Redmond 2050 is having hearings on the Southeast Redmond and Redmond Downtown Link station areas. I can’t find the specific proposals online, but maybe somebody can describe them and the recent open house. (Thanks AJ and Nathan D for the link.)
Pike/Pine rechannelization. Next year SDOT plans to extend the one-way streets on Pike and Pine Streets east to Bellevue Avenue in southwest Capitol Hill. A rendering of the bridge over I-5 seems to show one car lane on each street, an additional lane’s worth of sidewalk, and a more distinct bike lane. This follows several projects over the past four years that have installed transit lanes, bike lanes, stop lights, four-way stop signs, and a parklet to parts of Pike and Pine streets east to Broadway. This is part of the Waterfront Seattle vision, and partly funded by Convention Center expansion mitigation.
Sound Transit is deliberating Lynnwood Link’s initial logistics. The Operations committee met April 6 (livestream, slide deck). The current Northgate-Angle Lake travel time was expected to be 50 minutes with 74 rail cars, but it’s now 57 minutes with 92 cars, and the cars have more maintenance issues than expected. East Link’s delay mean the upcoming Lynnwood Link trains won’t be able to cross the lake to the second base for the first couple years. So ST is considering temporarily reducing service between Lynnwood Link’s opening and the full East Link opening. Possible alternatives include shorter trains, lower peak frequency, and/or short runs (e.g., Lynnwood-Stadium). (Thanks WL and Lazarus.)
Transit Center held a panel discussion with Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm and two other transit executives from BART and southwest Ohio, on ridership changes and other emerging issues in the covid/post-covid era. (Tnanks Tlsgwm.)
WSDOT is updating the SR 167 master plan (the freeway that goes south from Renton to Puyallup and west to Tacoma). Proposed concepts include BRT from Puyallup to Renton and possibly Link, four BRT/RapidRide routes, increased Sounder, and other car- and bike-oriented features. View the online open house and send feedback by April 15. These projects would still have to be funded by ST/Metro, but getting them into the master plan means the state would allow them, and would cooperate on modifying the highway to accommodate them as it did with 405.
Mayor Harrell is asking for ideas on how to to redesign downtown Seattle for more residential use. (MyNorthwest) Compared to 2019, downtown currently has 47% of pre-pandemic worker pedestrians, and 4,000 more apartment units.
More mixed-use buildings are coming to the West Seattle Junction. Hand-wringing about parking, and questions about whether housing is the best use of the lots. The community supports a hopsital there, but one provider who was considering it declined. (Westside Seattle)
Madison Street is torn up between around 28th to 23rd for RapidRide G construction. I rode the 8 westbound through it yesterday, and it looks like only one or two narrow lanes are open. Route 12 is also rerouted between 14th and 12th. (Ed: updated locations.)
This is an open thread.
254 Replies to “Open Thread: Redmond”
There’s a growing movement to promote the Single-Tunnel alternative for ST3 Link downtown. Some STB authors have recommended it, but I’m not sure we want to get into an all-out STB editorializing/lobbying for it at this point. So the proponents may want to form a distinct movement push ST to make the change. We can certainly discuss it in the comments and maybe host a guest article on it (as we’ve done for Seattle Subway in the past)., and maybe do more later. My own feeling at this point is to make people aware of the possibility, and to have it ready in case the powers that be are more willing to consider it later.
Does the “growing movement” yet including anybody outside of STB?
ST can’t study interlining all three lines in DSTT1 because it is not part of the DEIS , so I wouldn’t write to ST. The Board would have to reopen and amend the DEIS. Based on a 16 to 0 vote and demands by the four other subareas that there are no more delays I doubt that will happen absent a funding crisis. Plus ST seemed pretty hostile to interlining in one tunnel anyway.
I think Harrell and Constantine believe a second tunnel that runs to SLU is the most important part of WSBLE and I agree, even if some don’t like the stations at CID N/S that I don’t think are materially worse than the stations at CID and “midtown” that would be very deep. If something has to get cut in WSBLE it will be in WS or Ballard, not DSTT2, and that looks likely except rather than “cutting” the Board will “extend” those projects or request large LID’s.
As I have noted many times before funding will determine what gets built in ST 3. Plus politics. E KC is running Link to Redmond when estimated daily boardings (pre-pandemic) are 1300. Folks on this blog can argue all day long TDLE, Everett Link and Issaquah Link should not be built based on ridership and dollar per rider mile but they will be built, if the funding is there, and with the huge surpluses in E KC and that subarea’s disinterest in transit or Link there is the money, mostly loans with very long maturity dates. No one in E KC would likely even notice, although we notice Redmond’s lame ass retail.
I expect there are people both inside and outside STB that haven’t organized yet.
The Transit Riders’ Union had a meetup with two other groups recently; I don’t know whether Single-Tunnel came up or if they’re working on other joint action.
This is all about ST focusing on the wrong things and trying to get it to focus on the right things. The #1 issue in a multi-line subway is good train-to-train transfers, because half or two-thirds of the destinations require a transfer. We shouldn’t have to tell ST this: it’s obvious in transit best-practices and in other cities’ networks. But ST tends to focus on other stakeholders and not pay enough attention to riders’ experience (i.e., what the system is for and who we want to use it).
Has anyone reached out to Seattle Subway– last I checked they wanted shallow 4th? IIRC, a poster on their facebook page suggested flushing the second tunnel, they recoiled in horror.
$eattle $ubway knows no limits. They are the transit version of Modern Monetary Theory.
Im more inclined for the maintain the spine and smaller stations for a separate West Seattle to Ballard tunnel.
Connecting a Ballard tunnel to the existing or a spur (omf location?) is still a bit complicated. Whereas asking for maintaining the spine and smaller stations is relatively simple
The simplest solution is to just not connect it, and build a new OMF in Interbay instead. A second solution is to build tracks through downtown to tie the Ballard trains to the SODO OMF, but if it’s deadheading trains only, you don’t need a tunnel – they can just sit in traffic on regular streets. The second solution could potentially be combined with the CCC – if the gauges and overhead wire are compatible, which they probably aren’t.
“Single-Tunnel” is an umbrella term that can accommodate:
* A Ballard-Westlake stub: terminating at new Westlake2 platforms where everybody would transfer, and the stations may or may not be smaller or automated.
* Merge Ballard into DSTT1 going south. This would require retrofitting a branch into DSTT1, which I think is the least likely option. The Convention Place exit is now filled in with the convention center foundation.
The stub could later be extended in another phase; e.g., southeast to First Hill and Judkins Park, or south downtown, or merge into DSTT1.
West Seattle will already be in DSTT1 to Everett under ST’s current plan, so no change is needed there
asdf2, of course “the gauges will be compatible”. There is one “standard gauge” in North America: 4 feet 8 and 1/2 inches” (1.435 m).
So far as the overhead is concerned, I believe that there are a few installations of Citadis trams which run 1500 VDC. Alsthom certainly offers 1500 volt LRV’s, so they have the electrical kit for it. Such vehicles would have the traction motors running in series to halve the voltage instead of parallel. Rewired seven fifty volt trams would draw relatively little amperage from the overhead as a result.
You would certainly be limited to two-car trains because of the 240 foot blocks in downtown Seattle. A stopped train couldn’t reach into the previous intersection. But that’s fine; the idea is to make Ballard with smaller stations. This is completely compatible.
So the relatively tiny fleet of streetcars could be replaced by longer, larger trams, though it would require that their stations be lengthened.
Now if by “gauge” you mean the envelope that the vehicle fills, you are right that the streetcars are narrower and lower. Lower is not a problem; pantographs are made to raise and lower to follow the profile of the overhead. But going through the stations would be a problem for full-width trams.
One way to make it work would be to have the Ballard Stub be high floor cars [e.g. “Skytrain-style” small Light Metro Vehicles] but with overhead power instead of third-rail. Only the bogies (“trucks”) would then need to clear the low tram platforms, and they certainly would; trams and streetcars hang out beyond the bearings and other gear on the bogies. They don’t project as far as full-size LRV’s, but there’s at least eight or ten inches beyond the bogies.
Perhaps the front side-supports and the roofs of the tram stations would have to be trimmed back though.
To clarify I mean maintain the spine as in continue the Everett to Tacoma and Everett to Redmond. Then build a separate tunnel from Ballard to Seattle (down to S Holgate S. not just spur) with 2-car length underground stations.
Whether there is an ID station or even if the route goes down 2nd avenue/1st avenue doesn’t really matter anymore as long as there is a Westlake station, since basically every route pairing can still transfer at Westlake or ID. The only lost route is West Seattle to Redmond but it’s the weakest one and fine to sacrifice.
Continuing the tunnel reach past ID allows to avoid issues of finding a space for an OMF also one can send 2-car trains back and forth to West Seattle as well. (And possibly just build 2-car train stations in West Seattle as well)
By the time it gets time to build this, the streetcars will be at the end of their operating lives.
So, I’d jackhammer out several inches of station platform and convert the First Hill Streetcar to use Link cars operating as single cars. The Siemens cars can take the right curves. See Atlanta Streetcar (which uses these light rail cars).
Build the CCC with two car length platforms. This becomes the backup line when the tunnel needs maintenance.
Ballard gets split: half the trains to Westlake and the other half to First Hill.
The streetcar to light rail width difference is something like 9 inches. It’s enough to be a pain, but not so much that some rearranging and modifying couldn’t make things work.
The overhead lines shouldn’t be that difficult to convert to 1,500 dc. There are several voltage classes of insulators used. There’s a lot of slop in the overhead lines (750 dc typically means the cars can take anything from 495 to 900, and in the case of MAX parts of the system were built at 825 volts full load and probably wanders over 1,000 at partial load), so they over-insulate. In this class of railroad wire, you can usually get off the shelf 2,000 volt rated insulation or 600 volt. So, there’s a good chance the streetcar overhead lines are already insulated for 1,500 volts.
With this, you wouldn’t even need the separate OMF or deadheading. Just run the last few trains of the night and the first few in the morning as First Hill – CCC – Ballard trains.
Also slightly relevant for the Center City Connector they already have to buy 10 new sets of streetcars already. Which are somehow not compatible with the old ones (this is partly why the extension cost so much)
> The overhead lines shouldn’t be that difficult to convert to 1,500 dc.
It is definitely annoying that the streetcar’s use 750, the trolley busses 700 and the link 1500. I guess the link difference isn’t too surprising but I never really understood why the streetcar and trolley busses use different volts.
“Single-Tunnel” is an umbrella term
Exactly. There are two options (which you described well) and both should be studied. This is not a radical departure from the original (or modified) plans. It is an enhancement. I have a feeling a significant number of people don’t understand that, or assume (with no evidence) that a second tunnel is needed.
I agree with Ross. It’s less about advocating for a specific approach and more about getting these 2 additional alternatives into the EIS for study,
My guess is that, when push comes to shove, the cheapest option to get Ballard trains to an OMF will simply be to build a new OMF in Interbay and not connect to SODO at all. But, I think the option for a 1st Ave. deadhead track that is also used by the CCC should at least be studied, just in case it ends up cheaper than I imagine it would be.
“It is definitely annoying that the streetcar’s use 750, the trolley busses 700”
For these purposes, 750 and 700 are the same voltage. MAX is “750” but many of the substations have been tuned to 825 volts at peak load to reduce line losses. The typical specification is for the cars to be able to operate in the 500 to 900 range with insulation tested to the 5,000 range, so they’re still in range for what the cars are specified to use. Static converters on the Skoda/Inekon cars are 515 volt minimum so should operate just fine on 700.
The trolley bus voltage is probably just specified as 700 rather than 750 because of line losses on both lines. It means the return wire will sometimes wander a bit above ground voltage, thus lowering the point potential between the two lines. It’s basically a 750 volt system with a less reliable ground on the current return.
Really, there’s a lot more slop in overhead line voltage than what people think.
There are several fanciful comments are using the yet-to-be constructed CCC Streetcar line to take Ballard LRT to/from the operating base. None mentioned a tunnel portal. How and where would that be done?
WL: yes, SDOT has to start over. The Murray-Kubly SDOT foolishly chose to contract to buy 10 new streetcars that were different from the existing ones; they would have required changes to the operating bases and the platforms.
All three Seattle Streetcar lines were foolish and poorly designed, costly, and provide little transit benefit. We can thank Paul Allen and Greg Nickels for bringing the streetcar virus from Portland.
eddiew: what’s wrong with keeping the tunnel portal along Elliott, as is currently planned? You just have a branch from that line that into the street before the tunnel.
The CCC extension is from 5th & Stewart where the current streetcar terminus is, so that’s where the portal would be. Or if you want to run surface in SLU too, the northernmost streetcar point is at Valley & Westlake next to Lake Union Park. The planned Link portal is near Elliott Ave W & Valley, so there might still be an east-west tunnel from Smith Cove to Lake Union Park, or an L-shaped tunnel from Smith Cove to Stewart & Westlake.
If Link does share the CCC track for revenue service, we’d want Westlake2 station to be as far south of Stewart as possible, to be close to DSTT1 under Pine Street. Otherwise there’s a two-block gap, and we’re back to the problem of long transfers.
Has anybody noticed that there’s a long transfer from Westlake Station to the streetcar terminus? That’s one of the things that dampens streetcar ridership. You have to go out the back entrance of Westlake Center, cross busy Olive Way, and go a bit further to reach the streetcar stop.
Glenn, I agree in theory, but “which street”? You really need to do something besides hand-waving about the gap between First and Denny and wherever the junction west and north of the tunnel portal would be.
Let’s take the “easy” case of the Preferred Alternative with a portal right at Elliott and Republican. Republican’s a pretty skinny street to put a reserved rail track down the middle of it. For sure one side or the other would have to lose parking, probably both. Big stink in the neighborhood!
And let’s be clear: it HAS to be “reserved” because trains will be going both directions on the single-track. Either you put it in the middle and take both sides of the parking because cars can’t then edge around each other, or you put it on the side and that totally messes up driveways.
It’s a narrow street.
I would suggest that perhaps the “belly southwest” as the then-elevated line curves into the Elliott ROW could be the proper point of connection. The track will bulge a little way into large empty lot in which the Bridge Shelter is located. The service track could branch toward Elliott Bay from the northwest edge of the property and use the space of the now-derelict northernmost track to descend to the grade before the Harrison Street ROW west of Elliott. Since trains would be going slowly, they could easily make the turn into the center of the street with its turn-around loop. Nobody would be using that at night, since those are office buildings on both side of the “streetlet”.
Then it would S-curve into the center left-turn lane on Elliott, probably with retractable bollards to keep traffic out of it when a train is using it, then transition to the “center lane” of Western and then Denny to First Avenue, again, with retractable bollards to keep cars out. There should be overhead signs with green arrows and red “X’s” to make the point clearer to drivers. Obviously, there would have to be a “train activated” normally green light at Harrison and Elliott that would go red across the Seattle-bound side of the street when a train needed to cross it.
The “center lane” in Western and Denny are actually the center-most of three west- then northwest-bound lanes; two Ballard-bound lanes would remain, which should be more than enough at 2 AM.
Obviously, this puts rails on a several blocks of Elliott in the refuge lane, and about five in the “fast lane” on Western and then Denny Way. This certainly might raise objections about driver control, especially in the “fast lane” portion.
WL, there’s something to be said for an “all-Seattle” smaller tunnel, but there’s a WHOLE LOT MORE to be said for “save $4 billion by not building West Seattle!” Focus on the Short Tunnel and let the chips fall where they may on West Seattle. I hope they fall off the table.
what of the steep grade of West Republican Street?
The grade isn’t really an issue. Well to be exact the current alignment along Elliot is elevated (60 feet) so with just a slight incline it can reach republican street. (which is at 60 feet then 100 feet) but it has a steeper grade diving into the tunnel. What will probably be more complicated is if the tunnel portal and the at grade portion connection is the same location.
W Republican Street is a small street, but it is also one of the previous plans for routing at-grade trains from Elliot Ave W to W Republican Street then down 1st Avenue N. Though you’ll probably have to demolish a building for the train to make such a sharp turn.
The other even older plan would be to continue down Elliot Avenue to Denny Way and then turn onto 2nd Avenue
I think one issue is that the Purpose and Need declares that a second tunnel is needed.
This statement is in the Executive Summary:
“ Sound Transit and the City of Seattle recognized these capacity constraints and the need for a new Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel as a high priority for Sound Transit 3 investment (City of Seattle 2016).”
I do find it potentially contradictory that the Purpose and Need statement generally talks about improving mobility for low income residents yet the alternatives will make it harder for low income SE Seattle and South King residents to each places like Harborview, UW, the Eastside and Snohomish County employers because of the terrible transfers required of every build alternative.
I believe that if by some miracle the DEIS gets an interlined alternative added for study (which is what I think the STB ask should be), the mobility measures would perform better than the other current alternatives (as long as ST doesn’t sabotage the alternative with 1000 little cuts) or BS claims that it couldn’t be built aka “fatal flaw”.
An alternative to spending over $2B in public funds would be very hard to truthfully declare that it’s a fatal flaw. There are many ways — tighter frequencies, different open gangway vehicles, better automated systems, platform screen doors just to name a few — to enhance the DSTT capacity.
The argument for the second tunnel ignores alternatives. They make the case that the existing tunnel and stations, in their current state, could not handle all the trains. I don’t believe that is true, but even it it is, they don’t consider improving the existing tunnel and stations. Look into how much it would cost — and what would be involved — in running trains more often through the tunnel. This should be the first step.
The current approach is ridiculously wasteful. Imagine if you have a smart phone with expandable memory. You run against the existing limit. You have two choices: buy a new phone, or get a new chip. Sound Transit would buy a new phone (and a worse one at that).
I think ST believes a second tunnel is necessary for capacity and the Board believes ST ( and Harrell and Constantine want DSTT2 to SLU with subarea contribution.
I don’t thin ST wants to revisit its ridership estimates. The other subareas don’t want any more delay and accept they must contribute to DSTT2.
The only way I see interlining being added to the DEIS is if WSBLE runs out of money and cuts to every part of the rest of Line 3 are not enough. So I guess the DEIS alternatives for WS and Ballard will be telling about how money ST thinks N KC has or is willing to admit.
So far, despite the estimated cost going from. $6 billion to $15 billion and peak ridership down ST is unwilling to revisit funding or ridership. So I doubt they ST will admit in the future because Ross is likely correct and the findings would be embarrassing for ST and the Board. If anything, the biggest obstacle to interlining will be ST.
ST asserted DSTT1 would exceed capacity, but it never provided much evidence for it. People here have always thought it was iffy whether DSTT1 would reach capacity, with some people saying it might and others saying it wouldn’t. Both ST’s studies and people here say the biggest potential bottleneck will be between Westlake and UW, which DSTT2 would not address. The reason for the bottleneck is that people from Lynnwood, the U-District, UW, and Capitol Hill would all be together in that segment, but many would get off at Westlake. But ST simply asserted DSTT1 would definitely exceed capacity, without providing much evidence for it. It looks very much like ST simply wanted DSTT2 and the SLU loop. Most of us went along with it in order to get Ballard and Stride and the infill stations, but now that the downtown segment’s design has gotten so bad it’s practically unusable, we have to push back against that assumption to prevent a catastrophic alignment. And by catastrophic I specifically mean long transfer walks and multiple escalators between Lines 1 and 2/3.
I think focusing on “single tunnel” may be misleading as we are all still proposing to build a new tunnel through SLU towards Ballard. Maybe we should call it a Westlake tunnel or First Hill tunnel as our main point is that Midtown / CID station are not adding much coverage and therefore just waste money.
I believe we should plan on a separate OMF rather than running at grade through downtown which would not allow automated train technology.
Sound Transit may even want to look at linear induction motor (LIM) technology as the original SkyTrains use (and other cities). LIM allows for steeper grades than regular motors which would allow for a quicker dive under the 99 tunnel and ship canal and allow a rapid ascend to First Hill and enable not only shorter but shallower station boxes.
Martin, you can have “automated trains” which have a little “stand up” cab at one end that folds into a cabinet. There are only two important levers, the throttle and the brake, which doesn’t HAVE to be a pedal. Railroad engineers use hand-operated braking systems every day.
You absolutely would not want to run in revenue service with such a facility, but it works for non-revenue moves.
Considering that the tunnel will chiefly be through South Lake Union and Uptown, heading north from Westlake, I would call it a “South Lake Union Tunnel,” a “Westlake North” tunnel, or maybe just a “short tunnel.” “Short tunnel” sounds like cost savings, which there will be, and makes it clear we still want them to build a new tunnel, as voted for in ST3.
Martin, apologies. I didn’t give you props for reminding us to stay on message. Call it the “SLF-tunnel” for “South Lake Unino/Lower Queen Anne/First Hill Tunnel”.
We need a catchy acronym. Marketing; it’s a thing.
Tom Terrific says “Martin, you can have “automated trains” which have a little “stand up” cab at one end that folds into a cabinet.”
In fact, I think almost all have that. SkyTrain hides theirs in the desk panel at the end of the car that is about the size of a steamer trunk. I’ve only seen one movie of a SkyTrain under manual control going through a station, so it does apparently happen on rare occasions.
I’m not sure how they work on the LIM stock, but you kinda need something for low speed moves around the storage yard when you make up trains. You don’t always want to take an entire train out of service when one car needs work.
Andrew B: I too think that calling a Ballard/Westlake tunnel a “short tunnel” alternative would be a good strategy. It’s the part south of Westlake that’s the costly and probably unneeded portion. It also lets ST explore if the line should tie into Link or not, or if it should be sn automated and high frequency service.
I guess the “standup panel” would work to get trains to the OMF-C. You still need a tunnel portal to get trains out of the tunnel onto the streetcar tracks and then from the streetcar tracks to the OMF-C. It would also preclude us from LIM as I believe LIM requires a center track (kind of like cogwheel trains).
@andrew, I like “short tunnel” solution. That also means we’re not violating any ST3 promises, it’s just that Midtown station would actually be where it belongs: on First Hill.
If the Board can get away with calling a station north of Yesler a “CID North” station, then they can get away calling a Link tunnel only north of Westlake a “DSTT2 North” tunnel.
Martin, the center “track” isn’t a “track”, it’s an energized electromagnet against whose field the field in a U-shaped electromagnet that surrounds it on both sides and above pushes. It’s a “nice to have” but whoop-te-doo; we’re not running HSR here. Traction motors are a hundred and fifty years old and very efficient.
