Bangkok has four rail systems. (RMTransit video) Thailand’s development went through a car-oriented phase, but is now turning toward transit, and is building high-speed rail lines and improving Bangkok transit. This is similar to the trajectory The Netherlands went through forty years earlier. At 12:39 you can see a train door and interior that looks a lot like Link, and a route-number display similar to what ST is planning in ST3.

SDOT has a Seattle Transportation Plan Online Engagement Hub website with a proposal for Seattle’s next transportation plan. The interactive site is taking comments through February 21st.

How to lower subway costs. (RMTransit video, referencing Alon Levy’s transit cost research.) At 10:12 he calls out Link, saying its stations are larger than necessary.

This is an open thread.

75 Replies to “News Roundup: Bangkok”

  1. The One Seattle Plan (Comprehensive Plan Update) has released its Community Meeting Series Feedback Report:

    Notable quotes (emphases original):

    Across all the meetings, the most frequent responses to this question generally revolved around the need for more affordable housing, as well as a greater variety of housing options. Responses also pointed to a strong desire for new development to increase housing density… Many comments also called for the creation of more family-oriented units, referring to housing with enough space for families (2–4-bedroom units)

    Regarding where housing should be built:

    Community feedback regarding the desired location new housing reflected that belief that new housing should be constructed “everywhere” and “in all neighborhoods”, including those currently zoned neighborhood residential and multifamily residential. Further, many of these comments specified that density should be spread throughout the city.

    It’s a short read, and a nice reminder that a lot of the “progressive” housing goals are simple common sense felt amongst the community. That, or there’s a pro-housing champion in the OPCD writing these summaries and filtering out NIMBY commentary. Either way, it seems to me that the writers of the comp plan update have the express, documented support of Alternative 5 or beyond.

    1. Nathan, I have attended more than my fair share of agency and city meetings, including over comp. plan amendments, and the upcoming 2024 8-year cycle updates. The meetings are mostly attended by special interests and organized groups at this stage. Ordinary citizens usually wait until the process for adoption at the council. And yes, agencies routinely skew the summaries of public meetings to jibe with their desired goal.

      Comp. plans are usually filled with flowery language like peace on earth and good will to all men, but have no regulatory effect. The trick special interests have learned is to insert vague but aspirational language in the comp. plan, and then down the road demand code amendments to implement the comp. plan language although one would never have anticipated the code amendments from the comp. plan language. Progressives especially have been very clever at this tool.

      For this reason we appealed to the GMHB to require concurrency, which means that if a comp. plan requires development code amendments to implement it both must be drafted, noticed, and adopted concurrently so the citizens know what the comp. plan amendment really means.

      Changing zones, and the land use map which is part of the comp. plan, however is different. It is solely a comp. plan amendment unless a specific parcel applies for essentially a spot zone, although an interesting question before the state legislature right now over the bills to upzone SFH zones is whether cities can maintain the same regulatory limits as for a SFH. So far it looks like cities can require four or six plexes to have the same regulatory limits as a SFH in the zone, but not more restrictive.

      The interesting thing in Seattle is the comp. plan update will be adopted in late 2024 by a council that will be almost brand new and has just gone through a probably tough budget process, and a mayor gearing up for his reelection campaign. Gonzales to her credit was quite specific that if elected she would eliminate SFH zoning, but alas she got trounced in the election by Harrell who got 65% of the SFH zone vote. Whether Harrell relies on the summary of public meetings over upzoning SFH zones in the One Seattle Plan or his last election results is up to him.

      1. It’s funny – I could have sworn I read you stating it as fact that no one gave a shit about zoning during the 2021 election.

      2. Just the opposite Nathan. I predicted zoning would be one of the most important issues in the election, both in the race for Mayor and in races on the eastside, although no eastside politician I am aware of supported upzoning SFH zones on the eastside. But Gonzales made such a clear statement she would eliminate SFH zoning it was a much bigger issue in the race for Mayor of Seattle, and no doubt why Harrell won 65% of the vote from the SFH zones.

        After the election, and Gonzales’ surprisingly large defeat, some on this blog claimed zoning, or crime, or homelessness, were not issues in the campaign; Gonzales just ran a bad campaign. I thought she ran a fine campaign, and by all accounts came across and sincere and qualified and normal, and had huge name recognition.

        However, her policies simply were too progressive for Seattleites at that time, which was reflected in the bruising fight over the upzone in Seattle in 2017 I believe, which some neighborhoods litigated for several years thereafter.

        The good news is I hope upzoning the SFH zones is an election issue in the upcoming council elections so voters can make that an issue in their decisions. I admired Gonzales for being so clear she supported eliminating SFH zoning, which no doubt she thought was the right thing to do, but was very risky. Much better than My-Linh Thai in the 41st who when asked by the Seattle Times before the election if she supported upzoning the SFH zones said no, or she wasn’t sure, and then co-sponsors HB 1110. At least Gonzales was honest and did not lie to the voters.

        If your reading of the summary of the public outreach on the comp. plan reflects how a majority of citizens feel about SFH zoning then that should be reflected in the elections and campaign positions, although I am not sure any candidates will have the conviction to be as honest as Gonzales was. Whether Harrell’s 65% margin in the SFH zones had anything to do with his non-support for changing the zoning in the SFH zones is something his political campaign managers in the next election will know better than I can.

        But his election will come after the vote on the comp. plan in 2024, and after the 2023 council elections, as it should be. This time I think citizens will be much more knowledgeable about upzoning, and zoning, and that is always good in any election. We could see Harrell change his position and support upzoning the SFH zones in his next election.

  2. Young people are still driving less ($). Millenials drove less than previous generations in their 20s and 30s. Then they started catching up as they presumably moved to the burbs and started raising children, but are still driving 8% less than previous generations. Zoomers are following at an even lower trajectory. “In 1997, 43 percent of 16-year-olds and 62 percent of 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2020, those numbers had fallen to 25 percent and 45 percent…. In 1997, almost 90 percent of 20- to 25-year-olds had licenses; in 2020, it was only 80 percent.”

    Reasons zoomers cite for not driving are anxiety, the cost of driving, environmental concerns, fear of accidents, rideshares, e-bikes, scooters, and online alternatives.

    1. I think living expenses for Zoomers also are a factor. College loan paybacks and expensive rents are brutal for many in this demographic. The conservative baby boomers have structurally financially doomed later generations in a number of ways.

      1. Boomers are more conservative because they are old. They were plenty liberal in their youth. “Any man under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart, and any man over thirty who is not a conservative has no brains.” ― Winston S. Churchill.

        I have two Zoomers. College debt is the biggest issue for this group, and it is a shame neither party has reined in college costs and out of control endowments. One is uber progressive and one uber conservative although kids at this age really are not into politics. It is like pulling teeth to get either to vote. They think the system and both parties are corrupt. If they only knew how much of their income went to social security and Medicare.

        One of the benefits some Zoomers have is their parents had way fewer kids than the Boomer generation (and their predecessors had) and Millennial generation, so quite a bit of generational wealth will get passed down in the next two decades. Of course, it also means we will have an acute labor shortage over those same two decades as well.

      2. That acute labor shortage can be systemically remedied by making immigration from other countries easier and making the cost of raising and educating a child through college lower.

        When I hear someone on an anti-immigrant tirade, I want to tell them that they’ll just setting themselves up to wait much longer to get their bedpan emptied in 10-20 years.

      3. That acute labor shortage can be systemically remedied by making immigration from other countries easier and making the cost of raising and educating a child through college lower.


    2. Thanks for the linked article, Mike. I’ve suspected this trend with younger people, based on what I’ve observed with younger family members and after experiencing the convenience of safe, reliable, frequent transit in other cities. It’s nice to see more supporting evidence from the different researchers who were interviewed for the article.

      This also bodes well for the Downtown Seattle to Lynnwood Link segment once it gets <6 minute frequency. Those upzoned station areas will likely fill-in with more people who'd like a car-light or car-free lifestyles — and I include retirees who want a lower-maintenance lifestyle in that category, not just younger generations. As this trend becomes more obvious, I hope that it will eventually lead to a sincere rethink by the very vocal car lobby or enthusiast, who promote the default car-first infrastructure everywhere.

  3. I must admit that Reece Martin’s world transit perspective is enlightening to many — but I wonder if elected officials watch them. It’s like preaching to the choir.

    I do wish that he was able to get past the “what’s wrong technically” vibe and get into the “why are bad decisions made” vibe.

    Many of the decisions on rail transit are made by leaders who think they have noble intentions and believe that designs have been optimized by technical staff already. It just takes one skeptical engineer to get very worthy cost saving techniques tossed in the incinerator.

    Through Reece’s videos, I increasingly see benefit in driverless automated trains and platform screen doors. He has really influenced my perspective on this issue. If trains are automated, they can run at very high frequencies pretty much all day and evening.

    I’m reminded of how transit boards used to tour other cities to get ideas about building rail systems. With Reece, the travel is no longer required. It’s too bad that they don’t stop Board meetings to play some of his videos.

    1. I would be far more willing to entertain driverless trains (or jobless infrastructure of any kind) if there were any clear evidence that the lost jobs would be replaced by others with just as good benefits and pay.

      As it is, it ends up being yet another case of the benefits accruing to a different set of people, and then we wonder why we have even more people who cannot afford to live in the city (or in the region, at all).

      1. Annonymouse, one of the biggest concerns among economists is driving jobs are the number one job for males with a H.S. degree, who generally have few transferable skills (despite claims by some that West Virginian coal miners could transition to jobs in green energy), and that percentage goes up for males who have immigrated to the U.S. in their lifetime, who are mostly minorities, from Uber to Metro.

        Of course, some like Larry Summers (and Microsoft) are predicting AI breakthroughs will make half of all tech jobs obsolete. My son is a senior at the UW and according to him every student begins a paper or project with a search on an AI chatbot, and the results are astounding no matter what you input or how obscure the subject. For free. Listings for tech jobs declined 24% in 2022, ahead of the second place 19% decline in job listings for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion jobs within a HR dept. If you want to find a job become a nurse.

      2. Thank you, DT – I agree that losing good paying tech jobs is a concern as well.

        I am looking at it from the perspective of a political position rather than the economic details for specific job types, if that makes sense. I have no problem with jobs being replaced by technology if those people can find jobs with similar pay and benefits. However, in the case of males without college degrees, as you note, and possibly soon expanding to college degree holders of any gender as well, that is not the case, and that is a big problem for society in general. A lot of the societal turmoil we are seeing comes down to that, and we (as a society) have not worked out how to address it. So I would rather not compound the problem until we do.

      3. @Anonymouse,

        The purpose of transit is not to maintain jobs that have been obsoleted via technology. The purpose of transit is in fact to provide transportation.

        If jobs are displaced via technology, then there is a role for government to play in transitioning those workers to other, more productive jobs. But featherbedding should be avoided at all costs.

        That said, I expect that we will see Self Operating LRV’s well before we see Self Driving Cars. The technical problem is much simpler, the marginal cost per LRV is much less, and the economic benefits of replacing the operator are immediate and substantial.

        Additionally, there are other benefits to SO-LRVs. There is a slight increase in end-to-end average speed that results from better throttle management, and routes like Tacoma to Everett wouldn’t need to be split to accommodate operator time limits. Routes can actually be operated in a manner that makes geographic sense without forcing rider transfers.

        And a SO-LRV never calls in sick or shows up to work hungover.

      4. Lazarus,

        That’s a nice, principled stance. I admire it.

        I just don’t support it, because, in practice, the government will. Not. Provide the help needed.

        So I will advocate for more people having middle class, stable incomes over improved transportation every. Single. Time.

        I respect your right to do otherwise, of course.

      5. I would be far more willing to entertain driverless trains (or jobless infrastructure of any kind) if there were any clear evidence that the lost jobs would be replaced by others with just as good benefits and pay.

        Of course they would. Driverless trains just means that the transit agency can spend more money elsewhere (e. g. running more buses, fixing the escalators). But mostly it just means that the trains would run more often. The service, to the public, would be better.

        It is that way with all of public service. If the police did a better job, crime would go down. They would spend less time responding to calls. Should cops be pursuing incompetence as a way to save their jobs? Of course not. If crime goes down, and the police aren’t constantly responding to calls, they can spend more time investigating serious crimes, like murder. The police can be like they are in Scandinavia. There are fewer of them, they get paid more, they catch serious criminals at a much higher rate, and crime is lower.

        It is the same for every agency. You want them to be as effective as possible. Schools, social services, medicine, you name it. We clearly have way more needs than we have money, and part of the problem is that we are spending our money poorly.

      6. I think that we are talking past each other a little, and while this is an open thread, this is still only tangential – but let me try again.

        My fundamental metric of success, for society, is “are people happy”. This is hard to measure, so as a proxy, I am using the metric “are people making enough to live a happy life” (there are obviously other things that matter a lot – police brutality is a problem for people even if they make enough, etc. – so I admit that I am oversimplifying).

        My point, thus, is that if the jobs being replaced are better-paying than those they are being replaced _with_, even if there are other benefits to society (e.g. trains run more frequently), it is not a trade-off I am willing to support _at this time_, with the current political climate and the destruction of middle class jobs being what it is.

        With a different political climate, and different likelihood of help from the federal government, etc. – I would agree with both of you. Just not in the US these days (arguably not since Tricky Dick, perhaps – certainly not since the early 2000s).

        I am happy to be in the minority here, though, I know that it’s a very hard stance, and I get that your points are justified if you optimize for other metrics which are more appropriate for this particular venue.

      7. Anonymouse, I believe with automated trains we could run more frequent service, may be even all-day service, with roughly the same number of staff. Staff wouldn’t be operating the trains, but longer operating hours would require more remote oversight, maintenance, and staff to help riders – still providing about the same number of jobs. The current challenges to find more staff is limiting the ability for Metro and Sound Transit to expand service, automation may eleviate this.

      8. Anonymouse, do you wish that we still had toll booth operators? Are you sad every time you see someone use an ATM rather than a bank teller? Is your favorite part of the Space Needle the teenager that operates the elevator for you?

