Carmageddon comes this weekend. ($) Taylor Swift has concerts Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm ending near midnight. There are also Mariners games, a Storm game, the Bite of Seattle, the Capitol Hill Block Party, the Chinatown Seafair parade, a 520 bridge closure, and partial closure of I-5 northbound. Pike Street will be closed between Broadway and 12th. The Chinatown parade is Sunday at 7pm. Mike Lindblom in the Seattle Times reports on extra transit service downtown:

  • Link will have extra runs late night Saturday and Sunday until 2am.
  • Sounder North and South will have Taylor Swift runs Saturday. There will be NO baseball run Sunday due to staffing limitations.
  • ST Express will have extra runs on the 545, 550, and 554.
  • Metro will have extra runs on the C, D, and H. A downtown bus shuttle Friday and Saturday after the concerts will run in a one-way loop between Lumen Field and 4th & Lenora.
  • King County Water Taxi to Alki will have two late night runs each on Saturday and Sunday.

In other news:

The ST board meets July 27. Seattle Subway is asking people to attend to advocate not to move or delete Denny, SLU, Midtown, or CID stations from their original ST3 locations or to delay the Ballard EIS further, and has a guest article in The Stranger about it. There will be a webinar on Denny and SLU stations on July 25. Another webinar on these stations is in progress as this article is published; the result will be online later. Several STB authors would rather eliminate the second downtown tunnel and put all trains in the existing tunnel, but the ST board has been opposed to that.

Lynnwood Link bus restructure online open houses will be July 24, August 15, and August 19.

More workers and visitors return downtown. ($)

What American transit could learn from Canada. (RMTransit video)

The Honolulu SkyLine is open. (RMTransit video)

The 10 US cities with the least vehicle miles traveled. (CityNerd video) The underlying data lumps cars, freight and buses together, so so it’s not the same as cities with the least car use.

This is an open thread.

249 Replies to “Open Thread 11”

    1. Here are similar articles:

      Talton has an article in today’s Seattle Times noting foot traffic is up in downtown Seattle, but fails to note that is due to tourism. The DSA is hopeful that over time foot traffic returns to 70% of pre-pandemic highs but that anything greater is unlikley. Foot traffic in the spring was 44%, and in the summer tourist season with full hotels a little over 50% pre-pandemic levels.

      For office building owners time is running out because so many of the loans on the properties reset in 2024 and 2025, over $2 trillion, from historic low rates to rates now well over 5%, if they can get financing. Cities will begin to feel this pain in the latter half of 2023 when they begin the budgeting cycle and have to deal with the decline in property taxes (which will remain the same in WA but get reallocated to other properties) and business taxes including sales tax.


      “You have Taylor Swift, Mariners games, Capitol Hill Block Party, Bite of Seattle, Storm game, and 520 bridge closed…stay home if you can!!!!”

      This is a ND post, and shows how a city can survive post pandemic by offering entertainment that draws in folks from out of city and out of state. These events help increase foot traffic, but do little to replace lost tax revenue from empty office buildings.

      1. Vibrant urban settings (NYC, San Francisco, Seattle) need outside money flowing in to remain vibrant. Driving into “the City” for night on the town or a day exploring and sight seeing is what powers America.

        Seattle has always been blessed with a flow of cash rolling in from the Eastside and elsewhere. Without that money, it wouldn’t be much of a town.

        This explains why I think when the smoke clears on the Sound Transit “second tunnel” I’m betting Harrell crowbars in more parking downtown. That parking would help with the sort of events happening this weekend. It’s all about making Seattle an experience worth paying for.

      2. @tacomeee

        If you really wanted more parking downtown during the evening I’m not sure you’d actually need to “build more”. Merely mandating that office towers must lease /provide parking (at cost) out to the public would be enough.

        The amazon offices parking lots are basically completely empty after 4pm as well and they are already completely free.

      3. More parking would just make the traffic jam worse. If you’re going to a 70,000 person event, take transit.

      4. Mike Orr,

        I take the bus to Seattle during the day to hang out, but I drive at night. There’s always traffic and parking can be challenging, but that’s life in the Big City. The sort of people that make Seattle “vibrant” by coming in and spending big money aren’t really the transit riding crowd. I can see people parking downtown and riding the subway to SoDo or Capitol Hill. Think hybrid transit in the City. Harrell would like like it.

        I think there’s some confusion or downright dishonesty with some Seattle urbanists about how much outside money it takes to drive a successful retail core. Capitol Hill has always been the “Gay Mecca” of the NW with visitors (and their money) rolling in every weekend. Downtown had its white collar commuters for decades. Think about the forgotten and less developed parts of the City…. not as much outside cash in Columbia City.

        Putting apartments above retail is a good, time honored idea. Thinking that makes an “Urban Village” is lunacy. It takes a lot of people and money to drive a retail core. That’s why, like it or not, Seattle will always need single family neighborhoods and the suburbs to function.

        This article by Josh Feit over at Publicola has to be the worst “urbanist” idea I’ve read in a long time. Thinking the “outsiders” are getting a free ride and need to pay more?

      5. WL is correct, there is already tons of parking downtown for those willing to pay for it, it just goes unused because people are cheap. Which is fine, so long as the cheap people take transit instead. Mike Orr is also correct, in that more people driving downtown would just make the traffic worse.

        Also, even if the bus service sucks in the place where you live, there are always places to the park that are on the way and offer a ride to downtown that is quick, frequent, and transfer-free.

        But, in any case, the argument about the lifeblood of the city depending on people driving and parking downtown cheaply is simply not true, even though people like Daniel Thompson feel rich and powerful imagining it to be true.

      6. I mean if one really wanted free parking I guess the city could lease parking at monthly rates from garages/offices/apartments and make them free. Or probably still charge a small fee/or restriction so people don’t end up using it as monthly parking lol after work.

        It’s around 250/300 (depending on exact area) per month around downtown for a monthly car spot. I guess buying the spot for the city would be around napkin math 60~80k per spot. So around 60 to 80 million to acquire 1000 parking spots? Maybe cheaper if somehow make an evening only agreement.

      7. As far as I can tell, the only permanent Covid impact is the loss of workers Downtown. But even then there are still more workers than Downtown Seattle had until just the last several years. It’s just that there are more buildings so the vacancy rate is higher.

        And of course the general decline in retail is discouraging. However that isn’t excludive to downtowns. Malls in many places are also less vibrant.

        People feel vacation deprived and some like cities like Seattle. Pike Place Market was busier than I’ve ever seen it last weekend, Seattle still has the bones of vibrancy. It’s still popular.

        So it may not be 2019 but it’s not abandoned either.

      8. “As far as I can tell, the only permanent Covid impact is the loss of workers Downtown. But even then there are still more workers than Downtown Seattle had until just the last several years. It’s just that there are more buildings so the vacancy rate is higher.”

        Office occupancy is around 44%. In April downtown foot traffic was around 44% of April 2019 levels (mirroring office occupancy). Now during the high tourist season foot traffic is around 54%. The DSA believes that if Harrell’s seven goal plan is successful, that begins and ends with better public safety, foot traffic can reach 70% but no higher, although office occupancy will likely never return to 70%. The decline of downtown Seattle began well before the pandemic.

        There are three main effects:

        1. The loss of workers and foot traffic result in less spending on restaurants and retail, so that declines. Monday to Friday commuters are 52 weeks/year, 8 hours/day, which is what retail and restaurants need to survive, including lunch, unless you are a pure tourist city like Port Townsend, which tends to be the employment local residents without a special skill can do and still make a living with tips.

        2. The loss of foot traffic and restaurants and shops reduces the number of “eyes on the street” so things are darker, and perceived as less safe, and so fewer ride transit or walk the streets, and there is no walkable retail density.

        3. The CBD pre-pandemic generated 2/3 of Seattle’s tax revenue, both property and business-related taxes. Seattle like most progressive cities has a very high cost per resident and is not particularly efficient to say the least. Taxes from the CBD (non-city residents) help offset taxes on Seattle residents. So less CBD tax revenue means the property levy — which stays the same no matter what, plus any new levies which based on the August levy and upcoming housing levy will add over $500/year to the average property tax on a house in Seattle in new property taxes — must be made up by Seattle residents and non-office properties, or expenditures cut. If Seattle were a lean, efficient, low service low tax city with fewer deadbeats that might not be such a problem, but Seattle is the opposite of that, and has huge infrastructure debt from ignoring replacement and repair.

        The point Tacomee was making and asdf2 totally missed is any city — certainly a major city like San Francisco — depends on a huge amount of out of city money flowing in. This includes tourists, work commuters, shoppers, diners, event goers, students, and so on, with the first five groups having the benefit of having very low social costs for a large city because they go home at night.

        Seattle is not a world class city and never was. Its population is too small and spread out over too large an area. It is a collection of suburban neighborhoods, which have survived well during the pandemic as most suburban cities have, because they don’t rely upon outsiders. It is a collection of former cities, now neighborhoods, incorporated over the decades, with most of the retail dispersed into the neighborhoods, from West Seattle to Capitol Hill to Ballard to Madison Park to UW to Northgate to now Columbia City and Beacon Hill. Issaquah has 35,000 residents and dwarfs any of these neighborhoods when it comes to retail vibrancy and density, and even Factoria (where Nike is moving its flagship store to from Seattle) has more retail vibrancy although car oriented. San Francisco did a much better job of condensing its retail downtown, and of course had a higher population to draw from. It is very hard to create a world class urban city with 775,000 residents, especially if spread out over 142.5 sq miles. Without Amazon Seattle would be anemic.

        Some on this blog like asdf2 think this issue boils down to who drives into Seattle, who Ubers, or who takes transit. It doesn’t matter. Transit follows. The irony is the more vibrant a city is he fewer folks percentage wise will drive in because of limited parking and congestion. Uber is quoting fares over $100 from the north end of MI to the Taylor Swift concert one way, and parking was $100 for the All-Star game. A city wants those folks coming to its CBD to spend money.

        WL is correct: today there is plenty of parking in downtown Seattle and it is easy to drive into and around Seattle on non-event days, which is not good. The bigger problem is the parking is not “obvious” to folks who can easily afford the parking (a key issue Brooks raises), and is underground which women don’t trust, especially in a dangerous city. Valet parking like at the Market helps make the parking more obvious, if more expensive, but if dinner for two will be $300 $20 for valet parking is not an issue. The market implemented valet parking because it desperately needed out of CBD residents coming to dine and drink there.

        Asdf2 writes:

        “But, in any case, the argument about the lifeblood of the city depending on people driving and parking downtown cheaply is simply not true, even though people like Daniel Thompson feel rich and powerful imagining it to be true.”

        This is an absurd and ill-educated comment, and luckily Harrell knows better. It also isn’t what Tacomee wrote. It doesn’t matter how folks get to the city as far as the city is concerned, as long as they spend money. Asdf2 thinks the poor should ride transit and the rich drive, which is closer to the truth, when very foolish folks like Josh Feit think the rich should pay a congestion tax to drive into the city and the poor should drive and park for free. Where do these very foolish progressives come from, why are they published anywhere, and why are they speechwriters for ST with my tax money? From the CID to the DSA what the stakeholders want is folks with money to spend, no matter how they get there, to help subsidize all the poor but demanding Seattleites, and those Seattleites who actually work, in those shops and restaurants.

        Fortunately, asdf2 and Josh Feit (who at least uses his real name) are probably the last two people Harrell or Constantine or the Board — and basically anyone in power — will ever listen to, and they don’t help other progressives or transit advocates when they go public with ideas the folks with the money and power look at and say hey, these folks are idiots.

        It reminds me of, “Seattle Subway is asking people to attend to advocate not to move or delete Denny, SLU, Midtown, or CID stations from their original ST3 locations or to delay the Ballard EIS further” when the DEIS has been voted on, and the stations were not eliminated from CID, Midtown (wherever that is), or SLU because the Board wanted to eliminate them, or ST and the Board don’t understand eliminating these stations was not ideal, or why they were eliminated.

        Don’t be surprised if Harrell skips that meeting too. He doesn’t have time to listen to Seattle Subway folks who don’t UNDERSTAND why those stations were eliminated. He knows transit follows. Unless his seven goal plan works and a LOT more folks with money start driving into Seattle, or Ubering, or even taking transit although that is unlikely, a second tunnel or WSBLE or any transit becomes a lot less relevant, or affordable.

        Because those same folks are driving somewhere else, which have great restaurants, shops, clean streets, and much less crime. As asdf2 wants, the poor folks on transit will go to downtown Seattle although there will be fewer and fewer retail shops and restaurants, so guess what: those poor folks will take transit to where there is retail vibrancy and density. One of the biggest myths middle class progressives believe is that poor folks like to hang out with other poor folks in poor areas.

      9. “Vibrant urban settings (NYC, San Francisco, Seattle) need outside money flowing in to remain vibrant.”

        It’s also worth noting that the more housing you have locally in the city center, the fewer outside people coming in you need to make the area vibrant. Copenhagen, for example, has an extremely vibrant retail core, but it’s also not the type of place where I would expect to see suburbanites commuting in from long distances to shop there; they do it primarily with people who live locally and walk, bike, or take public transit.

        Of course, Copenhagen can get away with this because their city center has a much higher residential population than our city center. The Seattle downtown residential population, alone, is too small to support many businesses, so they depend on people who live elsewhere traveling in. Replace office space with housing and have more people living locally, things start to change.

      10. “Within three years, Denmark is expected to have enough hotel beds to accommodate up to 10 million tourists, almost twice the country’s population, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

        “Earlier this year, Denmark came in fourth in Intrepid Travel’s ranking of “destinations suffering overtourism” based on tourists per head of population. In 2017, the country had more than 28 million tourists and only 5.8 million residents.”

        “Hotel occupancy rates currently hover around 80 percent. According to Bloomberg, the city of Copenhagen is expected to add an additional 8,000 hotel rooms within the next four years. Tourism to the city is expect to increase almost four percent every year until 2020.”

        Copenhagen alone had 3.07 million tourists in 2018.

        “Of the 499,260 employees in Copenhagen, more than 145,000 were commuting up to five kilometers to their workplace in 2019. The second most common distance of commuting was five to 10 kilometers. Meanwhile, nearly 16,000 workers in the Danish Capital were not commuting at all that year.”

        Maybe Copenhagen is not the best example.

        Downtown Seattle by the way has the densest zoning for housing. Look at Belltown. Of course, that does not mean folks want to live there. Many just can’t because they have kids.

        The PSRC has been advocating for decades for zoning that allocates future growth and housing in urban areas near walkable retail and transit — because that density promotes more walkable retail and transit — although the horse had been let out of the barn regionally and in Seattle, and so much housing and retail had dispersed from the urban “core” from prior zoning errors that undermined urbanism.

        Now progressives want to move away from the PSRC’s recommendations and disperse the housing and retail even farther out into remote residential zones, which ironically is the antithesis of urbanism.

        Vibrant city centers attract out-of-city money, from work commuters and tourists. That huge tax bonanza with very little social costs is what gave these cities such an advantage, and why their budgets grew so dramatically and they could do questionable things like build second tunnels and subways. It is why every city covets tourists, and work commuters, and returning both of those are the top priorities in Harrell’s seven goal plan.

        To paraphrase Carville, it is the tax revenue, stupid. Seattle is hemorrhaging tax revenue, the easiest kind of tax revenue: paid by others, not Seattleites.

      11. “Fortunately, asdf2 and Josh Feit (who at least uses his real name) are probably the last two people Harrell or Constantine or the Board — and basically anyone in power — will ever listen to, and they don’t help other progressives or transit advocates when they go public with ideas the folks with the money and power look at and say hey, these folks are idiots.”

        Sometimes statements are made by those who post here using language that might share an idea, but is not actually a quote.
        When I read something like the bold part of the above statement, all I can hope is that this is Daniel Thompsons own opinion about those in power, and he doesn’t really have inside information.

      12. It is premature to pronounce any impacts of the pandemic as “permanent” unless they are physical structural changes, like improved building ventilation.

        Every time officials have tried to declare it over, a chunk of the population has resisted ending WFH, and another chunk sticks its toes in the water of public life, but not as quickly as the officials and their donors hope.

        I believe ending COVID is doable, but not if the CDC board remains eligible for golden parachutes from the vaccine manufacturers, and the CDC continues to downplay the effectiveness of masks in significantly reducing the spread of respiratory viruses.

      13. asdf2,

        Copenhagen? Really? I’ve been there and it’s wall-to-wall tourists as well as the main city of small country. What the tourists don’t see is the surrounding suburbs and villages where those with money live. Mostly to get the heck away from the tourists.

        I rode a bike from Hamburg Germany to Malmö once (yeah, I did take a ferry from Denmark). I have a very different view of Europe than somebody with a Euro-rail pass. Not that I’m hating on a Euro-rail pass– very good stuff.

        What I read from many self proclaimed “urbanists” is a strange and misplaced claim of ownership of Seattle and other Liberal cities.

        Mr. Feit claims ownership of Seattle…. and yet I doubt he’s a property owner and he holds no public office. You think a gentleman in such a compromised position wouldn’t hold such malice against those he deems as not belonging in the Emerald City. Urban Discovery Pass? Pure selfishness.

      14. “I take the bus to Seattle during the day to hang out, but I drive at night. There’s always traffic and parking can be challenging”

        This is a major concert, equivalent to a ballgame, not regular traffic. Downtown garages are never full, not even on Seahawks victory day a few years ago, so they’re overbuilt and there’s plenty of parking. The problem is the clogged streets. Many people don’t want to sit in traffic for an hour in their car, so they take transit. If they all drove, congestion would be much worse. Metro and ST wouldn’t be adding extra service if it weren’t used.

        “Putting apartments above retail is a good, time honored idea. Thinking that makes an “Urban Village” is lunacy.”

        That’s just one aspect. Two-story buildings alone can’t solve the problem, for the same reason ADUs and 4-plexes alone can’t solve the problem, because they’re only a few units. But they can complement denser buildings and give people a wider choice.

        “Seattle will always need single family neighborhoods and the suburbs to function.”

        In Düsseldorf and its suburb Ratingen I didn’t see even one single-family house. They were rebuilt after WWII leveling in a middle-housing manner. There may have been neighborhoods with single-family houses I didn’t get to, but a large part of even small cities is non-SF. If they can do it, Seattle can.

        “Uber is quoting fares over $100 from the north end of MI to the Taylor Swift concert one way, and parking was $100 for the All-Star game.”

        Which means more people will take transit. Even if they can afford $100 for transportation/parking, they aren’t willing to spend it on that.

        “the folks with the money and power look at and say hey, these folks are idiots.”

        The folks with money and power don’t all think alike. It’s just that certain factions are more successful in spreading their message.

      15. >>Talton has an article in today’s Seattle Times noting foot traffic is up in downtown Seattle, but fails to note that is due to tourism.

        The article says that foot traffic is up to 50% of workers from pre-pandemic, so this is inaccurate.

        >>This is a ND post, and shows how a city can survive post pandemic by offering entertainment that draws in folks from out of city and out of state.

        This is not a new offering. Cities are increasingly becoming tourist amenities marked by commodified neighborhoods and this process was only accelerated by the pandemic. It’s very worth considering whether it’s enough to sustain cities. Tourism is a vital industry, but at the same time tourism has a historically antagonistic relationship with necessities of life for people that live there.

        That said, this is a good reason to have a high-capacity, legible transportation system. We will have much more of that by the time Sound Transit 3 is done. This is why we need a South Lake Union and CID station, by the way. Missing busy and well-known neighborhoods breaks an implicit promise that a subway is going to stop at the places that matter along its route.

    2. From the “More workers and visitors return downtown” article by Gene Balk:

      “According to the Downtown Seattle Association, the average number of weekday workers downtown in June was 86,444 — that’s 54% of the average from June 2019, which was 160,153. In May, the figure was originally reported as 48% of the level for the same period in 2019, but after a routine reassessment, it has been revised to 51%. June was also the second month in a row during which downtown worker foot traffic averaged more than 80,000 visits daily. The figure for May was 82,449. Before that, the last time average worker foot traffic exceeded 80,000 was February 2020.