Yes, Linear Induction Motors are whiffy and they are a few percent more efficient than rotating motors. But if it means that the cars can’t run on the regular system, it’s not worth the extra investment.
If you’re going to have a tunneled solution — and I think that everyone does want a tunnel if the Preferred Alignment is used in order to get through Lower Queen Anne — you can link to the existing tunnel very easily with that Westlake and Stewart to Third and Pine, single-track non-revenue linking tunnel. That’s the least-disruptive way to get cars to heavy maintenance.
YES, build an MF in Interbay. Yes, yes, yes. But you don’t need it to do the really heavy stuff (re-motoring, wheel grinding and the like). That’s what you have the rarely used connection tunnel. It’s less than 2000 feet long, and tying it into DSTT1 would only require grinding a TBM through the north wall under Pine Street to link it to the southbound track. Yes, WHAT A MESS! But one that can be cleaned up in a week or two.
The Interbay MF would focus on train cleaning and running maintenance, and of course, some parking at night, though not every train, for sure. We want 24 hour service and can get it with automation.
You do have to remove the TBM there in Third Avenue just north of Pine, so there’s that.
LIM makes the track expensive. When SkyTrain added their second line, they built it as a conventional traction motor line.
You don’t have to remove the tunnel machine at Pine. TriMet backed theirs out just fine. Twice in fact. They didn’t want to try to tunnel through the basalt section west of Sylvan with it, and they didn’t want to splurge on two machines. So, they tunneled to Sylvan once, backed it out, then ran it to Sylvan again for the second tunnel.
You can’t back out an EPB tunnel machine. It’s just physically not possible since the diameter of the pressure shield and cutting head is larger than the diameter of the tunnel it creates.
But you can extract the trailing gear back through the tunnel and leave the pressure shield in place (not recovered), and then cut up the cutter head from inside the tunnel.
That has been done before, but you would need to add a new pressure shield and cutting head before you have a usable TBM.
Worth it? Depends on the specific situation.
“If the Board can get away with calling a station north of Yesler a “CID North” station,”
These are just planning names. The final names will be chosen after the project is selected for construction and subsequent design is substantially completed, like all other Link stations. The issue now is to make sure everybody understand how these locations relate to the other alternatives and the CID (since it’s replacing CID2 station). Later the other alternatives will no longer be relevant, and the question will shift to what name is best for the operational locations.
How is a new subway tunnel vitally necessary if it doesn’t have any stations?
> “If the Board can get away with calling a station north of Yesler a “CID North” station,”
> These are just planning names
Legally speaking for the amendment they modified “Midtown” station to the north of cid one while “chinatown” station was modified to the south of cid location.
> How is a new subway tunnel vitally necessary if it doesn’t have any stations?
Not that I agree with rationale, but the idea is that trains from Seatac are in a separate tunnel allowing those 10 trains per hour to be separated from the trains coming from northgate (18? trains per hour). So that’d let you bring in around 30ish trains per hour into the tunnel.
Though it is kind of an expensive way to increase capacity.
“Midtown” and “Chinatown/International District” are planning names too. There would be a public hearing before choosing the final names, and maybe asking the public what the names should be. That hasn’t happened yet, and can’t happen until the final station locations are chosen, after the EIS is finished.
I mean more as in that is what they are submitting in the environmental study document.
> The station elements included in this refined alignment include the following:
> 2. Midtown Station: Shifts the Midtown Station to the Station North of CID location (as noted above),
There is a political/legal reason also why they originally called it ‘North of CID’. Originally the proposal from Dow did not include the ‘South of CID’ station so they might have tried to say the North of CID station is a shifted ‘CID’ station instead to satisfy the requirement to build a chinatown station.
I don’t think it’s been discussed that much, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they dropped the South of CID station.
I think North-only or South-only are both possibilities. The two stations in the EIS represent all of those alternatives. Constantine wants the Administration building site now for development reasons, but maybe after public reaction and the rest of the EIS process he may not want it as much next year, so South-only might emerge on top.
It is not a possibility. It is a math problem. The DSTT has an actual maximum capacity. 4-car platforms and 2-minute headways pose hard limits on the number of trains and people the tunnel can handle. It simply cannot accommodate the north, south, east, NW and/or SW Link extensions and still meet travel demand. Period.
To continue pushing the idea in the face of a voter-approved plan that funded a second tunnel is wasted energy and erodes any credibility the leadership voices in this particular forum have. Ask ST staff for a briefing if you don’t believe it. They have ridership forecast and system operational models. They can show you the data. Your energy is better spent trying to improve the preferred alternatives as they advance in design.
I agree with you another engineer to the extent “our energy is better spent trying to improve the preferred alternatives [to DSTT2] as they advance in design”, except for four points:
1. Station location for DSTT2 at least downtown is set. That won’t be revisited because the DEIS only allows a station at 4th Ave. S. to be studied and everyone on the Board agreed that is not affordable. So yes, station design is an area to focus on, but not station location.
2. I agree the upcoming debate over stations and routing, especially to SLU and then to Seattle Center, will be critical, but also whether any stakeholders will see the benefits from DSTT2/WSBLE outweigh the disruption. So far none have. Rachel Smith’s article in The Urbanist I think pointed out something some miss: while transit advocates claim the stakeholders are exaggerating the disruption from (even bored) tunnels and stations, the more important factor is the stakeholders see so little benefit from DSTT2 (and WSBLE), and to be honest Link, in Seattle’s future. There has to be a benefit before one can weigh the benefit against the years of disruption.
3. DSTT2 is not affordable. It will likely cost $4.2 billion if all goes well, the four other subareas made it crystal clear during the hearing on the DEIS they will not contribute a penny more than $275 million/each, and Harrell made it crystal clear Seattle will not contribute a dime from the general fund. No way N KC has the revenue for DSTT2 and WSBLE, which of course will cost much more than the CURRENT estimate of $14.6 billion with DSTT2 still estimated to cost the same as in 2016, $2.2 billion, except for the $160 million extra for CID N/S Constantine claims he will raise from “capturing” the development potential from vacant city and county buildings near CID N.
4. There will be capacity in DSTT1 based on actual ridership. Your capacity argument assumes the trains will be full. Maybe trains for Lines 1-3 will have to run at lower frequencies through one tunnel, but there won’t be many folks on those trains from the suburban ST 2-3 areas. The only possible congestion spot is from CID to UW and East Link will double frequency in that part of Line 1 (although few eastsiders will be on those trains).
So, I guess the conundrum if you are correct is what to do if you can’t afford to build a second tunnel, but one will be needed for capacity. The answer to me is to run fewer trains through DSTT1 per hour, because that will be plenty of rider capacity.
The proposed tunnel is 9 escalator trips below ground, adding over 10 minutes to existing slow trips.
Granted, this solves the capacity problem by making it so cumbersome to use that only a tiny fraction of today’s riders will use it, but that’s a rather expensive way to get people to stop using transit.
Voters approved a line drawn on a two dimensional map,
Even ST’s own pre-pandemic ridership projections for 2040 show very few riders on West Seattle – Everett. The numbers are easily achieved by MAX trains running every 15 minutes. This ridership will be even lower than estimated once you factor in the 10 additional minutes required to get to SLU or Ballard.
When additional downtown capacity is actually needed, there are plenty of other places to put it.
The “sees so little benefit to DSTT2” comment assumes there is somehow a benefit to someone of DSTT2. I suppose some theoretical trip pair might get better with DSTT2. I’ve not come up with one though.
The “sees so little benefit to DSTT2” comment assumes there is somehow a benefit to someone of DSTT2. I suppose some theoretical trip pair might get better with DSTT2. I’ve not come up with one though.”
Glen, you are viewing “benefit” through the eyes of a transit rider. The stakeholders I am talking about from Harrell to Constantine to the DSA to the Chamber to Balducci don’t ride transit, so “benefit” has nothing to do with trips or trip pairs. I doubt the senior execs at ST ride transit.
That is the mistake Nathan makes, and why he gets so angry when I say something on this blog that is different from the usual group think, and why like any good progressive he wishes I was not allowed to say it.
WSBLE is not affordable, DSTT2 won’t cost $2.2 billion, Nathan’s rent is not going down but he doesn’t want to live in S. Seattle, station location and design has little to do with rider experience, the cost to buy a house is not going down, if you insist on living alone in a desirable neighborhood it will consume a large percentage of your income, upzoning small expensive SFH lots won’t provide housing for folks living in tents with zero residual wage earning capacity, Rogoff was right in June 2022 THE existential problem for ST is it can barely meet 60% of its future O&M costs, transit won’t change the world, the swing eastside voter won’t pass another transit levy, the pandemic changed the world and transit fundamentally, it isn’t other people’s money anymore now that downtown Seattle is not a tax cash cow, ST badly underestimated project costs thinking there would be a ST 4, and transit and upzoning certainly won’t even out the income disparity in a city with a rapidly rising AMI in large part due to wealthier folks moving here. The eastside commuter is not returning to Seattle, for many reasons, even though Nathan and others are in denial. Who cares if Eastsiders are wrong about Seattle: they are not coming back, or their money. THAT is the “benefit” Harrell, Constantine, the DSA and Chamber are concerned about, but some naturally don’t want to even consider.
I just tell folks on this blog what folks on the eastside think, based on what I read and hear (the different Nextdoors reach maybe 75,000, and the local papers), although to be honest they don’t even think about it. I did not see one word about DSTT2 in any forum on the eastside, or WSBLE, doubt anyone even knows what the acronyms mean, transit, or even the three-year extra delay to open East Link. No one talks about Ballard or WS. They have no idea what Link means. Nathan can’t see “benefit” through the eyes of this very powerful economic demographic who is oblivious to his existence, so he naturally gets frustrated when he does not understand the decisions that are made by folks like Harrell, Constantine, and Balducci who naturally play to this powerful demographic, his rent goes up, and no one wants a tunnel station near them, even brown NIMBY’s in the CID.
It isn’t important to agree with someone or group who has different opinions, or sees the world differently, but it is important to understand how they see “benefit”, and why, rather than just the benefit to yourself, and it is critically important to understand the disparity in economic and political power between those two “benefits”. Otherwise you will be angry and frustrated your whole life, and totally misunderstand how a council and group of citizens could have taken one of the fastest rising cities like Seattle and so screwed it up, or totally misunderstand the DEIS process for DSTT2 and Balducci’s proposed amendments that were never designed to pass.
Tempers always flare when money gets tight, and money is tight and getting tight everywhere, especially Seattle and ST. Wait until next year when the new council has to cut at least $250 million from the general fund, not because they want to but because they HAVE to, and the lost property tax from those empty buildings get shifted to housing to equal the levy. Then Nathan might understand what the Chamber and Harrell see as “benefit”, and it ain’t trip pairs (and “pairs” is never a good word IMO when it comes to transit). It is money, especially when you depend on other people’s money.
You don’t have to agree with what I post, and most on this blog don’t. But if the decisions tend to reflect what I think or predict, as opposed to what some want, then learn to consider other opinions so you don’t get blindsided, like with the DEIS for DSTT2. The reality is the stakeholders are not thinking about trip pairs when considering DSTT2 or WSBLE, so better understand what they are considering as a “benefit”, because unlike DSTT2 there might be some benefit for the rest of WSBLE, although IMO it is marginal, and unaffordable.
Those “ridership forecasts” aren’t worth the recycled vellum on which they’re printed. They depend entirely on pre-Pandemic tech boom assumptions of Forevermore Growth in downtown peak-hour commuting. There is PLENTY of capacity for ten-minute headways in DSTT1 for each of three lines right now. That allows for Tacoma-Northgate, Redmond-Lynnwood (or Mariner if necessary — doubtful), and West Seattle-Everett. With signaling and circulation improvements — for both passengers and the air they breathe — headways could be dropped to 2.5 minutes during the peaks for extra Line 1 trains if necessary.
Ballard would be a stand-alone stub, probably with a different, automated technology since it will be entirely grade-separated throughout.
“Oh, but what about the peaks?” IF they actually get “peaky” once again, run express buses to downtown Seattle and Bellevue as necessary. Six billion dollars buys a lot of bus hours.
I don’t subscribe, but The Puget Sound Business Journal has an article today that the “Sheraton, Azteca buildings on Tishman’s Bellevue property to be razed. The demolition is to “ensure public safety and downtown livability,” the permit application states.”
The old Sheraton building, which is kitty corner from East Main station, was supposed to be developed into office buildings. 4 buildings, a million square feet. Very doubtful now. But, what an odd reason to demolish a building. The public safety part I suppose would prevent people from breaking in and setting up camp. But, why would demolishing a building ensure downtown livability?
I also think the proposed office project one block south, on the sites of the former Red Lion and Hilton, are also doubtful to be built as planned. Just my opinion. Perhaps they should switch to residential.
Great news about West Seattle. Cover every parking lot within five blocks of a transit hub in Seattle with some sort of non-trivial structure with a public benefit: multi-family housing, multi-purpose retail, office and residential buildings or arts and education facilities.
Yes, of course have some “blue sign” parking lots within the zone for folks with limited mobility.
Let the hard-core autoistas retreat to the ‘burbs and eat out at Denny’s.
Agreed. I don’t know why there’s so many parking lots at the West Seattle Junction. Each lot should each have a 5-7 story apartment building with retail below if appropriate. Being so close to downtown the Junction should resemble Ballard by now. I’m not sure why some WS folks are so resistant to high density development. Reading the comments on the West Seattle Blog, it seems there are many older residents who are adverse to change, and very stuck in a suburban mindset. Very different from the folks who live in the Junction proper, who are public transportation savvy, and seem to be a younger, more diverse population.
The West Seattle Triangle is already very different than it was twenty years ago. It was all one-story and a lot of car dealerships. I don’t see an excess of surface parking lots near California Ave or Alaska street now. The remaining ones are being filled in, including by this very project. Rainier Valley has more surface lots than central West Seattle does.
I had a different take-away from the article. This is fairly routine development. However, in this part of town — very close to a new station — there is a huge interest in parking. This is not a fringe group, but one of the key developers in the area:
Erickson said in the meeting, “The number one thing we are in agreement on is the preservation of parking… if the parking is not included we’re really not considering it.”
In contrast, at Northgate it was the opposite. The community came together and pushed for alternatives to parking. More than anything, this suggests that folks have no interest in changing the nature of West Seattle. Even The Junction will be primarily for cars. Remember, this will be a Link Station, connected by feeder buses to much of the peninsula. If you can’t get people out of their cars to go to the most urban spot in all of West Seattle, I don’t see how you get West Seattle drivers out of their cars to ride Link.
Well said, Ross.
CANCEL THE WEST SEATTLE STUB!
The majority of people in West Seattle consistently make it clear that they don’t want to be “like the rest of Seattle”. Fine, then they shouldn’t have transit similar to “the rest of Seattle”. The project is a gold-plated financial Boondoggle of the worst degree, an enormous waste of Carbon-emitting concrete from end to end, and a distraction from the real transportation needs of the City.
It even includes a quarter-billion dollar elevated structure down the busway that permanently cripples bus access to downtown Seattle from southeast King County for six trains per hour! How stupid is that????
Canceling it will WIN YOU VOTES, Executive Constantine. Your neighbors seething on Nextdoor will love you for “keeping the trash out of West Seattle” while the level-headed folks living elsewhere in Seattle will applaud your fiscal rectitude.
Sure, it will be embarrassing while you’re making the speech, and you’ll have to concede that “mistakes were made”, but the standing ovation at the end will be worth it.
Northgate is the only station where the community wanted less parking rather than more. So it’s not typical. Northgate was just particularly enlightened and ahead of the curve. Most of the cars at Northgate TC came from west and east, and they said the only reason they drove was lack of feeder buses, safe bike paths, and a sidewalk path, so they asked for those instead of a larger garage. ST had to build some garage spaces to replace origin bal spaces owned by the mall that were removed for construction, but they were contractually obligated to mall tenants, so if ST didn’t replace them the shops would sue the mall and the mall would sue ST.
There will be more parking after the mixed use buildings are done. Most of them have several levels of parking. Both the Whole Foods and QFC lots never come close to being full.
The opposition is straight up NIMBYism and represents a few loud grumps who mostly don’t want more people living in West Seattle and complain about every single project. The WS blog comments were full of complaints when they started charging $2 to park in the surface lots. Of course almost everyone pays the $2 and the cheapskates can park 2 or 3 blocks away and walk. I wouldn’t worry about, the Junction Association isn’t always the most forward-thinking org but they are smart enough to recognize the value of light rail, successfully lobby for a tunnel and an extra $50 million in third party funding to get an entrance on 42nd for the Junction Station. They know that mixed use is the best interests of property owners on California.
The goal has never been to get people out of their cars anywhere in Seattle. There are no plans to reduce road or highway capacity. The goal has been to grow in “urban villages” and have transit absorb the growth. I highly doubt there is a higher percentage of car free households in Ballard than the WS Junction.
Ballard is getting one light rail station and you’ll still have to take the bus and transfer to get to that one from everywhere in NW Seattle, same as West Seattle.
The goal has never been to get people out of their cars anywhere in Seattle.
Since when? Every major transit project has had this as a goal. That doesn’t mean that people live without cars (although an increasing number do) but it means that transit gets people out of their cars by providing a superior alternative. All other things being equal, transit modal share should go up as you spend additional money on transit. It is arguably the most important metric (although I wouldn’t say the only one).
I highly doubt there is a higher percentage of car free households in Ballard than the WS Junction.
I’ll take that bet. According to the latest census data, 13.5% (or roughly 2,000) people in ZIP Code 98107 don’t own a car. In contrast, 7% (or roughly 900 people) in ZIP Code 98116 don’t own a car. The population of each ZIP Code is similar (12,700 versus 14,700). So while I don’t think the borders of the ZIP code do WS Junction any favors (by including so much of the more suburban parts of West Seattle) it likely doesn’t make any difference. You can draw it any way you want and you end up with more people in Ballard who live without a car. (Although it is still nothing like Capitol Hill’s 98102, where roughly 30% don’t own a car.)
@Mike — Northgate was unusual because there was an issue with parking. But I’m pretty sure that folks in Roosevelt, Capitol Hill and the U-District were not looking for more parking when their station was added. In Roosevelt they pushed hard to move the station away from the parking.
My main point is that West Seattle is surprisingly focused on the automobile. Look at how they freaked out over the bridge. This was a relatively minor inconvenience from a transit perspective. Sure, the buses weren’t as fast, but they were actually similar to what buses in other parts of the city are. Buses like the C, 21 and 120 were still expresses, making no stops for miles. To compensate for the slightly slower speeds, the city improved bus and ferry service. Yet folks made jokes like calling West Seattle “East Vashon”. It is funny, but it represents a mindset. Driving is the default.
It is easy to imagine this changing. Link gets to The Junction. Buses to The Junction improve. Now folks in other parts of town (e. g. Alki, Admiral) treat The Junction as the “town square” — the center of activity. Some people drive to get there, but most take the bus, or ride their bikes. Lots of people take Link from there, but plenty of people just use transit as a way to connect to this important area.
Frankly, I don’t see it. I think West Seattle will be one of the last places in Seattle to urbanize. The Junction is nice, but not that special. From a density standpoint, it isn’t spectacular. Things may have changed, but last time I checked, High Point had more people per area. From a destination standpoint it is significant, but basically one of the three medium-size destinations on the peninsula (the other two being Alki and the college). Link doesn’t really tie them all together, nor does it do anything for other significant destinations like Admiral Junction. I’ve made the case that Ballard to UW rail would transform north-end transit, and thus change the way many people look at transportation in the north end (because it would complement the buses so well). With very little effort (and very few changes) you create a network that allows people to get to every significant destination easily on transit, often faster than driving (in the middle of the day). I just don’t see that in West Seattle. This makes an existing connection a little bit better for some, a little bit worse for others. But the biggest needs for the peninsula from a transit perspective remain unmet. Driving will be the default for a very long time.
Partly it is the isolation. Roosevelt flows to the U-District which flows to the Central Area then Capitol Hill, First Hill and downtown. The same thing happens in the north end. You can walk from Ballard to the UW (I’ve done it) and pass lots of urban areas along the way. But West Seattle is separated from the rest of the city by the Duwamish and the huge industrial area along the way. It is not close to the rest of the city — and the freeway that connects it simply encourages driving.
It is possible that West Seattle could become bigger, and more self contained (like downtown Bellevue, or North Vancouver) but again, I just don’t see it happening. There will be a little bit of growth, here and there, but nothing major. West Seattle Link won’t change the nature of West Seattle, and will forever be looked at as a silly project. One of those “why did they do that, and not that” type things. West Seattle Link is one of those projects that make the Maggie Fimia’s of the world look wise. (She would just spend all the money on better bus service, which would definitely be better for West Seattle.)
Ross, you make a good point. I’ll add that I think that preserving a golf course within the station catchment area is just one more indication about how building WS Link is about political appearances rather than transit cost effectiveness.
I’ve long felt that if they are unwilling to reconfigure or move the golf course to enable more TOD, that West Seattle doesn’t deserve the light rail investment. It would be better to spend the money elsewhere, like to enhance light rail safety and capacity on MLK.
All of Link and RapidRide and and mixed-use density is intended to get some people out of their cars. In some areas like downtown Seattle it has succeeded in absorbing the entire population growth/job growth, so driving didn’t increase with the population. But it’s not scaled to get everybody out of their cars. To get even 50% out you’d have to have comprehensive transit and walkability like New York City or London. We’re nowhere near that. And even if 50% wanted to take transit, there’s nowhere near enough capacity for them, even with all of ST’s and Metro’s long-range plans. Especially for destinations outside downtown Seattle or the UW campus. It has been estimated (although this was in the 90s or 00s) that you’d have to double or triple Metro’s service to accommodate half the population’s trips. None of the long-range plans or proposed levies do that.
I also see a difference between New York and other high transit-use cities. I’ve met nobody in New York City who has a car or would drive to Manhattan, except suburbanites in Jersey City or Bronxville who drive in on evenings or weekends, but not during the weekday. In contrast, in both Chicago and San Francisco I’ve stayed with people who will drive literally between two El stations or BART stations. (One commuted to their Chicago pottery studio; the others drove to church from the Mission District to South of Market.) So if we can’t get near-universal ridership in Chicago or San Francisco, we’re not going to get it in Seattle. But we can aim to make transit as useful as possible to try to get at least partway.
