Metro will expand its on-demand taxi service ($). (Official announcement.) These are app-hailed vans like Uber, charging regular Metro fares within a few last-mile service areas. Starting Monday, It will unify existing services (Via, Pingo, Community Ride) under a new brand “Metro Flex” wth a new app. Service areas are “northern Kent, Tukwila, Renton Highlands, Rainier Beach/Skyway, Othello, Sammamish/Issaquah Highlands and Juanita.” You can pay by ORCA, credit card, or the Transit Go Ticket app. Reduced fares like ORCA LIFT are accepted.
King County repealed its bicycle-helmet law a year ago, but helmet usage remains high. ($) I didn’t know it was repealed.
Amtrak Cascades restores full Vancouver BC service. ($)
Why new developments are ugly. (Adam Something video)
This is an open thread.
216 Replies to “News Roundup: Metro Taxis”
Metro Flex potential trips:
– SeaTac Botanical Gardens. Ride from Tukwila Intl Blvd Link station to 24th Ave S & 137th.
– Soos Creek Trail. Northern entrance is at SE 192nd Street & 124th in the Kent service area. Ride from Kent Station, or from the 160 bus stop at 192nd & 108th Ave SE (which is 1 mile from the entrance).
– North Kent industrial jobs on 68th and 84th.
– Seward Park. From Othello station if route 50 isn’t coming soon.
Soaring Eagle Park in Sammammish is one that’s been on our list for a weekday when the 269 is running, but Flex in that area runs on Saturdays too which improves accessibility.
It’s unfortunate that Juanita/Kingsgate is weekday-only for now, because the 522→225 transfer is poorly timed to get to St. Edward Park.
Is this meant to be an “open thread”?
Yes. I’ll clarify it.
https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/accountability/reports/2021/system-evaluation See performance of flexible services on pages 16 and 17.
I appreciate Mike and Ross putting on author’s caps these last few weeks. Thank you!!
You are welcome. Martin Pagel has also stepped up. It has been a group thing, with lots of communication behind the scenes. I’ve been writing about things I would probably write about anyway (bus restructures, especially in the north end). It seems that local transit issues come in waves — at times there isn’t much to write about, then other times there is a flurry. Mike has done the most work, in my opinion; he has written most of these open threads, which keeps things moving between the more specific posts. Mike has also done a lot of great editing behind the scenes (which I really appreciate).
There’s been a lot of talk about rail decades later, recently decided to spot check into near term improvements of our bus system.
Does anyone know if they decided to implement bus lanes on Westlake or not? Doesn’t seem to quite say:
RapidRide H is pretty exciting launching in just two weeks, March 18
Kinda wish there’d be path to expedite the rest of the Rapidrides: K, R, 40 etc..
Does anyone know if they decided to implement bus lanes on Westlake or not?
They haven’t officially decided anything yet, but I think in general, no news is good news. The longer a project like this sits without any discussion of a change, the more likely they will happen.
I think the only controversy is over the bus stop in Fremont. It is a longer walk for riders making a transfer, but better flow for the buses and bikes. If you look at the comment summary (https://www.seattle.gov/documents/Departments/SDOT/TransitProgram/Route%2040%20TPMC/Rt40_TPMC_Spring_2022_outreach_summary_FINAL.pdf) it was one of the more controversial areas. Much of the document deals with this issue, implying the other changes (like bus lanes on Westlake) are a given.
I think the changes to the 40 are exciting, and I agree, I wish we could make them happen faster.
iirc Spotts tweeted that SDOT is looking into whether they can turn the bus lanes on Westlake into Bus + Truck lanes. I remember mention that since the project received federal funding, it might preclude the project from including direct improvements to freight movement in addition to transit movement. Seems silly but rules are rules, sometimes.
My read of the tea leaves is that we’ll get bus lanes on Westlake. A rosy perspective on the hold up is that it’s possible that Spotts’ stated focus on safety is engendering delays to ensure the redesigns of various intersections are in line with Vision Zero.
We shall see.
> (fremont bus move) it was one of the more controversial areas. Much of the document deals with this issue, implying the other changes (like bus lanes on Westlake) are a given.
Thanks for the update that’s nice to hear that the bus lanes have a high chance of passing.
> I remember mention that since the project received federal funding, it might preclude the project from including direct improvements to freight movement in addition to transit movement.
I checked and the transit-plus 40 isn’t part of the small starts program https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grants/grant-programs/capital-investments/capital-investment-grant-cig-dashboard (where there is a legal requirement for a minimum dedicated right of way), though perhaps there other rules as the project accepted federal grants.
“I remember mention that since the project received federal funding, it might preclude the project from including direct improvements to freight movement in addition to transit movement.”
At a time the government wants to improve freight mobility and American commercial competitiveness. I’m not surprised that two policies/regulations are clashing in contradiction. Hopefully sensible minds will reconcile them. The common thread is prioritizing transit and freight over cars and parking spaces. The US federal and local governments have difficulty getting to that point, but hopefully they will.
I do have a back-of-my-mind concern that people might overuse freight permits to get questionable trucks and SUVs into the freight lanes and clog them up, since personal trucks and SUVs are in the category of trucks even when they’re used as consumer cars.
SDOT may be imprecise with terminology. On Leary Way NW, North 36th Street, and Westlake Avenue North, I suspect they mean BAT lane (business access and transit) signed as bus and right turn only. They do not mean bus lanes. On all three arterials, parallel parking and garages are present, so right turns will be needed. SDOT tends to paint bus lanes as solid red and no other traffic is allowed (e.g., Olive Way nearside 6th Avenue, Battery Street). A political risk is that businesses will oppose the project unnecessarily if they think access is so restricted.
A significant transit concern should be the PBL installation for the block of northbound Fremont Avenue North between North 34th and 35th streets. This has worked well for transit for several years since the parallel parking was stripped away from both sides of Fremont. It is a great transfer point. The two radial routes, 40 and 62, connect with crosstown routes 31 and 32; it is a common stop transfer with little walking required. It is ironic to use a transit project to degrade transit connectivity. (But SDOT is doing that with its J Line alignment in the U District as well).
Headline: “Security Levels Are Going to Increase” on Sound Transit Trains, as Agency Struggles to Win Back Riders
The vast majority of former Link riders were lost to WFH. So, to win back riders, ST is going to hire more security? I’m not following the logic.
It only takes a small handful of bad experiences on transit to turn “choice” riders away. In my office, we have 4 parking spots for ~20 staff, so transit was the travel method of choice for most before 2020. Now, folks are faced with a choice: 1) take transit again, 2) pay $40/day to park in our building’s secure garage, or 3) give up their office and WFH.
Based on the few days a month that our office is actually well-populated, I get the impression that most (not all, definitely) folks legitimately enjoy working in our office, because we’re social creatures and working in-person is more fulfilling than meeting with talking heads and only realizing your work day should be over when your roommate or partner or kids or whatever start thinking about dinner.
Despite this, many folks in my office are choosing #3 because they don’t want to pay for parking and they don’t feel safe or comfortable taking transit today. I’m sure ST gets lots of feedback that maybe more people would be interested in taking the train to work if there were fewer passed-out folks in the back of the train, or fewer folks yelling at an imaginary enemy. I think ST is betting that a visible security presence, even if it’s just to kick rowdy passengers off, will improve the transit experience. I’m inclined to agree.
PubliCola is a site that can get mired in the politics of having free fares. The headline would read differently if it was entitled “‘Security Levels Are Going to Increase’ on Sound Transit Trains, as Agency Struggles to Win Back Fare-Paying Riders”.
Just adding “fare-paying” could have set a different tone.
As written, a thorough journalist should have provided data on other “security” items like crime or accidents or passenger surveys about security concerns. Otherwise, the word chosen should have “fare enforcement” specifically rather than a generic “security”. Of course, ambiguity in headlines is a common click-bait technique that pervades online articles.
I also find the last paragraph about flat fares amateurish and inappropriate. The problem that they are complaining about isn’t fare underpaying; it’s total fare avoidance. Flat fares for long distance transit systems (like Link) have a systemic bias against riders making short trips (which lower income people without a private vehicle make more of). Why should a rider going one station to the grocery in the Rainier Valley pay the same fare as someone going all the way to Lynnwood?
Why should I get to pay the same for riding the A Line all the way from TIBS to Federal Way City Center Station as someone who boards in north Federal Way and alights at Highline College?
If you think the purpose of distance-based fares is to give riders from Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square a discount, then you’re missing the point of fare collection. It’s about revenue.
Regardless of the flat vs. distance-based debate, if the cost of riding downtown from Lynnwood to Westlake goes up the day Lynnwood Link opens, that’s some toxic politics. Keep in mind that those who fail to tap off get charged as if they are riding all the way to Angle Lake, or downtown Redmond (since the ORCA reader does not know whether you are boarding the 1 or 2 Line), or Federal Way, whichever is priciest.
The system punishes people not for riding long distances, but for not living near the middle of the lines.
Would you prefer riders going from Bellevue to Lynnwood ride the 2 Line, or an ST Express bus that has a higher marginal cost per rider (I’m assuming it does but I haven’t look up the latest data)? Does the fare system match your personal values in that situation?
Your homework assignment, Sam, is to watch season 2 of Picard. There is a lot of shade there for the current state of the US&A. The bus scene is worth sitting through all 10 hours.
The logic Sam is the loss of riders due to WFH changes the perception of safety on Link and in the underground stations.
As I have posted before, when our office was in Seattle staff would take Link (including when the buses accessed the tunnel for trips east) between peak hours. If staff were asked to work past 6 pm you had to get them an Uber because the number of “normal” peak “eyes of the street” riders went way down. Women staff were especially sensitive to this, and at least in my industry women make up a lot of staff and were indispensable (and buy most of the stuff in the U.S.). When the buses were kicked out of the tunnel and staff heading home east in the evening had to wait on 2nd Ave. when the tents and homeless situation got really bad we couldn’t get any staff from the eastside despite free ORCA cards. In the end we had to leave downtown Seattle to get and retain staff and now have free parking.
IMO I have noted many times before I think safety is a deal breaker, and by safety I mean perceptions of safety. Sticking a six shot revolver with one bullet in your mouth has a fairly low chance of death but still I don’t play Russian Roulette. I have a wife and daughter and you learn to understand many women have a much higher sensitivity to safety than men, especially young men. Just walking alone at night on someplace like MI worries them (and me). Seeing someone doing drugs at a station or on a bus tells them there is danger. If I feel uncomfortable walking around Pioneer Square IN THE DAY they feel ten times more uncomforatble, and why should anyone who wants to shop or dine or work feel uncomfortravble for their safety?
Who knows what someone getting high on a bus will do. Just loud young males are frightening. Who needs to be frightened all the time if you have a car.
Unfortunately, after years of articles in The Seattle Times and posts on Nextdoor many eastsiders think that if you enter Seattle you have a 50/50 chance of returning alive. This perception is magnified because so few have to go into Seattle today. The perception isn’t accurate (especially in the neighborhoods), but since there are perfectly adequate alternatives on the eastside they avoid Seattle, and avoid transit. It is like flying on a plane: passengers are led to believe there is ZERO chance the plane will crash, which of course isn’t true, but if they were told there was some chance, however tiny, it would affect their decision to fly, especially if there is a better alternative like a car in the garage.
Nathan raises another point I think is important in the days of WFH. I agree with him there is a benefit to in office work, especially if you live alone. Employers would certainly like more workers to come into the office.
However WFH is a lot easier and removes the commute, which is uncompensated time. So it depends on the office, the city the office is in, and transit.
Restricted and unaffordable parking (except for executives and partners) in downtown Seattle is a two-edged sword. Pre-pandemic the thought was cars don’t scale, and folks should ride packed transit because they would fund transit, and this would create “urbanism”. Plus a lot of urbanists think cars are the devil Today if you want to charge $40/day for staff to park either the company picks up the tab if they want staff to come in, or they WFH, especially if as Nathan notes there is any perception of risk or unpleasantness on transit, and just being in public carries some risk, depending on how many eyes on the street there are. The Pike Place Market is a different place on bus weekend day and a weekday night.
It isn’t the employer that suffers so much as the city. An urban city like Seattle NEEDS people on the streets, and work commuters have money because they have jobs, very low social costs, and create retail vibrancy which supports street businesses which brings in more eyes on the street during non-peak times. A city is a living thing and people, people with money, are its lifeblood for everyone else.
What this ultimately comes down to is money, because money determines what you can afford. The Seattle Times predicts Seattle will have a $250 million budget deficit coming soon due to WFH. Declining property values for office buildings will move that property tax burden to residential properties and raise property taxes and rents. Loss of transit ridership and non-fare paying riders will reduce farebox recovery which goes toward O&M and levels of service including frequency, It doesn’t matter if like Mike you think frequency is a prerequisite if the money isn’t there for it. Transit d drivers and mechanics don’t work for free.
This is why I agree with TT ST will have to secure its stations, many of which are underground, both for fares and perceptions of safety. Only an idiot at ST (or male living alone) would propose an underground tunnel from 5th and James to 3rd and James when no one will walk that route ABOVE ground today.
In the future I believe there will be Link for longer trips and micro transit for the short and feeder trips, which is what Metro flex and Uber are. Look at the number of trips Uber has taken from buses and from cars. The brilliance of Uber is the market reacting to artificially high parking costs, in many cases for ideological reasons, never anticipated by the ideologues who came up with the artificially limited and expensive parking to get rid of cars. It is ironic that the lack of parking (and safety) which created Uber may be the thing that kills urban transit, especially now with Metro trying to get on the bandwagon in Sammamish and Issaquah of all places (which I think is misguided because those folks own cars and drive because parking is free — Metro flex should be in poorer urban areas).
I think it is too late to save ordinary Metro bus service over the next decade. The decline in funding and farebox recovery, and increase in Uber miles and WFH will force painful cuts which will reduce ridership because Ross is correct that terrible frequency hurts ridership, but if that is all metro can afford….
But Link can be saved and provides a low-cost alternative to Uber or ride shares where they are vulnerable: long trips. Plus Uber/ride share/Metro flex are the perfect door to door feeder system (along with park and rides in less dense areas). But if the Link stations are not safe and secure and the normal riders don’t return then the market will find an alternative to Link as well, like driving your own car for long trips and ride share for short trips, like today.
Metro flex in the suburbs is Metro belatedly seeing the writing on the wall. It is just that a cumbersome public agency like Metro can never compete with something as nimble and fluid and accepted as Uber, and so the if Metro could put aside union concerns and territoriality it should just contract with Uber for Metro flex which would allow it to provide five times the service for the same amount. At some point those at King Co. will figure that out.
Sam is right. It is all smoke and mirrors, and yes, it is in response to the recent news. Basically, Daniel has been writing the same comment about how bad downtown is since we were setting transit records. Yes, some parts of downtown are bad. That has always been the case. But there is no evidence to suggest it is playing a significant part in the transit downturn. Working from home, and the huge downtown caused by the pandemic (and now tech layoffs) are playing a much bigger part. Ridership to downtown is way down. Ridership to Capitol Hill is up. Security has nothing to do with it.
But there are a lot of stories, especially from right-wing publications. The article below comes from KOMO, which is now owned by Sinclair. That doesn’t mean there aren’t occasional problems — again, that is always the case. But the folks running daily ST operations aren’t stupid. If they can both increase fare revenue enforcement, and deal with the overreaction to the smoker on the train, all the better. They will promote this as a way to deal with the tiny portion of people who believe every scary story out there, and want to be assured that the folks in charge are thinking of them.
Oh, and it isn’t really that different when it comes to other forms of transportation. Someone gets killed crossing the street. The city talks about Vision Zero. More should be done. Is a lot more done? No, not really. Maybe someday we will be safe from dangerous motorists, but not today.
Ridership on the 550 declined 1/3 pre-pandemic and ridership declined 17%. As a business owner and employer in downtown Seattle I witnessed it get so bad King Co. had to close the courthouse and buy the park next to the courthouse and fence it off. I once posted from my office I could hear gunshots in Pioneer Sq around lunch time. The victim died.
In 2020 Capitol Hill was occupied and downtown trashed during riots.
The DSA and SDOT announced a major proposal to “revitalize” 3rd Ave. Harrell’s entire campaign was based on addressing crime. I believe 2022 was the worst year for violent crime in Seattle’s history. It doesn’t help when Seattle has lost 300 police officers and will lose another 200. To his credit Harrell wants to hire 500 new police officers but I don’t know if the city has the money or can recruit police officers
If you think Talton and Westneat who live downtown are exaggerating things that is your prerogative.
I did what I could. I moved my business to the Eastside. I don’t go downtown anymore today because it is dead. Even if safe I don’t want to go to a retail desert with expensive parking.
Most Eastside town centers are quite vibrant, and they had to deal with WFH. Try getting a reservation in Old Bellevue. So I go there. I just got back from Honolulu and the retail there was bustling. Hard to get a reservation. Many cities around the country have recovered. Seattle and Portland are the two that have fared worse. Each of us can figure out why.
We used to travel to Mexico but don’t anymore because of reports of crime. I am sure Ross thinks those are exaggerated. But there are many warm areas in the world during our winter so why go to Mexico?
Denial can be dangerous, and I think that is the mistake Seattle progressives made. Crime and homelessness started the exodus, and when Covid came downtown was to weak to recover. I am not sure it can recover today.
Really who cares. The only critical issue is the tax revenue Seattle will lose and loss of farebox recovery. You deal with those through spending cuts and move on. As Freeman noted Seattle handed Bellevue the biggest gift in the world.
People who want to go downtown can, and those who don’t want to have many options these days, in part due to the decline of Seattle.
The market will always figure out a remedy, and shoppers and diners will go where they feel safe and there is retail vibrancy. It is not a complicated marketing principle.
If people have money they want to spend merchants and cities will find a way to attract those customers, which attracts more customers because people like to socialize, and creates tax revenue.
Women have the highest perceptions of risk but also buy over 90% of all things in the U.S. when you are with a wife or girlfriend you feel more vulnerable. TV ratings don’t have a favored demographic for old male transit riders.
As long as there are options I don’t really care (once our lease expired because there is no way our Seattle landlord would let us out early because they knew they could not release the space). I think there are many more vibrant areas — that are safer — in the region so I go there. Right now the region agrees with me. I never thought I would say this but Factoria is more vibrant than downtown Seattle. Whose fault is that?
I meant to write ridership on the 554 declined 17% pre-pandemic, which is why the 554 will go to Bellevue Way and not Seattle in the restructure.
“I meant to write ridership on the 554 declined 17% pre-pandemic, which is why the 554 will go to Bellevue Way and not Seattle in the restructure.”
Except that this is false. The 554 was always going to be truncated with East Link. It was in all the planning scenarios in January 2016 when ST was contemplating a post-ST2 world without ST3. All the Downtown Seattle expresses were truncated at South Bellevue/Mercer Island, U-District, Lynnwood, 145th, or KDM.
What’s new is rerouting the 554 on Bellevue Way to Bellevue TC instead of just terminating at South Bellevue/Mercer Island. But that has other obvious reasons. One, it’s a longstanding goal to connect Eastside cities to each other better. Two, it backfills 550 service on Bellevue Way. Three, it replaces the 556 Issaquah-Bellevue express. The last one is probably the most important.