      The return-to-office data comes from, a national firm that provides foot-traffic analytics from smartphone tracking technology. defines a downtown worker as anyone who visits the area at least three days during the week from Monday to Friday.

      There are some other bright spots in the downtown-recovery data compiled by the DSA. Demand for hotel rooms in June exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time, hitting 101% of the June 2019 number. And there were 2.98 million visitors to downtown Seattle last month, beating the June 2022 total by more than 80,000.”

      1. Daniel, I don’t know where you are getting your downtown recovery facts from but if you go to the DSA website and look at their tracker you will see the following for the week of July 2nd:

        Office Workers: 59%
        Domestic Visitors: 76%
        Foot Traffic: 71%
        Pike Place Visitors: 71%
        Hotel Demand: 79%

        Occupied apartments Q3 2022: 112%

        These counts are based off of the comparable 2019 week. The data listed in the Seattle Times article took their data points from last week (likely when the reporter was pulling together their story) so it differs slightly from what is currently listed but what you can do is look at the graphs and note the trend lines. There’s been a steady quarter over quarter growth in all metrics since we bottomed out in 2020. Year over year growth has been substantial. Will things plateau or perhaps dip? Maybe, but it hasn’t so far.

        I personally don’t think we will hit the numbers we had in 2019 for multiple years but downtown is not a dead horse. On the real estate side what I’m seeing is net absorption for commercial real estate stabilizing around 2028 but these assumptions can easily change since there aren’t strong reference points for the period we are in. We’ll see how this all pans out over the next decade.

      2. Alonso, my data came from the Seattle Times article comparing April 2019 and April 2023 I linked to earlier. For example, in February occupancy was 40%. Foot traffic in May and June were a little over 50% of pre-pandemic. Office occupancy jumped to 49% in May-June. I imagine Amazon had something to do with that.

        More concerning is vacancy rates in the CBD reached 23.3%.

        Vacancy is actually a better and more stable data point because vacant space is space without a lease and is objective. Occupancy is space with a lease comparing pre and post pandemic occupancy, which tends to fluctuate. The key metric is as leases — which generally are 5 or 10 years — roll off are they being renewed, and if so for the same or less space? Obviously as vacancy rises occupancy tends to fall until they equal each other because most businesses don’t want to lease more space than they need.

        IMO the DSA is a bit of a cheerleader. That being said, no one is saying occupancy will go to zero or vacancy to 100%, although vacancy continues to rise. Just a few quarters ago vacancy was 13%. Theoretically over time vacancy and occupancy rates equal out, except pre-pandemic a lot of tenants leased more space than needed thinking they would expand, looking to sublease the extra space until needed. Today the sublease market is awash with space for lease. It is unlikely that space will be released by the same tenant.

        The DSA is hoping foot traffic returns to 70% of pre-pandemic levels, although measuring foot traffic is pretty subjective (and so are occupancy rates). Instead, vacancy rates and retail sales tax revenue and B&O tax revenue are objective measurements, along with new permitting of office towers in the CBD. Also the number of downtown restaurants and retail shops is important to determine vibrancy, and staff hours.

        In the end, the two big questions are: 1. what will total CBD tax revenue be compared to 2019, because the city either has to make that up with other taxes or taxpayers, or cut expenditures since pre-pandemic the CBD generated 2/3 of the city’s tax revenue; and 2. what kind of retail and restaurant vibrancy and density are in the CBD. It is pretty hard to measure during All Star weekend or Taylor Swift because businesses must survive all year round.

        The final question is what happens to office buildings that were loaned on predicated on a 95% lease rate. Building owners don’t really care if occupancy is zero if leased space is 100%. The DSA could be correct that occupancy rates or foot traffic rates (pretty subjective) eventually reach 70%, but a 30% vacancy rate means the buildings default and go bankrupt, and that causes tremendous stress in the CBD. Even a 20% vacancy rate means default.

        Our firm went through this. We were already getting tired of downtown Seattle but had a five year lease when Covid hit. We thought Covid wouldn’t last more than a year, then Omicron hit and employees wanted more WFH and we suddenly had too much space that was expensive. But the landlord would not let us out early because it could not release that space. Since we were paying for the space we went to work every day. So we had to wait until our lease actually expired to leave Seattle, when in the past the building had offered to buy us out of our lease for higher paying tenants.

        It’s really only been two years since CBD businesses began to really reevaluate their office needs. 2024-25 will be seismic around the U.S. because loan rates reset, but 2024–2025 will be important because so many leases will have expired at that time, and we will better know the new normal on how much space, if any, businesses need in downtown Seattle, and the hit to Seattle’s tax revenue.

        Really, if you look at it, and understand 90% of Seattle neighborhoods are essentially suburban in character, it is becoming more and more a suburban region, including Seattle. Seattle’s residential neighborhoods are still strong and attractive, and Seattle has dispersed retail to the neighborhoods for decades at the expense of the CBD; it is the CBD that is hurting, as are CBD’s across the U.S. Life still goes on and is good, just less urban with less work commuting.

      3. “90% of Seattle neighborhoods are essentially suburban in character”

        There are several levels so this is meaningless and misleading. Ballard and Beacon Hill are not at all like Lake Hills, Eastgate, or Juanita. Ballard is an urban neighborhood, even if part of it is less dense than similar neighborhoods in Vancouver and San Francisco. In the southern half of the neighborhood you can walk to businesses, jobs, and bars. In Lake Hills you might be able to walk to the Lake Hills library and QFC or the Crossroads dollar store, but that’s about it. Ballard and Beacon hill are large enough and close-in enough that they would benefit from upzoning: that wouldn’t dilute businesses too far out and thin as you often fear.

      4. And, of course, the Spring District or the area around Overlake P&R are not like Lake Hills either. Or Totem Lake.

        There’s a potential argument to be made that Totem Lake is more “urban” in feel than Beacon Hill, though I’ve never lived in either, just visited and worked, so I can’t say for sure.

        For the opposite comparison, what’s more suburban: Sand Point or Lake Hills?

      5. Only someone living in a computer and not the real world will say that Totem Lake is more urban than Beacon Hill. One is a shopping mall with condos and the other is an urban neighborhood.

      6. Beacon Hill is very long north-south. The further south portions are mostly dominated by single family homes with little retail similar to a more affordable suburb. Other parts are more urban and dense like North Beacon Hill. It covers such a large area that it can’t be compared to a more compact geography.

      7. Al, yeah, my experience with Beacon Hill was that it’s very residential. From where I worked (in North Beacon Hill, even) it was a good ten-fifteen minute walk to other stuff. Maybe I just walk slowly :)

        I won’t comment on the cheap insult from the other commenter.

      8. Beacon Hill has a nice string of two or three restaurants along Beacon Ave. that are popular with eastsiders (Brad Smith goes there). And a golf course. But retail wise it is pretty desolate with mostly SFH.

        I guess it depends on what your definition of “urban” is. Beacon Hill is hardly “walkable”, although I think it is one of Seattle’s up and coming south suburban neighborhoods. Like Columbia City. Or Georgetown. When I was young it was mostly Black.

        A lot of folks don’t understand suburban usually begins at the edge of urban and then fans out. Or should. But Seattle has no true urbanism — at least compared to the rest of the world — due to the lack of an urban core and retail density. Everything in Seattle is shades of suburban, unless you are talking office density which is down 50% and empties out at night.

        Which is probably why Seattle’s neighborhoods are so popular. Folks on this blog think “suburbanism” is a pejorative like their parents although they live in it and the highest property values are in suburbia. Otherwise they would live on 2nd and Pine, except that is shitty urbanism.

        Based on Mike’s definition of urbanism Totem Lake is denser and more urban — and likely less white — than any neighborhood in north Seattle, and even Beacon Hill. Totem Lake is actually walkable. Beacon Hill is not, although it is gentrifying although most of Beacon Hill is pretty sketch at night if you are female and walking.

        Urbanism is not a resident’s political beliefs or whether they are “hip”. It certainly isn’t whether you are Black. It is walkable retail and true density of housing. Real urbanism doesn’t need transit it is so dense. Like Paris. That doesn’t exist in Seattle. Long ago Seattle adopted — or incorporated — a series of “urban” villages, except none are really urban. They are suburban. The reality is Beacon Hill is one of the most suburban neighborhoods, in part because it was mostly Black and retail avoids Black neighborhoods.

        Then young sophisticated whites moved into Beacon Hill like Columbia City and then sophisticated white restaurants and then the wealthy eastsiders starting showing up. So property values start rising. It is a good neighborhood if you are young and schools are not an issue.

      9. Daniel, you are correct. Beacon Hill is mostly single family home neighborhood. Over 90% of the land area is single family. People mistakenly think it’s urban because it’s close to downtown, but it has more in common with a suburban neighborhood.

      10. Beacon Hill’s streets like Ballard, the U-District, and the rest of Seattle are small. Arterials are every 5 blocks, and the streets in between are every 1-3 blocks. That makes it more walkable and thus more urban. In contrast, the suburbs often have 8-block superblocks with no in-between streets, and the streets they do have are wider and more car-oriented. Or if there are in-between streets, they don’t go through across multiple arterials.

        “But Seattle has no true urbanism — at least compared to the rest of the world”

        To the extent that that’s true, Seattle needs to upzone.

        “Folks on this blog think “suburbanism” is a pejorative”

        It’s more complicated than that. “Suburbanism” refers to the large-street, many-highway, large-parking-lot, hard-to-walk, highly-separated-uses, 80% single-family model. Actual neighborhoods and towns may be more or less like that.

        “Totem Lake is actually walkable.”

        Somebody please suggest a walking tour route in Totem Lake.

        “Real urbanism doesn’t need transit it is so dense. Like Paris.”

        Paris has 16 metro lines, five RER lines, 12 tram lines, 347 bus lines, and is building more. Even in dense neighborhoods there are a lot of trips out of and into the neighborhoods.

      11. Mike, you keep comparing apples to oranges.

        You compare street width im a SFH zone like Beacon Hill with “8 lane super blocks” which is where on the Eastside? Downtown Bellevue? Streets are very narrow on MI. I live on an “arterial” — N Mercer Way — and it is two lanes with no turn lane so narrower than streets on Beacon Hill. It would be like comparing L City Way’s width to a SFH neighborhood on the Eastside.

        There is nothing “urban” about Beacon Hill. It would fit right in on the Eastside although lot sizes are a little smaller.

        The reality is a tiny amount of Seattle is urban, mostly the CBD, and unfortunately retail is struggling in the CBD.

        I think you need to define urban first, and then compare your definition to generally accepted definitions.

      12. ““8 lane super blocks” which is where on the Eastside?”

        Not 8 lanes; 8 blocks between streets. NE 8th Street at 140th, 148th, 156th, and 164th. 84th and the entrances to Clyde Hill. All over the Eastside except the oldest downtown areas.

      13. I love how all the Eastsiders here think an outdoor shopping mall next to the interstate is some sort of urban epitome. You can have a largely SFH residential neighborhood and still feel far more functionally urban than a densely packed shopping mall next to the highway with an apartment development next to it.

  1. A new mixed use and residential development is planned in the Overlake area of Redmond, just south of Overlake Village Link Station, and next to the Overlake Village P&R. For those familiar with the B Line bus route, you’ll recognize the area from where the route turns from NE 24th to 152nd NE. The Link station is a couple hundred yards north of the buildings shown in the linked photo and article. The old Sears parcel would be just out of view, kitty corner from Phase 2.

  2. Buses traveling through the U-District have been 30-90 minutes late all week because of the driving closures on Montlake. It’s unfathomable that this wasn’t predicted, but maybe the fact that the driving closure is on a WSDOT highway meant that nobody was really in charge of thinking about non-driving alternatives. It’s unfortunate that neither WSP nor SPD were out in intersections and bus lanes in the U-District, because they probably could have made enough in citation revenue to shave a few years off Link’s delivery dates, except the state takes so much off the top to make revenuer officers non-viable.

    Going forward, though, is there any way that the new SDOT director might be convinced to care?

    1. I dodged a bullet on this one coming home from the airport Monday evening. Took Link to UW Station to catch the 255 and didn’t realize that Montlake was closed and that the bus might be who-knows-how-much late until I was already at Husky Stadium. Fortunately, the 255 showed up on-time, and I got home with only a 10-minute delay, but it definitely could have been far worse.

      One thing that would help at least in the case of the 255 is if the rerouted buses would at least stop next to the U-district station on the way to I-5. That way, with the right alert, I could stay on the train for one more stop and avoid needing to slog it out through the entire U-district on the bus. But, of course, that’s asking too much of Metro.

      1. @asdf2,

        Yep, right now if you want some semblance of a reasonable transit trip you should maximize your use of LR. Buses in the U Dist are being hammered. Sometimes 70% late, and there have been reports of 90 min delays.

        And Metro hasn’t exactly made it easy on their ridership base. Communication has been really poor, and it is darn near impossible to get any sort of idea about what your revised bus trip will actually look like.

        And it’s not like nobody knew this was coming. Everyone knew it, and Metro has dealt with the exact same closures before. Just dust off that information and change the dates.

        Best bet? Stick to LR and avoid the U Dist as much as possible. LR is unaffected. Use it as much as possible.

      2. L, Some of those buses he is complying about are ST Express buses. Per usual, ST has to get its own communications house in order.

      3. I hope the developers of auto-correct are not also writing the code for driverless cars.

      4. “right now if you want some semblance of a reasonable transit trip you should maximize your use of LR.”

        Asdf2 has no other way to get to Kirkland. The only Seattle-Kirkland bus goes from the U-District. Otherwise you have to go around via Bellevue or Bothell. Coming from the airport he could have taken the 560 if he’d known about the closure, but not for a typical trip from Seattle.

      5. The 560 option isn’t really practical in the evening because it’s frequency is once an hour and, even if the clock says it’s coming soon, it’s actual arrival is at the mercy of the long line of cars picking up and dropping off at the airport that the bus has to wait behind, so the 560 can easily show up 15 or even 30 minutes late, it’s completely unpredictable.

        The STRIDE south route, if it ever opens, will be much better, in spite of being an additional connection. Having all legs be frequent and reliable really does make a huge, huge difference.

        In the meantime, the best transit option from SeaTac to Kirkland is still, by far, Link to 255, and the delays in the U district have to get really bad before I would start considering alternatives. If things really were that bad, I’d probably ride Link one stop to TIBS and call for an Uber, which is still substantially cheaper than Uber pickup at the airport itself, and only marginally longer.

      6. @Mike Orr,

        My comment was a general one. Link Light Rail is the only local transportation mode that isn’t being effected by all this chaos right now (well, OK, maybe Sounder too). Anyone who wants to go anywhere should maximize their use of it.

        Ya, some people will get lucky with their specific trip, or be late/early enough to avoid the worst of it, but use LR if you want to get anywhere near on time.

      7. Lazarus,

        So you believe we have this incredibly expensive rail spine that’s functioning well surrounded by an underfunded, poorly designed bus system that’s barely functioning.

        Thanks for pointing out why after all these years and billions in spending, Sound Transit was a bad idea. Robbing one part of a transit system to pay for another part of a transit system is just bad policy on so many levels.

      8. Shutting down Link would not free up many drivers to improve the bus system.

        The point of this thread is that buses get stuck in traffic, and the light rail comes in really handy for flying past traffic.

        The Montlake Bridge will remain out of service until sometime this week, hopefully not longer than that.

    2. WSDOT gave transit and the UW exactly four days notice of the closure. Reroutes could not be communicated, and the UW is full of youth camps. UWMC is always running full steam. I think that everyone knew a closure was coming, but having some notice beyond that week would have made this somewhat more tolerable.


    “Transit advocates scored a reprieve this month after Mayor Bruce Harrell backed away from his support for a “Shifted West” Denny Station that would have forced cutting the South Lake Union Station planned nearby at Harrison Street near Aurora Avenue. An outpouring of support for the station pushed Harrell to get behind the Westlake Avenue option that has been the default preferred alternative since Sound Transit began planning the light rail line in 2016.

    “Backers of the Shifted West alternative include Amazon, Vulcan Real Estate, and other major employers and landowners in North Downtown, who lobbied hard to get the new alternative added late into the process. Their hopes that jettisoning the South Lake Union station would not hurt ridership figures appear to have been in vain. Sound Transit briefed the Uptown Alliance on the proposal on Tuesday and revealed that agency projections showed that overall daily Link ridership would drop by about 10,000 without South Lake Union Station, representing a 5% drop for Ballard Link overall.”

    This is interesting because this is the first time I have seen Harrell take a transit position contrary to the local business interests, and these are big business interests. It will be interesting to see if Amazon uses this moment to finally announce moving Seattle workers to its huge office towers in Bellevue that from what I am told have finished their remodels.

    1. “While Harrell has signaled he’s now leaning toward the Westlake Denny Station and Harrison SLU Station, other boardmembers continued to express interest in the Shifted West alternative despite everything they’d heard, including University Place Councilmember Kent Keel and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.”

      I should have added this from Trumm’s article. I don’t know why Keel and Somers are opposed, or where Balducci stands. Could be an interesting show down. Harrell absolutely cannot piss of Amazon, not with room for 25,000 employees in Bellevue and new hires very unlikely so it is a zero sum game when it comes to where those workers work.

      1. Ah, Amazon has Balducci’s cell number…. she’s not going to get on the wrong side of Amazon either.

      2. Tacomee, I doubt Harrell made his announcement without discussing it with Amazon first. He is not a fool. No doubt ST will have to learn to build an underground station a lot quicker with less disruption. I don’t see Harrell telling Jassy hey, the CID didn’t want a station due to the 10 years of disruption, and neither did the DSA with a midtown station, but SLU and Amazon will drink the bitter ale.

        Balducci represents the eastside including Bellevue. She was mayor of Bellevue. She likes to think out loud at Board meetings, but transit is not an issue at all in her reelection, and I don’t hold the same high opinion of her as others when it comes to transit. Her tenure on the Board has not been stellar as the Board has not been stellar. Just the opposite.

        Bellevue is getting anxious about when Amazon is going to start filling up those office towers with workers. Originally Amazon said those would be 25,000 new hires, then began cutting employees. No head tax in Bellevue, and no capital gains tax, and lower B&O tax rates which are huge if you are Amazon. So it is a zero-sum game over the 55,000 Seattle Amazon workers. Amazon execs have told me around 3000–5000 Amazon workers are in Bellevue now, but they did not know what the plans are for all that brand new Bellevue space. Maybe Amazon figures it won ‘t be in SLU when construction begins on the SLU station, let alone when it ends, so who cares.

        Seattle voters told Vulcan to drop dead when Allen wanted to build a park to the lake. Maybe they will tell Amazon to drop dead over the station placement, and tell Jassy Seattle Subway kicked his ass so get the hell out of Seattle.

        There is something more going on though if Somers and Keel, who shouldn’t care just like they didn’t really care about CID N, are opposed, and Constantine is silent, and so is Balducci.

      3. The stated reason for CID North and South stations was equity (it’s a minority area) and past disruption (it was previously subject to I-5 construction, DSTT1 construction, and streetcar construction). Equity doesn’t apply to Amazon, and Vulcan/Amazon requested the SLU streetcar.

        “neither did the DSA with a midtown station”

        I haven’t heard that. If it didn’t want a Midtown station so badly, why didn’t it lobby against ST3? I can’t believe it hates short-term construction so badly it doesn’t want Midtown station at all.

        “No head tax in Bellevue, and no capital gains tax, and lower B&O tax rates which are huge if you are Amazon.”

        You may think so, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Amazon’s execs do. The taxes are a drop in the bucket to Amazon. Building a Bellevue campus over taxes was just posturing. The main reason for the Eastside campus is to attract workers who wouldn’t work at Amazon if they can’t work on the Eastside; the same reason as its other campuses around the world.