It’s also West Seattle’s geography. Ballard’s commercial/industrial/multifamily activities are concentrated in one contiguous area. The outskirts of Ballard (85th Street) have only a few commercial buildings and are only 1 1/2 miles from Market Street.
In contrast, West Seattle has the Junction, High Point, Alki, Westwood Village, Delridge, South Seattle College, and White Center. All of these are miles apart and with steep hills in between, so even roads are limited. And they’re all smaller than Ballard’s core. So West Seattle’s activities are scattered across a six-mile area. And an east-west Link line cuts across them, and creates 2-3 mile transfers. That’s why Link can’t serve West Seattle as effectively as Ballard, and why multi-line BRT fanning out from the bridge would be more effective.
@Mike Orr: You’re overlooking Staten Island. My aunts there have always driven to Manhattan and to New Jersey, even on weeknights, because Staten Island’s less-dense (for NYC) and larger land mass = a lot of car owners. And when my aunts got handicapped permits (bad knees), the abundance of new parking spaces that opened up eliminated any other need for public transit. The high bridge tolls and Manhattan parking that would get other Americans riled up, they shrug off as an unavoidable part of life in New York.
The ferry’s useful, but with the subway not going there, Staten Island is far behind the city’s public transit infrastructure. I remember when they took me to the first game at the New York Red Bull’s new stadium in Harrison, NJ, a Newark suburb. They asked the waiter in the team restaurant why there were so little parking spaces around the stadium. He said that the Red Bulls were encouraging fans to get to the games via public transit. Their terse response: “Not from Staten Island, you can’t!” Which is probably true; I wouldn’t doubt that the multi-seat bus rides to get from the island to Harrison would last longer than a typical 2-hour soccer game.
Couple of other links.
— You guys heard of this Seattle low-income housing apparatus? I haven’t. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2023/4/3/23647615/raj-chetty-housing-vouchers-cmto-seattle
— The writer probably picked the wrong M’s game to judge Link, as there were also an NHL game and motocross/monster truck event at the same time. (There were a lot of interesting comments, both pro- and anti-transit, but I wonder if the site has turned off commenting?) https://mynorthwest.com/3869061/sullys-wild-link-light-rail-ride-to-the-mariners-game-was-it-worth-it/
Houston is planning on building a 25 mile real brt corridor. (Though I think segment 2 is shared). It’ll be its second real brt corridor after the uptown one. Though it is a circumferential route rather than one that reaches downtown Houston.
Having grown up in Houston, I took a look at the map. The section along Richmond looks good and has lots of destinations nearby. But, cutting over to Westpark is dumb. It’s essentially a freeway right next to another freeway, and nothing else around except for perpendicular buses to transfer to. There are far more destinations to ride too along Richmond, and you still get the Silver Line connection anyway.
Richmond also already has a bus (and I think a frequent one after Jarrett Walker’s restructure). So, the money might be better spend upgrading the existing bus route with bus lanes, traffic signal priority, and off board fare payment, rather than creating an entirely new bus route. It would still be very slow for people riding all the way from one end to the other, but due to the vast distance and numerous stoplights, there really isn’t any option that provides good end to end travel time other than Sound Transit-style express buses running down the freeway, going 10+ miles between stops.
I didn’t follow the full history but yes originally it was supposed to go down Richmond Ave. however the rich neighborhood of Afton Oaks was able to block it from being built through their area so it was rerouted onto west park
Does the existing Richmond bus remain, or will everyone be forced to ride this new bus and make additional transfers? Looking at the map, I think the bulk of the trips will end up being faster on the existing bus, which is slightly slower, but saves a connection.
> Does the existing Richmond bus remain, or will everyone be forced to ride this new bus and make additional transfers?
I’m just guessing here. Looking at the houston bus map, with the University BRT Line being half Richmond bus route east of lower uptown transit station and being the Westpark Express route west of the lower uptown transit station, I’m guessing they’ll run some bus route for the Richmond Ave west of the lower uptown transit station and force people to transfer.
Actually since the Westpark Express would be duplicative east of the transfer center I wonder if they’ll do some switch service creating a new through route going Richmond Ave -> Lower Uptown Transit Center -> i89 to Downtown. And then the University Line BRT going Westpark -> Lower Uptown Transit Center -> Richmond Ave.
I have some skepticism about the Pike and Pine configuration — but it appears too late to influence the design.
My skepticism is that our drop-off and pick-up culture has created a real uptick in delivery vehicles and ride hailing so that adding more geometrical restrictions will impact the last remaining traffic lane as cars access people and goods disrupt other traffic.
I’m also not digging the idea of planter boxes next to downhill segments of bike lanes. I witness downhill bicyclists reaching speeds of 30 mph on similar streets and planter boxes visually block the presence of pedestrians crossing the bicycle lanes. A bicyclist could easily take out a pedestrian that they didn’t see in time and maybe injure both parties. These streets aren’t like Second Ave, which is much wider so pedestrians don’t jaywalk.
Regardless, SDOT claims that they know what’s best. I guess we will have a case study in a few years — and possibly lawsuits from injured pedestrians. I also expect high volume businesses like restaurants to start avoiding being on these blocks because of delivery problems.
About those planter boxes, I’ve been told by architects who work in drug activity areas that planter boxes are a preferred location to drop off just-in-time drug deliveries.
> I’m also not digging the idea of planter boxes next to downhill segments of bike lanes. I witness downhill bicyclists reaching speeds of 30 mph on similar streets and planter boxes visually block the presence of pedestrians crossing the bicycle lanes.
I’m assuming you’re talking about the section of 7th avenue near Amazon? In the beginning people did have to learn both for pedestrians that the sidewalk was really actually a bike lane and also for bikers that if one wanted to travel that fast they’ll need to be on the road instead. Also the planter boxes generally aren’t that tall, I’m assuming you are talking about the trees?
> I have some skepticism about the Pike and Pine configuration — but it appears too late to influence the design.
I don’t quite like the curbless street ideas as much as the Waterfront project really wants, also it takes part of the west bound protected bike lane on Pike street. A lot of this planning was done before the protected bike lanes existed on Pike and Pine street. Though to be fair the west bound protected bike lane ends on Pike street at the convention center and the Pine street bike lanes are unprotected. So even though the plan is kind of one step back with removing bike lanes, I believe it still is two steps forward by converting them into completely protected bike lanes in both directions.
“I’m assuming you’re talking about the section of 7th avenue near Amazon? In the beginning people did have to learn both for pedestrians that the sidewalk was really actually a bike lane and also for bikers that if one wanted to travel that fast they’ll need to be on the road instead. Also the planter boxes generally aren’t that tall, I’m assuming you are talking about the trees?”
The CHS article drawing shows raised planter boxes about 2.5-3 feet higher than the pavement. The diagram is for the segment on a bridge, so recessed planting is not possible there. 7th has recessed plantings at ground level.
> The CHS article drawing shows raised planter boxes about 2.5-3 feet higher than the pavement. The diagram is for the segment on a bridge, so recessed planting is not possible there. 7th has recessed plantings at ground level.
I understand obstructions can make it hard to see when pedestrians appear, however those planter boxes are in between the bikes and the roadway (section on the bridge)? For the other sections they changed from planter boxes to planted buffers (grass). Also yeah those planter boxes on the bridge aren’t that tall, I don’t really understand how it is blocking the view of a pedestrian.
I’m actually more worried about the trees in between the sidewalk and the bike lane which can completely obstruct a pedestrian if they walk into the bike lane.
My skepticism is that our drop-off and pick-up culture has created a real uptick in delivery vehicles and ride hailing so that adding more geometrical restrictions will impact the last remaining traffic lane as cars access people and goods disrupt other traffic.
I’m not sure what you are saying. Are you concerned about traffic? If so, why would this project concern you? It seems like they are improving bike/pedestrian paths (while keeping the bus lanes). If anything, that should reduce traffic, as one of the keys to reducing traffic is to have good alternatives.
I’m just saying that if there is just one lane left, vehicles that stop will block those behind it because it looks like it would be hard to impossible to get around a stopped vehicle.
It’s the same situation in Wallingford and on westlake. DoorDash/ubereats driver will learn to start parking on the side streets or start getting ticketed rather than parking in a general lane. Pike street itself is only 1 lane in each direction in cap hill and sure there is parking along some of these corridors but many times the drivers just turn right onto the side streets
WL: 1 lane in each direction means two lanes of traffic. Blocked cars can escape by crossing the center line when there is a gap even though it’s t technically illegal.
By the way, it doesn’t matter where the planter boxes are to stash illegal drugs in them.
New building designs require cut outs for deliveries except those intrude on sidewalks. Originally Seattle used Alleys for deliveries but the deliverers won’t use the alleys because they are dangerous and many were developed out of existence.
It is unrealistic to think the Uber/Uber eats/Door Dash genie can be put back in the bottle. IMO all three are a form of transit, and help reduce parking requirements. Same with UPS and Fed Ex. Link and the bus don’t deliver, and they are not door to door. Plus these folks park wherever they want because they are gone by the time the police get there, and who is going to ticket Fed Ex. An Uber with a passenger is a HOV lane and should be able to use BAT lanes along with delivery vehicles.
We talk about transit ridership a lot but rarely does anyone question dedicated bike lanes when their use is tiny.
WL: no street redesign is perfect. There are trade offs in reassigning functions on a constrained street. I’m simply expressing my concern about some of the negative impacts.
There are some restaurants on Pike/Pine between 3rd & Bellevue but not a lot. The area with several restaurants per block is east of that.
I’m just saying that if there is just one lane left, vehicles that stop will block those behind it because it looks like it would be hard to impossible to get around a stopped vehicle.
OK, but where? Just looking at the plans, I don’t see much difference in terms of bus lanes, car lanes and (temporary) parking. For example, look at page 16 and 17 of the SDOT presentation that was referenced: https://www.seattle.gov/documents/Departments/SDOT/BikeProgram/SBAB/2021-1006_SBAB%20Presentation.pdf. Looking east, left to right, you’ve got: sidewalks, BAT/bus lane, regular vehicular lane, loading zone/planters, bike lanes, then sidewalks again. So not only do those picking up and dropping off people have places to legally do so, but it is two lanes (one general, one BAT/bus).
Looking at the boards from the initial open house looks similar: https://waterfrontseattle.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/pdf/2017_1031_boards_WEB.pdf. If anything, it looks better. Check out page 19, between 9th and Melrose. Between 9th and Boren, there is more room to illegally park (assuming you can’t find a loading zone). If a car does illegally park, they will be in the turn lane (not the through lane, used by buses). Between Minor and Melrose the bus is curbside, but there is a lane next to it, the bus can get around a scofflaw (these are trolleys, not streetcars). Overall, it just looks better all around.
If the problem is delivery and rideshare drivers blocking traffic, bike lanes, and bus stops, the city should play hard ball. Every time a one of their drivers is caught, suspend the ability of the company to operate in the city – start at a day for the first offense, then keep doubling until the problem goes away. Ticketing the drivers only addresses a small part of the problem; the bigger problem is that the business plan of these companies depends on exploiting not only their workers, but society itself.
@Skylar — Agreed. There are other things the city (and the companies) are doing. For example, I noticed a while back that I couldn’t catch a cab from Lyft/Uber at a particular spot, close to a bus stop. I had to go around the corner. Dropoffs are still a possibility, but those tend to very quick (especially since you pay with your phone). Delivery and restaurant pick ups (Door Dash, etc.) tend to be more time consuming. The thing to do is take the same approach as with Uber/Lyft. Go after the company, not just the driver. (For all a know they are doing this.)
I believe there is a wider range of individual delivery in a truck. This could be retail related (morning baked goods, beer and wine, etc.) or it could aimed at the consumer (e. g. furniture). There a whole bunch of companies doing this. Holding both the individual and company responsible sounds reasonable, but bound to be more difficult.
I am not too worried about Pike/Pine. I think it is so busy with buses and cars that truck drivers (or anyone else) wouldn’t want to risk it. There is a very good chance of a ticket. In contrast, the less traveled corridors are much more likely to be blocked. It is a much bigger problem for bikes, not buses. The changes here make it very difficult to block the bike lane (since it would require going up on the curb). For that matter, I think a driver is more likely to block the general purpose lane than the bus lane, just because that is the side where the pull out is. Double parking there (with the flashers on) still seems risky, but more likely.
There are three problems with Skylar’s approach:
1. The city is down 300 police officers and is expected to lose another 200. The police dept. announced last year police shortages would make it difficult to investigate felony sexual assaults on women older than 17. Harrell ran on a law and order platform. Reallocating scarce police resources for parking enforcement would not be popular. Allocating those officers to transit like NY would do more for transit ridership than delivery vehicles.
2. The ride share and delivery services are very popular, especially among young progressives, and restaurants that are struggling to stay alive. Plus is Seattle going to ban Fed Ex and UPS. Other than this blog I don’t see the outrage. My guess is citizens would elect new politicians if these popular services were banned or demand more traffic lanes. Uber and Door Dash are not going away, certainly for transit in a dangerous city.
3. These jobs are mostly filled by minorities and lower income individuals in a very expensive city. Do we really want to take away their jobs?
I don’t use Door Dash but do use Uber although I have a driveway. Uber texts you when your car is 1 minute away and most folks I know go to the street to wait especially if you live in an apartment so any delay to enter the Uber or pick up your already paid for food is minimal. UPS and Fed Ex are worse because they park in the road to deliver their packages, but Harrell isn’t going to ban those companies, or the poor brown drivers for Uber.
I’ve seen cars wait in the bus zone for pickups in the bus zone at Kizuki (Pine & Bellevue), but not west of there. I don’t think I’ve seen a food deliverer go into Kizuki and bring something out.
The biggest thing I want for Pike/Pine is a wider sidewalk in front of the Six Arms (Pike & Melrose), and on Pine between Summit and Boylston. Those segments aren’t wide enough for two or three people to pass each other, as they often do. I like sidewalk restaurant seating (it adds to the pedestrian ambience like Paris), but the Six Arms is one place where there’s not enough room and it should go. On Pine Street between Summit and Boylston the problem isn’t outdoor seating because there isn’t any; it’s that the sidewalks are too narrow for the pedestrian concentration there.
Al S. Yes, the PPR design is poor. I attempted to change it, but failed. I suspect it was cooked up by those behind the WSCC and downtown hotels. Transit was not important to them. A better design would have copied the Capitol Hill pattern east of Minor-Melrose, with two one-way PBL on Pike Street and two-way transit on Pine Street. This would have required some of the capital funds be used on electric trolleybus overhead. It would have separated the bus and bike modes. It would have minimized the transfer walk between Link and eastbound bus. Now, it will remain 400 feet.
“I suspect it was cooked up by those behind the WSCC and downtown hotels.”
Stakeholders again. Maybe we should incorporate as STB Hotel and lease a building; then we might have more clout. It could be a youth hostel for transit travelers. Sam could handle managment and
mar, well, not marketing. He’d troll too much and drive people away. But we’d find somebody for marketing.
Where is this proposed housing/office project? “Sam, the linked article announcing the housing project next to OMF East is from just a year and a half ago! You expect it to be built by now?!?” No, but I drive by there a couple times a week, and I would at least expect to see some construction equipment on site. Not the tiniest bit of preliminary on site work has been done, as far as I can tell. Odd. I thought we needed affordable housing asap. BTW, a year and a half ago there were two holes in the ground on either side of NE 8th between 106th and 108th. (Former sites of Swensen’s Ice Cream on one side, and Tower Records on the other). There are now two nearly finished office towers in those two spots.
The difference Sam is financing. Loan rates are very high, regional banks are not lending because they have to market existing low interest development loans to market to increase liquidity, and Chinese money has dried up. We are going to be looking at holes in the ground for a while. Better than completing two empty office towers.
Very low interest rates encouraged a lot of poor public and private projects. The lucky are those who haven’t yet broken ground. Even apartment buildings have dropped 74% in sales year to year. REIT’s are hemorrhaging funds. Very very hard to make money in development today.
On 136th and Eastgate Way, a large workforce housing/day center/homeless shelter, broke ground in January of 2022. The structure is now fully built. So, no, I don’t think it’s outrageous of me to wonder why I haven’t seen so much as a backhoe on the future affordable housing site next to OMF East.
Sam, you are confusing public funding with private financing. The shelter is not designed to generate a profit.
My gut tells me there is more to it than what you’ve said, Daniel. Just last August Claudia Balducci suggested that the affordable housing portion of the TOD next to OMF East would be open in time for an East Link starter line. She said that when rates were high.
Rates were low last July Sam. That is the problem. They were too low for two long while trillions in stimulus was doled out indiscriminately. Balducci also said East Link would open in 2023.
Commercial development loans are often sold or used as collateral by banks against their deposits. The difference in the sale price today and at maturity is the yield. There are two factors for yield.
The first is risk. Any commercial development has risk, but today the risk of default is very high relatively.
The spread between the loan interest rate and current rates. If an investor can buy treasuries at 5% with zero risk then a commercial loan today is going to be around 10% when including risk. No developer can make money if they are paying 10%/year on the loan, especially offices and apartments where the investors have to own the project for decades.
After First Republic Bank, which was valuing its development loans at maturity value which meant it — like SVB and Signature Bank — were under capitalized if depositors started pulling deposits and they had to sell those loans fast — when these regional banks must pay higher deposit interest rate compared to a JP Morgan —the Fed woke up and required banks to mark their development loans as if they were sold today so banks were under capitalized so the Fed had to insure all deposits over $250,000 when of course it doesn’t have that money (and is losing tens of billions of dollars on the $8 trillion in low interest treasuries and mortgage backed securities it is now selling)
Meanwhile REIT’s are selling to meet redemptions.
So there just isn’t any private investment for these projects, especially for affordable housing. In fact everyone wants to sell their buildings and loans even though the yield is brutal unless you can use the tax deduction.
Sadly, Daniel, “investors” can not “buy Treasuries … with zero risk”. At least, not while your Republican friends run Congress.
There are enough crazies in the “Freedom Caucus” this time that the bus is going to drive right off the cliff into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Tom, treasuries generally have the lowest risk of default. But they have yield risk.
Silicon Bank bought low interest treasuries for collateral against its deposits along with loans to tech start ups. Very low risk of default, but SVB didn’t want to mark those low interest treasuries to market (sales price today) so marked them to maturity value so they could loan out more. When investors started a run on the bank — the first run by Twitter and cell phone that caught everyone by surprise with its speed , $42 BILLION in a few hours — the low default risk low interest rate treasuries SVB tried to sell quickly were 15%+ below maturity value. And those were US treasuries.
Today you can’t give away commercial development loans with low interest rates. So no one is creating new ones. Venture capabilits are walking away from office buildings because the value is below the loan, but banks and local governments don’t know how to run or repurpose those buildings.
Very low interest rates incentivized some very poor public and private projects, and Covid stimulus flooded the market with cash desperate for yield and those loans will take a long time to work out (ie investors taking a bath).
At the same time new projects will be over scrutinized. Too bad public agencies like ST and projects in ST 3 don’t have the rigor of the private market. Sure Redmond will have very low ridership and like most of East Link was not economical, but when markets change so should agencies for the rest of ST 3, but the government does not have that market discipline.
We might have Link but we won’t have the TOD if ST fans are hoping TOD will manufacture the estimated ridership for Link or create some kind of new urbanism despite WFH, especially with most cities looking at deep budget cuts.
Tom, you will be happy to know the number one topic on Eastside Nextdoors these days is the WARN notices Microsoft, Amazon, and other tech workers are receiving giving them 60 days notice of layoff, although in practice the separation is immediate with 60 days pay.
Very sad. Many of these workers moved to this region to start a new life. They have mortgages and tuition and healthcare costs.
But the tech world has changed. I think it will be very hard for this region to increase population when the major tech companies are laying off workers, and so many in the construction industry have moved to other states.
So many of the population, zoning and transit estimates were simply dishonest to support a certain ideology those folks seldom help pay for, although reality has a way of exposing dishonesty.
Act II: municipal budget cuts. If the economic engine — tech — is beginning the pain it will spread to local governments and agencies. Give it time, but I think some on this blog will get their wish: scrapping WSBLE, and even DSTT2 although that will be the last part of WSBLE cut.
Imagine spending $20 billion to run light rail to Ballard and WS through frickin Interbay with zero consideration of dollar per rider mile. Very, very irresponsible people playing with other people’s money. Anyone who voted for ST 3 should be embarrassed.
Daniel, you’re whistling past the graveyard. It’s true that until the Freedom Caucus took over the House, Treasuries were very low risk, basically “will the US get nuked before the maturity date?”
But now that the Lunatics are running the Asylum, all bets are off. Sure, the vast majority of the Republicans in the House understand the catastrophe that default would be and at 10:47 PM on the day of default would allow the Democrats to introduce a “clean raise” bill for which only six of them will vote (all representing “Blue” districts”).
But there are enough “Drive the Bus off the Cliff” types that the de facto rule that there must be a “majority within the majority” to move any bill to the floor, the Clown Car can block passage.
And I fully understand “interest rate risk” and that SVB was a bunch of gamblers.
This is different and has nothing to do with the previous history of Federal bonds. Crazy people have their hands on the dynamite plunger and they don’t think a little “Boom!” would be a bad thing.
I notice that you’ve come up with a new route to “WS”, via Interbay. I expect that a pontoon bridge across Elliott Bay might indeed be cheaper than all the tunnels, but gosh, how are the ferries going to get through? Not to mention the container ships.
I guess they’ll just reroute to Tacoma.
Tom, if the debt ceiling is not extended beyond $31.4 TRILLION by June the federal government will continue to collect tax revenue. It just won’t be able to issue treasury bonds or debt for the difference between tax revenue and expenditures, which has exploded over the last 8 years.
With higher interest rate bonds replacing lower interest rate bonds plus adding an additional $1 trillion in debt each year the US government is approaching a point in which just the debt/interest payments exceed $1 TRILLION each year, which is equal to the infrastructure bill that is over a decade. It is a shame we have done this to our kids.
There is actually a plan in place from 2011 that would allowed Treasury to prioritize debt payments on treasury bonds as interest comes due (usually every 6 months) if the debt ceiling is not extended.
If the deficit and debt — beginning with entitlements — are not reduced debt payments will consume tax revenues and require deep cuts to every other program
Neither side is being honest, but no one is hurt more than the US government by high inflation and high interest rates on debt that the Biden administration caused.
I doubt there will be a temporary “default”, but reducing the debt and deficit are likely going to gut a lot of federal programs because the money was spent unwisely but the debt remains. Soon the US will look like Italy.
I think a lot of economists have been focused on a recession in the private economy, when I think the recession and real economic pain over the next several years will be in the public sector, especially cities and states as federal aid dries up.
Just look at CA: in just two years it has gone from an estimated $100 billion surplus to a $30 billion deficit, with many high income earners leaving the state. How CA balances its budget — which it must do — will be very interesting because of the size of its economy, and may be a template for the federal government’s approach to balancing its budget. Surely HS rail must be one of the first cuts.
I think the best indication for WSBLE will be upcoming budgets for Seattle. If as estimated deep cuts are required those will include transit, and at that point sane people will look at $20 billion for WSBLE while Metro has to cut service and feeder buses and say this is irresponsible and must stop. ST and the Board will never voluntarily stop WSBLE, or admit it is unaffordable, but deep cuts in the county and Seattle’s budget could force cancelling WSBLE, and certainly any contribution by Seattle.
It is a very painful way to stop an egregiously profligate transit program but maybe the only way.
“Surely HS rail must be one of the first cuts”
Only if freeway widening and construction is also suspended. Trains are an efficient way to transport people between Southern and Northern California. More north/south freeway lanes would be wasteful.
“If the deficit and debt — beginning with entitlements — are not reduced debt payments will consume tax revenues”
There’s a simple way to fix Social Security: raise the income-level cutoff that’s taxed. Politicians are artificially endangering Social Security, Medicare, and Medcaid, and lying about what the Social Security trust fund is. A high priority of government should be the health of its citizens.
“Neither side is being honest, but no one is hurt more than the US government by high inflation and high interest rates on debt that the Biden administration caused.”
You’re forgetting the Trump tax cuts that caused much of the recent deficit. And the unwillingness to beef up the IRS to go after tax cheats. And rhetoric to abolish the IRS and Justice Department. And opposition to covid vaccines and masking that made the pandemic and economy much worse than it would have been if we’d acted like a responsible country.
People blame it on the stimulus payments but have forgotten what the payments were for. They were to prevent destitution and bankrupcy by the poorest and those whose jobs were shut down. The government didn’t have a list of those people and couldn’t create one all in one minute so it gave money to everybody. The stimulus money was a small part of the economy, so statements that it’s causing the inflation are way exaggerated. When people put their stimulus money in the bank or investments it’s not inflationary (although it raises asset prices). I gave my stimulus to a poor relative who needed it. What’s causing inflation is demand switching suddenly to goods and then back to services, the shipping bottlenecks that are now mostly over, bird flu destroying eggs, climate-related crop failures, price-gouging by companies, minimum wage rising to a more defensible level, the labor shortage, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that disrupted many commodity sources, rare-earth metals from irresponsible countries (China, Russia, maybe northwest Asia), etc. All that is mostly outside the government’s control, and does not mean social programs should be eliminated or that we’d be better off under a 19th-century government.
The thing about CAHSR, you have to ask what problem exactly it’s trying to solve. If the goal is to provide an alternative to driving and flying, the simple and economical solution is the bus. There are already private bus companies operating the SF->LA route. You can make them faster by adding trips that make fewer stops in between and also connect different parts of the SF-LA metro areas (e.g. San Jose to Long Beach) rather than every bus going from downtown SF to downtown LA. Whatever it costs to subsidize service upgrades would be far less than the $100 billion CAHSR is costing.
Or, if the problem is traffic congestion, you need to ask, traffic congestion where. Traffic congestion is not a problem along I-5 through rural areas, it’s a problem in cities; it is better addressed by improving public transportation within the cities than between them. Or, simply tolling the LA freeway system.
If the problem is pollution/climate change, again, CAHSR isn’t really the solution either. People travel within cities far more often than between them, so it’s going after the wrong target. Also, California is far ahead of the rest of the country in vehicle electrification, so by the time the line has been open for a few years, it will be competing more with electric cars than internal combustion engines. Yes, there’s carbon overhead in making the batteries, but that’s happening anyway since people would be buying the cars anyway. Yes, there’s also carbon emissions in generating the electricity, which is theoretically less efficient than running the train – if the train is full – but, you could build a whole bunch of solar panels, windmills, and grid scale battery systems for less than $100 billion, making the issue moot. Yes, there’s carbon overhead in installing all that clean energy, but constructing all those miles and miles of tracks and concrete is not exactly carbon free either. And that’s not even getting to the possibility that, by 2050, improved battery technology will allow even the *flights* between San Francisco and Los Angeles to become electric.
There is really only one justification I can think of for CAHSR and that’s economic development. If you make it quicker and easier to travel between the two cities, people will do it more often. In the process, people who live in one city will spend money in the other, thereby growing both cities’ economies. If the cost were something like $8-10 billion, I would argue that funding it as an economic development catalyst would indeed be beneficial. But, for $100 billion, the cost exceeds the benefits, and it’s not worth it anymore.
I don’t disagree with most of what asdf2 said, but this one bit felt a bit weird: “In the process, people who live in one city will spend money in the other, thereby growing both cities’ economies.”
Is that really true? I mean, speaking as someone who used to live in Seattle but now lives in a suburb, when I moved my spending has transferred with me, but if I were to travel to Seattle to spend more there I would just spend less where I live. I guess I don’t see the multiplier effect…
“ The thing about CAHSR, you have to ask what problem exactly it’s trying to solve. If the goal is to provide an alternative to driving and flying, the simple and economical solution is the bus. ”
The current airports have had trouble handling the demand for years . The result has been many flights being held at gates. I’ve personally have had a flight held as long as 10 hours to land at SFO.
Buses don’t go anywhere near 180 mph. Plus, I-5 is essential for trucks as well as travellers. There have been many traffic jams in places relatively remote from the two anchor cities — like at the Grapevine or Altamont.
It’s been pretty much understood by those who travel the corridor for many years that HSR is the optimal solution compared to two new airports (one for each region) or a completely new freeway.
“In the process, people who live in one city will spend money in the other, thereby growing both cities’ economies.”
Is that really true?
Yes. But to what degree is hard to calculate.
Think of it like independent towns. You live in a town in the middle of nowhere. You spend most of your money in town. But not everything. You get things from the rest of the world, with no particular preference.
Now imagine the town is a short distance from another town. Again, you spend most of your money in the same town. But now you have the opportunity to buy something in the other town, with very little effort. Buying from somewhere a lot more distant still happens, but is less appealing.
This is especially true of services. You are more likely to spend money on local services than distant goods if you have access to better local services.
“If the goal is to provide an alternative to driving and flying, the simple and economical solution is the bus.”
Other countries could say the same thing, but having a high-speed rail network and complementary low-speed regional networks is the most efficient form of mass transportation (uses the least energy), and is more equitable than requiring everybody to drive or fly, has a smaller footprint than highways and their ramps, and trains go directly to city centers rather than having to get off the highway and meander through local streets. If high-speed rail works well in Japan and Europe, it’s inconceivable to say it wouldn’t also work well in similarly populous Southern and Northern California. The cost is a factor, but we have to look at cutting our losses from the interstate and airplane system rather than doubling down on them. And the federal government should be more involved, at least as much as it was with the interstate highways and airports that created this problem.
Urban doom loops and transit death spirals are proof that residents of one city can have an impact on the economy of another city.
@Ross: okay, I can see that. But it’s still a zero-sum game if you include the other stuff you get from farther out, for the most part.
A better example that maybe illustrates your point while not being a zero-sum game might be the ease of access to specific venues available only in one of the locations. For example, I might be tempted to go to some sportsball (TM) game more often if I don’t have to worry about driving there. So yeah, that I can see.
For other shopping, though, I guess I remain skeptical. But I may be an outlier in that I prefer online ordering over buying local if the item is expensive and the online merchant has a better reputation (think B&H for camera equipment over Glazers), and for food-related stuff I would prefer hyperlocal anyway (e.g. farmer’s markets with specific farmers coming to sell their stuff who already come in town). But I can see how others might go that far, maybe. However it’s still a zero-sum game in that if I buy my jam from one farmer in one market I won’t buy it from the other, and the same with cameras. There’s no new need to spend extra money.
Even with the sports example I gave – unless I have money burning in my pocket, chances are that proximity to a venue won’t make me spend a lot of extra money I wasn’t already spending somewhere else. So Fresno’s gain (in the CAHSR case) would be SF’s loss, or whatever, if I went to see some sports team in Fresno over the ones in the Bay Area. That’s all I was trying to say – it feels weird to talk about overall growth being higher when resources (and need) are limited.
“In the process, people who live in one city will spend money in the other, thereby growing both cities’ economies.”
There are lots of businesses that depend on travelers. Think hotels, rental car companies, Uber, convention centers, restaurants in touristy areas, Disneyland, etc. All of these industries would see more business in a world where CAHSR exists vs. one where it doesn’t. Exactly how much more is up for debate, but whatever it is it certainly more than zero and almost certainly well less than $100 billion, as $100 billion is a huge sum of money, and other travel options in and out of the cities still exist.
“It’s been pretty much understood by those who travel the corridor for many years that HSR is the optimal solution compared to two new airports (one for each region) or a completely new freeway.”
It would be optimal if money were infinite or if California was capable of building it for a fraction of what it’s actually going to cost. Unfortunately, neither is true. And you can’t just take a solution that would be optimal if money were infinite and say that this is what we need in the real world where money is not infinite.
“Buses don’t go anywhere near 180 mph. Plus, I-5 is essential for trucks as well as travellers. There have been many traffic jams in places relatively remote from the two anchor cities — like at the Grapevine or Altamont.”
Assuming that the bus is nonstop, we’re talking about 6 hours vs. 3 hours. Sure, saving 3 hours is nice, but it’s not worth spending $100 billion over. Three are also other cheaper tricks you can try to get buses through traffic, such as HOV lanes or allowing buses to drive in the shoulder.
This goes back to your other comment. I think construction can get complicated. There is the financing, as well as the paperwork. Either one can hold up a project. Sometimes so much so that the whole project sits idle. For example, consider this project in Lake City: https://www.seattleinprogress.com/project/3013913. It took three years to get the permits. Now it is just an empty lot: https://goo.gl/maps/kqvroKgLci9hQFkp7. Maybe the long permitting time doomed the financing. It seems odd, just because there is so much development around there. Since the permit was approved, there are nearby buildings that have gone through the entire process — from initial permitting to construction to occupancy. There are other examples here and there, and it isn’t clear exactly why. It may be that each one is a little different — I don’t know.
I decided to check what is happening by referencing the Bellevue zoning map. The original project called “Gables 12th Place Apartments” was under review for a bit but never approved. https://buildingbellevue.bellevuewa.gov/
However it seems the builder then bought the next parcel of land south of the TOD, (the Audi of Bellevue) and is planning on semi combining the parcels into a larger project called “Alexandria Center for Science and Technology – Bell”.
> Back in December (2021), Alexandria Real Estate Equities paid over $77 million for about 5 acres at 1425 120th Ave. N.E. in East Bellevue . Now, with architect NBBJ, it’s filed a revised master plan for a major phased project initially to include three life-science and two apartment buildings.
> The city will consider amendments to the MDP next month. In essence, on the trapezoidal site, shaped something like the state of Nevada, NBBJ now wants to place the apartments along the angled south border (12th), then push the offices to the northeast corner, at the new Northeast Spring Boulevard. New streets, plazas, pedestrian connectors and green spaces will lace the entire development together.
It is a bit sparse on details but from what I can tell they want to build the apartments on where the Audi of Bellevue is at (next to 12th) and build a science center on where the TOD was originally supposed to be. I’m also not sure if Bellevue will approve these changes, needs to modify the Spring District Master Development Plan plan? But it seems better for the apartments to be placed closer to the station rather than a railyard if it ends up being approved, though the delay isn’t appreciated of course.
The thing about car dealerships, even though they are ugly and don’t make good use of urban land, they do generate lots of sales tax revenue, which city budgets depend on which can make rezoning then quite difficult.
That is true asdf2. Costco’s and dealerships generate a lot of sales tax, although dealerships are moving to counties with lower sales tax and property costs.
The other thing that generates a lot of sales tax with no social costs are airport parking lots. Many wonder why SeaTac doesn’t build affordable housing on those acres of parking lots, but that would be killing the golden goose.
2023 is the year municipal budgets hit reality, especially if WFH affects the city. SeaTac actually has a large budget surplus and should be ok. Seattle will have some painful cuts across the board, including a big reduction in its local parking tax it raised during the pandemic.
And multistory dealerships are a good way to make them more compact, like a few in SODO and one on Roosevelt in the U-District.
A good way, perhaps… a cheap one, though? Not exactly, as we know from the ST3 plans.
So the question is, how do you incentivize the owners of the parking lots to spend that extra money? I suppose you could pass a law… :)
Who’s in to lobby in Olympia to ban open air parking lots? Anyone?
Joke aside, if there’s a good way to incentivize the desired behavior, I’m all for it.
Tax them double the maximun zoned use.
“how do you incentivize the owners of the parking lots to spend that extra money?”
The only reason surface lots exist is the land was so cheap it was basically thrown away. If land had been scarcer like New York or Japan, they would have built multistory in the first place. Some of that land was the most fertile in the country, and now it’s under parking lots and car dealerships. The land may be too expensive for an individual to own a condo, but it’s cheap enough that corporations can build a big-box store with a surface lot that’s twice as large as the store, as in Southcenter and Renton.
Actually strike that I think the map I viewed is placing them in the slightly wrong locations across the street. I don’t think any projects even preliminarily have been filed for that plot of land. Checking https://bellevuewa.gov/sites/default/files/media/pdf_document/2020/Major%20Projects%20BelRed%20District_0.pdf instead it seems they aren’t going to begin construction of the apartments at all until the OMF East is up and running.
> East Link Operations & Maintenance Facility East
◼ Phase 1: Operation2 & Maintenance Facility to support expansion of Sound Transit’s East Link light rail transit system, including: Operations & Maintenance Facility building Maintenance of Way building Light rail vehicle movement and storage tracks
◼ Phase 2: 6.8 potential Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) to be developed in future phase or phases
“In Seattle neighborhoods from Columbia City to Capitol Hill, developers are holding off on planned apartment projects.”
The worst thing is, when the next boom comes and we start getting a large influx of people again, it will take developers 2-3 years to restart deferred projects, and that will cause rents to shoot up until they open.
Keep an eye on the vacancy rate. When it’s less than 5%, rents rise. When it’s between 5-10%, rents remain stable. Sometimes it happens on a neighborhood-specific or income-specific basis; e.g., when there’s a particular shortage or glut in one neighborhood or at one price point. But usually it’s regionwide or in broad subareas.
By the way, my lease renewal this summer, which was going to jump from $1925 to $2100, the landlord offered to negotiate it down to $1950, citing the soft market and not wanting to lose a long-term, responsible tenant. She said the hard limit was the current rate. I took the small increase, feeling they deserved some increase, and it makes up for the times it went up 10-15%.
Regarding the operations plan for opening Lynnwood Link first, I can attest from having ridden the train enough (while avoiding crowd times), that:
(1) There is a noticeable uptick in spills to clean on the train. Perhaps a mop crew while the train is laying over would be far more efficient than bringing the whole train out of service to deal with a fluidic biohazard. Some seats may need to be taped off, but that is okay for most times of day.
(2) Ridership from Westlake north is clearly larger than that on the south end. So, the short-run lines between Northgate and Stadium should do just fine.
(3) The short-run lines might only be needed during weekday peak. The 1 Line is easily handling the ridership mid-day, when there are no competing express routes going all the way downtown.
(4) The added ridership when Lynnwood Link opens isn’t going to double ridership on the 1 Line. Shorter peak trains, and less-reliably-scheduled but very frequent runs will do just fine.
(5) The platforms are never crowded (except after the largest sportsball events), even in Westlake. Why? Because the platform clears every time the train comes. It may have felt like the tunnel had more traffic during the days of joint operations, but that was partially an illusion caused by riders having to wait longer for their particular route.
(6) If you must, continue some of the Snohomish County express routes for 6 more months or so until the 2 Line opens joint operations with the 1 Line. I think that would be very wasteful, but it is an option.
(7) The big known unknown is operator availability. Failure to accelerate hiring could contraindicate the shorter trains. Don’t fetishize the “promised” headway. That “promise” was always assumed to be after the opening of the 2 Line, so not really a broken “promise”/plan/projection. The 4-car trains running 10-minute headway should suffice for peak hours on the south end. If they don’t suffice, the post-opening plans for Federal Way and Tacoma Dome Link will need to be rethought. South end ridership would need to increase dramatically to require more peak frequency during the Lynnwood / East Link interregnum.
(8) The number of short runs required daily should be rather small, as in, a few short runs from Lynnwood to Seattle in the morning, and a similar number in the evening from Seattle to Lynnwood, to cover the peak-of-peak hour. Indeed, the number of required extra runs may mean no turnaround south of Stadium Station would actually happen. And then, those extra trains (not those specific trains, but the all-day ones being pulled from service) may as well run in service the other way, just for the short-headway joy of the counter-peak-direction riders.
(9) If the necessary peak period is longer than an hour and a half, it might be better to just keep sending out fresh trains for each short run, and bring another back in rather than adding new daily safety protocols for the Stadium Station turnaround.
(10) While I prefer riding Kinkysharyo trains for pandemic reasons (larger plexiglass barriers), the Siemens trains can carry a larger crushload, I believe. Keep sending the Kinkysharyos over to the Bellevue O&MF/O&SF, and keep the Siemens trains at the SODO O&MF until East Link opens.
Brent, when you mention “fluidic biohazard” are you taking urine and feces? If that is the case, and Seattleites use Link as a bathroom, is it possible to clean the trains at Judkins park before they return to the Eastside? Even if each train were delayed 10-20 minutes for cleaning it would be worth it. The Eastside doesn’t want to clean the trains at OMF-E to send them back to Seattle for toilets.
Having foul and unridable East Link trains return to the Eastside and that becoming public would probably put the last nail in Link ridership on the Eastside.
I don’t see bodily fluids or excess litter on Link trains. Where I sometimes see them is in stations and elevators. What I do see on Link trains half the time is somebody sleeping, taking up three seats. I can’t tell whether they’re “only sleeping” or on a tweaker high. Yesterday an agent with a “Transit Security” uniform woke up one of them and told him he couldn’t lie down there.
At Intl Dist station yesterday at 7:15pm, I looked across to the other plafform and saw someone hunching down with a very bright lighter. He was near the wooden benches so I thought, “Please don’t start a fire.” That may have been unlikely, and rain had been drizzling, but still.
New research using statistics to prove the obvious: loosened building regulations results in more housing, and slows/stops inflation of the market rate. Upzones alone do not generate new below-market-rate (“affordable”) housing stock, but slowing the inflation of market rate prevents displacement in neighborhoods that do not experience the “amenity effects” of new construction.
The body of evidence is rapidly growing that cities and neighborhoods which are already gentrified should be the areas which are upzoned for new construction; i.e. Magnolia, Queen Anne, West Seattle, all of North Seattle (Ballard to Windermere) and affluent cities along transit on the Eastside.
Better yet, commerce & housing ought to be legalized in all forms in all places (within a UGA), and the market (in the form of market rates) should decide where speculative redevelopment should happen on private property, with transportation on public ROW managed by the stewards of shared public space with efficient and affordable transit prioritized over inefficient uses like private automobiles.
You pretty much just described Kyoto, where I just visited. From a
Gaijin perspective, it was a transit, bike and pedestrian paradise, with incredibly low rents. And the people who do drive are really good at it. The seemless dance of car, bike and hordes of pedestrians in mixed use, incredibly narrow streets was magnificent to experience.
And 2-bedrooms available for $700/mo, with studious as low as $300, in a metro area of 4 million plus, that is one of the most beautiful, clean and sought-after in the world. And surrounded by farm land.
The key? No zoning.
Right, if we’d had adequate zoning in 2003 when rent inflation started, we could have nipped it in the bud. Studios were around $500 then and 1 bedrooms $700. Even in 2008 I considered a studio condo one block from the Broadway Market for $120K. So somebody making $25K (any middle-class or some working-class jobs) could easily afford the 1 BR. I stayed in the 1 BR one (near Ballard HS) for nine months, then moved to one of the few lowest-price studios at $450 (the one near Harborview).
The point is that if you build enough housing to match population growth every year, prices won’t rise much if at all. But we didn’t do that, so prices rose 5-15% every year while inflation was 2% or below. (With the exception fo recessions; e,g., 2008 to 2011, when many people moved away and every other building had a “For Rent” sign.)
So now we’re at the point where many middle-class workers and families can’t afford housing or have to live twenty miles away in a car-dependent area, and some are working 80+ hours a week to afford housing. The homeless rate goes up and down with the price of housing (and covid distortions). We can’t make market rates go DOWN with more housing because nobody wants to take a loss, but we can keep it from getting even more out of whack. And now that there’s the gap between $25K and $80K that can’t afford market-rate housing, we need subsidized housing to fill the gap.
Japan has zoning, it’s just more inclusive. It’s nationwide, so suburbs can’t arbitrarily be single-family only to be an aristocratic enclave. Every zoning level includes all the uses below it, so it’s not residential here, commercial there, industrial there. This naturally creates mixed-use, walkable, affordable neighborhoods, as you can see in any YouTube video on Tokyo’s neighborhoods. Especially when combined with comprehensive transit and limited accommodation for cars.
You are right, it does. But with a light touch. It doesn’t focus on use, but to some degree height. Some neighborhoods are limited to under 31 meters, which is still pretty tall. It also protects greenspace on the periphery, and along the river. A few hundred buildings are protected, mainly 1000+ year old temples. Comparing that to Seattle seems like no zoning, but of course there is.
The AMI in Kyoto is a bit over $32,000/yr (same as Dallas) and the average apartment costs $834/mo. AMI in Seattle is $115,000/yr. and the average apartment probably around $2000/mo. in the most desirable neighborhoods, about the same income to housing ratio.
You have causation backwards, as usual, Daniel.
“AMI in Seattle is $115,000/yr. and the average apartment probably around $2000/mo. in the most desirable neighborhoods, about the same income to housing ratio.”
That $115,000 is for an artificial municipal boundary after housing costs have displaced people to the suburbs or tents. If Seattle has the same income-to-housing ratio as Kyoto, why does Seattle have tens or hundreds of thousands of people who are displaced, housing-cost burdened, or homeless, and Kyoto doesn’t?