      9. I’m not quite old enough to remember elevator operators, sorry ;) Like I said in an earlier thread – I’m not quite of SS age yet.

        I can’t speak for whether toll booth operators made for middle class jobs or not. They also feel like an East Coast thing to me, and thus not something I’ve experienced personally all that much. So I can’t say whether they mostly went away when they could be replaced with other good jobs or not.

        However, since people keep bringing the topic up, I will reiterate :) I have no problem with jobs being replaced by technology _if_ (and I repeat, _if_) those people continue to find good middle class jobs. So, if the scenario Martin points out actually takes place, then yes, by all means that would be awesome.

        Will it, though? The extra infrastructure is not free. So my guess (and I admit that it is just a guess! AJ and others who have worked at ST will know much more than me in that sense) is that the money spent on people salaries will instead be repurposed to invest in technology instead. That is the fundamental trade-off I do not want to see done _at this point in time_ (and I repeat, _at this point in time_).

        I hope that this clarifies my position further. And sorry for dragging the thread out by replying to one serious and one clearly tongue-in-cheek comment (and I’m sure that people can figure out which is which) – thank you both Martin and AJ for engaging, though, just the same.

      10. Lol. Well I enjoyed that engagement and thought I’d chime in here as well. And I am old enough to remember elevator operators in all kinds of buildings growing up in NY. :)

        After my last four trips to upstate NY to see family and attend a funeral, sometimes I do wish the Thruway toll booths were still there. On all four occasions the authority’s new system of paying tolls by mail has failed and I was billed avoidable fees by the rental car company. I thought by my last trip in August 2022 they would’ve worked out the kinks by then but they still missed multiple segments and charged the rental car company instead of my registered account, and thus additional fees were added yet again when the rental car company collected from me.

      11. We had elevator operators in The Smith Tower from 1990 until around 2016 or so. Some had disabilities including cognitive disabilities, some were the famous children from Ethiopia who came to the U.S., and some were VERY old.

        The Smith Tower had tried for decades to get rid of the operators, but they were part of the historical designation. Then Paul Allen basically replaced most of the Pioneer Square historical board to approve some of his buildings, and Seattle thought Pioneer Square needed development like the hotel and tall office towers at the south end and Weyerhaeuser building, and The Smith Tower was able to get rid of the operators.

        The elevators did operate much better automatically, but at the same time the building was emptying out, first because some flippers from San Francisco emptied the tower and much of the rest of the building because they didn’t know how to manage an office building, thinking they would convert them to condos, and then because of crime and homelessness in Seattle, and then because of Covid, so we were about the only tenants who actually went into the office to work.

        I don’t know what happened to the operators. They were very sad their jobs were being eliminated. We were sad too because you came to know them, and we represented a few (mostly pro bono). It was pretty much a job for someone who could not get any other job, and so they were not what I would call great operators.

      12. I should have added that elevator operators, like receptionists, were phased out when the minimum wage in Seattle became too high. For years our firm had receptionists, many of whom were students but wanted to see what working in a law firm was like before applying to law school. When the minimum wage got too high it just didn’t make economic sense to keep full time receptionists, especially when more and more communication was going to email, so like most firms we went to an automated system, or just had a paralegal answer the phone. For good or bad, the more expensive labor becomes the more advantageous it becomes to replace labor with technology.

      13. Every dollar not spent on labor is a dollar to spend on more service or more capital (for projects).

      14. Joseph Schumpeter: Creative Destruction.

        “Definition of creative destruction”

        “This refers to the process of how capitalism leads to a constantly changing structure of the economy. Old industries and firms, which are no longer profitable, close down enabling the resources (capital and labour) to move into more productive processes.

        “Creative destruction means that the company closures and job losses are good for the long-term well-being of the economy.

        “It can be seen from both a negative and positive perspective.”

        “Joseph Schumpeter popularised the concept of creative destruction in ‘Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy‘ (1942). He used the phrase ‘gale of Creative Destruction’ and the concept is sometimes known as Schumpeter’s Gale. He derived his ideas from a close reading of Marx. However, whilst Marx believed capitalists crisis and destruction would lead to its demise, Schumpeter saw creative destruction as a necessary and natural way to enable new markets and new growth.

        “Capitalism […] is by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is but never can be stationary. […] The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumers’ goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates.”

        – Joseph Schumpeter, ‘Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy‘ (1942)

        “Karl Marx wrote at length about the nature of capitalism causing large-scale loss, which enabled new wealth to be created. Marx saw wars and economic crisis as methods for destroying production and enabling capitalism to start a new round of wealth creation for the owners. Although Marx saw how Capitalism could reinvent itself, he also felt it’s inherent tendency to self-destruction would eventually lead to its end.

        “In these crises, a great part not only of existing production, but also of previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed.”

        – Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto

        Some perfect examples of creative destruction are the automobile, airplanes, work from home, and Uber. The next big destruction will be self-driving cars. Tacomee notes ST is building a system to last 40 years. Link won’t last 40 years. It will be obsolete in 20. Link is the horse and buggy in 1920. The future will be driverless micro-transit because it will provide door to door safe service for the same cost.

      15. Nice copy-paste. It’s not like folks can’t click the link themselves, but I guess you just wanted a quick way to hit your 1000-word quota for verbose posting without putting any actual effort in.

        Your “perfect examples” are largely terrible, and none of them actually operate under the idealist principles of the Free Market.

        And your exaltation of self-driving cars betrays your complete lack of understanding of basic concepts of geometry and traffic capacity. Self-driving cars will just let people work during their commute to the office as corporate entities reduce allowed WFH to get more butts in desk chairs. Guess what – you can already work during your commute if you let someone drive you on your bus or train! But what self-driving cars won’t do is somehow take up less space in reality as they move folks from Point A to Point B. They’ll just let you do something else while you sit in traffic, instead of fiddling with the radio.

      16. To be fair, there have been times when I wanted to work on a bus, but the information I would have had displayed on my laptop screen was sensitive enough that I could not be certain I would not be violating some NDAs, so I did not. I am sure that most people don’t have to worry about this (or do but don’t worry anyway). I’m paranoid about legal issues, though.

        I also find it harder to concentrate in public (I also hate open office floor plans, likely to no one’s surprise) so when it comes to working in a private, self-driving vehicle vs. on public transit, I can certainly see advantages of the former. Whether they balance the societal advantages of the latter is up for society to decide, but it’s worth keeping an open mind about why some might choose differently.

      17. Anonymouse – all Link drivers are a member of the KCM bus drive union local. Therefore if Link became driverless, through their union membership they would be entitled to then bid for a bus route; Link drivers are generally all KCM bus drivers with the seniority to bid for Link, as Link is perceived by many drivers as a ‘better’ job, so they are already trained to drive a bus. Given we have a driver shortage, it would be immensely helpful if all those Link drivers became KCM bus drivers.

        KCM union bus driver is also a good middle class job, so I think that would fit within your politics.

      18. It’s true that zlink drivers can become KC Metro drivers. It’s also true that the cost savings would result in more frequent trains, which would likely create some jobs in closer monitoring and security.

        With more frequent trains, there will be more riders. That will generate more revenue — but not increase snif perhaps reduce operating cost. That would give the Union a window to negotiate for better hourly wages.

      19. My gut reaction to my own “just work on the bus/train !!” is that a) I get motion sickness pretty quickly, and b) it can be pretty uncomfortable to do that work in a transit seat. The “I can only do my work behind closed doors” argument seems extremely niche, but is legitimate. A white-collar worker also would struggle to participate in meetings on a bus or train.

        Although, I doubt a driverless car would be any less motion-sickness inducing than transit, and like having a close-door office, it turns out luxurious things are luxurious.

        The private automobile will always be a more comfortable way to travel. What I think it shouldn’t be is *always* the fastest way to travel over land.

        What I staunchly oppose is the idea that we should be continuing to prioritize capacity and throughput for private automobiles at the cost of… everything else. DT routinely suggests that cars are the ultimate form of transportation and that somehow, if everyone were just subscribed to some sort of self-driving car-share program, there wouldn’t be any traffic, there wouldn’t need to be any parking, and there wouldn’t be any problems with public safety. He also routinely suggests that any work to advance non-SOV travel in the meantime is worthless, or at a maximum should solely be provided in service of “transit slaves” (in his own awful terminology) and provided at minimal financial impact to himself. So, I get a bit frustrated with his persistent screeds.

        So, yes, I get that private vehicles are more comfortable – more luxurious – than most other forms of travel, and people will chose that mode when they can. I’m sure I’d love to travel by private jet, too. My issue is that I don’t think we should continue maintaining the society that the 1950’s built, where private automotive ownership and usage is a fundamental prerequisite for social participation and socioeconomic advancement. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

      20. AJ – fair point about the union rights, though being part of a union does not guarantee there will not be any job losses (they may affect those with lower seniority within the union, rather than those specific drivers who had been assigned to Link). I also note that I wasn’t talking specifically about those specific drivers losing their jobs, just that the number of jobs would be reduced – apologies if that was not clear.

        Al S’s point about how there could be other consequences is also well taken, I was certainly oversimplifying the effects. I would be happy to see it play out that way if it does.

        I believe that other transit systems have jumped from driver-based to driverless; it would be interesting to see statistics related to how jobs changed in those organizations over time. Does anyone know of such studies, reports, etc.?

      21. “Of course, some like Larry Summers (and Microsoft) are predicting AI breakthroughs will make half of all tech jobs obsolete. My son is a senior at the UW and according to him every student begins a paper or project with a search on an AI chatbot, and the results are astounding no matter what you input or how obscure the subject.”

        I predict that with the advent of the first Turing machine its first accomplishment will be to clearly and unequivocally establish the line between the Trump supporters/anti-vaxxers and the rest of humanity.

        AI and transportation…?

        Link operators won’t have to fear for their jobs.

      22. Short term, there is a labor shortage, both specific to KCM drivers and more generally in the economy. Less Link drivers means more buses driven. Same total number of KCM drivers.

        Longer term, Anonymouse you are looking at the labor market as a zero sum game, where there is a fixed number of ‘good’ jobs to be filled. I’m optimistic that as jobs are eliminated, new jobs are created elsewhere, same has been true since the agricultural revolution.

      23. Nathan, two points:

        Copy and paste does three things:

        1. It makes it so the reader doesn’t have to click on a separate link and read the entire article to find the quoted part.

        2. If quotation marks are used it lets the reader on a public blog like this know the scholarship is from the link and the not the poster and generally more reliable.

        3. It is better than some who simply copy and paste without posting the link or crediting the work to the original source. Now you know about Shumpeter and the concept of creative destruction.

        Second, you miss the entire point of driverless cars. They are not about letting someone work while they ride. As you note, WFH does that much better, and better than standing on a crowded bus (pre-pandemic), or walking to or from the bus/train/bus.

        Driverless cars reduce the cost of micro transit and so provide the three main benefits of cars to poor people, who often can’t work on a bus or car because they don’t push paper or a laptop:

        1. Door to door service, often referred to as first/last mile access, which affects time of trip.

        2. Safety.

        3. Convenience, the ability to carry things, kids, weather, etc.

        It is why according to the 2020 census around 94% of all trips are by car. People generally don’t like trips. You could show up in a chauffeured limousine at someone’s house in Sammamish and offer to chauffeur them to the office and they would prefer to WFH. They make most trips because they have to go someplace.

        That is all Uber is: a driverless car for the passengers. You don’t see people working frantically when riding in an Uber, or that is the reason why people use Uber. They use Uber for the three reasons above. Eliminate the cost of the driver, and reallocate the subsidy for congregate public transit, and you have micro transit, not unlike the recent shift from congregate shelters to individual rooms because the homeless prefer them.

        The three main disadvantages of cars are:

        1. Cost.

        2. Traffic congestion.

        3. Parking.

        Traffic congestion has been reduced by WFH during the worst period, peak hours, and since our roads were built to accommodate peak congestion traffic isn’t bad today. Merchants and building owners deal with parking by providing onsite parking, usually for free. The monthly cost of a car is just something people are apparently willing to spend on.

        But driverless cars solve the parking issue, and help reduce costs, while bringing the same transportation the rich — like Biden and Trump have with chauffeurs and limousines — to the poor but at a cost they can afford. Of course they will need a management system, and probably a mile tax if electric, but at the same time if all driverless capacity will be increased dramatically because a lot of congestion is poor driving.

        Tom mentions $8 billion can buy a lot of express buses. $142 billion can buy a lot of subsidized driverless trips, door to door, without the hassle and delay of first/last mile access.

        My guess is if the 94% of Americans who can afford a car buy one for the benefits a car provides poor people will want those benefits too if subsidized. Eliminating the driver will allow transit agencies and governments to rethink transit completely, at least in urban areas and for shorter trips. Transit needs a deep rethink IMO.

        As with Uber, my guess is driverless cars and driverless transit will begin slowly, and offer a choice: walk to a bus to wait outside to go to a train station to wait to walk to your ultimate destination, or get a subsidized driverless Uber all the wealthy people are using. Or walk. Poor people walk a lot.

        That is how Uber/Lyft started. Slowly. And they had to compete against cars people already owned, public transit, walking, bikes, you name it. But the benefits of not driving (alcohol being a big one, and WA might go to 0.05% for a DUI), no parking, and door to door service made them wildly popular, around 94 million miles in 2018 in Seattle.

        Some progressives think they can stop this, or discourage it, or tax it, but I say give the same things those who can afford Uber/Lyft get to the poor who can’t afford them. Or at least give the poor the same choice. The poor are not too too stupid to make their own choices although some think they are.

      24. AJ: Fair point. I don’t think it’s a “zero-sum” game, and as you noted there have been changes since the industrial revolution. It’s perhaps fair to say that not all of these changes have been positive.

        The past-recent trend seemed to be towards bifurcation of the job market into low-pay, unstable jobs (on-demand scheduling/gig economy level), and high-end, “knowledge worker” jobs. The number of demanding, but hands-on jobs, like the ones we have been discussing, have not grown (that I know of; though I do not have time to dig statistics, so if someone has them and they disprove my point, I would be happy to be proven wrong :) )

        This is where I am coming from, though. If the automation leads to transit operators getting equivalent pay in equivalent physical effort jobs, perhaps maintenance and remote monitoring etc., great. But if that pushes more people (not necessarily the operators themselves, due to seniority etc.) towards working in fast food restaurants and the like, then I am not in favor.

        Once again, sorry to derail the transit-oriented discussion with my monologues on the state of the labor market :)

      25. DT, it’s neat how you wave away the traffic issue inherent with widespread self-driving cars. I wish I could be as naive as that.

        Yes, driverless vehicles will reduce operating costs. Reduced travel costs induces more travel. More travel produces more congestion. Traffic capacity isn’t just about the interstates, but about city arterials and side streets – and congestion is basically back to the level that people are willing to handle to get from A to B, just like before WFH kneecapped commuting. I know you don’t drive any more (great for you and the environment!) but you should defer to folks who actually experience traffic before making more ill-informed claims.

      26. Any conversion to driverless trains is a years-long process. It’s not like all the Link drivers will be replaced all on a single Monday. I would think that segments would gradually shift from staffed to driverless. Drivers would remain on trains for several months if not a few years for insurance. Some segments may never be truly driverless like between Mt Baker and Rainier Beach.

        I think any conversion job losses can easily become mere reassignments with training in other skills during a very long transition period.

      27. The past-recent trend seemed to be towards bifurcation of the job market into low-pay, unstable jobs (on-demand scheduling/gig economy level), and high-end, “knowledge worker” jobs. The number of demanding, but hands-on jobs, like the ones we have been discussing, have not grown (that I know of; though I do not have time to dig statistics, so if someone has them and they disprove my point, I would be happy to be proven wrong :) )

        On other forums, a common topic is a lack of workers trained in the Trades. I blame the systemic cultural push I experienced in my youth that discouraged going into trade work, since of course, a collegiate education was a prerequisite for financial stability. It seems to me that our construction market is partially limited by the number of available “tradies” to actually complete projects.

        I’d expect that anyone who is willing to commit to the apprenticeship process would quickly find themselves financially comfortable in our rapidly growing cities.

      28. Nathan, reduced congestion from WFH did not “induce demand” for more trips. There will have to be a traffic management plan when driverless technology arrives, but there are so many ways to do that.

        For example, group deliveries for the same area (groceries, dry cleaning, etc.) because the real concern is about trips with no one in the car. Already Uber is implementing shared ride apps. that combine riders and reduce costs. Considering most driverless trips will have a cost, simply having your car buzzing around empty for no good reason is unlikely. In fact, it is more likely the system is based on a lease: you don’t own one of the driverless cars, you lease it per trip/mile. Not having humans in the cars will increase traffic capacity by around 50%. Being able to schedule deliveries during the night or off hours will also help.

        The creative destruction will be when the driverless car arrives, just like the creative destruction was when Uber arrived. Government can’t stop it because people will want it, and has to learn to manage it, although often government and private businesses have competing interests due to the huge investments it made in obsolete technology, like Link or buses, or taxis. Ironically dedicated lanes everywhere will be popular with everyone, but not for buses.

        On the flip side, WFH was one of the biggest creative destruction events in our lifetime (although probably the internet is the real invention, WFH was just getting employers to adopt and allow it, and Covid lasted long enough it became permanent). Governments — at least urban cities — would love to prohibit it, simply for the tax revenue, but the people want it, so learn to deal with it. WFH is better for the planet, roads, workers, their kids, for everyone, but there is a very vested interest in groups who would love to go back to the old way because it benefited them (large cities, urbanists, transit fans) even if it was bad for the environment, worker, traffic congestion, and so on.

        Think how much ink is spilled on this blog and in the Legislature trying to get folks to live where they don’t want to live (TOD) to subsidize a public transit system because first/last mile access in a large and pretty undense area is expensive and logically impossible. Instead, how about accepting where folks want to live, and BRING THE TRANSIT TO THEM. That is all a private car is. Driverless technology will IMO reduce costs enough transit will finally go to the rider — including poor riders — rather than the rider going to the transit.

        It will be wildly popular. Look at Uber. Everyone will use it, and it will catch on like wildfire once the management system is figured out. Imagine not having to leave your house to do errands if you don’t want to, or having to drive or park, or being allowed to send your kids somewhere alone knowing they are safe. There is no downside to the user, so government needs to get ready and not get in the way just because it spent a fortune on obsolete technology that will be destroyed because that is how society advances.

      29. Daniel, you need to rethink your “self-driving pods for everyone!” dream. It doesn’t make a single shred of geometric sense. If everyone is running their errands and going to social gatherings by auto-pod, how will they fit on the street?

        Your “traffic management plan” will just be congestion pricing – like the surge pricing already implemented for Uber. Do you think that’s an equitable solution? Or should poor people just be allowed to travel during peak periods?

        It’s just a terrible idea to prioritize upper-class comfort over accessibility.

      30. Nathan, you assume that if cars are driverless people will make more total trips than they do today simply because there is no driver in the car, including deliveries and transit. I don’t think that is true.

        With WFH our road capacity, which was designed for peak travel, is pretty good today because trips went down. Driverless cars will probably be twice as efficient for the same road capacity if there are no human drivers. Plus Link has its own dedicated rails (except in S. Seattle), and I think one of the big benefits for Link will be driverless cars because it provides the convenience of a park and ride including first and last mile access without the need or cost for parking, and long distances won’t be economical for a rented driverless car, like with Uber.

        Driverless technology is coming. Folks said Uber would never take off, people wouldn’t pay for Uber when they had a car, or could take a bus, or walk or bike, or the app wouldn’t work. If driverless technology is a dud so be it. My guess is it will be a major creative destruction, which means there will be private and public vested interests opposed, like with WFH, and like WFH too popular to deny, and in the long run better for society. Surge pricing probably makes sense; all it means is the subsidy for poorer folks will be higher during peak times like for non-subsidized rides. But very little of Uber’s surge pricing is due to traffic congestion: it is supply and demand. What we need are more Uber cars during peak demand.

      31. Nathan – yes, good point about the trades. I am not super familiar with the construction industry, but I have definitely encouraged younger friends to pursue trade careers (e.g. electrical or machining work) when college did not pan out, or they decided ahead of time to not pursue that option.

        For whatever it’s worth, my friend who has been a machinist for a good 5 years now in the Denver area has been able to make a comfortable life, but owning property within the metro area has been difficult even on a (admittedly single) machinist’s salary. So he ended up having to go farther out to find a place in his budget. I am mentioning this only as an anecdotal counter-example to your point about how this could help people make a living in expensive areas. I’d give that a qualified “yes, but only to an extent” vote of support.

      32. People were skeptical of Uber because the idea of getting into some random stranger’s car was largely discouraged by common sense. However, Uber offered cheap rides, and cheap travel overpowers personal safety every time. The subsequent impact on traffic (significantly worse congestion in busy urban cores) is well documented. It is beyond naive to believe that decreased cost of transportation doesn’t lead to more VMT. It’s supply-demand 101, man.

        Anon- yes, the trades aren’t competitive with tech salaries, and the lack of affordable comfortable housing for middle-incomes in the city is contributing to the lack of availability of trade workers. Almost every construction site I’ve worked on has been largely populated by folks driving in from Marysville or Puyallup. I don’t think I’ve met a single equipment operator who lived within 20 miles of the city, and they always expressed distaste at coming into the city, but never complained about the pay on the job.

        There simply isn’t enough new housing of any kind coming onto the market to handle the constantly increasing interest from the still-booming economy here. All types of new construction (from permanently supportive to luxury market-rate), and lots of it, are necessary to make up for decades of under-construction. Ironically, the lack of readily available trade workers is contributing to the slow pace of new housing construction for rich folks that would prevent trade workers from getting priced out.

      33. Nathan, Uber did have some high-profile instances in which non-Uber drivers impersonated Uber and picked up waiting female passengers and assaulted them. Now when you order an Uber the license plate and model of the car, and name of driver, is given to you which has stopped the problem.

        I think you are confused about Econ 101. Simply putting more taxis or Uber cars on the streets does not increase ride demand. The demand was already there. As the article noted, Uber simply lured riders away from public transit, bikes, walking, and driving their own car. Uber did not create trips when the trip did not already exist, and WFH has destroyed more trips than Uber ever could create, during peak times.

        Uber is just a different mode. But I would agree that adding more Uber cars to already congested roads will increase that congestion (but reduce parking), unless the Uber is replacing someone driving their own car, and Uber has seen a huge increase in their food delivery service, which replaces someone else going out for food.

        I understand you don’t like Uber, and Uber has taken riders from public transit because it offers the same conveniences of driving without having to find and pay for parking, which is why it is so popular in Seattle with its low parking capacity and high parking costs/taxes and fairly urban density, so an Uber fare is much less than say to Issaquah (but much less than a DUI anywhere). Uber was made for vibrant urban areas. Too many others like Uber, they choose mode without ideology, the app is right on their phone and tells them exactly when their car will arrive (and is accurate because you can GPS the Uber car), Uber qualifies for HOV lanes, and so get used to Uber. And soon driverless technology. That is creative destruction.

      34. “Driverless technology is coming.”
        It’s not outside of very bespoke situations. The tech is still in its infancy and is plagued with problems that i dont see being fixed for a couple of decades if at all. See the Tesla recall with self-driving program that can’t decipher pedestrians, other cars, and other objects then drives into just about anyone without much regard for what it is.
        Uber also was more of just a logical shakeup of a well established industry that got complacent (taxis). This isn’t the same as trying to make sure car drive by themselves.

        Self driving cars aren’t the future. Driverless metros are though, because they’re actually safe and proven to work.


        This from 2023. I agree Zach that driverless technology generally available to the consumer is around one decade away.

        It will come first to fixed route shuttles (say the Bellevue perimeter from 112th up NE 8th down Bellevue Way to Main St. back to 112th since East Link doesn’t access Bellevue Way), then maybe to transit although those are very strong unions.

        But the money is in the driverless cars, which I think will be fleets of driverless cars you lease time on with an Uber like app.

        The problem with driverless transit is it doesn’t solve the major deficit with transit: first/last mile access, unless you live in TOD and most don’t want to live in TOD, and your destination is where the train or bus is going. Driverless cars will mean driverless transit that is door to door.

        People think driverless cars will somehow be the end of transit. Really, the technology will be the end of the SOV, and the perfect first/last mile access to transit like Link for longer trips. Driverless cars that you don’t own but rent like an Uber will be THE new transit.

      36. “Uber offered cheap rides”

        That’s the first time I’ve heard Uber described as cheap. People who switch from transit to Uber aren’t doing it to save money; they’re paying twice as much or more to not share a car with strangers or have a more flexible schedule or coverage. They’re also foregoing unlimited monthly passes, which make all trips after the 36th free. If you have three or more people and are going a short distance, then Uber might be less expensive, but that’s a small minority of trips.

      37. Mike,

        It’s cheap for people who switched to Uber from cabs, though.


        Yeah, definitely a good point. This is the sort of thing that I think gets closer to actually finding solutions to the problems – zoning changes are useful but won’t, on their own, solving the problem. Getting _some_ zoning changes and _some_ increase in funding for trade programs at community colleges and _some_ push for encouraging high school kids to join these programs… just might start to put a dent in it. Question is, how do we make that happen?

        My fear with zoning change legislation is that it will pass, not enough will happen to make a difference, and 2 years later there will be blow back because of it which will put us in a worse spot overall.

      38. Dan: You are willfully denying the well-documented effects of induced demand when cost is decreased (aka supply is increased). As long as you continue to deny basic facts, purposefully mischaracterize other comments, and blatantly contradict your own opinion, you deny the right to be taken seriously.

        Mike: Note my use of past tense. When Uber started in 2011, it basically offered app-based taxicab hailing at predetermined and much cheaper prices than jumping into a cab. Uber was betting that it would be able to transition to a driverless system before it ran out of VC. Twelve years later, driverless tech is still >10 years away, and cities have started forcing the surviving big TNCs (Uber & Lyft) to pay living wages to their gig workers. This has forced them to raise prices to parity with “normal” taxi companies, but they still maintain the edge in user experience.

      39. There was a time back in the day when the incremental cost of riding around in Uber instead of a bus was very small, and certainly way cheaper than a cab. Especially if you booked one of those “pool” rides during an off peak hour when you would, with very high probability, have the entire car to yourself.

        Today, alas, those days are over. An Uber ride costs about as much as a taxi does, and way more than bus fare. The experience still beats taxis, since you can book the ride in the app and know the price before you begin the trip, but it’s still way to expensive to rely on for every trip like the olden days.

        I’m also not predicting a dramatic price drop once the cars become driverless. Wayno is already offering driverless taxi services in Phoenix. Last I checked, their cars are no cheaper to ride in than human-driven Ubers.

      40. Asdf2, I don’t think people ever chose Uber or Lyft because it was cheap, or cheaper than transit (although if you are clever there are different price levels for each).

        They chose Uber over cabs because the app. was excellent, you paid online, you didn’t get an arrogant dispatcher, the cars came very quickly, and the cars were very clean and so were the drivers, unlike the TV show Taxi, and came with ratings like Amazon sellers. Once someone loaded the app. and took their first Uber trip and linked to a payment method they were never going to take a cab again.

        The chose Uber over driving because they were going to drink alcohol, or didn’t want to hunt for parking or pay a lot for parking. Uber is designed for urban areas.

        They chose Uber over public transit because it was much faster, door to door, safer, more convenient, and out of the weather and you didn’t have to mix with the crazies, especially at night.

        Today, if you have two riders and plan an urban trip within Seattle — bar to bar is popular — Uber is a little more expensive than transit per trip for two, but the cost is irrelevant, just like the $14 cocktail inside the club is irrelevant. It is just part of the cost of having a good time, and not getting a DUI.

        Now everyone in the U.S. has at least one app. on their phone for Uber and/or Lyft, and my kids know how to use the apps to select the best price for each. Nearly every American has used Uber and has a favorable experience. This market is expected to double in revenue by 2026. Uber and Lyft are responsible for 14% of miles driven in the U.S., and Uber and Lyft averaged a combined 500 million US VMT per month in 2016.

        It is just a very, very good product, and exactly what creative destruction is. Sure some progressive cities like Seattle (where ironically it is most popular) try to disadvantage it, but price is not a way to disadvantage Uber so it doesn’t work.

        Either other modes compete or they fail, which is why public transit is so heavily subsidized although I believe the future of transit is micro driverless transit, so Uber serves the poor too. People just don’t make these trip decisions based on ideology like some do on this blog, which is why most Americans own a car if they can afford to. If public transit is the best choice they will take it. If it is not they will use a different mode. Uber undercuts the high costs of urban parking, and WFH undercuts the desire to avoid traffic congestion. So transit needs to reinvent itself. It is stuck in the past.

      41. I’m not one of those people that believe Uber should be banned or restricted to “force” people onto public transit. For the most part, if people really want to fork over $20 for someone to drive them 3 miles, that’s their right to do so.

        While I think it’s important that services like Uber exist, to allow people who do not own cars to occasionally make trips that the transit system serves very poorly or not at all, I don’t see it as this revolutionary product that will make transit obsolete. For one, it’s incredibly expensive to ride frequently, and the average passenger fare for Uber runs far above the average operating cost per boarding on King County Metro. This means that any attempt to replace transit system subsidized Uber rides for the poor – as some cities have actually attempted to do – drives costs up, not down, which means the amount of mobility provided per taxpayer dollar available goes down, not up.

        Also, for those trips where transit does work well – when the trip consists of a single, frequent bus, Uber provides very little value for the money spent. Often times, the wait for the bus and for the Uber car becomes equal, so the value proposition of Uber works out to something like spending $25 to avoid 10 minutes of walking and 3 minutes of stopping at bus stops. In this example, each minute saved costs about $1.92, which places a value on one’s time at a whopping $115.38/hour.

        And, those that think that self-driving technology will drastically lower costs should think again. Just the other day, I watched a video on YouTube of someone trying out Waymo in Phoenix. The fare was priced slightly *above* what Uber was charging for the same trip (although, after considering that robots don’t need tips, works out to be about the same). Bottom line, not having a driver does save money, but all that extra hardware to implement autonomous driving costs money, as does the enormous R&D costs to develop the self-driving software, which has to be paid back somehow. Plus, of course, the general cost of vehicle operation, including the deadheading, plus insurance.

      42. Asdf2, I wasn’t implying Uber would end public transit. Uber is just one alternative. It thrives where trips are short and parking in short supply or expensive (urban areas and airports are two good examples). It also thrives where safety, door to door service (luggage, kids), and time of trip are important. For every day use unless you live in a very urban area like NYC Uber is too expensive for most. Instead they drive their own car, especially if parking is free and they don’t plan to drink. Not too many take Uber to Home Depot.

        The number of miles Uber accounts for is growing dramatically. According to reports some of that comes at the expense of walking, biking, driving your own car, taxis, and public transit.

        Driverless technology will continue to advance. It will be interesting to see how and when it becomes commercially viable, and cost savings. Obviously the companies pursing the technology think the payoff will be huge. If driverless Uber is much less expensive I see it increasing its draw from driving your own car and public transit, especially in urban areas that are perceived as unsafe, have poor transit, or scarce or expensive parking.

        Even without driverless technology the trend suggests Uber/Lyft will continue to grow dramatically in miles ridden, especially as more and more add the app to their phone and begin to use it.

        How to get that technology to the poor is a good question, and I wish an analysis of the cost of subsiding it was compared to spending $20 billion on WSBLE per rider mile when WSBLE is totally aimed at affluent suburbanites and not the poor.

      43. A few cities are replacing transit with subsidized Uber. This leads to higher fares and costs and less mobility availability overall. Seattle and King County are too liberal to completely replace transit, and downtown Seattle and Bellevue are large enough that you need mass transit at least peak hours or the highways would be gridlocked. People talk about whether Link expansions will generate large ridership increases nor not, but there’s also the converse. If current transit were suspended, then all those passengers would be in SOVs, and that would be several lanes’ worth of additional cars. The road network can’t absorb that much. That’s why universal SOVs can’t scale to large cities. The current transit network is absorbing a lot of it, even if it’s not spectacular enough to have photos of lots of packed trains and buses. People don’t understand that even a half-full or quarter-full bus adds up to a lot of people, and still exceeds a 10 passengers/hour minimum that some use as a minimum threshold for an efficient bus route. And if transit is eliminated and some of the passengers don’t switch to cars or Uber, then their mobility is limited, and that’s bad for both them and the economy and society.

    2. I do wish that he was able to get past the “what’s wrong technically” vibe and get into the “why are bad decisions made” vibe.

      I think that is a lot tougher, especially for a technocrat. If you are a very skilled, experienced software engineer, you might look at some code and think:

      “What is this crap?”, followed by:

      “Why did they build it this way?”

      The answer to the latter may be important. It may give you insight to the thinking that lead to various decisions along the way. It may even suggest problems in the future, such as a dysfunctional organization. But the most important thing is to recognize that it is crap, and needs to be fixed.

      In the case of transit, it is interesting to analyze and theorize as to the various reasons why a system is a mess. We’ve done that with Sound Transit quite a bit. But the important thing is to recognize that in many ways, they failed. Skipping First Hill, and just the lack of stations in general is a huge failing. In terms of value for the money, ST3 went from being really bad to being even worse. We can all come up with various reasons why they made the decisions they made (ignorance, regionalism, etc.) but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter. As a citizenry, we can only deal with the options at hand, and try to make it better.

      Similarly, it is OK for Reece to look at something and say “that is a good choice for this area”, or “this isn’t really the best tool for the job”, and not dwell on why they chose it. That usually falls to the comments (someone is bound to note the history behind the choice).

  4. I’m trying to discern something from some HSR projects going on.

    — The publicly funded CASHR in progressive California is well under construction, but with the usual over-budget and years-long delays of most American public infrastructure projects.

    — The privately funded Texas Central, in an extremely pro-business, anti-tax state, is facing myriad legal issues and may never lay down a single rail tie.

    — The privately funded Brightline in Florida, a state whose politics you can’t decipher without frying your brain, is on course for an on-time and reasonably at budget, but has a shady backstory (the then-governor killed a public rail project in favor of Brightline, which he happened to have invested in).

    Is there any takeaways from these examples on the best way to fund and construct HSR projects, other than corruption?)

    1. CA HSR is pretty much moving slowly but the project concept hasn’t really changed much.

      It was never fully funded by state taxes. That’s why the initial segment only was the first built.

      The environmental work (California has a huge environmental impact industry that makes ours look easy) is either now done or due to be completed in the next year along the whole route from SF to LA IIRC. The CalTrain electrification is almost ready and HSR will use those tracks and power lines.

      Some idiot last year pontificated about the Palmdale diversion being wasteful — looking like an idiot to state residents because the needed tunneling would be much much longer if it went between Burbank and south of Bakersfield — not to ignore that the Palmdale sees hqs more people than Thurston County and Brightline West to Vegas May connect there.

      I strongly believe that it a line will open mostly or fully before DSTT2 will — say in about 15 years.

  5. Thanks for the link to the video about Bangkok’s rail network. I really enjoyed watching that and seeing all the changes. My spouse and I first visited there in the early 90s before there was anything and were pleasantly surprised at how much progress had been made when we returned about 15 years ago. The street traffic was still crazy of course but it was nice to see the “new” rail transit options. The ferries and taxis that run along both banks of the Chao Phraya River are also a great way for getting around the city, though my spouse did almost take a quick dip in the river once on our first trip there in the 90s. When that boat is ready to go, you better be in it. Lol.

    Anyway, thanks again for the link.

    1. When we visited Bangkok in 2015, we found the transit network difficult to use… although worlds better than most US cities (besides maybe Chicago & New York). But that’s how we got around, since we wouldn’t be driving. We did take cabs three times. For the amount of light rail construction they had going on (that was visible to us anyways), we probably could do that trip today with only one cab ride. (The blue line was not operating early enough to make our early morning flight – probably still the same.)

    1. ‘I am not sure why anyone would oppose this, especially if you don’t live in Eastern OR. Same reason I don’t know why anyone would oppose splitting East and West King Co.”
      Please look at a map before making statements like this. East King County is the Cascade mountains there is very little there. If this is about the Eastside, then I hate to break it to you, but geographically you’re in West King County.

    2. The representatives in the Idaho house, to a person, are batshit crazy. At least according to my conservative father who lives there and deals with those folks.

      But that shouldn’t stop you from evaluating their proposal on their “merits”.

      Fortunately the Senate and the governor are a bit more circumspect about creating a massive new service burden for the state. Not a lot of tax revenue coming out of Baker City. And a huge amount of need, in terms of services, which is obvious to anyone who’s had the pleasure to visit.

      I’m guessing this isn’t a model you want to emulate.

      1. Personally I like Idaho, although I haven’t been to the more rural and bat crazy parts, especially in the NW. Ironically when I am in Idaho they think Seattle is bat crazy, and to some extent they are correct. What they really resent is Seattleites and Californians moving to Idaho for the quality of life and driving up their housing prices and bringing their progressive politics with them.

        Haven’t spent much time in Eastern OR. But if Eastern OR and Idaho want to merge, both are bat crazy, and it removes a funding burden on Western OR, I say let them. It won’t happen because that would open the flood gates, especially the long-held dream by conservative Californians to split CA.

      2. @DT,

        If you “haven’t been to the more rural and bat crazy parts” of Idaho, then you really haven’t spent much time in Idaho.

        And, as far as the resentment of outside money and culture in Idaho, that has been going on for decades. They welcome the money, because they have to, but they don’t welcome the opinions that come with it. I could say more, but I prefer to be polite.

        But hey! Enjoy yourself!

      3. “Seattle is bat crazy, and to some extent they are correct.”

        No, they are not. Sundown Towns are more concerning than being scared of the Seatrle homeless because we’ve heard stories of POC being lynched or hurt if being in the wrong town at the wrong time in places like Idaho. The Green Book existed for good reason back in the day when people started to go on roadtrips and POC wanted to stay safe on said trips.

        That’s more concerning than homeless who generally mind their own business but only “look scary”

        Also FYI, Idaho is home to a hot bed of cults and right-wing groups. Ruby Ridge Siege happened an hour and a half north of Coeur d’Alene near the Canadian border. The siege on a religious family cult that was threatening to assassinate the Governor of Idaho and President.

    3. I oppose it because it would shift electoral votes from Oregon to Idaho, providing a competitive edge to the Republican party.

      That said, if St. Louis were to be allowed to secede from Missouri and join Illinois, I would consider it a fair trade.

      1. Part of St. Louis is in Ilinois. It is called East St. Louis. It is a poor and terrible place with very high crime. St. Louis proper is much more aligned with the politics of Missouri, which are conservative like that whole region. I highly doubt St. Louis Missouri would ever consider becoming part of Illinois, both due to taxes and politics. St. Louis is very much Missouri.

      2. East Saint Louis is a largely poor, African American suburb, not unlike Ferguson (which is in Missouri). I really don’t think it makes much difference which side of the river you are on. There are rich white suburbs, and poor black suburbs on both sides.

        As far as the politics of Saint Louis proper, like most American cities, it has a Democratic mayor. There is no city council, but a board of alderman. The last time a Republican was on the board was 2009. The last time a majority of the board was Republican was 1949. There was an independent a few years back, but since 2015 all 28 members of the board have been Democrats. It really doesn’t line itself up with the rest of the state, and is much more in line with Illinois (a Democratic state). Whether they would want to switch states or not is different issue.

      3. St. Louis proper is the district of Cori Bush, a member of the “squad”. It is definitely not conservative. It just seems that way because they get outvoted by the rest of the state.

      4. I don’t think it would shift electoral votes to Idaho. It just isn’t that many people. All of Harney County is less than 8,000 people. Lake County is slightly more than 8,000.

        In Washington this would be more meaningful, because Spokane actually has people. However, it has enough people it might swing Idaho blue if eastern Washington joined Idaho.

    4. If we really thought aligning as best we can our political demarcations with primarily like-minded people, a city-state structure would make the most sense.

      Even though it would benefit the cities enormously economically to no longer have to support the suburbs and hinterlands, I would be strongly against such an idea.

      The UNITED states. Let’s stay that way if we can manage it.


    Somehow CA’s predicted $100 billion budget surplus has swung to a $22.5 billion deficit. Newsome’s budget proposes to cut state spending on public transit from $7 billion to $5 billion, mostly intercity projects. The question is whether transit cuts when transit ridership is still low makes sense (dollar per rider mile) or whether cuts at this time will create a “death spiral”. But the only solution, according to the second article, to avoid a death spiral is the return of the work commuter.

    In a prior post I linked to an article noting the drastic steps San Franscisco is considering to lure businesses, workers and shoppers back downtown, but without the work commuter there is a death spiral for transit ridership and city tax revenue and vibrancy. I know some transit advocates believe transit levels of service should be irrespective of ridership levels or budgets, but in the real world that is usually not possible.

    I think this region will have to face this issue in 2023, although so far state revenues are strong, but the state spends every dime it collects and really is not in a very good situation for a downturn in revenues, King Co. is way overextended, and cities that have to balance budgets every year unless they borrow are in very tough spots with the end of Covid. According to the Seattle Times Seattle will need to cut $240 to $250 million from its operating budget in 2023, but you never hear anyone honestly discussing this. Maybe the current council wants to wait until the new council.

    It may be revenue, even more than underestimated project costs, that makes WSBLE unaffordable, and we may learn that in 2023 with subarea reports.

    The other option is for Seattleites to raise the amount their property tax levy can be raised each year from 1% to the old level of 6%/year, although that would take a long time, and I personally would not trust the Seattle Council with spending that additional revenue responsibly, which of course would raise rents each year just based on the levy increase each year. According to an article in the Seattle Times today, Seattle is 50% more expensive than the average U.S. city. More taxes won’t make it cheaper, but the other option is $250 million in cuts, and as CA shows transit will be among those cuts.

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