“Ridership on the 550 declined 1/3 pre-pandemic and ridership declined 17% [on the 554].”
A lot of that is because Eastside jobs and workers are tech-heavy, and tech was one of the biggest industries where work-from-home prevailed/s. The Eastside lost more ridership than either Seattle, South King County, or Snohomish County. The 550 also lost the DSTT, the Rainier freeway station, and the South Bellevue P&R. all within two years of each other.
“Most Eastside town centers are quite vibrant”
Ah yes the vibrant car dependency places that are devoid of charm and character. The post modern taco time strip malls of Kirkland. The seventh circle of hell that is parking in Bellevue. So vibrant and colorful.
Maybe explore Seattle beyond downtown to see that it’s an actual city and not just a collection of strip malls and car dependency like the Eastside is and has been for like forever. Yes, Bellevue has a downtown but even that is still very car dependent and devoid of charm. You want to gush so much about how better the Eastside is and yet look at it with blinders on. When Seattle is perfectly fine and not this mad max hellhole you have been drumming on about for the last 2+ years.
From my experience as a passenger in friends’ or relatives’ cars, parking in Bellevue is much easier than parking downtown Seattle. Arguably this is just as it should be. If you think that parking should be easier in downtown Seattle, though, by all means, please make that argument, Zach.
I agree with Mike that downtown Bellevue is quite walkable. I actually don’t find the new part of Overlake too bad – the area of Bellevue I am really not a fan of is along NE 8th St. East of 405 and along BelRed. The old Overlake mall area where Fred Meyer is is pretty terrible, too, though.
I actually find Kirkland waterfront annoying in the same way I find Edmonds and Pike Place annoying – yuppified areas for rich people to feel good about being rich. Pike Place is the best of the three, but none of them feel “real” to me. I would rather have the new area around Overlake, where there are plenty of small but interesting restaurants, over the stuff in Pike Place, any day.
So, Zach, I see your Seattle snobbery and twist it a little in a way which aligns with my interests, I encourage everyone to do the same. Hopefully with some restaurant recommendations along the way :)
I find your tendency to generalize based off of your own particular experience… disturbing.
I deleted my comment because I didn’t think it was fair to Sam. What Anonymouse is referring to is my comment that downtown Kirkland and Bellevue are walkable, and both have highly popular central parks. So not the entire cities are strip-mall hell.
So, we’re going to have more security personnel, probably more than half of them not wearing masks. Uh, gee, thanks. I feel so much safer.
“It only takes a small handful of bad experiences on transit to turn “choice” riders away.”
Especially when the media overblows them and makes people think the situation is much worse or more widespread than it is. Or people who think that problems that happened twenty or thirty years ago are still happening.
Edit: I just read this sentence: “after years of articles in The Seattle Times and posts on Nextdoor many eastsiders think that if you enter Seattle you have a 50/50 chance of returning alive.” Daniel just made my point for me.
Nope, you don’t get the “blame the media” pass here. Sound Transit, Metro and Pierce Transit has issues with cleanliness, run down facilities and public safety. The worse things get, the less people ride transit. These are real issues.
Workers just don’t need shit like this… no one does.
You’re missing the point. People think that twenty passed-out people happen on every Link run all day, that two-thirds of bus riders are aimless homeless, that there’s violence on every bus run on every route. That’s not at all the case. It depends a lot on which route, homeless riders are 2% or less on most routes most of the time, and violence or harrassment or drug use is occasional.
As a number of us have pointed out before, though, 2% is actually a pretty high chance of running into “trouble”. And the thing is, discretionary riders have a choice – so they will choose not to ride, which means that there will be fewer people riding, which will increase the percentage of problems.
This is why it’s a problem, and why ST is not wrong to want to address it.
However, if you’re okay with the reduced ridership, then by all means continue to blame people for having lower risk tolerance than you do. They will take that opinion with all due consideration.
I didn’t bring up media narrative because I didn’t think it was relevant – it really only takes a few bad experiences with no indication the situation will get better before a discretionary rider uses their discretion.
Analogy: if I had the finances to choose between a cheap restaurant that gave me mild food poisoning every 10th meal or so, or a nice restaurant that had faster service but much higher prices and virtually guaranteed to be safe to eat, I think I know which I would choose.
I think that Nathan’s analogy is spot-on for “choice riders” (using the term loosely). It’s not even a theoretical choice. I have literally done this with at least two restaurants over the years. One bad experience and I have never gone there again. Similarly, for transit, one bad experience at a bus stop and I will go wait at another, even if it makes my commute more annoying – or find a different way. I am likely much more safety-conscious than many here, probably more in line with DT and their family – but there really are many people like us.
It’s fine to not consider us be transit’s “target audience” – just make that be a conscious decision. Because our decision will also be conscious.
Except the original story was about ST increasing security to win back riders. The only problem is Link ridership isn’t down because of safety fears, it’s down because of WFH. Also, show me a person who genuinely concerned about safety on Link, and I’ll show you a person who is also concerned about safety in Downtown Seattle. If they are staying away from Link because they are fearful, they’ll stay away from downtown because they are fearful. Add more security to Link all you want, but you’re still left with a person who is afraid of downtown.
I’m not sure that’s quite true, Sam. Maybe not for regular riders, but there are plenty of reasons to go downtown for a one-off (jury duty, legal appointments, interviews, etc.) and those trips could be done either via transit or other means. So I wouldn’t be quite so cavalier to discard the problem altogether.
BTW, Anon, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for more security and fare enforcement on Link. I’m only saying I doubt more security will bring many riders back. Companies mandating return to office would bring the most riders back, and that’s probably not going to happen, at least for a long time.
Anonymouse, you are a refreshingly level-headed commenter. Well said
The Adam Something video is quite good. The car culture part is right on (and well done!), but what Seattle needs to hear is the “housing as commodity” part. As Seattle has gained more and more renters….. you think the investors who put up those apartment buildings really have a long term plan? Or is it just a 20-30 year “hit it and quit it” when the buildings start to need repair? Would any form of rent control cause Seattle’s “apartment investor class” to change behavior? You think Seattle City Council has much (if any?) control over Asian millionaires?
My unprofessional guess is any time a a U.S. city dips below 50% home ownership, it’s only a matter of time before the crap hits the fan.
Christopher Leinbeger in “The Option of Urbanism” discusses this. Since the 1980s when Wall Street investors got into real estate, there are around 19 standard building types that large investment banks will readily finance, including apartments, houses, retail, and industrial. That way investors know what they’re getting without knowing about the specific building or city. Investors expect to recoup their investment in 20 years. (That’s why managers of those buildings are so aggressive about high rents.) After that the investors move on to something else and don’t care about what happens to the building. So buildings are built to last 20 years, and then are expected to be torn down for the next fad. Or if they’re not torn down, the original investors don’t care, and they can just deteriorate. Walmart builds a store in an edge city, then twenty years later builds a fancier store further out on the new edge, and abandons the original store. This has happened to big-box stores and shopping malls across the country. It’s our throw-away society.
This is in contrast to the early 20th century, when owners built buildings to last a hundred years and pass on to their children and grandchildren. Or in the 1970s when developers would build and sell off tract houses, but they were still local developers with a stake in the community.
Unfortunately, “don’t build anything” is not an option. Shoddy construction is a problem, but it isn’t new.
“My unprofessional guess is any time a a U.S. city dips below 50% home ownership, it’s only a matter of time before the crap hits the fan.”
And New York City is like Detroit, I forgot.
Actually, Detroit is up over 70%, and near the top for homeownership. Fighting for the top spot with such hot-spots as East Saint Louis and Baltimore.
And the bottom of the list with homeownership in that danger zone, hovering at or below 50%, where you are they are about to elect Beelzebub Mayor, are LA, NYC, San Jose and Honolulu.
I wasn’t talking about Detroit’s home ownership, I was talking about its crap hitting the fan.
Yeah, I was agreeing with you and providing supporting data that might be counterintuitive to some. Detroit is always brought up as an example of a high-crime dysfunctional city, yet it has one of the highest homeownership rates in the country.
Most people don’t realize that at the city level, poverty and homelessness are inversely related. Similarly, poverty and homeownership are positively correlated.
Our most sought-after cities are also usually our richest, lowest poverty and areas that suffer most from income inequality and exclusionary zoning. That is a recipe for homelessness.
So it really depends on what shit tacomee is referring to. If it’s poverty, crime, lack of jobs and investment, and a city in decline, he’s wrong.
If he is talking about superstar cities that suffer from housing scarcity, which causes low vacancy rates, unaffordability, and homelessness to skyrocket, he’s right.
Many of the folks reading this would be personally better packing it in and moving to Detroit instead of investing in unworkable housing solutions they falsely believe will make their stay in Seattle comfortable… or even possible.
Your term *superstar city* is perfect. The real problem with Seattle, San Francisco, NYC and every other Liberal city is that they’re so successful that poor people and even nornal working people can’t afford to live there. The easy free market solution is for those who can’t afford Seattle to just move on of their own free will. Seattle owes you nothing…. and you owe Seattle nothing.
There’s no way to fix high housing costs in a *superstar city* because the place attracts money like like poop attracts flies. The more housing Seattle builds, the more yuppies move in. It’s a free country after all.
The trouble starts when people believe that have some sort of *right* to live in Seattle or other *superstar city* and some sort of government intervention is needed to *fix* the housing market so they can stay. Add the number of high AMI out-of-Staters wanting to move to Seattle to the billions needed for more housing…. it’s not possible. For every condo built, somebody with money is looking to move in. You can never bridge the gap.
So the end result are a large pool of highly educated younger people who, because they can’t qualify for a mortgage, drift into believing that pie-in-sky housing schemes (rent control, I-135) are going to bring the sense of belonging and finical stability that only homeownership does. Nope. Home ownership is the gold standard in America. There’s no substitute.
“The easy free market solution is for those who can’t afford Seattle to just move on of their own free will. Seattle owes you nothing…. and you owe Seattle nothing.”
Where can I find a non-superstar American city that has frequent transit and is walkable… and has jobs (i.e., is not depressed like smaller Rust Belt cities)? It’s not worth it to buy an isolated house and live in strip-mall, 6-lane arterial hell.
“The real problem with Seattle, San Francisco, NYC and every other Liberal city is that they’re so successful that poor people and even nornal working people can’t afford to live there”
The real problem is the flaws in American democracy that allow some people to hoard housing and prevent enough from being built for others. That’s what’s causing prices to be high. It’s like when a politician takes bribes or campaign contributions to look after the contributors’ narrow interests rather than serving all their constituents, or worse, deliberately harms some of their constituents.
Actually, Tacomee, I’m content to live here *and* push for sensible housing policies. Please don’t tell me what I should do with my life. It doesn’t sound kind; it sounds condescending.
The things people like me complain about are the mortgage interest deduction and exclusionary zoning. Things that subsidize single family home ownership as a path to wealth. That pathway is something that you are arguing exists. However, people like me are not arguing that it doesn’t exist. We are saying that that system is inequitable; that the system is beneficial to people who don’t particularly need the help; and that it should change. Why are my tax dollars going to subsidize homeowners with incomes greater than $200,000 a year?
Observations from visiting Malmö, Sweden a couple weeks back
– Color coded transit vehicles to distinguish between service types Green for city buses, Yellow for express buses to the suburbs, and Purple for their suburban train service
– Malmö C (Malmö’s Central Station) is what I’d say we should be striving for with a central station in Seattle with pedestrian walkway of food and convenience shops. With escalators down to the long distance and regional rail platforms.
– Transit stops have Vignelli style maps to help passangers figure out where they need to go and major connection point.
– Skånetrafiken (local operator for Skåne County where Malmö is) has a well thought out app that was helpful in navigating by bus/train around Malmö and easy to purchase tickets including buying tickets for the Øresund Bridge to Copenhagen. Something Seattle area honestly lacks.
– Double articulated buses for their BRT service, which means it has 5 doors for said buses. Seats are comfortable with USB ports. LCD screens showing next stops and how long to the next stop. And open door request buttons. All together make for an overall very comfortable rider experience.
– Central Malmö has a nice mix of historic buildings, 60s/70s apartment buildings/malls, and modern style towers. The Malmö Congress (their equivalent of Convention Center) was also a short distance to a local food hall, which was packed with locals getting lunch at one of the various food vendors inside. It was nice to be able to get food at a place that didn’t feel overly touristy and could get something at a reasonable price (for Sweden).
I think that Seattle could learn a thing or two from Malmö on how to run a city that is fairly bus heavy in terms of service.
Metro-flex sounds like the seeds of what I have predicted in the future: micro transit. Uber for everyone.
The problems I see with Metro-flex are:
1. Using Metro drivers, vehicles, and mechanics is probably five times the cost per mile compared to contracting with Uber. Until we have driverless technology, use cheaper technology per mile like Uber with a known app.
2. The criteria are either remote areas (Issaquah Highlands/Sammamish) or “ethnic” communities in areas regular Metro buses don’t serve well. IIRC Sammamish has the highest AMI in WA. They prefer a rural setting and can afford it. This is a strange neighborhood to me to provide highly subsidized Uber service. This program needs to be more needs based. Unless areas like Sammamish are demanding transit service based on mandates to densify which will come at the expense of regular bus service in other areas.
3. These programs have failed in the past because it takes forever for the micro transit to show up, and the drivers are amateurs. MI tried a subsidized program with Uber in which the city paid 1/2 the fare to the north end bus stop. No one used it because Uber took forever to get to the remote areas on MI, especially the south end. Imagine wait times for Metro-flex.
4. For this program to be financially sustainable — especially with the high driver/vehicle costs for Metro — they have to migrate to a shared ride program, but I doubt Metro has the software to coordinate rides. You can’t provide Uber service with Metro’s cost structure for $1 fares that are not needs based. Uber like service is ABOUT THE APP.
I think this rebadged service will fail for the same reasons its Metro predecessors failed: poor app., slow service, unsustainable cost structure with Metro costs and $1 fares.
But it is the future. Metro will just do it poorly and too expensively. When driverless technology arrives for cars and huge rental car companies merge with Uber’s technology and data it will be the end of Metro. Instead King Co. will just contract with the major ride share companies.
Until then Uber will take more and more miles from regular Metro. IMO Metro-flex realizes this but the Metro-flex app. won’t be on every phone in KC tied to a payment method and less than five minute arrival times. But it is a peak at the future.
I agree, I’m pretty excited for driverless tech to make it’s way to driverless transit vans/busses. And of course it’ll probably go beyond just being a circulator to train stations. Also it’ll mean much better all-day/off-peak frequency. Even more importantly it’ll end a lot of the debate about parking/parking minimum requirements.
In the near/mid-term (before full automation) I’d expect it’ll probably be used more for either 1) low-speed circulators like on college campuses or other low-speed routes like the first hill streetcar. 2) for routes with more separation aka sodo busway, maybe hov lanes or potentially even the erc trail if it was automated busses.
Of course there’s the debate about whether the driverless tech will mainly be used for single occupancy personal cars leading people just using it for super-super commutes and lead to even more congestion.
Computers having to make split-second decisions whether to hit the breaks, or which way to detour? What could possibly go wrong with that? I mean, computers have certainly proved smart enough not to make planes nosedive into the ground.
Nobody would ever figure out how to hack them and turn them into killer drones.
Brent, I generally appreciate your positions, but if this isn’t satire, this is a weak one. I mean:
“Humans having to make split-second decisions whether to hit the breaks, or which way to detour? What could possibly go wrong with that? I mean, humans have certainly proved smart enough not to make planes nosedive into the ground.
Nobody would ever figure out how to hijack the driver’s seat or cockpit and turn them into suicidal weapons.”
Only those who never worked in IT believe Driverless Cars are just around the corner.
(and if they are, Don’t Step Off the Sidewalk!)
Yeah, I don’t see driverless cars becoming mainstream anytime soon. Tesla has been trying it for several years now and you can find so many videos of those things just making basic mistakes or turning into oncoming traffic or almost hitting pedestrians. I’m really pessimistic about driverless cars; I don’t see the technology being perfected for at least another ten years.
I agree that fully self driving cars are still much farther away.
What is more possible is a more limited scope of busses
1) low-speed circulators as in https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/01/autonomous-buses-geneva-project/
2) limited-access busses say busses with full grade separation
I view the flex concept as a trial balloon still in progress. I tend to take the long view, which in this case means several more years of trials to see the ways in which it works well and ways it doesn’t.
Central to the concept is a common central point (or maybe two at opposite ends of the covered area). Link stations serve this function well. If a service going to serve a dozen non-residential hubs, it’s however not going to work well.
Then the catchment area can only be a certain maximum distance from the hub. I would say 15 minutes. Any further than people will be frustrated waiting.
Another dimension is the time of day. I could see it very useful between 10 pm and 5 am. Fixed route buses have very low ridership in this time period so a late night operation could end up cheaper.
The service area geography also matters. It seems silly in a flat gridded neighborhood. It seems useful in an area of steep hillsides where it’s hard to even walk to a bus stop.
Unlike others, I have no issue with a flex service being managed locally — and not mired within an agency of several hundred or even a few thousand buses. I also think that one area to explore is partnering with a local supermarket, pharmacy or coffeehouse as the vehicles could deliver both people and time-sensitive goods.
The application has been flawed as well. Via and Pingo have been applied atop fixed route service, so have competed with Metro’s existing service, probably leading to declines in productivity. It is a question of opportunity cost; should scarce service subsidy be used to improved fixed route service or to offer competing flexible service? The drivers are in the gig economy.
Actually I’ve always wondered why don’t they combine the ride-hail feature with a low frequency fixed route.
Part of the problem with freeway bus is that it has a hard time leaving the freeway to get to destinations, and going to every single one even when no one is there wastes a lot of time at detours. If you could hail it on your phone, then the bus could skip it when no one is there. And then the bus the rest of the time could just be on the freeway with much higher frequency.
Aka routes like https://svtbus.org/ or even for say stride 1 it skips the new port hills park and ride to save time.
Metro Flex was a hit and miss prior to COVID. It was a tremendous hit in the Othello neighborhood but failed miserably in Shoreline. Community Transit’s new Zip service is, so far, a huge success (I work at CT). The biggest complaints have been the app is terrible for Android users and wait times on weekends have been up to 30 min (usually 10 during weekdays).
I think microtransit can work in areas where 1) there is a need for transit yet 2) density is low. Community Transit is contemplating expanding Zip to rural communities like Arlington, north of Marysville, where there’s a consistent demand for transit but not enough to operate 30 min service. But in areas like Samammish, I can’t imagine there being a NEED per se because many residents have easy access to cars. Not the same story for Skyway or Kent East Hill
Metro had 2 different Flex-type services in Shoreline before the pandemic. I think they were called Community Ride and Community Van or something like that. I think a big part of why they failed was because Metro put some ridiculous constraints on them. I forget which was which, but some of the constraints were:
Only available after 6pm
Could only be scheduled by phoning a call center days in advance
Could only be booked for 2+ people, not single riders
Any 1 of those would be a dealbreaker for some people. Multiple of them on a single service made it practically unusable.
the first Shoreline and LFP community ride was targeted at the service reductions of fall 2014 that included the deletion of evening span on Route 331, between SCC and Kenmore. The council provided the service subsidy from a separate pot of funds. it is not clear that any of the reductions, or this particular one, should have been implemented. Oddly, the restructure in fall 2021 failed to restore the evening span. ST has also degraded Route 331 by deleting the Route 522 stop pair at Ballinger Way (SR-104) that served as a transfer point.
“The criteria are either remote areas (Issaquah Highlands/Sammamish)”
Read: Ultra low-ridership areas. Metro has long addressed these with “Dial-a-ride” service, which is a scheduled hourly route that if you call will deviate to your house. Metro has had areas of these throughout the 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s. What’s new is app-hailing rather than phoning a dispatch center, and non-route-based services (going from anywhere to anywhere within the area).
“They prefer a rural setting and can afford it. This is a strange neighborhood to me to provide highly subsidized Uber service.”
Issaquah has equity-priority areas according to Metro’s maps. The Issaquah Highlands may be part of it. Sammamish is more the other case: lack of all-day fixed-route service. Metro is introducing it as an alternative to fixed-route service, in an ultra-low density area, where a fixed route would miss many houses.
Jarrett Walker has long maintained that demand-response taxis are less cost-efficient than fixed bus routes, because a taxi serves 2-4 riders per hour while even the least-used fixed routes can usually get 10 or more. That implies that these Metro Flex services are not cost-efficient and serve fewer riders than more bus runs would for the same money. However, I’m not sure if he specifically looked at small last-mile areas, which limit the maximum distance a taxi has to deadhead. If the area is only a 10-minute drive from end to end, then maybe they can be more efficient than those that can go from Redmond to Laurelhurst? That may be a way to justify them and add more areas.
Eastern Bellevue had a pilot called “Crossroads Connect”. It apparently went further than I’d expect, to 124th and 180th at least. It was a short-term pilot that didn’t have ongoing funding. Metro’s latest East Link restructure proposal deleted all fixed-route service east of 156th (Crossroads center), and suggested it would be replaced with a Crossroads Connect/Metro Flex service. That would include the house I grew up in (east of Northup Way), and the adult family home my relative is in (at 164th in Lake Hills). I’m glad I grew up when Northup Way had a fixed route and I didn’t have to depend on an app for transit. But if it happens, I might start using it to get to the AFH, to avoid a 30-minute walk from 8th & 156th. (Although a 156th RapidRide from Overlake Village would cut that down to a 15-minute walk., so that may be another alternative.)
during the great recession, several DART routes were deleted; Sammamish had Route 927; Juanita had Route 935; they were deleted in fall 2014; south of Factoria, Route 925 was deleted in 2012. In Sammamish, the plan has been to operate Route 269 two-way and all-day since 2006; it now has weekday daytime service only. DART is operated by Hope Link.
“They prefer a rural setting and can afford it.”
I missed that, Sammamish is not rural. It’s suburban like Bellevue was in the 70s, full of tract houses with lawns, pretending to be out in the country but not really; it’s more like a low-density city. Carnation, Vashon Island, Skagit County, and Omak are rural.
The thing you have to remember with microtransit is that, in the *best* case, the wait time to get picked up will be around 10-15 minutes. And, unlike a fixed-route bus, with a published schedule, you can’t reduce this wait time by looking at the clock to know when to leave. In the worst case, if all vehicles are busy transporting other customers, you might have to wait much longer than that.
At the same time, most of the microtransit pilots I’ve seen in King County have very short service areas, only a couple miles end to end. These small service areas means that if you’re starting from somewhere in the middle of the service area, anywhere you can possible take the microtransit to is within a mile of you, which at 3 mph, equates to a 20-minute walk. The best-case wait time, plus a 5-10 minute ride time, is exactly the same 20 minutes.
I think microtransit makes more sense when the service areas are a bit larger than this, so it can really be used for trips that you can’t “just walk”, but with relatively fast roads so that the van can move around that service area quickly. It also only makes financial sense when passenger demand is very low.
I can see microtransit making sense as an option on places like Mercer Island. If hardly anybody rides it, you can reduce and reduce the number of vehicles, and when that number is down to 1, the cost to have it available on standby isn’t that much. But, Rainier Valley, it’s simply wasting money competing with fixed-route buses and walking. The money spent to operate it would be better spent simply running the #50 bus more often.
Yeah, my attempts at using the Orcas Island Shuttle only worked once. I’ve not been able to finish the article I was trying to write about it due to it being so unreliably available.
It took 45 minutes to walk from Link to Seward Park when I tried it, or maybe longer. Kent’s service area goes from 65th to 132nd Avenue, and 194th to 240th Street. I’ve walked from 132nd to 108th twice and that took 20 minutes. Walking from Kent Station straight east to 132nd would probably take at least 45 minutes, plus climbing East Hill. Walking northeast from Kent Station to to 132nd & 192nd diagonally across the service area might take over an hour.
Walking from the SeaTac botanical garden to the nearest bus (128) takes some 20 minutes (to a half-hourly bus). Walking to a 15-minute bus (124) takes longer, and walking to TIB station maybe 40 minutes at least. (My friend lived across the street from SeaTac park and I once thought about renting a room in his house, and he thought about having a carless visitor stay there if he came for a visit, but we would be subject to that.
If you’re going all the way from Link to Seward, it’s not only microtransit vs. walk – there’s also the 50.
Even with 30 minute service, you still have a 33% of being picked up within 10 minutes, a 50% chance of being picked up within 15 minutes, and a 67% chance of being picked up within 20 minutes. Even best-case, the probabilities of being picked up within these time intervals are not that much better with the microtransit. And, if the money used to run the microtransit were used to run the 50 more often – say, every 20 minutes instead of every 30 minutes – now the #50 has a 50% chance of picking you up within 10 minutes, 75% chance of picking you up within 15 minutes, and a 100% chance of picking you up within 20 minutes.
This is already at least as good as microtransit can reasonably offer, except it gets even better since, unlike the microtransit, the 50 has both a posted schedule and real-time tracking on OneBusAway. This means you know when it’s going to come, and if it’s not going to be for awhile, you can hop into a business and use the bathroom without fear of missing it. Microtransit, you never really know when it’s going to show up until it does. Even if the app tells you “12 minutes”, that “12 minutes” could easily turn into 20 if somebody along the way happens to request a ride in the wrong direction.
Now, it is true that Seward Park is not the only destination in the Rainier Valley microtransit service area, and that the 50 cannot serve everywhere. But, in terms if walking distance from Link, Seward Park is literally as far from it as you can get. Any other random building in that area is going to be closer, which means the walking distance is going to be less than the 45 minutes it takes to walk to Seward Park. And if the destination is anywhere *not* near a route #50 stop, the walk will be a lot less. For example, the walk from Columbia City Station to the corner of Rainier and Orcas is 24 minutes, according to Google, and if you walk fast, you can get there sooner. Including wait time, microtransit won’t be able to get you there much quicker than 24 minutes. And that’s not even getting into the fact that the additional option exists to walk just to Rainier/Alaska and ride the #7 if you don’t want to walk all the way for some reason.
Now, as I said, there are some areas where microtransit is an idea worth trying. For example, Bainbridge Island does it, and I do think the idea makes a lot of sense there (and even there, they still have fixed-route service on top of it, connecting the major cities together). But, the Rainier Valley is not Bainbridge Island. Lots more lots, everything much closer together, much better walking conditions.
The East Link Connections webpage notes “in Spring-Fall 2022 (Current): Metro finalizes recommended service network for presentation to the King County Council”. The 2022 Work Plan of the King County Council’s Regional Transit Committee had an item “Service/system changes: update on pandemic recovery and other service and system changes, such as the East Link Mobility Connections Project” slated for September; however, the September agenda/minutes note only a presentation on RapidRide and a presentation on Metro’s Flexible Services Program.
Skimming over subsequent months, I haven’t found any indication that East Link Connections has been presented to the King County Council, nor that it is scheduled to be presented. (If I’ve missed it, let me know.) Speculating on why this is: relevant entities (Sound Transit, King County, etc.) may be viewing East Link Connections as inextricably associated with the debut of East Link, and may view the implementation of the bus route changes as “on hold.”
It seems to me that certain parts of East Link Connections could be introduced now, even if it is not yet possible to supply the proposed frequencies for the routes in question. I would rather have the proposed 222/223/226/249 now, even if at degraded frequencies, than be stuck with the current 221/226/249 for years. Similarly, the proposed 270 seems doable now, if one truncates the current 271 to operate only east of Bellevue Transit Center. The 270s would be articulated, and the frequencies of 270 and 271 could be calibrated separately.
Metro’s March service change info isn’t out yet, but I’m doubtful it will include substantial changes to Eastside routes. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but with the trends of (i) preferring infrequent major bus system restructures to more frequent incremental changes and (ii) hitching the “next” such major bus restructure to Link, the Bellevue/Redmond area risks spending even more of the 2020s on a ‘zombie wait’ for bus routes that fit 2020s riders.
John, I think you are correct. East Link won’t open until 2025 at the earliest and things are still working themselves out on the eastside when it comes to transit and peak ridership, so Metro and ST want to wait to finalize any bus restructure.
There is also the possibility Balducci gets her wish to open a limited segment for East Link from S. Bellevue to Overlake, which would possibly require a limited restructure.
ST and the Board are not very good at transparency when it comes to the bridge issues. The Board knew in 2019 the plinth issue would likely delay opening East Link but did not disclose that until 2022 with another two-year delay until 2025 (not unlike the recent delays for TDLE, the reasons (more stations) sound hollow to me. A big unknown is whether the bridge will be able to handle four car trains at 50 mph every 8 minutes. The draft restructure was completed before the plinth issue was disclosed, and the draft assumes four car trains can run at 50 mph every 8 minutes, although I doubt that frequency will be necessary for cross lake travel.
Finally I think 2023 will be an important year for Metro budgets and general tax revenues for transit, and Metro may have to look at cuts, or allocate more service based on racial equity. That pretty much leaves out the eastside (unless you are talking about Metro flex).
I thought the draft restructure, at least for areas near and south of I-90, made sense based on ridership at that time, which hasn’t changed much. For those areas the ridership on the 554 and 550 tell ST and Metro everything they need to know about ridership levels and any future feeder bus routes and frequencies.
The big surprise was rerouting the 554 to Bellevue Way. I doubt Issaquah will agree to any change for that. If I were to predict any changes to the draft transit restructure, I would look at the eastside park and rides to determine ridership patterns. Until the park and rides are full feeder buses are hard to predict. Metro claims it must run even empty peak buses at 15-minute frequencies, but I don’t how long it can afford to do that when East Link opens. You won’t see full — or even partially full — feeder buses until you see full park and rides.
It depends on East Link. For a September restructure, the final legislation usually goes to the council the April before. East Link’s date has been slipping and is uncertain, and now there’s a new issue of an East Link starter line (South Bellevue-Redmond Tech) for the first two years. ST at first said it wouldn’t restructure ST Express for the starter line, then it said it’s studying it, without giving any route specifics. Metro would have to decide whether to have an interim restructure. I doubt it, because Metro wants to keep the number of restructures to a minimum to avoid disruption to passengers. So it will all probably wait until the full East Link date is certain and six months away. Finalizing a restructure too far ahead runs the risk of Metro regretting it later, or changes in the economy by the time it opens that force cuts or expansions or maybe an additional restructure.
The changes to the 270 and other routes fall into the “minimize the number of restructures” category. Moving the routes would create winners and losers. (In this case, the losers would be Medina, the Northup Way area, and probably others.) The losers would complain and badmouth Metro. In the past it would have been enough to get the council to veto the restructure. Metro wants to have the good and bad all at once to demonstrate some benefits and minimize badmouthing.
Are you suggesting that neighborhoods or cities losing service should not advocate for the loss of service to be reversed?
I remember there was an article on STB about the eastside restructure in anticipation of a 2023 opening of East Link. I don’t remember any major complaints on the eastside about the draft restructure although I didn’t follow every route. The one big surprise was rerouting the 554 to Bellevue Way, but when you thought about it it made sense, and I was surprised so many were surprised including me although I never thought MI made much sense as a major bus intercept.
As I have posted before, two unknowns remain: 1. how many folks from the greater Issaquah area (and south of I-90) simply drive to a park and ride that serves East Link rather than drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to East Link. Until the park and rides fill by 7am I think that will be the primary access to East Link, which means S. Bellevue and MI, both of which are empty today. If you look at some of the peak and non-peak bus frequencies from MI back to the greater Issaquah region I doubt riders coming from Seattle would want to risk a transfer there at a lonely bus stop along N. Mercer Way with 15-, 30- and 90-minute frequencies to a park and ride in Issaquah when they could just jump in their car and complete a few errands along the way.
2. The other consideration some on this blog don’t like to think about is how many buses continue to mimic East Link. Right now there is the 554 to Bellevue Way, and the 630 from MI to First Hill. I think there will be more, at least during peak hours, to avoid transfers. The subarea will have $600 million year in revenue after East and Redmond Link are completed so can afford buses. Even if East Link has full speed/capacity across the bridge I think there will still be more buses like these (like the 332) to areas East Link does not serve (Bellevue Way, First Hill) to avoid a transfer, and to avoid a transfer in downtown Seattle. I just don’t think eastsiders will transfer after getting off Link, if they even get on it.
East Link had three major destinations when first designed: Bellevue, Microsoft and downtown Seattle. Ridership and commuting to both is way down today, and East Link does not serve downtown Bellevue. The other stops are mostly “inchoate” meaning they are planned but don’t yet exist, and may never exist. One of my favorite lines is by Ross: build transit (especially Link since you can’t move it) to where the people and riders are, not where you hope they will be, mainly because they live where they do for reasons that won’t change. Will that urban Microsoft worker living on Capitol Hill skip the dedicated shuttle or WFH to take East Link 45 minutes to the campus? Or are they old now and married living in Redmond with kids and will drive to the 3 million sf parking garage.
With in office work way down, Amazon downsizing, and WFH Bellevue is more intent than ever to keep limited eastside workers on the eastside in Bellevue offices, certainly from the greater Issaquah region. Hence the 554. I would be really surprised if the final restructure made it easier to commute to downtown Seattle rather than downtown Bellevue, and what eastside worker would want to commute to Seattle rather than Bellevue if given the choice, especially SLU that East Link does not serve.
I think by now we have a pretty good feel for the new normal on the eastside, and when it comes to the eastside transit restructure for East Link I think the feeder bus will be the most disfavored mode of all. Riders will either drive to a park and ride serving East Link, or demand the “feeder bus” simply continue to their ultimate destination. Eastsiders don’t get excited about mode for mode’s sake. Whatever is faster and more convenient, and to extent affordable, beginning of course with their car.
Eastsiders are not that put out that East Link will open five years late, or it may have very weak ridership which the subarea can afford, but they won’t put up with light rail that is more inconvenient and slower than their one seat bus. These are discretionary riders. Transit will have to compete rather than treat riders like transit slaves, and I don’t know if transit has that mindset. It is like Uber vs. Metro flex: one will be 100% consumer oriented and created itself out of dust, and the other a slow, cumbersome government agency focused more on the benefit of agency staff than the customer. Metro flex will be dead in a year (or rebranded again) while the number of miles Uber will drive in this region will continue to skyrocket no matter how hard progressives and transit advocates try to disadvantage rider share.
It isn’t a big deal. The subarea can afford trains, buses and park and rides, and even flex, although I doubt eastsiders will ever do more than two from the menu in any one trip. The real question for me is how empty the feeder buses will be, and how empty Metro can afford to run them, especially if revenue declines.
“In the past it would have been enough to get the council to veto the restructure. Metro wants to have the good and bad all at once to demonstrate some benefits and minimize badmouthing.”
I agree with this assessment, yet I suppose I’m fixated on the ramifications of this reality: the longer East Link is delayed, the more absurdly the incentivizations on Council members, and the incentivizations on civil servants (e.g. Metro and ST service planners), will push against, not with, the efficiency and responsiveness of the transit system to riders and taxpayers. If I had to put it concisely, government entities in the Puget Sound area seem strongly disincentivized to “fail fast.” (Granted, this is scarcely confined just to transit, nor to Puget Sound.)
“ST at first said it wouldn’t restructure ST Express for the starter line, then it said it’s studying it, without giving any route specifics.”
Indeed, I saw a note in some presentation slides online that ST was considering this w.r.t. the starter line. I’m not sure ST alone can accomplish much with this, however. I doubt that, say, truncating 550s at South Bellevue would be all that popular with riders. I suppose one could truncate the 566 at Bellevue Transit Center, but (IIRC) 566 wasn’t even brought into scope for East Link Connections.
I live in the Crossroads area, and speaking selfishly, what would benefit me most is a one-seat ride to a Link station — any Link station — that’s reasonably frequent. As long as (full-fledged) East Link is out of the picture, from my vantage point, the convenient way to connect Crossroads to Link (i.e. serving plenty of dense housing) would be to bring some SR 520 buses (of the 541/542/544/545 variety) down to Crossroads.
I haven’t seen indications of such plans in any Metro/ST documentation, however. It looks like there is an initial proposal to produce a one-seat ride between Crossroads and the U District by cutting RapidRide B in two and creating a RapidRide line U District – Downtown Bellevue – Crossroads. However, RapidRide expansion is also progressing so glacially slowly that Crossroads continues to sit for years without getting anything concrete out of these ‘proposals.’ Factoria is in a similar position in this regard.
“Are you suggesting that neighborhoods or cities losing service should not advocate for the loss of service to be reversed?”
I’m saying Metro doesn’t want to create losers without having a major gain. A new Link extension or a RapidRide line is a major gain. There are so many major openings now that Metro is delaying restructures for them. Route 2 and 49 restructures are probably waiting for RapidRide G since they didn’t happen with U-Link. A Route 270 restructure is probably waiting for East Link.
People always badmouth Metro when losing status-quo service. They can always state their case, and sometimes they haave a point. The point is the badmouthing creates a general negative public impression of Metro. Having it happen many times (i.e., many restructures) gives Metro an overall worse reputation than if it makes the same changes in a fewer number of restructures (so that complaints are simultaneous rather than at different times).
However, there have been some changes in attitudes recently. The county council used to veto restructures if even one person complained about losing a one-seat ride or a milk run. It stopped doing that in 2012 when it realized it could no longer afford to keep these zombie routes: it was getting in the way of providing frequent corridors and effective transit. In the 90s or so there was a proposal to remove a route from Medina or Clyde Hill (maybe a 240 extension), and one couple showed up and testified they wouldn’t be able to take it to the freeway station for commuting anymore. They did say that wasn’t really bad on a network-wide level, but it would be harder for them. That kind of thing typically happens all the time in restructures. Starting with the RapidRide C/D restructure in 2012 and the recession-cut restructure in 2014, Metro has gotten more aggressive about restructures, and opposition has sometimes been less than anticipated. Hardly anyone in Medina rides the 271, and it has been like that for forty years. In past restructures they’ve still objected to losing the route, but this time I bet there haven’t been any complaints from Medina, or at least far less than previously. This has happened in a few other cases too. So it may be that Eastsiders as well as others are accepting restructures more now than they used to.
“how many folks from the greater Issaquah area (and south of I-90) simply drive to a park and ride that serves East Link rather than drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to East Link.”
And why do you think the Eastside restructure should revolve around Issaquah and Sammamish when they’re such a small fraction of the ridership, population, and voters? Why should the #1 issue in the restructure be maintaining an Issaquah-Seattle express? You keep talking as if Metro and ST should quake in their boots about what Issaquah riders might do, and the threat of them driving to a P&R or driving all the way. Everyone expected them to be the first ones to that. And that’s why the P&Rs exist.
“how many buses continue to mimic East Link. Right now there is the 554 to Bellevue Way,”
… which is in a different corridor than East Link. Bellevue Way has a lot of apartments, ST Express has served it since the 90s, and it won’t be a one-seat ride to Seattle.
“and the 630 from MI to First Hill.”
I assume Mercer Island is funding it, and it will last as long as Mercer Island continues to do so. So you’d have to ask your city officials and residents why it’s running and whether it should continue to do so. No other Eastside city has an express to First Hill, and I don’t think any South King County city does either, or northwest Seattle.
You might want to ask Metro and your fellow residents whether Metro Flex might be a good idea for Mercer Island.
“East Link does not serve downtown Bellevue”
Except it does. 110th is within downtown Bellevue. 108th-110th is where the tallest highrise zoning is, and it has been that way since the 70s. It’s less than a 10-minute walk to Bellevue Square. Link would have been better with an alignment on Bellevue Way, but even the current alignment serves downtown Bellevue.
“Will that urban Microsoft worker living on Capitol Hill skip the dedicated shuttle or WFH to take East Link 45 minutes to the campus? Or are they old now and married living in Redmond with kids and will drive to the 3 million sf parking garage.”
Microsoft has tens of thousands of workers. They all do different things. Not all of them are moving to Redmond and raising kids. Some still don’t have kids, and some are probably raising kids in Seattle.
“what eastside worker would want to commute to Seattle rather than Bellevue if given the choice”
The Eastside as a whole has, I calculated it a few days ago, what, 300,000 people. They don’t all do the same thing or think the same way either.
“I agree with this assessment, yet I suppose I’m fixated on the ramifications of this reality: the longer East Link is delayed, the more absurdly the incentivizations on Council members, and the incentivizations on civil servants (e.g. Metro and ST service planners), will push against”
I don’t even know what this means. Push against certain route concepts? I assume Eastside policians and residents are ambivalent about the tradeoffs in the proposed draft, as I am. They’ll still be ambivalent in three years or five years, because it’s still tradeoffs. What’s missing is more service hours to improve the frequency, but that’s larger issues. One, transit revenue is down. Two, King County still hasn’t floated the levy that would complete Metro Connects. Three, the county voted down several of the last countywide Metro measures, which is why Seattle ended up going it alone with its transit-benefit levy. Seattle is pro Metro expansion, South King County is against it (because it thinks it’s too poor for increased taxes), and the Eastside is in between. King County was going to put it on the ballot in 2020 but then Covid took all its attention, and then it didn’t want it on the same ballot as the Harborview expansion, and now who knows when it might happen, or whether the county would vote for it.
“It looks like there is an initial proposal to produce a one-seat ride between Crossroads and the U District by cutting RapidRide B in two and creating a RapidRide line U District – Downtown Bellevue – Crossroads.”
That’s an interesting long-term concept I’ve been mulling over. It’s essentially upgrading the Redmond-Eastgate half of the 245 into RapidRide, and replacing the north-south part of the B where they overlap. That would still require additional funding for the part south of NE 8th Street. And it would be after RapidRide K. Even just extending the western end of the B to the U-District would require additional funding, regardless of whether the eastern end is truncated at Crossroads.
And I agree that, with future East Link, there won’t be as much reason to keep the east-west and north-south part of the B as a single route. Right now it’s the only full-time frequent way to get from Redmond or Ovelake Village or northern Crossroads to downtown Bellevue, but in the future you could take Link from Overlake Village station.
“how many folks from the greater Issaquah area (and south of I-90) simply drive to a park and ride that serves East Link rather than drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to East Link.”
Depends on where they are. In the Highlands of Issaquah the prospect of a short drive to a park and ride followed by buses running almost as often as the train looks pretty appealing. You avoid all of the traffic. If you are headed to downtown Bellevue, then you either drive to work (and deal with traffic and parking) or you catch the 554 (which likely will involve a short drive to one park and ride or the other). I think the folks that are not in the Highlands and going to Seattle will probably just drive to South Bellevue Park and Ride. They could end up in Eastgate if there is a lot of congestion around South Bellevue (or the parking lot is full).
> It looks like there is an initial proposal to produce a one-seat ride between Crossroads and the U District by cutting RapidRide B in two
It’s the proposed Candidate Rapidride lines (probably like 2030+ timeframe), though for the Eastside these are the next Rapidride’s after Rapidride K.
The North-South: 1999 (Metro Connects), This candidate project would be a modification and extension of RapidRide line and follow portions of the RapidRide B Line and Route 226 corridors running from Redmond to Eastgate via Overlake.
And the East-West: 3101 + 1028 (Metro Connects) This candidate project would be a modification and extension of RapidRide B line and follow portions of the RapidRide B Line and Route 271 corridors running from Crossroads to the University District via Downtown Bellevue and Medina.
“I don’t even know what this means. Push against certain route concepts? I assume Eastside policians and residents are ambivalent about the tradeoffs in the proposed draft, as I am. They’ll still be ambivalent in three years or five years, because it’s still tradeoffs. What’s missing is more service hours to improve the frequency, but that’s larger issues.”
Push against an overall approach of adapting the network more frequently, in ways beyond superficial tweaks, so that the network doesn’t fail to follow changing patterns of ridership, funding, etc. as such ‘environmental factors’ evolve. By ‘more frequently’, even ‘once every ten years’ would be a more understandable bar (to my intuition – I admit I’m not reasoning quantitatively!) than what’s happening now.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Bellevue and Redmond still have a 2011-vintage bus network. (I grant that there have been tweaks, like the 250.) If East Link doesn’t arrive until late 2025 (and I doubt anyone’s ready to guarantee even a date that late), that’s 14 years on an essentially static route network.
I can understand being ambivalent about the tradeoffs in, say, East Link Connections Phase 2 vs. Phase 3. Both were thoughtfully conceived/optimized based on conditions now, not conditions in 2011. However, I think that even if East Link were *not* coming at all, factors like the following —
– change in housing distribution
– change in employment location distribution
– risks to funding over time
– driver availability (some may prefer to just tuck this under ‘funding’)
– new infrastructure that didn’t exist in 2011 (e.g. Link north of Westlake, esp. U of W Station)
— would collectively have justified a ‘substantial’ (I’m not saying total, but not trivial either) rethink of Bellevue and Redmond’s bus route networks by now.
The argument ‘things are especially volatile right now; we prefer to wait until the volatility subsides’ does make some sense, but I’d be reluctant to wager that volatility will subside in the next, say, three years. Rather, I do think it’s proabable that the nature of the volatility will shift toward the specific issue of funding.
I may well be missing the forest for the trees on this; if there are factors that make the above incorrect (or even just moot), I’d like to know more.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Bellevue and Redmond still have a 2011-vintage bus network. (I grant that there have been tweaks, like the 250.) If East Link doesn’t arrive until late 2025 (and I doubt anyone’s ready to guarantee even a date that late), that’s 14 years on an essentially static route network.”
What urgently needs to change? I grew up in Bellevue in the 70s and early 80s when the network was much worse, so to me the current network is a breath of fresh air. The proposed changes I’d say are somewhat improvements, but not radical or urgent improvements. (Although I suppose I should think more about the 270 on north Bellevue Way, as my high school self could have used the frequency and taken it to the U-District, but then I would have lost the route to Kirkland.)
“What urgently needs to change? I grew up in Bellevue in the 70s and early 80s when the network was much worse, so to me the current network is a breath of fresh air. The proposed changes I’d say are somewhat improvements, but not radical or urgent improvements.”
It may take a service planner, or perhaps even a computer scientist, rather than a layperson/enthusiast to give this sort of question a persuasive answer (even if one can then debate subjective factors underlying such an answer). It’s possible that the 2011 system does remain in some way ‘near-enough optimal’ for the Eastside; but on the other side of the coin, I don’t have an easy way of ruling out the possibility that some substantially better network exists, undiscovered. As a rider and taxpayer, I’m not yet inclined to ignore that residual skepticism.
I doubt I would call these radical, but here are some specific things that come to mind (and I acknowledge that some of these are personal rather than generally civic-minded):
– Grant each of Factoria and Crossroads an all-day one-seat ride to some Link station — now, instead of at some still-indeterminate time when East Link will open (in 2 1/2 years seems a ‘safe’ guess, but who knows?). Seems to me Factoria could have been given this back in 2011, and Crossroads could have gotten this in 2016. Among communities not on Link, it’s the communities with one-seat rides to Link that are truly plugged into the broader Seattle metro on transit. (This one’s admittedly from personal experience; as an example, my last trip to Seattle was 245-545-255-67, IIRC. Not as bad as it looks, but not great either.)
– In response to ongoing driver shortages, and in preparation for prospective funding challenges: if Metro/ST says they can convert a route, or even a piece of a route, from standard buses to articulated ones, go ahead with it. Frequency does suffer, but capacity can be retained. (Yes, the 270 is the motivation for this one, but there might be other candidates; I haven’t considered it.)
– Avoid (at least more than now) overlaying two frequent routes on top of one another; prefer instead to spread the frequent route coverage to areas of high-density housing that lack it. 164th between 8th and Northup Way, taken together with Northup Way just west of 164th, has that sort of density, yet the B Line and the 245 both run on 156th, overlapping one another.
If the above seems petty or paltry, I may ultimately be working to convince myself to ‘stop worrying and wait for East Link.’ :-)
“It’s the proposed Candidate Rapidride lines (probably like 2030+ timeframe), though for the Eastside these are the next Rapidride’s after Rapidride K.”
Thanks for the info and links WL. I believe I’ve read the Metro Connects document before at some point.
“East-West: 3101 + 1028 (Metro Connects)”
I wonder if a prospective a UW-Crossroads RapidRide route would run into problems w.r.t. rules on driver restroom availability. If such a RapidRide route is forced to have long layovers at Bellevue Transit Center, even in just one of the two directions, in my view that would put an asterisk on its status as a true one-seat ride UW-Crossroads.
The driver restroom restrictions might also be part of why no route in current or proposed systems has a terminus at Crossroads.
If memory serves, over the years people have brought up a potential route that would extend from Bellevue Transit Center to UW, and then reach even further west, into Ballard – something like a 271-44 or a 271-45. A UW-BTC-Crossroads RapidRide line might close the door to such possibilities. That said, as noted in the Urbanist article, Metro Connects corridor 1012 (generally corresponding to the 44) is among the routes selected for further study as a RapidRide candidate.
We have an expert planners’ opinion, Metro’s East Link restructure proposal. That’s based on Metro’s long-term plan, Metro Connects. There was a map of what Metro thinks is optimal, although it’s been offline since 2020 so if you didn’t see it you’re out of luck, and some details may have changed. But Metro’s proposals are what Metro thinks is optimal at the time. So if you don’t have a specific better network, you can compare the changes in the last proposal and say if any of them are urgent enough to necessitate a restructure now. You’d also have a service-hour constraint, as the proposal depends on truncating the 212/214/216/218/etc to recover more hours, and that depends on Link crossing the lake.
“Grant each of Factoria and Crossroads an all-day one-seat ride to some Link station — now, instead of at some still-indeterminate time when East Link will open”
The closest Link station now is downtown Seattle, so you’d be recreating the old 226 (Crossroads), which the 550 truncated and was later replaced by the B. And you’d have to have a new route from Factoria to downtown Seattle. For that you’d have to go even further back and recreate the 210. Either of those would require a lot of additional service hours, and would duplicate the 550. If the 550 were Metro you could theoretically interline two routes (550+B to Crossroads, and 550+210 to Factoria), but it’s a different agency that’s not interested in that. And I would insist on 15-minute frequency for the first one at least, so that’s all the 550 runs.
“In response to ongoing driver shortages, and in preparation for prospective funding challenges: if Metro/ST says they can convert a route, or even a piece of a route, from standard buses to articulated ones, go ahead with it. Frequency does suffer, but capacity can be retained.”
Reducing frequency doesn’t necessarily require larger buses: that’s only if they’re near capacity now. I would argue against doing this because frequency is paramount. Frequency is what makes more trips feasible, makes more people willing to take transit, and is the #1 issue for many riders because waiting is boring. There’s no reason to prematurely force people to wait more, to get them used to waiting later. We don’t know what Metro’s cuts will be or how much, so let’s wait until it proposes them.
“I wonder if a prospective a UW-Crossroads RapidRide route would run into problems w.r.t. rules on driver restroom availability.”
It’s not that long a route. The 271 is 24 minutes from the U-District to Bellevue TC. The B is 10 minutes from Bellevue TC to Crossroads. That’s 34 minutes, compared to the E’s 54 minutes or the 62’s 64 minutes. And it would be faster on Bellevue Way than in Medina and with more of it on the freeway, and with the future 520 interchange and RapidRide upgrades in Montlake and the U-District, so the travel time may be less than 34 minutes. Metro can make arrangements with a business for drivers to use the restroom; it does it on other routes. If it goes north on 156th a few blocks there might be a suitable business.
“Hastings, you just stated the problem and the solution without realizing you’re doing so,” said Hercule Poirot.
The nearest existing Link station to Bellevue is not downtown Seattle, it’s UW. So a B+270 route from Crossroads to U-District would be a speedy 34 minutes or less.
And I guess Factoria could have a route to UW. Hmm, is there an existing route to extend? The 240 is already long, so not that one. The 246 goes between Factoria and Bellevue, and it ends at the Yarrow Point freeway station. Could a bus go from there to 84th and get on 520 westbound? I think Yarrow Point has only eastbound exits. Of course, it would be slow. The map shows a lot of turns between SE 26th and Main Street, and the Clyde Hill routing has several turns and is on residential streets. And the 246 is a weekday daytime only route with approximately hourly service. So what you’d really want is something faster.
“The nearest existing Link station to Bellevue is not downtown Seattle, it’s UW. So a B+270 route from Crossroads to U-District would be a speedy 34 minutes or less.”
Indeed, for Crossroads I would favor UW Station via 520. My attention had been on the 54x buses already coming rather close to Crossroads, and the new high-density housing between 520 and Crossroads; a B+270 alternative would likely reach even more high-density housing. (A B+270 option and a 54x option wouldn’t necessarily have to compete for riders either.)
(Side note: not sure why I haven’t considered it before now, but while the distance between Overlake Village Station and Crossroads is far to cover on foot, it’s a reasonable distance to cover on bike or scooter. Redmond’s part of such a corridor — 152nd north of 20th — seems in decent shape for this already; Bellevue’s side, not so much.)
UW Station isn’t just the closest Link station to Crossroads, it’s the closest Link station to downtown Bellevue as well. This has influenced my riding patterns over the years; for trips from Bellevue Transit Center to Westlake, I’ve tended to favor taking the 271 and transferring to Link at U of W Station over taking the 550.
Factoria is harder. I used to ride the 210 to get to and from work, and something 210-like was the first thing to come to mind. I would admittedly struggle to be optimistic about how much midday ridership such a route could garner, but it’s hard to venture a guess since such a route hasn’t been tried midday (AFAIK). Factoria-UW is a curious alternative to contemplate, especially given how many students ride through Factoria to reach Bellevue College, yet I also don’t see an obvious way around downtown Bellevue that doesn’t just produce something 167-like. (I briefly entertained some more outlandish ideas, like extending the 240 to Rainier Beach Station, but dismissed them just as quickly.)
The challenges here make logical sense, yet the ongoing disparities remain: year after year, among the sizable neighborhoods of the Eastside, Factoria and Crossroads sit comparatively ‘locked’ into an Eastside-specific subnetwork, while other higher-income neighborhoods across the Eastside enjoy one-seat access to Link stations in Seattle (and the faster metro-wide mobility that comes with that access). It doesn’t seem a waste of time to me to try to puzzle through a way to mitigate this, even if just for the sake of the next 2-3 years; yet I would indeed hope that others have already given this more than the brief effort I’ve given it with proverbial pen and napkin.
“That’s based on Metro’s long-term plan, Metro Connects. There was a map of what Metro thinks is optimal, although it’s been offline since 2020 so if you didn’t see it you’re out of luck, and some details may have changed.”
I found this document online — is it the one?
This one is labeled “November 17, 2021” on the title page; on page 1, the document is noted as a “2021 update to Metro Connects.”
“I found this document online — is it the one?”
Pages 18 and 19 partly get at it, but that’s just a spaghetti of streets with service. What I’m talking about was an interactive online map with specific representative routes, so you could tell which villages and stations each street was connected to. You can’t do that with these maps.
Thanks for the clarification. Indeed, when I go to the “Service Network” page, and click on “View the service network map,” only the current system map comes up.
That’s where it was, but it’s not anymore. Thanks for the link by the way; I hadn’t seen the update. There’s one piece of good news:
“Metro Connects defines frequent service as any route that comes at least every 15 minutes, 16 hours a day on weekdays and 12 hours a day on weekends.”
Hooray! The first version defined Frequent as 15 minutes, which I assumed to be full time (until 10pm every day like RapidRide). Then Metro said it was only promising until 7pm weekdays. Now it’s defining it as something in between. This makes a big difference. With full-time frequent or near-full time frequent, Seattle would have a good frequent network throughout the city. With weekdays until 7pm, Seattle might not get any improvement at all.
Look at ’em water taxis: Downtown-Ballard, UW-Kirkland, UW-Kenmore. (pp. 42-43)
East Link was delayed by the plinth issue and the concrete strike. ST is still considering when to implement it. So, the council will consider the suggested network later.
Finding more as I rummage around:
May not be new for many readers — it’s also possible I’ve seen this before and forgotten. Nevertheless, this is the sort of modeling I was hoping existed — in particular, something software-based — and Factoria and Crossroads are both specifically included among the analyses.
(Looks like I posted this reply at the wrong thread tier; see above for context.)
Dow has some funny ideas for the Midtown station and the County Jail.
A link would have been nice, but I guess it wasn’t hard to search.
Again with giving away valuable properties for free to agencies that are property tax-exempt.
Also, keep in mind, Dow, is the King County Executive, but he is also Sound Transit Board chair.
Just once, I’d like to read a story that goes something like: King County will sell (or lease) seven the downtown parcels which currently house various county buildings. The estimated sale price will be between $150M-$200M dollars. Property tax revenues for the properties are estimated to be over $10M/year. The county was considering giving the properties away for free to a transit agency, but since the county’s revenue shortfall is expected to only get worse in the coming years, selling the properties, and the yearly property tax revenue, will give the county a much needed cash infusion.
Maybe King County can finally rebuild the Metro customer service building so that Amtrak thruway buses don’t have to make a time consuming backup move to extract themselves from King Street station.
That would be better than putting the DSTT2 CID station there and rerouting RapidRide G to it. Activate the site some other way.
I guess Dow doesn’t support 4th Ave shallower. He supports the County Jail station.
Aren’t they both part of DSTT2 2.0: 4th Ave shallow tunnel to avoid CID, station at the jail with tunnel to Pioneer Sq station to transfer to DSTT1, skip midtown station, station near Westlake.
The development Dow envisions at the 5th and James location (next to the big hole that has been there for 20 years) would take decades, and I don’t see DSTT2 and Link being a catalyst for that development. At least the rest of downtown and the CID don’t want DSTT2 near them. If there is a fight over who has to use the new tunnel maybe that suggests the routing or something is amiss with DSTT2.
We don’t know what the ST boardmembers think. They haven’t voted on it, it didn’t come up much in the last hearings, and the idea of a jail station is brand-new and hasn’t had time for a large debate and people solidifying their positions on it yet. It’s just one alternative among several that ST is debating.
Many here like to point to European cities (and countries) as models of success in terms of housing affordability. It’s worth noting that not all countries are successful, though. This article on Sweden is relatively informative, I think:
The “money quote”, towards the end:
“On the other hand, Sweden has a fundamentally broken rental system, which for a variety of reasons comprehensively fails to make affordable accommodation widely and readily available in the largest cities, especially for those with greatest need and least resources.”
My personal anecdote is that my friend in Stockholm was on a waiting list for rental housing and the wait was something along the lines of a decade – similar to public housing wait times in Toronto, I believe. I don’t know how it is in other places with significant public rental housing systems (e.g. Vienna), but it is worth noting these when we look at possible solutions for Seattle.
The issue in Sweden is that the country really only has 3 large cities (Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö). The rest of the country is a collection of towns and villages. Which makes it difficult to get people to move to other parts of the country to spread the housing supply issue more evenly. I remember visiting Almhult and Kalmar a couple years back and both places really die nightlife wise after 5 or 6 in the evening. Which makes it difficult to appeal to younger people or immigrants to move in and settle as new residents.
Sweden also has dabbled in building lots of public housing in the past with its Millions Programme or Miljonprogrammet in the 60s/70s as an initiative by the Swedish Social Democrats. It didn’t work out from what Swedes have told me as it created segregation in cities or towns that got said housing. As that is where a lot of the poorer migrants end up and in turn had gang violence shoot up in said areas. The government destroyed a lot of perfectly fine historic buildings for the project. Along with the new buildings being dull, ugly, and drab. They also didn’t really integrate green and commercial spaces into the overall design either. Creating a problem of having lots of units but not a lot of practical necessities to make it feel like an actual neighborhood.
At the end of the day, there’s no one truly good model to address this. Each system has it’s pros and cons & winners and losers in relation to the bigger picture. The most practical thing we can do is to make zoning laws better to allow more density. Making missing middle housing more feasible to do. And make improvements towards incentives for housing co-ops/non profit housing and paths to ownership (similar to Singapore).
Market-rate rentals in Germany are reportedly more affordable than Seattle because of statewide rent control in all states. Developers still build because a modest steady profit is better than no business. And Vienna has its widespread public housing, which reportedly builds to keep up with population increases. I don’t know either of these firsthand so I can’t personally confirm them. I haven’t heard much about rents anywhere else in Europe, except that it’s high in London and the rest of the UK, and maybe high in some other capital cities.
The thing about Finland and and to some extent the rest of the Nordic countries, is they have cradle-to-grave welfare that helps with child-raising, education, healthcare, and keeping a minimum standard of living even if you’re poor or unemployed. I haven’t heard specifically about Swedish rents, but if the total package is like Finland, it means poor people have a pretty good floor, even if they have to wait ten years to get their own social apartment. As compared to the shockingly desperate situations in the US, as people sleeping on sidewalks can attest. There was also an article on the end of covid-era food assistance causing mile-long lines at food banks. Taxes in Finland are high, but you get a lot for it, and having a social floor allows people to take risks being entrepreneurs, that they often are afraid to do in the US because they might lose their corporate health insurance or their housing if it fails.
Germany has lower rents because they build a lot more housing. The same is true of Japan. They do it in very different ways though. Japan has more centralized regulations, while Germany encourages cities to build a lot more housing. From https://www.sightline.org/2021/05/27/yes-other-countries-do-housing-better-case-2-germany/:
The main explanation for Germany’s exemplary record of affordable, stable housing is that the country encourages homebuilding, lots of it. Germany is a juggernaut of adding apartments, rowhouses, and other homes. From 2010 to 2019, for every hundred people added to Germany’s population, the country gave permits for construction of 97 homes. That’s right: Germany permitted almost as many new homes as it added residents. In the same period, for every 100 additional people living in the five Cascadian states (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington), the region awarded permits for the construction of just 42 new homes: one new home for every 2.4 extra people. Adjusted for population growth, Germany permitted more than twice as many new homes as Cascadia.
Germany is probably the easiest model for us to adopt, as it simply means improving the regulations. In contrast, Austria takes a far more leftist approach. (Again, quoting from the same website):
City government controls huge areas of land, which it can award to homebuilders with strings attached. Rental laws nationwide in Austria function like rent stabilization programs, giving tenants predictability. At the same time, home ownership is rarely a path to financial gain in Austria, and private property rights are less sacred than in North America. Massive expenditures from the national government bolster Vienna’s housing.
> Market-rate rentals in Germany are reportedly more affordable than Seattle because of statewide rent control in all states.
It’s really about how their zoning is much looser and can actually build apartments and townhouses. They don’t go through year long permitting which then can be bogged down further by lawsuits everytime. If they didn’t build enough housing, even with rent control one would just end up with giant waitlists. Same thing with Austria, in USA even if the city controlled the land they many times aren’t going to build a couple of apartments, well at least not with lots of controversy.
“Market-rate rentals in Germany are reportedly more affordable than Seattle because of statewide rent control in all states.
“It’s really about how their zoning is much looser and can actually build apartments and townhouses. They don’t go through year long permitting which then can be bogged down further by lawsuits everytime. If they didn’t build enough housing, even with rent control one would just end up with giant waitlists. Same thing with Austria, in USA even if the city controlled the land they many times aren’t going to build a couple of apartments, well at least not with lots of controversy.”
“Households willing to live in social housing units need to apply for a certificate of eligibility, which generally takes into consideration the household income. Only those who receive this certificate are eligible for a social housing unit, but there are endless waiting lists. Those with special needs or already receiving social benefits can apply for the certificate. Besides, renter households that do not receive any transfers related to housing assistance are eligible for the certificate, but the rental price can vary depending upon the household size, total income, and housing cost.”
One of the solutions is to move more residents outside the city to suburban areas because the cost of land in the cities has nearly doubled in five years, Germans tend to live in urban areas and rent, and the urban zoning capacity has been exhausted.
The main remedy suggested however is to convert office space to housing, except construction costs have also risen dramatically.
> One of the solutions is to move more residents outside the city to suburban areas because the cost of land in the cities has nearly doubled in five years
One major difference is that what ‘Berlin’ suburbs* talks about is much closer in distance than you’d think. While for American new suburbs we’re talking about 15+ miles away since we’ve already built all of it as swaths of single family homes.
Also they are willing to upzone their suburbs while we expand our suburbs only horizontally.
*It’s kinda why I don’t quite like the word suburbs sometimes it’s too vague of a word. And different countries imply a vastly different density in their suburbs as well.
“One major difference is that what ‘Berlin’ suburbs* talks about is much closer in distance than you’d think. While for American new suburbs we’re talking about 15+ miles away since we’ve already built all of it as swaths of single family homes.
“Also they are willing to upzone their suburbs while we expand our suburbs only horizontally.”
If you look at many of the eastside suburbs they are only a few miles from downtown Seattle, due to the lake. And I think most residential neighborhoods in Seattle would be considered suburbs, the only difference being they were annexed by Seattle.
I also disagree with the idea of eastside suburbs only expanding horizontally. That might have been true several decades ago, but then Seattle extended mostly horizontally back then. The real difference is the eastside segregates uses in its zoning and tends to condense density. The eastside has around the same population as Seattle, which is a long and large city, so the zoning is there.
Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, even Mercer Island’s town center have zones that exceed density in most Seattle zones. We just condense that zoning in our town centers so it is walkable, near transit and retail, the lots are large enough for multi-family housing, and condenses the limited retail.
It is true we don’t have the density and vibrancy of downtown Seattle, but neither does downtown Seattle anymore. If I had to guess downtown Bellevue has the highest zoned residential capacity at 660′.
I actually like European zoning, and our mistake in the U.S. and this region was we never put in place the walls of the swimming pool to condense population and housing to create density. Germany is debating whether to expand the walls of the swimming pool because inside the walls the zoning is exhausted. I think that is how we should have done it, but we did not. Instead, we took 6500 sq miles and platted it all and zoned it for some kind of development, and so it dispersed to where it becomes ludicrous: spending over $100 billion to build light rail to connect two very undense cities like Tacoma and Everett, and Redmond, when there is even less in between.
This region has the zoning capacity to accommodate at least a million new homes. Unfortunately that capacity extends from N. SnoCo to south Pierce to SE King to E King to NE King and from one tip of Seattle 70 miles south to the other tip. One thing Germany and the U.S. share is you won’t get affordable housing in new market rate construction. Builders built to the AMI, and a small $732,000 DADU is much more expensive per sf than the SFH it replaced.
> If you look at many of the eastside suburbs they are only a few miles from downtown Seattle, due to the lake. And I think most residential neighborhoods in Seattle would be considered suburbs, the only difference being they were annexed by Seattle.
Sure, I mean this is why I find the word “suburb” especially for comparisons a bit annoying to use. Is one just talking about residential area or a specific density or the area’s relation to a larger city etc…
To clarify further what Berlin has with suburbs and what the article implies is around ~4000 people per square kilometer whereas their urban core is 7000+. American suburbs are around 1000 to 2000 people per square kilometer.
> Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, even Mercer Island’s town center have zones that exceed density in most Seattle zones…. The real difference is the eastside segregates uses in its zoning and tends to condense density.
The eastside’s not really that dense, even Belleuve downtown is less dense than you’d expect. Also the “dense” areas of the Eastside are very small. For another perspective Berlin’s (or other European cities) described suburbs (let’s say Postdam) are around the same density as Bellevue downtown.
You can browse below:
https://luminocity3d.org/WorldPopDen/#10/47.6908/-121.9221 or also with https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=f9cb5e481ecc48bfbdd6486c42e19a24&find=seattle
The point is that in Germany market-rate housing is more affordable, so fewer people need social housing. People know they’ll never be priced out of their apartment in old age and have to go to social housing or become homeless.
“I haven’t heard specifically about Swedish rents, but if the total package is like Finland, it means poor people have a pretty good floor, even if they have to wait ten years to get their own social apartment”
I have a few Finnish friends who live in Tampere, which is an hour and half north of Helsinki. There is social housing, but they also have smaller and more practical units designed for single people or smaller families. One of them lives in a 300 sq ft apt that’s a single room with bathroom and closet. And said unit is designed for maximizing space efficiency & livability with large windows that let plenty of light in, heated floors, and small but modern kitchen. The local government also gave them a gift card to purchase some furniture from IKEA as they were on welfare at the time which helped with move in costs. Another person lives in what we’d consider a starter home one between 1,000-1,500 sq ft with their family and are able to live comfortably with their children as they have access to outdoor and public amenities that makes it easier to forgo niceties within the home itself.
At the end of the day, it’s all about how a place dictates zoning and housing policy and in turn will make it easier for people to consider where and how they’ll live as we are creatures of habit after all.
And yet I occasionally read economists and political scientists stating that rent control simply doesn’t work, for myriad reasons. One example: https://www.postalley.org/2023/01/23/why-rent-control-is-just-a-terrible-really-bad-no-good-idea/ As I’ve never rented, I don’t have any experience with rent control, so I can’t argue one way or another.
(Note: Post Alley isn’t wedded to a specific viewpoint like MyNorthwest or maybe The Stranger; another blogger in their collection might have written a more progressive analysis.)
There are good and bad kinds of rent control. The ones that get thrown around in the US media are the worst kind. They only cover the units that existed when they were passed, they don’t rise enough to cover maintenance, and they’re implemented in one central city while the adjacent cities have no rent control. As the population increases and newer exempt buildings are built, an ever-decreasing percentage of the population has access to a rent-controlled unit. These aren’t necessarily the neediest people; they’re the ones who got a unit years ago when there was less competition. And often they illegally sublet the unit and live elsewhere. So the have-nots turn against rent control because it only benefits a few people.
The good kind of rent control is like Germany: it’s implemented statewide, so developers can’t just go a mile over the municipal boundary and there’s no rent control. It allows a reasonable annual increase to cover inflation, maintenance, and a steady profit.
Mike: How many cities, or states, in the US have adopted the “good” rent control you speak of? What was the political climate in which it was done? Is the current political climate suitable for it, in your opinion?
If none in the US, the same question for Germany vs. here still applies.
“Mike: How many cities, or states, in the US have adopted the “good” rent control you speak of?”
None that I know.
“Is the current political climate suitable for it, in your opinion?”
It’s a heavy lift as always, just like getting comprehensive frequent transit. But we need to have a clear picture of what the problem is, what the goal should be, and some models for implementing it. Then the rest is a political issue, getting electeds that have the right priorities, rather than also a substance issue, that we don’t know what we want or we don’t think something better is conceivable.
“If none in the US, the same question for Germany vs. here still applies.”
What question? You mean the article’s contention that Germany’s rent control is acceptable because it does nothing? It says that there’s no difference in price between rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled units so it does nothing. But I’d contend that the widespread nature of the control, permitting enough units as WL says, and possibly other aspects of German laws we haven’t recognized, may contribute to why the difference is so little.
The question about Germany was related to the political climate.
My point is, it’s okay to have a North star. But realism also counts for a lot. If the sort of environment required to get Germany-style rent control is simply not here, and the sort of rent control that is possible is detrimental, then there are better things to do instead.
I don’t know the answer to the former part of my conditional; I suspect that the latter part has “yes” as the answer, though, hence my concern with going down this route.
I’m not advocating we implement bad rent control because we can’t get good rent control. Bad rent control should never be implemented. I wasn’t even pushing rent control at present; I was just following up on comments about what European housing policies are and how well they work. There are a lot of things we should be doing, a lot of politically difficult things, and rent control is just one of them.
The current legislature won’t consider it, but a future legislature could start with a loose statewide policy, like inflation+5%. That wouldn’t affect many people and it would allow larger increases than I’d like, but it would eliminate the worst cases of price-gouging, like rent doubling or going up $300 a month. That’s what most displaces people.
One of my points is that we should have allowed more middle housing for the past twenty years so that prices wouldn’t be as high as they are now. We let it fester into a crisis and now it’s hard to fix. We also should have built Forward Thurst in 1970 so we’d be in a better transit position now and could make incremental improvements, and it might have guided subsequent growth to be less sprawly and residents more demanding of transit and walkability. But we can’t go back in time and change that, just like we can’t convince the current legislature to establish rent control or allow cities to do so. But we still need to know what the ideal or goal is, how far we’re from it, and what steps we might take to get there. Because the political situation changes over time and unpredictably, so there might be an opportunity for a step here or there. We need to be ready to have steps to propose, and to explain how the goal is important, and how the step would get us from 20% to 30% of the way to it
Even the existence of a vision can deter the worst excesses of counter-visions. E.g., if there’s a vision in society of middle housing being vaguely appealing and possible, it may deter the strictest nimbyist measures. If the broader public has a vision of automated Link trains being feasible, or foward-compatible branch stubs being prudent, it would be harder for ST to do something that precludes them.
Thank you, Mike. All those seem like reasonable ideas to me.
The main point I would add (and this is entirely based on my pessimistic worldview) is that I expect the world to be adversarial in nature, and thus I always try to think of the downsides. Right now, the political climate is such that it is very easy to tear down half-baked ideas, and very hard to pass good ones. So I worry about half-baked ideas like “any rent control now please” which I see a lot of in some circles, and how they might backfire and set things back even further – which, as you alluded to from a different perspective, can be dangerous in its own right. So I try to think of what will pass in today’s political climate and not be attacked from both the left and the right.
There’s hope that the zoning reform may do so; that will be a big step forward in itself.
“I expect the world to be adversarial in nature, and thus I always try to think of the downsides.”
That’s worthwhile and I respect it. But the reason Germany has better housing policies, Scandinavia better social programs, and Canada and New Zealand and Switzerland more trust and satisfaction with government, is their democracies are more successful. Electeds feel a mandate to make things better for everyone and the entire society, and not to harm one demographic to score ideological points, or to reward the narrow interests of their campaign contributors. It’s all about non-corruption. Finland sees its low-cost education, childcare subsidies, and welfare as part of national security: to ensure all its citizens are well-educated and competitive in the world environment, and feel safe taking entrepreneural risks and starting a business if they’re so inclined, because even if they fail they won’t become homeless.
I remain optimistic that this is possible in the US long-term. Because that is the best and most democratic way to run a society, and that’s what the US supposedly stands for. Obviously it can’t happen until this undercurrent of racism, grudge, conspiracy theories, and individualistic greed lose enough power to reverse their policies. But the American average is certainly more centrist or center-left than the people in power, it’s just that their voice is structurally squashed or they’re brainwashed by the conspiracy theories. But all that can end, even if it doesn’t seem likely right now. Things always change, and unexpected things happen.
The weaknesses with American policy may have a lot to do with our inferior democratic system. There is a very strong relationship with countries that do very well from a policy standpoint and also do very well from a democratic standpoint (Scandinavian countries score high on both). Of course that might be a chicken and egg situation, or it may be just that developing a better democracy is seen as a problem to solve, instead of another battle to be won.
But consider the latest attempt to change elections in Seattle. This is largely absent the really big divisions that exist in the country (Seattle is very left leaning). A citizen’s initiative was started to reform the election process for city council. Those running it felt like the middle (center left) was being left out. They could point to recent races, where people on either extreme were nominated. You can find flaws with their solution (there are flaws with every electoral system) but it was geared towards a problem that a lot of people felt we now have. But instead, we ended up with a system that was largely solved a long time ago. We have an “instant-runoff” before we have a not so instant run-off. This improves the situation, but only in rare cases. So rare that no proponent could actually point to a case where it would matter. Instead they simply pointed to other places where they implemented it (ignoring the fact that those cities don’t have run-offs). This means we haven’t really addresses the issue at hand, while potentially dealing with a problem that rarely occurs.
Meanwhile, no one suggested something that would make a lot more sense: proportional representation. Elect a board by party. That party gets that proportion of the seats. If there is one seat, the parties form a coalition and pick the person who will hold the office. This is far more democratic, and really easy to understand. This is what they do in Scandinavia.
If we had that, maybe we could do a better job fixing our problems. Then again, even if we had that, there is a good chance that we simply go back to social media, and continue our tribalism.
I can put up with a lot, but the buses just aren’t showing up when they’re supposed to. The alerts (which are a pain to find on the web site, but they are now there) don’t always indicate this.
I can’t be late all the time. I haven’t even had a driver’s license in years, but I think I’d better get one and buy a car.
I would think that it’s amazing that nobody at Metro lost their job over this spectacular communication failure, but this is America, and transit is for losers, so nobody really cares.
Seattle is building more ADUs than single-family houses. ($)
What, how did that happen? ADUs were supposed to be less popular than single-family houses, and too expensive for ma and pa to build, and would create unacceptable demand for parking spaces. I guess Seattlites are just dumber than suburbanites. (Sarcasm of course.)
“ADUs are popping up all over, especially in suburban-style zones otherwise closed off to housing growth.”
And, “Most ADUs permitted last year were in tracts considered to be at low risk for the displacement of people of color and low-income residents, according to the city’s analysis.”
“About one-third of new ADUs are being permitted as condos.” I didn’t realize that was possible. The article says this means somebody buys and owns the ADU, separate from the house owner. It sounds to me like another way to subdivide and create density (good), although it could have an issue with a second owner sharing the yard (otherwise, why would this be a condo rather than a subdivision, because condo implies partial ownership of common areas, so what would the common areas be if not the yard?)
Your unnecessary sarcasm aside, doesn’t this support DT’s point that current zoning allows for more housing than people have been taking advantage of? That’s been exactly the point all along – people _can_ build, there is plenty of space to build ADUs because most SFH lots now allow it. Great to see that construction is starting to pick up, finally. Perhaps, just like we saw here on the blog, people are slow to find out that this is an option.
I think that you are right that the condo implies shared ownership of the yard and parking pad/driveway. The exact details probably depend on the specific properties; for example, detached garages may or may not be part of the shared ownership.
> Your unnecessary sarcasm aside, doesn’t this support DT’s point that current zoning allows for more housing than people have been taking advantage of?
For upzoning detractors (talking more in general not DT specifically), there’s never an optimal amount. If no housing is built then there is no demand. If upzoned and houses are rebuilt as townhouses/condos it’s destroying the character, while if upzoned and with lots of restrictions (parking etc…) it’s claimed the current zoning is enough.
> there is plenty of space to build ADUs because most SFH lots now allow it
Mainly only in Seattle, outside of Seattle most cities require high parking requirements or other setback rules that make it pretty hard to actually build ADUs https://www.sightline.org/2021/01/19/why-should-washington-state-lawmakers-take-action-on-granny-flats/
“If no housing is built then there is no demand.”
Of course there’s demand. It either appears in the larger metropolitan area outside the city’s boundaries, or in the form of higher prices on existing buildings because more people are competing for them.
This is probably to meet the minimum lot side requirements and street access rules. To subdivide a smallish North Seattle lot would be very difficult. So make the two structures a “condominium” and avoid the problem.
Mike, you should read the whole article.
It is true that ADU and DADU construction is up after the zoning changes that allowed two DADU’s/ADU’s as opposed to one on any residential lot, and no longer required the owner of the property to live onsite. Half of the new DADU/ADU’s permitted in residential zones are part of new construction of a SFH plus ADU/DADU with a median price of $732,000 if sold as condos (half are being designated for sale so what we really are seeing a sub rosa subdivision of lots) vs. $1.2 million for a SFH, although the cost per sf for the ADU/DADU is much higher. As one builder quoted said, they are not building ADU’s and DADU’s “to serve low-income residents without subsidies”. About 1/3 of the new ADU/DADU’s are being permitted as condos.
Seattle also enacted a McMansion ban (a concern Ross has raised). Any house cannot exceed 50% of the lot size (on MI it is 40%). This discourages building oversized houses on large lots, and probably makes adding a DADU more attractive.
Interestingly it appears quite a few of the ADU/DADU’s were built to accommodate the original design of “mother-in-law” units and house relatives.
More than half of the survey respondents living in ADU’s and DADU’s report household income of at least $150,000, well over Seattle’s AMI. The survey respondents were overwhelmingly white.
The median cost to build an ADU was $200,000 (I quoted $250,000 on MI with a $500/sf cost, which is consistent I think due to the higher construction costs on MI). 44% of respondents reported parking a car on the street.
MI allows a DADU or ADU on any residential lot. The litigation the Queen Anne assoc. fought over is whether to require the owner to live onsite. Seattle does not; most cities do, to preserve the owner-occupied character of the SFH zone.
Of course, as predicted, the new development SFH/DADU/ADU is mostly replacing older, more affordable SFH, and in Seattle any kind of affordable housing for a family (because progressives so often live alone) is rare as hen’s teeth. The number one rule is buy low and sell high, and I am sure HB1110 will be the same. Builders are not tearing down a $1 million house to build a new house with DAU/ADU’s.
So I don’t think this data is surprising. At the same time the total number of ADU/DADU’s built (275 in 2016 to 988 in 2022) is dwarfed by apartment construction, and the Times repeats the silly claims by the DOC that Seattle will need to add 55,000 homes per year over the next 20 years (last week it was 17,000, and 1 million for all of Washington State) when Seattle’s population growth is zero or declining. If anything is surprising it is the very small number of new SFH being constructed in Seattle, probably due to interest rates and mortgage rates, and the decline in stock values for employees.
The ultimate conclusion is still true: new construction will not create affordable housing if market rate, it won’t reduce prices for existing housing, and worse of all it usually replaces the oldest and most affordable housing.
“the new development SFH/DADU/ADU is mostly replacing older, more affordable SFH”
Most of them are additional units next to houses that remain. That’s not replacing housing, it’s adding it. And no SFH is affordable anymore, so talking about older affordable houses is ridiculous. “We’re so poor, we couldn’t afford Neiman Marcus, we had to settle for Nordstrom.”
> Builders are not tearing down a $1 million house to build a new house with DAU/ADU’s
Of course it’s not economical to do that, its much more economical to build 5~6 rowhouses. Rather than effectively only building (two) one more house and having to buy and demolish one existing house everytime. It is due to upzoning compromises that people are proposing only upzoning to DAU/ADU’s but it cannot be the only solution.
> Of course, as predicted, the new development SFH/DADU/ADU is mostly replacing older, more affordable SFH
What are these ‘affordable’ SFH’s you are finding.
Tearing down million dollar houses for 4 to 6 units will never pencil out to beat leaving the house the way it is and building a duplex in the back yard.
Add up the cost of buying a house, paying for the demo, getting new plans and permits for the new building and utility work for 6 units would easily cost $250,000 per unit…. before construction even starts. That’s not affordable housing.
What the ADU/DADU game does is let homeowners keep and grow family wealth, so people can stay in the city. I can’t think of a time in American history where expensive housing was torn down and more affordable housing built in its place.
Tearing down million dollar houses for 4 to 6 units will never pencil out to beat leaving the house the way it is and building a duplex in the back yard.
It depends. It is common in Tokyo, for example, to see a house torn down and replaced by two smaller houses right next to each other. That wouldn’t make sense if the house was particularly nice, but most of the time, it isn’t. Same with Seattle. There are some really nice houses, but most of them aren’t. The only reason that so many are worth so much is because there is a huge housing shortage. That wouldn’t be the case if the zoning was liberalized.
By the way, it is very common for houses in Seattle to be replaced by houses. A single house being replaced by a bigger house. Was the first house a “million dollar house”? Probably not — depends on the neighborhood (and whether there was a view, etc.).
It’s a curious trend. That seems to track consistently with the OFM estimates for 2022 that Seattle added 20K residents in just the past year. That’s over a quarter of the entire state population increase of 78K. Seattle only has 10 percent of the state population so OFM is estimating that Seattle population has restarted its population growth boom.
The Census city estimates for 2022 are due to arrive in May. It will be interesting if the right week news declaration that Seattle and other big cities are dying based on the 2021-2020 estimate changes was instead a mere one year trend. All indications suggest that the right wing press was wrong to declare what happened in the one-year height of Covid as a larger trend when it comes to Seattle.
That said, I still think that condo conversion puts the concept of ADU on its head. I really think that such units shouldn’t be restricted to the 650 sq ft size in low rise zones — and instead be allowed to be bigger to address the middle housing type shortage head-on.
What I find confusing about the OFM’s population growth estimates is 2021 and 2022 are still estimates, when the numbers are in. For example, the region as a whole has lost population for both 2021 and 2022. https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/seattle-wa-population King Co.’s population dropped 0.8% which is pretty significant, although Seattle’s loss was closer to 0.3%.
The idea — even if the OFM’s population growth estimates were accurate — that Seattle will need 55,000 homes/year is ridiculous. Seattle’s own estimates differ. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/seattlecitywashington,US/PST045222
If tech job growth stalls or declines so will regional population growth. Tech workers are not going to move to Seattle if like now there is a glut of tech workers laid off.
It isn’t that Seattle and the region will suddenly begin to lose significant numbers of residents, it is that growth looks to be very mild, or even a small decrease, in the near future, when all our planning including ST and land use is based upon estimates the OFM really formulated pre-pandemic based on ahistorical growth from 2010 due to Amazon and Microsoft that are not going to happen.
World population review is not an accurate source. The federal census and state numbers from OFM are considered the best reputable sources though there’s been some controversy regarding the Trump administration attempting to influence and or interfere with the 2020 census (think apportionment of congressional seats by state). There’s ongoing state challenges to the most recent census.
“If tech job growth stalls or declines so will regional population growth.”
If tech declines, people will move away, and housing prices will fall.
DT, all non-census-year US population data are estimates, because the decadal census is the only census that claims to directly count every head. This should be obvious.
Intervening years are estimated via various means. The Census Bureau runs the American Community Survey (ACS), which sends surveys to ~3.5 million households nationally, annually.
The OFM uses a method that relies on data submitted by cities and counties, as well as DOL & DOH records. Their technical documentation for their population estimates is posted here: https://ofm.wa.gov/washington-data-research/population-demographics/population-estimates/april-1-official-population-estimates/technical-information
Both methodologies have flaws – the ACS assumes that their survey sample size (~3% of all households) is thorough enough to extrapolate to 100% of the population. WA’s OFM assumes that DOH/DOL records (and other data submitted by cities) is accurate.
A description of how population estimates are generated is located on pdf page 47 of the OFM’s Population Trends document: https://ofm.wa.gov/sites/default/files/public/dataresearch/pop/april1/ofm_april1_poptrends.pdf
Thank you Nathan.
Converting an ADU (or DADU) to a condo has been possible for some time. I remember talking to someone about that. He had done that for the house he owned.
My guess is the new rules have basically created a big market for this. I walked around Maple Leaf the other day and saw three houses where they had done the same thing. They tore down the old house, and put up a new house with an ADU and DADU. It is yet another example of how development is being built to maximize density. It shows that the demand for units is what is driving costs (not rich people “densifying”*). The rules just make the developments rather silly. Whatever existed in the neighborhood in terms of style is ignored. They all were the same proportion (likely part of the regulation). The rules are a step in the right direction (and I have seen a few that follow the spirit of the law) but mostly it is just silly.
This is why I don’t think allowing four-plexes or six-plexes is a magical panacea. The devil is in the details. We should allow for much smaller lots. We need to liberalize the rules, so that it is easier to build. In many cases this means getting rid of the setbacks, but also the rules that create what are essentially triplexes. We need to liberalize the creation of a lot more units per lot — the rules should be designed for height, not density.
In those areas that do allow taller buildings (e. g. six stories) we need to get rid of the silly massing rules, and streamline the design process. My main concern is egress — if a large building (or buildings) take up a huge block, I want to be able to walk through it. A great example is Northgate. I really don’t care that much what it looks like. But I car a lot of building a nice bike/pedestrian pathway on Third Avenue. What is true there is true throughout the city.
* There are situations that occur when wealthy people buy up land that could go into more units. A classic example is when someone in a New York apartment buys up the adjacent unit and expands. But in Seattle, every development is the opposite. In every case, people are building as many units as possible, even when they have to jump through regulatory hoops (such as building ADUs and DADUs with a new house). This demonstrates that the biggest reason prices are so high in the city are the regulations. It would be much cheaper to build a bunch more units, but that isn’t allowed.
“My main concern is egress — if a large building (or buildings) take up a huge block, I want to be able to walk through it.”
I’ve never been to Barcelona – how does this work in their superblocks?
Some large mixed lots in Bellevue, such as Bravern, explicitly include a public pathway through the private space (the main walkway through the Bravern outdoor mall is marked as public access, the mall cannot close it off). It’s too bad that Northgate didn’t set it up that way.
Barcelona superblocks are designed so that you have good pedestrian and bike access on the minor streets. That is the point. Imagine nine blocks, in a 3 by 3 square. This is your superblock. Cars are only allowed on the outside of that square. On the other streets, you can walk or bike. https://youtu.be/ZORzsubQA_M.
Right now, Northgate is essentially a different type of superblock. It has some similarities, in that it is a big area, defined by 1st NE, 5th NE, NE Northgate Way and NE 103rd. This makes it a huge “block”. But for a very long time, there has been no east-west access, or north-south access through the mall. Or if there was, it was definitely unpleasant, and not designed for pedestrians or people on bikes. It was mainly designed so that people could drive and park on the outside of the mall. This makes it more or less the opposite of Barcelona’s superblocks.
I’m not suggesting that Simon will create something as nice as what they have in Barcelona. But I do think they should re-open, or at least try and recreate a street grid, allowing bikes and pedestrians to go through. From a north-south perspective, this would be huge. Riding a bike along 1st or 5th is terrible. Riding a bike along 8th is OK, but there is no good way to cut west, towards the station (and the bridge). A bike/pedestrian pathway along 3rd (more or less) would be a major improvement in mobility, as 3rd continues further north, allowing bikes and pedestrians to go where cars can’t (https://youtu.be/ZORzsubQA_M). This north-south pathway could potentially connect to a bike path to the north and east (along 117th, which is already a greenway) or north under the train (there have been proposals to turn the area under the train into a bike lane).
“Your unnecessary sarcasm aside, doesn’t this support DT’s point that current zoning allows for more housing than people have been taking advantage of? ”
1000 units may sound like a lot, but it is less than 2% of what is needed annually. Every little bit helps for sure, but keep it mind that this is just a tiny smidge of the solution.
I’ve gotten 4 bids to build one over my 3 car garage. It’s just incredibly expensive. We are weighing whether it is worth it, given the cost. It’s clearly not economical (we would use it as a guest space plus a fallback plan in case any of our parents get in a pickle), even if we rented it out. But in Tacoma you need to fully spec it out as a rental unit (separate utilities, bath, kitchen) to be able to build it at all.
Yeah, I get that (about costs) – we are going through the same process for the same fallback plan (except it’s more than “fallback” I suspect, for us).
If the construction costs are very high, and I agree with you that they are, from my own anecdotal experience, does that not imply that the high costs of construction are _not_ due to the cost of land, as is often mentioned here?
However I will ask a few follow-up questions about your assertion that 1000 units is “less than 2% of what is needed annually”. Are you suggesting that we need 50k new units a year? I assume that that’s not Seattle alone, but the whole Puget Sound area, correct? Can you give a bit more information of where this number is coming from? It seems high to me, but I am sure that I am missing something.
The high cost of construction (excluding the buying land part) mainly stems from the high cost of labor*. This is unlike other goods such as cars or say mobile phones where you can have economies of scale using machines. The high cost of labor then itself stems from the lack of housing, which is from the lack of legally buildable land that is commutable to jobs (whether upwards or sideways).
*Since this comes up sometimes: This is not to say construction workers shouldn’t be paid well, but that the high rents push them farther from the city core and either need to ask for more to stay in the area or compensate for driving from farther areas.
“Are you suggesting that we need 50k new units a year?”
Yeah, sorry. I was basing that on the statewide number of 55,000, from the ADU article above.
Of course this is just an estimate. There are lots of them out there and they all really depend on pretty opaque forecasts.
I would guess there isn’t too many ADUs being built outside of the Puget Sound region, the vast majority in Seattle.
Seattle has been under-building for more than a decade, and its vacancy rate, and therefore rents have skyrocketed accordingly. So in addition to all the new in-migration and population growth, we also need to pay catchup.
The PSRC estimates we need about half that in the Seattle MSA. 275,000 by 2030.
So ADUs are providing maybe 4-5% of what’s needed, assuming there isn’t too much ADU building outside of Seattle proper. I’m sure there is some, just not a lot.
There is a lot of different type of construction going on. Adding a unit to an existing structure tends to be a lot more labor intensive (i. e. expensive) per unit than starting from scratch.
But there is still a fair amount of construction going on that is from scratch. Again, it is this bizarre form of triplex. I don’t know if I can do it justice. We saw the concrete for it when it was going up, and my wife was confused. I explained how it was going to work (“there is your main house — the really big one — there is second house, there will probably be an entrance to an ADU over there…”). Remember, this is after clearing everything off the lot. Clearly this is a lot more expensive than just adding a triplex. The per unit cost of a half dozen townhouses would be much cheaper. Building a small apartment complex would be cheaper still (per unit). But even with a half dozen townhouses you end up with twice as many homes! So not only is it a lot cheaper (per unit) to build once you liberalize the zoning, but you end up with a lot more places for people to live.
This does two things. It means that in the short term, housing prices go down, rather quickly. Add a bunch of places to live, prices go down. But it also means that in the long run, building the same sort of thing still makes financial sense (for the builder).
Exactly, Ross. These sort of bizarre, extremely expensive, uneconomical building shenanigans to just to add tiny bit more housing just screams that zoning is twisting the market in very, very strange ways.
Just burn all the zoning codes in a giant bonfire, and slowly add back the very, very few that make any sense and can be justified beyond “neighborhood character” and “my home value will go down!”
Do you have a citation for “The high cost of construction (excluding the buying land part) mainly stems from the high cost of labor”? I am asking because from my experience with the process, the costs are also due to: code being fairly strict; raw materials being potentially expensive (see the price of lumber a couple of years ago) and sticky on the way down; and the general tendency towards building upper end units which have expensive finishes (this was portrayed as a significant cost for us, even though we kept talking down the level of desired quality in the finishes). I don’t doubt that you are right that there is an effect due to having to compensate the construction crews for longer commutes; but I am not convinced that it is the single highest source of cost excluding land. If you do, I would love to see it.
Thank you also for the report you linked; it is long so I only glanced at it. I may try to comment more later, but I thought that it was quite well balanced and informative. Some of the conclusions point out positive things, such as how most new housing units are built near transit, which is desirable; and unfortunate things, such as that there is already a lot of capacity for new housing in areas where nevertheless people do not want to relocate, such as Everett.
Yeah, that wasn’t me who said that. That was WL.
I actually agree, Anonymouse. Labor is a large piece of the expense but not the only reason. General Contractors are in high demand, and I don’t blame them for charging for their work. They are also competing for the sub-contractors and the other laborers they need to hire, and there aren’t enough those either. But the price of lumber, and the price of many other building materials have gone up, and though they have come down some, they haven’t come down a ton.
Whoops, sorry Cam! I did not mean to confuse who said what. Was trying to pack a few replies in one and didn’t attribute correctly.
Thank you for the added support for my observations (however anecdotal from both of us) – I’m glad that it wasn’t just my own biased experiences suggesting it.
This article has some interesting info.
“There were 3,443 available rentals in Seattle on Wednesday, according to Zillow.”
“Rent in the Emerald City increased in February for the first time in five months, according to a new report from Zillow.”
“The Seattle-based real estate company said the monthly asking price for “typical rent” in Seattle was $2,178 a month in February, an increase of .35% from January. That marks the first month-over-month increase in rent prices since September, Zillow said, though February’s average was still 4% higher than a year ago.”
“The priciest rental market in the United States is in the Bay Area. San Jose ($3,189 a month), San Francisco ($3,084), New York ($3,084), San Diego ($2,959) and Boston ($2,958) round out the top five metros.”
What do these cities have in common? Very high AMI’s.
The demand for housing in those cities has nothing to do with it, nor the limits on density or strong NIMBY forces.
BTW, I just got my six-month rent increase notice, and it’s going from $1925 to $2100, or 9%. Before you go talking about the huge increase you predicted (I’ve forgotten the reason), this must be seen in the context of 5-10% increases from 2003-2008, then no increases during the recession, then 5-10% increases from 2012-2019, then a ban on increases in 2200 and 2021, and then a small 3% increase in 2022. So part of it can be seen as making up for the lack of increases in 2020-2022. And I suspect the new six-month notice requirement is causing landlords to assume high, since they don’t know what the market will be like that far ahead.
As I mentioned a few posts ago, my property tax went up 18% year over year. I suspect that your 9% increase should be seen in the context of that, as well as the other factors you mentioned.
You may take a look at your property’s tax rate using the King County Parcel Viewer.
Mike, I was told by people I know in the rental management industry rents would rise 10%/year over the next two years to break up the increases. I listed the reasons why. The ban on rent increases during the moratorium is probably another reason.
What did you think about the Zillow link that shows 3440 vacant apartments for rent in Seattle.is that how many apartments are available at one time usually?
I’m not sure about counts, but the census provides vacancy rates. Seattle MSA was up near the national average until about 10 years ago, when we saw tremendous job and population growth, and our zoning hamstrung the ability of housing to keep up. The vacancy rate dropped below 5 in 2013, and stayed down in the 3-4% range until 2021, until it climbed up to 5.3%. Still below the average of 6% for cities, but hopefully a sign that the big rent increases are over for the time being.
There is also national data that shows a historic number of multi-family units under construction. These will started cascading into the (currently extremely low) completed category and further provide some relief. I have no idea how much of those units under construction are in our region. There sure seems to be a lot of supply about to come on line here in Tacoma.
Yeah I was shocked to get my 18% higher property tax bill a few weeks ago, Anonymouse. I think that between reassessment and new taxes the property tax seems to have grown about $100 for every $100k in value since 2021.
I’ve noticed water, sewer and electric (Seattle municipally provided) are also creating up about 10 or 20 percent in the past two years.
So much of the latest rent increases seem to be needed to merely cover these higher items. It’s not purely greedy corporate landlords.
Thank you, Al, for corroborating. Yeah, our utility bills have also gone up, though we are on different providers for some of them so the schedule is different.
I agree, though, a lot of the rent increases are really due to property tax and utility increases. This is fine, the increases are justified in most cases, but the consequences affect everyone, not just the rich, and not just property owners.
I’m paying electric, water, sewer, and garbage separately. Also, the manager told me today she’s willing to negotiate the increase down, since I’ve been there a long time and the recession has depressed the number of tenant applications.
For those who don’t know, Seattle has low electric and water rates, but the sewer rate is huge, due to a surcharge for renovation/capacity. My last water bill was $35 but the sewer counterpart was $105.
Anyone here who rents, provided you are not renting someone’s condo unit or house, and you are actually in an apt building, is your building owner a national company, or a local owner? “Why do you want to know, Sam?!?” Because, it’s often said here that giant corporations are buying-up all the housing. I just want to know, aside from what the stats say, what renters here say about who owns their apt building.
Another thing I’d like to know from home owners here. Did your property taxes go up or down from last year?
“My last water bill was $35 but the sewer counterpart was $105.”
Sewer is just Water X 3. They can’t meter you sewer usage, so they do that stupid math.
I found that out when we had a burst line under our driveway that we didn’t discover for 2 months. They weren’t willing to adjust the water, but they lopped off the sewer. $1400 down to $350.
“There is also national data that shows a historic number of multi-family units under construction.”
Is that a historic number of multifamily units in Seattle or Pugetopolis, or throughout the US?
I’ve been looking for local data, but no luck.
Here’s a chart that says national multifamily construction, while not at an historic level, is the highest it’s been since 1986.
That’s starts. Under Construction are higher than starts, because of supply and labor shortages.
That’s good. The problem of rapidly-increasing rents and house prices was limited to “superstar cities” in the 2000s and mid 2010s, but in the late 2010s it spread to most of the country, both outer suburbs, interior cities, and rural areas. Only a few areas are exempt: some that are depressed with no jobs, and some like Dallas and Houston that allow the housing supply to increase to match population increases.
I think of it like a supermarket checkout line: normally there’s only 2-3 people in line and it moves fine. But when it reaches a critical mass of 4-5 people, it starts backing up and ballooning. The people in line are those who want to rent or buy a home. Seattle lost population in the 1960s with white flight and didn’t return to its previous peak until the early 2000s, so prices were low and you could look at an apartment and think about it for a week and it would still be open. It reached critical mass in 2012, when all the remaining slack was squeezed out of the market, and $600 apartments suddenly became $1000 or $1200 and displaced people. The non-superstar parts of the country reached critical mass around 2019 or 2020. And even if you still find Idaho affordable, you’re displacing a local with a lower salary who can’t afford the increases. This can’t go on, or there will be no place left to go. So if the US is building a record number of multifamily units, that’s a good sign. I think more and more cities are realizing that keeping 70-90% of their residential land single-family only is not sustainable, scalable, or fair.
I’m hoping the construction is mainly focused on the areas where vacancy rates are lowest, or where they were lowest when permitting a couple years ago.
Of course, that’s also where zoning often also makes building the most expensive and difficult, so who knows. If zoning here weren’t so F’ed up, it would be pretty obvious where the smart money would be building multi-family.
Where it’s needed.
There’s been a huge turnover in residential real estate since 2000. Mom and pop owners got older and buildings are worth $$$$$. I worked for a family of owners on Capital Hill who set their kids up for life with nicer buildings…. all they really had to do with cash the rent checks. Kids said “the Hell with that” and sold out for stupid money… more money than their rich parents would have ever dreamed of. Over 40+ years we’re talking an investment of a few million, years of hard work and it turned into over a 100 million.
The problem is it takes big money to play in Seattle real estate now. Apartment buildings are worth millions dollars. Who’s got that sort of money? Investors.
Also the rents has to match the mortgage+operating expenses+ profit …. or at least have the rate of return of am in-house *virtual mortgage*. So when you watch KIRO news and see some poor old person crying about their rent doubling because the new “big evil property management company” took over the building… it’s likely the new company isn’t screwing them over, it’s the mom and pop owners who didn’t raise the rent for years than sold out for big money who did. The new owners aren’t really it raking it in… they’re just covering the expense of the purchase price.
Sam, my building is a 2004 mixed-use building owned by local investors. So not mom n pop, but not Wall Street either, kind of in between. Before that I always lived in small 1905-1920s buildings, some with mom n pop owners, but I can’t say whether they still are.
The AMI for Houston is $30,000. For Dallas it is a hair under $32,000. In Seattle AMI for individuals is $115,000. Housing prices — and prices for all things — reflect AMI.
The key metric is the cost of housing vs AMI. Cities like Tokyo and Montreal look like the cost of housing is low but that is because of low AMI. Residents in those cities pay a higher percentage of their income for housing than in Seattle.
If you want a lower average median cost for housing you have to lower AMI, and the taxes on property. That is why the highest cost housing is in San Francisco, San Jose, NY and San Diego. High AMI, high property taxes. There was an article yesterday that noted the Eastside has one of six areas in the country with an AMI over $1 million. Increasing density in such a zone won’t increase affordable housing. But if you allow more housing in those zones that is exactly where the builders will build, which is why redevelopment in Seattle into 3 dwellings occurred mostly in nothing white medium affluent neighborhoods.
Builders build to the AMI because that is where the money is. The average cost of a unit in Seattle on a lot that has been redeveloped with three dwelling units is $732,000. The builder was quoted as saying they are not building affordable housing. And those new units replaced an older SFH that was more affordable and likely would not have been redeveloped if only one DADU were allowed.
If all builders could build in this region was affordable housing without public subsidies they wouldn’t build.
Progressives, especially those with AMI’s below the median, don’t understand zoning and believe the builders when they tell them building more market rate housing — especially in the already expensive zones — will create housing that is remotely affordable. There is no financial incentive to build affordable housing. The 2300 new units built near U Village have rents from $2000 to $6000/mo. In a UGA.
If it is true this region will grow by 1 million residents by 2044 and we must build housing for them those 1 million new residents like the last 1 million will arrive with a very high AMI. Poor people don’t move to “superstar” cities like San Francisco or Seattle. So the next one million housing units — if we can even build that many — will be more expensive than even new construction today. It is why rents are going up 20% over the next two years: there are renters who can afford those rents.
If you want “affordable” housing move to Houston, Dallas, Cleveland or Detroit, although if you earn the AMI for those cities and earned the AMI in Seattle before moving you will likely pay a higher percentage of your income toward housing, although everything else will be cheaper too, especially in TX that has a very low tax rate.
What Tacomee keeps trying to say is if your job or industry pays less than AMI in Seattle but will pay the same in lower cost cities like Houston you should move to Texas or Florida, along with millions of other citizens moving there today for the jobs, lower taxes, and lower costs.
“Progressives, especially those with AMI’s below the median, don’t understand zoning and believe the builders when they tell them building more market rate housing — especially in the already expensive zones — will create housing that is remotely affordable.”
That’s not what they’re saying! “Affordable” (subsidized/workforce) housing is for an income of 70K or less, which is far below $115K AMI (to take your figure). Nobody expects that with market rents at $2000+, developers are suddenly going to build unsubsidized affordable units at $1200 or $1500. What’s being targeted is the 5-15% increases every year. That’s not just because of AMI, it’s because a housing shortage is causing too many people to compete for a few units, thus bidding up the prices. The argument is that, over the long term, the annual increases would diminish, and after a few years the curve would be lower than if we didn’t build those units. That doesn’t make market-rate units “affordable”, but it slows down the problem from getting worse.
And that AMI figure is artificial, since as lower-income people are displaced outside the city limits, they’re no longer counted in Seattle’s AMI. But people’s lives aren’t like that: they don’t fully exist on one side of municipal boundaries. People regularly live and work and shop across municipal boundaries, and there are no equivalent walkable/transit-rich areas outside Seattle. Walkability and frequent transit should be available to all income levels, not just the top 10%. If we can’t provide it outside Seattle, then we need to let them live in Seattle. It would be better to use a countywide AMI than artificial municipality-limited AMIs.
“And that AMI figure is artificial, since as lower-income people are displaced outside the city limits, they’re no longer counted in Seattle’s AMI.”
I have seen this mentioned before. I’m wondering, how abrupt is the discrepancy between inside-and-outside city limits AMI? Ideally this would need to be looked at at the neighborhood level, i.e. I would expect the AMI in Lake Forest Park or East Shoreline to be similar to that in NE Seattle, and Burien to be similar to SW Seattle, etc.
That’s my intuition; maybe this matches everyone else’s, and it’s just my impression that people assume that there is a hard cliff as soon as you leave city limits. If that is not what people assume, I apologize in advance, but to me it really does sound like it, and perhaps to others, too.
It depends on what direction you go, Anonymouse.
Choose the Median Household Income layer, and explore to your heart’s content. There are many census tracts in South King that are half what Seattle’s average is.
Their transit options and walkability of their neighborhoods are often quite poor. Making Sounder all-day and evening instead of commuter would help substantially, and is the equitable thing to do.
Route 60 open thread, continuing from another article:
Brent suggests making route 60 more frequent north of Beacon Hill station, and possibly splitting the route at the station. Discussion started around whether this would effectively
“extend” Link to First Hill to replace the long peak expresses from North Seattle to First Hill, and as a general mitigation for the lack of a First Hill Link station. There’s also discussion about whether splitting the 60 at Beacon Hill station is a good idea, or whether it would force an unnecessary transfer to go just another mile or two further. There was also a suggestion to extend the frequent segment further south for high school students.
Brent has long noted that from South Park, taking the 60 to Beacon Hill station and transferring to Link is preferrable to taking the slow and less frequent 132 to downtown, and is an acceptable way to get to Capitol Hill (which is further on on the 60). That suggests that splitting the route at Beacon Hill would not be a problem. However, I wonder if others in south Beacon Hill or Georgetown might disagree, since they would have to transfer to go a shorter distance, and may just be going to Jackson Street, north Beacon Hill, or Harborview.
An earlier Metro concept in Metro Connects suggested splitting the 60 at Othello Station. The east-west part would go from Westwood Village to Othello. The north-south part would be subsumed in the Broadway north-south route concept, from the U-District to Beacon Hill. I don’t remember where the southern terminus would be, but in this scenario it would have to serve southwest Beacon Hill (15th) since the 60 would be withdrawn there.
There’s also discussion about Broadway-Rainier connectivity, and whether to restore the all-day 9, and whether this would be a better alternative than beefing up the 60.
The RapidRide G restructure will be coming up in a few years. Per the last Metro Connects concepts, the 49 and northern 60 would be replaced with the Broadway north-south route. The 2S/11/49 would be consolidated into a new 2 on Pike/Pine-12th-Union. The 2N would be separate or part of another route. So these might come up again in a Metro proposal.
Thanks for starting the thread, Mike.
I really think that the Rainier- Jackson path is over served. It had Routes 7 and 106. It has Link from Mt Baker Station. It will soon have East Link from Judkins Park.
Meanwhile there is only one way to get from Rainier Valley to First Hill directly: Route 4. It’s infrequent and serves only a wee portion of the Rainier Valley.
Metro used to run Route 9 more often. They cut it back. That left most RV residents without First Hill direct transit connectivity.
So my suggestion is to put service hours back into Route 9 instead of add to Route 60. Some Route 7 buses could become Route 9 buses to add hours for the service. Maybe the northern portion can follow the Route 60 path.
I would further suggest rebranding Route 9 as Route 6. That way, First Hill would have Routes 6 and 60, and Rainier Ave would have Routes 6 and 7.
I’m sure there are adjustments that could be made. Maybe it could use Jefferson to 12th to get closer to Cherry Hill. Maybe it could use Jefferson to 23rd and Route 4 could be axed. Maybe it could end at Rainier Beach Link. Those are minor adjustments.
“Me as ne hike ” = “Meanwhile”
Metro Connects suggested rerouting the 106 to Boren Avenue and SLU. Several STBers have pushed for this to fill the transit gap there. I think the 106 would be split at Rainier Beach station.
Would the 9 remain a limited-stop express, or would it be local?
“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, sings route 4.
To me it’s redundant, and egregiously slow on James Street. I’m surprised there hasn’t been an outcry over route 3/4 slowness that forced Metro to improve it NOW. I lived at Terry & Jefferson for two years, right on the 3/4, but when I was downtown going eastbound, I cheered when the 27 was coming soon because it’s a normal-speed route.
At the same time, the 4 does serve a unique trip pair from Judkins Park to the CD and First Hill.
Back in 1950, the southbound 3 didn’t go up James, it went up Jackson, took a right on 12th, and terminated at Jefferson Park. The southbound 4 also didn’t go up James, it somehow got to eastbound Madison, took a left on 23th, and terminated in the UD. The northern half of the 3/4, however, looked very similar to today’s norther 3/4. And it looks like no bus route went up James street back then. You’ll also notice on this map that northwest Mercer Island was still called East Seattle.
The Seattle Transit 4 on Madison-23rd was the ancestor of the 43. Madison used to be a major street to the ferry terminal, so I guess more routes traditionally used it. I don’t know when or why it was moved to John Street. Was John less built up in 1950? Did Metro decide there was a transit gap there that needed to be filled? Was it to serve Group Health? I thought Group Health started in the 40s, but maybe it was someplace else at first.
In response to Mike’s perceptive concern about SUV’s with a business wrap using the lane, how about making it a lane for vehicles with six tires or more in primary contact with the pavement?
Sure would be easy to enforce!
Aha, I have produced an excellent example of the maxim, “Dont’t post and then read.” At least not without hitting the button.
Read, post (including the button) and THEN read again.
Thanks Sam, for that old map. It shows how complicated our system was in the past. My guess is it followed old streetcar lines.
Speaking of old maps, Oran’s got old versions of his, and I was looking at this one the other day: https://seattletransitmap.com/version/1601d3/SeattleTransitMap_v1601d3_web.pdf. This wasn’t from very long ago (2016). It seems fairly similar, but check out the northeast part of Seattle. The 41 is gone, of course, but that was a given. But look at the buses to the east of it: 66, 67, 68, 73. All of these are all-day buses. There are a bunch more express buses (77, 373, etc.). Most of these are gone. A lot of these did not go downtown (unlike the 41) so it wasn’t obvious why they were removed. It was not just about truncating at Link stations. It was also about simplifying the network — consolidating on main corridors. About 7 years ago, there were buses on 5th NE, Roosevelt NE and 15th NE. It is highly likely that service will remain on only Roosevelt.
This is a good thing. It means more walking, but much better frequency. This is what our system has been evolving towards for a long time. Link has played a big part, but in some sense it is just an excuse to do things that should have been done a while ago. To a certain extent, I feel the same way about RapidRide G. Like Link, it is a major improvement in the area. The buses should definitely be altered because of it. But I also think it gives us the opportunity to improve the network in ways we should have done a while ago.
To be fair, a lot of the area (what I call “greater Central Area”) has grown considerably over the years. A network that had some merit twenty (or forty) years ago no longer makes sense.
It’s a bit more complicated the 7 route is interlined with the 49 often. If you were to decrease the 7 it’d also indirectly kinda decrease the 49.
I do agree it s a bit duplicative on Jackson but also all of these riders want to reach downtown. The 106 just covers mlk while the 7 covers rainier. The only reasonable route for the 106 is down rainier then Jackson ie I wouldn’t call the sodo busways duplicative busses as a reason to reroute them.
Rerouting 106 down to boren (and then slu) would miss the transfer points downtown unless if you had to also it go to belltown but that’s a bit long now.
More importantly all three of these routes 7, 106, 60 do have pretty high ridership. That being said when east link opens perhaps it’s make more sense to reroute 106 since then riders could take the Judkins park station to downtown
It’s a bit more complicated the 7 route is interlined with the 49 often.
Metro has been looking at breaking that connection for quite some time now. There was push-back on that idea, but that seems like a small problem. Basically folks who work late on Capitol Hill don’t want to transfer downtown if they live in Rainier Valley. Easiest way to fix that is just to add a different Night Owl route.
Rerouting 106 down to boren (and then slu) would miss the transfer points downtown unless if you had to also it go to belltown but that’s a bit long now.
Nonsense. The bus would overlap Link and the 7. The transfers are actually very easy and the connecting transit very frequent. Such transfers are common in our system. The 60 doesn’t go downtown — it goes to First Hill. The 107 doesn’t go downtown, it ends at Beacon Hill Station. What makes the 106 so special?
We need to get rid of this “all buses go downtown” mindset. Of course these buses get good ridership. If you resurrected the 41 it would be a top ten bus again. But running buses downtown is wasteful, the same way that running buses back and forth to grab a few riders is wasteful. You want to build a network of frequent buses so that you can get anywhere to anywhere. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about Fife to Newcastle. I’m talking about the central core of the city. Consider this trip: https://goo.gl/maps/nPyqpBYVgsFfAiEj6. This is Yesler Terrace to the heart of South Lake Union. Many would consider this trip to be entirely within downtown. If you make the trip at 10:00 AM (when traffic is light, mind you) it takes over a half hour, with the fastest transit trip involving 15 minutes of walking. Even just walking the entire way isn’t much slower. Driving, of course, takes 12. This just shouldn’t happen. The system was designed for a city that no longer exists. There are huge numbers of people who live between Lake Union and Jackson. There is no abrupt end to the density, either. It spreads east slowly, until it hits the single family neighborhoods east of MLK. Even then the density isn’t really low, as the lots are generally small, and old apartments are grandfathered in.
People who live within a dense urban area like that (especially the parts that are most urban) should not have to go downtown and back for simple trips. That idea is simply old-fashioned, and doesn’t recognize the way the city has changed (or the importance of getting around everywhere in transit, instead of just to your job downtown).
Route 9 could be electric trolleybus between Mt. Baker and East Aloha Street.
If you look at the ridership numbers for the 106, it is clear that this is not a downtown-centric bus. For a northbound bus, only about 800 riders get off downtown. Meanwhile, over 400 riders board north of MLK, where the bus follows Rainier. Those riders just happen to take the 106 because it is following the same path as the 7 at that point. So you have roughly 400 riders going from MLK to downtown. That’s not a lot.
This makes sense when you think about it. Link doesn’t have great stop spacing, but it does cover the biggest stops along the corridor. Thus most people who live along MLK or are headed there just take Link as their connection to downtown. South of Seattle, the most popular stop is Renton Transit Center, where folks take the 101 to Seattle. Everything else is just low density, with ridership at each bus stop to match. Basically, the vast majority of people are riding it to travel along the corridor, not to get downtown.
Put it another way. If the 106 was sent to First Hill and South Lake Union, it is quite likely that ridership would dramatically increase. Not only from the riders on Boren, but also from riders along MLK. Those riders (who currently take Link) would take this bus, as it would give them a much better connection to places like First Hill and South Lake Union.
Jackson Street is not overserved. It has downtown-like density and high ridership, so a bus every 3-5 minutes is appropriate and welcome. The five-route overlap (7, 14, 36, 106, streetcar) is only a half mile. Each of those routes turns to a different street between 12th and 14th; the 14 continues alone to 31st. We need to get out of this mindset that buses must be full to add another run: the fact is that Jackson Street is a downtown-like area and the bottom of a funnel (routes funneling out on the eastern end), so 3-5 minute service is worthwhile even if each bus is only a quarter full. And they’re not a quarter full; sometimes they’re full.
The 106 has a long, twisted history that goes back to the 42. For decades the 42 ran on Dearborn-MLK between downtown and Rainier View. Later the 48 overlapped it; then the 8 replaced the 48. When Link started in 2009, Metro intended to delete the 42 as redundant. One squeaky wheel complained, ACRS (an Asian service center)
northsouth of Mt Baker station, saying the people it helps couldn’t get to it without the 42. Apparently they couldn’t take Link and transfer to the 8, or take the 7 and walk six blocks. Metro relented and kept a truncated, partial-service 42. It took the service hours out of an expansion of the 50. (The 50 was a brand-new route that was going to have more frequent service; I don’t remember if it was 15 or 30 minutes, but it ended up starting with less, 45 or 60, which hindered it being a last-mile shuttle to Link. Another simultaneous addition also took hours from the 50: a Mt Baker-Beacon Hill station-to-station shuttle that was short-lived.)
The 106 had gone through a lot of iterations. When the DSTT opened in 1990 it became a downtown express to Othello Street-Renton Avenue to Renton. Later it became local, then was truncated at Georgetown, and probably other things. Sometime, I think in the mid 2010s, it took on southern MLK to Mt Baker Station, replacing the 8. The route 42 resurrection was only for a couple years, and its truncated form got hardly any riders, so it was finally deleted. ACRS complained again.
Eventually Metro, for “equity”, extended the 106 north from Mt Baker station to Rainier-Jackson, terminating at Intl Dist station. It refused to extend it further to downtown, so anyone going downtown would have to transfer at Intl Dist. The 7 and 106 overlap on north Rainier, and the 7 is ultra-frequent, so the extension was questionable, but Metro did it. (North Rainier is not as dense as Jackson Street.) Although I do ride the 106 there sometimes because it’s there, and enjoy the extra frequency.
Transit fans have long argued, that if the 106 is going to overlap the 7 in North Rainier, it should continue north on Boren Street to SLU. That would fill a northwest-southeest transit gap there. Metro Connects’s vision adopted that concept, so that could be where we’re headed. That would take the 106 off Jackson.
Some more comments:
Rainier Ave itself runs much more diagonal than the other roads. Route 7 runs further east than 56th Ave in Rainier Beach yet is at 14th Ave at the Jackson turn. That’s about a 2 mile drift on a 6+ mile segment. Plus pretty much every single commercial district runs north-south. East-west demand is pretty weak as the low Route 50 ridership and the lack of any other mostly east-west bus route in SE Seattle demonstrate. The situation doesn’t really make a true grid route structure very practical.
Rerouting Route 106 between CID and Mt Baker is politically difficult. The alignment was created because a route was requested directly between CID and ACRS on MLK. There were also complaints that the Asian destinations along MLK further south need direct CID bus service. It’s true that Rainier and Walden (Route 7) is only about 1/4 mile total walking distance from ACRS but this is what came out of community restructuring discussions a few years back. I think it would be tough to move Route 106 north of Henderson, which is why I would consider splitting Route 7 instead. Maybe in time the Route 6 (old Route 9) could fully replace Route 7 but splitting Route 7 appears to me the easiest way to incrementally restructure the system.
It should be mentioned that Jackson is also served by Route 14. I’m often amazed at how much of that route has low ridership east of 23rd. It does run through the Mt Baker TC too. So that’s three bus routes + Link (four routes total) that can get you directly from Mt Baker to CID and zero to get you directly from Mt Baker to First Hill.
I think it would be loads easier to restructure bus routes in SE Seattle if there was a great space for a transit layover and convergence point further south of Mt Baker on Link. The layover points for Othello aren’t great and Rainier Beach really has nothing good for that. ST is pretty diligent putting in layover and pickup points at all the new stations but the agencies involved ignore fixing this access aspect at the existing MLK stations.
I think a good case for a limited stop line could be made. However, when I’m on Route 7 I observe that people are hopping on and off along Rainier Ave between Massachusetts and Henderson at many of the stops that I’m not sure if much time could be gained.
I’m pretty flexible in how to structure routes. I do think that adjustments are needed in SE Seattle and the CD. It’s just stupid that tens of thousands of SE Seattle residents can directly get to the CID and Downtown multiple ways but there is no way to get directly to First Hill east of Beacon Ave.
That’s true, Sam, but there was transit on Jefferson and Cherry. It has been there since the streetcar days. My recollection is that the line was the 12 in those days. There was a 12 34th Avenue and a 12 Judkins Park; the 12 34th was exactly the same as today’s 3. The 12 Judkins Park line terminated in the loop at 26th Avenue and Judkins Street.
Actually, the Jefferson/Cherry buses didn’t follow the current 3/4 path to Ninth Avenue. They used the same wire as the 2 Madrona Park and the 19th Avenue line (don’t remember the number) did on Seneca and Spring. Then they turned south on Ninth Avenue to Harborview.
There was no wire on James or Madison in those days.
That Ninth Avenue wire is still there. I think it’s used for snow routes sometimes and garage runs.
The greater Central Area is challenging for several reasons. Historically, we’ve had a mishmash of buses that largely went downtown. This should be replaced by a grid. But there are actually two street grids. There is the east-west one, and the one that cuts diagonally. In my opinion, the best thing to do is stick to the east-west on most streets east of Broadway, but Boren and Madison (diagonal to that grid) should have service.
We also need to simplify the network. The idea of an “everywhere to everywhere” system (of the type Jarrett Walker has pushed for recently) is not that you can get anywhere on one bus. It is that you can get anywhere with a simple transfer, and without a big detour. The most cost effective way to build that is with a grid. It isn’t always possible to build a perfect grid, but the more grid-like the network, the more likely it is that you can build that kind of system. Running buses like the 4 are great for those riders, but eventually the costs add up, and you have infrequent service on them (or the entire system). In contrast, here is a proposed map from a while back:
This is maybe too simple. There are gaps that could be filled in. But service is simplified and straighter, with less overlap. The result would be much better frequency. I would run the 49 opposite the streetcar. That means both could run every 10 minutes, with 5 minute headways on Broadway. The 3 would run every 7.5 minutes, like the old 3/4. I could see the 2, 10 and 48 running every 10 minutes, maybe better. The 106 probably can’t justify better service unless it was split, but I would consider that. Have the 106 just end at Mount Baker, and a bus just run from Mount Baker to South Lake Union. That means a transfer for 106 riders, but the bus runs along Link, and for riders heading to other destinations, there is the 7 and this new Boren bus (I would probably call it the 6 — as Al suggested). So now you’ve got the 6 and the 7 running down Rainier from Mount Baker Station to Jackson. They both could run every 10 minutes, which again means 5 minute headways along part of that route. None of this seems like a stretch financially because the network is simplified.
One of the biggest goals in the area should be making the 3/4 faster. They should take the same approach as the 40. Sure, it would be great to have off-board payment and fancy bus stops (i. e. RapidRide) but solving the biggest traffic bottle-necks should be the first priority. It can be done if the city is aggressive enough in adding BAT lanes. Going via Yesler (as Metro proposed a while back) is also reasonable, as long as you backfill service on 5th & James (which wouldn’t be that hard, really). One way or another, the bus needs to be made faster. Ridership per mile on that route is extremely high — we should prioritize speed and reliability improvements on the corridor.
I think this is great news, I only wish that we could get something like this in Snohomish County. Reason 1 is because the only transit that serves Paine Field is a meandering, infrequent Everett Transit #8 – and PAE isn’t even in Everett City Limits, so why are they serving it? Community Transit runs along Airport Road – if you are able-bodied, love walking uphill in the elements. Sound Transit stays far away from this regional destination, even though they’re purportedly the regional transit provider. They plan to run Link right on by PAE, likely to be named the region’s overflow airport this June. Reason 2 is because the popular South Everett Transit Park & Ride has cooties for Sound Transit’s #513, for fear of upsetting their handful of riders who mostly board in the virtually-abandoned Eastmont P&R, where no other transit provider goes. Their planners’ argument that it would inconvenience those few riders is specious, for they had no problem adding extra time and stops for Ash Way, Lynnwood Transit Center, and Mountlake Terrace not too long ago, though.Everett Transit only goes there with it’s tedious and long #29 from downtown and the eastside to the desolate Everett Mall, where it doesn’t interline with the #12 out to/from southwest Everett, including Boeing, nor does it offer a reliable connection. If Boeing is so important to get Link, why can’t it get bus service for the next 15 years while we wait? Reason 3 is because there’s no off-peak connection between Seaway Transit Center (Boeing) to/from the Mukilteo ferry cornucopia of Amtrak, Sounder, and CT bus service, apparently something else that ST express and Everett Transit have cooties about serving. Reason 4 is because ST express buses avoid local stops within low-income southwest Everett, but they have no problem having frequent stops for the 550 express between high-income residents in downtown Bellevue going to and from downtown Seattle. Reason 5 is that it takes 2 buses to go from much of southwest Everett (W Casino Rd) to downtown Everett, where city and county meetings are. In the meantime, southwest Everett needs to consider secession from the City of Everett and should reject any merger between ET and ST, neither of which serves the city well.
Is there much in the way of 3+ bedroom units in multifamily housing that’s being built now? Our family has always lived in larger homes because we needed a lot of bedrooms; five kids, plus overseas relatives who would stay with us for six months at a time. (Yes, six months at a time. As a kid and teen, I had no conception of “peace and quiet at home”.) At the time our need for a 4-bedroom house meant suburb or small town. I’m wondering if there are now buildings in urbanist settings that can accommodate lots of kids or multiple generations in one unit?
Michael, the biggest shortage today is affordable multi- family housing for families. Upzoning converts older SFH into smaller multi-family units that are not affordable, and few new multi-family units have three bedrooms.
Some of this is because Seattle has I believe the lowest persons per housing unit ratio in the U.S. Seattleites have on average very few kids, low marriage rates, and I believe over half of the residents live alone. If they can afford it or not Seattleites don’t like to live with another person.
Most urbanists and urban planners fall into this demographic so zone for what they use or prefer. Seattle is considered one of the least family friendly cities in the nation, except in some of the residential zones.
Upzoning converts older SFH into smaller multi-family units that are not affordable, and few new multi-family units have three bedrooms.
You have that completely backwards. Upzoning adds units. This means more places to stay. So instead of three unrelated families in one house, you have three families, each in their own apartment. I’ve done the latter. I’ll admit, I was only taking care of two kids at the time, but the one bedroom apartment was just fine. I gave the kids the bedroom (two kids in one bedroom is standard) then slept in the living room (like I would if I had a studio apartment). A two bedroom apartment would have been nice, but it was out of my price range. This was a while ago — it is tougher now.
The point being that living in a “cramped” apartment is still better than sharing a house with two or more unrelated families, or living out of your car (which seems to be your suggestion).
Large-developer, Wall Street-financed buildings are especially attuned to maximum profits. Two 1 BR units are more profitable than one 3 BR unit in the same space, because every unit has a baseline price regardless of size. E.g., if two 1 BRs each rent for $1200 and one 3 BR rents for $2000, then you’re $400 richer if you build the 1 BR units. The same scaling applies to studios and 1 BRs. That’s why developers piled in to studios and 1 BRs. But there was a backlash, and eventually it became louder, and voiced by politicians as well as tenants, so developers started mixing in more 2- and 3 BR units to accommodate families, reduce the backlash, and head off regulations. Now there are more 2/3/4 BR units than there were, but the number is still small compared to demand.
Another problem is that market rates have gotten so high that 2-4 BR units are naturally above $2500, out of reach lower-level workers.
Upzoning a larger area, such as both the state’s ADU/4plex policy or a looser missing-middle policy (=small apartment buildings), would lessen the pressure on each unit. As more overall units are built, that might make more 3-4 BR units built. That would allow more families with children to live in Seattle.
On a semi-related note, Manhattan has ultra-large apartments/condos/co-ops, 2000-4000 square feet, for the wealthy who want those. That’s comparable to a single-family house, but stacked on top of each other, in a space-efficient and eco-friendly and walkability-friendly manner. There’s nothing wrong with having more of those, to reduce demand for single-family house sprawl.
Yeah I often cringe when people compare an 1800’s NYC Brownstone with 4000-6000 sq ft to the tiny 1300 sq ft things being built around Seattle.
Of course NYC has no real issue with them becoming 3-4 condos from a Brownstone single family home.
I actually think we’d be better off to encourage focusing residential land use regulation on overall lot coverage and setbacks and height and FARs with some minimum and maximum unit sizes than to put the energy into our little bean counting strategies like ADU permitting and allowing just one kitchen in a home as the reason it gets considered “single family”.
I chalk it up to our regulations de facto encouraging corporate real estate ownership rather then people owning adjacent investment properties.
Your best bet would be to look for a townhome. I have not looked at many apartments recently but certainly none of the buildings we looked at in Seattle (in the mid-late 2000s) had anything larger than 2 small bedrooms. Even in suburbs 3 bedroom units were much more rare – the apartment complex I lived at in Lynnwood had maybe 5% of the units with more than 2 bedrooms.
OTOH there are many 3 bedroom townhomes, from what I have seen when we were looking at buying. A typical layout has a bedroom behind the garage on the ground level, and two more on the top level (with the open floorplan kitchen-dining-living on the middle level). It would still be cramped with the family size you describe, but better than a 2-bedroom apartment, and the multi-level layout affords some measure of relative privacy, too.
Yeah, there aren’t that many apartments that big, and most will cost a fortune. Same with houses in the city. There are plenty of really big houses being built — but they are in the million dollar range, even for second-rate neighborhoods (like mine). A townhouse might be your best bet, and even then it might be a bit small.
Here is a 3 bedroom condo for 450K though: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/11560-Stone-Ave-N-98133/unit-101/home/2085023. Still tight if you have five kids. As you get into the 4 bedroom+ range, you end up with luxury apartments. This is the cheapest I found: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/2030-Western-Ave-98121/unit-306/home/11985. It sold for 800K. Not exactly cheap, but it is tough to find houses with that many bedrooms for that much in the city. Then there is this: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/7020-18th-Ave-SW-98106/unit-C7/home/17649. It was built a while ago.
Generally speaking, new construction is like new cars. It tends to be more expensive, but pushes the price of the old houses down. If you want something big, it will cost you, especially if you want something new. It is like trying to buy a cheap van. Unless you want used, you can’t do it. I don’t think you can get a vehicle with 7 adult seats for under 30K (not what I would call cheap).
“A typical layout has a bedroom behind the garage on the ground level, and two more on the top level (with the open floorplan kitchen-dining-living on the middle level).”
Yeah, I’ve seen that layout frequently in the new and newer townhomes in my area that I have viewed both online and in person. They are nice and possibly could work for a family with two to four children for a while. It would be a challenge for a larger family though. The biggest drawback imho is the lack of any outside play area for the kids.
That townhouse suggestion (I now live in one BTW) just brought to mind the numerous “brownstones’ in Brooklyn and maybe also Queens, plus the long stretches of rowhouses in the British Isles. I wonder if that could be an angle for Seattle politicians and developers, constructing clusters of such rowhouses/townhouses and giving them a recognizable touch, like the “Painted Ladies” in San Francisco or those residences overlooking Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The trend now is for smaller families, but you’ll still need multi-bedroom dense housing in Seattle, due to the growing Latino and South Asian populations, which tend to have larger families and multiple generations living together. And some of them will want to live in the city proper instead of the suburbs.
Great question. I can’t answer it fully (sorry) but I can add some additional perspective. Recently I was looking over the NWMLS annual report for 2022 and it provides some data on closed sales (all residential and condominium combined) broken out by number of bedrooms:
2 bedrooms or fewer
4 bedrooms or more
It would be very helpful to see the data further broken down by existing unit vs new construction, but alas that distinction wasn’t made in this presentation.
The report includes this breakdown as well:
4 bedrooms or more market share for closed sales in 2022-
Kitsap County, 54.0%
Pierce County, 47.4%
Snohomish County, 42.6%
King County, 34.6%
My anecdotal experience looking at new infill construction for townhome style properties around my local area in SW SnoCo has led me to conclude that the units for sale seem to max out at four bedrooms, though many just have three.
Here are a couple of examples of properties near me that I toured during their scheduled open houses. The latter is a project I followed since we were included as parties of interest as the project was going through the various development phases. The infill project utilized two former suburban lots not unlike my own. (One of the existing structures still remains actually.) Fwiw, there is transit service along the E-W corridor where both of these townhome projects are located.
Another good source is the market research reports put out by companies like Kidder Matthews. Most require a subscription (I’m fortunate in that regard in that my spouse works for a residential developer/builder) but there are some reports put out for general public consumption. I’m providing the following link(s) just as a jumping off point.
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