And people in Kyoto don’t have to drive two or three miles to car-dependent strip malls for their daily needs or to go to school.
Mike, AMI for all of King Co. is $105,000/yr so “displacement” from Seattle doesn’t materially affect the income to housing cost ratio with Kyoto. AMI more than anything determines housing costs.
I don’t think hundreds of thousand of Seattle residents have been displaced. AMI means half in Seattle make more than $115,000 and half less, which is $2900/mo. for housing using the 30% of gross income formula for someone living alone. Two earning 50% of AMI would also have $2900/mo. for a two bedroom. Is there any Seattle neighborhood in which $2900 is not enough for a two bedroom apartment? You can certainly get a nice two bedroom apartment on MI for $2900/mo.
One difference between Kyoto and Seattle (and most areas and Seattle) is Kyoto has a much higher percentage of residents living with someone else.
Although Seattle’s AMI is quite high and correspondingly it’s housing prices housing costs are exacerbated by the high percentage of Seattleites who live alone, for whatever reason.
.”..AMI for all of King Co. is $105,000/yr so “displacement” from Seattle doesn’t materially affect the income to housing cost ratio with Kyoto. AMI more than anything determines housing costs.”
No, it doesn’t. Scarcity determines housing costs.
And housing costs determine the AMI of those who can afford it.
These are obvious facts and not controversial for anyone who has done any reading of the research. Please make yourself one of those people, rather than repeatedly exposing your ignorance, and refusal, or perhaps inability to learn.
Your King County number includes the Eastside, which distorts your number. People are being pushed S. King, which has half the AMI of Seattle, or even lower, as well as Pierce, Thurston and Snohomish.
I know, because I am one of them.
Cam, AMI for Kent is a little over $73,000/yr and the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Kent is around $1470/mo., which is an 8% decrease year over year. Basically same AMI/housing cost ratio as Seattle and Kyoto. Or did you think a one bedroom apartment had the same rent in Kent as on Capitol Hill because AMI is irrelevant to housing costs in your world?
AMI for all of Bellevue including East Bellevue is $127,000/yr which of course is reflected in higher average rents. Basically same income to housing cost ratio though.
Did you not read the link Nathan provided showing no statistical increase in lower bracket housing supply from an increase in construction of housing units due to loosened zoning/regulatory limits?
This region has been on a construction boom over the last 10 years. Check out Zillow for the number of apartments for rent in Seattle today. I hate to tell you this but market rate construction isn’t going to lower housing costs, in Seattle or Kent, but especially Kent because there is a base cost per sf for any new construction and Kent has a 30% lower AMI, and you have Seattleites with a higher AMI moving to beautiful Kent driving up housing costs.
“This region has been on a construction boom over the last 10 years.”
And Seattle built 9 housing units for every 12 additional jobs, so it kept falling further behind. 9 is better than 0, but not as good as 12.
Vacancy rates in the Puget Sound region are 5.5%, higher than the rest of the state although average rents are higher. Zilliow has 1809 apartments for rent in Seattle today.
What do folks on this blog think the vacancy rate should be in Seattle, and at what vacancy rate will builders stop building?
The vacancy rate was around 3-4% for the last decade, during which we saw double digit annual percent rent increases.
In the last year or2, vacancies have climbed a bit over 5%. And guess what? Increases have slowed or reversed.
Huh. Supply and demand actually matters.
Is a 1% change in the vacancy rate statistically significant? Or, rather, is it likely to drive a statistically significant change in the rent increases (let alone double digit increases)?
I don’t mean to imply it’s not – my intuition says that it feels a little small, and that there are likely confounding factors, but I am certainly willing to learn more.
Anonymous, any limited thing of economic value can “hockey stick” when demand and supply fall out of whack — in either direction. In an economy in which supply and demand are elastic, changes in one tend to create an offsetting price change in the other which eventually restores rough stability.
When demand greatly outpaces a constrained supply, prices can rise catastrophically as buyers bid for the waning supply.
My understanding is that vacancy can’t get much below 3%, because of cleaning, re-renting lags, cleaning, and minor renovations and such. So it’s effectively zero when it gets that low. That’s when supply is so constricted that it causes bidding wars and rapid increases. When it gets up over 5%, it is basically showing supply finally getting a bit off the bottom, moderating increases or finally forcing landlords to make price and other concessions.
Nathan, did I read the abstract correctly? If the “algorithm” is accurate an increase in zoning or development regulations (it isn’t clear which) resulted in an increase of 0.8% in housing units in “predominantly” the higher price bracket over 3-9 years but no increase in lower bracket housing.
Putting aside the fact one would expect a 0.8% increase in housing in a vibrant market like Seattle over 9 years anyway, and my guess is the number of housing units in Seattle increased by more than 0.8% over the last nine years, the key is lower and affordable housing units did not increase at all with upzoning or increased regulatory limits.
First because new construction is always the most expensive per sf, especially with adoption of the international building code and green mandates.
Second builders build to the AMI, not “market rate” affordable housing.
Third new construction usually replaces the oldest and most affordable housing, called gentrification, which isn’t a bad thing unless you are poor.
So why are we upzoning? To create more new housing for the wealthiest residents in Seattle? Got it. Hey I like Columbia City too.
A funny thing happened to the spate of upzoning bills before the legislature. Smaller cities started demanding some of the upzoned lots have 60% affordable mandates, which the progressives thought made sense, except the builders and realtors and Sightline threw a gasket.
Because upzoning has almost nothing to do with affordability because as your link shows it increases housing very little because construction is limited and creates no affordable housing among the 0.8% increase in housing units over 9 years.
Here is a tip: always look for the money in any proposed legislation, and who donated to the sponsors (and political party) of the legislation. Not a bad tip either if you want to understand the stations and routes of Link.
> So why are we upzoning? To create more new housing for the wealthiest residents in Seattle? Got it. Hey I like Columbia City too.
If you don’t build new housing in bellevue or even say Columbia city then the wealthy will start to buy housing in other neighborhoods. Housing is not a good measured on the neighborhood level but on the regional level.
> Third new construction usually replaces the oldest and most affordable housing, called gentrification, which isn’t a bad thing unless you are poor.
I’m not sure why you always cite this, then say to forbid upzonings in rich areas. If you are afraid of gentrifying happening then only upzone in rich neighborhoods — but that is the opposite of what you propose to do.
“Second builders build to the AMI, not “market rate” affordable housing.”
Only if there are still people at or above AMI who don’t have a unit yet. When that is saturated, then they have to build more modest housing or they won’t get any more customers. That’s the point of increasing the housing supply: to saturate the market.
I once read an article in the Weekly World News that the government created the suburbs to fight communism. Communism, they said, was more likely to take hold amongst rent-paying urbanites, but less likely with home-owners living outside of the cities, so the idea of single family home communities were created by Truman. If the article was correct, maybe upzoning is some kind of communist conspiracy to infiltrate the suburbs.
– Sam. Weekly World News subscriber.
More on that tract house development in the woods in Newcastle ($). The site is zoned single-family and is surrounded by wooded parks. The developer intends to build 35 houses on 12 acres, selling for $1.5 million each. Critics say those houses don’t belong in the woods far from transit or services, even though it’s zoned single-family so this should have been expected. The developer is offering to sell the entire site to the city (Bellevue) to extend the parkland.
The whole thought of buying a $1.5 million house or an $80,000 super-SUV just just ridiculous. There will always be a few billionaires who do it, but as an average for normal people or expecting most people to do it just seems like a fantasy movie.
Then perhaps it’s time to blink and realize that it’s not just fantasy. Average new car price is almost $50k, apparently.
There are only a dozen billionaires in Washington state, apparently – to assume that 80k vehicles are bought only by them is what seems like the fantasy movie, to me (no offense intended). I just have a hard time imagining that, I guess. And I say this as someone who has never in their life bought a vehicle… But has seen family do it.
My point is, that’s a problem.
Mike, you buy the car and house monthly. The car depreciates and usually over time the house appreciates. If you are paying $1.5 million for a house odds are you are selling and rolling over the gain from your current house and have a two income house hold. If both earn AMI for the Eastside that is around $6000/mo. for the mortgage.
Some prefer to rent. Less hassle. Especially if you live alone. Some want to have the American Dream, a SFH, with a yard for the dog and barbecue and room for the kids.
The $1.5 million price is because it is new construction, pretty good location, pretty good public safety , pretty good schools with likely nice neighbors with kids (and SUV’s) too.
“The $1.5 million price is because it is new construction”
And average houses in the Eastside and Seattle are also near $1 million or over. It’s not just these very unusual ultra-new houses. That’s the problem. And I don’t think people should be forced into thirty years of debt, which limits their ability to do things, and if they get laid off they get foreclosed and lose the house and their investment. We can’t keep going on forever with an ever-shrinking percent of the population having access to normal housing and transportation. And so much of the housing and cars that is built being high-end.
Mike, can you point to a newer Seattle-area housing development (apts, duplexes, condos, sf homes) … that isn’t government or non-profit built and run … that is an example of the type of housing you wish we were building more of? From what you wrote, I suppose you are talking about housing that isn’t expensive to buy or rent. Is there a building or project you can point to as an example of how housing should built and priced?
Austin’s light rail plan has shrunk drastically. I find a lot of parallels with their plans and Seattle’s future Ballard tunnel plans (where I think we’ll find ourselves in 3~4 years). Their original plans have found to be too expensive/unrealistic and they are implementing much more at-grade or elevated approaches now and are limiting their length’s as well.
> Five new light-rail options are being unveiled this afternoon at the Austin Central Library. Each is less than half the length of the original 28-mile vision. Gone are the plans for a 4-mile downtown subway with underground shopping. Only one of the five proposals goes to the airport.
> Turns out, those early light-rail designs pitched to voters cost more than expected. Last year, the base estimate grew from $5.8 billion to $10.3 billion. So now, the plan is to build the system much more slowly.
Notably instead of a 4-mile underground tunnel in downtown Austin the alternatives list either limiting it to a mile long tunnel or a small elevated alignment. The rest of it is at-grade (though that is the same as before)
So Austin would look more like Phoenix light rail, except perhaps with a short downtown tunnel, where there is highest ridership & congestion and therefore maximum value. A great sign is no freeway running in any of the alternatives, from what I can tell.
In other words, Austin is using light rail as it should be used, and how Seattle originally did (especially in ST1) but pivoted away from in ST3. I think WL has a solidly optimistic take that in 3~4 years ST does a full reboot and reimagines WSBLE and other major projects in the context a very difference budget constraints, much like Austin has done.
> I think WL has a solidly optimistic take that in 3~4 years ST does a full reboot and reimagines WSBLE and other major projects
I mean transit agencies always reboot once they run out of money for their plans. Aka CAHSR, Atlanta changing clifton corridor from lrt to brt, Haiwaii’s rail line and Austin’s current restructuring.
While I disagree with Daniel on other subjects, one assertion I absolutely agree is that Sound Transit really doesn’t have the funding to build ST3 the representative alignment as planned, (even without the additional addons). The current plans for Ballard are so far off that no one really needs to confront reality yet. (And Everett Link’s overkill as well)
Well CAHSR would be an example of what I don’t want ST to do with ST3. CAHSR intentionally committed several billion to an alignment & technology they knew they couldn’t finish, to set up an expectation that original plan (3.5 hours SF to LA, or whatever it was) must be fulfilled, and then will spend a few decades figuring out how to pay for the rest. That’s very much not a pivot.
CAHSR parallel would be if ST3 built the WS spur and then went back to the voters and said “give me more money or we’ll be stuck running this as a shuttle forever.” WS Link and HSR in the Central Valley are an interesting comparable in their approach to mega-project management.
AJ I am in Phoenix right now. Transit will always have issues here, and a subway was not a very good economic choice.
1. The weather. You can dress for the cold but not extreme heat. Even a short walk in April and you are sweating (although everywhere indoors is air conditioned). . Beginning in May walking along pavement for any kind of distance is dangerous. Even to class.
2. Phoenix is the most car centric pedestrian hostile city I know. Although retail is clustered in malls you drive to, and the retail is very good (infiniy better than Seattle) the distances between anywhere are huge, often on sidewalks with a 7’ concrete wall or hedge on one side and four lanes of traffic all going at least 40 mph, many in trucks.
3. Sprawl. Although Phoenix is on a building boom that is crazy with much of it “infill” it is still a very undense city. Very little mixed use development. Retail and housing are segregated, and even “multi-family” housing has few stories (townhouses) with yards and garages, and is expensive. The “affordable” housing is in the older SFH’s mostly below Camelback.
4. Culture. Phoenix is not a Mecca for “urbanists”, and cars are an important expression for all the young people flooding in from the small towns they grew up in and the strong Hispanic community. The cars are remarkably clean and waxed. Trucks too. They are a status symbol.
Obviously people like Phoenix as it and Maricopa County often are the fastest growing in the U.S. (the comparison with Seattle since 1995 when I first started coming here is amazing). It has always been a boom and bust town and my guess is a bust will occur soon with higher interest rates. Of course same with Seattle plus the decline in tech.
Phoenix has benefitted from the decline of LA and exodus of high wage earners from CA, as has Austin. They now draw from both the small Midwest towns and CA, but are not quite as conservative as the rest of the south.
Water availability will actually improve when CA’s senior water rights to the CO River are reduced by the Feds because Phoenix and AZ with junior rights has been forced to conserve water for a while now. There are still the snowbirds, but Phoenix is a young if flashy town with very few east coasters. . Good comparison to Seattle, especially emotionally. Seattle was recently crowned the most depressed and unhappy city in the U.S. whereas Phoenix is the opposite for some reason, and I can see the difference pretty clearly . Phoenicians are definitely happier people.
If I were young and looking for a city to move to I would choose Phoenix over Seattle in a second, although both areas have nice suburbs. But I think it would be impossible to live in Phoenix without a car, and a car is part of the culture.
It just goes to show that transit really doesn’t make or break a city. Some cities transit is a plus, in other newer less dense cities it isn’t, and I don’t see Phoenix densifying or changing its culture or supporting light rail.
I recommend a visit to Phoenix for anyone on this blog although prices for everything have spiked, if for no other reason a hike in the desert, real Mexican food, and a chance to see a city with a different approach to life than Seattle to life. But you will need to Uber — which is excellent if not too far — or rent a car at the airport although everyone drives very fast.
Dan, go visit Tempe to see how an ‘urbanist’ urban form works quite well in Phoenix.
Across most of metro Phoenix, yes I agree with 1-3. But Phoenix has at least built a solid ‘spine’ of light rail, generally where it needs to be (linear, bisects downtown, hits the airport ‘on the way,’ and connects nodes of density like Midtown and Tempe & Mesa downtowns). Phoenix needs to growth employment density at the major nodes and grow residential density across all stations (aka “TOD”), and yes the built environment needs to be comfortable for pedestrians, which in the Valley of the Sun means lots of shade.
#4 is nonsense in a metro with millions of people. Will most people continue to prefer to live in the suburbs? Sure, and like much of the sunbelt much of the mfg & logistics employment base will be forever suburban oriented, built around freeways & huge lowrise buildings. But Phoenix is large enough to have hundreds of thousands of people who would rather not drive most days, and therefore dozens of urban neighborhood.
Yes, we know Phoenix and much of the Southwest and Southeast has much worse land use than Pugetopolis. I’ve seen it in Dallas, northern San Diego county, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City.
I spent a week in Austin in January of 2020, just before the pandemic made a mess of things.
At that time they had congested freeways, but local streets downtown didn’t seem especially busy. Lots of four lane wide stuff.
The big problem I see there is sprawl. The large office building part of downtown is relatively tiny. Dense little clusters of activity like Ballard, Fremont or even Magnolia Village that could serve as a basis for a good light rail line just don’t seem to exist.
More than anything, they probably need decent, fast train service between Austin and San Antonio. The freeways are too congested for buses to work well for that, and just like Sounder it could probably be made faster than buses.
> More than anything, they probably need decent, fast train service between Austin and San Antonio. The freeways are too congested for buses to work well for that, and just like Sounder it could probably be made faster than buses.
The right of way for a new rail line could just as easily be used for an intercity bus lane. The speed here really isn’t about the technology of whether trains or busses but about the right of way. I mean there is the existing Texas Eagle amtrak route but it takes 3 hours and 25 minutes which is takes much longer than the existing Flixbus/Megabus between Austin and San Antonio. The (cancelled) planned Lone Star Rail line required building a new track alongside the Union Pacific line. And even that plan would have the trains take 90 minutes end to end.
I’m not sure what currently exists, but if they were to use hov lanes or add some bus lanes on i-35 (and also from the freeway ramp to downtown Austin/San Antonio) you could probably have a pretty competitive bus time to car time without traffic of ~75 minutes. On a slightly separate note, I always did find it odd that there is virtually zero support for intercity bus service from the public realm.
Sprawl, and therefore no demand for bus service. For a bus to be useful, you need to have somewhere to walk on both ends. Outside of UT, there is no place where it isn’t easier and cheaper to drive.
Austin needs to grow it’s existing urban neighborhoods. Downtown and West Campus are great examples or high & midrise growth, respectively. That will create sufficient employment & activity density. The urban core needs to grow in all directions, but in particular into East Austin to follow the existing Red Line (a rail line that already exists). Much like Seattle with the Rainier Valley, progressive Austin frets about displacement around it’s existing rail stations, therefore pushing development to the urban fringe instead.
Intercity buses are no faster than traffic. What’s there now is a result of intercity buses.
Berlin’s Re1 is an example of the European equivalent of Sounder. Maximum speed of 100 mph, average speed including fairly frequent stations around 72 mph. Downtown San Antonio to downtown Austin with station stops at all the intermediate suburban , and do it 20 minutes faster than driving non-stop direct.
And that’s the slowest grade of intercity service they have.
And even relatively late at night they’re quite busy.
You can’t get there with bus service.
> Intercity buses are no faster than traffic. What’s there now is a result of intercity buses.
The point I am making is that it isn’t about the vehicle but about the right of way. Even if you have a ferrari, but drive it on neighborhood streets you’re not going to travel above 15 mph. The same goes for the train. There is no right of way for the train since the existing rail is owned by BNSF. For the intercity busses I talked about adding hov lanes or bus lanes that would make it faster than traffic.
> Downtown San Antonio to downtown Austin with station stops at all the intermediate suburban , and do it 20 minutes faster than driving non-stop direct. … Maximum speed of 100 mph
Okay but what alignment or route are you going to build this new rail? That is the question, not about what vehicle you are planning to run. Like the speed of the train doesn’t matter if the tracks cannot handle it and freight trains are blocking it. I mean you reference Sounder, but itself cannot run all-day service because those tracks aren’t owned by Sound Transit.
> You can’t get there with bus service.
The point is that you can’t get there with train service either, with it’s current 3 hours and 25 minutes run time. And what is one’s goal. If you just want to go from Downtown San Antonio to Downtown Austin, even after a rail is constructed, likely a direct bus could bring you faster. The old plans even after spending a billion (and that was 15 years ago so with inflation I guess 2~3 billion in now dollars) would have the run time the same as the existing Megabus and hourly frequency. If you added a couple bus or at least hov/express lanes it’s likely for a few hundred million you could have the same runtime and more frequency than the train.
I’ve never been to that part of Texas, but the Austin metro is 2.2 million and San Antonio is 2.6 million and they’re distance is 3.5 hours with conventional buses, that’s similar to Seattle-Portland. Hourly express buses/trains would be reasonable.
Downtown Austin to downtown San Antonio is only about 80 miles. It’s more like having Portland where Chehalis is, and requiring 3.5 hours to do it.
The 3.5 hour figure shows just how slow existing service is.
The existing intercity bus (megabus) using the freeway takes 1.5 hours, not 3.5 hours.
> The 3.5 hour figure shows just how slow existing service is.
It is the existing train that takes that long.
Again this is really about right of way, not about the type of vehicle.
The type of vehicle determines the overall speed.
There really isn’t that much cost difference between dedicated bus infrastructure and dedicated rail infrastructure, unless you are building something outlandish.
In much of Europe, they consider such an investment in dedicated right of way not worthwhile unless it can be significantly faster than driving. This ranges from everything from how they do light rail to how intercity lines are planned.
Dedicated lanes would produce the same result they have in Puget Sound: somewhat better bus schedules, but service that isn’t fast enough to shift a large number of travelers.
There really isn’t that much cost difference between dedicated bus infrastructure and dedicated rail infrastructure, unless you are building something outlandish.
If you are building something completely independent, then yes, a busway costs as much as a (rail) subway. But rarely does anyone do that. They typically build a small section of busway, and then connect it to an existing freeway (which has HOV or bus lanes). Consider the Seattle bus tunnel. This small tunnel cost as much as a subway would, probably more. But as a stand-alone subway, it would have been silly. A few trains going between Convention Place and SoDo just wouldn’t have cut it. But by leveraging existing infrastructure, you had buses running in HOV lanes right into the tunnel. The cost was minimal for what it delivered.
Sometimes the same thing happens with rail, especially longer distance rail. Sometimes there are sections that allow for fast trains, and small sections that require a train to slow to a crawl. Fix the latter sections, and you can have a fast rail system without spending a fortune.
But my guess is, most of Texas is overflowing with freeway infrastructure. You could probably leverage it and save a lot of money. You might need to add HOV lanes here and there, but that is about it. It is also quite likely that a lot of cities in Texas — because they are so sprawling — are quite appropriate for BRT (especially open BRT). Thus something like our bus tunnel could work really well.
Of course the fundamental advantage of trains is that they carry more people. If you improve things enough, you might fill up the buses. For city-to-city travel, increased frequency doesn’t matter as much. It is still better for riders to run buses every 15 minutes, but running a train every hour is much cheaper. If you have high ridership, then it makes sense to focus on improving the trains.
Trains can go faster, but to allow that, you often have to spend a bunch more money (and basically start from scratch, like California is doing). It is really a different beast, and hard to compare, since you do end up with significantly shorter travel times (trains can go 200 MPH, buses can’t). High speed rail is thus clearly better — the question is whether it is worth it.
> The type of vehicle determines the overall speed.
Again what rail route are you going to use? You keep sidestepping the question. The bus will likely travel just as fast on the proposed alignment built (Unless if one is planning on building an even more expensive rail alignment). It is more often the alignment that determines the speed not the vehicle. The Acela train on the NEC can technically travel 150 miles per hour but often is limited to just 60/80 due curves. For the CAHSR the hard part isn’t the vehicles, but building the alignment.