        “it is a zero-sum game over the 55,000 Seattle Amazon workers.”

        We all lose if local cities try to steal each other’s workers. If Seattle is hurting, it has repurcussions on Bellevue, and vice-versa.

        “Maybe Amazon figures it won ‘t be in SLU when construction begins on the SLU station”

        That’s just speculation.

        There are also Amazon Seattle workers who don’t want to work in Bellevue, so it’s a two-way street.

      4. > I don’t know why Keel and Somers are opposed

        It’s much cheaper cutting out a station rather than building two. The amount saved is around 400 million ~ around the same as the cost to build the north/south CID station plan. With the shifted west station and cutting out a station Harrell wouldn’t need any more additional funding so Kent and Somers are completely fine with cutting out SLU station.

      5. WL, why would Keel or Somers care about affordability in N KC with subarea equity? If station costs for WSBLE were the issue I would expect Harrell or the N KC Board members to be opposed to a station at SLU.

        From what I can tell there is a complete divorce from subarea funding reality in N KC, unless a really big chunk of WSBLE is going to be cut we don’t know about, but has to happen according to my understanding of subarea funding and capital costs. N KC simply doesn’t have the funding for WSBLE, DSTT2, 130th, and Graham St.

        Some like Mike claim I am making this up, until ST increases the estimated cost of WSBLE from $6 billion to $15 billion (but still estimates DSTT2 at $2.2 billion ha ha), quietly increases future M&O costs by $1.2 billion when farebox recovery is 20% before Link reaches the suburbs. and now “estimates” new trains and OMF storage at $4 billion new money.

        I think WSBLE is up to N KC, although I think N KC should pay 100% of DSTT2. I imagine Balducci will have some inane comment, but I am really interested in what Constantine thinks, and what Amazon thinks. If Amazon moves 20,000 workers to Bellevue Harrell’s seven goal plan to revitalize Seattle is toast.

        In 1992 Nordstrom threatened to leave if Rice closed Pike or Pine and Rice blinked. Nordstrom didn’t have 55,000 highly compensated employees.

    2. What I find most irritating is that the ridership loss of losing a station in the SLU gets analyzed for ridership loss before the decision is made — but not the inane proposal to force transfers at Pioneer Square instead of CID with a long walk that includes at least four elevation changes for a single transfer.

      Again, SHAME on the ST Board for not asking for and getting an analysis of ridership impacts before changing the preferred alternative in the CID several weeks ago. No one will even report on how many thousands will have to make this new 1 Line transfer. The impact of losing that transfer looks to be higher than the 8K loss of weekday riders here. The Board should have deferred that decision until a similar report on lost ridership was prepared like this one.

    3. So Harrell got swung by Seattle Subway? No, of course not, he would have changed his mind anyway….

      1. Both could be false, of course. More likely, he had a discussion or three with Claudia Balducci, which (given what we know of Harrell) is a more likely information source for him than an op-ed in the Stranger.

        Which won’t stop SS from assuming the best of their contributions, of course (nor would I begrudge them for it, it’s the right political play). But it’s good to realize that it’s very likely just a political play, no matter how it’s spun. It’s dangerous for anyone to get “high on their own supply”, as it’s said – I would hate to see anyone here do it.

      2. “Harrell absolutely cannot piss of Amazon,..”

        Appeal to their vanity, change the name of the station to The Amazon.

      3. “More likely, he had a discussion or three with Claudia Balducci,”

        It would be interesting if Balducci ends up saving ST from itself, since she’s often right on issues more than the board average.

      4. Wasn’t Amazon’s main point of contention the Westlake Ave closure? Maybe they (and Harrell) changed their mind once ST figured out how to get around that.


    Also an interesting read. Not sure if ST could implement the same since its stations are open to the public.

    “The MTA estimates it lost $285 million to subway fare evasion in 2022, according to the report, which didn’t contain the name of the third-party tracking software being utilized by the authority. MTA spokesperson Joana Flores confirmed to NBC News that Spanish AI developer AWAAIT created the software, which is capable of detecting and sending photographs of fare evaders to the smartphones of nearby station agents (according to the company’s promotional video). AWAAIT reportedly declined the publication’s request for comment.”

    1. The ACLU stood up for the privacy rights of drivers breaking traffic laws. I don’t see them giving this a pass.

  5. Fesler at the Urbanist had an interesting article summarizing the ST staff saying that Link needs more vehicles in the future:

    The article touches on many things. However it doesn’t go far enough to explain the basic problem with the staff calculation assumptions.

    The basic problem as I see it is that the service proposals are “fixed” at six minute peak headways for the full length of every line and always using the same light rail vehicle. This is because of the promise in ST3.

    The missing analysis is what peak trains should do versus baseline trains. The addition of trains to improve peak train frequencies should be based on crowding in my opinion rather than a political promise. Honestly, many segments — and in some cases really long segments — don’t have the demand for even a baseline ten minute service that could be productive (much less than six minute service). Also, the same 1 Line train running practically empty for 20 minutes south of Federal Way appears to become standing room only in the Beacon Hill tunnel according to ST forecasts, for example — exposing the inefficiencies of the currently proposed network.

    The solution proposed in the article includes changing the vehicle type from the current light rail to an automated system for WSBLE. That’s reasonable. However, the article did not explore doing other vehicle changes like Battery DMU for those segments with 3 miles between stations combined with very low daily usage. Battery DMU would operate much faster when the station spaces gets to that almost 3 mile range.

    It’s also not clear how many train cars the 4 Line would get. There will likely never be demand between Kirkland and Issaquah to justify six minute service.

    I get the importance of having a minimum policy headway. But 6 minutes is just overkill pure and simple. No mature transit system in the world would operate that high of a frequency over long distances without looking first at rider loads. Even Metro and ST gauge train car lengths and frequencies over the minimums based on anticipated crowding levels on both bus and rail routes.

    Does anyone else think that ST should next present a train load analysis by segment by first creating a demand based operating plan set of assumptions? Only with an analysis like that can a rational discussion of a service plan and needed vehicles can be had in my perspective.

    I also will again make a pitch for studying Battery EMU use south of Federal Way and north of Lynnwood with a cross platform transfer at a new station on these segments. Battery EMU would travel faster (up to 79 mph) when stop spacing is wide like in these segments, and these vehicles set up new opportunities to offer potential service onto existing non-electrified tracks. It only takes a cross platform transfer station to make changing vehicles pretty seamless.

  6. The Denny/SLU webinar presentation is now online.

    I attended the webinar and made some notes but didn’t try to capture the whole thing. There are some other things in the slides. I don’t know if the audio will be posted but there were some more things and questions there. What stuck out for me was that the bus integration analysis was more thorough than I expected:

    * 32% of boardings at Denny/SLU stations are expected to come from buses.

    * ST analyzed four Metro Connects routes similar to the current E, 5, 62, and 8.

    * Metro said the 62 and 8’s successors could potentially be moved to an alternative Denny location.

    * Without SLU station, overall transit ridership would remain the same but Link’s ridership would fall 10%. Half the riders would shift to surrounding stations (Denny, Seattle Center), and the other half would shift to buses. This includes those going from SLU to Capitol Hill, who with SLU station would take a 2-seat Link ride via Westlake, but without SLU station would take the 8 instead.

    * The new alternatives would add 3-6 minutes to travel times.

    * Peak frequency would be 5 minutes to avoid crowding. That’s higher than the 8 minutes I’ve heard before, and higher than the 6-minute limit on MLK (if it’s really a hard limit). I can understand how 5-minute frequency could be necessary because SLU and Ballard are popular, and the D has had to repeatedly add runs and be supplemented by the 15.

    At least half the questions were against the new alternatives, against delays, etc. I didn’t write them down but hopefully Andrew remembers what all they said. The questioners may have been Seattle Subway and friends, or others who think like them. There were 66 people on the call near the beginning.

    There’s another webinar July 25, and it will go to the ST board July 27th.

    1. I definitely don’t remember all of them, but I agree with your characterization. Most were against the shifted west plan in one way or another. Some people were complaining about how long the process takes.

    2. In case you’re thinking, “Why was the bus analysis earlier and more thorough here than in other cases,” I doubt it is. We’re probably just seeing it this time. In every EIS ST gets a list of representative routes that could serve the station. For ST3 Metro rolled it all into Metro Connects in 2016, and published a countywide long-range plan which included these routes.

      The problem comes afterward I think. ST chooses alignments often based on other factors, showing worse values and priorities. The long-range route concepts change over the years as new information comes or planners change their minds. Specific routes go through the sausage making of hearings that can water them down. (“Keep the 43. Keep a route on Latona.”) And having a revenue/driver shortage can lead to disappointing frequency or a make-do restructure. (“The 77 is a 7-shaped route because we don’t have the resources for two routes. The 61 ends at Greenwood because we don’t have the resources to extend it to 15th NW to meet the D.”)

    3. Honestly the analysis does make the SLU station look a bit less useful than before. Though I might be a bit more okay with dropping the station if they were going to use the money for say extending to nw 65th station or south towards Morgan street. For now it seems like the money saved by dropping the station is going to be chewed up by excessive tunneling or other measures

    4. There is another topic about these stations that needs to be mentioned: They are all very deep! The estimates I’ve seen put it at about 120-126 feet deep for both stations.

      By comparison, UW Station is 95 feet in depth and Capitol Hill Station is 65 feet in depth.

      It takes time to get to platforms this deep. That pretty much discourages hiding it to get 1 or 2 stops.

      1. We need to build cut and cover again like the DSTT stations, yes they were disruptive buy they need to be shallow and under the street for better access to street level.

      2. That requires getting the politicians and public to accept that long-term transit is more important than short-term disruption. The failure of that is precisely why CID station was moved.

    5. Honestly the analysis does make the SLU station look a bit less useful than before.

      There is another topic about these stations that needs to be mentioned: They are all very deep! The estimates I’ve seen put it at about 120-126 feet deep for both stations.

      Yep. This is what folks have been complaining about for quite some time. Even the best part of ST3 is still not that great. The SLU station was always questionable. From a walk-up standpoint, it is the likely the worst possible place for a station. It is largely meant as an intercept for Aurora buses, but the buses are actually going the same direction, to the same place. Let’s say you are riding the 5, 62 or E from the north end of Seattle to the south end of downtown. You aren’t going to get off the bus, go down into a very deep tunnel and then wait for the train. You will just stay on the bus. Nor will you ride back north to Ballard. It really only makes sense for trips to Interbay and Uptown, which means the only significant transfer is to Uptown. I’m not sure how much faster it is than taking the 8. The bus has to make its way to Denny, and then you have to make your way back up. That takes about 8 minutes, while the train probably takes 2. A lot of that time savings disappears because of the station depth. The biggest issue is just that the 8 is slow, and the walk from the 5/E is not trivial. Putting the money into making the buses faster, and improving key bus to bus connections would be a much better value, since Link will only serve one part of Uptown, while the 8 serves more of it.

      Same thing is true for the Denny Station. On paper, it is a huge win. For those riding to or from Rainier Valley or the airport, it is great. But if the transfer from the main line is terrible, ridership will suffer. People will just walk from Westlake (or hop on a surface bus/streetcar). Likewise, if someone around Denny is headed to the other end of downtown, they may decide to just take the bus. The train is faster, but for a lot of people, getting to a bus stop is much faster than getting to the platform.

      It is why details matter. I have come to call much of ST3 “symbolic transit”. ST3 serves Ballard, Tacoma, Everett and Issaquah. Yes, technically. But most of that is symbolism, as opposed to being a major transit improvement for the cities and neighborhoods involved. Station details matter. The number and location of stations matter. Link stations are not like Krispy Kreme stores. People will travel quite a ways for those donuts. Having one in your community is enough. In contrast, stations *only* works if it is convenient. Can you walk to it; can you transfer from another train or bus to it; screw up those details, and you just don’t get that many riders. People find alternatives.

      To be clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have that station. I’m saying that the details are very important, and ST3 was never about the details.

    6. @al

      Also that presentations bus analysis was based on the slu station at Harrison. If slu station is built on Mercer the bus south bound can’t even stop there. Unless if some other bus station in the middle is built or a better off ramp

      1. A bit off topic, but man, that off-ramp is terrible. It is just unbelievable that WSDOT built it that way. It makes no sense, and we know it makes no sense. The I-5 Mercer ramps are terrible. Drivers routinely have to go from the far left lane to the far right lane, endangering everyone and completely screwing up traffic along the way. So what does WSDOT do with this brand new expressway? The same thing! But it is worse, since it means that you can’t have bus stops very close to where they actually make a lot of sense (e. g. Mercer). You can’t build a curbside bus lane (or if you do, the bus has to leave it and work its way to over). Never mind the train, this is just terrible for so many reasons. But yeah, it makes building a station close to Mercer really bad too.

  7. It’s currently 115° in Palm Springs. A bus not showing up might be a matter of life and death.

    1. If only the heat waves would get the South and Southwest to drop their opposition to migrating away from fossil fuels and car-dependent infrastructure. As if.

      1. “Walkable City” has a parallel anecdote by Richard Jackson. On the Buford Highway in Atlanta (“the worst street in America”), Jeff Speck writes, “in the ninety-five-degree afternoon, he [Jackson] saw a woman in her seventies, struggling under the burden of two shopping bags. He tried to relate her plight to his own work as an epidemiologist: ‘If that poor woman had collapsed from heat stroke, we docs would have written the cause of death as heat stroke and not lack of trees and public transportation, poor urban form, and heat-island effects. If she had been killed by a truck driving by, the cause of death would have been “motor-vehicle trauma,” and not lack of sidewalks and transit, poor urban planning, and failed political leadership.'”

      2. “If only the heat waves would get the South and Southwest to drop their opposition to migrating away from fossil fuels and car-dependent infrastructure. As if.”

        I don’t know if I would blame only the South and SW. It is the big blue states that emit the most carbon.

        But the heat, and cold in winter in some states, point out one reality about urbanism and walkability: no matter how great a city is, or how walkable, weather can make it unwalkable, unless it is indoors like in a mall. I owned a house in Phoenix from 1995 to 2012. There simply are times when you can’t walk outside, and so a carless life is not possible.

        I know there is a lot of focus on the south and SW right now, but try the Midwest in the summer when the heat plus humidity makes going outside nearly impossible, and as soon as you do you are drenched in sweat.

        The reality is if you need air conditioning to survive in A and B, you need air conditioning getting from A to B and back. Same in the north in winter.

      3. “I know there is a lot of focus on the south and SW right now, but try the Midwest in the summer when the heat plus humidity makes going outside nearly impossible, and as soon as you do you are drenched in sweat.”
        The Midwest actually is more tolerable (outside of Iowa) because of the abundance of lakes in the region which help manage the heat. I’ve been to the Twin Cities during the summer months, it’s generally pleasant if warm along with rain is common during the summer months and helps cool the air. That’s in comparison to the SW desert where it’s more like an oven and can still be an oven in the middle of the night. Alongside the fact that Phoenix is a heat island from the abundance of asphalt and concrete which retain heat and keep the hot air long into the night. Twin Cities actually has trees, forests, lakes, etc to help manage the effects of a heat island.

      4. Daniel: As someone that lived over a decade in the Midwest (Illinois) in both urban and rural settings, and without A/C most of the time, you’re absolutely wrong that’s it’s “almost impossible” to go outside. Like not partially wrong… absolutely wrong.

        Sure, the Chicago heat wave of 1995 was awful, as was the Seattle one a couple of years back. But, as usual, you are greatly exaggerating the situation (or you can’t see past your own bias): people to go outside the overwhelming majority of the time in the summer.

        I’m sure you visited once and it was hot/humid and you couldn’t take it. That doesn’t mean the rest of us were inside huddled next to our fans/AC units.

      5. “I was in Nashville last September and it was hot. ”
        That’s because you visited the South, not the Midwest. The Midwest is Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. Like if you’re going to make a point about x place being miserable in the summer outside at least get the geography correct in your defense.

      6. “ That’s because you visited the South, not the Midwest. ”

        Nashville is located about a two hour drive south of either the Illinois or the the Indiana State Lines. Summer weather there is pretty similar to that in St Louis. It’s just their winters and cool weather periods aren’t as long nor as harsh as St Louis’.

        I lived 1/3 of my life in this region.


        The problem for me with the Midwest in the summer is the humidity which is part of the heat index. The article above is about the heat wave last July (I went in Sept.) which the locals said was much worse due to the humidity.

        I had a house in Phoenix for 20 years. Around 105 F is the cut off to go outside, even though I have played golf in 112 (in a cart), and the Mexican laborers are putting up tile roofs in long pants and long sleeved shirts. . I prefer 105 in Phoenix any day over 90 in Houston or St. Louis, or just about anywhere along the Mississippi River because of the humidity.

        I am in Spokane today. It is 92 and damn hot in the sun, especially on concrete (which buses run on). I would be hesitant to walk more than one block to catch a bus and another block or two to get to my destination during mid day. Tomorrow it is suppose to be 96. At that temperature I would be hesitant to take transit, but everyone is different.

      8. Perhaps it is time for humans to discover the utility of carrying bottles of ice. They come in very handy regardless of the humidity.

    2. “It’s currently 115° in Palm Springs. A bus not showing up might be a matter of life and death.”

      That is true, and why there are no buses.

      1. What about the seven months of the year when it’s less than 90? We can’t have buses anytime because it’s ultra-hot a few months a year?

        P.S. Buses have air conditioning, even in Seattle now.

      2. It’s a Catch-22. We shouldn’t drive cars so the earth doesn’t get too hot. But, if we switch to public transit, we will die from heat stroke at the bus stop.

      3. Cities like Palm Springs have more buses in the non-summer months (May through September). My point was if you live in Palm Springs you can’t live without a car because five months/year you can’t walk to and wait for transit.

      4. The real question then is, why are we habitating unhabitable places?

        I can imagine many of these places “where you can’t walk or take transit” could be tolerable with the appropriate investment in infrasture. Shade trees. Frequent buses. Stops with shade structures and misters.

        It’s all what you prioritize. And we prioritize asphalt. To humanity’s detriment, and potentially it’s doom.

      5. Well, there’s been a lot of press this week about developers picking the least expensive design option, even though it involved cutting down a hundred+ year old tree. So that’s what the city was prioritizing until next week when the new code goes in.

        It’s important to note that developers could choose to do something more custom, yes, but… it would be more expensive. So there really is a tension between having more housing built and having trees preserved, __in some cases__. And it is entirely possible that such cases would be lost in attempts to reduce the complexity of the code. To flip it around, when we talk about why the code is complex, often it is due to cases like this, which get a lot of attention (for good reason!) and then the city tries to address them in a general (and consistent) way, while balancing competing priorities.

      6. It’s easy to say as a person with economic privilege that 110 degrees is too hot to ride the bus. But, try telling that to someone who can’t afford a car and can’t move to another city either because their home and their job are where they are. Even people who do have cars, sometimes cars break down (especially old cars driven by people who don’t have a lot of money), yet people still need to get to work.

        Also, Phoenix has similar weather to Palm Springs and I’ve never heard of them shutting down the bus system during summers due to the heat. Sure, discretionary ridership will go down when it’s very hot outside. But, the bus still has to run because people depend on it.

      7. Considering parking lots in the sun are equivalent to walking through hell, I’m not convinced driving is such a great alternative either.

        Unless of course you’re wealthy enough to have valet parking everywhere and view the valet as a discardable life.

      8. The car does still help, as walking across a parking lot still usually takes less time than walking to and waiting for a bus. There do exist people that might choose to ride the bus occasionally on days when the weather is decent, but will drive instead when it’s 110 degrees. Even people without cars, their bus ridership will likely decline in extreme heat. For example, they might decide not to ride the bus for shopping and use Amazon Prime instead.

        But, nevertheless, there still do exist people that depend on the bus in all weather, so as long as the bus is physically capable of completing the route safely, the bus needs to run.

  8. Gonna fork out an earlier thread since it drifted. People were talking about the return to downtown and the breakdown between residents and workers and tourists etc.

    I read this article on King5 News that seemed relevant, in terms of the impact of one of those slices of population (tourists) on local businesses, in ways which may be a little counterintuitive (to me it was so, at any rate).

    1. “during MLB All-Star Week … OHSUN Banchan Deli & Cafe, Luigi’s Italian Eatery & Cafe and Underbelly … were told to expect a lot more foot traffic that week, but sales were actually the same or worse. ”

      Midday Link ridership also appeared to be down instead of up between Roosevelt and Capitol Hill on the biggest days, so several things may have played out differently than expected.

      “As for big events, Upshaw suggests that organizers and the city work more closely with nearby businesses, planning pop-ups, activations and activities that bring event attendees directly through doors or nearby.”

      That makes sense: have more activities in Pioneer Square that would get into eventgoers radar. But first we’d need to analyze why MLB eventgoers’ behavior turned out the opposite of other events.

      “she’d like to see more resources and life invested into the neighborhood year-round so it’s not as hard to adjust when big events come around. That includes a filling of vacant storefronts, potentially through city programs- and, as Williams suggests, through making sure landlords take care of those spaces.”

      That makes sense too. And it’s supposedly what Harrell’s downtown reactivation push is about. I don’t know what specifically should be done or how much should be invested. But Pioneer Square can’t expect an extraordinarily higher investment than other Central Seattle neighborhoods.

      “Williams, Upshaw and the Wilcoxes also all see benefits to adding more residential housing in Pioneer Square, especially workforce-friendly housing. ”

      Of course. As a New Yorker explained to me about Lower Manhattan in the mid 2000s when I visited, when 9/11 struck the immediate area was almost all offices, so it became a ghost town after 5pm. Then it rebuilt with a lot of housing, “and now tens of thousands of people live there, and are there 24/7”. Pioneer Square does have apartments: my dad was considering one in the early 90s. Perhaps it needs to shift the balance more toward housing; I don’t know. It would probably be easier to build housing in Pioneer Square where the prevailing style is lowrise, as compared to the core of downtown where it’s harder to convert a highrise office tower.

      1. Yesterday, King St was lined with food trucks. I suspect the local restauranteurs did not appreciate that “activation”.

    2. Interesting. In contrast, my son used to be co-owner at Outlander Brewery, and a did huge amount of business during the Fremont Fair. A lot depends on the particulars. I would imagine there are businesses in Fremont a few blocks from the fair that have next to no business during it. Everyone avoids the area unless they are going to the fair. That was probably the case with the all-star festivities. Some did a lot of business, some did very little. I think the article is right — they need to work with the local businesses to funnel business there, as many of their regulars will just skip the area for that period.

      1. I can see why a lot of people avoid Fremont during the Painted Bike Ride and Solstice Parade, for non-transportation reasons.

        Chinatown was quite accessible yesterday, despite the confluence of mega-events. Fremont is not so lucky when bus streets get shut down.

      2. One year I went to the Fremont fair and was going to meet some people at a pub. It took an hour to walk a couple blocks through a solid crowd of people. Non-fairgoers would avoid Fremont that day, especially after experiencing it once.

      3. Living on the Fremont parade route for a decade, I quickly learned to make plans to be very far from Fremont that day.

  9. I went to the Bite but it was all app payment only. The booths have a pickup line but no menu or ordering line, just a QR code and a message to download the app. I turned around and didn’t get anything. I’m going to write to the organizers and the city and tell them I don’t want Seattle festivals going cashless, and that it needs to be publicized more when an event is restricted to app-users and card-users. I’ve heard one of the stadiums is card-only inside now.

    1. T mobile park has been cashless since last year. And simultaniously raised the prices to nearly $20 a beer, if you tip appropriately.

      It’s gross. But I pay it.

    2. I also went to the Bite of Seattle and found it a very frustrating experience. First it took some 15 minutes to download the app and only succeeded because one of the people in a customer service booth helped.

      I then ordered food from a vendor and even then I had problems in completing the order and it took the assistance of the vendor to help.

      I understand about no cash transactions but there should be an option to use a credit card at each vendor. With chip and tap cards those are easy and fast transactions. I was told that using the app would eliminate lines except there were lines at many of the vendors.

      I have already written to the company organizing the event that not everyone has a cell phone and not everyone wants to use an app at a public event held a city owned facility to order food and pay for it that way.

      I only ate at one vendor and because of the frustration with the whole process I left and in my note to the company I told them that I have no plans to attend the event in the future if there was no other option to order and pay other than their app.

      1. “…that not everyone has a cell phone and not everyone wants to use an app”

        In that case, you’ll love the transition of cars from gas to electric, as nearly all of the public charging providers these days are exclusively app based; if you don’t have a working cell phone with their app installed, you don’t get any electricity.

        Same with transportation in general. You can’t ride in an Uber car, Lyft car, or even a Like bike without a phone and an app. At least public transit (for now) still works without apps. It’s not often, but I have had times when my phone’s battery died while out and about, but I still able to ride the bus to get back home (albeit without being able to look up when the bus is coming, which makes a robust frequent network extremely important). If I were forced to find somewhere to charge the phone before being allowed to even board a bus, it would have been a real mess.

    3. See, if they wanted actual fast transactions, they should figure out a way to accept ORCA as a payment method…

      1. The monorail did. :) It was my first time using the monorail since the Westlake station renovation and it accepting ORCA. For years I took a bus to Seattle Center to avoid double-paying the fare. Then I loosened up and started treating the monorail fee as part of the entertainment expense of visiting the center. Now with it participating in ORCA’s shared pass, I can treat it as just a regular transit mode, and of course the best one to use to get to the Center. Except when it has an extraordinarily long line coming back, as it did after the first Women’s March. At that time both the monorail and the buses were overflowing, so I went to a restaurant for an hour until the crowd died down.

      2. I used light rail and the monorail to get to the Bite of Seattle on Saturday and it worked very well.

        Parked at Northgate and rode the light rail to Westlake and the train was quite full with Taylor Swift and baseball fans. The connection at Westlake was easy as there is a elevator that takes directly to the monorail on the top floor from light rail but you do have find this elevator.

        There is a separate line to buy monorail tickets and a line to tap your Orca card and the same at the Seattle Center for the return trip. So well-coordinated as long as you know where the find the elevator at the Westlake.

        When I returned to Northgate the light rail was again quite full and all of the parking spots were filled with cars circling trying to find an empty spot. I made one driver very happy when I left so he could park.

        For those who object to park and ride lots at light rail stations they do serve a purpose for those us like me who don’t have a direct bus in this case to Northgate to be able to park and use the light rail.

      3. “well-coordinated as long as you know where the find the elevator at the Westlake.”

        That’s the biggest issue. A week ago during the All-Stars I was on a train going past Westlake and a group asked if this was the stop for Seattle Center. Since I was remaining on the train I couldn’t explain it thoroughly so I said, “Get off here and go up and take the monorail to Seattle Center”.

        Another time during the All-Stars I was at the TVMs closest to the monorail elevator and a group asked me where the monorail is and whether to pay here (at the Link TVMs). I told them to take that elevator up to the monorail and pay there.

        A third time, a few weeks before, I came down into Westlake from the Nordstrom’s entrance, and found a group wandering around looking for the monoral. I had them follow me to the middle of the mezzanine and pointed to the monorail elevator.

        There are monorail signs in the station, and the entire station signage was updated to the ST2 style in the past year. I think the monorail signs are reasonably good, but perhaps the need to be in more places. Or there will always be people who don’t see/understand the signs no matter how many signs there are. Like me forgetting to tap out and not seeing the ORCA readers or fare-paid signs because they’re not in my line of sight. The new Westlake layout tries to address that too, with the TVMs and readers in a line and with a yellow stripe on the floor between them. It’s better than the previous attempts, although not 100% successful.

      4. >> you do have find this elevator

        Last time I made that trip (to see a Clippers exhibition game) I was with someone who had done it before. It all went very smoothly and quickly, but I’m not sure if I would have done as well. Even the ORCA card line didn’t seem obvious to me. Then again, I wasn’t really looking, so maybe I would have managed both just fine.

    4. People still don’t get the science of respiratory viruses.

      This surface hygiene theater is irrelevant. Cash is not a transmission vector.

      What is risky is the face-to-face interactions, with neither interactor wearing a mask.

      btw, XBB.2.3 and EG.5 are starting to surge in the US.

      Also, the raw data showed the bivalent boosters making outcomes slightly worse. I was one of the 17% who took it. I can only hypothesize that those who took it behaved more recklessly after they got it. But I am done with CDC recommendations. If they want me to take any more shots, they need to publish data backing up their efficacy.

      /angry rant

      1. 1. Food borne illnesses are surface transmitted. That’s why commercial kitchens are stainless steel, and people have to wear gloves.

        2. There’s a 98% chance they’re using pay by app in order to track purchases for marketing research and advertising. It’s the same thing grocery store “loyalty” programs do.

      2. I assume the app-only payment was for financial/logistical reasons, not covid. The farmers’ markets were temporarily card-only but now take cash again. There’s a tradeoff between the inconvenience of handling cash vs third-party card processors taking a large commission. Some stores lean on the cash side an add a 50c surcharge for small card transactions or are cash-only, while others lean toward card-only purchases or app-only restaurant menus or kiosks. I want a choice; I don’t want to be forced to use a card or app. Requiring an app means not just that you’re forcing a credit-card processor into the picture, but you’re also requiring a smartphone, Android/iOs software, one of the big 5 cellular carriers, going through an app “store”, accepting their privacy policy and and security vulnerabilities, marching toward an all-tracking police state, etc.

      3. “Also, the raw data showed the bivalent boosters making outcomes slightly worse.”

        You can’t look at the raw data and make any judgement about effectiveness of the vaccine, as there are many confounding factors you must adjust for, and it’s a pretty complex analysis. Unless you are an epidemiologist, I would highly recommend you refrain from suggesting the vaccine is ineffective against severe disease. It is. And saying otherwise could cause people not to get it, and consequently end up in the hospital or the morgue.

      4. The original vaccine series was highly effective against bad outcomes. But I am not a medical doctor, much less an epidemiologist. I don’t know about Cam’s credentials.

        I do know that only 17% of the population got the bivalent boosters. I don’t think that was the result of people listening to the anti-vax quacks. If the CDC wants better uptake on the XBB shot, publishing some convincing data might help. I say this as one of the 17%.

        I don’t see how the CDC’s guidance back in 2021 that everyone could stop wearing masks (so long as they claimed to be vaccinated) had anything to do with science. Maybe it is only correlation, but the Delta wave came after that, and a lot of unvaccinated people died. A lot of vaccinated people did, too, as they were pushed back into mask-free settings with the CDC downplaying masks and ventilation.

        I’m supposed to say ask your doctor if the XBB vaccine is right for you. But I hope all the practitioners upon whom we bestow this burden are prepared to fully explain the benefits and risk factors, and know what factors are genuine contraindications. And armed with data about when and where it is helpful to wear some PPE. Not all medicine is putting drugs in your body. If a doctor simply tells someone the vaccine is not for them, and leaves it at that, is that good medical practice?

      5. For what it’s worth, I did get COVID during a trip a couple weeks ago, I did have the bivalent vaccine, and it ended up being just a mild case, roughly equivalent to a routine cold and side effects of the COVID vaccine happening at the same time.

        I did temporarily go back to masking around other people while I was infected (which is a good courtesy for others that I encourage), but I put the mask away as soon as the symptoms subsided. COVID is annoying, but definitely not worth masking up all the time, everywhere you go, in order to prevent.

      6. Brent,

        I respect that you’re very COVID cautious, but I do have to push back on the notion that the updated vaccines are not effective or worse than nothing. They’re at least as effective against severe disease as a flu shot (~50%) — which I also recommend getting, BTW — and as Cam noted there’s tons of confounding factors. In particular, I have to wonder who exactly is getting tested these days; even UW has shut down their free PCR testing for staff and I’m not even sure if hospitals are testing regularly anymore. That implies the only people who are probably getting PCR tested are those who are already very sick and need to know exactly what disease they have, which will make any vaccine seem less effective.

        If I had to choose between a mask and a vaccine at this point, it would be a vaccine without any second thoughts. I’ll certainly wear a mask where it’s required or specifically requested, but I’ll always have immune protection from a flu/COVID/etc. vaccine (until the next boost, at least).

      7. I don’t wish to discourage anyone from getting a vaccine if their medical care providers recommend it. But this latest surge should be a warning that more is needed than just the vaccines if we are to protect the vulnerable people in our lives, and certainly if we want to reach the totally achievable goal of putting this virus out of our misery for good.

        For those of us who want to be able to get around safely on transit without heavy exposure to the virus, a little less opposition to simple compromises like a safe car on each train would go a long way.

  10. Pretty nice weekend for Seattle. Bite of Seattle was a madhouse. Everywhere I went in Seattle was full of people and felt thriving. But there were also scenes in every neighborhood of people nodding off at bus stops, sleeping under store awnings within short distance of the major events.

    If this city could ever clamp down on public drug use and addicts loitering around problem, it would have a ton of potential.

  11. Also, the Bite of Seattle cheq app was pretty easy to figure out. Could have been easier by avoiding checking in first and then waiting for the food, but we still had a good time, it also made finding food pretty easy.

    The SLU station is still superfluous, it’s deep and all it does is make two seat rides of one seat rapid lines. I’m disappointed Harrell backed down so easily. I would have gladly sacrificed the SLU station for a real CID option.

    1. I ended up at Seattle Center during Bite of Seattle, and thought about getting something to eat, but left to go to a restaurant when saw that it was app-only. Would have definitely gotten something if there was a cash or card option.

    1. My daughter went to Taylor Swift Sunday night and loved it. I am not sure how much money that demographic poured into the local businesses. Many are under 21.

      My sister drove my daughter and her friend to Pioneer Square at 3:30 and it wasn’t a problem. A big part of the show was to dress up in outfits matching TS album covers and compare outfits by the stadium. Good thing it was warm because TS doesn’t wear much on her album covers. Or in concert.

      Metro added additional 550 and 554 buses but for some reason ST closed the MI park and ride for the weekend for repairs. I am guessing S Bellevue P&R was full.

      If East Link were open I think more concert goers from the Eastside would have used transit. But most parents were not keen on their daughters wearing skin tight mini skirts taking a bus through Seattle, especially in stiletto’s, another TS trademark.

      We actually watched some of the concert live from Spokane on some bootleg feeds on YouTube. If you ever want to understand retail it was in Lumen Field Saturday and Sunday night.

      1. I was on the train for a little while. It was overwhelmingly women dressed up like they were going to the TS concert. They far outnumbered the Blue Jays fans.

        I stuck out like a sore thumb as the only one wearing a mask on the train. On the buses, there were usually a few other mask wearers, mostly KN95s or N95s.

        A friend of mine got sick after attending All-Star events without a mask after three years of being as OCD as I am about wearing a mask around strangers.

    1. How do you know the racers are urbanists? Did you interview them about their views on neighborhood design? Did you determine they’re Capitol Hill residents?

    1. Thanks for sharing. A few thoughts. A black guy couldn’t get away with that. Neither could someone who looked Arab. My guess is some poor security guard got reprimanded by his boss. Good thing the camera didn’t fall off and cause any damage.

      The videos are cool. It is unfortunate that on most systems, you can’t see out the front. One exception is SkyTrain. I assume it is common for automated trains to have windows in front that everyone can enjoy. I think it would nice if systems like ours had videos so we could see out the front. It wouldn’t be the same, but it would be similar to this. A camera shares the same view as the driver. It could be like the webcam for the Space Needle, in that you could see periodic videos. This would be a pretty cool public relations thing in my opinion. You would probably have to obfuscate faces in stations (like Google Streetview does). Other than that, it seems fairly easy to implement (even if it isn’t great quality).

      1. Those are great ideas! Really lean in to the unique aspects of the transit experience rather than the humdrum or grimy…

  12. “Why The U.S. Gave Up On Public Transit.” Just posted video from CNBC. Despite the title, for a short 12 minute video, it’s a good look at the state of affairs of public transit, and how it can be improved.

    1. Interesting video Sam.

      The nugget of course is public transit needs more general fund subsidies because transit runs at such a huge operations deficit. This leads to poorer service which leads to fewer people riding transit which leads to less demand for public subsidies. As one commenter noted, the reason public transit is so expensive in the U.S. is because so few use it.

      According to one commenter, the political problem is 1-3% of even city dwellers use transit, so it is hard to push for infrastructure improvements over cars or more public subsidies. The result is reductions in frequency and coverage (reliability was the second highest request from transit riders after fare costs), or higher fares.

      It wasn’t until the very end of the video that the benefits of better or more transit were listed. These were in order:

      1. 87% of transit trips were a benefit to the local economy, and each $1 spent on transit returned $5 in economic benefit. There was so citation for these claims.

      2. Connect workers to employment.

      3. Too poor to own a car.

      4. Reduce congestion for drivers.

      The operating and maintenance deficits for U.S. transit are staggering, especially after the pandemic, and will continue to rise. For some reason the elephant in the room — WFH — was not mentioned or I missed it, although it also addresses the reasons for transit 1-4.

      I think it is important to segregate urban from suburban or rural transit. The video noted 45% of the U.S. is transit deserts, but over 45% are basically deserts anyway with simply too few residents let alone transit riders to pencil out. It is very hard to provide transit coverage or frequency in areas with undense population. So those folks must own a car, and transit is going to do better with those who don’t own a car.

      The conclusion is a common conclusion among transit advocates: massive increases in public investment in transit above farebox recovery will increase reliability, coverage, frequency, and lower fares, which will increase ridership which will help tip the political calculus on public funding, a sort of tautology.

      I think WFH has made that much more difficult. First, I don’t think transit in rural areas makes sense unless we are talking a bus/day. The litmus test so to speak were the suburbs, and transit in those areas was very heavily peak commuter oriented, which made suburbanites more interested in transit and transit funding (ST 2 and 3). That is gone in many areas, and so is much of the traffic congestion and supposedly economic benefit from each transit dollar.

      Going forward the biggest issue for transit is the huge O&M deficits that will rise because transit agencies have a bad habit of ignoring future O&M costs. LA’s and NY’s rail transit deficits are staggering. This is why the $106 billion in the infrastructure bill for local transit goes mainly to capital upgrades and maintenance and replacement, which leaves the same problem that depresses transit ridership (other than things like WFH): poorly funded operations which is exactly what affects riders: reliability, fares, frequency, coverage. This then leads to less transit ridership, even in this area, which is compounded by WFH in the suburbs, which means even less public funding for transit and less political support for transit outside very urban areas.

      This is hardly new. This blog has addressed this issue a zillion times. So far transit advocates have not created the momentum among voters and non-transit users for the kind of public investment in transit to address both O&M deficits and operations. I think urban city budgets will be stressed by WFH and declining office values, and so less transit funding will be available, especially from the suburbs. Levy may hate the suburbs but those dollars are needed if transit in the urban areas is going to run at such huge deficits.

      So that leaves cuts to one or more areas: coverage, frequency, reliability, or higher fares. Right now in this area we are seeing cuts to reliability for Metro, and will see cuts to ST because like every other transit agency (although it is younger) it badly underestimated future O&M costs, capital projects, and overestimated farebox recovery and ridership.

      IMO the place to cut first if general public subsidies are unlikely to increase or even cover O&M deficits is coverage to maintain reliability, then frequency where available if reliability of schedule is good, then fare increases. But I don’t think transit advocates in this area are willing to meaningfully consider this, and prefer to wait for a new normal that is like the old normal, or more general fund subsidies.

      1. I like that one quote in the video … “Mass transit needs mass to be successful.” And, as you said, it’s a cycle. Ridership has declined, and less riders means it’s more difficult to justify throwing more money into it, leading to a further degradation of service, causing even less ridership, etc., etc.

    2. I watched the video…. not really impressed because the same “transit answers” were given about fixing what’s wrong. Here’s what’s wrong about the video (and also wrong about most of thinking on this board.)

      1. Transit is for now and the people currently living here. Huge, decades long transit construction projects (Sound Transit) only drain funds that should be used for current transit. currently, Sound Transit is staving Metro and Pierce Transit of needed funding.

      2. Zoning has little to no effect on current transit. The idea we can build dense transit rich neighborhoods in real time is false. Zoning changes take decades to change things and they’re easy changed by political pressure.

      3. Fare box recovery means nothing. Transit burns though public money and this idea you can get some of that money back though fares is nonsense. All fair box recovery does is set up transit to fail.

      4. The main goal of transit is to change people’s behavior. A good transit system should attract riders…. not just shuttle around the “great unwashed” who can’t afford to drive. Metro is currently convincing people not to ride the bus with substandard service.

      5. Federal transit money should focus mainly on new development. Washington State should have planned and built several completely new cities in Eastern Washington and the Peninsula (with populations of over 100,000) with streetcars and high speed rail installed from the beginning. This would have built way more housing and spent the same amount of money Sound Transit has wasted trying to retrofit light rail into existing cities. Want to understand the great German transit system? this is it.

      6. Why doesn’t I-5 have transit only lanes boarder to boarder in Washington State? Why isn’t new technology like self driving electric buses in the picture? Why is “train on the brain” the only acceptable transit solution. Scale up my ass. It’s railheads refusing to change course not matter what new reality brings to the table.

      7. Transit is rock rolling down hill. Without great local bus service, the rock never gets going. Funding should fallow this rule. Buses first… and when so many people ride the bus… maybe rail is needed (or something else) But if you can’t get people to ride the bus for 12 minutes… your transit system is a complete failure.

      1. “4. The main goal of transit is to change people’s behavior. A good transit system should attract riders…. not just shuttle around the “great unwashed” who can’t afford to drive. Metro is currently convincing people not to ride the bus with substandard service.”

        I disagree with this Tacomee, and believe this goal has been one of transit’s biggest problems.

        First, the 95% who drive a car don’t want to change their behavior. Why?

        Second, transit has structural deficits like first/last mile access, transfers, safety, and convenience (kids, carrying groceries, weather) it can’t overcome, especially among women. Hence all the free parking retailers provide.

        Third, the 95% who drive don’t see a moral imperative to take transit over driving. If the issue is carbon then the solution is WFH and EV’s. How is transit more moral than driving a car?

        Too often the goal to “change people’s behavior” has meant disadvantaging cars, either with taxes or lane diets or restricted parking, and then all transit does is create animus when it is those drivers who determine how much general fund subsidies to give to transit. If even urban transit riders make up 1-3% of residents then transit will need a lot of driver votes for subsidies, which is why of course transit always uses congestion as a benefit (pre-WFH).

        Many transit advocates want to frame this issue as cars vs. transit, and want to pursue it that way. So far that approach has turned out catastrophic. WFH was a response to spending hours each day on packed transit because workers had to go downtown and liberal downtowns eliminated parking. Uber was a response to reduced parking in urban areas (and poor local transit service). Each time transit has tried to disadvantage cars or what it sees as its competition it has backfired, and resulted in even less public fund subsidies. So after years of this cars/Uber vs. transit we have ended up in a world of more cars and massively growing Uber and worse and worse transit.

        Transit had two true benefits over cars (at least for those who own a car): grade separation from urban congestion (which ironically played to Uber’s strength with HOV lanes); and no need for parking. WFH and Uber exploited those two strengths because that is what the market does. Cars replaced transit, and where needed WFH and Uber replaced driving your own car.

        It is fool’s gold to think you can change people’s behavior, whether it is zoning or transit or cars, ESPECIALLY if you want them to opt for a more inconvenient or less safe place to live or their transportation. Because in the end we live in a democracy and the voters will elect who give them what they want. The best transit can hope for post pandemic is to scrape up as much general fund subsidies as possible and get realistic about coverage and frequency so there is reliability, because lack of reliability (even if the trip is safe) drives riders away permanently. A bus or train can come less frequently, if it comes at the same time every day.

      2. Daniel Thompson,

        Tacoma has two major hubs, the mall and downtown. It’s easy enough to drive to either and lots of people do. But many people do ride the bus to both places.. Riding the bus downtown solves the problem of parking. Riding the bus to the mall is only a 15 minute ride for much of the city.
        It’s not cars versus transit, it is building a functional transportation system. If buses were free, I’m quite sure they’d be a whole lot more popular. If there were m more buses, there would be more riders.
        Yet the taxpayers of Tacoma are paying for 2 mile train to nowhere, for decades. That isn’t finished. That’s not value for money.

      3. “It’s not cars versus transit, it is building a functional transportation system. If buses were free, I’m quite sure they’d be a whole lot more popular. If there were more buses, there would be more riders.
        Yet the taxpayers of Tacoma are paying for 2 mile train to nowhere, for decades. That isn’t finished. That’s not value for money.”

        Tacomee, I think Pierce Co. like much of the U.S. is a very difficult place for transit to serve due to AMI, size and density, and an aversion to increasing taxes for transit.

        Pierce Co. voted against ST 3. Although I have my reservations about the cost of running Link to Tacoma Dome (or the mall) or parking garages along Sounder S the reality is if ST did not exist I don’t think Pierce Co. residents would vote to raise taxes for more bus service instead.

        I know you think the money being spent for Link in Pierce Co. would go much further sooner if allocated to bus service — and so do I. That IF ST taxes were eliminated in Pierce Co. those same voters who voted against ST 3 would vote to raise the same amount of taxes for more PT service. ST 2 and 3 only passed because of votes from Seattle and the eastside.

        It is just a catch-22. You write, “If buses were free, I’m quite sure they’d be a whole lot more popular. If there were more buses, there would be more riders”. Maybe (that is what the video argues), but the residents of Pierce Co. are not going to vote for the taxes to eliminate bus fares, or provide more buses, certainly for free. So I don’t know who you expect to pay for that?

        Forget about changing people’s behavior when it comes to driving. First change their behavior when it comes to voting for tax increases for more local transit.

      4. “Huge, decades long transit construction projects (Sound Transit) only drain funds that should be used for current transit. currently, ”
        Transit agencies can walk and chew bubble gum it’s not an either or situation. But again, anyone who has been abroad sees how a lot of agencies actually try to attempt both. We really don’t here alongside having a state governor that is all talk about climate change and yet won’t change the state government culture for statewide transit operations funding to be part of the broader WashDOT budget or state legislature.

      5. 95% may have a drivers’ license and drive sometimes, but the percent of people drive for all trips and want to drive is lower. I think the suburbs driving mode share is around 80% and Seattle 70%. People under 16, or with a disability that precludes driving, or are too old to drive, or don’t have a licence, or their license has been revoked, don’t have that choice. That’s all higher than 5% right there. I have a colleague at work whose vision is fine for everyday purposes but isn’t good enough to drive, so he commutes by bus.

        Second, haven’t you ever heard people say it’s frustrating to drive in congestion, or to circle around for a parking space, or park at the far side of the lot, or that it’s stressful to drive, or they have anxiety about collisions, or they don’t want to put hundreds of dollars a month into their car, or they’d rather read or relax while traveling — and they wish there were more viable transit options so they didn’t have to drive? All these feelings are widespread. Not everybody who drives thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It’s just that in Pugetopolis and the rest of the US we often don’t give them a choice. That’s what the video is about.

        Somewhere in the past two days I read that 73% of companies have never or rarely had work from home. Pugetopolis and especially the Eastside has a disproportionate number of those workers, but it’s still not a majority.

      6. “Sound Transit is staving Metro and Pierce Transit of needed funding.”

        What has it starved? The last countywide Metro measure was in the early 2010s. The same areas voted against it as voted against ST2/3. I haven’t heard of a recent Pierce Transit measure, just that the district had to contract because Tacoma/Lakewood vote yes and Puyallup/Sumner/Bonney Lake vote no.

        There was going to be a Metro Connects levy in 2020 but it was sidelined by covid and because the county wanted the Harborview measure alone on the November ballot. It says it’ll reschedule it any year now but we’re still waiting for a date. The last countywide Metro levy failed so this one may fail again. That’s not necessarily because of Sound Transit.

        Seattle’s last transit operations levy passed, so the next one probably will too.

        There’s been speculation here that ST3 is so expensive it will suck away the desire/ability to pay for local transit measures, but that is still unproven.

        So what has ST starved? Local transit funding is poor in King County, and abysmal in Pierce and Snohomish Counties, but it’s not clear it’s because of ST. The same people who vote against ST tend to be the same ones who vote against local measures.

      7. I tend to view the “ST is starving the other local agencies” as pretty convenient fear mongering and deeply cynical rather than a proven quanitative metric to say no one will vote for new transit funding. The problem with the Pierce Transit example boils down to how badly managed the agency was post 08 recession rather than ST taking up the funding from them. That’s what I remember people voting against extending funds to them in the funding proposal. Pierce Transit lacked leadership that had a strong vision for the agency post recession. If your leadership can’t sell people on how they’ll do better in the future and improve the agency’s morale, culture, and rider experience than it’s a leadership problem than a voter problem. Pierce Transit has dabbled in experimental transit post recession but has never really had a plan to improve bus frequency and upgrades to routing & speeding up buses That’s something I lay at an aimless and visionless agency rather than blame the voters in saying “well they won’t for any new transit because x is eating up funding.” Which is more defeatist and cynical than realistic look at the issues at hand in my perview. You don’t move forward by throwing up your hands because you did something once and view it as a failure. You learn from it and try again with a different approach.

      8. Pierce Transit 2040 long-range plan. I looked at an earlier version of the bus network and I was impressed. It’s the same kind of good plans coming out of Metro and Community Transit, and city transit plans in Marysville and another city I don’t remember, maybe Kirkland. It’s not as extensive as Metro’s frequent network because it assumes Pierce voters wouldn’t approve that much, but it seems to have the routes in the right grid places concentrates somewhat-frequent service in the right corridors, in my outsider’s opinion. It’s a good starting point at least.

        I’ve also found Pierce Transit’s current network to be more grid-like and a greater emphasis on crosstown service than Metro; for instance the east-west routes crossing Pacific Avenue and the north-south 2 on Bridgeport Way and 10 on Pearl Street. The biggest problem with Pierce Transit is it’s not frequent enough. The solution to that is more service hours. (And getting through the driver shortage; I don’t know how much it’s affecting PT.)

      9. Yeah, it isn’t a terrible plan. They could definitely improve the grid, if they were to provide a dedicated lane, however. For instance, the 54, on the east-west corridor on south 38th shouldn’t jog to avoid one of the two “regional growth centers” (their term, not my opinion), it should be serving the heart of the mall. But because it’s incredibly choked with cars, I am guessing they decided to avoid an area with potential very high ridership. If they gave it a lane, and high frequency, it would be much more utilized.

        And as you noted, a even a perfect grid only works if the frequency is decent, and the frequency is very far from decent.

    3. I found the video to be mostly click bait. It vaguely referenced almost every transit issue for the past 70 years. Almost any viewer can find some point that they like and one that they shun in it.

      The primary causal topic that in my mind that goes undiscussed is shrinking household sizes. It affects many problems from housing affordability or obsessive zoning over-regulation to infrastructure maintenance to emergency services to transit demand. 70 years ago, most people lived with at least 2 or 3 others, where today our approaches favor having people live alone as an unintended consequence.

      I live alone. I get how it is often harder to live with others. However, I am also acutely aware that at some point I should not continue to live alone.

      Is there a video maker willing to confront this overarching topic?

      1. It’s a 12 minute CNBC YouTube video, not a PhD dissertation on the state of public transit in America. For what it was, it did a good job of summarizing the topic for viewers.

    4. I don’t know where your figure out “1-3% of even city dwellers use transit” comes from, but a quick look at Wikipedia shows that number to be way too low. Even in very car-oriented cities like Houston, the percentage of the population that rides transit exceeds 3%. In Seattle, it was up around 20% prepandemic. It’s dropped since, but nowhere near the levels of 1-3%.

      1. “I don’t know where your figure out “1-3% of even city dwellers use transit” comes from, but a quick look at Wikipedia shows that number to be way too low.”

        This figure comes from the video at 6:14 for “most cities” in the U.S. My post was simply repeating some of the statistics in the video for those who did not watch it.

        I agree this figure is probably low, certainly in this area, at least pre-pandemic, and although transit ridership in the U.S. had been falling since 2014 this area was the one outlier in which transit ridership was increasing, until the pandemic. I think that some of that had to do with the work demographic that allows workers to commute via transit because they work in offices and don’t have to carry anything, although that demographic is also most likely to WFH.

        But the point the video was making is that whether 1%, 3%, 5% or 10%, that percentage of VOTERS (a higher percentage of transit users don’t vote) makes it very hard to obtain federal, state and local general fund subsidies for transit.

        What the video was trying to point out is something many on this blog have raised before: the suburbs have significant political leverage at the state and federal level because those folks vote, and tend to not ride transit. As a result, according to the video, from 2010 to 2020 around 950 miles of new light and heavy rail were built in the U.S. and over 100,000 miles of new roads, and less than 20% of the infrastructure bill will go to any kind of rail or transit, even with D’s holding both houses and the Presidency.

        Post pandemic a metric I would be interested in is the number of discretionary transit trips folks are making in this area. So many trips, especially from the suburbs, were peak commuters, and those were not discretionary really because parking was so expensive in downtown Seattle. Has transit retained those former transit riders when it comes to discretionary trips because they WFH or no longer need to commute to the one area with expensive parking, downtown Seattle?

        By discretionary I mean those who have alternatives to public transit, from a car to Uber, which means transit actually competes with cars or Uber, rather than the path many transit advocates favor, disadvantage cars and Uber until they are as bad as transit.

        We know miles driven by Uber in this area has exploded. We also know many WFH. These are the former transit voters — especially for ST 2 and 3 because both are so peak commuter oriented because of capacity needs pre-pandemic — who may or may not vote for more transit taxes in the future, or support legislators or council persons who favor more spending on transit.

        Generally, if something does not benefit a voter they tend to not support it with more taxes. It doesn’t mean they are conservative or cheap. It just means they think something is more important than say transit, like housing or healthcare or education or police or money in their pocket to spend on their family. Some areas understood public education benefits everyone (depending on the school dist.) and so would pass local levies, although many areas in WA would not, usually poorer areas. Hence McCleary. But there are a lot more voters with kids than who ride transit.

        Do I think the legislature will dramatically increase taxes to fund more transit, or make transit more equal between rural and urban and rich vs. poor districts like it did in McCleary post pandemic? No. In fact, I agree with the video that passing levies, or electing candidates who run on a transit platform, will be much harder post pandemic, and Harrell is a good example.

        Finally, the video made an interesting observation. Before 1920 the U.S. had an extensive system of street cars in cities that was the envy of the rest of the world. But fares did not come close to covering operations, even in dense cities. Post WWI inflation soared, and the streetcars could not raise fares so 1/3 went out of business because the federal and state governments would not bail them out. We are seeing that same issue in CA, NY, IL, and other states today. Some would argue the car was just a better mousetrap, and would probably be correct, but transit today like in 1920 is on a precipice except much more expensive even when accounting for inflation (especially streetcars).

        I think planning generations ahead for mass public transit is a mistake because it will fundamentally be different, as will all transportation. It is interesting so little has changed between the car and mass transit since 1920, but I think driverless technology, WFH, deurbanization, Uber and micro-transit will fundamentally change all transportation in the future.

        What we do know from ST and Metro is that public transit is so inefficient compared to the private market I would be surprised if it can survive the future competition, when it is failing badly today, without massive subsidies. My hope is governments will seriously look at whether it makes much more sense contracting with private operators when driverless micro transit arrives than trying to compete, because at that point there will be so few riders on mass public transit funding will dry up, if not before then.

        Bart has two years to figure it out because the CA legislature (against the wishes of the governor who wants to run for President) only granted two years’ worth of subsidies that will cover either operations or future capital projects, which means O&M will get ignored until the backlog is too huge. The video does a good job noting the U.S. spends $79 billion on transit today, but has a backlog of $179 billion in maintenance (the infrastructure bill provides $106 billion) which will grow to a $500 billion deficit in the next ten years if general tax subsidies stay the same, let alone decline.

        What I found most relevant from the video is how similar 1920 is to today when it comes to cars and transit (and just transportation although WFH was transformational), and how transit is at the mercy of those with the public money who go where the voters (and riders if any) are, something I have tried to raise many times.

        I think general fund subsidies across the board will decline over the next decade, pandemic stimulus is gone and did little to address the maintenance backlog, and so transit has to become more efficient, especially dollar per rider mile, reduce coverage, and have much more reliable schedules which allows less frequency.

      2. “the suburbs have significant political leverage at the state and federal level because those folks vote, and tend to not ride transit.”

        We know that; that’s why Metro’s frequency is so mediocre, why Sound Transit is structured the way it is; why Link is going to Everett, Tacoma, and Issaquah; why it has so many P&Rs; why transit projects are subject to voter approval while highway projects aren’t; and why the state won’t fund transit directly except a minimal set of grants.

        Seattle’s population is 734,000. King/Pierce/Snohomish County is 4,012,000. Washington State is 7,739 million. That means Seattle has 18% of the tri-counties’ population, or 9% of the state’s population. The suburbs have over 2/3 of the representatives so they outvote Seattle. (I can’t get the ST district’s population; it’s a little less than the three counties.)

        Ideally this shouldn’t have happened. Seattle used to annex populated peripheral areas until the 1950s. It should have continued annexing, and an earlier and stronger urban growth boundary should have made growth mostly infill, and individual suburbs should not have gotten veto power that they use for their parochial beggar-they-neighbor and stick-it-to-Seattle purposes. That’s the difference between Pugetopolis on the one hand and Vancouver, Toronto, Australian cities, German cities, Japanese cities, etc, on the other.

        But we have this system, so people who don’t understand cities and have unrealistic expectations have a lot of political power.

        Still, not all suburbanites are anti-transit. Some want the same things urbanists want. Some think transit and taxes and multifamily housing are communist. Most are somewhere in between.

      3. “Before 1920 the U.S. had an extensive system of street cars in cities that was the envy of the rest of the world. But fares did not come close to covering operations, even in dense cities. Post WWI inflation soared, and the streetcars could not raise fares so 1/3 went out of business because the federal and state governments would not bail them out. ”

        You don’t know the history of that? I noticed the video didn’t explain it.

        The original intercity railroads were built by private companies with federal land-grant incentives. There was no other transportation then except horse wagons, boats, and bicycles, so rail was a quantum level faster than those, and a handful of railroad companies had a monopoly on the routes. They exploited that monopoly to charge high prices, and bribed government officials to not cramp their style. So the entire Western United States needed the railroads; it was the only feasible way to travel or trade goods; and the railroads were charging punitive monopoly prices. They were called “robber barons” because that’s how the public felt about them.

        The city streetcars were built by more local companies like the electric utility; and the fare was regulated at 5 cents by the city government. In the Depression in the 1920s many companies found it hard to meet their cash flow and many went bankrupt. The streetcar companies needed to raise fares but the local government wouldn’t let them. They wanted to keep fares fixed, both because residents were under financial strain and unemployment, and to keep prices low in general. But that meant the streetcar companies couldn’t make enough to make their ends meet, so they needed a bailout or went bankrupt.

        At the same time the automobile lobby/car enthusiasts were pushing hard to shut down the streetcars, remove the tracks from the middle of the street, squash streetcars’ right-of-way over cars, and convert downtown streets to one-way. They succeeded in that. In some cities the streetcars went bankrupt. In other cities the government nationalized the streetcars (as New York did with the subway). In other cities the government shut the streetcars down. Seattle lost its streetcars around 1930. (That was about the same time as the Aurora Bridge was built, the first Ship Canal bridge without streetcars.) A few other cities hung onto them until the 1950s. In a few cases where streetcars went through tunnels that were too small for buses like in San Francisco, the streetcars remained and were later modernized into light rail.

      4. “That’s the difference between Pugetopolis on the one hand and Vancouver, Toronto, Australian cities, German cities, Japanese cities, etc, on the other.”

        The Toronto amalgamation in 1998 is something I have brought up before. The message I gave at the time fell on deaf ears so I will try again.

        Before 1998, Toronto was composed of 6 boroughs/municipalities. The amalgamation was imposed by the Conservative provincial government against the wishes of all 6 municipalities. The purported reason was cost savings. Said cost savings did not materialize. People got used to it but there is certainly no general belief in Toronto today that the city is better off, or better run, than the old six cities were.

        For a slightly longer summary, see this Wikipedia article:

        I will point out that there are other forms of “soft amalgamation” in Ontario. One such entity is the Regional Municipality of Peel, which includes Mississauga (the largest “suburb” of Toronto as it currently stands, itself about as large as Seattle proper); Brampton; and a much smaller town named Caledon. Mississauga has long been pushing for de-regionalization and the current (also Conservative) government agreed to dissolve the Regional Municipality, with passed legislation scheduled to take effect in 2025. There is certainly no appetite for Toronto itself (which dwarfs the other entities by a large margin, about 4:1 or more) to engulf additional municipalities into it, nor is anyone serious proposing it. The idea that “bigger is always better and that’s how all of ’em furriners do it” is false. Please stop repeating it.

      5. “Ideally this shouldn’t have happened. Seattle used to annex populated peripheral areas until the 1950s. It should have continued annexing, and an earlier and stronger urban growth boundary should have made growth mostly infill, and individual suburbs should not have gotten veto power that they use for their parochial beggar-they-neighbor and stick-it-to-Seattle purposes. That’s the difference between Pugetopolis on the one hand and Vancouver, Toronto, Australian cities, German cities, Japanese cities, etc, on the other.”

        This is a common theme among transit folks and urbanists. How did the suburbs “beggar” Seattle? By paying 100% of ST buses? Or contributing to 1/2 the cost of DSTT2? Isn’t subarea equity the perfect tool to prevent one subarea from taking advantage of another subarea? No way the eastside receives Metro service commensurate with the taxes it pays toward Metro. Or just about anything else.

        There isn’t some great difference between the eastside in which smaller cities remained independent, and Seattle in which many smaller areas were incorporated although most stayed essentially suburban. Once those areas were zoned for development pre-incorporation that zoning could not be repealed. Incorporation requires the consent of the area being incorporated. The eastside just zoned better (accidently) in that the SFH zones condensed commercial and retail better by prohibiting both in the SFH zones. Seattle dispersed both throughout the city, which killed urbanism. If you want urbanism you need the walls of the swimming pool to condense retail, and housing.

        The real distinction has to do with suburban and urban, whether it is among Seattle’s different neighborhoods or eastside cities. That is the distinction between housing and transit desires. Many of those suburban residents in and out of Seattle had to ride transit to work downtown because they want to live in suburbia, and so were sold on a gold-plated Link based on capacity needs and future population growth estimates that were rubbish and are still being used by ST today to justify DSTT2.

        East and Redmond Link cost around $5.5 billion all in for a subarea that today has more ST revenue than N KC, but will have very low ridership. Seattle’s problem is its gold-plated transit tastes, and the inability to do anything efficiently, without ideology. Urbanists believe transit should not be based on dollar per rider mile, and other people’s money.

        What Mike really laments is Seattle can’t confiscate all that suburban money, either at the ST or state level, and those folks live differently than he does and travel differently than he does, and they make up around 95% of the voters. So they favor what they like and use with their money, and yet still we have to pay a fortune for a transit system based on an “urban” plan when there is no real urbanism in Seattle, and the three-county area has 6500 sq miles and Seattle has maybe 775,000 residents spread out over 142. sq miles because that is what the zoning allowed.

        Seattle’s zoning in which retail and commercial were dispersed throughout the city in “urban villages” — and the CBD because of financial incentives ended up almost all commercial which is not good post pandemic — makes true urbanism almost impossible unless you think a four plex and single story retail are urbanism, and makes any kind of urban transit system (subways) too expensive, unless another two or three million people move to this very large city.

        Seattle is a suburban city because its zoning is an endless series of SFH zones or dispersed, undense “urban villages” that have little retail or housing density because they don’t have enough residents because there are not enough residents for all those “urban villages”.

        I agree with Mike that “an earlier and stronger urban growth boundary should have made growth mostly infill” but that horse was out of the barn before incorporation, Seattle zoning doubled down on it, and now HB 1110 doubles down again. No way Seattle can ever go back, or create urbanism, especially with the one area, the CBD, down over 50% in foot traffic with buildings that just are not convertible.

        We are all suburbanites post pandemic.

      6. ““Before 1920 the U.S. had an extensive system of street cars in cities that was the envy of the rest of the world. But fares did not come close to covering operations, even in dense cities. Post WWI inflation soared, and the streetcars could not raise fares so 1/3 went out of business because the federal and state governments would not bail them out.”

        “You don’t know the history of that? I noticed the video didn’t explain it.”

        Mike, did you even watch the video? The video explicitly explains this. Of course I did not know the history until I watched the video. I wish folks on this blog would actually read articles or watch videos linked to before commenting on them, or someone who repeats what they say.

        Ironically the last time the U.S. had a transit system that was the envy of the world, according to the video, was pre-1920 when the streetcars were all private. But inflation and the inability to raise fares, and of course better and better cars and better and better roads, killed the streetcars, that like today would have needed huge public subsidies.

      7. No way the eastside receives Metro service commensurate with the taxes it pays toward Metro

        I wouldn’t be so sure. Most likely, it is Seattle proper that subsidizes the rest of the region. But the East Side likely does a lot better than the northern or southern suburbs (given Downtown Bellevue as well as Microsoft). If you were focused on just ridership (and not coverage) then just about all of the suburban routes would be cancelled (leaving those in Seattle).

      8. “Seattle used to annex populated peripheral areas until the 1950s. It should have continued annexing, and an earlier and stronger urban growth boundary should have made growth mostly infill, and individual suburbs should not have gotten veto power that they use for their parochial beggar-they-neighbor and stick-it-to-Seattle purposes. ”

        The politics of annexation is a very controversial topic and the rules vary by state. It’s still occasionally playing out every few elections here as different neighborhoods consider it.

        Its modern history is tied up in pocketbook issues like not wanting to pay extra for good fire protection (coal heating meant more urgency and frequency of house fires so it used to be lots more important) or good water or foot patrols. The result was the creation of special districts and other urban service entities so that annexation was no longer essential. The accompanying issue was “white flight” which was an implied attempt to segregate by race by moving to a new suburban area where everyone is “like minded” although that was more a cover to create exclusionary neighborhoods.

        Anyway, the gist of it is more that Seattle could no longer easily annex land. It was harder to demonstrate benefit to a homeowner, and the bigotry morphed into a hate of all things “big city” so that being a separate city was deemed a better outcome. That ingrained view pervades to this day as I read how some posters defend their suburban reality as somehow willingly defiant of even wanting to be a part of “a city” and even express a smug “victorious” vibe when things don’t go well inside Seattle or when they proclaim that an entire part of the King County population wants to exclude themselves from Seattle as much as possible.

        In response, we got a county transit operator and a regional transit operator —rather than the era where cities gave a private entity the transit franchise or took over the system themselves.

        Honestly, if the legislature took actions to merge Seattle and the other contiguous cities together, transit operations would likely be a city department. But that possibility is politically infeasible nowadays so we get transit districts instead.

      9. I see renewed interest in annexation as a possible political reality in the coming decades as American suburban zoning policy for roads & commercial/residential property comes to roost and many suburban cities and towns face tax shortfalls or even bankruptcy from not building dense enough suburbs to absorb the rising costs of local municipality services. Many will fight against it, but it’s an inevitable change that is to likely happen sooner rather than later for many places in the Seattle Metro.

      10. Zach,

        What’s your position on White Center? Seattle rejected annexing it in 2012, and there was a similar rejection in the context of Burien annexing it in 2016-2017. I believe that there was another unsuccessful push to annex it in 2020. Note that in some cases it was the cities themselves refusing to annex, not the locals choosing not to be annexed.,_Washington

        My take is that the rich cities can tax themselves more if they absolutely need to, and will do so rather than be annexed into Seattle (e.g. Mercer Island or Medina will go down that route). On the other hand, the areas that are not rich (like White Center), the cities won’t want to take on, because it’s not like there’s a shortage of other problems to spend money on within existing city limits. Or are you imagining that the state will just force the cities to amalgamate further, as the Conservative Party did with Toronto in the late 90s? I guess I don’t see the state doing so, but if you have evidence of this position being politically palatable, I’d love to see it.

      11. “The accompanying issue was “white flight” which was an implied attempt to segregate by race by moving to a new suburban area where everyone is “like minded” although that was more a cover to create exclusionary neighborhoods.”

        This is a common myth. Federal law prohibited redlining in 1968. Flight from Seattle began in 1970. The issues behind flight from Seattle to the suburbs were crime and control over K-12 schools. It is a bit rich to claim folks were fleeing Seattle based on race when Seattle was 6% Black (like today) and Seattle was gentrifying those Blacks out of the historic north Seattle neighborhoods like The Central District where most whites lived. Today Seattle has the same percentage of white residents (70%) as MI, and way more than Bellevue. Seattle has always been a very racist city. Just ask the CID, or compare services and Link between north and south Seattle, although white Seattle progressives don’t want to believe it.

        “Its modern history is tied up in pocketbook issues like not wanting to pay extra for good fire protection (coal heating meant more urgency and frequency of house fires so it used to be lots more important) or good water or foot patrols. The result was the creation of special districts and other urban service entities so that annexation was no longer essential.”

        Actually, incorporating or annexation was mostly unincorporated King Co. Under Ron Sims the county was run so poorly, and the land use policies so abusive, every area (especially on the eastside) with two nickels to rub together either incorporated or sought annexation, which requires approval by both the city and unincorporated area, which to this day has gutted King Co. tax revenues. The cost of services and taxes for eastside areas that incorporated or were annexed increased, but then so did property values. Eastside cities are not anti-tax in any way, certainly for good services. Eastside cities regularly join interlocal agreements for water (Bellevue or Seattle), fire (Bellevue or Eastside Fire and Rescue), marine patrol (MI), sewage, etc.

        “the bigotry morphed into a hate of all things “big city” so that being a separate city was deemed a better outcome. That ingrained view pervades to this day as I read how some posters defend their suburban reality as somehow willingly defiant of even wanting to be a part of “a city” and even express a smug “victorious” vibe when things don’t go well inside Seattle or when they proclaim that an entire part of the King County population wants to exclude themselves from Seattle as much as possible.”

        This is not true although colorful. Up until around 2015 Seattle was seen as a rising superstar city. Our offices were in the CBD since 1990 and I loved it until around 2015-15. The reason the eastside voted for ST 2 was to be connected to Seattle. However, a series of atrocious mayors, city councils, and progressive policies have hollowed Seattle out. I can’t imagine any area except one area near White Center wanting to join Seattle, but Seattle rejects it because the area is too poor. Every regional area dreads becoming Seattle so why would they join? It is a terribly run city. Zach’s idea eastside suburban cities will need to merge with Seattle due to infrastructure costs is ridiculous. Look at the E KC subarea. Anyone claiming it is underfunded?

        But to suggest Seattle is a “big city” is just ludicrous. It is a collection of mostly suburban neighborhoods with dispersed retail and housing. The CBD had some density and urbanism, but WFH gutted that. Downtown Bellevue is more “urban” than any place in Seattle.

        The reality is transit is usually issue 189 when it comes whether to incorporate or be annexed. After all, we are usually talking about unincorporated King Co., not a hotbed of transit use. Already incorporated cities are never going to agree to be annexed by Seattle. Public safety (the King Co. Sheriff’s office is terrible), schools, land use, local control, political ideology (normal vs. insane), parks (King Co, wanted to sell Luther Burbank to developers before MI bought it), and city services are the key issues, as usual. The SPD is down 30% in officers, and still Seattle has outrageous taxes. Who wants to join that shit show? My guess is if allowed many neighborhoods in Seattle would choose to incorporate as their own cities, and to be honest I think that would be good for Seattle because there is such a split in ideology between different areas in Seattle.

      12. “This is a common myth. Federal law prohibited redlining in 1968.”

        It was established practice in Portland deep into the 1970s. I know a white man named LeRoy who had a loan home denied because with that name they thought he was probably not white. He said this happened in the mid-1970s.

        “White flight” continued deep into the 1990s in many cities, as it was based on accumulated wealth. It was still going on in Atlanta up until a few years ago, but suddenly it’s a popular place to live again and so a lot of new gentrification residential is being built.


        Buckhead and the city of Atlanta are good examples. Buckhead is whiter than Atlanta, and wealthier, but the issues driving Buckhead’s desire to secede are crime and poor services for the taxes Buckhead pays. Atlanta is a poorly run city. The mayor of Atlanta was quite honest that her sole desire to keep Buckhead was for the tax revenue, although many frame the issue as one of race.

        Another good lesson in the article (there are a lot about Buckhead) is it is much easier to incorporate as a separate city than withdraw. The legislature has allowed all the surrounding areas around Atlanta to incorporate as their own cities, which they all have done, but probably will deny Buckhead the same right although there is no dispute Atlanta is a poorly run city.

      14. “This is a common myth. Federal law prohibited redlining in 1968. Flight from Seattle began in 1970. ”

        That’s a ridiculous response, DT. White flight was going on well before 1970. And continued afterwards.

        Just look at how Shoreline got incorporated. According to Wikipedia it was to “protect” the school system when Seattle eyed annexing it in 1988. Busing ended in Seattle after Shoreline was approved by voters in 1995.

        Plus it was 1972 when Seattle was implementing more racial balance in its schools through busing — so even thinking of 1970 when those plans were being rolled out is admitting to the role that race has played in some white flight even in Seattle. So it was not a myth; the “flight” you just admitted to was white flight. It’s even discussed on historylink (,being%20bused%20for%20racial%20reasons.)

        And it’s not just Seattle. This played out across the nation in most major cities. (My statement was generic rather than specific to Seattle.) Just take a look at what happened in Memphis recently. When a court ordered their city and county schools consolidated, six suburbs withdrew from the county school system and created their own mostly white school districts . Or look at the rise of school vouchers in right wing states. Racism is alive and well and still a root cause of creating local government districts and educational policies. They don’t sound overt like George Wallace circa the 1960’s but the implied meaning is well understood.

        DT, I am not calling you out personally. I’m just saying that race has historically been a factor in Seattle annexation efforts. It’s not a myth; it’s documented factual history..

      15. Interestingly…

        The largest Shoreline racial/ethnic groups are White (63.4%) followed by Asian (15.6%) and Hispanic (7.2%).

        The largest Seattle racial/ethnic groups are White (62.2%) followed by Asian (16.2%) and Hispanic (7.2%).

        For another view, from Wikipedia:

        According to the 2012–2016 American Community Survey (ACS), the racial makeup of the city was 65.7% White Non-Hispanic, 16.9% Asian, 6.8% Black or African American, 6.6% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 0.4% Native American, 0.9% Pacific Islander, 0.2% other races, and 5.6% two or more races.[112]

        The racial makeup of the city was 71.4% White, 5.0% African American, 0.8% Native American, 15.2% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 2.2% from other races, and 5.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.6% of the population.,_Washington

        In both stats, the proportion of White people is slightly higher but not hugely so. The proportion of Black people is slightly lower but not hugely so, either. I’m questioning the Shoreline numbers from Wikipedia, though, because they don’t add up to 100% – so it looks like the White percentage is too high (which would make it more in line with the other source). But if we divide everything by 1.05 or so (to make them add up to 100%) the similarity is still there, too.

        Point is, I’m not questioning whether or not Shoreline was created as an attempt to support white flight; I have no idea, and am certainly willing to believe that it’s the case, given what was generally going on in the 70s. I am only pointing out that, if that was the reason, the outcome was largely unsuccessful.

      16. “Zach’s idea eastside suburban cities will need to merge with Seattle due to infrastructure costs is ridiculous.”
        I never said or implied that Eastside Cities need to be annexed into Seattle, please dont put words into my mouth for something I never said. At most for the Eastside I would be advocating for is consolidating all the Bellevue enclaves (Hunts and Yarrow Points, Medina, Clyde Hill, and Beaux Arts Village) into the City of Bellevue among other city or town pairs that make sense to combine together. And they are technically already on some level merged into Bellevue municipal services to a degree like the Bellevue School District, Bellevue EMS, Bellevue Fire, and to a lesser degree Bellevue Police.

        There are a lot of efficiencies that come with consolidating and annexation as it removes bureaucratic hurdles to municipal projects big and small, less hands need to pass around the paperwork for something to be approved.

        Should Seattle have more cities annexed to them, maybe but the case could also be for other pairs of towns or cities to consolidate together into larger cities. But that is up to the annexation process the state lays out for cities in how to go about it.

        I am merely posing the point as a possible reality for the long term planning of many cities and towns in the Seattle region and across the US because we have built a delicate house of cards that could topple at any point from a faint wind that changes the ability for cities and towns to afford services and infrastructure for their city.

      17. I’m not questioning whether or not Shoreline was created as an attempt to support white flight; I have no idea, and am certainly willing to believe that it’s the case, given what was generally going on in the 70s. I am only pointing out that, if that was the reason, the outcome was largely unsuccessful.

        It isn’t that simple. Al is right. Busing had a lot to do with it. I happen to know a lot about the subject, as my mom was on the school board at the time. They knew there was going to be white flight — it happened everywhere there was mandatory busing. A lot of white people don’t like mixing with black people, even if studies show it makes them smarter. Go figure.

        But overall the city wasn’t particularly black. It was basically white people moving from white Seattle neighborhoods to Shoreline (and other white suburbs). This more or less continued until busing ended in the late 90s.

        Over time, the percentage of black people in Seattle shrunk. This was primarily due to lack of affordable housing (since a higher ratio of black people are low income) and the tech industry (which is largely white and Asian).

        Meanwhile, the suburbs became more black. Affordability had a lot to do with it. Seattle was becoming more and more attractive, pushing up the cost of housing. Apartments and condos are generally more affordable in the suburbs than the city (“Drive until you qualify.”). This is more pronounced in southern suburbs (Renton, Kent, Auburn, etc.) and pretty much nonexistent on the East Side (due to Microsoft) but it definitely exists to the northern suburbs. Thus the suburbs have become more black, while Seattle has become more white.

        Al may have already linked to it, but there is a good history of busing here: If you really want to dig into the subject, you can read this book, although it is probably not easy to find it.

      18. Ross – thank you for the link, first of all.

        Second, yeah, totally get that it’s more complicated. My point was more just trying to summarize that complexity into “after all that complexity, in the longer run, like on the order of 50 years, what we get is… the “white flight” destination and the “bad” destination are about the same, racial distribution-wise”. Not to say there weren’t serious implications along the way.

        Re: amalgamation of Eastside cities into Bellevue, I guess I’m not sure what the practical advantages of this would be. As pointed out by others, to some extent some of the services are already integrated. I suppose that one could hope that if Medina is part of Bellevue somehow there would be more mixed housing stock being built? Which, yeah, okay, probably, but it feels like it will be in the noise. The lakeside properties will remain gated for the super rich. It doesn’t feel like a particularly interesting battle to me. Beaux Arts in particular is basically just an enclave of like 100 properties with the same zoning as surrounding Bellevue areas, and a lot of old trees. They have no town services (there’s like a part-time town manager set up in someone’s house I think?) but the practical implications on the housing stock are essentially none.

      19. ““Before 1920 the U.S. had an extensive system of street cars in cities that was the envy of the rest of the world. But fares did not come close to covering operations, even in dense cities. Post WWI inflation soared, and the streetcars could not raise fares so 1/3 went out of business because the federal and state governments would not bail them out.”

        “You don’t know the history of that? I noticed the video didn’t explain it.”

        Mike, did you even watch the video? The video explicitly explains this.”

        Yes, I watched the video. The quote in the first paragraph was what I was replying to. Both you and the video missed a crucial point: The reason fares didn’t cover operations was not that the streetcar companies were bad businessmen, but that the cities prohibited the companies from raising fares to a break-even point. The fare was 5c when it should have been 10c or something. It’s like rent control that’s not high enough to cover maintenance. So the cities didn’t just refuse to bail them out: the city created the situation that caused them to need a bailout in the first place.

        That situation has no modern equivalent in the transit/transportation world. The airlines and Greyhound are allowed to raise fares to cover maintenance and a profit. If government transit agencies refuse to raise fares and thus have to increase subsidy or let service decline, they’re doing it to themselves.

        “I wish folks on this blog would actually read articles or watch videos linked to before commenting on them, or someone who repeats what they say.”

        We’ve been talking about this streetcar issue repeatedly for years, and there have been other links and videos on it. The last one may have been before you became active on the blog.
        Of course I did not know the history until I watched the video. I wish folks on this blog would actually read articles or watch videos linked to before commenting on them, or someone who repeats what they say.

      20. I’m not talking about specific annexations now; I’m talking about how Seattle and the region should have evolved decades ago. In the 1910s there was a plan to turn Mercer Island into a park. It was never implemented. That would have precluded the suburb and rich enclave that developed there later.

        Seattle annexed north and south several times and eventually ended at N 145th Street, south of Rainier View, and north of White Center. Shoreline was still semi-rural then, and south of Seattle was a lot smaller. I don’t know when they would have grown enough to be annexed, but it would have been logical to annex Shoreline, White Center, and Burien in the mid 20th century. The Eastside was too far away to consider; and it was even more rural then.

        It wasn’t county mismanagement that caused unincorporated areas to incorporate or join neighboring cities. The county only intended to offer rural cities, just like King County Library System was intended to be a rural library district. But as those areas gradually sprawled and grew, the county found itself backed into providing urban-level services for them. That’s what cities are supposed to provide. So the county strongly encouraged unincorporated areas to incorporate or join cities, or have their services cut drastically. The county threatened to fence off parks it another entity didn’t take on maintaining them. That was the era when Shoreline incorporated; Kirkland annexed Juanita; Sammamish incorporated; SeaTac incorporated; Tukwila and Renton expanded toward Seattle/Skyway; Bellevue expanded south; etc.

        White Center and Skyway are two of the last unincorporated places. White Center logically needs to join either Seattle or Burien. There have been moves on all three sides but nothing has happened yet. Last I heard Seattle was still considering it. Burien is arguably too poor to support another poor neighborhood.

        The issue with Bellevue and Medina, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point, and Beaux Arts is not so much that Bellevue should annex them now, as that they should never have been able to incorporate as 99% single-family microburbs in the first place. What to do now about them is less clear. I’m inclined to write them off and leave them as they are, because they’d fiercely resist anything else, and they aren’t so close to downtown Bellevue that it’s critical. Areas like Surrey Downs are more critical, because they’re adjacent to downtown Bellevue, and density should gradually taper down, not end hard at Main Street and a Link station. But that ship has sailed: Bellevue missed the opportunity to upzone Surrey Downs in the 2010s, and we’re all just assuming East Main Station will be an underperforming station forever, and the tens of thousands of people who could have lived in Surrey Downs won’t be able to. That’s unfortunate but that’s what’s wrong with our politics, suburban control, and deference to single-family neighborhoods adjacent to urban villages.

      21. I highly recommend the book Transit: The story of public transportation in the Puget Sound region, by Jim Kershner and the staff of HistoryLink. The chapter Derailed does a deep-dive into why our streetcar system disappeared.

      22. Thanks for the history on streetcar fares Mike. The video did not discuss fare limits in the demise of streetcars and so I did not know that.

        Here is a good article re: fare limits on streetcars pre-1930. Fare limits were in exchange for a monopoly on the streetcar business, but did not include dedicated ROW, probably because they were private companies. When the car came along the streetcars became clogged in traffic, inflation increased post WWI (according to the video), but fares were capped because of the monopoly. Probably what was needed at that time was a kind of utility board in which private monopolies (think PSE) have to get approval for fare increases.

        One interesting tidbit in the article is the streetcars allowed the first suburbs to form. Folks suddenly didn’t have to live within walking distance of the urban core. When you think of it, pre-pandemic when so many suburbanites were required to commute to downtown Seattle which had limited and expensive parking transit made it possible to live in the suburbs and work in the city.

        Here is another interesting article on the demise of streetcars that is relevant to today.

        With the rise of automobile in 1920 came the rise of the combustion engine bus. Cities decided buses were cheaper and more flexible. Many of us today believe Seattle’s streetcars are inferior to buses for the same reason, so the combustion engine may have contributed to the demise of the streetcar but gave rise to much better and more flexible transit, which again increased the distance one could live from the urban city (suburbia) and still work in the city, without the limited route of rail. Now the suburbs could sprout 360 degrees from the urban core, and buses had the flexibility to serve where folks decided to move to.

        Has anyone written about the role transit has played in the formation of the suburbs? From 1900 to the 1930’s urban cities were pretty bleak places to live, hence the rise of zoning in the 1930’s, beginning I believe in NYC. First streetcars, and then buses, allowed folks to live outside the city but still commute to the city to work although most intra-suburban trips were and are by car. WFH has broken the model of the suburbanite commuting to the urban core, but without transit I don’t see how the suburbs could have survived when so many had to commute to the urban core.

      23. The original intercity railroads were built by private companies with federal land-grant incentives.

        First, it was NINE, just nine, specific railroad routes which received land grants: the Illinois Central was the first, and it was from the State government of Illinois, not the Federal. The grant was for a line from Rockford southward to Cairo and a “branch” from Centralia northeastward to Chicago.

        The Federal grants happened as a result of Civil War-era legislation, The Pacigic Railroad Act of 1862. Abraham Lincoln was a proponent of that law and was involved in the Illinois grants as counsel for the IC.

        The other eight were:

        1) the Northern Pacific from Duluth westward to a junction with the Oregon-Washington Railway and Navigation;
        2) the OWR&N eastward from Portland to the junction with the NP;
        3) the Union Pacific from Council Bluffs westward to a junction with the Central Pacific;
        4) the CP eastward from Sacramento to the junction with the UP;
        5) the Texas & Pacific from Shreveport LA westward to a junction with the Southern Pacific;
        6) the SP southward from Sacramento to Los Angeles and then eastward to the junction with the T&P;
        8) the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe from Atchison, Kansas westward to the border of Kansas and Colorado; and
        8) the Atlantic and Pacific from a junction with its existing line in Indian Territory westward to a junction with the SP in California.

        The SP did not receive a grant to build eastward to meet the A&P, and AT&SF turned south from Colorado when it lost the race to the Royal Gorge intending to connect with the SP. Only the portion of A&P route between Belen, New Mexico and Needles, California was built because the SP built its own line from Mojave CA to Needles in order to keep the Santa Fe which by then owned the A&P out of California. However, the Federal government made the SP sell the Needles line to the AT&SF.

        Also, when the SP met the T&P at Sierra Blanca, TX, it just angled south east and kept on building without a land grant all the way to Houston where it bought the Texas &New Orleans to get to the Mississippi River in NOLA.

        The Oregon and California was granted lands for its line southward from Portland to Sacramento, but it failed to complete its trackage in the time allotted and so forfeited the grant.

        The Great Northern, Milwaukee Railroad Pacific Extension, Denver &Rio Grande Western, Western Pacific, Spokane Portland &Seattle and all the other lines east of the Rockies were built without land grants, although duly registered early railroads did have a limited form of eminent domain in order to assemble rights-of-way.

        [A] handful of railroad companies had a monopoly on the routes.

        This was only true out west which, granted, is where we are. East of the western borders of Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas north of Indian Territory, and the Eastern border of Indian Territory, and the Fort Worth, Waco, San Antonio line in Texas to the south there was intense competition among literally hundreds of railroads. It was not until the early Twentieth Century that the two large Northeastern systems were filled out, and there were smaller competitors until the 1980’s when the present two systems per region were consolidated.

        There is a wide-spread fantasy in this country that railroads were all granted lands. They were not, and those which did receive grants were obligated to carry freight for the Federal government for one cent per ton-mile in perpetuity. That law was repealed only in 1978 when the Interstate Commerce Commission was dismantled and mandated rates sunsetted.

        “The Depression” occurred in the 1930’s. Only the last nine weeks of 1929 followed the original “Black Friday”.

        Your history of early streetcar ownership is accurate, but the assertion that fares were regulated before 1920 is just not true. Before that time many roads were actually constructed by the car lines tin order o expand into rural areas that they developed into suburbs They did not need “permission” from cities to lay tracks, except in the older cities of the Northeast.

        Streetcars were quite profitable until auto congestion started to slow them down in the post-World War I era. New lines were still being built in cities across the country as late as 1920. That’s hardly the sign of an un-profitable industry.

  13. WSDOT email:

    Update about SR 520/I-5 reversible HOV/transit ramp opening

    WSDOT’s SR 520/I-5 Express Lanes Connection Project (I-5 Connection Project) is building a reversible transit/HOV ramp between SR 520 and I-5. The project is one part of a coordinated, regional effort between Sound Transit, King County Metro, the Seattle Department of Transportation and WSDOT to improve multimodal connections and transit service between Seattle and the Eastside

    In 2021, WSDOT and its partner agencies decided to speed up the I-5 Connection Project’s construction due to the rising need for transit from the Eastside. The four agencies signed a letter of understanding (LOU) to open the ramp in 2023. WSDOT planned to open it for a year and then close it once construction began on the Portage Bay Bridge and Roanoke Lid Project.

    Since signing the LOU, however, the agencies have all faced project delays of their own. The delays stem a four-month concrete-delivery strike, supply chain disruptions, high inflation, rising project costs, and other factors. As a result, we can no longer open the reversible ramp as planned. We now plan to open it at the end of the Portage Bay Bridge Project’s construction, currently scheduled for 2030. The revised ramp schedule will streamline Portage Bay Bridge project delivery, provide more space and access for the Portage Bay contractor, and potentially accelerate Portage Bay project construction – which would allow the reversible ramp to open sooner than 2030.

    Though we’re postponing the new SR 520/I-5 ramp’s opening, the public will still benefit from mobility improvements we’ll complete next spring at the Mercer Street on- and off-ramp to and from I-5. We are modifying an existing ramp there for HOV and potential transit use between the I-5 express lanes and Mercer Street.

    1. Are there any public transit buses that would actually use the reversible ramps, or will it be just carpools and private tech company shuttles?

      At present, the only transit route I can think of is CT 424, which runs, I believe, only two round trips per day, Monday-Friday.

      WSDOT can say what they want, but this is really a car project, not a transit project.

      1. It’s like the plan for a faster east-west bus stop on the 520 Montlake lid, after buses will have left that corridor. The 545 still goes from 520 to I-5, but will be deleted when Line 2 opens. If Link’s, Stride’s, and RapidRide’s timeline stick, Line 2, Lynnwood, Federal Way, Stride 1/2/3, and RapidRide G/I/J will all be running by the time the ramp opens.

        I’m not against a ramp for tech shuttles and carpools (and maybe freight should be allowed), but yeah, it shouldn’t be called a transit project. It’s even less of a transit investment than the Montlake Terrace freeway station, which has a few years of use now but will become a white elephant when Lynnwood Link opens.

      2. If there were still buses between 520 and I-5, what we’d most need is transit-priority lanes. The biggest problem in that corridor for the past fifty years has been that buses have to go through the congestion bottleneck where they can’t use the express lanes but there are no transit-priority lanes. Even if the ramp has transit-priority lanes, it’s too little too late.

      3. Will ST 544 ever happen?

        Great question. They plan on opening it with East Link: But it is worth noting that Metro has completely abandoned north-end express service to South Lake Union with the latest proposal for Lynnwood Link. The 64 and 320 are gone, and replaced with nothing. It would not surprise me if ST eventually feels the same way about the 544. It will perform poorly, and they may just get rid of it. Even if they keep it, it will make only a handful of trips each day, while dozens of buses will go along 520 and head to the UW. From a mobility standpoint, the ramp is the most important part of the entire project, and they are delaying it to the very end. This is unacceptable.

      4. @Sam — I was enraged because I thought a key HOV ramp was delayed for a really long time. I misunderstood the memo. I wouldn’t say folks are enraged about the project, but there are aspects of it that seem especially wasteful. The HOV lanes and ramp to Montlake are great. There is clear benefit, and this is definitely worth it. The rest of it is not. They are spending a lot of money on something that will benefit very few. Touting the transit benefits is mere green-washing (or close to it). It is not 167/509 Gateway Project level waste, but it is still definitely a waste.

    2. WTF? So basically, if I read this right, the main thing this corridors needs (an HOV ramp to Montlake) is being delayed so that they can speed up something they don’t need (an HOV ramp to the express lanes). It is like they can have completely ignored the fact that Link exists! This is really terrible, and should be reversed. The Portage Bay Bridge Project is not as important as the rest of it. If that gets delayed to 2031 or 2032, so be it. The most important thing is that riders who go from the East Side to Seattle via 520 have that ramp, so that they don’t have to get stuck in traffic every time the bridge goes up, or there is congestion during rush hour.

      1. Where are you getting the information that the HOV ramp to Montlake will be delayed? The thing I pasted above only seemed to be about the ramp to the express lanes on I-5.

      2. Oh, you are right Dave. In the words of the great Emily Litella: Nevermind. I misunderstood what they are saying.

        Of course now I’m confused as ever as to what they are actually building, and when. There are building a reversible HOV ramp to the express lanes. Presumably these extend to the HOV lanes that will be extended beyond the Montlake Bridge all the way to that ramp. Where they planning on opening up the ramp before the HOV lane extension? I guess that is handy, but it would still mean the bus merges with the general purpose lane, then takes the special lane to get to the express lanes.

        In any event, none of that is really that important to me. What matters is the HOV lane connection to Montlake. The ability of buses to get from the East Side to the UW while driving entirely in the HOV lane is very important, and a huge improvement. The sooner that happens the better.

      3. The delay to the reversible is probably okay. One-way routes are not very cost-effective; bus layover is difficult in SLU; a two-way route would have used the Olive Way ramp and the I-5 general-purpose lanes in the reverse peak direction.
        Note that the ELC P2 and P3 descriptions for Route 544 did not have it using the reversible ramp; conceptual Route 256 was to use it.
        The High Capacity Transit study for the SR-520 project had a flawed basis as it did not have a budget constraint; it had many more routes than the agencies could afford. Both Link and the SR-520 completion are significantly delayed.

      4. “It is like they can have completely ignored the fact that Link exists!”

        The Portage Bay project was planned back in an era when, other than downtown to airport, Link simply did not exist. WSDOT did not know which restructures Metro or ST would or would not do once planned Link extensions were finished, so they assumed all bus restructures to be speculation and designed the transit elements of the 520 project around the assumption that the 2010 bus network would be the permanent bus network. For example, during open houses, the envisioned the 545 stopping on top of the Montlake lid, replacing Montlake Freeway Station, then hopping back on 520, taking the express lane ramp to I-5, and continuing to serve downtown Seattle, just like it always had. The fact that by the time these construction projects finally finished, the 545 would be replaced altogether by a train between Redmond and Seattle simply never entered the discussion.

        In other words, it is *not* buses that take the Mercer St. exit to serve SLU that is justifying the 520 express lane ramps. It’s buses that take the Stewart St. exit to serve downtown, taking a pathway completely duplicative of Link, that’s the justification. If you look at the 2010 bus network in isolation and ignore Link (which did not exist then), the ramp makes a lot of sense. There was a whole alphabet soup of bus routes that ran only during rush hour, going from Bellevue/Redmond to downtown Seattle in the morning and back in the evening, combining to a bus going over the Portage Bay bridge in the peak direction as often as every minute or two. And, when you’re interested specifically in going too downtown in the morning and from downtown in the evening, the I-5 express lanes are always pointed in the correct direction, so the reversibility of these lanes is not a concern.

        Today, only a shadow of the buses that used to take the Portage Bay Bridge continue to do so, and those that do are planned to stop doing so as part of the eventual East Link service restructure. But, for purposes of WSDOT’s planning of the new Portage Bay Bridge, this point is irrelevant. The structure was planned in 2010, not 2023, and is designed around the needs of the bus network, as it existed in 2010. The fact that the bus network has changed and will change since doesn’t matter – the designs have already been finalized, and inertia around public works projects is extremely strong. It’s the same reason why DSTT2 will be built no matter what usability compromises have to be made to make the financials pencil out – the decision to build it was made years ago, under a different world, and past assumptions can never be questioned, otherwise every project would devolve into endless arguing and government would never ever be able to build anything. It’s not perfect, but that’s the world we live in.

      5. they assumed all bus restructures to be speculation and designed the transit elements of the 520 project around the assumption that the 2010 bus network would be the permanent bus network.

        Which is another way of saying, they are incompetent. University Link began construction in 2008. It was clear that Link was going to the UW (and highly likely it would go farther). When WSDOT officials talked to Metro officials, it was clear that Metro was going to truncate most or all of the 520 buses there. Metro had no interest in those HOV lanes. They didn’t matter. This was just WSDOT building as much as they could build. That is the nature of major freeway projects (just look at Portland) they are almost always overbuilding. Then eventually they need money to fix what is broken, and find that it is expensive.

      6. The delay to the reversible is probably okay.

        I agree. I was freaking out because I thought they were delaying the HOV ramp to Montlake. The HOV ramp to Montlake is one of the most important projects on the East Side (second only to East Link). The reversible lanes are important mainly for car pool users. Car pools definitely have their use, but I don’t see a pressing need for it here. This will improve things — it will lead to a reduction in the number of cars that go over the lake — but my guess is it won’t lead to that much of a reduction.

      7. “University Link began construction in 2008. It was clear that Link was going to the UW (and highly likely it would go farther).”

        WSDOT has a representative on the ST board. :) And at least the last one or two of them have been forward-thinking. It seems they just can’t influence the rest of WSDOT so easily.

      8. This argues very strongly against having the work done by ST be taken over by a state agency, like WSDOT.

  14. Metro union update and shortage status. ($) (David Kroman, Seattle Times)

    Metro reached a tentative contract agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union. It still has to be ratified by union members and the county council. Wages would go up 15.2-17.1% over three years, compared to 10% in the last contract. Members can earn $5,000 in bonuses if they stay with the agency through December 2024. The starting operator’s (driver’s) wage is currently $26.57/hour. The union made a few concessions on scheduling and time off.

    Metro also has a rehire fast-track for operators who left due to refusing the covid vaccine.

    Metro’s current shortage for September’s level of service is 200 operators and 10 mechanics. On average 35% of buses are stuck in maintenance, mostly due to a lack of hybrid-electric parts and staffing. That rose to 42% one day last month.

    1. Metro seems to have an ability to dig deep and come up with more operators sometimes, and not others. That they could find extra operators working past 2 am last weekend was a testament to the dedication of those drivers. Thanks for getting all the kids home safely as far as the bus stops far away from the stadium.

      If Metro’s scheduling department can ditch the old thought school that AM and PM peak have to be balanced, then maybe more packets could shift to PM peak.

      That said, I remain critical of all First Hill expresses. If something has to go from Metro’s Lynnwood Link restructure, routes 303 and 322 ought to be at the front of that list.

    2. And also means that the cost per service hour is going continue to shoot upward so that, from a funding standpoint, each dollar of tax revenue buys less bus service than it did previously.

      I’m not arguing against the move. Given the well-publicized struggle to attract and retain drivers and mechanics, it is probably necessary. But, in the long run, a bus service that gets smaller and smaller over time is not good, but needing to continually increase taxes every few years to keep the same level of service on the road is not a long-term-tenable solution either. Somehow, we need to eventually find some way to get the cost of service down (automation?) if we want to have anything resembling a decent transit service a few generations from now.

      1. We should start by making the buses we have now run as efficiently as possible. Every arterial should have bus (and bike) lanes with enforcement cameras, every bus should have external cameras catching every violation of RCW 46.61.220, every stop light with a bus route should have transit priority (including automatically shifting turn phases if bus routes aren’t using them but buses are waiting in other directions), every intersection with a bus route should have cameras catching drivers who block the box, the entire city should be under a congestion toll (at least during standard transit hours 5AM-1AM), the city should aggressively start charging for parking to fund transit capital projects, etc.

        These are things that could be done now without more operators or mechanics, just political will.

      2. Anything that can keep buses out of traffic certainly seems like a good place to start. Electrification is also likely to reduce operating costs at least a little bit in the long term, even though the initial setup is likely to cost a huge sum of money in the short term.

        However, as long as the cost of labor keeps going up and up, adding in a bus lane here or there is just tinkering at the margins, and whatever money you save by buses not getting stuck in traffic as much will quickly get swallowed up. Part of the reason is related to the high cost of housing in Seattle, but much of it is simply the Baumol Effect ( As economies develop and productivity improves, labor becomes more expensive in general, but for specific sectors of the economy where per-worker-hour productivity *isn’t* improving, their costs of labor goes up, driving up the overall cost of their product. For example, while the productivity of office workers, factory workers, or even truck drivers may rise with improving technology, the productivity of a bus driver remains essentially fixed. Thus, as the economy as a whole gets more and more productive, it becomes harder and harder for transit agencies to compete with other sectors of the economy for bus drivers, so bus driver wages must increase, the cost for each unit of transit service must increase with it. The same phenomenon indicates why the costs of other labor-intensive industries such as child care have gone through the roof – as technology marches on, alternative fields that daycare providers have to compete with get more productive, but the labor intensity of child care can never be reduced, at least not without compromising the safety of the children.

        Assuming that Metro’s problems were all a symptom of the Baumol Effect, the only long-term way out is reduce the amount of labor required to fund each service-hour of transit, and the only clear way to do that is to automate the trains and buses. I’m not saying the technology is necessarily ready for that now, or even that it’s necessary right now. But, if the Baumol Effect is real and if it continues, vehicle automation may eventually be forced upon Metro at some point in the future, as literally the only alternative vs. having the agency gradually shrink its service level each year to the point of irrelevance.

      3. I’ll also mention that, in an ideal world, the government would alleviate the bus driver shortage by fast-tracking visas for people with bus-driving skills in other countries.

        Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, as neither major party really has an interest in it happening. Republicans would never go along with it because they oppose transit and oppose immigration (including the legal kind). But, Democrats would never go along with it either because the bus drivers’ union would be opposed (a driver shortage is great for them, as it gives the union for leverage during contract negotiations), and national Democrats are far more concerned about the well-being of their unions than the well-being of transit systems.

      4. As usual, sad to see lack of support for blue collar unions on an otherwise well intentioned blog site which does generally try to support policies which benefit the lower class.

        Not surprised, of course, but sad to see just the same.

        On the actual transit driver shortage, I’d personally be all in favor of fast-tracking temporary work visas, but immigrant visas which are intended to address a temporary work shortage seem like a step too far.

      5. A shortage of drivers means less dues income for the union, and so fewer professional organizers to advocate for the well-being of the members.

        As for immigration policy, the US has always let people with certain skills (primarily intellectual) cut to the front of the line. Or if they come from a mostly white country, then that country gets a larger quota.

        And yes, this blog provides a free forum with no ideological test. We even let people skeptical of the value of public transit blather endlessly.

    3. “Metro seems to have an ability to dig deep and come up with more operators sometimes, and not others. That they could find extra operators working past 2 am last weekend was a testament to the dedication of those drivers.”

      Finding extra drivers for two days is different from finding drivers for 5 days a week perpetually.

      1. The scheduling assumes ridership is essentially identical for every weekday. We know darn well evening ridership is higher later in the week, and daytime volume is higher on certain days, too.

        With smartphones replacing trifolds as the primary way to look up bus schedules, transit agencies have more ability to right-size service by the day of the week and time of day.

        Metro is already treating a lot of all-day routes as if AM peak does not exist any more.

        So, Metro is working on finding more drivers for PM peak perpetually by whittling down service at other times of day (and, yeah, there probably are some drivers for whom the shift to fewer morning packets is a hardship).

        It is probably too late for this contract, but perhaps Metro should be increasing differential pay for working during the PM peak if that will help get enough drivers at the times where the well is emptiest, and when the job is most stressful.

      2. The scheduling assumes ridership is essentially identical for every weekday.

        Not necessarily. The scheduling may be geared towards service, not ridership. The more frequent a bus, the better it is for the riders, even if there are relatively few people taking the bus at that time. The more consistent it is, the better. It is easy to make the case that service should be consistent on most routes across the board — every day of the week. If your bus shows up every ten minutes after the hour (every hour, every day) it is really nice. This is why German speaking countries tend to have service at round numbers (hour, half hour, quarter hour, ten minutes, etc.). You would never see a bus run every 9 minutes, or sporadically during the day.

        I would imagine the problem is scheduling. Running the same service on weekends is problematic. Even during the week, service doesn’t fit into nice 8 hour shifts.

        On certain routes, you have crowding, and need to add extra buses. As you wrote, Metro appears to be altering their schedules to deal with that. From a rider perspective, it is very messy. I used to time my departure from work based on the bus (e. g. I would leave at 5:17). To try and remember that it is 5:28 on Thursdays, or that I should check the schedule for the latest updates becomes a real pain. I suppose for a bus that is expected to get crowded, you can have a baseline (e. g. every ten minutes) and then an occasional bus to deal with the crowding. I could definitely see those riders getting a bit of a bonus, especially since they would be not consistently driving the same route.


    “The dreams of commuter rail connecting the Triangle’s cities could be dead for now. Earlier this year, a key federal agency said it would not fund the project.

    “Why it matters: For years, Triangle leaders have focused on a 43-mile commuter rail as the way to connect the growing region, from Durham through Research Triangle Park to downtown Raleigh and out to Johnston County.”

    “Driving the news: Representatives from the Federal Transit Agency told a group of Triangle representatives this spring it would not help fund the rail project, Sig Hutchinson, the chair of GoTriangle, the regional transit agency that has worked for years on commuter rail, told Axios.”

    “Instead, Hutchinson said, the FTA is now moving to prioritize funding for bus rapid transit systems — which Raleigh and Chapel Hill are already building — due to costs, their flexibility and the pandemic’s effect on commuting patterns.”

    Sounds a lot like ST 3 to me. Is WSBLE or ST 3 affordable without federal funding?

    1. Sounds a lot like ST 3 to me.

      Could be. I have more questions than answers though. Typically commuter rail is pretty cheap. You are just leveraging track that exists already. You have to buy trains, maybe lease the rights to run them, etc., but it still doesn’t usually add up to that much. Yet the article said costs “went from $2 billion to $3.2 billion because of engineering difficulties and inflation”. This seems like a lot for commuter rail. In contrast, much of ST3 is brand new rail, which typically does cost a lot.

      1. Won’t the BRT stations have parking as well? And the same number of stations or stops as light rail? Except they will run over existing roads, and be more flexible re: routes and stops.

      2. It seems like the major costs derive from a need to build a second track along the ~40 mile corridor, since the line is mostly single-track, and the construction of 15 stations, many of which are expected to have some form of parking.

        Unless the second track involves a lot of taking of adjacent property, that still seems high (although maybe not crazy). Maybe it is the stations. As we well know, really big parking lots can add up.

    2. Glancing at the ST3 documents, it appears that they originally only expected $4.7B in Federal money mostly in grants. That’s out of the $53B so it’s only about 8%. Local tax revenues were listed as $27B. Note too that every subarea was expecting Federal grants so no major projects were included that would be built only using local sources.

      Still, capital cost estimates have risen since 2016 as I review everything in the Realignment materials and later reports. I’m not sure if ST can increase the anticipated grants. The Realignment report assumed $15.1B which is actually triple of the ST3 document. The overall program cost estimate now exceeds $145B or almost triple what ST told the voters in 2016. ( This year, staff also says that they’ll need 20 percent more vehicles and OMF space so that has yet to be added.

      The big obstacle is the future of FTA grant programs. I worry generally about the future of the New Starts programs with fewer and fewer metro areas building costly rail projects. I see FTA money just going to keeping aging systems up and gearing towards higher speed intercity rail. Many anticipated FTA project dollars are going to have to go to replacing outdated rail infrastructure including systems opened before 1990..

      So, if a project can’t qualify for New Starts money it’s seriously in trouble. Other subareas would bristle at having to make up the difference in more years of taxes to backfill funds for a poorly performing project in another subarea. With WSBLE being the most costly element, it in particular appears to be in the biggest hole. I can’t imagine that it won’t qualify for a federal New Starts money but there is a limit on how much could be given before the benefits don’t pencil out. For the other projects, there are some value engineering things like deferred stations that could bring the costs down. I don’t see ST giving up on the end stations of ST3 (like the deferring of the Downtown Redmond portion of East Link) unless it’s a last resort tactic.

      I’m not a transit finance guru. Still I think ST is still gleefully pushing their project shopping cart around without seeing how much they are spending and they never assess whether the project benefits are good enough for New Starts money.

    3. Back in 2005, the Triangle Research Park project was being considered as the first application of the Colorado Railcar DMU. However, it just didn’t have the ridership for the costs involved.

      The problem then, as it is now: it’s basically just a huge 1950s office park. Picture, say, the Kaiser building in Tukwila, duplicated hundreds of times.

      Sure, there’a no economic way to serve it with roads, because you need 14 lanes, but only 2 hours a day. It’s not economical to serve it with transit, because you need hundreds of buses, that only run once. At the time we were involved, they were trying to justify Link level service, with full railroad diesel cars, to a place where ridership is dead except for twice per day.

      The suburban utopia vision of the 1950s really needs to be rethought before they try to develop a transit vision. Tens of thousands of square feet of glass tower office space surrounded by lush forest, and people magically arriving on a two lane country road makes for great advertising but doesn’t work well in reality. They need to figure out how to weave in some residences, retail, etc if they want any form of transportation to function. Twice per day demand just doesn’t work for economic use of anything.

  16. The Eastsiders here get easily offended when you say that an outdoor shopping mall anchored by Nordstrom Rack, Ross, and an Ulta next to the interstate (Totem Lake) isn’t really some sort of urban epitome. They also keep citing Seattle’s largely SFH neighborhoods and call that “suburban,” like somehow Wallingford or East Queen Anne is the equivalent of Rose Hill or Woodinville. The reality is that you can have a densely packed SFH residential neighborhood that is still far more functionally urban than a shopping mall next to an 9 lane highway with a monotonous apartment development next to it, surrounded by a megablock grid system and car dealers.

    Single family home residential neighborhoods can be functionally urban with the right transit and walkability to certain amenities. Even if the walk is 15 minutes, which is nothing. Not all Seattle SFH neighborhoods are urban in function, but there are quite a few especially in the older core Seattle neighborhoods around Lake Union. It’s completely missing the point to look at the SFHs in Wallingford and say Totem Lake is more urban.

    1. I totally agree with what you are saying here. I grew up in a house in north Seattle just east of Jackson Park Golf Course. There were two grocery stores (a QFC and a Safeway) within a ten minutes walk of us located in commercial areas that had sprung up at the intersections of arterials. The streets are all in a grid in that area, so you could easily avoid walking along a busy arterial street to get to said grocery stores. It was also close to the bus lines that take you to Northgate, the U District, and downtown (e.g. the 41) that would come pretty frequently. My school gave us all bus passes so I often used them to go places as a teenager. I took it for granted at the time, but looking back on it, although the frequency was meh at the time (most routes were every half hour over ten years ago when I was in high school) but it still have me the freedom to go anywhere. This definitely wouldn’t have been possible out in the suburban area that we later moved to a year after I graduated high school.

      Also, I could easily ride my bike to places nearby because the residential streets being in a grid meant it was pretty easy to avoid arterial streets; you could just stay on side streets to get places. And this is all in an area that was pretty much all single family homes outside of the big apartment buildings in nearby Lake City and a few other places. Although the density was similar to that of a suburb, it did have many amenities that you don’t have in most newer car oriented suburbs.

      My family moved out of Seattle in 2014 to a bigger house deep in suburbia just east of Brier but with a Lynnwood address, and it really was different than living in Seattle. There’s no urban amenities like a grocery store in walking distance, there is only one bus that only comes every 30 minutes that takes about ten minutes of walking to get to, and you have to go at least a mile in any direction to see any apartments. That suburban neighborhood is really different than the one I grew up in, even if both have mostly single family homes.

      So yeah, the single family suburbs on the Eastside or in a place like Lynnwood really are different than the mostly single family neighborhoods of North Seattle. Although it certainly wasn’t as urban as Capitol Hill, it still did not feel like a suburb but rather in between the two.

      1. Yeah, part of the issue is that the term “suburban” has a lot of different meanings. Technically, it just means an outlying district. Some suburbs — especially in older cities — are quite dense, and otherwise resemble a city. To some, the term conjures up a cul-de-sac. From a transit, pedestrian and biking standpoint, this is very bad. The area is geared towards driving, and anything else is difficult if not dangerous. Then there is density, and the type of development (which often go together). This can get complicated. There are plenty of places that are single-family that are relatively dense. This is especially true of older housing. You can have a house on a small lot, with a basement apartment. It is also common to have houses that basically just function as an apartment. A lot of housing we now consider “urban” was formerly suburban. This was not the heart of the city, but the city grew around it. Three-story row-houses owned by one family became three separate apartments, and next thing you know, you have Belltown-level density. I wouldn’t necessarily call Wallingford suburban, although I think it has suburban elements. But it also has plenty of urban elements. This includes houses on small lots, as well as plenty of apartments and small shops scattered around in various places. The street grid is excellent.

        In contrast, I would definitely call Windermere suburban. The lots aren’t huge, but they aren’t small either. It is basically just single family housing. You have to walk a ways to get to just about any amenity. You often lack a grid — although the hills may have had more to do with this than anything.

        Much of north Seattle resembles an inner suburb. There is density, but there are also plenty of houses on really big lots. There is more of a grid than a lot of suburbs, but often the streets don’t go through. A lot of the land was developed as farmland first, then subdivided, which explains why it isn’t quite the grid you find in old Seattle. And of course, we lack sidewalks. But again, I wouldn’t say it is as suburban as Windermere, even though it is farther from the city center. There is just a lot more variety in terms of housing as well as every type of development. It is a mish-mash. It is also changing.

        Unfortunately, it is very difficult to “urbanize” an area like Totem Lake. You can add density, but things don’t change that much. In contrast, Juanita is fairly urban, as it is adjacent to a lot of older areas that have evolved to add density over the years. From an urban development standpoint, it would have been much better if the areas close to downtown Kirkland added a lot more housing than Totem Lake (not that some of those areas haven’t added housing — but there are also plenty of restricted areas quite close to the heart of things). Unfortunately, zoning is often based on the idea that apartments are bad, and that we want to restrict them to places we really don’t care about. Major arterials, or areas close to the freeway. This is true of Seattle as well. Notice how there is an abrupt edge to the density in Roosevelt. There is plenty close to the freeway, this continues past the high school a couple blocks and just like that — nothing but single family houses. I’m not saying those houses are suburban, but they are way less urban then they would be if they allowed even three-story apartments (and shops on every corner).

        From a transit perspective, I would say the most important thing is simply density. I’ve been surprised at how very different areas with similar density exhibit much the same transit ridership. There are exceptions. If the road makes it more difficult to walk to the bus stop, you are screwed. But by and large, density is the most important issue (as well as proximity) when it comes to evaluating the transit potential of a neighborhood. Totem Lake may not be attractive to city-lovers, but if given good transit, lots of people will ride it.

  17. Is anyone going to suggest a Totem Lake walkable-area walking route, or am I going to go there, look at different places at random, miss the best most-urban places, and end up frustrated at how much wide roads and parking and huge-scaling there is and a not-very-good walking access from the bus stop to the hospital for instance?

    1. I was at the hospital a few weeks ago with a relative getting surgery. We had to go by car, since that is the requirement to be discharged (note to anyone aiming for a fully car-free life: you will need a friend with a license willing to pick you up after surgery, relying on taxis or Uber is not an alternative as the hospital will not release the patient to a random driver, only to the one signing up for it at registration). Since we were driving, I did not have to experiment too much with walking paths to and from the hospital, but I walked around a little during the actual surgery period and it seemed fairly walkable, in the sense that the sidewalk was in reasonable shape, at least leaving the hospital grounds. The road I was on was just a two-lane road and not too much traffic. I did not try to find a bus stop, though.

      Someone else commented on why anyone would consider Totem Lake walkable, given that it’s “just a mall with some apartments”. One of the advantages, to me, is the proximity to fairly extensive medical facilities. I can only surmise that the person in question lives in a similarly convenient location, if not even more so. I would personally find Totem Lake eminently convenient, assuming that I had a one-bus ride from there to my workplace (which presumably means that I would need to work in Redmond or Kirkland or somewhere like that). Everything else I would immediately need (grocery stores, some other shopping, and medical facilities) are within easy walking distance. I have no doubt that others would find it less convenient.

      1. I have to wonder if the quality of care is so reduced in transit/pedestrian-oriented cities such that they allow for patients to be discharged without a ride in a private car.

      2. Yeah, I would be interested in what they do in a place like NYC as well. Here at least though it seems to be a pretty hard rule. I have (admittedly limited) experience with procedures in a few different hospital chains (or medical systems) and that has been the rule in all cases. It’s even the case for light sedation procedures, like tooth extractions and the like. Basically anywhere they wheel the patient out in a wheelchair, they want to release to a driver, not a non-driving caregiver.

        FWIW, my sense is that it’s an issue of liability protection, not care quality.

      3. I consider myself to be an expert in surgery discharge protocol, and the car requirement is not the norm. The emphasis for most medical facilities is that the patient not be discharged on their own, for safety and liability reasons. Requiring the patient’s escort to bring a car is not a thing most facilities require.

      4. Swedish central, Ballard, and the Polyclinic all do it too. If you’ve been under anesthesia or I guess anytime in the hospital they require a car/taxi to discharge. My next-door neighbor lived a ten-minute walk from the Polyclinic so he had me come and say the car was around the corner and then they let him go and I walked him home. It’s an extension of the car-everything mentality. Yes, it’s probably for liability, the same way discharging everyone in a wheelchair is, on the off-chance you might fall or collapse along the way. But a non-car-first society would not have that standard, especially in the vast majority of cases where you’re not imminently likely to collapse.

      5. Even if hospital discharges require a car out and debilitating injuries require a car in, there are still tens of thousands of people who go or could go to a medical center on transit. Outpatient clinics, tests, minor procedures, checking in to the hospital for a surgery, visiting other patients, outside specialists visiting a patient, and all the staff. In New York some professionals take the subway to their clients, and even the mayor has done a showy kind of commuting by subway. That could happen in other places if we had more transit and the culture became more open to it, and the car-only rules were relaxed.

      6. When I had a colonoscopy at Ballard Swedish, it was with anesthesia so they required a car. I had a relative come. But I was fine afterward and could have taken a bus, with our without a companion. