an Overlake-Eastgate route. Would you feel better about two half-50 routes?

        Another concept that has been suggested is to make it express from Genessee to Beacon Hill. That would better serve West Seattle to Southeast Seattle trips, but no longer serve SODO. There’s ongoing disagreement which would serve more riders or be better for the community.

        The biggest thing I want to do is get 15-minute service to Alki and Seward Park. I imagine Alki being served by a 128-like route, and that’s what Metro’s long-term plan envisioned as a successor to the C in a post-West Seattle Link world.

      3. The 50 makes an awful lot of turns at an awful lot of intersections. The 128 serves Admiral Distrixt to Alaska Junction trips. The C serves Alaska Junction to downtown trips. So maybe something along the lines of the 50 going east-west through the Admiral District on a more direct path?

        It’s not just the 50. There’s a bunch of West Seattle routes that make a lot of complicated turns. This slows the routes down.

      4. @Glenn in Portland, the 56 and 57 do that currently as peak-only routes. They used to run all day before being restructured some years ago, IIRC with the opening of Rapid Ride C.

        I believe the issue was frequency – a direct Admiral-Downtown route couldn’t be fully frequent, so instead they gave Admiral a frequent 50+128 couplet to Alaska Junction.

      5. The 50 does a lot of things, but there are a few themes:

        1) Coverage.
        2) East-west route connecting West Seattle with Beacon Hill/Rainier Valley.
        3) East-west route connecting to various north-south buses and Link.

        All are worthy goals. It is only when you dig into the particulars that there are issues. Here are a few:

        1) Doubles up service with the 128 on California, but not in a good way. The 128 is a thirty minute bus, while the 50 runs more often, so you can’t combine them for good headways. The answer is to eventually bump up the 128, to provide combined 7.5 minute frequency, not change the route of the 50.

        2) The turn on Genesee. I don’t think the locations that are directly served are that great. I think the main benefit is connecting to the 120 and 125. The alternative is to bump up frequency on the 128, and have riders use that when moving within West Seattle.

        3) Crossing on Lander instead of taking a more direct path to Beacon Hill. This is where the last two goals of the 50 seem at odds. It would be much faster if the bus just kept going on the Spokane Street Viaduct. On the other hand, by going this way the bus connects to the Link, 101, 102, 150, 131 and 132. I see the buses as a bigger issue than Link, simply because there are good alternatives for connecting with Link. If you skip over the buses, you are forcing riders to not only make an extra transfer but you are asking them to make the last transfer downtown and then backtrack quite a ways. This problem could be mitigated by introducing another east-west bus to the south (perhaps combined with the 128).

        4) The eastern part of the route (between Columbia City and Othello) is lower density. Thus there is a service mismatch. First of all, I’m not sure if this is even true. Ridership may not be that high, but the bus probably runs reasonably fast through the big Seward Park loop. The alternative would be to split the routes, and run this section less often, and the main 50 more often. Theoretically that could work, but from a practical standpoint, I’m not sure how you pull it off. You want the 50 to go at least as far east as Rainier Avenue, but then what? There are no existing layovers in the area. Likewise with the bus that replaces the eastern part of the 50. I can imagine it working, but not particularly well. I don’t think you save much, while hurting plenty of riders. I think it is better for that part of the route to be just carried along with the rest of the 50.

        Overall I don’t see the case for a big change. It would require a restructure to the south, to provide a good east-west alternative over the First Avenue or South Park Bridge. Even then you’ve lost some time for trips from West Seattle to Renton. I think the route is about as good as you are going to get. It is only the little stuff that I would change:

        1) Don’t make the button-hook between California and Alaska. That goes for all the buses. Is there some reason they do this? Is it impossible to make a simple turn there? The route of the 128 is the worst. It avoids just going straight on California. Why?

        2) Skip the V. A. loop. Those sorts of loops should only be done with very infrequent buses, or as tails.

        That’s about it. I also think the 50 should run more often. (Yeah, I know, you can say that about every bus.) But connector buses are more sensitive to frequency. It is the opposite of an express bus. It isn’t the end of the world to take a half-hour bus to downtown. The bus is fast, and it is a one-seat ride. You can build your schedule around it. In contrast, if a half-hour bus simply connects to other buses, then it is a different matter. Those other buses better be running very frequently (which is unlikely) and even then, trips the other direction get complicated. This is why buses like the 50 — buses that aren’t likely to be one-seat rides — should have frequency that looks a little excessive for the neighborhoods they serve.

      6. Ross, Route 50 is the closest route to my SE Seattle home. I think the biggest problems are terrible frequency and lack of enough local-serving destinations close to the stops.

        1. The frequency is often just every 30 minutes. With many routes running better frequency within walking distance of a decent share of the stops, many riders look at the route as a “last resort” bus choice. Hence the low ridership. It’s hit bottom and is now at a minimum service level needed for essential accessibility.

        2. The poor ridership is also because there are few major destinations directly on the route. It’s great to get to Link or to the VA (a niche destination) but for the most part it’s connecting residential areas to each other (or small retail corners in those areas). It was originally two routes that went Downtown, which was much better for ridership because that is a big destination — and since it’s 9 years old the Route 50 doesn’t have decades of a legacy market even though segments of the Route have relied on good transit for decades.

        There isn’t a good solution without taking each portion and attaching it to another route as an extension or as a split with another route. Even then, it would disrupt the riders that depend on those routes and set into motion complete bus network restructures. In particular, there is the Services for the Blind and there is a specific need to not disrupt direct service to that destination (there are many blind residents who live in Seward Park for this reason even though it’s “low density” per Seattle standards).

        I’ll also point out another problem, which are the awful Link transfer environments. Crossing both half of MLK and a busy cross street is scary and dangerous. Again, it’s probably not an easy problem to solve. I don’t think it’s controversial to state that no MLK stations were designed for convenient and safe bus-Link transfers.

        So maybe it’s that Metro (with City enhanced transit dollars) should just bite the bullet and improve the frequency until time comes to rethink the overall route structure in South Seattle. Meanwhile, it might help a bit for Metro to add bus stops on both corners of MLK at Alaska since the added travel time for impacted through riders would be negligible.

      7. Regarding your points:

        1. Yes, I think this is the biggest weakness. As a connector route, it needs better frequency.

        2. First of all, the 50 doesn’t perform that poorly. At least not for the area. It performed better than the 56 when both ran in the middle of the day. But again, I think the 50 is a bus that is more dependent on frequency, because it is a connector bus. Parts of it are coverage, but a lot of it isn’t. It makes connections to other routes, but if service to those routes is infrequent, it just doesn’t work — the overall trip takes too long. People just drive.

        By the way, back in the golden age of Seattle bus frequency (2018) the city put money into the 56, so that it would run during the day. I think there is a strong case for putting that money into the 50 instead.

        Splitting the bus into two, with both halves going downtown would make all of this worse. Not only do you kill the crosstown aspect of the bus, but you also make frequency worse. Grids save money, which can go into making buses more frequent (e. g.

        The basic idea of the 50 is fine, it is just that we have some small problems (like the silly turns around the Junction) and just not enough frequency.

      8. The entire section of route 50 between Alaska Junction and Alki duplicates either the 128 or the 775 water taxi shuttle. Ideally, what you would like to do is extend the 128 to include route 775 as its turnaround loop, replacing both the 775 and the portion of route 50 between Alki and West Seattle Junction.

        There could be practical issues that make this difficult. For example, the water taxi arrives at Seacrest park hourly at :45 and departs at :00, so there exists no schedule for half hourly bus that can provide a well timed connection to the water taxi in both directions unless the bus lays over at Seacrest Park. But, a layover at Seacrest Park would screw over people getting on at Alki, who would now be forced to sit through a layover to get anywhere. Thus, in timing the schedule, Metro is forced to choose between one group of riders vs. another. Of course, if this new 128 could run every 15 minutes instead of every 30, you can keep both groups happy, but frequent service, of course, costs money, and you’d have to pay for for it for the 128’s entire route (it’s a long route), not just the Alki/Junction part.

        Another thing that really bothers me about the 50 is going to Lander in SODO. A stop on Spokane St. where you can transfer to buses to Georgetown or South Park, I can understand. But, it’s not clear why you would ever want/need to ride the 50 to Lander. If you want to go downtown, you should have boarded the C line back in West Seattle. To Rainier Valley, you stay on the bus, and Lander is just a detour. To the airport, you should have hopped on either the 120 southbound or 560, depending on point of origin. That leaves SODO itself, but you already have the 21 (from West Seattle) and Link (from Rainier Valley) covering that.

        And then, of course, there’s the silly detours that RossB mentioned, at the junction and the VA. Frankly, I think the only reason that either is allowed to exist is because everybody drives, therefore nobody cares. It is apathy, pure and simple. The only voice Metro hears from is people from the VA itself (who commute by car, of course) imagining crippled patients needing door to door service on the bus when, in reality, crippled patients are riding cars or taxis, and those who do ride the bus to the VA are not crippled, otherwise they could not have made it to the bus stop at the other end of the trip, in the first place.

        In the case of the junction, the detour is probably inertia from the 1980’s when people ascribed to a viewpoint shared by a long-winded STB commenter today who I shall not name. This viewpoint says that the loss of three parking spaces on California Ave. to make room for a bus stop would decimate local businesses, and that having mentally ill crazies waiting for the bus right in front of the store would further drive customers away, therefore all bus riders must endure the sacrifice for the sake of a functioning business district.

        This viewpoint in particular is utter B.S. (the Ave in the U district is doing just fine with busy bus stops right next to businesses). I also can’t stand it because it relegates everyone who rides the bus to second class citizens, and the vast majority of bus riders are indeed customers, not troublemakers.

        But, lots of people (including one of our own commenters) do think like this, and inertia is powerful. The 120 has its own detour in White Center, deviating *away* from the main business district, for probably the same reasons, and everyone who rides the bus, whether getting on or off there or riding through, ends up the loser.

      9. From what I saw, the biggest weakness of the 50 is that it really struggles to make some of those many turns along its route. The dual stop signs at Alaska Junction going southbound seemed like a particularly difficult series of turns.

      10. The 775 makes a one-way loop. From what I can tell, it is done with one driver/bus. I think it would be difficult to make it part of the tail of another bus (like the 50) if you decided to only go one direction. It would have to become a live loop, and the rest of the route would have to be fairly short. As you wrote, the timing would also be off. Right now the driver break coincides with the ferry. The bus arrives a bit before the ferry leaves. A while later another ferry arrives and the bus leaves. With a live loop, you throw that away.

        If you went both directions then you wouldn’t save any money. I could see it though. The 128 could be extended to the ferry dock easily. The 50 could be extended to the ferry dock via Alki Avenue. Then you could get rid of the 775, and riders in the area would have better service overall. But it would cost money, not save it.

        On the other hand, if layover space could be found around the Junction you could truncate the 128 there. That would save money. But that would leave those at the north end of California with the one-way 775 as their only bus. I don’t think that is acceptable.

        Either way we have to find money somewhere else. If we find a lot of it, we can extend the 50 and 128 and get rid of the 775. Even just a little could increase the frequency of these buses.

        As I see it, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to save significant money in West Seattle. I could see changing the 125 and 128. I really like David’s map: I think it is an improvement. Based on that idea, I would see making the following changes:

        125: Start at the college, but instead of going downtown, go up to the Junction, and do a live loop. I would probably not go all the way to 49th, but just make a shorter loop using 44th.

        128: Split it into two routes. The southern route run every half hour, and ends at the college. The northern route also ends at the college, but runs every 15 minutes. From the college it heads south to Sylvan and over to California. On California it just goes straight north and ends at the current layover.

        With the 125 going across Genesee, the 50 takes a more direct route onto the West Seattle Bridge. Overall I like the pattern, but I don’t see how you get really good frequency. The 125 takes about 15 minutes to go downtown. It is faster to go up to The Junction, but not that much faster. Along with making the 50 faster, you maybe save enough to run the 125 every 15 minutes (which would be great). But splitting the 128 doesn’t save you any money, since it only runs every half hour now. I don’t see how you get 15 minute frequency on either the 50 or the northern 128 unless you come up with money somewhere else. There are things I would change about the network in West Seattle, but it doesn’t strike me as an area that could use a big overhaul, unlike other parts of the city. Mostly it just needs more money.

      11. Another thing that really bothers me about the 50 is going to Lander in SODO.

        I think the problem with going on (the surface of) Spokane Street are the train tracks. Even if you ignore the train, once you get off the viaduct eastbound, it is hard to get back on. You have to make some sort of detour ( Spokane Street leads to the lower bridge (and Harbor Island) not the upper bridge, which is the fast way to West Seattle.

        I think you really have two choices. Either you skip over the connections to the 131/132 (by staying on the viaduct) or you detour to Lander. To avoid the detour, I think you need an alternative, in the form of a different 128. Instead of sending it to Westwood Village, send it to Georgetown. That still has a detour to the college, but so be it. You’ve created a direct connection between the two South Seattle colleges. It takes about 6 minutes (round trip) to go out to the college and come back. My guess is you would save more than that with by keeping the 50 on the viaduct. I also think it is a better detour. The college is a major destination, while my guess is relatively few transfer from the 50 to the 131/132.

        Overall I think that would be a worthy trade-off, but I think the key is to have good frequency on these east-west routes. You would be increasing the number of transfers, but if frequency increases, it isn’t that big of a deal. For example Alki to Capitol Hill or the UW becomes a three seat ride (50 to C/21 to Link) but if each transfer involves very little waiting, it is no big deal. Link and the C/21 are fairly frequent, it is just the 50 that needs to run more often. Likewise, a new 128 that doesn’t go to Westwood Village, and cuts over to Georgetown (via Holden) would require a transfer for some folks, but the 120 is about to be RapidRide, so that leaves only increasing the frequency of the 128 to 15 minutes or so.

        This is another way that transit scales. As you increase frequency, some choices become a lot easier. Those choices save some riders time, which in turn make life better for a lot more riders. A grid, for example, does not make sense if you are running buses every hour. But if you run those buses frequently, it saves lots of riders a lot of time, and saves an agency money (over a hub and spoke system). The big question for West Seattle (and Seattle in general) is whether there will be enough funding for this.

  5. I’m happy to have Fare Ambassadors back, so long as, and especially if, they are wearing masks. When they come within six feet of a passenger while not wearing a mask, they are not being considerate of the health and safety of that passenger.

    1. Chinatown is demonstrably worse since the Streetcar came. I took the Streetcar on Jackson once and it’s full of meth addicts. It has provided a negative of benefits to the local community it was supposed to serve.

      The Urbanist never fails to fail.

      1. Yep, that’s my experience riding the first hill streetcar. It’s too slow to be attractive transit for anyone actually going anywhere, so most people riding it are drug addicts talking incoherently and leaving trash around. It’s a shame, as transit should be a good way to bring more people to Chinatown, like what Link has done for Roosevelt.

      2. I ride it occasionally from Uwajimaya and I’ve never seen trash nor addicts on the streetcar or at stations.

      3. When I lived in the area, it was useful to get over to the markets by 12th and Jackson. Crime has increased in the area, unfortunately, especially after the Covid lock downs, but you can’t really blame that on the streetcar. But I’ve never seen it “full of meth addicts,” that’s the kind of over exaggeration that makes you question the credibility of their account.

        Another way it was useful: If I was going up to Capitol Hill, and the streetcar was coming, I’d jump on it instead of walking the rest of the way to Link, and waiting, and then having to ascend out of the station. This would be more often the case if the streetcar ran more frequently. Frequency is a major issue hampering the streetcar.

        TBF though, it is easier to increase frequency on a bus line than a streetcar. CCC would really need to have enough vehicles to run at a high enough frequency, and I’m not sure the city is budgeting for this.

      4. The FHSC is what gets built by a committee — THAT DOESN’T FULLY UNDERSTAND STREETCARS! The approach is instead about project components that please other groups while calling it a transit project!

        The CCC is an extension of that approach.

        The first problem with the CCC is that it is an SDOT project. Hence the objective is not productive transit. Why are we talking about economic benefit as the reason? First Ave doesn’t strike me as worse off than other parts of Downtown and it was doing fine before the pandemic.

        The second problem is that it was designed without equal input from Metro and ST. At least transit operator input helps to make transit operations more important. If we switched to a transit project concept like other regions (Portland or California), it would at least have attempted benefits like reducing overcrowding or eliminating bus route segments. Instead, it’s just pushed as a vision on a whim and alternative visions are not allowed or sandbagged.

        I was always disheartened that a Pike-Pine streetcar couplet wasn’t considered between Broadway and Westlake. It would be a more direct service to Capitol Hill and First Hill from Downtown and SLU. It would serve the new convention center directly. The service plan could be studied and the branches with the best productivity could be interlined. The Jackson end could be extended to terminate at the ferry terminal (another visitor destination). A branch through Belltown would have dovetailed nicely (SLU to ID, Belltown to Broadway/ John).

        Anyway, FHSC and CCC are probably the shining examples of how mediocre transit decisions get made in Seattle. People can see the advantages of investing in transit, but don’t realize that the projects that result are so mediocre because of a flawed planning process that seems elusive to fix.

        We badly need a Riders Summit and a Riders Committee with clout in our region. It scares electeds as today they rely on limited options from only a handful of staff involved, followed by a parade of advocates that care about other things like their own real estate investments to bend the proposals to their benefit. If those involved objectively cared about transit first, our transit capital dollars would be so much better spent.

    2. The Urbanist basically writes articles with the belief that money is infinite and the more money spent on anything even vaguely related to transit, the better, regardless of how the actual mobility a service provides stacks up against the cost.

      For instance, the benefits of the streetcar over nearby buses that point out – level boarding, an option on 1st in addition to 3rd – are nonzero. But, the value of such is extremely tiny relative to the huge cost to construct the streetcar. And there is no mention at all of what good could come out of redirecting that money to simply running existing bus routes more frequently.

      The before and after streetcar maps shown in the Urbanist article are also very misleading, as they ignore all of the area’s bus routes, making it sound as though the CCC is necessary to plug a hole in transit service when, in fact, it isn’t.

      Common sense indicates that, with nearly zero mobility benefit, the streetcar will not add enough downtown visitors to make any sort of difference in downtown business’s bottom lines, unless of course, you make the assumption that hoards of people will see the streetcar as an attraction in itself and drive downtown, just to ride the streetcar back and forth (an assumption that I believe to be very unlikely).

      I recently listened to a Strong Towns podcast where they described the broader problem. Agencies for all forms of transportation (including highways), instead of asking the question of how to spend a fixed budget in a way that does the most good, they start listing every project they can think of off the top of their heads that provides any not-completely-zero benefit, then say “this is what we need” and ask the public how to pay for it. It’s a completely backwards way of thinking, and is often a problem with the progressive movement in general, even on issues unrelated to transit.

      1. “Yep. That is pretty much what various people have been saying for awhile now. That the CCC can play a key role in revitalizing downtown.

        “Is it a magic bullet? No, it can’t solve the problem by itself. Crime and homelessness still need to be addressed, and 3rd Ave needs a complete makeover.”

        Lazarus, some this statement I get and some I don’t.

        How does switching buses to streetcars revitalize downtown Seattle (without even considering the huge cost)? I have ridden the FHSC and hated it. Terrible transportation. I could walk (uphill) faster, drive faster, or take Uber faster. The South Lake Union Streetcar certainly has not solved first/last mile access to Link or been a big hit in a very dense area of Seattle. I just don’t see the change in 3rd Ave. from switching from buses to streetcars when arguably many of the problems on 3rd are due to transit. Many of those buses are through buses. Where do they get rerouted?

        Revitalization has more to do with the issues you do raise: “Crime and homelessness”. But an even bigger threat is WFH and the loss of the work commuter, which devastates street retail, an important element of “eyes on the street”. Those work commuters were a big percentage of intra-downtown transit travel because they had to take transit to downtown Seattle so have to take transit in downtown. I hate to break it to some on this blog, but they are never coming back. There just are not enough downtown workers today to justify the cost of a streetcar, and there is virtually no improvement in time of trip, convenience, or the underlying factors that drive ridership from going from bus to streetcar: people.

        The other issue is Uber. The Seattle Times had an article on Sunday noting that two of the wealthiest neighborhoods are around SLU. In fact, many think the only hope for downtown is converting the empty offices to residential. These are often young and single folks, and they take Uber everywhere because it is everything the streetcar is not: safe, fast, door to door, and relatively cost effective for them. Without them on transit or a streetcar the ridership begins to lean pretty sketchy.

        I think we are putting the cart before the horse. Show me the people, show me the retail density and vibrancy and shoppers, show me the overcrowded buses in downtown, then show me how a streetcar solves that problem, which unfortunately is not a problem today.

      2. Any time someone uses “Common sense..” rather than, you know, data, I pretty much ignore everything after that.

        It might benefit tourists, and that’s the what the article was about. My guess is it will be marginally useful for those working and living downtown, but not especially so. Those staying in hotels or coming off the floating city abominations – they would probably never ride a bus. But they would ride the CCC.

      3. asdf2: yes, CCC Streetcar proponents ( and those of the DSA Third Avenue vision) think funding is infinite and do not consider the opportunity costs. The CCC Streetcar would take many millions in capital, one-half the ROW of 1st Avenue, and new service subsidy. The Seattle transportation capital is scarce and also must build missing sidewalks on transit arterials, manage pavement, maintain bridges, add RR capital, add bike lanes. The Seattle transit subsidy is scarce; the STBD has a smaller stream; there were cuts in fall 2021; the waits for service in downtown are short; new service subsidy is more needed outside downtown where waits are longer. The ROW on 1st Avenue could be used to move many already funded bus routes; a better CBD circulation network could be provided at less cost. A monument is not needed. Shifting downtown circulation trips to streetcar from bus and Link is not helpful.

      4. One of the arguments for the CCC is that it can leverage federal grants and other external funding and taxpayer goodwill, which would not be available for simply adding bus service.

      5. I’ve heard the federal grant argument too. But, even with the fed’s paying over 70% of the cost, the local share still far exceeds the benefit. Even if the feds were to pony up 100% of the construction costs, I still don’t think it would pass cost-benefit muster – to operate it, the city would still be forced to prioritize drivers and service money into running yet another transit route through downtown vs. running buses somewhere else.

        I also think that the streetcar route completely mis-prioritizes the needs of Seattle transit. Simply put, I think the biggest problem with transit, at least in the central part of the city, is the stubborn insistence that (with few exceptions) any bus route going anywhere near the downtown core must go all the way through it, even at the expense of making travel between two downtown-adjacent neighborhoods slower and less direct. For instance, the 8, in spite of getting stuck in traffic, is a very important route, but doesn’t get the off-peak frequency that it should. There should also be a direct bus between SLU and First Hill that goes straight down Boren (not slogging all the way through downtown on 1st Ave.), but there isn’t (unless you could a couple of commuter routes that run only during rush hour and arrive at unpredictable times, all the way from Bothell). The U-district and Eastlake corridor should also have a direct connection to Seattle Center and more of Belltown, but doesn’t.

        A lot of this has to do with the fact that 50 years ago, the downtown core was indeed where almost everything in the city happened, and most people’s travel needs revolved around going there. Over time, the importance of downtown core has gradually diminished relative to other parts of the city, including the downtown-adjacent neighborhoods such as Queen Anne, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill. Today, the downtown core is mostly just a hunk of empty office buildings where the transit system tries to imagine that everybody is going there when, in reality, almost nobody is going there, and it’s a place that people pass through only because the transit system is making them. The CCC is just doubling down on the “everybody is only interested in downtown” mistake.

      6. “Today, the downtown core is mostly just a hunk of empty office buildings where the transit system tries to imagine that everybody is going there when, in reality, almost nobody is going there, and it’s a place that people pass through only because the transit system is making them.”

        That’s one of Jarrett Walker’s principles. A significant part of the downtown ridership is not because people want to go there but because the transit network forces them to. When frequent routes like the 8 appear, or the Jackson part of the 7 or 36, or the 43 base runs down lower Broadway, people show that they’re really going to the adjacent neighborhoods or on trips past the adjacent neighborhoods.

        Metro’s much-derided SLU and First Hill expresses are also a reflection of this, an attempt to save the routes from deletion by first trying to see if they can work in an adjacent neighborhood that Link is rather far away from.

      7. I’ve been told by a German transit enthusiast that they never consider building a new rail line unless it can be made faster than driving. This goes from streetcars to branch line passenger service.

        The type of transit priority for this to happen just doesn’t have the political will here.

      8. “Today, the downtown core is mostly just a hunk of empty office buildings where the transit system tries to imagine that everybody is going there when, in reality, almost nobody is going there, and it’s a place that people pass through only because the transit system is making them.”

        “That’s one of Jarrett Walker’s principles. A significant part of the downtown ridership is not because people want to go there but because the transit network forces them to.”

        Personally I think Walker’s 2012 work has not aged well. Like so many male academic urban planners he never understood women, or that women buy everything in the U.S. and have a MUCH lower risk tolerance,

        It wasn’t transit forcing people to travel through downtown Seattle, it was employment. EMPLOYMENT CREATES MONEY. ST and Metro run transit through downtown Seattle because that is where workers had to get to because that was where the jobs were, and the tourists, and the shoppers and diners, and where all the money was made.

        I read a lot on this blog about European style density. Before we completely abandon downtown Seattle for “middle housing” let’s remember it is the regional hub, and generates 2/3’s of Seattle’s tax revenue, and most of the general fund transit revenue. IMO it is or was the one truly walkable area.

        Less than 10 years ago downtown Seattle was a rising star, the city buried the viaduct in order to build a waterfront park, two sports arenas were built, Amazon developed SLU, Link was going to run to every neighborhood, and people were predicting huge job growth in downtown. Lease rates were sky high, and the city was filled with cranes. The bones are still there, and with the right council downtown Seattle should recover, but someone better get serious NOW. Harrell is trying, but to be honest I don’t think he is the transformational mayor Seattle really needs after a disastrous series of mayors, and I think a lot of the citizens don’t live in reality. The hour is getting late.

        The pandemic and WFH have reduced commuter workers, which means cities like Seattle have to be places where folks with money WANT to go, despite overpriced parking. Last Saturday I went to a cocktail party with a number of downtown Bellevue developers and broker/realtors, and they said commercial development and leasing in downtown Bellevue is DEAD right now. The loss of Chinese investment, pension funds abandoning commercial real estate REIT’s, high interest rates, unknowns over WFH, a 6-10 year start to finish permit to completion period for commercial construction when the same investor can double their money in fixed income with no risk today over that same period, and in this area the steep declines in stock prices for large tech companies (Amazon just hit $82/share today) that are leading investors to clamor for layoffs and efficiencies, including office space, and vacancy rates that will continue to rise to meet the number of folks who didn’t return to the office as leases roll off, a 11% to 60% split right now, unless something changes.

        But this business is cyclical. Downtown Bellevue is doing well retail wise, and it was always going to take decades of a cyclical development business for The Spring Dist. and Wilburton to become like the pretty pictures in the architectural renderings and ST brochures. Seattle has some natural advantages that should make it more vibrant than downtown Bellevue, or just about any city, even in this market post pandemic. No one should want to work in “The Spring Dist.” over downtown Seattle, at least the downtown Seattle of a decade ago. That should be a wakeup call.

        Without a vibrant downtown Seattle Link is pointless which is why all tunnels and lines run through it, and building a transit system in Seattle without a downtown core is like building one in L.A. Northgate is about feeder buses from up north to downtown, just like Lynnwood Link. Roosevelt is a C class residential neighborhood that just happens to be on the way, the UW is mostly students, Capitol Hill is one stop with pretty sketchy retail, and everything south of Sodo does not validate the costs of Link. Without a vibrant downtown Seattle East Link makes very little sense. Downtown Seattle is about the one stop(s) on Link in an area that actually created revenue and was really walkable.

        Seattle should still be the hub it was. Figure out why it isn’t and begin to fix that, rather than rerouting transit to nowhere, although in post pandemic times Seattle just cannot afford foolish ideology or an anti-business council run by the Urbanist. Cash no longer grows on trees, and when the money and tax revenue runs out people get mean, and Seattleites haven’t know mean for a long time. Downtown will need to lure more folks to live there, and more workers who WANT to commute there at least a few days/week. Forget about upzoning remote residential neighborhoods because you hate SFH’s. Figure out how to get those folks back downtown.

        You can’t have entire avenues that are in the middle of downtown dead like 3rd Ave., or even 1st. You can’t have the north/south terminals of Yesler and Pike/Pine too risky to visit or stand around outside. You can’t have businesses getting broken into 12 times in an 18-month period and having that on the evening news every week. You can’t lose 30% of your police officers and detectives and have a council act like that is normal. You can’t force eastsiders to work in downtown Seattle anymore.

        Transit will die in this region if downtown Seattle dies, and that is what we are seeing today. Relying on transit in the other subareas is foolish because those folks don’t like transit and rarely use it. Transit creates and leads on nothing. It follows: jobs, retail, restaurants, art, housing, DENSITY. People want to go where other people are, even if they don’t want to live there. It just amazes me folks talk about building TOD south of SeaTac while downtown Seattle suffocates. I thought folks on this blog liked density.

        Revitalize Seattle and transit will follow, because downtown is about the one area with the density and possible retail/restaurants/ urban vibe to get folks to take transit to, and Seattle desperately needs that tax revenue. No one takes transit to U Village or Bellevue Square.

        I lived most of my life in Seattle, and worked in Pioneer Square from 1990 to Sept. 2022. Pioneer Square had its quirky charms, rents were lower than uptown but it was mostly safe, and other areas of the city were vibrant, and they were safe and so was transit. After work you just had to walk outside your office door to meet folks for drinks or dinner. It was overrun with tourists in the summer. You had to pay too much for parking, and rents were high in office buildings, but it was worth it to be in downtown Seattle because that is where important lawyers and people were, and who wants an empty restaurant or bar. I felt no regret leaving in Sept. 2022 because I was not leaving anything. That Seattle was gone. Even though I don’t work in downtown Seattle I live just across the bridge, and I want that world class vibrant city to return, even if I drive to it or take Uber, or in 2025-26 East Link.

        Don’t complain about your transit because transit just follows. Transit is a mirror. Ask WHY the people are not in downtown Seattle anymore, because if you think they will go to places like Capitol Hill, UW, Roosevelt, Northgate, 130th, Lynnwood, or areas south of Sodo if they won’t go downtown you are badly mistaken because there isn’t anything of interest in those residential areas, or at least that much different than where we live. Not too many people fly to New York to visit Buffalo.

      9. “That’s one of Jarrett Walker’s principles. A significant part of the downtown ridership is not because people want to go there but because the transit network forces them to.”

        “Personally I think Walker’s 2012 work has not aged well.”

        What he meant was that people going from Phinney Ridge to Capitol Hill have to go downtown because that’s where the bus transfer is. Their destination isn’t downtown; it’s just that their only bus goes there. Before the 8, people used to do something like 11+2 to get from Capitol Hill to Uptown. The 7 has always served Jackson before downtown, and some people in Rainier Valley use it to shop in Little Saigon or Chinatown. The 28+131 are through-routed if you’re going from Fremont to Costco; they pass through downtown so you’re counted as a downtown rider.

      10. Transit converges downtown because in the early 20th century that was were the only offices, banks, department stores, government offices, and multimodal stations were. Jobs and retail diffused to the suburbs starting in the mid 20th century, but downtown is still the single largest concentration. Throughout the 20th century transit agencies throughout the country continued concentrating transit downtown and ignored the adjacent neighborhoods. Metro finally addressed Denny Way with the 8, and it became immensely popular and was increased several times. There’s still no full-time route going all the way down Broadway; riders must make do with a patchwork of routes and times that changes every few years. Other cities are sometimes worse and completely ignore the downtown-adjacent transit markets. That’s why Jarrett emphasizes it. And why there’s interest in routing WSBLE to a First Hill Midtown stop or even around downtown.

      11. “Personally I think Walker’s 2012 work has not aged well. Like so many male academic urban planners he never understood women, or that women buy everything in the U.S. and have a MUCH lower risk tolerance,”

        You’re making big assumptions that he never bothered to do that or ignored such aspects. Reading the work he does then and now, it’s clear that he does consider such aspects into the equation even if it isn’t always cut and dry.

      12. Daniel;

        Do you ever stop to read what you yourself write?

        Why should downtown Seattle follow Bellevue’s lead in building a bunch of dead office space?

        No vibrant place on earth has ever existed on only office space. That path leads to Detroit, which followed that very model.

        Vibrant places have a wide variety of uses, and right now work from home works well for a number of workers. Furthermore, Seattle has a housing shortage.

        Thus, why should these vacant offices not be converted to living space? Places that are vibrant have residents. See Capitol Hill, Ballard, Fremont. London has converted quite a lot of land from other uses to residential in order to try to prevent a USA style homeless crisis. It’s as vibrant as anywhere in the USA.

        This also helps quite a lot with transit infrastructure because peak period only commuters consume a lot of resources that might otherwise go to actual improved service for everyone.

      13. Glenn, did you read what I wrote. I noted commercial development in Bellevue is dead right now. I certainly am not recommending, or expecting, much commercial — or residential — new development in downtown Bellevue or Seattle over the next few years, except projects that have begun and must be completed. I have posted this many times.

        Seattle has around a formal 11% vacancy rate, but 60% of workers have not returned to the office at all, and as I posted as leases roll off and more work in office part time the 11% vacancy rate will rise to the occupancy rate. Not good, especially when it comes to tax revenue and retail vibrancy.

        Seattle doesn’t need to build new empty office towers. It has plenty already. That is my point.

        Your idea to convert office towers to residential is getting more interest now that property owners are accepting occupancy rates won’t return to pre-pandemic levels. But is is a very complex process, very expensive, will take a long time, and will not be able to afford much affordable housing to pencil out. But even then people will have to want to live in downtown Seattle.

        The main concern about downtown Seattle right now is the weak retail. Downtown housing and retail is strong along Bellevue Way. You can’t have entire avenues in the heart of downtown Seattle that are retail dead, let alone have weak undense retail.

        Anyone familiar with downtown Seattle a decade ago like I am would have never predicted the empty downtown today, even with WFH, and the lack of retail, shoppers, and diners. Seattle has so many natural advantages over Bellevue the difference in retail and housing today should not exist, so fix the factors that are creating that discrepancy. I am not saying Seattle should emulate Bellevue when it comes to building new commercial office towers, because Bellevue is emulating Seattle in that respect with the plan to fill those towers with Seattle workers. I am saying Seattle should emulate Bellevue when it comes to retail/restaurant vibrancy and density, certainly in this market.

        I suppose it is a bit of chicken and egg: you need people on the street to revitalize retail and restaurants that puts eyes on the streets, which is the entire point of urbanism. Otherwise get some land in Black Diamond; and you need vibrant retail density and restaurants and activities to attract shoppers. I simply find it strange that U Village is the most retail vibrant area in Seattle, but understand why.

    3. @Mike Orr,

      Yep. That is pretty much what various people have been saying for awhile now. That the CCC can play a key role in revitalizing downtown.

      Is it a magic bullet? No, it can’t solve the problem by itself. Crime and homelessness still need to be addressed, and 3rd Ave needs a complete makeover.

      My current concept for the CCC is to move it to 3rd Ave, remove all current 3rd Ave buses from downtown (don’t redeploy), and then implement essentially the two lane concept that the Urbanist and the DSA have been promoting. 3rd Ave would essentially be streetcar and pedestrian only.

      Commensurate with making 3rd Ave streetcar only, I’d go bigger on the streetcar system. Run it in the two line configuration, but have one line go from around East Jackson and MLK to Eastlake, and the other line go from Cap Hill to Seattle Center.

      Additionally, a third streetcar line on 3rd that operates like the DSA’s shuttle intercept concept, and a consolidated maintenance base would further improve the economics.

      Ya, this would be more than just he CCC, but the benefits would be greater too.

      And the interesting thing is that the CCC even in its current conceptualization has great economics. 20,000 riders is more than any of Metro’s RR lines generate, and it is being generated over a short distance. This is why he CCC always scores so well in the studies.

      Will it happen? Who knows. The Seattle City Council isn’t exactly known for thinking big lately.

      This is a case where they should be able to just follow the data, but that also doesn’t seem to be one of their core competencies.

      1. So, you’d punish Queen Anne, First Hill, Eastlake, and Madrona for …. what exactly? “Still” having ETB’s? Where would you run the ETB’s in your future world? I’m sure you are familiar with the difficulties when ETB overhead crosses the streetcar line; there’s an insulated dead stretch for both types of vehicles. That would mean, ideally, that the ETB’s would stay east of Third. Will Fifth Avenue retailers want overhead? Doubtful.

    1. To a real extent, yes. Square footage of nature (especially trees) is indeed important, but increased population density is as well. More people living closer together allows for the potential for more trees. Which is another reason the missing middle is no solution. It doesn’t provide enough population density, not even the 5 over 1s made of ticky tacky.

    2. Missing middle housing is better density than the 70-80% of land dedicated to detached houses. What’s missing in the Mercer Island picture is that if the same population level were built as missing-middle housing, it would take only a quarter of the land and the rest could remain as old-growth forest.

      1. “Missing middle housing is better density than the 70-80% of land dedicated to detached houses. What’s missing in the Mercer Island picture is that if the same population level were built as missing-middle housing, it would take only a quarter of the land and the rest could remain as old-growth forest.”

        Mike, the SFH land in the map is privately owned. It would be like me stating Capitol Hill could be condensed in much taller buildings and the surrounding land that now houses SFH or middle housing could be condemned and replanted as forest. Good luck.

        When you state “better” density you fail to explain the benefits of “density”. Some would look at Seattle and not see benefits to density. As A Joy points out, if density is a good in itself “middle housing” is a pointless zoning restriction on that good.

        As far as carbon goes a tree is a tree, whether in a park, on a street, in an old growth forest (and actually it is younger trees that absorb the most carbon) or on a SFH lot. Just like we don’t throw up our hands and give up because urban/suburban housing often can’t go to zero emissions we don’t discount trees anywhere. I live in suburbia, walk to work and my lot is filled with very large trees, which I like despite their carbon benefits. Four of us now live in a 2800 sf house, so I am guessing I emit less carbon than you.

        You like “middle housing” for its lifestyle and aesthetics (and don’t have kids), although “middle housing” is a very vague term, and as A Joy points out tends to result in some very ugly buildings. Nearly every city I know, including Mercer Island, has a mix of housing, including middle housing in the town center and surrounding multi-family zones. Different people like different forms of housing. Everyone of these eastside cities has zoned for their GMPC future housing targets based on Dept. of Commerce population growth estimates (likely inflated). There is not point for them to densify further, at least until 2044 if the growth estimated by the DOC is accurate.

        Personally, I agree with you middle housing in mixed use zones can be a germinator of retail density and vibrancy, something very tall and sterile buildings like office towers don’t. That is MI allows multi-family housing in its town center commercial core, which is rare. However, there are many, many reasons retail flourishes or does not, some we understand and some we don’t. Capitol Hill, Bellevue Way and U Village have retail density although quite different, The Ave., MI, and downtown Seattle don’t. Go figure.

        What is exciting with the MI CAP is it is showing how a SFH can be carbon neutral, or even absorb more carbon than it emits, and how some tech changes and lifestyle changes are making suburbia as green as any urban area, and in some cases greener. Some like WFH citizens embrace. Some like electric heat pumps, efficient appliances, LED’s, planting more trees and less grass require almost zero sacrifice from owners. Some like solar panels and EV’s will probably require public subsidies but so what. Look how much we subsidize transit.

        Transit and density advocates IMO make a mistake using climate change to advocate for their existence. If reducing carbon emissions is the goal that can be done in any zone, and pretty soon suburbia could have less carbon emissions per resident than urban areas, even with PSE. Claiming Link is climate friendly despite the construction is ridiculous. What is climate friendly is WFH. But that doesn’t negate the need for transit, and in some cases Link. When it comes to housing density, without retail vibrancy and density it makes almost no point unless somehow more affordable per tenant, and right now density advocates need to focus on the factors that are hurting retail in their neighborhoods or zones.

      2. “When you state “better” density you fail to explain the benefits of “density”.”

        I can’t write a book in every comment explaining why density is better. But you raise a good point that we may focus too much on how to densify without articulating why. To me it’s the most human-sized scaling, enough but not too much, compatible with walking (the only mobility mode built into humans), living in a community (humans are social animals), and the sweet spot between comfort and low energy/resource/environmental footprint.

        There are many levels of density that can be good, from duplexes like Vancouver or Montreal, to rowhouses like the northeast, to small 4-8 unit apartments like the one I lived in near Ballard High School, to mixed neighborhoods like the Issaquah Highlands, to 7-story areas like Bellevue Avenue, to pedestrian superblocks like Barcelona, to highrises, and maybe even to small-lot houses like in the CD or Mt Baker. Any of these are better than large-lot detached houses, especially with single-use zoning and cul-de-sacs.

        Lately I’ve been linking to documentary videos that can maybe explain it better than I can. Link the Not Just Bikes video about how all new neighborhoods in The Netherlands are middle housing. The US has become too bifurcated: low-density or breadboxes/highrises with little in between. I disagree with A Joy that middle housing can’t be a large part of the solution. If it works in The Netherlands and Spain, it can work here.

        In the past urbanists/density advocates thought higher denser is always better and middle density is too small. But in the past decade or two many have reconsidered this. The problem is excessively low density, single-use zoning, excessive dead space that nobody uses. So people thought eighty-story highrises were the solution. But building that tall are more about ego than necessity. Forty stories would probably be sufficient to house the entire population and the current amount of office space without an excessively large footprint. And Paris, Granada, and Boston have shown that even 2-4 stories can fit a large number of people in a small space. Could we house the entire US population in 4 stories without jutting into undeveloped land or low-water deserts? Of course, because current density is less than that. We won’t do it because neither highrises nor large-lot houses are going away, but it’s a theoretical example to ponder “How much denser or more mixed do we want?”

        The problem is that 70-80% of the land is single-family only, and the remaining 30% is insufficient for everybody who wants to live in middle-to-high density with the corollary frequent transit.

        “What is exciting with the MI CAP is it is showing how a SFH can be carbon neutral, or even absorb more carbon than it emits,”

        I don’t believe that. You have to look at the entire carbon footprint, including the goods people buy that are shipped in from elsewhere. Europeans on average use half the energy Americans do, and high-density Asian cities use half of that. There are a few carbon-neutral passivhaus buildings like the Bullitt Center, but those are expensive and not something most people can do. People with large houses and yards tend to buy more large stuff to fill them. The utility pipes and power lines and roads have to be longer to reach low-density houses. All these have to be maintained, and low-density areas don’t have a sufficient tax base to do so long-term. And people in low-density houses tend to have cars and drive. Even if they WFH, they still probably drive for non-work trips. Those who can’t walk to transit and won’t/can’t use bikes as a complete substitute have no choice but to drive. You talk about how you in your single-family house can walk to Link and downtown Mercer Island, but 99% of single-family Mercer Islanders can’t. Four people per house may start approaching the carbon footprint of apartment dwellers, but four-person families are unusual today.

    3. What am I looking for Sam, and which neighborhoods are you referring to? The MI satellite photo looks like the far south end near Ellis Pond with 15,000 sf lots and lots of trees.

      However here are some considerations we are looking at in the MI CAP:

      1. Seattle gets highly subsidized hydropower whereas on the eastside we are stuck with PSE, which is around 66% fossil fuel generated electricity today. PSE gets some hydropower but not much due to rights priority. So right there you have a difference in carbon emissions between these neighborhoods per person for the same amount of electricity. In fact, many in my city wonder why we are spending so much to switch to electricity if 2/3 of that electricity is generated from fossil fuels including coal (after being told for the last three decades to switch to gas for the environment and to lessen the load on the electrical grid). The only remedy we have is producing our own individual electricity like solar panels, which right now is not an issue in Seattle but could be as the electrical grid gets more stressed. The CO basin last summer was being asked to choose between water and hydropower due to drought, and much of CA’s supplemental electricity was generated by fossil fuels during that summer period.

      2. Many of the carbon maps we are working with are from 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic and WFH. Carbon emissions on the eastside dropped significantly during the pandemic because no one was commuting. It wasn’t that they liked commuting to a distant urban center like Seattle; it was they were forced to. If we want to address carbon emissions WFH should be mandatory where feasible. And in fact the PSRC 2050 Vision Statement (also based on 2018 data) plans for self-contained cities with much less commuting, and the GMPC mandates job totals for cities along with housing targets to reduce commuting, although WFH probably makes that superfluous, and it is hard to mandate jobs.

      3. Most carbon maps I have seen heavily favor density because of work commuting to that dense area, but do not account for trees or lot vegetation, although that is finally changing. Some think it is ironic that suburban areas are charged with the carbon emissions because their residents were forced in the past to commute to dense urban areas. Thankfully that is ending. Today I walk to work but live in a SFH in suburbia. Many, many people I know who used to commute to work daily now WFH and love it.

      The point is any area or zone can significantly reduce their carbon emissions. As I noted in my prior post, our CAP includes examples of Islanders who eliminate more carbon than they generate. They have well-built/insulated homes with efficient electrical appliances, electric heat pumps and water heaters, solar panels with smart metering that puts excess green electricity back into the system, EV’s, some WFH so do not commute at all, whole house thermostats that allow them to heat or cool only the rooms they are using, and lots of trees on their lot to absorb carbon when often more than 2 live in the SFH so resident per sf is often lower than someone living alone in multi-family housing.

      The biggest change to date in carbon emissions on the eastside has been WFH when those folks hated commuting to Seattle. The second biggest and most immediate change in carbon emissions will be mandating electric heat pumps although it will stress the electrical grid statewide, and state law requires that effective July 1, 2023 in new construction, and my guess is over time existing SFH and multi-family housing will switch because of the maintenance. The benefit of this action like WFH is it does not require government subsidies. That alone will significantly reduce carbon emissions (depending on the source of the electricity) with virtually no inconvenience to the homeowner (like switching from a gas to electrical clothes dryer). Next will be the shift to EV’s (and fast charging stations), along with solar panels, both of which will require public subsidies (and will hopefully include more multi-family housing which has been very slow to add this technology).

      As our city likes to state, there is no reason MI can’t be the greenest city in the state, even with PSE, especially if trees and vegetation are also calculated. Land use and transit will have little to do with those goals, at least on MI, and we won’t get Link for at least three years but prefer to WFH.

      If people choose to live in dense multi-family housing, including in MI’s town center, I think that is great for them, but that choice is not inherently greener with the same source of electricity, and they will never get to zero carbon emissions (or less) like some SFH’s already are. I agree with A Joy that from a carbon emissions point of view the distinction between very tall and very dense multi-family housing and “multi-family housing” is ephemeral, and with changes like heat pumps, solar panels, EV’s, and WFH the distinction with suburbia or SFH zones is also de minimis. It isn’t the land use or density; it is how the energy is produced and how efficiently it is used or created with solar panels.

      What all these planned actions tell us is we will have much more success reducing carbon emissions by accepting how folks want to live, work or travel than trying to change those. Heat pumps are a perfect example. So will be solar panels and EV’s, and especially WFH. Win/wins.

  6. A bus rider collapsed on the C line in West Seattle on Sunday, December 18. Another passenger happened to be carrying Narcan and was able to give it to the collapsed passenger in the time before the emergency services were able to arrive. (A passerby also administered chest compressions.) Whether or not that saved the collapsed passenger’s life is unknown to me. But it very well might have. (The emergency services crew was able to get the collapsed passenger on their feet and sitting on the curb at the time the bus resumed running the route.)

    But this did raise a question: has consideration been given to buses stocking Narcan in their first aid kits? (My understanding is that passengers on this C-line bus were unable to locate a first aid kit, but that’s a separate matter.)

    I found a PubliCola article about a recent reversal in SPL policy that will now allow library staff to take a Narcan training session on a voluntary basis. This will permit them to administer Narcan at the library – though it sounds like liability issues are less than clear in these situations. As part of the new policy, the library branches will all be stocking doses of Narcan. The article also mentions that many frontline Parks Department employees already have Narcan and do not have to receive special training to use it.

    Given how common drug use is on buses and at bus-stops, I doubt this is the last time a crisis like this will arise.

  7. Any word on if Metro plans to reopen off board payment and allow boarding on all doors at downtown stops again? It seems like rapidride is still allowing this, but regular routes do not.

      1. And just after I posted that, I remembered that at least the 62 snow shuttle does not run in the ESN (ran into that a year ago when the ESN was activated), and that’s not even called out in the time table. I don’t know if the RR C snow shuttle runs in the ESN, though.

      2. Metro isn’t consistent with its terminology. The “62 snow shuttle” is really the “65 snow route”

        It would be nice to have a rough idea of frequency. Does Metro run the same number of buses on a given route – any loss of frequency is because the buses are driving slower due to road conditions? Or does Metro run fewer buses – that compounds the loss of frequency.

      3. Larry, with the ESN, everything is best effort, especially because the combination of weather and chains put a lot of wear on the vehicles so they get sidelined for maintenance easily. My memory from last year is things were still running mostly at published frequencies if the route was active in the ESN, since Metro was able to commit more vehicles to routes that were still running if needed.

        Re the snow shuttle terminology, that makes sense since the route is closer to the 65, though the 65 is also in the ESN. I complained last year, though never heard back.

  8. Metro and Sound Transit have suspended all bus service this morning:

    CT and PT are all on snow routes, and it looks like Link might still be running as well. It’s the emptiest Pantograph map I’ve ever seen.

    Has this ever happened before in the history of Puget Sound transit?

    1. Yep. All Metro and ST bus service completely suspended. That is a major disruption to say the least! Rubber tire on ice just doesn’t work very well.

      ST Link LR service operating as near normal. They ran trains all night to keep the OCS clear. Probably also have crews out to keep key switches clear.

      We are out of town currently, but have opened our house up to a few people as emergency shelter. These are people coming off their night shifts who can make it partly home on Link, but then can’t make it the rest of the way home because the bus they normally transfer to has been canceled. They have been stranded.

      Interesting that SDOT has also canceled the streetcar. That shouldn’t happen. If SDOT had planned ahead to keep the OCS and switches clear then SC should be running as normal.

      This is a critical lesson for next time. Streetcar can be a critical transportation service when Metro is shut down, but you have to plan ahead like ST did.

      1. I wonder if the problem with the streetcar is just operator availability? I imagine a lot of people just can’t make it in, especially if they’re coming from outside the city.

      2. @Skylar,

        Ya, could be. But I still think you could plan ahead to have operators available. After all, ST appears to have adequate Link operators who somehow made it in to work.

        I’d like to see the postmortem on this. Because with Metro 100% shutdown, SC could have provided a critical transportation service.

        I’m betting SDOT just dropped the ball. It wouldn’t be the first time.

      3. @Mike Orr,

        But apparently they can get to Light Rail? I know people that are riding LR right now.

        Doesn’t make sense.

      4. Could SDOT be worried about cars getting stuck on the tracks? The streetcars are entirely in-lane vs Link which even in Rainier Valley only has at-grade crossings.

      5. It takes quite a bit of effort to deal with either train*. Link is worth it. The streetcar isn’t.

        If Metro wanted to run a “BBESN” (bare bones emergency snow network) then it would still ignore the streetcar. It would run four wheel drive vans down relatively flat corridors with chains on them. But this is a very rare occurrence – one that no one can ever remember happening in Seattle, which is why they have simply canceled everything. Credit to ST for getting the crews out to keep Link running.

        *Here is how cities with more frequent ice and snow keep their streetcars running:

      6. One of the hazards with encased track such as required of the streetcar in the street or such as Link in the Rainier Valley is the ice can build up in the flangeways to the point it forces the trains off the track. Several different ways exist to clear the ice out of them. You can’t plow because that doesn’t dig the ice out of the flangeways.

        The traditional method is a “snow sweeper” which uses a big rotating brush instead of a plow blade. This digs the ice out. UW has one it uses to clean the sidewalks, so they are still being made.

        Link might have the equipment needed to clean ice out of the flangeways in its street running, while the streetcar doesn’t, or the ice buildup from plowing the street is too severe?

      7. @Glenn,

        Usually if you keep the trains running the “ice in the flangeway” thing is not a problem. The trains do a pretty good job keeping things clear.

        Usually the problem manifests itself in switches. Ice can build up to the point that the switch can’t be thrown, or it doesn’t fully close. And that can be a big problem.

        And, an even bigger problem is ice on the OCS. That is why ST ran the trains all night (supposedly).

        And, as you say, in areas where this happens a lot they have devices to help clear the track and flangeways.

      8. @Glenn — Yeah, that makes sense. Link is a multi-billion dollar line. It carries tens of thousands of riders over a fairly broad area. The streetcar is basically a toy in comparison. It makes sense that ST would invest in keeping the Link trains running in bad weather, while SDOT isn’t concerned much with the streetcar.

        It is also quite possible that ST was fine doing what they usually do when it snows. Often the problem is the wires, not the tracks. My understanding is that they run special trains to knock off the ice. Here is an old report of when they had trouble (but they also describe how they deal with the ice): They did better this time.

      9. KOMO TV showed somebody in Lynnwood holding onto the side of her delivery truck trying to get to the door over ground like an ice-skating rink. The point is you don’t know where it will be, so it may be somewhere in your sidewalk path, maybe on the side of a hill. And you don’t want to find out when you’re halfway there and then have to go through it or go back.

      10. @Mike — Yeah, if you are out there walking, you really should have traction on your shoes — something like YakTracks or Microspikes. The freezing rain forms a very thin layer of ice that is hard to see. I recommend an ice axe if you want to go down Capitol Hill. :)

      11. If anyone has ridden Link this morning, or is going to ride it in the next few hours, since Metro isn’t operating, I’m curious how crowded the Link cars are.

      12. When I was looking for how ST keeps the Link line running, I ran across this blog entry: Ten years ago, and both the buses and Link struggled. Not a complete shutdown of the buses though. Apparently they ran buses to shuttle people when Link was shut down.

        Anyway, the idea that one mode or another is infallible is silly. That is not how it works (or doesn’t).

        Speaking of trains, I noticed that they cancelled many of the Sounder runs this morning. I didn’t see anything about Tacoma Link though. Anyone know if that was cancelled? Pierce County isn’t running their buses yet (they will run them “when it is safe to do so” and presumably on snow routes).

      13. @Sam — My guess is they aren’t that crowded. They are running them every 12 minutes apparently, which is pretty good. A couple days ago when there was that sudden snow storm, I noticed the buses were quite crowded, but the trains were not. The trains can handle a lot of people. Then again, I got on the last train car, and often people crowd onto the middle cars. Still, with the buses shutdown, you’ve cut off a huge part of your potential ridership. Even if a train is delayed a while (because of service problems) I don’t expect it to be like a ball game (where most people are standing).

      14. The entire streetcar is a short distance that, if it doesn’t run, you can still walk. And in the case of First Hill, going end to end, there’s also Link.

        Just this morning I walked approximately the distance from Fred Hutch to Westlake going to the grocery store and back. Yes, it was icy, that’s what boots and microspikes are for, and once I put them on, it was really no big deal.

        Link is different. It covers much longer distances, so “just walk” is typically not an option. It needs to be kept running.

      15. My driveway and walkways around my house are literally sheets of ice. N. Mercer Way is empty. I was planning on taking the 550 to downtown Seattle and workout and then meet my wife for a drink at one of the big hotels since the office is closed for Christmas, but no 550/554. I think it would be a mistake to put buses out in these conditions, even on flat roads, and it is too cold to have riders wait for long periods. Looks like a home day with maybe a walk to the town center or Roanoke. I suppose if it was 2025 or 2026 I could take East Link. I received Balducci’s end of year mailer touting her achievements for 2022 and goals for 2023. . Number one goal for 2023 is opening East Link from S. Bellevue to Overlake, although her achievements (which omitted the “realignment”) for 2022 we’re pretty weak except in theory.

      16. From the Times live updates: “The Seattle Fire Department is urging the public not to drive or walk on ice Friday with crews responding to a high volume of calls for injuries from falls. ‘We are responding to a large number of calls across the City for slips and falls on ice on sidewalks, roadways, parking lots, etc. Falling on ice can cause significant injuries. Don’t drive or walk on the ice – stay indoors until conditions improve if you can.'”

        “that’s what boots and microspikes are for,”

        Most Seattlites don’t have microspikes. Maybe it’s one of those things people will start getting more of, like air conditioning and face masks for wildfire smoke. I don’t remember freezing rain ever being an issue before now, or the weather report saying “ice accumulation of 0.1 to 0.25 inches expected”. Snow accumulation, but not ice accumulation.

      17. “Usually if you keep the trains running the “ice in the flangeway” thing is not a problem. The trains do a pretty good job keeping things clear.”

        It’s not a problem for flangeways that run for short distances at crossings and if it falls as snow. It can be pushed out of the way. For long stretches like Link has in the Rainier Valley or other street running, it can still be a problem even with fairly frequent service. There is less opportunity for the water to flow out of the way before it refreezes. There’s also the issue with other traffic shoving snow and ice back into the flangeways, which would definitely be more of an issue with the streetcar than with Link.

        Switches are a problem but there are several different types of switch heater on the market.

        The overhead wires can have issues too, but there are several solutions to that as well, including line voltage heaters that keep the wire above freezing. TriMet uses a mixture of ice breakers built into the pantographs and a few sections of line heaters, as well as switch point heaters in several locations.

        The flangeways shared with other traffic are really the only thing the streetcar has that is unique just to it.

        If MAX gets partially shut down in this weather? There’s a 90% chance it’s the section in downtown with street running flangeways.

      18. “Seattle emergency rooms are starting to see more and more patients pour in for weather-related injuries as the day progresses, according to UW Medicine. By 11 a.m., about 35 people had landed at Harborview Medical Center and UW Medical Center’s two campuses, Montlake and Northwest. All were in for injuries related to falls on the ice, hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg said. “

      19. Most Seattlites don’t have microspikes.

        I agree. This type of weather is rare. Devices like Microspikes are more of a Midwest/Northeast thing. I own them mainly for hiking in the fall. For around town, I would recommend YakTraks over Microspikes. The latter are better, but the former are cheaper, and don’t wear on your feet as much. You still have to be careful going down a steep hill (they aren’t magic) but they help quite a bit. A lot of people just stayed inside today, which is a great choice.

        REI sells these as well as plenty of similar products:

      20. Yes, Metro, ST, and the streetcar, while not in service yet, appear to be coming to life and starting deadheads from the base to the terminals to begin ESN service. It appears the SDOT Director even hopped aboard a streetcar to take a test run with the operator to make sure it’s safe.

    2. Metro tweet: “Transit Alert 7 a.m. update: All Metro service remains suspended this morning due to icy conditions, including buses, water taxis, on-demand & Seattle Streetcar. Next update at 10 a.m.”

      1. I’m sure its the same issue — people can’t get to the boat. I’m surprised Link is running, really. It wouldn’t have surprised me if it is just too difficult to make it in and run the trains.

    3. Metro website: “As first shared on Dec. 23 at 5 a.m., King County Metro’s buses are unable to leave bus bases due to deteriorating and unsafe road conditions. We regret the impact on our riders. We continue to reassess and will provide the next update at 10 a.m. We remain optimistic that we will be able to provide service later today.”

      “Since Metro communicated yesterday its move to the Emergency Snow Network (ESN), fast-accumulating ice and sub-freezing temperatures across King County have worsened and make it impossible for any buses to travel at the present time. We will add bus service as soon as it is safe for customers and employees…”

      “Access paratransit is fully suspended today due to icy conditions that make it impossible to reach many areas. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1.”

      The National Weather Service has a graphic saying, “Freezing rain is more dangerous than snow, as ice can form on pavement. Don’t drive if there is, or recently was, freezlng rain.”

  9. I’ve never seen all bus service suspended across the board.

    The closest equivalent is in other cities when drivers go on strike.

    1. Some years ago there was a lot of snow over several days and many Metro buses got stuck out in the streets. When the weather improved and it warmed up quickly Metro cancelled all bus service on a Sunday morning to concentrate on bringing the stuck buses back to their bases. I don’t recall if the bus service was cancelled all day.

      1. Jeff, that may have been in about 1997; Rick Walsh was the GM. It was slush Sunday; I walked across town.

    2. Remembering the storm the weekend after Christmas ’96 being particularly bad… I did some research and found Metro shut down at 4:30 p.m. that Sunday and didn’t resume until the next morning. I know that Kitsap Transit shut down as well. Pierce Transit continued to operate except for service to Gig Harbor (the Narrows Bridge was closed, probably due to falling ice) and the 594.

  10. Metro just put out a notice that all bus services continue to be cancelled with the next update at 2 pm.

  11. For those buying microspikes, where do you get them, how do they go onto the shoe, and can they come off with the shoe intact? Is it something you can carry around and take on and off as needed? Do they damage bare sidewalks?

    1. The ones I have are these;

      They get damaged if you use them on paved surfaces, so I only use them on really bad ice days or otherwise where I’ll have a mostly ice and snow walking route.

      They are much like a rubber overshoe and are simply held on by the elastic forces. You probably could take the shoes off with them still on, but because of the damage potential and because they are so east to take off and put back on I’ve always taken them off long before I take my shoes off.

    2. REI sells traction devices ( For around town, I would recommend YakTraks ( These are significantly cheaper than Microspikes, and easier on the feet and sidewalk. If you are on a long stretch of bare ground, you would take them off, but for a few meters I just keep them on. It isn’t that hard to take them on and off. Microspikes have better traction, but are overkill most of the time. YakTraks do wear out quicker, but you probably won’t be using them that much.

  12. Central Seattle has reached 32 degrees. Mid Bellevue (between downtown and Crossroads) is 30. Lynnwood and north Lynnwood are 29. Tacoma is 32.

    1. Yeah, that warm front is still lingering off the coast. It was originally supposed to be raining/melting in Tacoma by now. Still an ice rink.

  13. “WSDOT’s busy snowplow, called Plowie McPlow Plow, was rear-ended Friday morning as it was plowing eastbound Interstate 90 near Spokane.”

    The name echoes Boaty McBoatface, a British submarine.

    Bussy McBus Bus. Linky McLink Link.

  14. ST needs to be more clear with their communication. I received this text this morning and can’t figure out if it means ST has moved from system shutdown to snow routes or from snow routes to regular routes

    “All clear (re: UPDATE: ST Express routes 522, 542, 545, 550, 554, 556 & 566 | Resume Snow Routing | 12/23)

  15. UW station report, 7:45pm. We transferred from the 271 and had a rolling cart full of stuff going to my place. My friend from north Lynnwood wanted to take the bridge, so we took the elevator up to the bridge and there was piss on the floor. We walked across the bridge to the station entrance. Both elevators were out. One had a half-circle fence around it; the other had a sign “Elevator not in service” in front of it. But the second one the doors opened and somebody else got in, so we pressed the button and the doors opened and we got in too in case the sign was inaccurate. But the elevator wouldn’t move, so we got out again. There’s no down escalator from the bridge so we had to carry the cart down the stairs, each of us holding one side of it. Two other people carried rolling suitcases down the stairs. At the surface level we went down via the escalators. You’re not supposed to take carts on escalators, but what do you do when both of the elevators are not?

    When we got to Capitol Hill station, the Denny Way elevator wasn’t working either, and two of the four platform escalators were closed. I haven’t seen so many broken elevators and escalators for five years. We took the southern escalator up to the mezzanine, and the southwest elevator to the surface. The inside of the elevator smelled like fentanyl (burning rubber). I try to stay away from that, but you can’t in an elevator. A few weeks ago I encountered fentanyl in a U-District station elevator.

    My friend, who transfers between the 512 and Link at Northgate, says that station has gotten quite dirty. I’ve only been there a few times so I haven’t seen it, but that’s what she says. She also says the station is heavily used and busy all day.

    I haven’t seen so many elevators and escalators out in five years, since the bad old days of UW station where something was out at least three times a week.

    1. All of the broken escalators north and south of the DSTT really underline the fact that this issue cannot be blamed on Metro Transit for deferred maintenance. I have repeatedly tried to point out that I believe the fault lies with the company that currently maintains the system itself: Kone. Their incompetence was made clear to me during the fiasco that was the Seatac Elevator service issue (which has no other elevator or an escalator for redundancy, just a frequently rain slicked staircase).

      And you’re not supposed to have rolling suitcases on the escalators either. Not that this stops anybody.

      1. To me the issues Mike experienced point to two structural problems for ST:

        1. The M&O budgets are stressed due to lower than estimated ridership and lower than estimated fare paying percentage (farebox recovery). Some on this blog argue ST can just extend taxes indefinitely after capital projects are completed for operations. I am not sure however the budgets can be mixed, four subareas don’t have enough revenue for their capital projects to raid for M&O, and extending taxes originally designed and voted on to fund capital projects after 2046 doesn’t help M&O budgets today. Rogoff raised this issue in his farewell report to the Board last June as ST’s most serious issue.

        2. ST is going to have to secure the stations for fare paying riders. First it needs a better way to enforce fare payment, and second you can’t have stations being used as bathrooms, drug dens, and shelters. Link is a business, and there is plenty of competition. For the discretionary fare paying rider safety and clean stations and trains are a deal breaker when they no longer have to ride transit (and don’t have particularly fond memories of riding transit). There is no way the Eastside will tolerate stations that become bathrooms and shelters and drug dens, or look like the outside of the U District station. That means screening riders on the westside, and ST has always promised the Eastside that the cost of a fare from Seattle to the Eastside on Link would screen out undesirable folks taking East Link across the bridge.

      2. I think the limited number of escalators is also the problem. DC Metro has 3 or 4 next to each other at many stations. That allows for one to be out of service. They also get reversed to spread out the stress of standing on the right.

        Of course, ST doesn’t design any station in a way that allows escalators or elevators to be added at a later date.

        Of course, the root problem is the escalator maintenance. Maybe the area should also be enclosed with glass doors to protect them from temperature swings. better.

      3. The fundamental issue goes far beyond transit and isn’t primarily related to transit. The problem is the government not investing enough in housing, mental health care, and infrastructure so that these things don’t happen. Why do people piss in elevators? Because there aren’t enough public bathrooms. Why do people smoke fentanyl in elevators and on sidewalks and at Bellevue Transit Center? Because they don’t have homes to smoke fentanyl in. Why is transit so infrequent? Because we don’t invest in it enough or prioritize it enough. Countries and cities poorer than ours have all this infrastructure and housing and healthcare, so they don’t have a lot of homeless people filling the sidewalks and parks, and don’t have abused elevators, and the elevators work most of the time. But the US prances around not solving it, or blaming people who have no resources. The reason the government doesn’t have money to solve it is the tax cuts and deunionization since the 1970s that have funneled it to the top 1%. So the answer is to get it back and put it into the infrastructure it should have gone to in the first place. Then we can be a first-world country rather than having so many third-world aspects.

      4. “That means screening riders on the westside, and ST has always promised the Eastside that the cost of a fare from Seattle to the Eastside on Link would screen out undesirable folks taking East Link across the bridge.”

        How in hell do you determine who “undesirable folks” are? And what makes you think these “undesirable folks” don’t live in the Eastside?

        I was waiting at the Issaquah transit center several years ago, and a woman waiting on the platform told her companion “Here, hold this for me, I need to go pee.” She then went over to the parking structure and did her thing. At one point she got in the elevator but I’m not sure if she decided that was her best privacy option or if one of the other places she wandered.

        Anyway, people who need to pee and meet their needs in various structures apparently already live on the Eastside.

      5. That sounds like a fantasy. Link’s ridership is more middle-class on average than Seattle’s bus routes. I’ve described the groups of fentanyl smokers at Bellevue Transit Center in the past six months. If any gangbangers want to come to the Eastside to steal and rape, they can take the 550 which makes practically the same stops as Link and has been running for over twenty years right next to Kemper Freeman’s properties. But they’d probably drive so they’d have a getaway car. People without money also walk across the bridges. In the 80s there was an article about people walking across 520 at night, when there was no sidewalk and the maintenance ledge was so narrow it was hard to avoid getting hit by a car.

        It was East King that wanted Link, like Snohomish and Pierce. Otherwise those subareas wouldn’t exist, there would be no Sound Transit, and no light rail to those areas. It’s not something Seattle or Sound Transit forced on them.

      6. Glenn, the lack of bathrooms in Link stations is a big concern, at least on the eastside, and for cities and stations that will serve as intercepts. Link routes are long and slow. But ST has told us it won’t build bathrooms in unsecured stations because the maintenance would be prohibitively expensive due to vandalism and other misuse from transit riders and just the general public who have unfettered access to stations.

        The difference with the 550 (despite its very low ridership post pandemic) is the driver enforces fares. A $4 one-way ticket on East Link across the bridge in 2025-26 was supposed to be the screening of riders taking East Link east. The number one concern on the eastside is it does not become like Seattle. Is it so strange we don’t want folks riding Link for free to our city urinating in our elevators or smoking fentanyl on the station platform or in the elevator or just hanging out outside the station when so few of us will actually use Link, and it will have absolutely zero transformational powers on MI?

        By the way, in your example of a women urinating in the bushes at an Issaquah bus stop (which is preferable to inside an elevator IMO) what makes you think she lives on the eastside? You live in Seattle. You were waiting at the same bus stop for a bus to presumably take you back to Seattle where you live (in fact you have previously posted you had not been to Bellevue in over a decade). Doesn’t it make sense that women was also waiting for a bus to take her back home to Seattle? Ideally there was a bathroom for her to go the bathroom in, but Link stations don’t have bathrooms, the cities can’t afford the bathrooms, and we would rather not have our town centers become bathrooms and drug dens. Fortunately the recent delay in East Link opening for another 3-4 years has quieted this discussion on the eastside, but I expect it will resume in 2025-25 if Link and Seattle continue on their current path. My guess is Kemper Freeman is crowing about shunting East Link to 112th where there are plenty of places to go the bathroom outside or in the station.

      7. “The difference with the 550 (despite its very low ridership post pandemic) is the driver enforces fares.”

        That’s not how it works.

        • No driver is going to delay a couple dozen passengers if someone refuses to pay. As has been discussed numerous times here, fare enforcement is the responsibility of fare enforcement officers.

        • A fare paying passenger is just as likely to need to pee somewhere as one that doesn’t.

      8. The lack of bathrooms is not only a problem for poor people, or people who live in Seattle. I myself, have had occasions where I was making a bus connection and had no choice but to find whatever secluded, wooded area I could to make a pee.

        The most recent such occasion was on the University of Washington campus, when switching from Link to the 255. It was late enough at night that everything on campus was closed, and I couldn’t go into the hospital to pee because I had my dog with me, they don’t allow dogs in hospitals, and no way was I going to just leave him tied up outside, even for a few minutes, where anyone could snatch him. My bladder wasn’t going to be able to hold it for the ~30 minutes it would take to get home (including the wait for the bus), so I did the only thing I could, which was to pee behind a tree on the UW campus, while holding my dog’s leash, when nobody was around.

        I live on the Eastside. I am not poor. I do not do drugs. Yet, I still needed to go, and there was no toilet I could get to.

        In the meantime, other transportation facilities open to the public, such as airports or even Greyhound bus stations, have public restrooms. In Seattle and on the Eastside, city parks have public restrooms. Kirkland Transit Center even has a public restroom. It can be made to work, it’s just a question of will.

        And also, by the way, the business of a $4 fare deterring undesirables is utter bunk. There are lots of undesirables that have $4 for a bus fare. Even unemployable ones can still get $4 rather easily with less than an hour of roadside begging.


        According to this site Metro only uses fare enforcement officers for off-board payment, like Rapid Ride. Any time I ride the 550 or 554 (which is ST) the driver watched for fare payment. I didn’t know you could just walk on a bus and skip payment without consequences.,period.%20The%20first%20violation%20involves%20only%20a%20warning.

        This 2019 article states that according to ST non-fare paying riders, based on inspections, was 2.5% of inspected passengers, or 63,021 riders/year. Rogoff last June had the figure between 5% and 30% post-pandemic. If non-paying riders are 2.5% when East Link opens that is still kind of high, but acceptable by ST’s standards. 5% — 30% is not. People who flagrantly ride a train or bus without paying a fare are generally not the kind of folks you want getting off in your city.

        Look, I agree with you folks who ride transit need to go to the bathroom, and private merchants don’t want to be a public toilet. We fought this issue with ST on MI, especially when ST was telling MI that up to 14,000 off-Island riders per day would pass through MI, some in the morning arriving after waiting at a park and ride and long bus ride, and some going home after a train ride before waiting for a bus. ST’s explanation to us was toilets would be too expensive to clean and maintain due to vandalism and other illegal activity by transit users, and the toilets would just attract drug use and other illegal activity. Some choice. I can still remember walking by the alley in Pioneer Square that served as a toilet, and the terrible smell coming out of that alley.

        I believe the current non-fare paying percentage on ST, and the effects on the stations and trains of leaving them open, is going to force ST to secure the stations, which they didn’t due solely because of cost and ST’s claims only 2.5% of inspected riders did not pay a fare, and farebox recovery met its goal of 40%. That is what happened in Vancouver. Personally I don’t care from a rider experience point of view. If Mike who rides Link is cool with piss on the floors and fentanyl in the elevators then why post about it. You can’t blame ST, except for the unsecured stations. If those pissing in elevators and smoking fentanyl in elevators have no personal responsibility, then don’t complain about it, but don’t expect a lot of discretionary riders.

        If ST can meet its 40% farebox recovery goal with unsecured stations and trains, and cities on the new lines especially on the eastside don’t see the same problems in their stations, then I imagine ST will continue with unsecured stations to save some $$$. Either way it will be $$$ that drives ST’s decision, both from non-fare paying riders, and the discretionary riders who are turned off by the condition of the trains, stations, and elevators. I would prefer secured stations, but I also wanted ST to install some bathrooms on the platforms on MI which at 35′ below grade and quite narrow will turn into urinals.

      10. From what little I’ve observed, it’s hit or miss if the driver says anything if someone doesn’t pay. But, I’ve not used ST express too much. As a general rule though agencies don’t want to start a potentially violent conflict.

      11. “I didn’t know you could just walk on a bus and skip payment without consequences”

        You can. I had to do this myself once a few months ago, after discovery while the bus was approaching that I had misplaced my Orca card. (My card actually had a pass on it for unlimited rides, so I didn’t feel guilty). It gives you dirty looks, so you don’t want to go doing it too often, but you can do it, and you don’t get thrown out.

      12. “A $4 one-way ticket on East Link across the bridge in 2025-26 was supposed to be the screening of riders taking East Link east.”


        Link is $2.25 for the first five miles, plus 5 cents per additional mile rounded to the nearest 25 cents. By my estimate Westlake-Bellevue is 12 miles, so that’s $2.50, and I bumped it up to $2.75 in case it’s a bit longer.

        $2.75 is also the fare for Westlake-Rainier Beach, and Metro buses. ST Express is $3.25.

  16. An interesting article talking about gentrification and fights from within the renter communities to avoid it, with a lot of environmentalism thrown in for good measure. I think it’s interesting because it paints a slightly more nuanced picture than “all development is good because it reduces prices in aggregate across the region, in the long run”, which some here strongly support.

    Side note: there was another “Anonymous” who posted some fairly offensive stuff earlier, that was not me. The trouble with being “Anonymous”, I suppose.

    1. The ideal way to get an urban tree canopy is to have the trees located on city property, such as between the sidewalk and the street, so whatever development happens on private property cannot impact them.

      Older, pre-WW2 neighborhoods often do this, but in newer ones, cities typically cheap out, so sidewalks directly abut the street and all trees are on private property. It seems to work ok at first as many houses have trees planted on their lawn. But over time, as houses get torn down and replace and the inevitable result being the trees being removed with the old house, that comes back to bite. As long as a tree is on private property, developers will always have an economic incentive to chop it down so they can build more rentable/sellable interior square feet. Tree preservation rules help, but all too often, developers just ignore them and pay the fines as part of the cost of doing business. The only way to really preserve trees reliably is to locate them on public property.

      1. The most effective methods to preserve a city’s tree canopy are yard setback requirements and impervious surface limits for lots. Trees don’t grow in concrete.

        The other is to regulate mature tree removal during development. The point of a “tree” is canopy and height. Otherwise plant grass.

        IMO it makes little sense to allow private property owners to eliminate all trees on their property to maximize their profit and to shift that cost to cities.

      2. The most effective methods to preserve a city’s tree canopy are yard setback requirements and impervious surface limits for lots.

        I get the part about impervious surface limits, but there is nothing stopping anyone from just removing all of the trees in the setback and replacing it with grass, which you suggested:

        The point of a “tree” is canopy and height. Otherwise plant grass.

        Yes, exactly. So what good did the setback do, other than artificially increase the size of the lot (beyond what the buyer wanted) which in turn increases pressure for more new development? There is nothing stopping me, as a home owner, from removing every tree on my lot. It happens all of the time, which explains why the tree canopy on single family homes has been decreasing (according to the latest data).

        The other is to regulate mature tree removal during development.

        Where has that ever been done? What exactly are you proposing — tree houses? Or is it underground (way under the roots)?

        Sorry for the snark, but what you are suggesting is largely impossible. The natural terrain around here is forest. By its very nature every new development will involve removing trees. Look at this aerial map of Mill Creek: It wasn’t too long ago that this was all forest. Now it is a mix of houses, golf courses, wide streets and lawns. The only significant patch of forest is a preserve, owned by the housing organization. While not exactly what asdf2 was talking about, it is the same idea. It is a quasi-government organization that set aside a significant amount of forest.

        It is easy to assume that single family zoned housing is a good way to preserve trees, but on the aggregate, it doesn’t work that way. It leads to more land intensive development (i. e. sprawl). Not only is there a direct loss of forest as a result, but it builds a car dependence, which by its very nature means fewer trees (for things like parking). This is why more urban cities (Oslo, Berlin, Madrid) have very high tree canopy rates compared to Seattle (or most American cities). They just have a lot less concrete.

      3. It’s not that simple. When the added interior square feet from chopping down the trees equates to millions of dollars, a $5,000 fine for illegal tree cutting doesn’t do squat. The only way tree preservation rules get obeyed is if the penalty is really severe, like a $1 million fine per tree.

        But, I’d you tried to impose fines like that, homeowners would be deterred from planting trees on their property in the first place or, worse, preemptively cut their trees down before they reach the trigger size, as anything that constrains what a future developer can do with your house reduces your property value.

        Then, there is the issue that some trees provide irreplaceable value, while others don’t, and a blanket rule that preserves every tree no matter what is no longer really about the trees anymore, but simply using trees as a way to stifle growth

        Designing streets with proper space for large trees on city property, on the other hand, avoids all of these problems. A row of trees along the street puts the trees out of the way of whatever future development might happen, so you can get both more housing and tree preservation, without needing to choose. Trees on private property are located in random spots. Often, you’ll have a small house on a large lot, with a tree right in the middle of the lot, so it is impossible to build anything larger than the small house that was there before without removing the tree. When the tree is next to the street, it’s out of the way, and whatever is built, the tree remains.

    2. Zoning for housing and future population growth is easy. There is nothing to do. Based on Dept. of Commerce future population growth estimates and GMPC future housing allocations every city has already zoned for their housing allocations through 2044. End of story.

      Getting builders to build that housing is another issue, especially if the housing is to be remotely affordable.

      Since 2008 builders have built too little new housing despite almost perfect economic conditions for building. Too many builders were extended too far in 2008 and lost everything, so became very careful. Today new construction has mostly come to a halt due to rising interest and mortgage rates. Despite this, housing prices and rents are beginning to decline, and many financial experts predict steep declines in 2023 due to a softening economy, Covid related savings running out, huge declines in the stock market, and overextended sellers on ARM’s having to sell or be foreclosed upon. Even despite the fact very little new housing is being added to the supply.

      The only three ways I know of to build 0-50% AMI housing are public subsidies, very small units, or shared housing, and rents are declining due to more renters sharing. All three begin with a common denominator: inexpensive land.

      Unfortunately new construction is by far the least affordable per sf for the same zone, and unfortunately new construction often replaces older more affordable housing. That is why renters don’t like to see new construction gentrifying their neighborhood, although many regional cities accepted higher than legally mandated future housing targets to gentrify their town centers. None really want affordable housing.

      The fundamental rub is builders don’t want to build affordable housing because the profit is so low. Governments are tapped out, and building a separate unit or hotel room for every homeless person to live alone with their own kitchen, bathroom, appliances and living area is not affordable, and unfair to the working poor.

      I wish there was a simple solution like upzoning, but all you get is more unaffordable housing replacing more affordable housing in the same zone and raising prices for everyone (unless the land is vacant), and at least for the next few years we won’t see much new construction anyway although prices should decline across the board.

    3. The idea that folks here support the kind of development in the article is a bit of stretch. This is a low density development that replaces a green belt. It is pretty much the opposite of what people typically propose (replacing low density housing with high density housing). From a transit perspective, this type of neighborhood is difficult to serve. At best it piggy-backs off of the existing development (by increasing the number of people a teeny-tiny amount) but realistically it does practically nothing. I really doubt there is anyone here who believes the way to improve housing affordability and transit is to destroy wildlife — especially endangered wildlife. Quite the opposite. Sprawling cities eventually become expensive to maintain and stratified. Often — as in the case in in L. A. — much of it becomes too expensive anyway.

      The pathway to affordable housing has been laid out numerous times. Just this month there was this article in the Atlantic:

      1. I hate the term ‘green belt.’ Vacant private land should be described as such – ‘vacant’ – and not greenwashed to block development. Urban land should have great green spaces, and sometimes land cannot be put to any use (steep slopes, wetlands, etc.), but a ‘green belt’ that isn’t an active park is pure nimbyism – setting aside land for the sole purpose of those nearby not having more neighbors. I won’t address that specific spot in LA as I’m not familiar with it, but here is a good example in Issaquah: Kelkari townhomes. At the edge of the city limits, but still a easy walk or short bike into downtown Issaquah. To me, to object to the development of this vacant private land into a reasonably dense townhome project is ridiculous. Because the owner didn’t spend the past 2 decades mowing or paving over the lot, it is seen as ‘wild’ and in need to preserving, never mind that giant state park immediate next door. With the UGA, there should be no policy difference between a parking lot overgrown with weeds and a yard filled with trees, otherwise we are simply penalizing people for allowing plants to grow during the intermediate period before development.

      2. Public greenbelts (or sometimes called “open space”) are often just a use zoning issue compared to parks. Green belts and open spaces unlike parks do not allow park related uses like ballfields, and as AJ notes are often steep or unusable areas. Plus some cities like MI have a long and contentious history with their council (at least prior councils) over changing the zoning of parks to allow non-park related development like a commuter parking lot, and so an open space conservancy trust was created to protect opens spaces, including areas like Pioneer Park on the southend that are in reality parks with trails and benches, but without park related development. So for public open spaces or green belts the distinction with parks is just the allowed “park related” development. Anyone can still use an open space or green belt.

        Next year the MI council will take up an issue the citizens have pushed for a long time and was a de facto promise in the renewal of the parks levy this year: creating a “park zone”, and increasing the difficulty of changing the zoning of parks in the zone, such as a super majority of the council or a vote of the citizens.

      3. Greenbelts can be public or private. They are basically forested parks without amenities. Lake Forest Park is full of private greenbelts. Often you can’t build upon them — they are too steep, or they are swampy.

        Seattle has a few small greenbelts, but most of the big ones are owned by the city. Some of these are actually called greenbelts ( “SW Queen Anne Greenbelt” and “Magnolia Greenbelt”). They are increasingly become more official, with names, signs and sometimes official paths. Sometimes they lack all of that. For example, here is one close to my house: It didn’t use to be so official — it was largely just a hodgepodge of forests, creeks and abandoned houses. There are usually official and unofficial access points to them. It often depends on how the lots are drawn. For example, in the case of Kingfisher, there is public access from a lot of different streets. That doesn’t mean that there is a good pathway (it may be overgrown with blackberry bushes) but it means that there is potential for good public access. Volunteers can come in, and make pathways. No one can legally stop people from making their way into the “park”, even before it is officially called a park. This allows it to be both a passageway and destination.

        In contrast, North Beach Park ( has only one public access point (where there is an established trail). The trail just sort of fizzles out eventually, ending on private property. For the city to make this a passageway they would have to get an easement, which is a completely different ballgame. As a result, if you live on one side and want to visit someone on the other side, you have to go all the way around, or cut through someone’s property (like you would in Lake Forest Park).

        A good way to gather whether land is public or private is this site: It doesn’t have an aerial view layer, but it isn’t that hard to go back and forth between a view of a heavily forested area you can see from the air and information on who owns it.

      4. The term “green belt” has its origins in city growth in the UK and the US east Coast. It’s to break up unrelenting sprawl and is rooted in the Corbusier concept of housing as high rises in park environments. It’s been morphed to mean different things to different people but I think it’s generally is an area of mostly open space quite wide (like a mile) and encircles at least a portion of a large urban area.

        In our region, our urban form is already quite broken up by lakes / sound and mountains/ steep terrain as parkland. We aren’t greater London or greater Chicago. That really reduces the need for planning an ambitious green belt here.

        I have to laugh that Wikipedia describes I-5 through South Seattle along the east side of Beacon Hill as a “green belt” and refers to it as “the Jungle” which I think of as a more narrowly defined homeless encampment.

      5. There really isn’t a privately owned “greenbelt”. If there were most owners would deed the property to the city or county to avoid the costs and taxes.

        All private property is zoned. It may be undeveloped but it is zoned. It is the zoning (use, environmental, regulatory) that determines how much of the lot or parcel can be developed.

        Some restrictions are slope (which usually only restricts the amount of pervious surfaces unless geologically the slope is too steep to safely build on), water courses (piped and above ground) which affects setbacks, wetlands although one can “buy” mitigation by creating wetlands someplace more valuable, access, etc. Even in circumstances when some of these preclude any development of the parcel a variance is usually granted.

        What really determines whether a vacant parcel which is vegetated and “green” is developed is economics. On the eastside it is more common to see large green vegetated areas suddenly developed into subdivisions, because there are more undeveloped privately owned green areas on the eastside that have not been developed. Same in SnoCo and Pierce Co. although the economics are weaker than in East King Co.

        There is also a distinction between building a single house and subdividing the property for several units. Under state and local law cities are given much more discretion to approve subdivisions, and to require concessions like impact fees, access roads, and green spaces in perpetuity as part of the subdivision.

        It always amazes me to drive around SE King Co. Just a few miles outside of Issaquah on the Issaquah–Hobart Road it is like rural SnoCo. Same driving along the Maple Valley Highway, and both of those really are not very south. I think some urbanists or folks who live in the city and/or don’t own a car don’t really comprehend how little density there is from SnoCo to SE King Co. to Pierce Co., HUGE counties, because the economics just are not there at this time to develop that land even though it is zoned for development.

        It isn’t a “private greenbelt”. It is just vacant land that is not economical to develop at this point in time, (3% of total U.S. acreage is “urbanized”), but should give anyone predicting large regional population growth pause about the scale of sprawl such population growth and housing growth that will create that really can’t be stopped now that the land is zoned for development.

      6. “The term “green belt” has its origins in city growth in the UK and the US east Coast. It’s to break up unrelenting sprawl and is rooted in the Corbusier concept of housing as high rises in park environments.”

        A greenbelt in the UK is a ring around a city, like London’s greenbelt. It was intended to prevent the city from expanding outward, but population growth was so intense that it eventually leapfrogged over the greenbelt into expanding exurbs. So now people use energy commuting miles across the greenbelt that they wouldn’t if the greenbelt weren’t there and they lived closer in.

        Here the word greenbelt is used in a different sense: an arbitrary small pocket of undeveloped land in a neighborhood. The first one I noticed was in high school on Somerset Hill: a woods among the houses.

        Le Corbusier wanted highrise buildings spaced far apart with undeveloped land between them. I haven’t heard that called a greenbelt. (The connecting roads between the buildings would be highways.)

        The garden city movement in the late 1800s gets closer to it. These were like small towns with walkable clusters of housing, with plenty of gardens. That’s different from either a surrounding ring or a pocket in a sprawl neighborhood, and I haven’t heard it called a greenbelt.

        The article on The Jungle is confused. The Jungle is the homeless encampment.


      7. There really isn’t a privately owned “greenbelt”.

        OK, now we are arguing semantics. By the way, very interesting to see that in England they have a different definition for “greenbelt”, just as they have for lots of different words and phrases. I had a roommate in college whose name was Randall, but he went by Randy. When touring England he would introduce himself (“Hi, I’m Randy”) which got quite the reaction.

        Anyway, there is plenty of land that is privately owned that is for all intents and purposes a greenbelt. It is forested (check), difficult if not impossible to develop (check), lacks amenities other than “social trails”* (check), which enable egress (from one “dead end” to another). I happen to know two people who live in Lake Forest Park. They both own land that is like this. Neighbors cut through their property instead of going all the way around. Kids play in the forest. In one case, the owner has a very big lot. He could easily subdivide it, but actually building anything would be very difficult. It is extremely steep, with a creek (wetland) running through the property. Accessing the property on the other side (via a road) would be very difficult. It just isn’t worth it.

        Yes, they could deed it to the city, but it just isn’t worth the bother. The times I’ve seen this is with land that is bigger and more accessible. Often it is when it looks like it will be developed — Grace Cole Nature Park is a good example: It seems like Lake Forest Park has a lot of parks like this. I’m sure there are much smaller greenbelts owned by the city, but there are plenty that are still privately owned. But like anything else, they can go away.

        * The term social trail is interesting as well. It basically means a path that has been created by use, as opposed to one that is officially made. In the mountains, it is often synonymous with “climbers trail”. It is merely a route, but since many people have gone that way, a trail is formed. Paths through greenbelts are often a combination of official and unofficial trails, with a wide range of development.

      8. To protect iconic horse farms, Lexington / Fayette County has very restrictive private development policies encircling the urbanized part of their merged government. They don’t call it a green belt per se, but that is what they have.

      9. “To protect iconic horse farms, Lexington / Fayette County has very restrictive private development policies encircling the urbanized part of their merged government. They don’t call it a green belt per se, but that is what they have.”

        You can do the same through any zoning iof private property. For example, minimum lot sizes. Some lot minimums on Whidbey Island are 40 acres. Or restrictions on the use, like farming vs. residential or industrial. It is these restrictions that determine the amount of green space in any area. It is why suburbia has regulatory limits on minimum lot sizes, GFA to lot area ratios, yard setback minimums, impervious surface limits, and tree ordinances that preserve “statement: trees, which is 24” diameter on MI, and don’t want to lose that through upzoning. You begin with a vision of what the citizens want for their city or neighborhood through their elected representatives, and then zone for that. Most cities like MI have several different zones because the citizens want a mix of visions, including zones with different minimum lot sizes despite the same use (SFH), different regulatory limits for the town center and multi-family zones, and different uses such as retail/commercial.

        The one thing to consider is once you relax use and regulatory zoning you can never go back. So if Lexington relaxed its zoning to allow other uses or development in the green areas it will be gone forever, just like Seattle’s tree canopy.

      10. Daniel, yes absolutely, a green belt can be private land zoned for rural/agricultural/forestry use. In this way the UGA boundary is a green belt, as development on the land outside of the UGA is intentionally constrained through county zoning of rural land. I’d disagree with Mike is that Seattle does have the same issue as London, etc., in that we do have commuters coming in from Monroe, Duval, Snoqualmie, etc., driving growth in those towns outside the primary UGA.

        My ire is pointed at land within the UGA that developable, vacant, and is not a useful park or public amenity; land valued solely for it’s vacant-ness. As Mike points out these are often “arbitrary small pocket of undeveloped land in a neighborhood,” but I picked Kelkari as a good example that abuts the ‘big’ greenbelt, which I think is more analogous to the debates being had in England.

        But Whidbey Island isn’t a good example because it is not adjacent to a urban area. While Whidbey is within the commute shed of Everett, I’d consider it simply rural. The UGA’s intent is places like May Valley Road remain rural, even if commutable; I don’t object to vast ‘vacant’ parcels there, as there is generally a strong consensus locally & regionally those areas should remain rural.

        RE: Lexington, I see ‘greenspace’ and ‘greenbelt.’ I’d consider them interchangeable.

      11. While we’re talking about greenbelts, we have to talk about pedestrian mobility. Some greenbelts have trails that improve pedestrian mobility, others are merely obstacles that hinder it. If done right, every time a cul de sac touches a greenbelt, there should be a pedestrian connection to the greenbelt’s trail system, and the connection should be accessible to the public, not a private amenity of one person who happens to have their back yard in the right place.

    4. “Side note: there was another “Anonymous” who posted some fairly offensive stuff earlier, that was not me. The trouble with being “Anonymous”, I suppose.”

      It’s impossible to keep track of the most generic name in the world with multiple people using it. I almost moderated one of yours because I thought it was the other guy. Could you maybe choose something more unique like Anonymouse or Anonymoose? Then you could be the anonymouse anonymous.

      1. There might have been an Anonymouse a few years ago; I don’t remember if it was here or elsewhere. Or I may be imagining it. If they come back and want the name, we’ll deal with it then.

  17. Shoreline is planning on redeveloping the P&R on Aurora at 192nd to take advantage of Link absorbing more ridership:

    It’s definitely a good sign for the E, and hopefully will provide a good amount of affordable housing as well. It would be nice to see private parking lots in Seattle converted to housing as well, along with actual sidewalks along Aurora. There’s got to be other large parking lots that have good redevelopment opportunity too, for instance the huge public lot along Westlake adjacent to the 40.

    1. “In a survey of Shoreline residents conducted this year via mail, phone and web by a firm that specializes in local government research, 49% said they would support “changing the city’s zoning code to allow for denser housing options in single-family zones,” while 35% said no and 16% weren’t sure.”

      Again the north end is ahead of the curve. The majority of P&R drivers at Northgate TC came from west and east (Licton Springs, Maple Leaf) and said they wanted better bus/bike/ped access to the station instead of a larger P&R, and said the only reason they drove was all other access was so bad. Shoreline installed full BAT lanes for RapidRide E, while Seattle did only a few blocks here and there. Shoreline zoned urban villages around all its RapidRide stations, while Seattle didn’t. And now Shoreline is redeveloping a P&R and 49% of residents are solidly for adding missing-middle housing beyond arterial stroads.

      I’ve heard the Tukwila International Blvd station and South Bellevue station P&Rs are designed to be convertable to housing in the future if someday there’s a shift away from driving to P&Rs. And Bel-Red’s surface lot is explicitly an interim use until Spring District growth spreads into the area.

      1. I don’t know if the north end is really ahead of anything. Support for increased density in Seattle is significantly higher than Shoreline, although the polling question is different: What is clear is that the local politicians are behind the populace. It was this way with legalizing cannabis and gay marriage as well. It is especially unfortunate, because I don’t think zoning reform is best done as a simply plebiscite.

        As far as particular projects, it comes down to priorities. Seattle has way more BAT lanes than Shoreline. The big difference is that Aurora is by far the most important corridor in Shoreline while it is way down the list for Seattle. Shoreline seems to be dragging its feet on 145th, but the way things are going, that doesn’t see to matter (since Lynnwood Link is delayed as well). Either way, though, a lot of changes just take time. Seattle is starting to move on one of the most important bottlenecks in the region — the area around the Fremont Bridge, that will speed up the 40 as well as lots of other buses — but even with everyone saying “do it”, these things take time. I think if you look at the overall picture, Seattle leads the way.

        Even in terms of suburbs, I’m not sure Shoreline beats what Kirkland is doing. Either way, this is common. Inner suburbs — suburbs adjacent to the big city — are often relatively progressive when it comes to these things. They want bike lanes, bus lanes, and other ways of getting around. The more distant suburbs tend to be less eager to pay for those things.

      2. The main opponents of state mandated upzoning of residential zones, as noted in the article, have been the affordable/homeless housing groups. They believe this legislation is just political payback to builders and developers and will create no affordable housing.

        Unlike the project in Shoreline that presumably will have 20% affordable units at 70%-80% AMI under the MFTE, new construction in the residential zones will have no affordability requirement because the number of units is too small. So for a neighborhood like that north of the light rail station on Mercer Island with 12,500 and 15,000 sf lot sizes, many along the water, the average price will go from around $6-$8 million for a single housing unit on the lot to around $4 million for two and probably around $2.5-$3 million each for three units that will have to be separate units. What the developers and builders have always wanted was to be able to subdivide the waterfront lots, not build affordable housing. For a neighborhood like Wallingford cut those figures in half.

        The other opponents in the past have been POC in South Seattle because they fear upzoning will lead to gentrification will lead to rising rents that will displace them. Again.

        Residents in the single-family zones want to maintain the same regulatory limits on side yard setbacks, impervious surfaces, height, lot coverage and GFA to lot area ratios to maintain the trees and vegetation and want to preserve an owner-occupied neighborhood. They want to maintain the character of their neighborhood and value of their most important investment. Generally, despite the “use” (SFH or multi-family in the same zone) the regulatory limits are the same for each use. Otherwise, someone could build a SFH that is like a castle if the regulatory limits were geared for true multi-family buildings.

        Even if this legislation were to pass the big tests would be the regulatory limits cities could place on the new duplexes or triplexes, and whether the owner of the property had to live onsite if under common ownership. Most residential lots near Seattle are relatively small for multi-family housing.
        For a city like Mercer Island, if the regulatory limits stayed the same, and the requirement the owner live onsite like a DADU remained, not much would change because: 1. the new units would be very expensive; 2. the owner would have to live onsite; 3. Mercer Island already allows an ADU/DADU on every residential lot; 4. few builders could front the money for such a project and would not be able to rent them because their capital would be tied up for decades; and 5. total GFA would stay the same, so really all you are doing is creating more legal dwelling units per lot, not bedrooms, each with their own kitchen, bathroom, living area, and appliances. And in this current market I don’t see a lot of speculative building.

        The Shoreline project and postponement of upzones of the SFH zones is how most cities are approaching their housing targets, which is the traditional method: condense and focus multi-family housing on large lots in the commercial core where residents can access transit without driving to it. This helps a city like Shoreline gentrify its town center which is pretty anemic, so maybe it isn’t just a park and ride or stop on the way to someplace else (every city now believes they can become Bellevue or Kirkland rather than a stop on the way to Bellevue or Kirkland as if Link has anything to do with that), allows affordable housing set aside mandates, and allows smaller units. As a result, Shoreline asked for a housing target through 2044 that exceeded its legal requirement, which allowed other cities to accept a lower target, which the council then uses the higher target to force upzoning on the residents, usually after a very bruising fight. That is what the prior council on MI did, until voted out of office and banished from the Island.

        It is one thing to spot zone a Metro parking lot along the freeway in a rundown town center and another to have it develop into a vibrant mixed-use development everyone is so enamored with today but rarely works.

        One issue many forget about is these areas usually don’t have K-12 schools nearby (urbanists don’t quite understand the whole kid thing), and even if they do such a development would overwhelm the schools. The “affordable housing” under the MFTE is around 80% which is over $2000/mo. for just one based on current county AMI, or $4000+/mo. for two, which expires after 10-12 years while depleting city tax revenue forever, which is why affordable housing groups think the MFTE is a bit of a fraud (since 2011 no developer on MI has opted for the MFTE which some Island transplants from Georgetown and Columbia City argued is a fraud and so the council repealed the MFTE but requires 10% affordable set asides forever). The residents polled overwhelmingly wanted affordable housing that is family sized, and that is exactly what you don’t get from the MFTE.

        The other issue Urbanists may ignore but not developers is parking. Parking for such a huge mixed-use project means parking for retail, commuters (which will be maintained to some extent according to the article), housing, any commercial, all underground. Any idea that suddenly all those residents will live car free, or will support onsite retail alone, is a fantasy. Plus if 383 commuter stalls are eliminated you have just eliminated those riders from transit, unless replaced underground which is very expensive. What the article does not mention which I would have liked to have known is how full that lot is today? If it is empty developing it won’t really hurt transit riders who are not riding transit. You could develop most of the park and rides on the eastside today because they are empty, but it isn’t TOD if there isn’t any transit ridership.

        If the Metro land is free I suppose a developer might be interested, although if development in downtown Bellevue is dead right now I can’t imagine Shoreline being a draw, especially if the draw is Link. Unless Metro subsidizes the development, although I did know Metro had that kind of excess cash. Plus investment for large scale rental housing is pretty dead right now. We see these kinds of ugly multi-family housing developments all along I-5 to Tacoma with tacky signs along the freeway noting units for rent, but that was from a prior decade of almost perfect conditions for any kind of property development.

        I agree with Skylar that a surface parking lot seems like a poor use of land in downtown Seattle, but if the economics were there today it would be developed. I certainly would not want to commit over $100 million to building a tall commercial or residential building in downtown Seattle today, including the high cost of underground parking, and most of that kind of investment has dried up. As I noted in another post, Seattle already has plenty of empty office towers. For the city of Seattle, the lack and cost of parking is badly hurting its retail with the loss of the work commuter, and drawing lines on 3rd Ave. is not going to revitalize that dead avenue through the downtown core. Folks are still shopping and dining; just not in downtown Seattle.

        The reality is every city is already zoned for their GMPC future housing allocations through 2044. But builders were very careful about where to build, and that was pre-pandemic in a zero-interest rate environment. Zoning does not guarantee building, like surface parking lots in downtown Seattle prove, and almost never creates affordable housing that is not publicly subsidized.

        So why are we upzoning if cities have met their legal obligations to zone for future population growth and we know that new construction will not be affordable, and will replace existing housing that is more affordable, i.e. gentrification? Because that is the deal state Democrats made with builders for campaign donations.

      3. “I don’t know if the north end is really ahead of anything. Support for increased density in Seattle is significantly higher than Shoreline”

        In some neighborhoods yes, but not on Aurora. Aurora is the only street like it in Seattle where you could have a long corridor of middle-level walkable housing and businesses like San Francisco’s Mission Street, and tons of seven-story apartments, and two dedicated transit lanes and four GP lanes without widening the street or harming anybody’s single-family house. Having miles of medium-density residents close to high-quality transit and retail destinations means inevitably more of them would take transit and use P&Rs less than if they lived in smaller villages.

        “The main opponents of state mandated upzoning of residential zones, as noted in the article, have been the affordable/homeless housing groups. They believe this legislation is just political payback to builders and developers and will create no affordable housing.”

        And that’s a fallacy that harms their interests. The reason we need more affordable housing is market-rate prices have risen so far because we haven’t built enough housing. They’re just protecting the interests of existing residents and ignoring future residents, people who move, people who turn 18 and move out of their parents’ house, people who divorce and need a second unit, people who move to the area, etc. And they’re not even protecting existing residents because their rents will rise anyway even if the denser housing isn’t built, and it will rise faster than if the denser housing were built. This is about keeping market-rate prices within a sane range, not magically imagining $2000 units will magically be $500 units. That’s a separate issue, which needs dedicated subsidized housing. A third of Vienna’s housing units are subsidized, so that housing prices aren’t an issue. But the reason rents have reached $2000 and so many people are homeless is we didn’t build up Aurora two decades ago and expand the other urban villages as Aurora is considering now. We should have done it starting in 2003 when prices first started to escalate.

      4. California has a particularly distorted kind of environmentalism that thinks cities are bad and growth should always be resisted — the 1970s Ecotopia/hippie mindset whose epicenter was Marin County. That’s a major reason why San Francisco and San Jose have less housing increase per capita than we do, and why rents and house prices are higher. Half the environmentalists are siding with the nimbys. I wouldn’t be surprised if low-income advocacy groups are also siding with them.

      5. “In some neighborhoods yes, but not on Aurora. Aurora is the only street like it in Seattle where you could have a long corridor of middle-level walkable housing and businesses like San Francisco’s Mission Street, and tons of seven-story apartments, and two dedicated transit lanes and four GP lanes without widening the street or harming anybody’s single-family house. Having miles of medium-density residents close to high-quality transit and retail destinations means inevitably more of them would take transit and use P&Rs less than if they lived in smaller villages.”

        I agree Mike, Aurora would seem to be a long blighted Stroad that could accommodate a lot of housing with good transit access. I doubt Aurora would ever resemble Mission Street, however. Housing density and transit really are not the driving forces for Mission Street. Predicting Aurora would become Mission St. is getting a little over our skis.

        I previously suggested zoning changes should concentrate on the blocks closest to Seattle. If the entire Aurora were suddenly upzoned I am not sure the housing or retail density would match, at least not for a very long time, so you would lose the retail and housing density. Any zoning changes would not prohibit existing businesses and that use, but allow for greater regulatory limits and multi-family housing so in theory the higher return on investment would result in those uses. But you never know, and it would take a long time, so start small and hope for success. If the zoning experiment does not work closest to Seattle it won’t work farther up north. Still look at all the unrealized housing capacity in Seattle’s UGA’s. No one builds unless they make a lot of money at the end, and that usually begins with the neighborhood (which is why the Master Builders Assoc. are really interested in upzoning the most expensive SFH neighborhoods. They don’t want to build housing along Aurora even if allowed.

        “The main opponents of state mandated upzoning of residential zones, as noted in the article, have been the affordable/homeless housing groups. They believe this legislation is just political payback to builders and developers and will create no affordable housing.”

        “And that’s a fallacy that harms their interests. The reason we need more affordable housing is market-rate prices have risen so far because we haven’t built enough housing.”

        The first comment is mine and the second yours. There is always self-interest in any legislation, but I don’t think the concerns of affordable housing groups is fallacious, because I think your belief that simply upzoning areas will result in affordable housing is naive, which is what the affordable housing groups think. Especially zones that won’t have any affordability set aside requirements, like the SFH zones.

        I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this, but based on likely inflated future population estimates by the Dept. of Commerce (which the PSRC predicts will occur mostly outside of King Co.) every single city (except perhaps Sammamish) already has existing zoning that will accommodate that growth. It just won’t produce “affordable” housing, let alone supportive housing. Builders are never going to build more housing than is estimated. Builders always lag population growth to hedge their bets, which is exactly what they did over the last ten years of a perfect economic environment for building and high regional population growth, and are doing now. Builders know how to follow the market, and so do investment funds. Now is not a good time to build, especially a rental multi-family project in which the capital is tied up in for decades.

        “And they’re not even protecting existing residents because their rents will rise anyway even if the denser housing isn’t built, and it will rise faster than if the denser housing were built. This is about keeping market-rate prices within a sane range, not magically imagining $2000 units will magically be $500 units. That’s a separate issue, which needs dedicated subsidized housing. A third of Vienna’s housing units are subsidized, so that housing prices aren’t an issue. But the reason rents have reached $2000 and so many people are homeless is we didn’t build up Aurora two decades ago and expand the other urban villages as Aurora is considering now. We should have done it starting in 2003 when prices first started to escalate.”

        Rents nationwide are actually declining. Housing supply and density and size of the housing is only one factor. Probably the biggest factor is whether a person lives alone in whether housing is affordable. The other is regional AMI.

        Upzoning does not mean builders will build to that capacity, and it doesn’t mean the housing will be affordable, or where you expect. More often the new housing replaces existing more affordable housing. More than anything the age of the building, size of unit, and neighborhood determine rent rates.

        Look at the area around U Village compared to around The Ave. 2300 new units have been added near U Village, but they range in rents from $2000/mo. to $6000/mo. Most thought this building would occur near The Ave., and hoped rents would be lower in such a mediocre neighborhood.

        The main reason rents have risen in this region is because AMI has risen, and not surprisingly builders and developers build for that higher AMI customer. Even the HOA dues are too expensive in many new multi-family condo units for lower income folks. You can buy a SFH is some states for under $50,000.

        As I said in another post, zoning to meet future population and housing capacity is pretty easy, especially if the housing is not affordable, and every city in this region has already done that through 2044. Building any kind of affordable housing is very difficult, needs either public investment or some kind of trade like the MFTE (which I agree with some is a rip off, and the fee in lieu of is better if you want to really house the 50% AMI and down folks), and just is not favored by cities that see new housing as gentrifying their downtown cores, which is why cities like Shoreline and Lynnwood want higher targets and eastside cities don’t because they don’t need the gentrification. Don’t buy the statements by progressives on the Shoreline City Council. Their housing targets and upzoning have very little to do with “affordable housing”.

      6. Aurora is special to Shoreline, but not to Seattle. It really isn’t that different than Lake City Way, Holman Road/15th NW/Elliot, Rainier Avenue, MLK (south of MBS), Delridge, 35th SW and Fauntleroy. The really distinctive part of it is that it becomes a freeway. But Lake City Way and the West Seattle roads do — they just change names (I-5, West Seattle Bridge). But if you are talking about the part of Aurora where it is legal to cross the street (without an over or underpass) it is very similar to those other streets. They are basically like highways, or in some cases they literally are highways. The speed limits are going down, but that is true everywhere. You used to be able to go really fast on Lake City Way, 15th NW and Aurora — now you can’t go fast anywhere in the city (except the freeway and parts of Aurora that act like a freeway, and even then… ).

        Like a lot of these areas, there are competing interests. Basically people find them ugly, so they want to push things there that are ugly. Car lots, light industry, that sort of thing. But they also find it convenient, so other things end up there as well. Next thing you know it is a stroad. People are pushing apartments there, but that is nothing new. For a long time, Seattle has pushed the apartments to the arterials. That is because those in power (home owners) consider them ugly. Long before the “urban village” concept (which is based in part on the arterials) they were doing that. If you look at the zoning maps, especially a high level zoning maps, you can easily figure out the major streets, even if they aren’t labeled.

        I would say that Aurora is most similar to SR 522 (Lake City/Bothell Way). Both are very long, and transition to a freeway. From a transit perspective, both will be heavily influenced by Link as time goes on. SR 522 has already seen changes with the truncation of buses. Things will change even more as the Stride line heads over to 145th. Aurora won’t undergo such a radical change — the buses will still run express on the freeway part of Aurora — but there will be significant changes. A lot of people will head east before heading south. Buses that connect riders to Link will become increasingly popular, which means that especially from the most northern parts of Aurora (in Shoreline) you will see fewer people riding the E long distances.

        Of course that is dependent on what the various agencies do. These new developments look great. Will Swift Blue serve them? Probably not. It will instead serve an aging mall/parking lot. This will mean Metro will have to do the work, even though it would be much cheaper for Metro to just pay CT to serve those riders. If I’m wrong and the agencies work together to provide good service to those in Shoreline (and thus create a very good network for everyone close to the county border) I will be thrilled. I’m just not betting on it.

      7. The other opponents in the past have been POC in South Seattle because they fear upzoning will lead to gentrification will lead to rising rents that will displace them. Again.

        This implies that gentrification was the result of upzoning. This is completely unfounded. Worse, you suggest that there are POC groups opposed to upzoning, when in fact it is the opposite. A racial equity analysis of the Urban Villages recommends that the city upzone in single-family areas.

        Here is the report: Here is the Seattle Times story about the report, along with community response:

        To quote from the report:

        “Changing single-family zoning to allow more housing types could benefit BIPOC communities by reducing market and displacement pressures, increasing access to high-opportunity neighborhoods and amenities, and creating more options for homeownership,” the summary also says.

        I’ve referenced the report as well as the Seattle Times article many times before. By now you have had plenty of time to read them, and critique them. But instead you just spread unfounded pet theories or outright falsehoods. It is bad enough when other parts of your comment contain unsupported claims — but when you completely ignore existing data (that has been referenced more than once) it makes your entire comment spurious. Is there any truth in there? Maybe, but it is so hard to retrieve it, given what else is in there.


        Here is a good history of gentrification in Seattle. I would also note the state legislature under ESB 1220 and the Affordable Housing Committee (a subcommittee of the GMPC) have made disparate racial impact a key metric in housing targets, and have specifically identified gentrification, which is generally noted as development in neighborhoods and areas with below AMI and housing prices. Obviously The Central Dist. is a prime example. After upzoning, the neighborhood went from 85% Black in 1970 to 15% today. Did the upzoning play a part. Yes, I think so, and so does the AHC which is uber progressive. Seattle is unique compared to even Portland in that Seattle continues to have lower and lower percentages of Black residents as the effects of past racial polices fade. So the AHC is trying to understand and predict how upzoning will result in gentrification and what they call “displacement” before it happens, to avoid another Central District. I don’t think the upzoning of The Central Dist. was intentionally racist, but the disparate impact is obvious, and a disparate impact analysis does not depend on intent.

      9. “Changing single family zoning to allow more housing types could benefit BIPOC communities by reducing market and displacement pressures, increasing access to high opportunity neighborhoods and amenities, and creating more options for homeownership.

        “Participants observed that under the urban village strategy, displacement,
        actual and threatened, has severely impacted BIPOC communities.
        Households, businesses, non-profits, and cultural anchors are all impacted by displacement pressure. Some cited as a contributing factor historically being shut out of many neighborhoods and confined to areas that are now targeted for development.”

        “Institute a zoning overlay that promotes homeownership among BIPOC residents in formerly ‘greenlined’ single-family neighborhoods”.

        “Develop an approach for providing reparations to BIPOC Seattleites”.

        These are four examples from the link Ross provides, some from the equity consultant and some from the city.

        The issue with the first, upzoning SFH zones, is how will that help BIPOC residents who are poor? I suppose it could help wealthier BIPOC residents who could afford the “high opportunity neighborhoods”, but generally wealthier BIPOC residents already live in those zones. For example, West Bellevue despite the cost of housing is much less white than Seattle.

        The second is clearly a concern under ESB 1220 and the AHC. If Ross is correct and gentrification is going to occur anyway due to the area’s AMI and need for housing then I don’t really see what can be done, and so upzoning these neighborhoods (many of which have SFH in them) won’t have any further effect, and Seattle will eventually have no Black residents. The idea these folks will suddenly move to “high opportunity neighborhoods” when displaced when they live where they do due to being relatively poor for the region seems unrealistic to me, and I think the AHC confuses wealth and race.

        I am not sure how you implement a “zoning overlay” in formerly “greenlined” neighborhoods. What does this mean? A segregated black only neighborhood in Blue Ridge? This sounds like it would face constitutional challenges unless the city or county funded housing purchases, which like with ARCH turns into a lottery, and who qualifies as BIPOC in that case. A zoning overlay will not lower the cost of the housing, even if the housing is restricted to BIPOC residents, and if it did it would be a taking requiring compensation.

        I am not sure reparations would fly. Imagine defining who is “BIPOC”, who is a Seattleite, and the criteria for the reparations and amount.

        These different proposals just show the disconnect between equity consultants and the real housing world.

        It wasn’t very long ago when the city and progressives were telling us the urban village strategy which upzoned much of Seattle would produce tons of market rate affordable housing and desegregate Seattle. Now we are being told maybe the urban village strategy was a mistake that has made the problem worse. But without any rational or coherent replacement zoning or policy, except reparations or zoning overlays in other parts of the city.

        Look, it is always going to be difficult for poor residents in a high AMI city to find affordable housing no matter what color they are. Especially if they demand to live alone. Generally the market approach is the neighborhood is run down and dangerous so housing prices are lower, or very, very small units which work I suppose if you live alone although then everyone needs their own kitchen, appliances, bathroom etc. The public approach is subsidized housing, usually rental, or vouchers, which do work but are expensive, or socially owned housing. Ross is probably right that gentrification is coming to S. Seattle anyway, although upzoning usually accelerates it like with The Central Dist. In the past the solution was just keeping moving south, although those housing prices are rising as more flee Seattle.

      10. “I think your belief that simply upzoning areas will result in affordable housing is naive”

        I don’t believe that. Can’t you understand what I wrote? The reason to upzone is to relieve pressure on citywide/regionwide market rents, so that they won’t rise as fast as if you didn’t upzone. That’s separate from affordable housing, because the market rate is twice as high as the affordable rate for working-class/lower middle-class workers. We need to saturate the market with housing supply; then owners won’t be able to charge a premium and prices will stop rising. That alone won’t make the market rate affordable to working-class/lower middle-class workers, but it will stop it from getting worse. Then we can deal with the remaining affordability gap, and we won’t have a constantly-increasing number of people who can’t pay market rents.

      11. “it is always going to be difficult for poor residents in a high AMI city to find affordable housing no matter what color they are.”

        Not in Dallas or Chicago or Tokyo. Those cities allow the housing supply to increase to match the population increase, so prices relative to wages don’t rise so much. That’s what we’ve failed to do since 2003. The PSRC targets are obviously too low because prices have been rising 5-10% or more every year since 2003 while inflation was only 2%, with only modest pauses or reversals in 2009-2012 due to the recession and the ambiguous situation in 2020-2020 due to the pandemic.

      12. Hard to find comparable numbers but this is what I was able to get:

        Dallas: housing affordability index ~= 186

        Seattle: housing affordability index ~= 117

        Chicago: housing affordability index ~= “has recently hovered just over 100”

        So, I would not call Seattle significantly less affordable than Chicago; it may be more affordable than Chicago. Dallas is, indeed, more affordable. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Another interesting measure is the lot size.

        Dallas: “Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington ranked 76th in the nation, with a typical lot size of 8,712 square feet.” (source:

        Seattle: “The median lot size in the Seattle metro area reached 5,200 sq. ft. in 2020, down 30% over the past two decades.” (source:

        This to me suggests that part of the reason prices are lower in Dallas is that there is, in some sense, more room to grow. Land is cheaper because there is more land, not just (and I admit that it is a “just” there) that zoning is less restrictive.

        Teasing apart the effects of land availability vs. zoning is tricky, IMHO, but if someone has firm numbers I would love to see them.

      13. Many cities in Texas also have very flexible zoning. If someone wants to build a 30 floor apartment building in an otherwise single family area, it seems to be much easier to do there than it would be in most other places. This prevents artificial constraints on the number of housing units in high demand areas, and prevents the number of single family homes being in such oversupply that they are the only option available.

      14. The only way gentrification doesn’t happen is if something drastic changes so that people with money don’t want to live here anymore. For example, if climate change someday results in Seattle being drenched in smoke 6 months out of year, year after year after year, eventually people will find it intolerable and those that can afford to leave will leave. At that, rents will plummet and there will be gentrification.

        But, the idea that you can stop gentrification by not upzoning is simply not true. When homes go on the market for sale, they are sold to the highest bidder. Whether the highest bidder is one family living in one house or a developer building an apartment, gentrification happens anyway. And trying to fight it is like fighting gravity.

        But, at least upzoning increases the total housing supply, reducing price pressure for the market as a whole. Simply replacing a poorer family in a single family house with a wealthier family in that same house does not.

      15. The thing I always lacking in discussion about bipoc is that there are many versions of how households form in different parts of the world. It’s common in Mexico, India and many other countries for extended families to live with or adjacent to each other. It’s why I bristle at the thought of too many tiny apartments designed for one person.

        The housing shortage is a complex topic because housing needs vary by culture. That even extends to transportation, where in some cultures nieces and nephews and grandchildren expect to transport elderly relatives.

        This isn’t a post directed at someone specific. It’s more a post to get at why foreign cities don’t necessarily need 85 foot buildings to have density — and to ponder why our laws encourage forcing people into only a few types of housing arrangements. Foreign born residents are 24.2% of the King County population.

      16. One unique issue with Aurora is that it’s wide for a more urban street. It’s got 7 lanes! That makes it hard to cross. That takes a long time for pedestrians to get across. Drivers will run red lights to avoid waiting a long time for the next green light.

        There aren’t really that many 7 lane surface streets on Seattle. There are some — like Elliott, 15th Ave W, 4th Ave S, W Mercer and W Marginal Way. There’s just not many.

      17. That is a great point Al that you have raised before, maybe because you live in SE Seattle. As noted in the Seattle Times article about Shoreline, the number one request of the residents who were polled was family sized affordable housing.

        Affordable housing set asides in multi-family housing incentivize the smallest units as possible, often studios. Same with the MFTE.
        The GMPC counts a studio and four-bedroom SFH the same as one unit towards a city’s future housing targets, so cities often try to meet their allocations without any zoning changes by zoning many very small units, which also looks good on the affordability index. I also think that the fact so many urban planners are young and single blinds them to the needs of families.

        A SFH in SE Seattle can house several generations and four or more residents. On MI, average household size is 3.1 for married couples, despite an ahistorical percentage of elderly homeowners (43%). If you remove that the average is closer to the American standard of four: two parents and two kids. That is my family, and in a 2800 sf house including garage that averages around 700 sf per person.

        Replacing a SFH that houses four or five residents with four brand new multi-family units really doesn’t increase total housing capacity (bedrooms) much, but does increase the cost per sf for tenants because each unit is new construction with its own kitchen, appliances, bathroom, and living area. Unfortunately, it also replaces family sized housing with non-family sized housing, which is why it is in short supply.

      18. Asdf2, you are probably correct that in a high AMI city gentrification is probably unstoppable without something like rent control, which is what cities like NY and San Francisco use. However where that gentrification occurs and how quickly is influenced by upzoning.

        As noted in the link in a prior post, gentrification is the amount of change in housing prices in an area from redevelopment. Gentrification rarely occurs in cities like Clyde Hill, Medina or Laurelhurst because all the land is already developed to close to its peak value. Mercer Island is larger and has a town center and large multi-zone, and some older SFH. Gentrification is an issue on MI, because the land values make the older and more affordable existing structures — both SFH and multi-family — ripe for redevelopment because the differential in value and cost justifies redevelopment. Just like The Central Dist. gentrification is basically the increase in value and housing costs between the existing housing/development and the development/housing that replaces it.

        What some don’t quite understand, whether Shoreline or Mercer Island, is city councils like new construction (sales tax and exempt from the 1% levy cap) and it upgrades or gentrifies a city without spending any public money if the impact fees are set correctly. Shoreline did not accept higher than legally mandated GMPC housing targets out of altruism.

        If the state mandated duplexes (or even triplexes) in all residential neighborhoods the effect on MI would likely be negligible. First most existing properties would be very expensive to demolish. Second the city already allows a DADU/ADU on every SFH lot, up to 900 sf. (and in Seattle three separate dwellings). Third the regulatory limits for the duplex would be basically the same as the rest of the SFH zone. Fourth the cost of the land would make any kind of construction loan or bridge loan risky. Fifth MI charges very high impact fees for new SFH construction.

        However such an upzone would interest developers in South Seattle, depending on the amount of the upzone, because almost all the factors are the reverse. Definitely gentrification has been moving south for some time. But the differential in cost for the housing between existing and redevelopment in South Seattle would be much higher than on MI because the builder is hoping to replace a poor tenant with a wealthier tenant. So that is where most of the redevelopment would occur, and as you note upzoning would probably only accelerate, not create, that gentrification.

        Builders are like any other business: they want to buy low and sell high, with as little risk as possible.

        One other factor is gentrification is not just AMI. It is total wealth. That includes job security when tech jobs are in doubt, Covid savings, stock market holdings, loan/mortgage rates, neighborhood safety, schools, and so on. Today housing starts have plummeted, and will stay very low for the next several years, and yet we are seeing declining housing prices and rents, and that will accelerate next year, because total wealth is down so heavily.


        Comparing Tokyo and Seattle housing prices is not apples to apples, especially when it comes to sf per person. As this link notes, the differential in the cost of housing mirrors the differential in incomes and today mortgage rates, and the cost per sf is lower in Seattle. What many miss when comparing living costs between Tokyo and Seattle (or Montreal and Seattle) is the AMI in Tokyo is 1/3 of that in Seattle.

        As this link notes the house to income ratio in Tokyo has increased dramatically since 2020.

      20. Thanks DT for posting info about residential in area rather than merely in units. There is a place for all types of housing in the marketplace. It’s not just all 1-bedroom apartments or all large single family homes. I tire of amateur urbanists who look only at the number of units per acre and yet think they are fully “woke” on the housing challenge .

        I actually feel like every neighborhood should be “balanced” between housing types, rather than all being segregated. That’s not to say that lot coverage shouldn’t vary, but that the types of housing available should. In some places, that means changing zoning laws to allow for single family houses to be divided; in others it means to incentivize developers to build fewer apartments in favor of larger unit sizes.

        In fact, I think that we cannot debate lot coverage until we can offer a diversity of housing unit sizes everywhere.

      21. Al, the zoning we see today with segregated uses and mixed-use development comes from the PSRC and its prior Vision Statements. The goal was to focus and densify population growth and housing in town centers and more urban areas near transit (TOD) without the first/last mile access issues, like UGA’s. The PSRC believes this allows smaller units and more housing flexibility (studio to three-bedroom units), better/bigger scale for multi-family development, more condensed retail, affordable housing set aside mandates, less commuting, more transit use (pre-pandemic), and less carbon emissions. It really is a very urban and progressive vision. Basically Capitol Hill vs. the south end of MI.

        And it has resulted in regional zoning that already meets the DOC future population targets and GMPC future housing target allocations through 2044. And allows a city to avoid bruising fights over upzoning SFH neighborhoods.

        The mistake I think Mike makes is confusing zoning with housing construction. Builders are not going to build more housing than is estimated to be needed, or even come close to estimates, in order to “saturate” the market so his rent stays stable. Who builds housing in order to deflate housing prices?

        Since 2008 through 2021 in probably the best building environment in history builders built too little housing. The DOC just re-estimated its future population growth targets and not surprisingly they have gone down, especially in King Co. But builders are not going to build based on DOC estimates that can be highly political. They will wait until they see the population growth, and still build less than needed. Unlike ST builders don’t build where the folks ain’t.

        For the next few years we will see very little housing construction. It doesn’t matter what the zoning is. Current housing starts have plummeted. Interest rates are too high, real estate investment has dried up, economic conditions too unknown, labor too high and in short demand, cash and stock market balances too far down, the cost of materials too high, housing prices are falling, and the pandemic has turned upside down what folks want in housing and no one knows if that is permanent. How would you like to be finishing up a $75 million multi-family residential project in downtown Seattle right now?

        In these conditions builders hunker down and make their living on remodels, and owner financed new construction which means SFH, REIT’s switch to laboratories and storage buildings or just fixed income investments, and ironically housing prices decline because wealth has declined so dramatically.

        The problem with upzoning SFH neighborhoods is there is only so much housing builders will build, (and they HATE affordable housing and affordable housing set asides or fees in lieu of which are mandated in larger multi-family projects), even when the market recovers, so where do you want that new housing: in the downtown cores in multi-family buildings with affordable housing set asides within walking distance of transit and retail, or in the remote residential neighborhoods?

        If one accepts the reality that builders will only build so much housing, and will never build enough if the city is hot, then where do you want that housing, and what kind of housing do you want? The builders prefer building in the expensive SFH areas, but I am not sure that is best for the region, cities, transit, downtowns that need gentrification like Shoreline and Lynnwood, and less affluent citizens, and actually the PSRC got this one right, which is basically just traditional zoning with a mixed-use concept.

        In any case, not unlike East Link opening across the lake, I think this discussion is mostly theoretical until 2025-26 when the market recovers and banks and investment funds begin lending again.

      22. I actually feel like every neighborhood should be “balanced” between housing types, rather than all being segregated.

        Yes, which is what more liberal zoning allows. The highly restrictive zoning (like what we have in most of Seattle and the surrounding suburbs) tends to lead to the same type of housing, in subtle and not so subtle ways. Obviously a neighborhood that is zoned for single family will only have single family homes (except, of course, for places that were built before those laws were enacted). But it works the other way as well. If you draw tiny circles and say “you can build apartments there, but only there” it is quite likely that apartments will be built there. Imagine if they only allowed a restaurant in one lot in the entire city. You could build anything you want there, but that this is only place where restaurants are allowed. You can bet your ass there would be a restaurant there. The demand would just be too high.

        This creates perverse development patterns. For example, consider this house: It was torn down and replaced by apartments. Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe maintaining that house was just too expensive, or maybe its location was just so desirable that an apartment just made financial sense. But the fact that it was one of the few places where you actually can build an apartment made it more likely that you would build an apartment. This is the nature of the “urban village” strategy. Not only does it cause gentrification (which especially hurt people of color) but it leads to a less interesting looking landscape. When they only allow apartments in a tiny portion of the city, all houses — ugly and interesting, big and small — get replaced by apartments.

        This is the irony of the preservationists. To be clear, I am not talking about people who want to preserve that particular house, or houses like that. I would have preserved that house, and feel like similar houses should be preserved.

        I’m talking about people who want to preserve the existing zoning. By setting aside huge swaths of land as nothing but single family — including empty lots, and small houses that will inevitably be replaced by bigger houses — we end up generating exactly what we dislike. Instead of a more organic city, where houses, apartments and retail shops mix, you have hard borders between types. The funny thing is, many of these same neighborhoods that people want to “preserve” would not be possible under the current zoning. Much of the character that people find attractive would simply be illegal. This article notes that these are not anomalies — much of Seattle’s classic “single family” neighborhoods actually had lots of apartments before they made building them illegal:

        If you want a city with organic growth — a city with a mix of housing and retail types — then the answer is to liberalize zoning for the entire city.

      23. Two interesting things happened in the last two days:

        1. The Dept. of Commerce admitted its future population growth estimates based on 2017 data were too high and reduced those estimates, although not by much.

        2. The Seattle Times has an article today noting the State of Washington’s population actually decreased in both 2021 and 2022, and prior data shows King Co.’s population decreased by over 1% in 2021. So those recent ads by the Realtor Group claiming we must build for 1 million new state residents is off by around 1 million, and of course fail to mention that our existing zoning already accommodates future population growth based on DOC estimates even the DOC now admits are too high.

        So now the argument, as Morales’ predictable editorial in the Seattle Times today argues, is upzoning SFH zones (and other zones) is really about “equity”, without really defining what equity is, or whether upzoning SFH zones will improve equity or just lead to gentrification and displacement. Basically the arguments for the MHA redux.

        I think it is disingenuous for some like the equity consultant the City of Seattle hired to claim that poor residents of color who are displaced from South Seattle due to gentrification can move to upzoned expensive SFH zones, which they euphemistically call “opportunity neighborhoods”, if you have the money (or the city limits part of the neighborhood — an “overlay” –to only POC).

        It was only a few years ago progressives claimed the MHA and urban village concept would make housing affordable and equitable by increasing (new) housing by upzoning residential lots to three separate dwelling units and creating UGA’s. Now we are being told that experiment did not work.

        Actually it did work, in some areas, sort of, in the best conditions for building in decades. For example, the area surrounding U Village saw 2300 new multi-family units added, with rents between $2000 and $6000/mo. And gentrification — without much upzoning — continued in the poor areas like S. Seattle. It didn’t work in the SFH zones because it is too expensive (and remote) to replace existing housing within the regulatory limits despite the ability to build three separate dwellings per lot that some thought would be the end of the world but never happened, except on a few lots in already very dense areas like Capitol Hill.

        When you really peal back the onion at the state level what you see is what you always see in politics: money. Many of the “progressives” clamoring for upzoning the expensive SFH zones received more than half of their campaign money from builders and realtors, strange bedfellows for progressives.

        More and more I think this argument is moot. First because we won’t see hardly any housing being built for several years due to economic conditions, especially when builders see population and housing prices actually decreasing; second, the upzones being discussed for the SFH zones won’t apply to wealthy neighborhoods because the cost of the land and to buy and demolish the existing structure are too high; third I don’t think the regulatory limits will increase in the SFH zones no matter what use is allowed because all uses get the same limits and no one wants a SFH looking like castles; four cities will use tricks like affordability mandates from the Affordable Housing Committee to require any new construction to meet the AHC’s mandates for 0% to 50% AMI which will stop any development in expensive zones while some cities like Shoreline and Lynnwood that need new housing to gentrify their cities will make it easier, or will require the property owner to live onsite if one of the units is rented; and five cities will simply amend their codes to eliminate ADU/DADU’s in lieu of “duplexes”. For example, MI allows a DADU/ADU up to 900 sf on every SFH lot, which are much more popular than a shared wall duplex would ever be, for the same GFAR, so MI will lose actual housing. Same in Seattle: how does allowing duplexes or triplexes increase total housing over the MHA that allows three separate dwellings per lot.

        The other issue few consider is how will upzoning the SFH zones result in rental properties, when the SFH zones prioritize owner occupied dwellings? You can have more than one dwelling on any lot, like with a DADU today, but builders need to sell that property to recoup their capital for the next project, rather than hold the property for many years as rentals. In expensive neighborhoods the cost to build two or three units, after demolishing the existing building, could tie up $10 million in capital at very high loan rates if the properties are rentals, and I don’t think any city (or the state) is considering forcing cities to lower lot minimums to create more dwellings that can be sold. If you leave it up to the purchaser of the property, they often don’t rent out the units because they can afford not to. Despite its model DADU policy, after 20 years MI has around 230 ADU/DADU/s out of 7000 residential lots.

        What we will find out is whether this kind of upzone will accelerate gentrification in South Seattle, which as asdf2 and Ross note is probably inevitable, whether any real housing (number of bedrooms) gets created in the SFH zones, how many neighborhoods decide to form HOA’s which legally trump zoning (at least to regulatory maximums), and how many displaced poor POC move from S. Seattle to “opportunity neighborhoods” in north Seattle. What progressives tend to miss, because so few live outside the urban core in areas like Kent or Auburn, is the SFH is still the dream of most homeowners (along with a truck or car).

        Zoning is not construction. Zoning rarely results in ‘housing equity”. The places so far that have eliminated SFH zoning have seen almost no change. Builders will always build fewer houses than necessary, and not until they actually see the demand and population increases. At most what upzoning the SFH zones will accomplish is reallocating the fixed amount of housing construction from the urban core to remote residential neighborhoods with no transit or retail.

        The problem with any zoning is it is discretionary: if SFH are too restrictive than what else? Duplexes (which is effectively what MI has with its DADU policy), triplexes (which effectively is what Seattle has with the MHA), four story, seven story over one, 14 story like the CID, Capitol Hill “middle housing”, or Belltown. The two people who are ideologically consistent on this blog about zoning are A Joy and I think Cam or Lazarus: abolish all regulatory zoning. If density is good then why restrict it all?

        Because zoning is just politics and discretion. Those on this blog who like “middle housing” want to limit regulatory limits to create only middle housing. Ross like Brownstones. Mike likes seven over one. Those like in downtown Bellevue who favor the profit and scale of very dense housing prefer 660’ tall buildings (with loads of underground parking). Those in the SFH zones want regulatory limits that preserve what they like about their neighborhood: trees, vegetation, yard setbacks rather than common walls, impervious surfaces, smaller GFA to lot area ratios. Zoning on the eastside tries to condense retail because there just isn’t enough to go around to create retail density (which is why retail in The Spring Dist. and Wilburton will suck, which is why the housing and offices in those areas will be B and C class), and to site more affordable housing near transit because transit is terrible on the eastside outside the town centers.

        The reality is the future usually looks like the present, unless there are seismic shifts like a pandemic or the tech growth in Seattle from 2005 to 2020. My guess is we won’t see another pandemic, but the effects of the pandemic will be permanent (esp. TOD), and population and job growth in Western Washington will hardly change, and if so will decline. The PSRC estimated based on 2018 data most growth would occur outside of King Co., but did not see the decline of downtown Seattle, another seismic shift.
        If I can see that so can builders and investors, so don’t count on zoning to make housing equitable, or to build for folks who are not already here with cash in hand. You will be disappointed.

      24. This to me suggests that part of the reason prices are lower in Dallas is that there is, in some sense, more room to grow. Land is cheaper because there is more land, not just (and I admit that it is a “just” there) that zoning is less restrictive.

        Absolutely. And it is that way across most of the country. It goes back to that 2002 Harvard Study ( To quote from the introduction:

        This paper argues that in much of America the price of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction. The price of housing is significantly higher than construction costs only in a limited number of areas, such as California and some eastern cities. In those areas, we argue that high prices have little to do with conventional models with a free market for land. Instead, our evidence suggests that zoning and other land use controls play the dominant role in making housing expensive.

        Seattle is now in that “limited number of areas” categories. Dallas is not. Most of the country is not. Seattle was not until relatively recently. That is why homelessness suddenly shot up in Seattle. Employment grew very rapidly when in turn lead to a sudden increase in demand for housing. We were thrust into a new world — one that “California and some eastern cities” have been living in for years. Our regulations became the limiting factor, instead of the “physical costs of new construction”.

        It is like any other cartel. No one cares about OPEC until there is an oil shortage, and then we shake our fists at them. If demand drops and/or there is lots of oil from non-OPEC countries, they become irrelevant. The same is true with housing costs and zoning. There are plenty of issues when it comes to zoning, but it doesn’t drive up housing costs in most of the country — only in particular places, like Seattle. Lucky us.

      25. Ross is probably right that gentrification is coming to S. Seattle anyway, although upzoning usually accelerates it like with The Central Dist.

        First of all, I never wrote that “gentrification is coming to S. Seattle anyway”. This isn’t the first time you have accused me — or others — of writing something they didn’t write. It is against the policies of this blog. It is offensive and clearly provocative (i. e. it is a form of trolling). Please stop.

        Secondly, upzoning did not accelerate gentrification in the Central District. The report you quoted concluded the opposite. You aren’t questioning the validity of the report — no counter evidence, no theory as to what the authors got wrong — you are simply ignoring its conclusions. Your theories on this matter have no basis in fact or reason.

      26. I apologize Ross if I misunderstood what you had written. I thought you had written increased housing costs, and gentrification, had occurred in The Central Dist. and South Seattle, but that upzoning did not cause or accelerate it. Are you actually stating gentrification and increased housing costs did not occur in The Central Dist. and is not occurring in S. Seattle, or that gentrification is occurring but is not caused by or accelerated by upzoning, or that housing costs and gentrification will not occur in the future in S. Seattle?

        Generally, housing costs in any city tend to reflect: 1. AMI, whether Montreal, Tokyo, or Seattle,; and 2. the desirability of the neighborhood, which is why different neighborhoods in the same city have different housing costs, which determines the effects of gentrification. Any gentrification in say Laurelhurst is going to have a much smaller impact on the residents of Laurelhurst than gentrification will have on poorer neighborhoods.

        The reason Dallas has lower costs for housing has nothing to do with zoning (and as Anonymous pointed out Dallas has an average lot size almost double of Seattle and a very large number of HOA’s) it has to do with … drum roll … the fact Seattle has a much higher AMI. (despite lower taxes, and today the Wall St. Journal has an article noting the huge population shift from north/D to south/R states).

        AMI in Seattle is around $115,000/yr., (and if look at the link Seattle has a very high percentage of residents in the upper AMI category compared to Dallas) and in King Co. around $105,000/yr. Someone making 100% AMI in Seattle does not have a housing affordability issue when using the benchmark 30% of gross income for housing. 30% of $115,000 = $34,500, or $2875/mo. for a person living alone, to spend on housing. There is no shortage of housing at that price point, even in Seattle.

        Even at 75% AMI a single person can find adequate housing. $115,000 X 75% = $86,250 X 30% = $25,875/yr = $2156.25/mo. for housing, if living alone.

        Even when one gets to 50% AMI, if there is more than one person/tenant the amount available for housing is $115,000 X 50% = $57,500 X 30% = 17250 = $1437.5/mo. for each person, or $2875.00/month for a couple.

        So really what we are talking about is housing affordability for single persons living alone between 30% and 50% AMI, when living alone is much more prevalent in some urban cities.

        The “homeless” issue or those earning 0% to 30% AMI is actually supportive housing, and that is an entirely different issue than discussing housing affordability, because if someone does not have any residual wage-earning capacity AMI and the cost of housing is irrelevant. You could build an additional million units in Seattle alone and someone with 0-30% AMI (if living alone) is not going to be able to afford a unit without some public subsidy, like King Co.’s program to house them in distressed hotels, or find a way to restore some residual wage-earning capacity.

        So what this entire housing affordability debate is about is a narrow band of folks earning 30% to 50% AMI who live alone, for whatever reason, and Seattle tend to have a relatively large number of these folks.

        The other issue I have tried to explain ad nauseum is zoning is not housing. This entire region is already zoned to meet 2044 population estimates by the Dept. of Commerce that the DOC how admits are too high as I have predicted for some time. We could zone every single neighborhood like downtown Bellevue — 660′ height limits — and that does not change the amount of HOUSING, now and in the future, which depends on economic factors and actual population increases. Progressives just have a very hard time understanding how the people who actually build the housing think, and who tend to be non-ideological but very conservative.

        To write Seattle is “limited” in zoning capacity simply ignores facts. The GMPC allocated Seattle housing allocations through 2044 based on admittedly inflated DOC future population estimates and Seattle’s zoning under the MHA already can accommodate those future housing units. Same with every other regional city, except maybe Sammamish. Increasing the zoning will not increase the number of housing units that will be built over the next 20 years, although it may affect where that new construction goes, which usually is the more profitable areas when builders like to buy low and sell high.

        Yes, South Seattle is going to continue to gentrify, although that should cool due to economic factors severely limited new housing conditions for at least the next few years, and the realization the future population estimates look very flawed. Upzoning Blue Ridge or Laurelhurst or Washington Park or the eastside is not going to change that. If AMI declines due to layoffs or a downturn in tech or the general economy that should help with housing costs, and we are seeing that across the U.S. which is predicted to accelerate in 2023.

        But a mild upzone of the SFH zones will likely have zero impact on housing starts or housing affordability. On this issue the PSRC got it right. Densify housing in multi-family zones and town centers that have lot sizes that make housing scale, allow different size units, allow affordable housing set asides to mitigate the gentrification of the new construction, and is within walking distance of transit and retail. Still don’t expect much new housing construction anywhere in this region until economic and borrowing conditions improve. Because zoning is just words on paper.

      27. Daniel;

        Growth isn’t only caused by population growth, but also people moving into cities from rural areas. It’s been an ongoing trend in the USA for about 200 years or so.

        Seattle continues to have one of the lowest housing vacancy rates in the country, which is the real indicator of demand.

      28. I am actually not for eliminating all zoning in one fell swoop. I am for expanding higher zoned regions 1-2 blocks in every direction every year. My goal is to create a larger, denser core of Seattle. In part, because this would satisfy some SFH NIMBYs by allowing the housing they want in the farthest reaches of the city limits. But also in order to create the kind of density that would justify a Seattle Subway system. As it is, UW->Ballard or a light rail 8 just make no sense. Same with infill stations on Link. But since they are popular with a certain subsection of urbanists, I am for creating the conditions that would make them useful. Growing the urban villages together, combining them with downtown, and a slow but definite year after year growth could lead to high rises from SODO to UW to Ballard and back again. And since climate refugees to Seattle are an inevitability, better to plan for them now rather than later.

        In effect, this is close to removing all zoning. But it is doing so smarter rather than “harder”.

      29. Growth isn’t only caused by population growth, but also people moving into cities from rural areas. It’s been an ongoing trend in the USA for about 200 years or so.

        It has been happening in other countries as well. Especially in the developing world, but in most of the developed countries as well. It is why Tokyo is still growing, even though Japan as a whole is shrinking. Same with some of the other big cities (Yokohama, Osaka, etc.).

        Seattle got hit with a double-whammy. It has been part of the move to the city movement, along with a huge increase in employment. Just like that, we had San Fransisco housing problems (rent is too high, lots of homeless because the rent is too high, etc.).

      30. U.S population grew from 77 million in 1900 to around 331 million today. Still, only around 3% of the 2.4 billion acres are considered urban.

        Urban population over that period has waxed and waned. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the suburbs. One of the major factors in urban growth from around 2000 to 2020 was Millennials marrying later, and not being able to afford a SFH. Plus large cities began in the 1990’s to address policies that reduced violent crime and drug addiction.

        Those factors began to change in 2020. Urban growth will likely decline or stay flat over the next 5-10 years, especially with WFH, while suburbs see some population growth.

        We are also seeing a very large migration from north to south.

      31. A Joy, your idea for zoning is very interesting and intelligent. I especially like the idea of increasing density from the center of existing density out. But I thing greater density over a greater area might run into the following issues:

        1. The scale or size of increased density you propose would probably require Seattle to have 3 million residents, with half of those wanting to live in dense urban housing. Density naturally requires tight borders to condense the housing and retail.

        2. Extending the zoning a few blocks each year is likely too fast. It takes 6-10 years to go from design to completed construction. If you expand the dense zone too fast you could end up with taller buildings but more spread out, exactly what you don’t want.

        3. You and Tom see large future population growth, in part based on climate “refugees”. Currently there is a large migration in the U.S. from north to south. King Co. lost over 1% of its population in 2021, Seattle lost population, and WA state has lost population two years in a row. Builders build when they have buyers with cash in hand, not estimates of future population growth, which the Dept. of Commerce just had to lower. I know it creates a lag and housing crunch but usually zoning follows actual population growth because builders wait until they see actual population growth and buyers.

        4. People are going to have to want to live in these new urban zones. That means retail vibrancy which is critical to any “urban village”, and safe streets which are critical to transit and walkability. Some like those with families don’t want dense urban housing. When considering the size of Snohomish, Pierce and King Counties the amount of competing SFH land is limitless, and conventional (and PSRC) wisdom is at least half of any future population growth will choose these SFH zones which already exist. The amount of private undeveloped land zoned residential in these three counties is huge. Any urban housing is going to have to complete with these SFH zones, and post pandemic we are seeing a period of deurbanization. It may be that to achieve your vision of density Seattle will have to reduce the borders of denser zones.

        5. The irony is today progressives are pursuing an opposite approach to your vision: rather than condensing housing and retail in urban zones (like UGA’s) they want to disperse new housing to the SFH zones that tend to be more remote with poor transit service, and they want to do this BEFORE the future estimated population has materialized and when it looks more and more it won’t materialize. This means migrating out of urban housing into suburban zoning, which guts your vision, and that is downtown Seattle today.

        6. If empty office towers are to be converted to housing it will be very expensive, and will absorb all the needed housing in the region. If increased density is allowed in all other areas of Seattle — and the suburbs — that housing will likely be cheaper so converting empty office towers in the key downtown core won’t happen. Those towers like downtown will stay vacant and just continue to rot.

        Urban planners and progressives tend to view housing through an ideological lens of zoning, and what they think are moral and immoral ways to live which is just lines on a land use map. Builders and investors (who often don’t even live in this state) look at the same issue dispassionately and without morality and only ask themselves where will they make money, and how much (and tend to be very conservative).

        Right now zoning is irrelevant in Seattle. Builders and especially investors don’t see a profit with current market conditions, especially larger commercial or multi-family projects. So we probably have several years to see if the estimated population growth occurs to support more dense zoning. If it doesn’t the choice becomes smaller but more dense zones are larger but more spread out zones like we have today.

        I agree with your vision of increasing density from the inside out, but at this point I don’t know whether we will have to expand or reduce the boundaries of that denser zone if you want true density. Today only a very small percentage of capacity has been realized in the UGA’s. My guess based on today is reducing the boundaries, and not dispersing housing to the suburbs whether you approve of that zoning or not. You need those folks to live in your dense urban zones if they are going to truly be dense urban zones and future population growth looks to be very mild.

      32. DT, you should really check your facts before posting about recorded population loss for King County. The official census estimates were a mere loss of about 17k residents which is below 1 percent. (0.8%).

        Further most of this loss can be attributed to closed college campuses! It’s not a trend. It’s a blip with obvious reasons behind it. Many college students that should have been living on or near UW and other schools stayed back in their home county because of Covid campus closures. The estimate was from April 1. 2021 right as the vaccines were getting rolled out for older Americans..

        I’ve called you out on this twice before but you keep repeating the this lie!

      33. Daniel, have you been to Asia? There are over 20 million people living in each of Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and Osaka, the vast majority in hyper-“urban” neighborhoods with loads of high-rises. There are another score Chinese cities in the 10-20 million residents category we never hear about [except “Wuhan” of course…]

        If the US changed to a Canadian/Aussie-style immigration system where folks can “buy their way in”, you can double darn betcha that there would be several million folks from China who would love to live in a high-rise in Seattle. They might get hostile looks from a few people, but the government isn’t going to swoop them up in a “re-education” camp any time soon.

        Thinking “everyone has the same life goals that I do, because mine are so wise and fulfilling” must be the number one human fallacy. I do it, Joe Biden does it, Vladimir Putin does it, religious leaders do it, corporate chieftains do it. And you do it.

        The truth is that at most another 30,000 people could live in converted towers in downtown Seattle, if that many. That isn’t many people who want to keep the West Coast “vibe” while escaping the fires and smoke down south needed to fill up those towers.

        You’re right that lots of folks are abandoning the Rust Belt for Sunny Florida, but how many people do you know who have moved to California in the past decade except for a work transfer?

        To your comparison of Aurora to Mission Street, WTF? Mission has been an urban arterial since the Mexican period. It has walk-ups from the 1800’s along it and is the secondary “main street” of downtown San Francisco. Nobody thinks Aurora is going to become “North Mission” before the next Century, if then.

        That said, Mike’s idea is a great one, especially between Evergreen-Washelli and Green Lake. There are “good bones” in the form of small business structures all along the road as far as Northgate Way (105th). North Seattle College is well within the walkshed along Aurora from 90th to 100th and there’s some nice green space to support a pleasant neighborhood.

        North of the cemetery there is a bad infestation of “big box stores” but they can all go on a parking lot diet with housing built in flab shed and over the svelte new lots with trickle charging stations for the folks in the overhead apartments.

      34. Tom, for the record Mike compared a future upzoned Aurora to Mission St. Like you I felt that was a bit premature and optimistic. All I offered was any upzoning should be done in bite sized prices to see if housing density would result in Aurora. . Upzoning 40 blocks of Aurora would probably not lead to walkable neighborhoods, which was Mike’s goals.

        Canada repealed its citizenship program in 2017 due to political opposition. I am not sure about Australia. Canada has 38.5 million total residents and Australia 28 million, both less than CA, so I don’t know how successful the programs were although they were more about money. Currently thousands of immigrants are crossing the southern border each day, although I doubt they will end up living in Seattle is an urban condo.

        I haven’t lived in the cities you list. I have lived in Dublin, London, NY and LA. Personally I find those cities too large and the density too much. I don’t want to live in any of the cities you list, even Tokyo, and one of the things often overlooked is how geographically large those cities are. If Seattle, which is long and narrow, had 20 million residents the sprawl would run from county border to county border. Just Google maps Tokyo.

        The point I was trying to make to A Joy and Al is I am not predicting King Co. and Seattle will lose 10%, 20% or 30% of their population by 20250, but that they probably won’t grow by 30% in that period, which is the assumption in our planning policies that rely on pre-pandemic data. Growth will likely be flat or below 10% by 2050. I may be wrong, but builders are going to wait to see who is correct before building.

        Personally I think that is good. I have never understood the fetish for population growth, which more often than not exacerbates problems rather than solves them, especially housing costs and income to housing cost ratios. Seattle is a good example.

        My ultimate point is the cost of money is too high right now for development. If conditions improve builders and developers — who often can choose where to live, and Seattle is no longer the darling, Florida is — will wait until they see actual increased population (and income) growth before building anything in this area. Zoning lines on a page like plans to “revitalize” 3rd Ave. are meaningless unless builders can make money in new zones or “middle class” folks (notice they didn’t say upper class which is who retailers really covet) want to go to 3rd, but probably in a car because parking is free everywhere outside downtown Seattle.

        In an environment in which population is growing slowly, and Seattle has a pretty small population comparatively, to create true facade density you need to constrict the boundaries of denser zones until they have met capacity. It is often referred to as infill development, which just means the boundaries of the prior zoning were not restrictive enough. That is why Manhattan has much more height and density than LA or Phoenix. Instead planners in this area want to upzone every single lot no matter how remote in a three county area larger than many states, but then wonder where all the density is.

        As some posts on this blog have noted, that density is in the exburbs and Seattle suburbs, not the downtown core which is the opposite of most cities that have created true urban density through zoning. With Seattle’s likely future population growth and WFH I don’t think Seattle can ever realize that true urban density, and even the PSRC predicts regional population growth will scatter to Pierce, SnoCo, Kitsap and south King Counties, and some to SFH zones in Seattle and the Eastside. Like today. It is foolish to think citizens will behave differently tomorrow compared to how they behave today, whether housing or 3rd Ave.

    1. I saw a 550 with that “snow route” display yesterday. The 550 doesn’t have a snow route. I assume it just takes time to reset all the displays, and that bus was on another route last week.

  18. Daniel, in reply to your closing comment on the previous article made just before comments closed on it, I certainly agree that ridership will never be “sufficient” to justify operations to West Seattle judged as a stand-alone system regardless of the complexity of the construction.

    But in the context of the built-out ST3 Spine with seriously unbalanced demand between the north and south portions and a very long run to and from Everett, if it were a flat, surface running two-mile spur to a modest activity center it would be a reasonable way to reverse otherwise nearly empty — but not completely empty — trains. Reversing at a end–of-track stub station is easier than short turns using pocket tracks.

    But it won’t be flat or surface running. It will be one engineering headache after another and, apparently, end in a subway station 80 feet below that modest activity center. As such it becomes terrible transit. Cost and complexity matter much more than ideological “ridership predictions”, no matter how learned they may appear.

    In the context of the long-running argument between you and Ross (and his allies) I would just say that both camps are guilty of the very human tendency to assume that the future will be much like the present.

    It won’t be. It may be less dire than I believe it will be — in fact that’s probable, because living in the region dependent on Colorado River is VERY attractive so many folks will adjust — the effects here will force a future on the Puget Sound region unlike what you expect.

    Housing WILL become denser here regardless of FAR constraints, “setback requirements”, “pervious surface regulations”, and historic relationships between income and housing costs. That’s because survival trumps all those ideological bugaboos.

    1. Tom, since I can’t predict the future I just go with the future population estimates by the Dept. of Commerce. If they are low or high they will be adjusted, and the PSRC has promised to revisit its 2050 Vision Statement before ten years due to changes from the pandemic, which have affected the core of the Vision: density when deurbanization is occurring, TOD when transit ridership is way down, regional population gains when the last two years have seen declines, dispersing commercial and retail outside urban cores to limit commuting when WFH has solved that and we see that truly urban areas like downtown Seattle need that commercial and retail density so the rest of us can get the hell out of suburbia. All I need is just one regional world class city and urban core, not a bunch of MI town centers scattered around the region.

      If climate change becomes so dire that millions have to flee the south and southwest for the NW that will be a bigger issue for sure, and I will either be dead or able to move if I don’t want to live in LA north (which is not what I would call dense despite 20 million residents in that area). One of the ironies is this region and areas in the south and southwest are planning to electrify to reduce carbon emissions when their water supply for electricity and irrigation is getting lower. If Lake Mead drops 100′ more hydropower will have to stop. Then what?

      If one reads the PSRC 2050 Vision Statement they predict most future population growth and housing will occur in Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties. Three of those — including King — are as large as many east coast states, and just driving in southeast King Co. reminds someone of how undense this area is. 3% of the U.S. land mass is urbanized. I don’t mean SFH; I mean 1-5 acre lots with just vegetation on them. Even the Issaquah to Hobart road is mostly vegetation once a few miles outside of Issaquah. SnoCo and Pierce are even less dense. This region would need at least another 10 million residents to create the kind of density you envision when the DOC is estimating 1 million by 2044, and most of that density would be in city centers, and hopefully Seattle. Imagine Capitol Hill with 250,000 more residents. Imagine rents.

      I also think housing will get denser, in some areas. Like UGA’s, town centers from Shoreline to Mercer Island to Bellevue to Redmond, where density is already planned and zoned for. Why would anyone want to live in multi-family housing in a SFH suburban neighborhood that requires driving everywhere? I definitely can see the appeal of urban living, and did it for many years, but I want retail vibrancy and safe streets which I consider “walkability”. I want a real city. I don’t want to live in a duplex or apartment in Black Diamond.

      If there are three points I have tried to make they are:

      1. This area is already zoned to accommodate DOC future population growth through 2044. If the estimates are wrong the zoning can be amended.

      2. Zoning is not the same as building. Builders tend to wait to see the population growth before building, and want to build less, not more, than the amount of housing that will actually be needed.

      3. I think cities should have authority to figure out how to accommodate their housing targets. On the whole, I think our state legislature is filled with a lot of ideological idiots, including my district, who would sell anything for a campaign donation. Progressives are very dirty on this issue if you read the PDC site.

      I have no idea how to crack the supportive housing problem, or the affordable housing problem in an area with such a high AMI. If I had to guess is a fee in lieu of. At least not without a fortune of public money, and some kind of personal responsibility. Has any U.S. city had real success? The more liberal the city the worse the homeless problem. The fundamental flaw is builders don’t want to build affordable housing because it is not as profitable, and progressives don’t even know what a hammer looks like. You yourself once suggested not everyone can live in a very expensive city if they can’t afford it, which probably accounts for the growth in Spokane, a very good city for families.

      I don’t know what argument between Ross and me you are referencing. We do disagree on upzoning the SFH zones, which are very mild upzones in any case, but many differ on that issue.

      Personally I do think the future will look a lot like the present, absent some kind of catastrophic event like a major earthquake or another pandemic and closure, especially when it comes to housing because it takes years and years and even decades to change zoning, and to then implement the new zoning with financing, permitting, and construction. Look at MI’s town center. We can’t get any development of old surface malls yet Inslee wants to upzone residential neighborhoods. Good luck if an investor can get 10%/year in pretty safe fixed income investments and double their money in the time a major construction project is completed, and the investment recouped. Builders built too little housing in a decade with almost zero interest rates and huge stock market gains that had to be invested according to the REIT covenants. Those days are gone.

      Sometimes I wonder why I care. I almost never ride transit, and walk to work these days. What do I care if there is piss or fentanyl in the elevators if Mike thinks it is no problem? We don’t use transit, but help fund it. Upzoning MI is not going to change anything because the underlying land is too expensive for builders to speculate, and because cities that want to can use regulatory limits to make implementing the upzoning less profitable than building a SFH on a waterfront lot on MI. Builders will head to South Seattle like a flock of birds if they build at all (which is why I think burying Link in S. Seattle makes sense because that is where most of the housing and population growth will occur, and is occurring), and for good and bad S. Seattle will gentrify, which used to be the holy grail (for white people).

      Cities are not going to abandon regulatory limits as part of their zoning, even in multi-family and commercial zones like Capitol Hill, Ballard, West Seattle, Madison Park, the UW, and so on. If they did that would be the end of middle housing which is just a zoning restriction too. Unless some like A Joy think density is a good in itself, and any restriction — for example for middle housing — is unnecessary and unwise, as is any zoning. Ideological I think she is the most consistent with her view, except zoning and land use is just politics. As Emerson wrote long ago, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

      I think in this new economy, our aging demographic, the high cost (normalization really) of money, and loss of pretty crazy stock market valuations of tech that has removed billions from this region we won’t see any change when it comes to housing for a long time, despite the zoning. Those on this blog can get excited about it, but builders don’t read this blog and are usually right of Attila the Hun, and they are not building, and progressives are uncomfortable around tools.

      1. All that’s true, Daniel, and well presented. I don’t know how to build less expensively, either; perhaps what will happen is reverse migration to the “Snowbelt” states where there are large numbers of large older houses, many of which can be made into multi-family rather inexpensively, rather than here. But they take as much energy or more to heat — when solar is at its weakest — as the Sunbelt does to cool. But at least they have water, LOTS of water.

  19. Tom, here is a good article on the water issue for the CO river, which obviously you are quite familiar with. Historic water rights in the west, mismanagement, increased demand, decreased supply, profligate water use especially for agriculture, will all have to be addressed by federal oversight. If Israel and Australia can deal with the problem so should the southwestern U.S.

    1. Thank you. I hope the problem can be properly adjudicated, but like everything else seems to, it’s likely to become a political football.

  20. This is the 2022 Route 40 concepts from SDOT. The STB had comments on an earlier version.
    See slides six and seven regarding Fremont Avenue North between North 34th and 35th streets. Southbound seems okay. The northbound shared stop is deleted to provide a northbound PBL. Routes 31, 32, and 62 would have a stop on North 35th Street around the corner; Route 40 would have a new stop on Fremont Place west of Fremont Avenue North. This would force riders transferring between the northbound Route 40 and routes 31, 32, and 62 to cross two legs of the intersection. They now have a common stop transfer. Today, cyclists muddle through confusion. The transit project degrades transfers. Is this optimal? Would the status quo be better? How about a shared bus-bike hump as SDOT has installed on Green Lake or on NE 65th Street?

      1. We’ve done it when we’ve just missed a 62 downtown with a 40 right behind, since the 40 runs a bit faster on Westlake than the 62 on Dexter. If the gamble fails and we’re heading home, we can just walk. I imagine that’s an edge case not worth optimizing for, though.

      2. Yes, based on the responses. It makes sense, given the various buses. Westlake to Wallingford, or Dexter to Ballard. There are probably a few that go from SPU to “FreLard” (e. g. Leary and 8th).

      3. RossB, Dexter and Westlake aren’t that far apart, and at this point I think every northbound 40 stop on Westlake has a signaled crosswalk except two (Westlake & Westlake, and Westlake & 8th), so folks living on Dexter or even the east side of Aurora can just walk down some stairs to catch the 40. Admittedly it is a decent hill (though smaller than parts of downtown) and not great for the mobility-impaired, but would avoid needing to make the 40↔62 transfer.

    1. I would also be curious how many folks make that transfer. May be worth a comment to SDOT for them to see if Metro has that data? Otherwise, it seems that folks getting from SLU to Wallingford are going to have a worse time about it with this arrangement.

      One notable potential change since this draft: In a recent episode of the Seattle City Makers podcast in which Greg Spotts was the guest, Spotts mentioned that SDOT had begun discussing the concept of a combined Bus + Freight Only lane along Westlake, to ameliorate freight movement concerns. However, he mentioned that the Route 40 project is getting some sort of federal funding, and so SDOT is working with the feds to make sure that they don’t DQ themselves from funding by changing the project to include freight improvements.

      1. Fremont north of the bridge is a major chokepoint for buses in both directions, but especially going north. Basically all of the buses need to take the center lane whether they’re going left or right due to the compact nature of the intersection, and the fact that scofflaw drivers often park in the no-parking area on eastbound 35th. I could see spreading out the buses easily saving at least a minute even off-peak, so total trip times might end up being a wash except for those with mobility issues.

      2. Yes it’s a choke point; I’ve seen it repeatedly over the years. Anything that improves that would be welcome. What I’m not sure about is whether keeping all of the 31, 32, 40, and 62 at the same stop is necessary if SDOT wants to separate them.

    2. This is one of a handful of issues mentioned in the outreach summary. One of the bullet point items included “concerns about ease of transfers” in Fremont even though there was overall support for the changes. There are plenty of people who make that transfer, and plenty of people are concerned.

      I’m not sure why SDOT proposed this, but my guess is it is all about traffic. They are adding a northbound bike lane, which means that instead of three northbound lanes there will be two. The far left lane will go left, while the other lane will go every direction (left, straight, right). It does help that there will be no turning left, but there are several potential problems:

      1) You might get backups into the intersection, especially if the bus stop is where it is now (close to 34th). If you moved the stop northbound (closer to 35th) it might reduce or eliminate this problem.

      2) It might lead to general congestion for the buses as lots of buses and cars compete for that rightmost lane.

      I can see several different ways of fixing the problem:

      1) Don’t add the bike lane between 34th and 35th. You would still have a bike lane north of the 35th. This leaves a “missing link” of sorts, but the same thing is true the other direction. There are no plans for a southbound bike lane through the area. The assumption is that bikes can keep up with cars and buses through there. I think the same is true northbound. It is relatively level through there, unlike north of 35th, which becomes steep. I don’t see this as a major priority for bike mobility (unlike Eastlake) yet I do think the area is very important for buses.

      With no bike lane, the rightmost lane could become a BAT lane. Only those turning right (or buses) would be allowed in that right (curbside) lane. I would go a step further, and make it a bus lane initially (to the alley) and then a BAT lane. That means that people trying to turn right have to merge after the bus stops, not before. Relatively few are turning right, so I don’t think it would be a big deal.

      2) Create a bus lane which transitions to a BAT lane, next to the bike lane. This means you have only one general-purpose lane of traffic headed north. This seems like a radical change, but this sort of thing is beginning to happen all over the city. If you told me that the city wants to turn Westlake into one lane each direction (with a transit lane on the outside) I would say you are dreaming. Yet that is exactly what is proposed.

      There are potential issues with how this is done though. If you force two lanes of cars into one lane, then this can create backups. If the backups are big, then the bus is stuck in it, just like the cars. To fix this problem you simply keep pushing the restrictions further south. This could potentially mean adding a bus lane on Nickerson and a BAT lane on Dexter. This middle lane would be reserved for buses and this right lane would be reserved for buses, and cars turning right (as well as bikes, which you can see in this picture). In the case of Nickerson you have two general purpose lanes becoming three (instead of four). In the case of Dexter you have two lanes of general traffic throughout. It shouldn’t cause any backups for the buses, if anyone.

      North of Nickerson, and over the bridge itself the rightmost lane would be bus only. North of the drawbridge, the bus lane switches to the middle lane. Cars have to cross over the bus lane if they are turning right (to 34th). This is similar to the West Seattle bridge. You reduce the number of cars traveling northbound over the Fremont Bridge while allocating a lane for buses all the way to the Fremont bus stop. With all of that, the buses should move smoothly, and the bike lane shouldn’t matter. That would speed up the other buses as well.

      Unfortunately, it would require more work. My guess is SDOT doesn’t want to take on such a project. I do think it makes the most sense, as we transition to being a more European city (i. e. a city where we focus on overall mobility, not just car mobility). But for now, we will probably be OK with either what they proposed (even though it means walking a bit to make a transfer) or any of the other ideas.

      1. Ross, while this block is somewhat flat, I think it’s relatively important not to leave a missing link in the bike network here. The Fremont Bridge is the busiest bike pinch point in the city, and this portion of Fremont Ave is part of the Interurban Trail. I used to commute through here daily, and this portion of the route could be a pretty big headache for cyclists.

      2. Agreed. I lived on Fremont and biked that daily for years. Sometimes 100,000 or more bikes cross that bridge monthly, with a substantial portion going up the hill. It was always really uncomfortable trying to figure out that intersection, but because you were usually in with a large pack of other bikes, it wasn’t too dangerous. You would be forced to take a lane and be really assertive, and cars could get angry and aggressive.

      3. I’m not saying it isn’t important, but I’m saying it is not a huge priority, given that there are no plans for a bike lane the other direction. Right now, there is no bike lane at all, even on the much steeper part of the hill where cars go much faster. If you look at the bike infrastructure that is needed throughout the city, it is hard to make a case that this should bubble up to the top, or anywhere near it. It is unpleasant, but there are lots of places that are much worse than unpleasant — they are extremely dangerous.

        On the other hand, this really is a very important transit corridor. It isn’t just about the 40, but about the other buses that cross the Fremont Bridge. In the long run, there should be a transit lane northbound. This should include the streets that feed into it (like Nickerson, Delridge and Westlake). When all of that is done, then there would be room for the bike lane (at least one direction, if not two) as well as bus lanes going both directions. This is just a step in the right direction (for both bikes and buses).

      4. Living 2 blocks from those bus stops, i never had any use for them. They were vastly slower than just hoping on my bike. The only bus I used was the the 5, because it was the only one competitive with biking.

        I struggle to understand why we should prioritize an inefficient mode, degrading, deprioritizing and creating an environment where most people will avoid the most efficient mode, because it is now only for the fast and fearless.

      5. I think we are all in agreement that we shouldn’t prioritize driving. The best solution is to have one all-purpose lane each direction, along with bike and bus lanes each direction.

        But as for what is more important, bikes or buses at that particular stretch I would go with buses. I’m not saying I would remove the proposed bike lane — I think there are alternatives that should be explored (as I made clear in my comment). But I’m saying if we have to decide what is more important there, it is buses. This is a very short stretch of roadway. So short that folks can walk their bikes on the sidewalk if they feel nervous riding. Furthermore, the vast majority of the pathway doesn’t have anything! There are no bike lanes on Leary. There are no bike lanes going up Fremont Avenue. There are plans to add some, which would definitely help, but those bike lanes are only one direction! There are no bike lanes either direction on 35th. Basically, these new bike lanes would at best allow someone to go one direction, up a very steep hill, but not back. If people are uncomfortable mixing with cars, this does nothing.

        As a bike project, it is very weak. By all means, add the bike lanes going up the hill — every little bit helps and we might as well add them now. But this does not complete the Interurban, because it only goes one direction. This wouldn’t change anything for bikers. If you are uncomfortable riding in traffic, then this little stretch is the least of your worries.

      6. RossB, I agree and, unless the bike lanes are protected (which they can’t be, because of the buses) or SPD just permanently assigns a parking enforcer, I can 100% guarantee that the bike lanes will be continuously blocked by scofflaw drivers selfishly deciding their need to park trumps buses and cyclists. The bike lanes on 65th confirm this – they are blocked ~10% of the time in the protected areas but 80+% of the time in the area outside Roosevelt station where the protection goes away so that SOVs are not blocked by buses for the brief time that they have to stop in front of the station.

      7. I think they did a pretty good job on 65th, but there are some obvious weaknesses. First, they didn’t go far enough east. This is nuts, really. This is where the cars are going to be going the fastest. Second is exactly what you are talking about, like right here: There are signs saying “No stops” but the bike lane just has a white dotted lane. It should be painted red or white, to designate transit-only or bike-only.

        It is a shame that the street layout is so goofy around there. It is one of the big problems in Seattle. Ideally, especially if the street isn’t wide enough, you want bus lanes one street, and bike lanes on another. But there are a lot of streets where it is very difficult to do that. 65th is one of those streets. You could make a bike path, but it would involve some zig-zagging (e. g.

        One alternative is to have the bike lanes on the main street where traffic is lighter (east of 15th) and then have bike paths either direction. So basically this ( and this ( That way the bike lanes are completely protected. The combination bike/bus stops would all be like the one off of 14th ( I would keep the bike lanes between 15th and 12th (which means keeping that bus stop as is) but the bike lanes would end around 12th, and there would be a bus lane (one direction) instead.

      8. Why are the 31, 32 and 40 even on this stretch of Fremont? They don’t actually go on Fremont Ave. They are just passing through. Have them turn left and right on 34th. Take some parking and have the big stop be in front of the PCC.

        And absolutely, the bike infrastructure here is crap. Especially given a million people on bikes a year go through this area. That doesn’t mean we should make it crappier so that buses not even serving Fremont Ave, but really just passing through, take up massive space on one of the busiest bike and ped blocks outside of downtown and the U district.

      9. RossB, normally I’d balk at having a bike facility not go on the major street, but, in the case of 65th, a lot of the businesses are to the south so running on 63rd could work pretty well. It does put cyclists further from the station and buses but at least it’s a flat two blocks unlike (say) 35th Ave NE. It would be nice to have the bike lane raised to deter parking, but I’m guessing there would be a lot of pedestrian/cyclist conflicts given how busy those bus stops are.

        Cam, sending the 31/32/40 onto 34th reduces the walkshed of those stops. 34th is much closer to the water, and also at the bottom of a decently-sized hill east of Fremont.

      10. Ross, there are no bike lanes on Fremont, and that should sometime be fixed. But the reason there are no bus lanes on Leary is that the BGT is a block from it! Yes, there are pedestrians on the BGT so one can’t ride as fast as one might on an arterial bike lane. BUT, there are no SUV’s and Truck Nuts Maniacs trying to run you down either.

    3. Some northbound Route 40 riders transfer to the westbound routes 31 and 32 to reach SPU and those markets. The best transfers are common stop ones.

      Northbound bicyclists split at North 34th Street in several directions. Many go through okay with current striping and busy transit eight to eighty riders could dismount and use sidewalk. There is a tradeoff about the use of scarce right of way.

      1. Many go through okay with current striping and busy transit eight to eighty riders could dismount and use sidewalk.

        Exactly. Furthermore, there are no plans for changing things going the other direction. That is the part I don’t get. It doesn’t make any sense:

        “We need to have a northbound bike lane! It is essential!”

        “What about southbound?”

        “Oh, that’s fine. Bikes can share the street with buses, or go on the sidewalk a short distance.”

    I guess there’s now talk by ST of removing the CID station and moving it to Seattle City Hall and the surrounding King County offices north of 4th between Jefferson and Terrance. And creating a pedestrian underpass to connect to Pioneer Square station. I mean, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

    1. An easily missed but significant note in the article is that the City Hall placement is the station would “eliminate the need for a midtown station”, which seems wild. One station for DSTT2 between SODO and Westlake, where DSTT1 has three?

      1. That does seem like really bad value for DSTT2, so what would be the point if this plan came to pass, especially since it would be adjacent to Pioneer Square won’t expand the light rail walkshed?

      2. I saw that and thought the same thing Nathan. All I can figure is ST is thinking a rider on DSTT2 could walk underground to the Pioneer Sq. station and transfer to DSTT1 to get to “midtown” or backtrack to CID. I suppose a rider could walk above ground to either midtown or DSTT1 but anywhere west of 4th is pretty steep. That underground walk would need to be patrolled and safe to actually work in a sketchy area of town today (3rd and James) with both stations unsecured, but talk about awful transfers.

        I agree with Skylar also. I didn’t think DSTT2 could be designed with any less transit value per dollar, but I must tip my hat to ST: this proposal does it.

        Following up a point Al has made many times, the disparity in stations and access to most of downtown Seattle between DSTT1 and this line will really heat up the debate about who gets to use “DSTT2”: folks from West Seattle, or folks from south of Seattle to Tacoma. East Link will always use DSTT1 because it doubles frequency and obviously DSTT1 is a much better alignment for that increased capacity/frequency, but I can’t imagine S. King Co. and Pierce Co. subareas would agree to pay 1/2 (of either the originally estimated cost of $2.2 billion or actual cost closer to $4.2 billion) even if they had the money for this alignment. It is as if S. King Co. and Pierce Co. and South Seattle simply don’t exist in this design.

        Today’s Seattle Times has an article noting that federal funding for ST will be accelerated, but still repeats the deficit ST admits to: $6.5 billion, which as most know I think is low, especially after Graham St. and 130th stations.

        Although no cost estimate is given for this new alignment, as far as I can tell ST is still estimating the cost of “DSTT2” at $2.2 billion, but has not clarified whether the four other subarea’s 1/2 contribution is half of $2.2 billion or half of the actual cost. I think the ST deficit just for N. King Co. is closer to $10 to $12.5 billion. Spending money on a second tunnel that is not needed for capacity that has one station between Sodo to Westlake that will be the disfavored choice for any subarea and set up a huge fight seems ill thought out to me. If I were on the Board I would rather have had this proposed design discussed first in private to vet out the issues, and to get subarea input.

      3. It appears to me that a full DSTT2 is unfortunately assumed in every alternative — and that ST may be deliberately proposing less valuable options to save the original one.

        Meanwhile, no automated line/ shorter and more frequent train proposal has even been proposed for study.

      4. I’m biased because assuming I keep working in Downtown and also keep living in Ballard, an express line from 15th & Market anywhere along 4th or 5th Ave would be great for me.

        Remember that the majority of the cost of an underground alignment isn’t in the TBM tunnelling, but in the station construction. I’d bet that >50% of the proposed cost of DSTT2 is in the massive station vaults that were suggested in the “preferred alignment” in the DEIS, so eliminating the Midtown station probably slashes half a billion off the cost. Plus, if ST can avoid having to pay to rebuild the 4th Ave S viaduct, that saves them a big chunk of change, too.

        It’s funny to see the resident cost hawk gawking at a cost-saving measure.

      5. That, combined with the fact that DSTT2 could possibly no longer have a CID station, makes the case for scrapping DSTT2 and using the existing tunnel through downtown even stronger. Sound Transit needs to honestly study what it would take to put the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions in the existing transit tunnel.

      6. Fully agreed that ST need to at least come up with some reasonable excuses addressing the interlining concept.

      7. I’ve said it before. West Seattle Link does not have the demand to warrant four car trains every six minutes at peak. It’s possible to have 24 trains an hour in the DSTT (2.5 minute service) — 10 to RV, 8 to Eastside and 6 to West Seattle at peak.

        The biggest challenge is reversing trains. That is easily accomplished by building a longer tail track over I-5 at Northgate.

        Ballard can be a stub line with driverless technology and that wouldn’t be compatible with the Crntral OMF anyway. The OMF doesn’t have to be very large and surely there are port properties or piers that can be used.

        The billions saved by no DSTT2 south of Westlake is much greater than upgrading the system to work this way.

      8. Trains could also reverse at Lynnwood, using whatever reversing tail they’re building now.

        What about Tacoma-Northgate, Redmond-Lynnwood, Everett-West Seattle, Ballard-Westlake?

        The only truly feasible locations for a special OMF for a driverless Ballard stub would be Smith Cove, Interbay, or somewhere in the Ballard industrial district, and I’m not sure the City would be very happy giving up a block or two of its precious industrial land for a unique OMF. Although, I wasn’t really paying attention when the locations for the streetcar barns were being hashed out, so maybe it’s a feasible exchange.

      9. “West Seattle Link does not have the demand to warrant four car trains every six minutes at peak.”

        How many passengers does a train run need to justify its existence?

        “It’s possible to have 24 trains an hour in the DSTT (2.5 minute service) — 10 to RV, 8 to Eastside and 6 to West Seattle at peak.”

        Would all of these start at Lynnwood? ST thinks Lynnwood needs two full lines, or 20 trains per hour. If the RV trains are going to Ballard, that’s only 16 to Lynnwood.

      10. It’s not “West Seattle Link [has] the demand to warrant four car trains every six minutes at peak,” it’s “WS Link should provide good frequency of six minutes at peak, and those trains will happen to be 4-cars due to the peak demand elsewhere along the line”

        Saying the ridership won’t fill up 4-car trains along a certain segment is very dumb criticism. The goal should be to provide a certain level of good frequency for urban transit, and then run vehicles large enough to handle the highest expected demand, even if that demand is encountered briefly.

      11. “Remember that the majority of the cost of an underground alignment isn’t in the TBM tunnelling, but in the station construction. I’d bet that >50% of the proposed cost of DSTT2 is in the massive station vaults that were suggested in the “preferred alignment” in the DEIS, so eliminating the Midtown station probably slashes half a billion off the cost. Plus, if ST can avoid having to pay to rebuild the 4th Ave S viaduct, that saves them a big chunk of change, too.

        “It’s funny to see the resident cost hawk gawking at a cost-saving measure.”

        Nathan, what project cost estimates are you using for your cost comparison between DSTT2 and this new route/design? I haven’t seen any from ST.
        Are you including the cost of the tunnel to Pioneer Square station, and the risk the four other subareas would balk at contributing to this route if DSTT1 serves West Seattle? It is hard to trust ST with project cost estimates, but based on last year’s most likely estimate of $4.2 billion for DSTT2 with 30% cost contingency I doubt this new alignment would only cost half, even with one station between Sodo and Westlake, and have no idea how you came up with that estimate, or could support such an alignment with so little information knowing ST’s track record on project costs.

        There are cost savings and then there is stupidity. For example, skipping First Hill was stupidity that probably can never be remedied. Same with East Link not accessing Bellevue Way and downtown Bellevue. These cost savings will hurt East Link forever. I can accept the decision to tunnel 60 blocks from UW to Northgate, but having only one station along that entire route seems stupid to me. Despite the cost the walkshed for that underground section is terrible. Why tunnel at all if you don’t have reasonably spaced stations. A tunnel without a station is called a pipe. That is being a cost hawk, it is asking for rational transit.

        Same with this route. If there is any area along the entire spine that has/had the density to support subways it is downtown Seattle. Who builds a tunnel from Sodo to Westlake with one station? Talk about penny wise pound foolish. Especially when fairly undense neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle are demanding tunnels and underground stations with better station spacing.

        It isn’t about being a cost hawk. God forbid not with Link. It is about whether a subarea has the revenue for the projects they were promised, and dollar per rider mile. It took me a very, very long time to convince many on this blog DSTT2 would not cost $2.2 billion, and N. King Co. cannot afford WSBLE, at least as designed (and before stations at 130th and Graham St., and post-pandemic reallocations of ST revenue). At the same time my own subarea can afford the Issaquah to S. Kirkland Link, but I think it is a very unwise use of transit dollars and will have terrible dollar per rider mile ratios, even if above ground. I guess I am a cost hawk on that project: the subarea can afford it but it is not a good use of transit dollars.

        The reality is neither West Seattle nor Ballard have the ridership to support the cost of Link, especially considering the topography, and the subarea does not have the funding to build it. A cost hawk does consider project cost and subarea revenue because transit dollars are finite, although that concept is alien on this blog and with ST, at least until ST 3, but it is irrelevant if the subarea does not have the revenue to complete the project, and now ST is talking about a WS stub which should teach you something.

        The second reality is downtown Seattle no longer needs the capacity of a DSTT2, and neither do the other subareas. The third reality is three subareas don’t have the money for their contribution to DSTT2.

        It is not so much being a cost hawk for a particular project, it is being realistic about project costs and subarea revenue. SnoCo doesn’t have the revenue to run Link to Everett, and Pierce doesn’t have the revenue to run Link to the mall or downtown, even if the lines are above ground. There is nothing I can do about that.

        Same with WSBLE: a true project cost hawk who really hoped to complete the project would not have built the stations at 130th and Graham St., or tunneled from UW to Northgate even with one station, and would run WSBLE completely above grade, because that is the only way I see that project pencils out.

        Transit advocates in West Seattle and Ballard claim Link will be transformational, like electricity, but if you suggest it be above ground, so it is affordable, suddenly it becomes not so transformational. I see lots of above ground electric (and cable) wires in my city which has an average house price around four times that of Ballard that are definitely an eyesore and should be buried, but electricity is transformational, and the city and vendors claim they don’t have the money to bury them. If WSBLE truly is transformational then like East Link or power wires in my city don’t bury any of it so it is affordable. At least that is what a “cost hawk” or anyone familiar with the basics of accounting would tell you, becasue otherwise you get a stub from West Seattle that may be the one project more stupid than the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line.

        Too bad ST didn’t have more cost hawks from the beginning. The design would likely not be so flawed.

      12. AJ, there will be increased capacity in the DSTT if ST runs 2.5 minute headways rather than 3. So why your statement is true in theory, North Seattle and DSTT would still have more trains. It’s an irrelevant point in this case.

        The WS and Everett segments both have very low ridership projected. These segments have notably less than 15k daily riders in one direction, and 6 4-car trains still have an hourly capacity of 3600 riders in just one hour.

        Turning a train line at Northgate also ensures that North Seattle residents can board a train. Otherwise, the Roosevelt riders may not be able to squeeze onto a train because there are riders from 5-6 stations from Lynnwood or about a dozen from Everett.

      13. That’s my point – the hourly capacity in WS or Everett is irrelevant; due to the need to meet capacity elsewhere long the line, those segments will have excess capacity because those segments should still have an operating pattern that gives them good frequency.

        A triple branch is a bad operating pattern if one branch needs more than 1/3 of the capacity, because then either other branches get mediocre service or one branch has crowding issues; NYC has crowding problems due to many imbalanced branches, especially reverse branches.

        Fitting all 3 branches into DSTT1 only make sense if you are confident that the long term demand in WS, RV, and Bellevue will not exceed 8* trains an hour for any given branch. (*or whatever is 1/3 the max capacity of the tunnel). I’m bullish on demand well exceeding 8 tph for both RV & Bellevue, so I support the 2nd tunnel.

      14. SoundTransit’s own estimates for Lynnwood to Everett are pretty low compared to south of Lynnwood. Since the use of West Seattle is to turn trains headed for Everett, I don’t see any capacity problem with one downtown tunnel. The demand is probably about 4 trains per hour. This gives more than enough capacity for the other two lines to run 10 trains per hour each, or to balance the service by 8 or 6 per hour on one and 13 on the other or whatever.

      15. That’s just it, AJ. Travel peaking is different now. The days of huge peak hour surges are pretty much abated compared to 13 or 23 years ago (when ST set the peak to daily ratios in their forecasts that they used in the DEIS).

        Plus if the DSTT can get to two minute headways or 30 trains an hour, that’s exactly the ST3 operations plan!

        At some point, the long segments to Everett and Tacoma will be deemed way too low for six minute trains anyway. ST will look to short turning peak trains.

        As far as DSTT2 goes, it should probably be for things like Sounder and HSR. A glorified slower-moving streetcar that we call Link is a horrible match for deep stations.

      16. “SoundTransit’s own estimates for Lynnwood to Everett are pretty low compared to south of Lynnwood.”

        Mariner to Everett. ST wants to terminate Line 2 at 128th rather than 196th or 164th.

      17. AJ, ST has repeatedly told us over the years that East Link will be limited to 8-minute max frequencies due to cross bridge travel, and that was before the recent plinth problems and post-tensioning.

        East-West-East travel across the bridge was very peak oriented pre-pandemic, which is why 8-minute frequencies caused concerns about peak capacity based on ST’s ridership estimates back then, which today look highly inflated. Using 7.5 4-car trains per peak hour holding 596 SRO but not crush load riders equals 4470 rides per hour on East Link across the bridge. Based on current cross lake transit ridership that is way more capacity than needed, and then during off-peak times ridership plummets.

        So East Link ridership will not need more than 8-minute frequencies in DSTT1. WSBLE won’t need more than 10-minute frequencies, if that, at “peak”. Same with from the south. The reality is Link ridership, especially peak ridership, will likely decline in the future.

        If I am wrong then build a DSTT2, but the subarea does not have the revenue for it, and 3/4 subareas don’t have their contribution which will be long gone by the time a DSTT2 is constructed based on their own underestimated project costs. If ridership is so strong through DSTT1 in a decade or two I am sure the subareas will want to find a funding model for a DSTT2, but I doubt ridership will ever require it. But never trust ST ridership estimates, especially post pandemic.

        The reality for ST and the PSRC and many developers and TOD is population growth will be low, peak ridership will stay depressed, and with work from home and more folks working near where they live we will see less travel across the board, whether cars or transit, which ironically was the “Vision” in the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement to help fight climate change.

      18. Nathan, that list of lines you mooted is exactly what I’ve been advocating for months (admittedly somewhat episodically as “Link threads” appear) and you have been dissing. Now suddenly you’re “for them”?

        You can dislike someone and still recognize the value of their ideas. It’s called “being an adult”.

        And not to put too fine a point on it, but DSTT1 has FOUR stations “between SoDo and Westlake”. I expect that you forgot Stadium.

      19. Daniel, East Link will use DSTT1 mostly because it junctions with the north-south line just south of IDS, and it would be pretty difficult to get it into a different tunnel approach. Since a significant portion of East Link’s rideshed has diret-to-UW express buses, it is the line which least needs access to the U-District. It could go to Ballard by way of SLU as Ross has suggested several times, and few riders would be inconvenienced. East Link only provides “the second line trains” because ST understands that it can’t get to any other tunnel portal for less than a billion.

      20. Thanks for the catch about Stadium – I was thinking about underground stations and when I shifted the south end of my math to SODO, forgot about Stadium.

        It’s also a good reminder that all riders south of SODO are planned to lose their one-seat-ride to Stadium, too.

    2. This all seems really strange to me. Is ST certain that they need another downtown tunnel to increase capacity? If they’re not sure shouldn’t they make sure? If the point of the tunnel is just the new downtown stations then the initially proposed locations seemed too close to the existing stations to be worth it, considering the enormous cost of the new tunnel, and these new proposed locations are even worse. Just seems wild that so much money would be spent on this without a clear understanding of the necessity of a new tunnel. And I’m usually very pro-transit, but something seems off about ST3 and especially this part of it.

      1. I think the main problem is that ST thinks it’s impractical to interline the Ballard Link Extension (BLE) into the existing DSTT, so they’re assuming crossover between CID and SODO. Probably because DSTT is threaded between building foundations along 3rd Ave.

        The only other option is to stub Ballard, but that restricts access to O&M. Lots of folks here want ST to consider alternate tech for Ballard, but there’s no reasonable location for the necessary new O&M base along the route.

      2. While it’s not my preferred technology, there’s no need for an O&M base for things like the cable hauled people movers, as they essentially function as horizontal elevators.

        Of course, considering the recent record of *standard* elevator equipment in your parts, this may not be such a good thing.

      3. There was a study in the early 2010s that downtown’s total north-south transit demand would exceed capacity if nothing was done. That’s both people traveling to/from downtown and within downtown. That’s why RapidRide C and D were split, another half dozen RapidRides on 3rd were proposed, and the second Link tunnel.

        DSTT1 is currently limited to 3-minute frequency. Trains can go at 1.5 minutes (and do after ballgames), but they’re less reliable and prone to train bunching. There was an ST3 candidate project to upgrade DSTT1 so that 2-minute or 1.5 minute trains would be reliable. That would allow ST to add another line to the tunnel; i.e., the Ballard-Tacoma line. But ST chose the other project for ST3 instead: a second tunnel. So when people talk about adding a line to the first tunnel instead of building the second tunnel, this is what they mean. To do the project ST has already said is feasible.

        There would still be the problem of getting from Westlake to SLU now that Convention Place Station is filled in. One alternative would be to simply terminate Ballard at Westlake, and everybody would transfer to the other lines.

      4. I’m not sure a 5-mile cable-drawn people mover is even remotely a reasonable option for BLE.

        I’m also not convinced that the space doesn’t exist to inject BLE somewhere between University and Capitol Hill, but I also understand that it is very hard to find that space. If they decide to “stub” BLE at Westlake or elsewhere, they’d still have to figure out how to get trains to and from the extension while running the main tunnel at 3-minute frequencies. If they can operate a switch to BLE that fast, they could just interline the whole line.

      5. Nathan, a “service connection” at the curve between Third Avenue and Pine Street could be a simple trailing-point turnout connecting to the southbound track.

        Let’s assume a “best-of-all-possible-worlds” solution using automated Skytrain or similar vehicles on the stub. These cars can be equipped with pantographs and a small operator cab for movements over non-automated trackage.

        Stewart crosses Third at an oblique angle, and a junction with the southbound track would be to the west of the midline of Third Avenue.

        Stewart also crosses Westlake at a rather wide oblique angle, so a junction with a new tunnel under Westlake could be provided with proper planning.

        A stub station with platforms at the same track level as DSTT1 would allow one minute transfers to and from the southbound platform on the Spine, and something on the order of four minutes to and from the northbound. That’s not bad.

        With trains of about 250 feet in length, the passing lane at University / Seneca could serve as a combination cross-over / pocket track for trains entering service on the Stub.

        There would also be a cross-over just north of the service track junction with the new tunnel, to get trains over to the northbound track.

        Building a shallow station extension means that the first few blocks to the north of the platform-selection scissors cross-over would not require bellmouth between the tubes.

        Opening up Westlake could be the first step toward making it a pedestrian / transit mall. North of Denny Way station the tunnel would be bored. The station box can be the TBM removal site.

        Such a “service connection” would only be used to bring trains into or remove them from service early and late in the service day when conflicting moves are less frequent OR once in a while to swap a crippled train out for a good one. With automated service, there’s little cost to running frequently throughout the day except power and maintenance.

        Trains entering or leaving service WOULD have to be provided human drivers in order to operate in non-automated territory.

        This would keep all three lines in DSTT1, removing all the problems with breaking the service link between Beacon Hill and ths RV with IDS. That means upgrades to the power, control and air exchange systems between IDS and Northgate. That isn’t “free”, but it’s a lot less than the new tunnel because of the deep stations

        It would also require better reversing capabilities at Northgate, where it makes sense to terminate Tacoma trains. Everett trains would reverse at Forest Street onvthe outer loop or at the Junction if West Seattle is built. Redmond Trains would reverse at Lynnwood.

        All three lines get “the good tunnel”, access to UW and the Med Center and reasonable transfers to Ballard.

      6. Nathan, I meant to include remarks that the curves between Stewart and Third and Stewart and Westlake would be sharp but less sharp than the current heavily used curve at Third and Pine.

      7. Tom, I’m just not sure that ST can safely operate a single-track service connection to the southbound track at Pine/3rd if trains need to be taken in and out of service during the day. There needs to be direct connection to both the northbound and southbound tracks within DSTT to provide even a service connection to a Ballard stub. Also, Ballard is about to be designated an Urban Center like the U-District, which tells me that any construction now should be built to handle high-frequency through-running connections, not a stub.

        OMF-central has direct service connections to both directions. OME-E has direct service connections to East link via two wyes featuring double crossings, which I guess is appropriate for a relatively low-frequency line.

      8. Nathan, the point is that given an automated Skytrain solution there is little reason for trains to be swapped out mid-day. Yes, a parking siding has to be provided in order to reduce operations to mid-day frequencies, but that’s not much of a burden if fenced at-grade along the Interbay Yard is used instead of elevated everywhere.

        Remember that the out-of-direction operation would only be from the facing-point north turnout in the University / Seneca station box to the turnout to the service tunnel at Third and Pine. That’s one reason for shorter trains on the Stub, so that one being dispatched into service can fit in the extended cross-over within the University / Seneca Street station box. Any delay to operations would comprise holding a southbound train at Westlake for at most a minute.

        Trains leaving the Stub would simply wait in the connection track tunnel north of the Third and Pine junction for a southbound train to pass and follow it to the IDS junction or Forest Street, stopping within the tunnel to the north of the stations at which it stopped.

        And even if you insist on a modest MF on the Stub, there is really nothing except the Port of Seattle’s intransigence that is preventing the placement of a storage and cleaning facility in the large, little-used parking lot north of the western end of the Magnolia Bridge. Putting one there would mean that the only use for the single-track service connection would be movement to and from Forest Street for “heavy maintenance”. That could always be scheduled at night unless a train became disabled near Westlake and needed to be “picked” from the south end by a single-car “locomotive” run.

        I grant that utilizing automated Skytrain-style vehicles is a bit of a pipe dream given ST’s dogged “commitment” to LR technology. But nobody complains when Al repeatedly suggests using other technology.

        The bottom line is that there is nowhere between the TBM vault by the freeway just east of the Paramount and Fifth and Jackson where the northbound track can be split without slamming into building foundations along the east side of Third, south side of Pine or west side of Fifth South. Nowhere.

        I think it might barely be possible to divert the northbound track within the TBM vault but damn, the heading of such a connection would be southeast, diametrically opposite to the direction one would like to be headed.

        Yes, making a northbound split immediately north of the northbound IDS platform by opening up the west lane of Fifth Avenue South for a couple of blocks until the track level is deep enough for a TBM vault would work. The existing “tunnel” there is the basement of the two new buildings along the west side of Fifth South. There used to be locomotive stubs for UP and Milwaukee passenger trains extending into an open pit in the block between Fourth and Fifth, Jackson and Main which DSTT1 uses to get to the tunnel portals just north of Washington.

        The buildings above the existing trackway aren’t very tall and already have train tracks in their respective basements so they probably don’t have “tiebacks” under Fifth South. At least such a hope exists. But Wow, a service track from Fifth and Jackson all the way to Westlake and Stewart? To Virginia? To Lenora?

        Grant, it’s just a deep bored tunnel from the Fifth Avenue jog at Yesler north and, so, not ruinously expensive. But it really isn’t needed if a Stub train waiting to run against traffic for the three blocks between the north wall of the station box and a turnout at Pine Street to a connecting tunnel can fit in in a new central track in the bus-passing lane at USSS. It would have a connection to the northbound track right at the tunnel portal at the south wall of the station box and to the southbound track at the north wall of the tunnel box. So it would function as a facing-point single cross-over, but it would have a long enough straight section that a train could wait in it without fouling operations in either direction on the revenue tracks.

        According to Wikipedia, the platforms are 380 feet long in the DSTT1 stations. With number 6 turnouts — those are about as short as one would want because of wheel squeal within the station — the distance to clear separation is 56 feet, and there would be two required making the transitions to the center track 120 feet in total length. That means that trains on the Stub could be 260 feet long, easily accommodating four Innovia Skytrain car trains totaling about 240 feet.

        That seems sufficient for the likely loads north of the LQA station. Assuming automated operation at every three minutes, one would have 60 cars per hour on the line. Each Innovia car holds about 130 people standing and sitting, so that would be 7800 pph. The good thing about The Stub is that people coming from Ballard to downtown and points to the north or south along The Spine are going the opposite direction of those headed from The Spine to SLU. Between LQA and Westlake trains would be well-used in both directions at the peak.

        With 240 foot trains the planned underground stations on the stub (“New” Westlake, Denny, SLU, and LQA could each be roughly 2/3 the cost of 380 foot “standard” Link stations so BLE could afford the expense of a central Ballard underground station.

        This proposal checks ALL the boxes, except of course people from Ballard traveling farther south in Downtown have to transfer. But, they get the “immediate” transfer in the “to work” direction when it matters for that 8 AM stand-up meeting.

      9. Tom, what happens when Ballard grows to the same density as U-District, and as many folks want to get from Ballard to LQA and south as current folks getting from U-District to Capitol Hill, Belltown, or Downtown?

        “Build it right the first time” should be the name of the game. ST needs to prove it can’t interline BLE with DSTT1 before continuing much further with DSTT2, and even then it needs to put out more and better information on why it can’t get closer to the bottom of Westlake, why it needs Midtown to be 100+ ft deep, and why CID/PSQ needs to be 85 ft deep.

        I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest ST adopt an operationally distinct technology for a line that’s, as approved by voters, is supposed to intertwine with the rest of the network. ST is relying on WSLE and BLE to split the spine in half so they don’t have to double-chair the trains.

        I’m also not sure how reasonable it is to suggest that ST convert to driverless technology while it has grade crossings in Rainier Valley and Bellevue. If there ever is an ST4, it should include grade-separation of Rainier Valley and Bellevue, and a transition to driverless tech at that time. Until then, it’s important to operate within arms reach of the overton window of reality, a reality which includes a regional transit authority with apparently chronologically-unlimited funding controlled by a Board which has no longer has any real opponents threatening to take their seats or their funding.

      10. Damn, Nathan, I did not suggest that “the Rainier Valley” convert to driverless technology. I said that The Stub could be that. And of course it doesn’t have to be driverless, but making it so with shorter but more frequent automated trains makes the whole thing cheaper to build, cheaper to operate, and more convenient to ride.

        But OK then, build it with standard Link technology and two-car trains. Ballard is never going to have the trip attractions that the U-District does so it certainly won’t need four-car lashups. Even if it becomes a much more populous neighborhood (great!), its trips will always be primarily outbound in the morning and inbound in the evening. The U-District will forever be more balanced between orginations and destinations at both peaks.

        “Build It Right the First Time” is a generally good rule of thumb. I heartily agree. But it also can serve as an excuse to do nothing which it may end up being in this case, the ONLY ST3 line worth building. In any case, ST does not need to “prove” that it can’t interline DSTT1 to Ballard, because people from varying professions and organizations proposed it for a decade before ST gave up and proposed DSTT2. You can’t “prove” a negative, but the facts are clear:

        1) DSTT1 is simply not deep enough to avoid the foundations of the buildings facing it. Where is the diversion tunnel going to go? There is a forest of foundations of buildings facing the east side of Third and the west side of Fourth north of University / Seneca Street. Unfortunately, perhaps, you can’t sacrifice Ballard train access to U/SSS and dive to wiggle over to the Fourth Avenue ROW anywhere south of there because “Oopsie, there’s that BNSF tunnel a bit less than a block to your right.”

        2) Then you have the difficulty of creating a junction in a bored tube with compression rings. Yes, they can be disassembled from the top down and the trackway exposed. But that has to be done within a vault and ST is going to want to keep the trains running through that tube as it’s disassembled. So, you’d need a big new vault as close to U/SSS as possible so that it can dive to pass under The Spine’s tracks at Pine Street.

        3) The north wall of U/SSS is about a half block south of Union, and the box for the wide and sumptuous Westlake Center Station box protrudes about 1/3 of the way into the block south of Pine, so that leaves about two blocks or about 480 feet from the turnout frog where the dive can start to drop twenty-five feet for the underrun. That’s not an extreme grade — one in twenty — but it’s steep enough for riders to notice.

        4) Diverting on Pine Street is hard because the south retaining walls in the cut-and-cover Pine Street tunnel are load-bearing, and you end up going exactly the wrong way again.

        TANSTAAFL on Interlining Ballard.

      11. Tom, I didn’t intend to suggest that you suggested that the whole system be driverless; I was building off my supposition that it seems unreasonable to have ST operate a fourth (but distinctly, operationally, unique) mode of operations (driverless trains) to build a stub from Ballard to Westlake that, if built as such, will be disconnected from the rest of the system for at least half a century.

        I don’t have much more to say about a Stubbed BLE – I think it’d be better to build DSTT2 with no stations at all (or the single proposed PSQ station) than to build a permanent transfer for a ride to Ballard. As of the DEIS (§, the various alternatives proposed for the 8-mile BLE between SODO and Market ranged in cost between a low of $8.7B and a high of $10.1B. Deleting the section of DSTT2 south of Westlake would save maybe 20-30% of the overall project cost, since the CID segment is estimated between $1.2-1.8B and the DSTT2 ($4.7-5.0B) is ~80% north of Westlake. Frankly, combining the costs for the Midtown Station and the CID station into one PSQ station (saving around $2B, likely) may be the savings needed to make the project “affordable” on the original timeline, while maintaining the original network arrangement. The only “trick” will be convincing “1 Line” riders south of SODO that the transfer at SODO will be as negligible on their way to stops on 3rd.

      12. Well, the transfer at SoDo won’t be as seamless as one in the core, because the line they’ll be forced onto is the lousiest one in the system with almost no “internally generated ridership” [i.e. those who board at the three West Seattle stations] and therefore will offer only skeleton service.

        So is ST actually proposing to delete both “New IDS” [or “CID” a name I cannot stomach because it’s a mile to the Central District from the station…] and Midtown????? Well that would certainly save a lot of money, wouldn’t it? So Line 1 riders can “Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail” or they can go shopping? I guess Daniel is right; they are being racially profiled.

        Look, a Stub to Ballard is the West Coast version of the NYCTA 7 Line, which dead ends at Times Square from da Bronx. As long as there are frequent trains to take people “farther down the island” — and there would be — everyone is happy.

        I said “put a pair of wings on the tunnel” between Denny Way and New Westlake and even “include the turnouts but spike them closed for the ‘through’ direction” so if a new tunnel IS needed sometime in the future, it’s ready to connect up. Maybe people in the future will see the value in serving First Hill instead of cloning the Third Avenue tunnel two blocks away. With automated trains you could continue to run the Stub trains and interweave them with ones to First Hill.

        There almost certainly won’t be enough money raised over the ST bonding cycle to build through downtown AND get to Ballard, much less Ballard and West Seattle. Rather than betting the farm on those office towers filling back up, spend the money getting people through the obstacles between downtown Ballard and downtown Seattle quickly and efficiently.

        P.S. An analysis of station-pair travel patterns is needed here. I expect that the U-District (writ large) is much more popular destination for folks in the Rainier Valley than SLU, LQA and Ballard all together.

      13. The line they’ll be transferring to is WS-Everett, which will run just as often as the line they’re transferring from.

        I did not intend to suggest that ST has proposed deleting both of the underground stations proposed in the “representative” DSTT2 (CID & Midtown); they are proposing to consolidate them into one PSQ line. I was simply musing that it would be relatively cheap to just bore straight to SODO if that’s the only difference between a Stubbed BLE and a connected one.

        The NY MTA 7 line has stations connecting to almost every other line in the subway system before ending at Hudson Yards. A stubbed BLE is more akin to a miniature version of Sounder North that happens to actually go through interesting places.

        Finally, I don’t know where all the “ST has no money” assumptions are coming from. As of the 2023 Long-Range Financial Plan (pub. October 2022), N. King is expected to generate ~$55B between 2017 and 2041. ~$20B is planned for capital projects, which encompasses the current cost estimates for WSLE and BLE (which are now being treated as two separate projects in the 2023 Financial Plan).

        For reference, in 2021, WSBLE was estimated to cost $13.8B on the “affordable” schedule (completed 2039). In 2022, WSLE and BLE are finally split, with WSLE estimated at $3.8B, and BLE estimated at $10.8B, for a total of $14.6B.

        PS: There is currently no single-seat ride between Ballard and South Seattle, and transit travel times are long (close to an hour to take the D from Market to 3rd to Mount Baker and beyond). I’m not sure there is much station-pair travel pattern analysis that can be fairly done with the existing network.

      14. We’re both right. NYCTA (“New York City Transit Authority”) is [still] a municipal corporation “owned” (or technically really “controlled”) by the MTA (“Metropolitan Transit Authority”), which is a New York State municipal corporation. It’s certainly true that the trains carry the MTA logo and name, though, and the state shoulders some of the burdens of funding the subway and buses. (

        I went to school for one year back in the 1960’s in upstate New York and visited NYC twice during it, so I still think of it as “nick-ta”.

        So far as the 7 connecting to all the north-south lines, yes, it does, and that gives riders from the Bronx the opportunity to go anywhere on the island without much of an east-west walk. But The Stub would connect with every other ST line, too, because they’d all be in the original tunnel.

        Regardless whether we like Daniel’s hostility toward transit riders, he has a point! While it’s true that downtown Seattle is still largely “rented” it’s not occupied! Those expensive but largely useless leases will end, and most won’t be renewed.

        Many of the second-tier buildings will be remodeled into housing over the next decade or so. It’s not cheap to do but the views are spectacular and even in the second tier the buildings cost hundreds of millions of “other peoples’ money” dollars to build. The underground parking garages most have for executives will match nicely with the demand for residential parking, because far fewer people will live on the 38th floor than worked there in 2019.

        The buildings will not be torn down, nor will they become derelicts absent a nuclear exchange.

        So there will be plenty of “action” downtown, and a few of the ground floors of those buildings will sprout super-markets like in the Pearl District in Portland. The people in the buildings won’t be driving to work; the ones who can’t “WFH” will mostly be walking to work in the first-tier buildings or riding the train to the University District or even Bellevue.

        The point of this narrative is that there won’t be that many people wanting to come downtown at the rush hour! I expect that there will be an ever-increasing demand for all-day transit along the Link lines. ST won’t have to worry about Dan’s favorite bugagoo: “farebox recovery”. But it also won’t have to squeeze 30 trains per hour (each direction) through the tunnel as they originally feared. Maybe 24 tph (2.5 minute headways) at the evening peak which is always larger, but never any more than that.

        And if I’m wrong about that, THEN dig the second tunnel for Ballard. There will be PLENTY of North King revenues to fade it. And put in more stations. If there is sufficient demand for trips to and through the CBD to force a new tunnel even when DSTT1 is running 2.5 minute headways, there will be tax revenues generated from the businesses and residents living there sufficient to pay for a better design.

    3. [Replying to Western] – Yeah I don’t get it because the value of additional capacity ‘through’ downtown in wrapped up in the need to handle the peak-of-peak trips for riders transferring to Sounder. Pre-COVID, Link’s period of maximum crowding matched with riders transferring to the after-work Sounder runs 5~6pm. Even if post-COVID ridership is less peak-y, there will still be a maximum peak at ~5.30 pm corresponding to a fully loaded 10-car Sounder train. Will be odd to have the DSTT2 not positioned to serve this traffic.

      This would be more clear if they branded the CID station as the “DSTT2 King Station intermodal hub station.” The fact that the station was within the historical International District was helpful wayfinding but otherwise irrelevant.

      If the transfer to Sounder/Amtrak are ignored, Pioneer Square is just find; should have adequate transfers to DSTT1, will have a superior walkshed to the ID station location, and perhaps better bus transfer opportunities. If this station allows for the city to close off an entire block for years for construction (just like at U District), worth hundreds of millions of avoided construction costs, perhaps that is worth the missed transfer to the most important intermodal hub in the state.

      1. I am curious at the actual proposed footprint of the depicted cross-section of the DSTT2 PSQ station – it seems to straddle between City Hall and the KC Admin Building, but it’s not obvious. Where’d the station entrances go? Would they eminent-domain the Civic Center lot? Would they partner with King County to redevelop the much-maligned admin building? Lots of opportunities there.

      2. In the annals of “better to be lucky than good,” it would be ironic if the civic center block was still a hole in the ground and ST could simply sign a multi-year lease from the owners to use it as construction staging.

      3. @TT,

        There is no “mode neutrality” in the tunnel, whatever that means.

        There is no access for rubber tired vehicles on the north end. None.. That end has been completely sealed off by the loss of Convention Place Station and the construction of the new Convention Center extension.

        And there is no access on the south end either. The roadbed has been torn out in multiple places to install tracks, and even if the roadbed was reinstalled it wouldn’t solve the problem at the north end. Done is done.

        As far as Pine not being a major street/arterial, take it up with Metro. Metro was the one who got the original pedestrian zone ripped out because they claimed Pine was absolutely critical to city transportation and their bus routes.

        I tend to think Metro was wrong, but that is just so much water under the bridge.

    4. It’s discriminatory to disconnect direct service to the CID from SE Seattle. Both areas are highly Asian. Forcing a bad transfer is probably worse than moving the stop much deeper and further from the CID.

      1. “Sure, except that it’s Asians in the CID who are pushing for no new CID station.”

        I think Al’s point was riders from South Seattle should get to use DSTT1 if there is a DSTT2, and West Seattle riders should use DSTT2 if there is one. I am pretty sure Al agrees with many of us that any DSTT2 is a bad decision.

        I agree with Al. Every design I have seen so far for DSTT2 (even though not affordable by the subarea) is much worse than DSTT1.

        Considering S. King Co. and Pierce Co. are contributing precious ST revenue to any DSTT2 they should have priority in DSTT1 since it will have better frequency with East Link and the designs for DSTT2 are so bad. Plus I agree with Al that equity supports having disadvantaged neighborhoods that got surface lines that are often not grade separated get the better tunnel, especially since north Seattle is 100% underground and will have half the frequency with East Link through DSTT1.

        You don’t have to be a genius to look at which tunnel East Link trains will double frequency in for Seattle neighborhoods north of the CID to figure out which tunnel is the better. I can guarantee you that the eastside subarea would not agree to use DSTT2 based on the designs I have seen.

      2. Daniel, what difference does “double the frequency” mean to riders to or from a site outside the IDS to Lynnwood overlapped section? Sure, it’s great for trips entirely within the two-lines region, but irrelevant to someone boarding or alighting outside of the overlap. They have to wait for the proper train.

        DSTT1 has lots of stations and they’re (relatively) shallow, so you’re right that the old tunnel is better than any of the current options for DSTT2. But train frequency is the same for folks in South King, Pierce and the RV — actually, perhaps a little better — than that for Redmond or West Seattle.

        You seem SO dead set against ANY rapid transit west of The Spine that you won’t even consider a stub for Ballard.

        I don’t understand that. It lowers costs significantly, perhaps even enough to meet the original estimates. It allows short “level” transfers, at least in one direction, and fairly quick ones in the other. It potentially allows almost complete automation, reducing future operating costs. It allows a shallower Denny Way station, likely one of the best in the system.

        It keeps all three lines in the existing tunnel, preserving the connection between the RV and airport with the University and the north end.

        And if someday downtown Seattle is able to fill its office towers once again, the cut and cover section between Denny Way and the stub platforms at New Westlake can have connections punched through a couple of demisable panels in the side walls for new tubes to connect. Heck, since c’n’c is so flexible, make “wings” for the diversions just south of Denny when it’s being dug and include the turnouts, but spike them to the “through” position.

        So why aren’t you cheering for a stub solution? Please be honest.

      3. That is extremely simplistic. At the last sound transit meeting, 3 different residents of the CID, all of Asian descent, presented 3 different desires, two of which 2 wanted a station in the CID, one on 4th and one on 5th, IIRC.

        Asians are not a monolith. Just because the most well-connected politically express a view, doesn’t make it a majority view.

      4. “You seem SO dead set against ANY rapid transit west of The Spine that you won’t even consider a stub for Ballard.”

        Tom, I am not dead set against ANY “rapid” transit west of The Spine. It isn’t my subarea. But it doesn’t sound like Nathan it too thrilled with the idea of a Ballard stub and I believe he lives there and commutes on transit daily, although I don’t think ST has proposed one. I also don’t quite see the benefit of a stub for WSBLE. If you want a stub for Ballard fine by me. Or new technology. Or buses. If my subarea is not paying for it the wisdom of the design and its dollar per rider mile are not my problem. I know East Link will access DSTT1. Around 2026.

        ST’s job is to be honest with the subarea and stakeholders about WHAT N. King Co. can afford and what it will cost. Then the stakeholders have to be honest with themselves about what rapid transit will look like in their community. That is what a DEIS is suppose to be about, except ST will not be honest about ST revenue in N. King Co. and project costs, and keeps leading everyone on with the dreams of a ST 4 or federal funds or SB5528 levy (“third party revenue”).

        In a perfect world Seattle Subway would have the revenue for its endless tunnels. I think Nathan’s response to your idea about a stub (and earlier idea about drinking the bitter ale of surface lines and stations in Ballard and West Seattle) is what happens when ST promises everyone the moon to sell ST 3, and runs Link 60 blocks underground from UW to Northgate. I know Seattle very well, and Roosevelt and UW are not Ballard or West Seattle. If I lived in either I would oppose surface lines and stations, or stubs.

        I don’t think however that four other subareas should pay 1/2 of a second very expensive tunnel through downtown Seattle that so far has just awful designs when their budgets for very modest projects are so stressed just to meet political demands in Seattle when they don’t need a second tunnel for their capacity, and IIRC all of King Co. paid for DSTT1 (plus the feds). DSTT1 does not belong to Seattle.

        Design whatever rapid transit you want for “west” of the spine (although I think DSTT2 is east of DSTT1), fund it, and sell it to the stakeholders including CID, Ballard and West Seattle and the very litigious Queen Anne and I will support you all the way.

        I kind of agree with Nathan on this one. Why not interline WSBLE in DSTT1 and use the money for the underground stations and tunnels in Ballard and West Seattle if the revenue can cover that. I don’t get the whole idea of a stub when that is the end of the revenue.

      5. After rereading TT’s post I want to clarify that what I said is I oppose DSTT2, mainly because of cost and the capacity is not needed IMO, and it does sound like TT is talking about interlining all 3 lines which I have always advocated with a stub at Westlake. If the subarea has the money for that, even with stubs at Westlake and I guess Sodo, that probably is the most likely solution, although ST is not talking about it, and I am sure N. King Co. doesn’t want to lose the funding from the four other subareas for a second tunnel although I think ST needs to get realistic about the chances of actually getting the contribution from turnips. N. King Co. would probably have a better chance asking for a smaller contribution to cover the cost of interlining the lines, although it isn’t necessary without WSBLE.

        At this point ST is so far back on its heels on the DEIS for WSLBE it makes me think they are starting to see reality, and may be willing to rethink the whole project.

      6. Thank you for the self-correction, Daniel. But, c’mon, the “funding from the other subareas” is trivial compared to what’s needed even just for “BLE” with no “WSLE” at all. The four greedy “Progressives” from Seattle whom you seem to think have some sort of Mind Domination over the other nine members of the Board don’t give a rip about the other Subareas’ $1 billion in the absence of a tunnel. They’d save a billion two hundred mill from North King’s contribution without it!

        And I do not advocate for a “stub at SoDo I guess”. IF West Seattle were built — and the topological constraints are hideous so the cost is prohibitive — then the West Seattle trains should run to whatever is the eventual northern terminus for the line. It’s by far the best “other end” for an Everett line.

      7. You know Tom, I just don’t know the solution. With ST you just never know how much money there really is, or what a project is going to cost. The stakeholders need to figure that out.

        With WSBLE you have powerful stakeholders, the KC Exec lives in WS, downtown, tons of equity factors, lots of water to cross, every stakeholder seems to have a good publicist, not enough money according to ST, and probably the two top tier non-privileged neighborhoods in the city with lots of political juice who are not going to accept the leftovers, a litigious Queen Anne is the shadows, Amazon, deep tunnels under skyscrapers…it’s like Game of Thrones. Transit on the Eastside is pretty boring in comparison. We were told, again, East Link won’t open for 3-4 years and most asked what is East Link, and where will it open.

        I do know East Link will use DSTT1 because we have the extra trains. My subarea doesn’t have anything exciting Link wise for several years — not even revenue — and how excited can you get over ST express buses — so I guess I just have to offer unsolicited advice to N. King Co. they don’t care about.

      8. Well said, Daniel. ST is probably going to charge ahead and end up with a tunnel between the Courthouse to the Gates Foundation where they’ll run out of money for two decades. It will be a case study in long access times.

        However, in defense of “long accesses” my wife and I went to Atlanta and the Southeast mid-October to mid-November and as part of it we rented a car downtown to save money versus the airport. We rode MARTA to the Peachtree Center station to pick up the car, and it was AMAZING. It’s very deep and is apparently is in some really solid basalt, because they didn’t have a wall on the side of the station away from the platform! We were looking at a fricking MINE wall, and it was high! The escalator wasn’t QUITE as long as the one at Woodley Park on WMATA, but still a long, stately ride.

        So there’s the “Wow!” factor for the first few visits to a deep station, but it’s eventually replaced by “WTF were they thinking!?!?!”

      9. tbf to MARTA, it’s likely a case of where can you feasibly bore tunnels. Not many cities after the first generation meteos like Paris had the luxury to build relatively shallow tunnels and stations. And having to deal with geology of rocks, building foundations, utility & power lines among other variables that lie underneath add layers of complexity to a project.

      10. Zach, you bet. I understand that deep stations are …. “convenient” … because they under-run the veins and sinews of the cityscape. Atlanta is a hilly place so to keep grades reasonable I think they have to dig some pretty deep stations.

      11. The reason recent tunnels are mined is objections to the temporary construction disruption when DSTT1 was built. People treat a new transit line as a negative impact rather than a major opportunity. That’s one of the differences between the US and the rest of the world.

      12. @Mike Orr,

        The DSLRT was mined, sort of. They used 2 TBM’s, but I believe they were shield type and not EPB type TBM’s. So they had some issues with subsidence that caused disruption on the surface. After that, every time they hit a pocket of sand they would jet grout from the surface. So even more surface disruption.

        Additionally, Metro decided to go with a center breakdown lane, which increased the size of the station boxes, moved the boxes closer to the buildings, and made utility relocation more difficult. So even more surface disruption!

        And to make matters worse, Metro decided to cut-and-cover from Westlake Station to Convention Station, which was a total disaster.

        If Metro taught us one thing with the “Bus Tunnel” fiasco, it was don’t do cut-and-cover. No, No, NO!!!!

        But with modern EPB TBM tech, smaller center platform stations, and no cut-and-cover, a modern replacement to the “bus tunnel” should be less intrusive to build.

        And it probably wouldn’t be 50% over budget either!

      13. Lazarus, for an advocate for proper nomenclature like yourself to refer to the existing tunnel as “the DSLRT” is shocking. Simply shocking. It was born as “The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel”, and that remains its name to this day. It was conceived with mode neutrality in mind and has hewed to its mission ever since.

        We here at STB have hung the moniker “DSTT1” on it to contrast it to the proposed new tunnel (“DSTT2”) for clarity.

        The reason that “Metro” decided to “cut and cover Pine Street” is that the three blocks from Third to Sixth were going to be opened up for the very large and beautiful Westlake Center Station, and it’s only three more blocks to Ninth where the ramp to Convention Place veered left. Why engage a TBM for three blocks (twice)? It didn’t make sense; it wasn’t some kind of ideological thing.

      14. @TT,

        I’m fully aware of the term DSTT for the old “bus tunnel”, but I prefer to use the more accurate moniker DSLRT to emphasis that the old “bus tunnel” has been reborn as a light rail only tunnel with higher reliability and more efficient operations. And as you well know, there is no “mode neutrality” in the tunnel, there is only Light Rail.

        ST has only had an agreement to own the tunnel since October. I’m pretty sure they will change a bunch of signage, including that annoying “Metro Tunnel” sign at the ped entrance near the art museum, but whether or not they officially rename it is not important right now. With the state of the systems ST is inheriting from Metro, I think ST has more important things to worry about than names.

        As per Metro’s decision to cut-and-cover from Westlake Station to Convention Station, it had more to do with the design of Convention Station. That station was always planned as a layover station with a huge footprint. Additionally it had access to I-5. So the lower cost Convention Station design was relatively shallow with simpler access ramps.

        But a simpler, cheaper Convention Station would mean a shallower tunnel between Westlake and Convention Stations. As TBM’s don’t normally like to run shallow, the preferred method for this stretch of tunnel became the more expensive cut-and-cover method.

        Essentially Metro picked a cheap Convention Station paired with a more expensive cut-and-cover tunnel over a deeper, more expensive station and a cheaper TBM tunnel. And part of that decision was to just tell the retailers to pound sand during construction between West Lake and Convention Place.

        Of course the joke ended up being on Metro. Things got so bad in the cut-and-cover section during construction that the retailers revolted and told Metro to pound sand. At one point they forced Metro to temporarily restore the street just so they could make it through the holiday shopping season, after which Metro had to rip the street up again to install upgraded utilities and a permanent street surface.

        And don’t even get me going on South African granite. How Metro thought they could slip that one by the entire region is beyond me.

      15. Actually, there is still mode neutrality, because there is a roadway in which the tracks are buried.

        So far as the retailers’ revolt, I was living in Alaska at the time Pine Street was dug, so I’ll have to concede your description of the process. Since I lived in San Francisco during several years of the BART tunnel construction, I’m familiar with the use of decking to keep streets open while cut and cover subways are built, so I expected that it was used in Seattle. That it appears not to have been, is certainly surprising. Were Westlake cut and covered south of Denny in order to get two shallow stations, i would expect it to be decked.

        Is it ideal? Of course not, but the street isn’t a critical arterial south of Denny and grossly complicates the street grid, so periodic closures to open, deck, and reestablish a smaller, transit / pedestrian-only street seem worthwhile.

  22. RossB: “It goes back to that 2002 Harvard Study ( To quote from the introduction: This paper argues that in much of America the price of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction. The price of housing is significantly higher than construction costs only in a limited number of areas, such as California and some eastern cities. In those areas, we argue that high prices have little to do with conventional models with a free market for land. Instead, our evidence suggests that zoning and other land use controls play the dominant role in making housing expensive.”

    That changed around 2018 or 2020. I don’t remember if it was before or after the pandemic started. It used to be that only the large coastal cities had this price premium. San Francisco and San Jose got it in the 1990s. Seattle got it in 2003, accelerating in 2012. Most of the rest of the country was unaffected. But around 2018 or 2020 the rest of the country reached a tipping point, and now it’s happening almost everywhere. Housing prices are rising faster than local wages, making more people cost-burdened. It used to be that you could move to a small or medium-sized non-coastal city to avoid that, but now it’s happening there too, and in rural areas like Mt Vernon. Only a few depressed cities with no jobs better than Walmart or McDonald’s are exceptions, and most people feel they can’t live there because there are no jobs. Even if you can move from Seattle to a lower-cost city, you’re displacing somebody who grew up there and can’t afford the increasing prices.

    1. NVIDIA Corporation (best known for their graphics cards, but also has a self-driving division), Waymo (owned by Google), and Zoox (owned by Amazon), are each “self-certified” to operate self-driving cars in Washington State.

      In November, Seattle launched an “Autonomous Vehicle Testing” Street Use Permit which is required before self-driving cars can be tested on Seattle streets.

      I am doubtful any companies have obtained this permit already, since SDOT typically takes several months to approve even simple Minor Utility Permits.

      1. Since at least 2016 Bellevue has wanted to be a leading city in the U.S. on this technology, both for the jobs and to use the technology. So I am not surprised that self driving cars are being tested in Bellevue, especially with Amazon having such a huge presence and Bellevue wanting more Seattle Amazon workers to shift to Bellevue.

        Bellevue is more interested in self driving electric shuttles which it sees as the future due to low cost, using existing road infrastructure, and flexible routing. Compared to a street car on rails it is a much smarter and economical solution. Easy to replace shuttles as new models are rolled out and low maintenance.

        At my daughter’s college they are going to parking garages that have machines that park your car for you. The driver just gets out and takes a ticket. She likes them because it is like valet parking and she doesn’t have to enter an underground parking garage, and the parking garage owners like the technology because spacing isn’t required to open a door, they don’t need staff to park cars, and the technology automatically uses the right stall so there is much more parking capacity per GFA. And to boot your EV will be charged while it is parked if desired.

  23. Downtown is thinking about 3rd Ave:
    One suggestion is a transit shuttle. On Twitter people suggested a streetcar instead, but a streetcar would still have to wait or cross traffic. How about an elevated APM?
    Of course we could also just run automated trains at really high frequency between Ballard, SLU, and Pioneer Sq and solve both the Ballard and downtown shuttle issue. It would certainly tie SLU and downtown much better together.
    Transfer between buses and this train is key. May be the train could come to ground level for cross platform transfers at Pioneer Sq.

    1. For a 3rd Ave. that already has buses every 20-60 seconds, adding yet another shuttle to the mix that operates only downtown doesn’t make any sense, and whether this “shuttle” runs on rubber tires or rails doesn’t matter. We also have Link in the tunnel underneath 3rd Ave. for those that prefer the train option.

      For now, I think 3rd Ave. should mostly remain as it is, albeit, of course, with a beefed up police presence. If, at some point, the number of buses going downtown decreases dramatically, you can talk about narrowing it and widening the sidewalk, but right now, even with 3rd being nearly bus only, we really do need all 4 lanes so that buses can pass each other at bus stops.

      1. Asdf2, the key to 3rd Ave. is what is possible.

        I agree an increased police presence is what a normal city Council would suggest. But the SPD is down 30% in police officers and detectives, the police are totally dispirited, and the likelihood anyone will be prosecuted is remote. Another 200 officers are expected to retire next year. Harrell asked for funding to offer financial incentives to hire 200 police rookies but the council balked, and a young police recruit doesn’t want to work in Seattle. The council got its wish: Seattle police were defunded.

        Anyone thinking retail vibrancy can be restored on 3rd Ave. is smoking crack. I worked on 3rd for 32 years. The loss of the work commuter is crushing 4th and 5th Ave. Westlake and Pioneer Square are losing retail rapidly. 3rd Ave. is a lost cause, and that began well before the pandemic.

        I agree the best course of action at this time is do nothing. Sacrifice 3rd as a bus mall, and hope something can be done to save retail vibrancy on 4th and 5th.

        I have said this many times: retail vibrancy is a fickle thing. Why U Village thrives and The Ave, dies has many different reasons. But asking or expecting shoppers and diners to patronize an area they perceive as unsafe is stupid, especially when there are so many better and safe options with free parking. If women won’t visit and shop in an area it will die retail wise.

      2. I honestly feel like chasing retail “vibrancy” (ugh, talk about a hollow buzzword) is a fool’s errand. In every past downtown Seattle heyday I can remember, it has been commercial concerns and prosperity that have driven the upswing, not retail ones. The people have always been at Westlake, but the monetary engine has always been blocks south of there.

      3. You are right A Joy: it has been commercial businesses and construction that are the reason downtown generated 2/3 of Seattle’s tax revenue. Retail vibrancy and density are only relevant if you want to make streets safe and urbanism bearable.

        Many U.S. cities have hollowed out because the commuter worker went home at 5, and Seattle’s commercial core was a windswept concrete desert even pre-pandemic.

        Some hope converting these empty office towers into housing might revitalize downtown Seattle, but the catch-22 is who wants to live in an urban tower when the streets and storefronts are empty. I have lived in many urban areas around the world and even though I had little money it was the street vibrancy and retail vibrancy — whether a store or a pub — that made the effort of living in a very crowded urban area fun.

        Without retail vibrancy you get 3rd Ave. I don’t think that is a good look for a city that was once considered a rising superstar. I doubt 3rd can be saved, and worry about 4th to 6th.

        If retail in downtown Seattle fails it won’t be the end of the world, there are many other areas to shop and dine, but there was a time when downtown Seattle had a certain sophistication and vibe the suburbs and exurbs don’t, and those of us who live in suburbia miss that.

      4. And there’s the difference between us. I have no problem with 3rd. I didn’t have a problem when the “scary” part of town was between Pike Place and Westlake. I didn’t have a problem with downtown Seattle after 5 pm, at any point in time. In fact, I find the latter to be more liveable than downtown between 9 and 5.

        And you’re still chasing retail “vibrancy”, which is part of the problem. One, you admit that it isn’t the downtown money generator. So why are you so concerned about it? Two, vibrancy is subjective to the point of being meaningless. What objective measure are you even talking about? Every restaurant I enjoy eating at, including ones on or near 3rd (gasp! Swoon!) are still open. The grocery stores are still there. The retail is still there. Where is this apocalyptic wasteland that is has destroyed Seattle’s vibe?

        I’m pushing 50 years in the Seattle region now. The city feels no different to me than it did in any other decade I have been alive. Common folk v. moneyed interests still rules politics. The homeless are still swept under the rug. The tourists are pandered to while the rest of us are just trying to live. And there’s nothing to fear when it comes to walking down the street.

      5. “Many U.S. cities have hollowed out because the commuter worker went home at 5”

        Many U.S. cities downtowns have hollowed out because of single-use zoning. Offices are segregated in their own district; there are no residents or retail intermixed to generate evening and weekend use. The restaurants that exist close at 3pm, so they’re impossible to use for dinner or weekends.

        Downtown Seattle fared better than most because it retained a higher percentage of the region’s jobs. Apartments are intermixed mostly north of Pike Street. Between Pike and Yesler it’s an office ghetto. People don’t go there because there’s little to go to besides the library and art museum. That’s starting to change with the apartments on 1st and the recent Madison building, but all the other office buildings will have to be rebuilt before they get full-time use.

      6. “I agree an increased police presence is what a normal city Council would suggest. But the SPD is down 30% in police officers and detectives,”

        3rd & Pike-Pine has an all-day police presence every day now, in spite of spite of any officer shortage. I don’t know about Pioneer Square.

        My friend in north Lynnwood said she saw two officers confront drug users, and while they didn’t arrest them they made them put the drugs on the ground and smash them with their feet. She asked the officers why they didn’t arrest them, and the officers said they couldn’t because posession is legal now or something. I didn’t understand that.

        I have seen people lighting up at the 131/132 southbound stop and police officers right there not doing anything apparently. But a couple minutes latter when I got on the bus I glimpsed that the miscreants were gone, so the police did something. They seem to wait until a strategic moment.

      7. A Joy, it is the City of Seattle that via embarking on a major effort to revitalize 3rd Ave., not me. Our firm simply chose to move out of the area.

        It is a mistake to assume your individual view or risk tolerance is right for everyone, or is the norm. You are not the norm.

        Retail and restaurant vibrancy provide a lot of jobs and small urban businesses a chance to make a living in an urban area,, and most folks have to work to survive. The “moneyed interests” don’t wait tables or run art galleries. It is that ideological animosity that is a big part of the problem.

        Retail vibrancy and density (although you need the latter for the former) is important today for three reasons:

        1. It is the canary in the coal mine.

        2. WFH and the deteriorating conditions in downtown Seattle (including commercial construction and development) that turn off others if not you are gutting tax revenue, and so sales tax and tourism become more important unless you want deep spending cuts.

        3. For cities like Seattle the future looks to be luring housing back which is a big part of retail vibrancy in cities like NY, especially in those tall empty office towers. Most people are not interested in the hassles and tradeoffs of urban living with street and retail vibrancy, and the businesses can’t survive without customers.

        I have lived or worked in Seattle 63 years. I remember the grim period between 1970 to 1990 that led to the creation of the suburbs. I remember Norm Rice saving Westlake in the early 1990’s. I remember the heady growth from the early 2000’s to around 2016.

        I can certainly live with a dying Seattle, and to be honest Seattle’s budgets could use cuts and efficiencies (except for bridges and police). Today there are much better places to live, shop and dine, which is a shame.

      8. “A Joy, it is the City of Seattle that via embarking on a major effort to revitalize 3rd Ave., not me.”

        Well yes. In the entire past 45+ years, groups like the DSA have not stopped crying out about crime and business hostile regulation. Again, this is just the moneyed interests vs. the common folk. The moneyed interests are winning, and City Hall is bowing to them.

        “It is a mistake to assume your individual view or risk tolerance is right for everyone, or is the norm. You are not the norm.”

        Neither are you. But I would put money on me being closer to the norm than you. My specific subset of Seattle culture spans 4 generations now, and we seem to be in mutual agreement on the subject. And we are youth heavy, so we are the future as well.

        “Retail vibrancy and density (although you need the latter for the former) is important today for three reasons:

        1. It is the canary in the coal mine.”

        How/why? If commerce makes the money, how is it possible for retail “vibrancy” (again you refuse to use any objective metric here) to even be a canary in the coal mine?

        “2. WFH and the deteriorating conditions in downtown Seattle (including commercial construction and development) that turn off others if not you are gutting tax revenue, and so sales tax and tourism become more important unless you want deep spending cuts.”

        WFH I will give you, especially as it is now morphing into Work From Anywhere. But what concrete evidence is there that downtown Seattle has deteriorating conditions? You make grand claims and sweeping generalities. But where is the proof?

        “Today there are much better places to live, shop and dine, which is a shame.”

        In the case of dining, that has almost always been the case. I can get better pho in Othello than anywhere in the CID. There’s better dim sum in Renton than Bellevue or Seattle. When it comes to favorite restaurants by type of food, the only one I have in downtown is Thai (Brazilian comes a close second in Belltown). Indian? Northgate. Pizza? Nowhere, honestly. But downtown Seattle restaurants are there for the 9 to 5 crowd. They’d have to seriously up their game, which has nothing to do with the world outside their kitchen, to lure in customers from out of the area.

      9. “retail vibrancy is a fickle thing. Why U Village thrives and The Ave, dies has many different reasons.”

        You’re looking at a certain subset of people that prefer posh national chains and would spend $99 on a tea keetle. These tend to be people who drive to shopping centers and live in suburbs and think they’re entitled. That’s not everybody. Some people prefer to shop at Magus Books or the U Bookstore or the many restaurants on the Ave, because it’s a pedestrian-friendly area with more local businesses rather than national chains, and doesn’t feel like an outdoor Bellevue Square.

      10. Can we stop with the obsession about elusive retail vibrancy. Experts say that 80 percent of large suburban shopping malls will be gone in 10 years.

        At least Third Avenue can have mixed uses. It’s going to fare better than lots of other suburban shopping areas for that reason.

        There will be vacancies as the market changes. However, the financials for changing a single building are much easier than a sprawling development of dozens of acres. It’s why cats thrive but mammoths don’t.

      11. The US overbuilt shopping malls and had too many per capita to sustain them, so that’s part of the contraction.

    2. I’m planning an article about this tomorrow. Please hold comments until then, as this will be a big topic and this article already has 295 comments.


        This is a pretty good analysis on mall foot traffic pre and post pandemic. In many ways Westlake Center and surrounding shopping malls like Pacific Place are just outdoor malls, which is just an attempt to condense retail and dining so it is walkable once you get there. My guess is an “outdoor mall” is the concept the DSA is going for on 3rd but I think that is unlikely. The real focus should just be to make the trip and transfer for transit riders safer and more pleasant. Learn to walk before you try to run.

        CA and Phoenix have long had outdoor malls, and those are more popular today, depending on weather. Outdoor malls have a less 1980’s vibe. Both Bellevue Square and U Village are doing very well, and Simon Group owns Northgate Mall and their results were very strong. Plus most malls have free parking and a more kid friendly for parents.

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