The initial plan would cost 1 billion dollars (2013 dollars)To have a goal of 12 round trips per day. (120 minute headway off peak). Which sure maybe if it was just a billion it might semi make sense. But those cost estimates were too low. First to build 80 miles at 12 million dollar each mile is impossible — because guess what, the original plan was to share tracks with the existing freight track and just add some third tracks.
If you actually wanted to build a new rail alignment along it which they later tried (and involves moving the existing BNSF track) it’d be at least like 50 million per mile. With 80 miles you’re looking at like ~3 billion dollars. And at the end of the day it’d be trains every 2 hours, I just don’t really see how this is useful for the cost.
The rail corridor is better suited for just urban travel within each city, and maybe eventually one can look into extending it into intercity travel, but for now the cost to benefit ratio doesn’t make much sense over just adding some bus lanes and running intercity busses frequently. Also with the train corridor it would miss the downtown in both cities, while you could run the bus to actually reach the downtown core.
Man was just in Redmond this weekend. I agree with Daniel Thompson, the retail in Redmond is eh. The general energy is pretty eh too. Maybe the light rail will change things. Like most new developments, the reality doesn’t look as enticing as the artistic renderings and brochures.
> Man was just in Redmond this weekend. I agree with Daniel Thompson, the retail in Redmond is eh. The general energy is pretty eh too. Maybe the light rail will change things. Like most new developments
It’ll be the new apartments and town center reform to add new apartments at the mall location as well that will make the energy better. Similar to how for belltown and capitol hill, it was the new apartments that made it more lively.
SLUer, many of your posts are some variation on you visited some eastside neighborhood over the weekend, and it wasn’t as vibrant as an urban neighborhood you’ll compare it to . You have said that same thing so often that it seems like you have some imaginary urban/suburban score to settle. Go ahead and keep making that same comment if you want, but it’s not being received like you think it is.
Wow. A little defensive eh? I visit the Eastside a lot because I have many colleagues with little kids that are play dates with my kids. Also we keep trying to scout for a possible decent suburban location for the family. Was at Redmond watershed on Saturday morning and then hit a few spots at the Redmond ridge area and then grabbed dinner in downtown Redmond. It really isn’t exciting. I wish it were exciting so I can take the kids out of SPS. I know I’m not convincing suburban diehards like you, but I just want to agree with Daniel Thompson for once. Redmond is bleh. Most Eastside new developments of late are uninspired and lipstick on a pig. You keep thinking anyone who criticizes your beloved Eastside must have some imaginary score to settle. Maybe, just maybe it’s actually overrated and bleh. Oh no how dare I for saying that. Wtf.
If you like doing that … periodically saying some suburban neighborhood isn’t as vibrant as an urban neighborhood, keep doing it. Maybe it’s because that would never even occur to me to think or say. “Hey everyone, I stopped off in Covington today for lunch, and I have to tell you, Covington is just eh. It’s defiantly not as vibrant as LQA.” I have to respect that maybe that’s just how you see the world. You judge every neighborhood or town in terms of vibrant/not vibrant, and I don’t. And, that’s ok.
They aren’t adding a station at Covington though. Whether downtown Redmond is interesting enough for a visit will help determine a lot in the coming years. Of course “interesting” is in the eye of the beholder. I think much of South Lake Union, for example, is dreadfully boring. There are very few old buildings, and other than the Cascade neighborhood (which some consider not part of “South Lake Union”) the architecture is not particularly interesting. The lake itself is very nice, but most of the neighborhood is separated from it by the god-awful Mercer Street. Approaching the lake from the west is worse, as Aurora forms a hard barrier. Things are definitely moving in the right direction (lots of good street improvements) but it isn’t there yet. In contrast, the somewhat similar Belltown is way more lively and interesting. Neither has the character of Pioneer Square.
Anyway, that is just my opinion. Other people may share it, others might disagree. The relatively popularity of Covington isn’t that important; but the popularity of downtown Redmond is. If the neighborhood is attractive (and few share the opinion of SLUer) then the station will be very popular. Mainly by folks on the East Side, but it could be visited by people going across the lake, especially if they are joining someone on the East Side, or work over there. It becomes a place you want to live, or live near. All of that helps East Link, and to a lesser extent, all of Sound Transit. We are seeing that with the Capitol Hill Station — the only station that has seen an increase in ridership over pre-pandemic levels. Stations like Capitol Hill are carrying Link, and making up for the huge downturn in travel to downtown. I wouldn’t expect Downtown Redmond to be like Capitol Hill, but it is already reasonably attractive.
I have doubts East Link will increase retail vibrancy in downtown Redmond. Even ST predicted pre-pandemic that there would only be 1300 daily boardings in a city of almost 80,000, and I assume a fair number of those were work commuters who tend to want to get home. Suburbanites don’t party after work during the weekday like younger urban workers. They tend to have families.
For example, ST estimated MI would have 3000 daily boardings on East Link just from Island residents, and then up to another 10,000 to 14,000 from the bus intercept before the eastside transit restructure and decline in cross lake travel, and no one thought that would increase retail vibrancy in MI’s town center which is right next to the station. After all, the park and ride which was always full M-F pre-pandemic didn’t increase retail vibrancy.
People got off the bus, got into their car, and left to get home. And MI is between Bellevue and Seattle whereas Redmond is at the end of East Link and goes through some pretty dead areas.
What really surprises me is the disappointing Redmond Mall. Granted it is a very old design with a huge parking lot and store facades opening out onto the lot and a very poor mix of retail and restaurants, but anyone who has been to a nice outdoor mall in LA or Phoenix, or to U Village, and looked at the designs for the new Northgate Mall, knows how to lay out these malls, and Redmond is a more affluent and safer area than around U Village or Northgate.
First you build a multi-story parking garage along the perimeter with free and obvious parking that blends in with the architecture of the mall (and ideally blocks the hideous cheap multi-family housing on one end of the mall) to free up the parking lot space. Then you build a mall with facades that look INWARDS, with plants and trees and outdoor dining and gathering places. Ideally the project is actually planned, like Totem Lake, so the surrounding multi-family housing is somewhat attractive and consistent with the mall, because without the mall Totem Lake is a waste (or Redmond).
Instead, it looks to me like Redmond planners and the council believed the trope that increased housing density alone without some master planning would create an attractive and vibrant retail and urban area, which it never does without design and planning oversight.
The mall is salvageable just like Northgate Mall is salvageable. Hopefully Simon Properties or another experienced mall designer and operator will buy Redmond Mall and redevelop it into something like U Village. Downtown Redmond and much of Redmond’s multi-family housing is not salvageable, and Link won’t be the savior, especially for a city like Ballard that is very hard to get to. Redmond does not have the population or visitors for two vibrant retail areas (and today it has none), and I think redeveloping and revitalizing the mall is the better way to go because malls are popular on the eastside and have great walkability.
There is a plan to add apartments (and also more offices) to Redmond Town Center similar to Northgate mall.
There’s a couple more meetings but basically looks like it already got approved (surprisingly little pushback)? and will start construction 2025.
Thanks WL, that is Redmond Town Center which has an interesting history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redmond_Town_Center
It looks like the Planning Commission recommended the rezone 3-2 but I didn’t see council approval. I reviewed the Seattle Times’ article on the planned development, which discusses the difficulties Redmond has in competing with other eastside retail areas. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/retail/as-the-regions-malls-fight-for-shoppers-redmond-town-center-may-get-new-owners/
The new owners purchased the property in 2019 for $192 million. The development plans to me look a lot more like office and some residential development rather than retail, which was common in 2019. It will be interesting to see if construction is begun by 2025. Fairbourne Properties is a private REIT, and non-traded private REIT’s are facing large redemption requests because the value of their holdings is declining so they are not investing much in new development until the new normal is better known. https://www.wealthmanagement.com/reits/redemption-requests-raise-eyebrows-non-traded-reits
“Wow. A little defensive eh?”
A little trolling. Sam says controversial things he probably doesn’t believe in order to start a flamewar.
I’m sure the thousands of people who already live in Redmond find it quite lovely. It doesn’t need to be a regional entertainment destination to be a vibrant neighborhood. There are plenty of people who want to be able to walk to work, the library, grocery store, etc. who also prefer to read a book and go to bed at 8pm most nights.
Plus, everyone knows all the good ethic food is down in Crossroads
Redmond is now almost 80,000 residents whereas Issaquah is 35,000 although Issaquah retail draws from Sammamish, North Bend, Snoqualmie, MI and any city on I-90 including Seattle.
Redmond is a nice suburban SFH city. Otherwise why live in such a remote area. The only knock on Redmond like Ballard is it is remote, but WFH has helped that. One would hope for better retail density and vibrancy in a city of 80,000 but that has never been a priority for Redmond.
It also goes to a point I have made before. There is only so much retail the Eastside can support, so if retail/commercial are not segregated and condensed you get little retail density which means retail vibrancy. Like Seattle.
When you look at the entire Eastside the walkable vibrant retail areas are few. Old Front St., Old Main St., Lincoln Sq./Bellevue Mall, Kirkland, then some more ad hoc areas like Factoria and Crossroads that other than the mall are not walkable.
It doesn’t really matter where on the Eastside the retail density is, especially for big box stores, you are likely going to drive there and park anyway. Redmond is too far to drive and Issaquah is right on I-90 so eastsiders drive there when many areas like Sammamish (80,000 residents) don’t want any retail/commercial. You just want all your retail needs in one area. It doesn’t matter if you drive because you can’t carry what you plan to purchase anyway unless you live alone and buy one day’s food at Costco.
The mixed use zoning concept rarely works, especially post pandemic. Urban Planners completely missed the fact different uses — commercial, retail and housing — have different profits for developers (or did pre-pandemic). So you ended up with commercial and housing wastelands without retail. Not very clever planners.
In these Eastside retail areas you need the SFH shoppers to thrive. That is why new development in Redmond will have massive retail parking, because so does every competing retail area. No doubt the investors, if the project continues in these times, demanded parking, rather than relying on 1300 Link boardings/day which is likely estimated high, in a city of 80,000.
The noisy residents and activists may have demanded less parking at Northgate for Link thinking they would get better bus service in exchange, but the mall itself will have lots and lots of customer parking, and will spend a fortune patrolling its parking lots for Link users who drove to Link and found the park and ride full. Next time they will likely just drive to their destination.
Eh, immediately around the station area I think most of the commercial traffic will be local pedestrians. A bit further afield , like the Costco & Target on the other side of the freeway, sure those will primarily draw regionally and therefore skew towards SH neighborhoods. But I’d wager the “mall” (specifically the super block between 164 & 166) probably get redeveloped into somethings that is mostly residential, maybe with some offices and ground floor retail. As the station areas builds out and parking becomes scarce (or more likely, remains abundant but is no longer free), businesses will evolve away from serving the SH homes and instead cater to the local residents.
In other words, downtown Redmond will probably have a retail ecosystem more like a Roosevelt or Kirkland (downtown) and less like a Northgate or Factoria. There will be no “mall,” in the suburban sense.
Redmond is a nice suburban SFH city. Otherwise why live in such a remote area.
Uh, you work at Microsoft? Seriously though, what do you think transformed the city? Someone took a job there, got tired of commuting a long distance, and ended up in Redmond. Obviously.
I kinda get what SLUer is saying. I don’t think downtown Redmond will ever be a regional destination. I don’t see many people from Seattle heading over there. In contrast, I think Kirkland is more interesting to walk around (just because of the lake) as is downtown Bellevue (because of its size). But to a certain extent, none of that matters. For those on the East Side it could very well be a destination. The same goes for people who work over there (and live in Seattle). With more and more people living there, people from the rest of the city will gravitate towards it (meeting people who live over there). A place doesn’t have to be at the level of Pike Place or Capitol Hill to be attractive to those in the area (or those who know someone in the area).
Right – Redmond Link extension is first about connecting Redmond residents first to Bellevue/Overlake and then onwards to the rest of the region. Secondarily it connects the region to Redmond, as there plenty of jobs & events (e.g. Redmond city business) for people to need to travel into Redmond. Thirdly, SE Redmond station operations as the suburban ‘terminus,’ as a transfer point for suburban bus routs and a large P&R to serve SH neighborhoods. Finally, it does connect to a regional destination – Marymoor Park! One of the biggest parks in the county and host of a number of big events like concerts that draw regional crowds.
“I don’t think downtown Redmond will ever be a regional destination. I don’t see many people from Seattle heading over there.”
That’s appropriate: Seattlites have to leap over Kirkland or Bellevue and go twice as far to get to Redmond. And both Kirkland and Bellevue are larger cities and more appropriately centrally-located. But Link isn’t just for mass trips to a few large cities, it’s for niche trips to smaller cities like Redmond too. That overlaps with Redmondites going to Bellevue or Seattle or SeaTac.
Exactly. When I do play dates, I prefer Kirkland or even Bel Red where I can at least get errands done. Redmond feels kind of eerily quiet yet dense? It’s also surprisingly spread out leading to. It much going on in any one corner.
5 years of MAX being built there was over $1 billion in development along it. Gresham is hardly a densely populated U District, but the downtown retail area is doing pretty well with MAX having been there some 37 years.
Of course, a lot depends on the details. MAX has had less of an impact on Beaverton because the stations are so hard to get to from the actual downtown Beaverton area. Gresham has an actual station in the core of its retail district, with the busy through highways south and north. In Beaverton, the two busy highways separate the MAX station from downtown.
I’ve only been to Redmond a few times, but it strikes me as more of a Beaverton than a Gresham: a bunch of busy roads with the vast majority of traffic trying to get through the area rather than aimed at generating any retail activity. The easy pedestrian access that happens in Ballard, Fremont, Gresham, Portland’s Hollywood, Capitol Hill, etc just doesn’t seem to exist there.
@Glenn — I would say that Downtown Redmond has fairly good pedestrian access, along with bits and pieces of old historical buildings. It strikes me as one of those “surprisingly interesting” places on the East Side, if you assume that all of the East Side is boring.
I do think the toughest thing is just that it is so far from Seattle. As Mike put it, folks from Seattle have to leap over Kirkland and downtown Bellevue to get there. Kirkland also has the waterfront, and downtown Redmond doesn’t have much from a natural standpoint. And yeah, the park does attract a handful of events, but I don’t see someone taking the train all the way out there to walk around Marymoor. I guess there is walking along the river, but that seems more like a bike thing. (By the way, from a biking standpoint, I see it as being very attractive.) In contrast, if there was a train to Discovery Park, it would get a few people for that reason (not that I’m saying one would be justified).
But again, that may not matter. It doesn’t have to be an outstanding station — just a pretty good one. The main reason to even have East Link is to connect to Downtown Bellevue and Microsoft. The other stations only have to pull their own weight, and not be a drag on the system. I think Downtown Redmond will be just fine. On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if the other station (SE Redmond) really struggles. We may look at the cost of the extension someday and think it wasn’t worth it, but if so, it will be mostly about that SE Redmond Station.
Brand new book: “The Great American Transit Disaster” about the decisions made 60-80 years ago to intentional degrade transit for auto infrastructure. Just saw this on the shelf at Elliott Bay Books.
“A potent re-examination of America’s history of public disinvestment in mass transit.”
The Great American Transit Disaster: A Century of Austerity, Auto-Centric Planning, and White Flight (Historical Studies of Urban America)
“Focusing on Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and San Francisco, Bloom provides overwhelming evidence that transit disinvestment was a choice rather than destiny. He pinpoints three major factors that led to the decline of public transit in the United States: municipal austerity policies that denied most transit agencies the funding to sustain high-quality service; the encouragement of auto-centric planning; and white flight from dense city centers to far-flung suburbs. “
Makes sense to me. We are still living with the ramifications of all three decisions. I would add a fourth: spending too much on poorly designed regional mass transit, not inner-city subways.
This follows from the other three. BART is the classic example. I don’t see how it is possible without auto-centric planning and white flight. No one in their right mind would have proposed it. This was an attempt to just live with the new system, rather than reverse it. Run the trains to these distant suburbs (while also spending a fortune on freeways). The thinking was that it would get people out of their cars. Of course it didn’t. Meanwhile, the urban areas got short shrifted. The transit that would have worked much better for them never got built. A big reason was that the urban areas were less white. Oakland got ripped off.
This didn’t happen everywhere in America, but it is quite common. Like all the various trends, there are exceptions, and nuance. Some cities had more auto-centric development than others, or experienced white flight to a great degree. But the sort of “expensive regional rail before good urban transit” is very common. Denver, Dallas, the Bay Area (from San Fransisco to San Jose) and now Seattle all share this basic problem. A disinvestment in the urban core, while spending way too much chasing a small handful of regional travelers (and largely failing to get them).
While I generally agree that these things have occurred, I think you are being a bit unfair singling out BART. First of all, BART has had stellar farebox revovery so it’s not as wasteful as say Denver’s or Dallas’ systems. Plus, BART paid for and built the Muni Metro tunnel, which created a much better urban rail system in San Francisco. Many BART destinations — Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, Hayward — were once streetcar suburbs anyway as far back as 1913. There was even an interurban that ran through the East Bay through Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Concord and BART uses some of that original right of way. When the core system was built, there were many voters who rued that Key System rail service was ending (1958) and BART was bringing it back (in development when the Key system stopped and voted into existence in 1957). It opened in 1971. It was not new; it was a replacement and the service gap was when it was being constructed.
It’s unlike a lot of other situations where there were several decades of no rail service in a corridor. BART was developed with the intent of replacing interurban services from the very beginning — and the SF part was also about making Muni Metro better.
The recent extension were built using funds from the county where they run. San Francisco did not vote for any local taxes for extensions to Pittsburg, Antioch, Dublin or East San Jose.
BART isn’t bad, but there are definitely a lot of suburban express focus. For example look at Oakland, the stop spacing there is 2 miles wide. The system is overly focused on bringing suburbanites into SF over being actually useful for Oakland residents.
> The recent extension were built using funds from the county where they run. San Francisco did not vote for any local taxes for extensions to Pittsburg, Antioch, Dublin or East San Jose.
That isn’t quite true. BART has focused spent all it’s (and federal funding) capital expenditures on far flung suburban expansions. Even now it is implementing an infill station at Irvington, while you can note the other infill projects in Oakland or San Francisco are ignored (Jack London, 30th Street).
Also for every suburban route it adds needs to run really long costing it a lot operationally. Which wouldn’t be too bad if they added apartments next to the suburban stations, but those cities just have vast parking lots instead (though that is slowly being corrected).
“BART is the classic example. I don’t see how it is possible without auto-centric planning and white flight.”
But BART is a mass transit system, and it makes it easier to get around without a car than in metros that don’t have anything comparable. Most of the disasterous changes had no transit at all: the expressways in Silicon Valley (which were chosen instead of BART or streetcars), six-lane stroads without crosswalks or sidewalks, etc. BART had more of a mixed effect, between transit and suburbanism. It’s not one of the worst examples or even a typical one.
(And BART did not cause sprawl as some allege: the sprawl was already there or was growing anyway, with or without BART.)
“spending way too much chasing a small handful of regional travelers (and largely failing to get them).”
I assume this means things like Link to the airport. The cost of that is tiny compared to all the excessive highway lanes, arterial lanes, parking lots, car ramps, dead open space around buildings, oversized buildings, etc, that our society has spent on car-centric development, plus the high energy consumption that development requires, and the healthcare costs of polluted air and water. High-capacity transit to airports is barely even a footnote compared to that.
“Spending too much on poorly designed regional mass transit, not inner-city subways. ”
It’s not one of the worst examples or even a typical one.
Probably not, but it was the first. It represented a major change in the way we build mass transit systems in America — a unique, and failed approach to mass transit spending. BART was massive. It had some urban pieces to it, but relatively little. As WL pointed out, the stop spacing in Oakland is atrocious. Brooklyn has 170 subway stations. Oakland has 9 (and one of those is the airport). Manhattan has 151 stations. San Fransisco has 8. Those are all on the single BART line that runs through city. I know folks in San Fransisco will say “Yeah, but there is Muni”, and sure, it does much of the work. But Muni is underfunded because BART is so poorly designed and gathered up so much of the money. Look at DC, and everyone points out how the subway managed to skip Georgetown (a valid complaint). Look at San Fransisco and the subway managed to skip most of the city. BART did connect East Bay with San Fransisco — this was essential, and bound to attract riders — but it did so in a very superficial (and yet expensive) way. This shouldn’t be so hard, but it is.
Look around the world and you won’t find many systems like this. They don’t build an “S-Bahn” until they build a “U-Bahn”. Even then there are some key differences. The S-Bahn outside the city leverages existing rail, saving a huge amount of money. BART did some of that, but still managed to have way too few stations (even inside the urban core). BART did something unusual, which is run a train inside the freeway envelope, which greatly increased the costs, while simultaneously creating stations that only make sense during rush hour (if that). In the city, there is nothing special either. Sure, you can credit it for building the tunnel that Muni uses, but it would have made way more sense to just build an integrated system with more coverage.
No, BART is not the worst example of poor transit planning in the United States (it isn’t even close). But it does have examples of everything that is wrong with this type of mass transit spending. There is a fundamental American arrogance that permeates the development. BART wasn’t trying to copy anyone — it was space age, and thus supposed to be better (it wasn’t). It spends way too much time focusing on the distant suburbs instead of thoroughly covering the urban core. It has way too many stations in the freeway envelope and way too few in the city.
As a result, it hasn’t dramatically changed the city, or the way that it develops. Look at that spot I picked in Oakland. I chose it because it was between two stations and yet clearly inside the city. As you get closer to the tracks (for BART) you see that it becomes increasingly auto-oriented. Given the lack of transit investment, this is understandable. Thus even though this represents a massive expenditure in transit — reversing the post-war trend — it also represents an embrace of everything that those changes wrought. It represents defeat in urban planning — it is giving up on the idea that for most of the city and most of the trips, people will ride transit.
And it wasn’t cheap. Like so many American projects, we spent a bundle, and got very little, simply because we decided to do things differently. That is why it represents the fourth phase. Sure, there are areas that will never be able to evolve to be anything but an auto-dependent city because they spend too little on transit. But spending too much on stupid projects will result in much the same outcome.
“[BART] represented a major change in the way we build mass transit systems in America”
If you look narrowly at hybrid S/U-Bahn type lines. But compared to all the large transportation projects in the US between 1960 and 2023, BART is in the top 25% at least. It’s the total transportation network that affects people’s mobility choices. The problem in the US is not the small handful of hybrid S/U-Bahn type lines, but the much larger lack of regional rail, metro rail, and comprehensive bus service around them. That’s not because of the hybrid lines, it’s because of the lack of interest in building the other stuff.
Ross, you are ignoring my two key points to counter your comment:
1. BART was mostly a replacement transit service and not a new idea.
2. BART built the Muni Metro tunnel for SF. Not just the four stations that have both systems set up for transferring, but also Van Ness, Church and Castro. BART may have 8 stops in SF, but SF transit would be horrible without that Muni Metro tunnel under Market St.
Sure there are valid criticisms about BART station spacing. Still, BART did lots of good things for transit in SF that you are ignoring.
But compared to all the large transportation projects in the US between 1960 and 2023, BART is in the top 25% at least.
But that is my point! Again, I’m not saying BART is worse than those. I’m saying BART is a classic example. The fact that it is in “the top 25%” just shows how terrible we are at building mass transit in this country. DC is the exception, but rather than focus on that, we seem to be busy mimicking the worst problems with BART. As Dan Ryan pointed out in this excellent post just nine stations between San Francisco and Berkeley account for half of all rider on/offs. It shouldn’t be that way.
Look at it this way. Vancouver is tiny compared to San Fransisco. San Fransisco has way more people, and way more people living in dense areas. And yet before the pandemic, SkyTrain carried more riders! That is crazy. SkyTrain is expanding, and will soon have way more than BART and (the trains of Muni) combined! Why? Because it is simply a much better system.
The problem in the US is not the small handful of hybrid S/U-Bahn type lines, but the much larger lack of regional rail, metro rail, and comprehensive bus service around them. That’s not because of the hybrid lines, it’s because of the lack of interest in building the other stuff.
But they go together. If you spend a fortune building a poor system, you can’t build the things you need to build. Other cities won’t be inspired to follow. It is easy to blame America’s poor transit use on lack of investment, but there are plenty of very bad, poorly designed systems in the post-war period that are as much to blame.
As to your points Al:
>> 1. BART was mostly a replacement transit service and not a new idea.
So what? The regional streetcars were long gone before they built BART. They basically started from scratch, and could build anything. The standard approach would be to build a thorough mass transit system in the urban core*, with connections to the suburbs. Leverage existing rail when possible for regional service, otherwise just run buses. They did the opposite, and spent way too much on running lines to distant suburbs, and way too little on stations (and lines) in the urban core.
>> 2. BART built the Muni Metro tunnel for SF.
That is nice, but it misses the point. Overall, BART is not an urban system, and the tiny amount spent on Muni doesn’t make up for that. The Bay Area shouldn’t have built something like BART. It should have built something like the DC Metro. Way more stops (and lines) in San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley. The pieces of BART and Muni that are really successful would simply be part of a similar, very extensive network (with way more stops in East Bay. This is the standard way to build a metro. Yet San Fransisco — like so many cities after them — just skipped this part. The result is a system that is not cost effective, leaving the buses (often stuck in traffic) to do way too much of the work (and people driving as a result).
It is very difficult to reverse the decisions of the past that lead to the sprawl, and auto-oriented cities. But somehow Canada is doing it, bit by bit, while most of America just diddles around with pointless streetcars, or extremely expensive mass transit systems that represent the worst lessons of BART.
* I keep writing “urban core” instead of “the city” because Oakland and Berkeley are very much part of it. Antioch and San Jose are not.
“But that is my point! Again, I’m not saying BART is worse than those. I’m saying BART is a classic example. The fact that it is in “the top 25%” just shows how terrible we are at building mass transit in this country.”
But you’re focusing on BART as a poster child of what’s wrong. To me BART isn’t what’s wrong; it’s a mediocre example of what’s right. What’s wrong is those expressways in Silicon Valley, three north-south freeways in the East Bay, that gigantic 80-580-880 interchange in Oakland that dwarfs anything in San Francisco, lack of widespread BRT where BART doesn’t go, the Cross-Base and Spokane freeway projects here, six-lane unsafe arterials, large areas with only hourly buses, lack of night owls, rural towns with only one or two buses a day or even zero, etc. Complaining that BART isn’t as good as the DC Metro or the Berlin U-Bahn/S-Bahn network seems like focusing on a minor thing. Yes, BART should be better, but that’s only 1% of the problem. Not having BART or Link wouldn’t make all those other transit things appear; it would just leave people with significantly less non-car mobility.
“But somehow Canada is doing it, bit by bit,”
And The Netherlands. It turned toward cars in the 1950s, and away from cars in the 1970s.
“while most of America just diddles around with pointless streetcars, or extremely expensive mass transit systems that represent the worst lessons of BART.”
That’s not the fault of those systems. It’s a much larger issue. it’s a failure to see that the problem exists, or how it’s making people suffer, and hindering the economy from its potential.
The ultimate dog of a light rail system in California VTA light rail.
And across, as I explained above, the BART district was approved by voters the year before the Key system stopped running. It clearly was seen as a replacement. It wasn’t “years after”.
Sure it started running 14 years after the Key system stopped — because it takes time to design and build tunnels under SF Bay as well as a double decker subway system under Market St in Downtown SF as well as under Broadway in Downtown Oakland.
You can’t dispute a timeline.
> the encouragement of auto-centric planning;
One of the largest items was the rise of parking minimums that basically enforced low density only.
> The transit that would have worked much better for them never got built. A big reason was that the urban areas were less white. Oakland got ripped off.
I’m kinda surprised Oakland never added the infill stations with their 2 mile station stop spacing.
> . But the sort of “expensive regional rail before good urban transit” is very common.
Yeah I always disliked how much focus there is on park-and-rides. Even the official transit maps showcase park and rides over the destinations one can reach at the stations.
As someone who does not own a car but has lived in suburbs on and off, I can relate very well to the annoyance of that park-and-ride focus. I would much rather see that money invested in better local service, ideally in the form of shorter, directed hub-and-spoke model routes within each suburb that take you to park-and-rides, rather than building ever bigger parking lots near freeways that connect to ST Express/Stride/Link stations. But it does seem to be what many people who live in suburbs want.
I think that Daniel makes a good point about the challenge in suburbs, though – that first leg of a likely 3-leg ride has to be convenient, otherwise people won’t use it. Daniel’s examples often focus on the challenges of providing such service on MI – where there are only three N-S roads, the driveways along the edges are long and steep, etc. But equally challenging are providing good service in, I don’t know… new Bothell subdivisions, for example, east of Hwy 527, with many cul-de-sacs and non-direct roads to the main (and often busy) Bothell-Everett Highway. I know that providing a good grid in such places doesn’t pan out financially – but it also feels like the current service is infeasible for all who cannot afford the time delays – which, in practice, means students, the elderly, and the otherwise unemployed (not meaning this as a diss, just an observation of a problem with at least SnoCo local routes). Granted I haven’t had to use those routes since before the pandemic – perhaps it’s different now.
Anonymouse, I don’t think eastsiders LIKE to use park and rides. They wanted to live on the Eastside for several reasons. but they were required to commute to Seattle that has very expensive parking. The partners and executives drove and parked at work, but not staff level.
Now they don’t have to, so the park and rides that once were full by 7 am are mostly empty. Better for everyone.
You are correct it is nearly impossible to provide first/last mile access to SFH zones on the Eastside. The benefit of a park and ride is the user pays for the vehicle, maintenance, gas and driver.
I doubt eastsiders even pre-pandemic would take a bus to catch Link even if forced to commute to Seattle. They will either WFH, change jobs. drive to a park and ride that serves Link, or demand a one seat bus from a park and ride like the 630 and 554.
It is a mistake for transit advocates and urbanists to think you can make folks do what that dislike doing. First they limited parking in urban areas so we got Uber and Door Dash that are killing urban transit. Then it was unpleasant work commutes on transit so we got WFH. No one on the Eastside WANTS to have to use a park and ride or feeder bus or Link. If the park and ride at Northgate were 1500 stalls it would be full, but transit advocates want to punish people for using transit and then seem amazed the market finds non-transit alternatives.
For decades folks have been claiming population growth on the Eastside or Link would “urbanize” the Eastside, despite an estimated 1300 daily boardings in downtown Redmond that has 80,000 residents. It never happens. Why? Because they don’t WANT to urbanize, just like they don’t want to commute on transit without being compensated for that time. It isn’t why they moved to suburbia, and they love suburbia. You couldn’t give them a condo on Capitol Hill.
As long as transit advocates want to make transit as miserable as possible despite the loss of the peak transit slave folks will find alternatives. Telling eastsiders to walk miles to catch a bus to catch a train that likely isn’t going where they want to go or move to an apartment along a bus corridor because their transit treatises say that is what you do, pre-pandemic, just doesn’t work today.
“One of the largest items was the rise of parking minimums that basically enforced low density only.”
It does allow medium density. Parking minimums are why Los Angeles is medium density like downtown Bellevue, compared to high-density Mahattan.
“I doubt eastsiders even pre-pandemic would take a bus to catch Link even if forced to commute to Seattle.”
Saturday on the 550 westbound at 7pm, eight people got on at Mercer Island. Several had soccer scarves or jackets so they were going to a game. If they’ll take the 550, all the more they’ll take Link. Especially with Link being more frequent and reliable and having evening frequency, which is a deterrent to riding the 550.
“Because they don’t WANT to urbanize”
Yet Redmond and Bellevue are urbanizing right before your eyes, at least in some districts. Those Amazon offices you say Bellevue scooped up from Seattle, guess what they are. Highrises next to a future subway station in a downtown. Bellevue and Redmond are growing by becoming more like Seattle.
“Telling eastsiders to walk miles to catch a bus to catch a train that likely isn’t going where they want to go.”
That’s not the point. Of course people in outer Issaquah or Juanita will drive to a P&R, and they won’t likely take transit if they’re going to Factoria or Bothell. The Link/Stride/bus network is primarily for lower-hanging fruit. A larger number of people live closer to a Link station or have a bus route going their direction, or will when the plans are completed. Mercer Island Station is not a failure simply because Islanders drive to it from their remote house. Of course they drive to it, because bus routes rarely exist, and you mentioned the steep hills to driveways, and the lack of a Metro Flex network, and they’re disproportionately rich. But other people are making trips that Link/Stride/Metro can reasonable serve. That’s the low-hanging fruit we’re trying to improve service to.
Mike, 7 Islanders catching the 550 to a soccer game hardly justifies East Link, which won’t be any quicker than the 550 on Saturday evening. And my guess is these folks drove to the park and ride to catch the 550 rather than another feeder bus to MI, which was my point.
If 7 Islanders going to a soccer game on Saturday night on the 550 is indicative of Eastside ridership on East Link — and I think it is — ST’s ridership estimates pre-pandemic it is sticking to today like the project cost estimates for DSTT2 are going to be three times higher than actual ridership.
If money grew on trees, and I guess it does to some respects in the E KC subarea, I guess spending billions to build Link to pick up 7 soccer fans on Saturday night from one of the most popular park and rides for the 550 that will get to the station at the same time might make sense, but personally I can think of much better places to spend those billions with very little reduction in levels of transit service compared with the buses today, especially with their low ridership.
Same with WSBLE. But I understand some transit advocates like Seattle Subway think any transit or tunnel no matter how high the dollar per rider mile is better than no transit, or any other social need just like any other special interest vying for tax funding. I think part of that is tax revenue has grown so rapidly (in 2016 state expenditures were $40 billion while in 2023 it will be $70 billion) folks forget what budget priorities are, or that tax revenue is limited until cuts are required like in 2014, and probably 2023 at the local level.
“7 Islanders catching the 550 to a soccer game hardly justifies East Link,”
That was one off-peak run at a minor station. We’re not building East Link just for that.
“which won’t be any quicker than the 550 on Saturday evening.”
Yes it will. I rode the 550 one or more times a week for six months last year. Travel time between 5th & Union and Bellevue TC was 30-45 minutes. Link is expected to be 20-25 minutes. On Saturday I expected the bus to be 30 minutes, but due to moderate traffic congestion it took 35.
But even then, the purpose of Link isn’t the modestly faster travel time. It’s the greater frequency and many more destinations along the line. Routes like the 545 and 550 can’t serve all those destinations and keep up their travel time and reliability. ST is unwilling to run express buses as frequently as Link. And buses don’t have the capacity to absorb usage spikes when they occur. Like the times I’ve taken the 550 westbound Sunday evening and it was standing room only.
I’d disagree: to me “municipal austerity policies” is a symptom, not a cause, of the transit ridership death spiral. And auto-centricity is not just planning but also investments: Federal “Urban Renewal” spending on urban freeways was catastrophic to transit ridership; it didn’t matter if cities could run frequent bus networks, buses still couldn’t compete with freely flowing freeways. So ridership dropped, fare revenue dropped, and cities & counties shifted spending elsewhere … and then when congestion arose, the response was to expand freeway capacity, not transit capacity.
And auto-centric land planning planning is just as important as auto-centric transportation planning. FOD (freeway oriented development), technology such as cul-de-sacs, suburban malls, and tract detached housing, is an essential part of the story, The author may bundle these suburban policy decisions under “white flight,” but that misses that fact that 1. suburbs are rapidly become more diverse and are viewed as desirable by planners of all races, and 2. auto-centric planning dominates in Africa and SE Asia.
FOD is a big reason BART failed to reach it’s potential. Here I disagree with Ross – to me, BART is a very reasonable regional rail system, and its suburban ridership is far more impacted by land use decisions in the 15 minute walkshed of its stations than if only it had built a modestly better system. Most of the stations are generally exactly where you’d want them, but the land use in cities like Berkley and SF (notably in the Mission) has completely failed to respond to the appearance of HCT. SF, one of the wealthiest cities in the world and a cities that runs its own rail & bus network, has only itself to blame for failing to improve it’s urban transit system. BART is not a cause of decades of auto-centric SFMTA decision making, even if BART & SFMTA make simillar mistakes (since they exist in the same political-regional system)
“three major factors that led to the decline of public transit in the United States: municipal austerity policies that denied most transit agencies the funding to sustain high-quality service; the encouragement of auto-centric planning; and white flight from dense city centers to far-flung suburbs.”
And large direct subsidies for highways, parking, oil/gas infrastructure, other costs of having a car, traffic police, federally-insured mortgages for only suburban greenfield white developments, the mortgage-interest deduction, making walkable development illegal in most areas, etc. All that is not just “encouraging” auto-centric planning; it’s putting a thumb on the scale. And it’s the direct opposite of “funding high-quality transit service”, because money from existing transit services was redirected to it.
Generally agree, except “federally-insured mortgages for only suburban greenfield white developments” – I don’t think the part about greenfield was ever true. Urban neighborhoods were not redlined per se, just ‘undesirable’ neighborhoods – hence the need to draw red lines around poor/minority neighborhoods. If you lived in a wealthy inner-city neighborhood I think you’ve always had access to FHA subsidies?
It wasn’t just yes/no; there were several rating levels. Greenfield developments tended to score higher than infill.
167 Master Plan:
1. As conceptually attractive as direct access ramps are, they seem impractical for bus service. They aren’t proposed as freeway stations, and the transit hubs along the corridor are off the freeway. Plus, the HOT ramps get congested for several hours. To add in direct access ramps is a very costly thing. Either they need to be enhanced with bus or HOV connections to the existing transit hubs from those ramps, or the costs of those ramps need to be spent elsewhere. Note too that there is no direct access ramp proposed at S180th / S 43rd (between Ikea and Valley Med Center) which seems the best interchange in the corridor to have an inline 167 bus stop. A better approach would have been to propose a new Stride route and then seeing how 167 changes could enhance the route. Proposing the direct access ramps without a service in mind is completely backwards from a transit route planning standpoint.
2. While a grade separation at Grady Way is a great idea, the geometrics look pretty awful because the 405 interchange is so close. The only way I see to do this is to either put a flyover just for Grady Way through traffic (a SPUI or DDI with signaling remaining Rainier Ave) or to put all of the ramps north of Grady Way (which would be precluded by the new South Renton TC parking garage). Then on top of that the layout for bus routing is being done as an afterthought. It’s really too bad that the politics has coalesced around a terrible location for the South Renton TC (excessive congestion at that key intersection) because non-bus riders are planning it. It seems more cost effective to figure out how to build a grade-separated busway around Downtown Renton that serves the TC and directly connects to the 405 HOT lanes. A final comment about this intersection is that pedestrian activity will grow between Walmart and the South Renton TC and there is nothing discussed on how to make that safer.
Which HOT ramps get congested? I’m more familiar with the ones on 405, which seem to flow well.
> 1. As conceptually attractive as direct access ramps are, they seem impractical for bus service. They aren’t proposed as freeway stations, and the transit hubs along the corridor are off the freeway.
All of the SR 167 plans include adding a new express toll lanes which would limit cars. I do agree the direct access ramp locations are a bit odd, though it does look much much cheaper to construct with the locations chosen. For instance they’ve chosen one at James Street https://goo.gl/maps/U87vUGtfFYQqoKrZA. It looks they just need to widen the bridge slightly then add 4 ramps in the middle.
The S 43rd St one (near ikea) is much harder as they’ll either need to build some flying over pass to SW 41st st or probably need to reconstruct the sw 43rd/S180th Street bridge to move the bridge columns.
They did discuss adding a BRT service to SR 167 from Puyallup to Renton though it is hidden away in some presentation They did analyze that most of the transit ridership would be north of the SR 18 (Federal way/Auburn and north of it).
* Puyallup to S Renton from 75~85 minutes to 55~65 minutes (with express lanes)
* Kent East Hill to Kent-Des Moines Link station from ~40 minutes to ~35 minutes.
> While a grade separation at Grady Way is a great idea, the geometrics look pretty awful because the 405 interchange is so close
Yeah, I’m not sure if their idea will work with the partial elevation, but I guess it’s interesting. With the “provide grade separation of one eastbound and one westbound lane of Grady Way South over SR167” it’ll be similar to the one at South Center.
Grade separating the through movements on Grady does indeed set the stage for a SPUI.
Still, ignoring pedestrians between a large retail store that promotes inexpensive products and a regional transit center is rather stupid. People will cross Rainier Ave there!
The other day, a commenter called a north Seattle landlord a slumlord because he rented his numerous, very dilapidated, poorly maintained, old houses, to people for well-below market rents. However, a Stranger article said many of his tenants loved him because he charged very low rents. But, people in the neighborhood, and at the City, weren’t crazy about how neglected his houses were. So, I got to wondering what became his homes. I’m not about to do an in-depth investigation, but I did check out a couple of his former properties.
On an arial map, it looks like one of his former run-down rental homes that was mentioned in an article during that time, is now a parking lot (maybe something’s been built on the plot since the satellite photo was taken). And, then another property of his, which is very near 15th and 65th, used to be a run-down old single family rental house (Streetview 2008 shows the house), is today a 13-unit apartment building.
My question to everyone is, which is better on a single parcel … A very run-down and poorly maintained single family home, whose rooms are rented out at very below market rents (I believe the landlord rented out multiple bedrooms in a single home. Not positive about that, though). OR …. Is it better to demolish the old house, and build a small apartment in its place? Let’s assume the apartments rent for market rate.
Very cheap rents for a few people in a dump of a house vs Market rate rents for a few more people in a new apartment building?
Weren’t the old SROs also often somewhat shabby? So in some sense places like that were like the old SROs, but in a different location.
What’s “better” depends on who has interest in the matter, though. For people who got displaced, perhaps they are not better off. For those who now live in the newly built market-rate apartments, perhaps this is better. For those in the neighborhood who hated the eye sore, and just wanted more density, perhaps the new situation is better, too. In the long run, if enough such places are built, perhaps the remaining cheaper rent places will be once again free for those who were displaced to rent again, seems to be the general belief.
Why should people have to choose between the two. That’s like the practice of having little transit or walkability in Kent East Hill or Renton, but then if you add it they’ll gentrify and price the residents out, so some people say we should leave them as is. But is leaving people in awful conditions really a good choice? Sisley’s buildings weren’t average run-down houses; they were condemned as uninhabitable.
Of the Sisley lots I’ve noticed, several were bulldozed and replaced with open lawns. Some became multistory apartments. I don’t know if all the lawns are developed yet. I don’t know of a lot that turned into a parking lot. Maybe there is one, or maybe the aerial view is ambiguous.
I don’t think that you can compare run-down, borderline uninhabitable, buildings with housing in East Hill or Renton. That is at best classist and at worst an example of Seattle-centric view that anything that’s not in Seattle is bad, and I know that you don’t mean it that way. I know you didn’t even really “say” it that way – but it is, in my humble (and do emphasize humble) opinion, a bad analogy to make just the same, when you talk about “leaving people in awful conditions”, because even someone prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, as I tend to be, was able to misread it on the first skim of your post. Now imagine how it will be viewed by people with a bone to pick. In my (again) humble opinion, it will be viewed as considering living in Kent East Hill as living in “awful conditions”, and while many people who prefer Capitol Hill to Kent will in fact think so for themselves, the people living in East Hill may very well not think so.
I’m sorry if this comes across as moralizing; it probably is, but I think it’s out of having good intentions, and if that road takes me to Hell… what can I say :)
But why would a private developer build a new apartment building and charge rents that are well below market? If I build a new apt building, I’m not going to price the rent the same as if I’m renting someone a room in a run-down old house.
I didn’t mean my question to be a commentary on the state housing today. I just wondered, in a very specific example, which is better. I suppose it does ultimately come down to inhabitability and safety, as you said. But, if any of the houses were technically inhabitable, but everyone just complained they were an eyesore and a dump, I’d side with letting the houses stay.
I shouldn’t have put Sisleyville in the same paragraph with Kent East Hill and Renton; their problems are a a different kind. I think about it in terms of what it would be like to live there. That has nothing to do with class because everybody is affected the same by the physical geography and the range of destinations.
What I specifically don’t like in Kent East Hill and Renton is transit is minimal and it takes forever to get to any substantial destination. On top of that, the businesses are mostly one-story with surface parking lots. It’s like the Eastside was in the 1970s. The nearest significant destinations are Southcenter, Bellevue, Seattle, and the north Kent industrial jobs. All of them take a long time to get to from the eastern half of Renton and Kent where most of the residents live, and the transit network doesn’t do much to mitigate that.
That kind of land use wasn’t designed for lower-income people. It was designed for people who could easily drive everywhere and could afford to live anywhere but chose to live there. Now it’s where people live who can’t afford more convenient areas.
Sisleyville’s problem was refusing to maintain the houses.
“But why would a private developer build a new apartment building and charge rents that are well below market?”
They wouldn’t. That’s why we need policies that would keep the regionwide market rate more in line with incomes, like they were in the 1960s and 1990s. Allow small apartment buildings in areas within a mile or two of an urban village. Build enough housing to match the population growth and job growth. Make more neighborhoods walkable, so that there isn’t such a price premium on walkable neighborhoods. Streamline the permitting process so that it doesn’t take years and lots of fees to get permission to build, and don’t let nimby neighbors have an effective veto. Explore different tax options like a tax on land rather than real estate (land+building), a tax on vacant units, a tax on the gap between the current use and zoning maximum (especially surface parking lots), etc. Have more land trusts that sell houses inexpensively on condition that future resales will also be inexpensive. Reduce parking minimums. And the cities could probably come up with a lot more ideas if they put their minds to it and prioritized it.
I find it to be a false dilemma as Mike noted, though with a slightly different conclusion. I mean why is it assumed only ‘poor areas’ can be upzoned or rebuilt so easily? (I’m talking beyond just Seattle, but all American cities).
If there are concerns about upzoning and displacement — then have more upzonings in richer neighborhoods then rather than only in areas that will not politically fight back against building denser housing.
For a concrete example look at San Francisco recent upzoning. California’s new housing element rules require that upzonings happen in ‘rich’ areas as well.
> San Francisco’s housing element must plan for 82,000 units between 2023 and 2031, 46,000 of which need to be affordable to low- and moderate-income residents. In addition, the element must create a blueprint for “fair housing,” which means that a significant amount of the new residential development must occur in “well-resourced” neighborhoods where discrimination and zoning rules have historically combined to keep out newcomers — especially people of color — and new buildings.
I am curious how they plan to enforce “a significant amount of the new residential development must occur in “well-resourced” neighborhoods” – like, say they upzone everything uniformly but 80% of the development happens in not well-resourced neighborhoods. What is the recourse? Downzone some of the less well-resourced neighborhoods? Upzone the others even more? Cut funding for the city? Deny permits until the proportion matches the target? If so, over what period of time must the balance take place?
Perhaps the answer is in the link, and if so please feel free to tell me to RTFL(aw) :) But I figured I’d ask in case someone who’s already read it can summarize.
How can it be a false dilemma if it’s something that actually happened? I’m not making up that there was a dilapidated old house that rented out rooms for well below market rates, neighbors complained, and it was demolished and replaced with a new apt building.
> How can it be a false dilemma if it’s something that actually happened? I’m not making up that there was a dilapidated old house that rented out rooms for well below market rates, neighbors complained, and it was demolished and replaced with a new apt building.
At least the way it was presented, you are semi-implying that new apartment buildings can only be built over low-rent old residential buildings displacing low-income residents — but that isn’t necessarily true. I hardly think it was a coincidence that the approvals for these apartment buildings went through relatively quickly. For a different example in Seattle in a rich neighborhood, look at Wallingford where the housing construction there has quickly been stopped through calls of historical preservation instead. Or for that matter how in the past SRO’s rules were changed to make building student housing harder.
It’s a bit more complicated, to simplify basically California has implemented state guidelines forcing all cities to upzone more housing, otherwise their zoning can become partially void allowing builders to build anything (ignoring design concerns not safety regulations). The housing elements (Seattle calls it Comprehensive Plan) the cities’ submit also cannot just shove all the new housing into disadvantaged neighborhoods as was done in the past and upzone rich neighborhoods as well. By default the Californian cities would love to not approve new housing and only approve offices/retail.
> What is the recourse? Downzone some of the less well-resourced neighborhoods? Upzone the others even more? Cut funding for the city? Deny permits until the proportion matches the target?
It’s a bit of an odd situation as the cities’ control their zoning completely so the state is using carrot and stick to try getting them to change their zoning. But yes the state is planning on limiting funding if the cities’ cannot upzone appropriately.
> If so, over what period of time must the balance take place?
The housing element’s are over a period of 8 years. Though after the 8 years thats when the next set of building housing starts.
“I mean why is it assumed only ‘poor areas’ can be upzoned or rebuilt so easily”
Because richer areas have the political clout to block it. Look at Magnolia, Madison Park, West Seattle, Surrey Downs, and Clyde Hill. The clout is structural: suburbs and microburbs are separately incorporated and control their own zoning. In Australia, cities essentially annex their greenfield peripheral neighborhoods, rather than becoming an ever-smaller part of the metropolitan area. Toronto consolidated four cities into one. Various kinds of neighborhood groups and design-review boards and homeowners’ associations have effective veto power over projects, and those are mostly in richer areas. And the state doesn’t help: it allows the structure to be like this.
“there was a dilapidated old house that rented out rooms for well below market rates, neighbors complained, and it was demolished and replaced with a new apt building.”
There were around a dozen houses, and it was several years between the complaints, the condemnations, and the new apartment buildings. You’re focusing on the price as if that’s the main point, when it was the lack of maintenance and resulting hazards that was the main point. Sisley didn’t have crap buildings because he wanted to be kind to low-income people. He had crap buildings because he was a miser and treated his tenants poorly, and he couldn’t charge market rate in those conditions. What he was waiting for was an upzone so he could make a killing on the land, and he wasn’t willing to maintain his houses in the meantime.
The reality is surrounding property owners love gentrification, especially if new construction is high end and displaces run down housing that houses low income folks. It is disingenuous to argue otherwise. The city also likes new construction because it is exempt from the 1% cap on annual increases to the levy and generates lots of construction sales tax revenue.
The poorer the city or neighborhood the more surrounding property owners and city councils like to see new construction replace older housing. Look at Columbia City compared to what it is replacing. Or The Central District. We on MI have been waiting for years for some of our old town center multi-family housing to be replaced with swanky mixed use condos and hopefully a high end wine bar or restaurant on the street level, but the turn in the market likely means that is years off.
Builders buy low and hopefully sell high. There is a base cost per sf for new construction, but the real profit is in high end neighborhoods with high end construction, but the nut if building on spec is much higher, and buying “low” in these areas is getting harder and harder.
Instead it is poorer areas where gentrification is ripe, whether Harlem or S. Seattle. The migration in this area is south, although those are hard working class towns. Mike wonders why they don’t have more transit. Because they don’t work in an office, start work at 7, and need tools and a truck. If they own their housing they love gentrification.
Some on this blog argue gentrification in a city with an AMI of $115,000 and past population growth is as inevitable as the tide and more and more I agree with them. It looks like vacancy rates in Seattle are rising but if AMI remains high so will housing costs, just like the sale of luxury autos will stay strong. If vacancy rates climb too high builders will stop building and see how the dust settles, but they won’t start building cheap housing without public subsidies. They will just stop gentrifying cheap existing housing.
If they can get a bank loan, and right now they can’t at any interest rate.
As I like to say, my house cat can zone. Building and finding the financing that will earn investors a profit commensurate with the risk is the pro game, and right now this area looks overbuilt and the population growth estimates wildly inflated. So give it a few years of little construction to see the new normal.
“The reality is surrounding property owners love gentrification,”
That is contradicted by their adversion to condos or apartment buildings in their neighborhood. They pretend that new apartment buildings will turn their middle-class neighborhood into crime-ridden, drug-infested war zones with tenants that will trash their yards and not contribute to the community and will lower their property values, like some bad 1970s movie, when that has not happened anywhere in Pugetopolis for over thirty years.
So developers build the only thing that is allowed: a larger house. That doesn’t help the housing problem because it replaces one family with one family, and the new family is inevitably richer.
“especially if new construction is high end and displaces run down housing that houses low income folks.”
There are few houses that meet that definition.
“The city also likes new construction because it is exempt from the 1% cap on annual increases to the levy and generates lots of construction sales tax revenue.”
Again that’s contradicted by the requirement to keep 70-80% of the land single-family only, with only a minimal concession to 2/4-plexes. If they allow multifamily housing to be built, each unit will cost less than a house to the purchaser, but the aggregate profit on all units be higher, and the tax benefit to the city will be higher.
“The poorer the city or neighborhood the more surrounding property owners and city councils like to see new construction replace older housing.”
Again that’s contradicted by restrictive zoning. The only construction they want to see are a low-density house replacing another low-density house. They might as well just maintain and renovate the existing house.
“We on MI have been waiting for years for some of our old town center multi-family housing to be replaced with swanky mixed use condos and hopefully a high end wine bar or restaurant on the street level, but the turn in the market likely means that is years off.”
Again restrictive zoning is one of the things that deters developers. Those lots are probably limited to three stories.
“There is a base cost per sf for new construction, but the real profit is in high end neighborhoods with high end construction,”
Because the price is not really related to construction costs. It’s mostly in the land due to location, and the scarcity of units in desirable neighborhoods. And they install gratuitous granite countertops and other luxury finishes, for the same reason McDonald’s sells french fries and soft drinks: because they’re high profit margin items. And that just raises the price and makes it even less affordable.
It has even reached the point that those luxury finishes and the whole building are crap and won’t last: they just have to look good for the initial sale. Because too many buyers are still falling for that.
“Mike wonders why they don’t have more transit. Because they don’t work in an office, start work at 7, and need tools and a truck.”
I’m talking about people who are currently taking buses to college or working-class jobs or shopping. Yes they are taking transit, and many can’t afford a car, or if they drive it’s a cost-burden on them and they only do it because they have no better alternative. The cost of housing is part of it: it’s hard to spend $7000 a year on car maintenance when your rent is high. Frequent transit would help a lot.
“If they own their housing they love gentrification.”
If they own their housing we don’t have to be concerned about them, because by definition they could afford any less-expensive house/condo and a very wide range of apartments, yet they’re choosing this house. What we should be concerned about is people who can’t afford to own, are cost-burdened with current housing costs, and would like to live in a more convenient neighborhood like several in Seattle but can’t afford it.
“right now this area looks overbuilt and the population growth estimates wildly inflated.”
Only if you think 10% year-on-year growth in housing costs is normal. The additional housing is not even for future population growth, it’s to address pent-up demand now. Demand that those growth estimates don’t include.
WL: Thank you, very comprehensive explanation. It seems relatively well thought out in theory, at least, given your explanation – we’ll have to see how well it works out in practice. I guess what I am getting at is – the cities may upzone uniformly but developers will likely still go for lower cost options first, hence my concern about the practical effect of the “stick” without a carrot for developers (not the cities).
Mike: I thought that this had come up before but I will mention it again. Toronto amalgamation merged 6 cities (not 4) into one, the 6 cities were not all uniformly rich (Scarborough in particular was fairly low income and ethnically very diverse), the benefits were not entirely clear for a long time and even now there is rancor across the different zones. There was an attempt to redistrict across zones to make the electoral districts more evenly spread and this was viewed by Scarborough residents as an attempt to dilute their already reduced impact on both city-level elections (since post-amalgamation they no longer control their destiny) and (now) provincial elections. I believe that this latest change proposal was reverted, after arguments not unlike what we saw with ST3/DSTT2 and CID. There were also debates about whether the Scarborough RT replacement line was well thought out given that it is replacing 6 (I think) stops with a streamlined route with only two, or maybe now three, stops (note that this is a separate project from the Ontario Line which has been mentioned here more recently).
Point being, I would not give Toronto as an example of how to do amalgamation right; the poor cities’ residents certainly did not uniformly think so. It is also worth noting that this was driven into being by a fairly heavy fisted process from a provincial government which did not have a good track record of doing well by its people (the removal of welfare and other such examples also come to mind; as does, I believe, the sale of the toll rights for one of the tolled freeways to a for-profit corporation for something like 100 years out). But from outside it is easy to believe it was the right thing.
Thank you, Mike, for having the patience to refute each of DT’s misconceptions each time he repeats them.
Great news. A new apt building is almost complete in dt Kirkland on Lake St. It’s called Vela. Pre 2008, it was a World Wrapps, a parking lot, and a one story building with some assorted businesses. Later, it became a parking lot and outdoor dining area. And now, finally, we have some much-needed multifamily housing coming to the area. Rent start at $2200 for a studio, and go up to $13,950/month.
Sam, I assume you are being facetious about the “good news” because the starting rents range from $2200 to $13,950/mo. for the Vela. But the 2300 new apartments built near U Village had starting rent rates from $2000 to $6000/mo. Considering Kirkland has a relatively higher AMI than the U District, and the $13,950/mo. unit is a penthouse outlier, the starting rents are similar and really not surprising.
The real good news is vacancy rates in Seattle are ticking up. 5.5% is still a little low, but with layoffs in the tech industry (which an article in yesterday’s Wall St. Journal noted is making many tech workers who have not been laid off reevaluate their careers and where they live) and new apartments coming on the market I could see vacancy rates increasing to 6%, which is significant from a supply/demand analysis, although that is always neighborhood influenced.
Of course, Seattle like many areas is dramatically increasing its supply of more new, expensive apartments while losing its supply of older more affordable apartments, something the Seattle rep. pointed out during the hearings for HB 1110, but that really can’t be helped in a high AMI market with a lot of construction. I do expect however to see new apartment construction cool significantly due to lack of financing and market uncertainty for the next few years. So far the predicted population growth has not occurred so a decline in new construction won’t be such a big deal if that holds true.
The bad news is rents across the board are going up anyway, in part due to inflation that is running at 7-10% for this area, and because property taxes that account for 14% to 17% of rent went up pretty dramatically for 2023. On the plus side, the sale of existing apartment buildings plunged 74%, and most of those sales in the past have been leveraged against the value of the building and income (rents), so the new owners suddenly had a large debt obligation to pay off (and those leveraged deals are almost with variable interest rates which have shot up) so they raise rents. Fewer sales fewer rent increases.
Another bit of bad news is if the office towers in Seattle are valued downwards for property tax purposes — which will reduce Seattle’s total property tax receipts –either property tax rates across the board will have to go up or other properties increase in value to maintain Seattle’s property “levy” which is fixed despite the value of properties, plus annual 1% increases.
The “levy” is a fixed amount each year, and is a function of all property values X the tax rate to equal the levy. If property values go up or down so does the tax rate to equal the levy. Seattle has had the benefit of very valuable office towers picking up the tab for much of the city’s annual property levy which lowers the tax rate for other properties. My guess is most office building owners have tax lawyers who will appeal their valuation, those valuations will be lowered, and so the rate on all other properties will go up to meet the levy, which gets passed onto renters.
So, in summary, the good news is rent increases due to supply and demand look to be under control in the near future, but rents will be going up across the board because the cost of the buildings are going up, not unlike a SFH owner. From what I hear from those in the business, rents will increase around 10%/year for the next two years despite a levelling of supply and demand.
Yes, I am being facetious, but I actually do believe it is good news for several reasons. It’s going to generate lots of much-needed property taxes. And, it’s in a very compact, walkable neighborhood, a few blocks from a transit center. I could see someone living there getting by without a car.
Here is a list of some the units still available. 761 sf runs around $3295/mo., or 814 sf for $4395/mo. on the ground level which surprisingly is more expensive than the higher stories but open onto the courtyard. It has a garage and electric car charging, so has parking, and a rooftop pet area. https://www.velakirkland.com/amenities
Kirkland has dramatically upzoned this part of the city so it is good to see that upzoning result in new affordable housing supply.
More importantly, DT’s facetiousness aside, has the presence of this new building/complex dropped prices anywhere else (likely no), or reduced the increase compared to what they would have been raised to otherwise (perhaps, but harder to tell).
I guess one could look at comparable areas which did not have any zoning changes recently? Where “comparable” has to mean not just similar income levels, zoning, etc. but also demographics.
“has the presence of this new building/complex dropped prices anywhere else”
One building isn’t enough to make a difference; you need a lot of them. What matters is the number of people competing for each unit. Adding units decreases that. But you’d need a lot of units to make a visible dent in the situation where at any one time thousands of people are looking at thousands of units across the metro area.
Without being facetious, the points I have tried to make are builders build to AMI because those units are more profitable which is why the 2300 apartments built near U Village and the Vela are fairly close in rent, new construction is the most expensive per sf, the region is increasing its supply of expensive apartments but not lower priced apartments despite upzones which is the point of the article Nathan linked to although I am not sure he actually read it, there are several factors other than AMI and supply/demand that determine the price of housing, and if the vacancy rate gets too high builders stop building rather than building “affordable” or low cost housing.
There are some who hope new market rate apartment construction will increase supply and lower or stabilize their rents in existing construction but that just does not happen. Based on all the factors I pointed out in my post to Sam, I doubt rents will decline or stabilize in the next two years absent a very severe recession even though it looks like vacancy rates are approaching normal, and new construction will always be the most expensive per sf like the Vela.
Rents reflect AMI and neighborhood. New construction reflects AMI and neighborhood. Regional AMI went up and so did rents for existing and new construction. No matter how many new market rate apartments are built — and builders will never build to a glut — that won’t change. Everyone wants their income to go up because the region’s AMI went up but not their housing costs, but that is unrealistic. If your income stays the same but regional AMI goes up you fall behind. It happens in every hot city when folks with more money move in because they screwed up the last place they lived.
If you want to pay more in rent move to a city with a higher AMI like San Francisco or NY. If you want to pay less in rent move to a city with a lower AMI like Houston, Tokyo, Montreal, Kyoto, and just about everywhere else. Or buy, although housing prices for owners are falling while taxes and maintenance costs are rising.
Everyone’s housing costs went up because of rising property taxes and inflation, and that will be reflected in rent increases over the next few years despite AMI which will likely stay flat, or supply/demand that will likely improve. I am afraid there is no magic upzoning bullet, because upzoning requires….drum roll….new construction.
It is why I-135 was so unrealistic. Some amateur levy proponents and Seattle voters who will believe any claim in a levy or initiative really thought these amateurs could issue BILLIONS in municipal bonds to build publicly financed market rate housing and make a profit when most of the housing would be below AMI, which makes ST’s estimates and claims sound plausible.
I get it. It is depressing. Rents are crushing for the better neighborhoods, everything has gotten so expensive, and prices to buy seem impossible, especially if you live alone or have one income. I wish I had a solution.
Mike: “But you’d need a lot of units to make a visible dent in the situation ” – this is the question that people keep asking, though. How many?
This is not a red herring; if the answer is “a million”, then clearly it will never work. If the answer is “a thousand”, then that’s tractable, and can design incentives to get there. If the answer is “a hundred thousand”, then that’s probably still too many without quite significant societal changes (in the sense of what people are willing to change about their lifestyles).
This is what I think DT often tries to get at – yes, Seattleites are often willing to tax themselves, and that’s great, but if they’re not willing to make changes in their lifestyles, and those changes are required to solve the problem, then it will not happen. Put another way, “you cannot convince a person to change their mind if their livelihood depends on them not changing it”. Now, is it always the case? No, but it’s potentially the burden to solve, not (just) finding the cash.
This is a good article on converting office space to residential, which is part of CID N. Those quoted in the article sound optimistic, although it will take time, if just for existing leases to expire.
If a city like Seattle got serious about conversion the number of possible housing units would explode. The question then I suppose is if the entire region is upzoned would builders and developers just build in the outer SFH zones or would they take on the difficult task of converting these office towers. Would upzoning disperse density before offices could be converted in the downtown core and make those conversions non-economical?
I think King County estimated the backlog at 150,000 units. Building half or a quarter that many would at least give us partial relief.
The state estimates
King County needs to add 17,000 units per year ($) to meet population growth, half of it market rate and half subsidized. That’s a 2023 estimate, not a pre-covid estimate.
“new construction will always be the most expensive per sf like the Vela.”
Before the Vela: Two people compete for an older unit in another building. The richer person gets it, and the other is shut out.
After the Vela: The richer person moves into a brand-new Vela unit. The other person gets the other unit.
Please, let’s not abbreviate Daniel Thompson as DT; we have an earlier commenter, D.T., with a very different voice.
Do you mean d.p.?
While I rode the monorail once for fun, many years ago, I got to use it as a practical means of transportation for the first yesterday, as I will continue to do each day this week. My god, what a tragedy it is that the city council won its war against the monorail expansion! The monorail is the best ride ever – smooth, quiet, and spacious; the view cannot be beat. What a future it would have been.
To me, the lessons of the monorail are:
1. An aerial alignment is not that ugly.
2. Stations fo not have to be insanely grandiose.
3. An aerial station can be a catalyst for multi-level retail.
As much of a bad rap aerial light rail gets in Seattle, it’s an order of magnitude cheaper than a bored subway platform 100 feet down — and it would be much closer to the sidewalk (say 40 feet). It’s also faster and less disruptive to build.
It’s really telling to me how WSBLE never developed even just one aerial option for even a portion of the middle sèment between LQA and SODO.
Would the CID object to an aerial monorail station on 5th next to it, because transfers to DSTT1 will still be important? I know the DSA would anywhere downtown including Westlake because they did last time, both due to the loss of traffic lanes and aesthetics. Probably so would SLU stakeholders for the same reasons. Those stakeholders are too powerful for ST/Harrell to bully, and he doesn’t want to. That leaves an aerial design from LQA to Ballard which does make sense if it doesn’t block views, and from CID to WS, except WS and Ballard would object. I don’t know enough about tunnels to know whether this aerial design could suddenly dive underground from LQA to Ballard or CID south to WS.
DT: I think it’s really a segment by segment thing. For example, I think no one would have a problem with aerial on Mercer between Seattle Center and I-5. The alignment could enter Capitol Hill and curve like a “C”, possibly cross above the current Link tunnels and emerge near Harborview or the county buildings. It could then run above the street on top of the RR tracks to SODO. Another possible corridor would be Second Ave, which is wide and has separation between the bicycle tracks and traffic that could be used for support pillars. Frankly, the monorail will be 75 years old when DSTT2 is supposed to open and it may need replacing then anyway. It may not work south of Westlake but an automated Ballard Stub line could easily be a viable replacement technology if those pillars need replacing. The monorail could be relocated and kept like a museum piece.
Of course, none of these have been studied. That’s the point! WSBLE obsessed with alternatives elsewhere but the central segment was always assumed as Subway and ST would not deviate more than a blot or two from the original corridor (ironically ST is willing to move stations several blocks but not the tracks.)
Comments are closed.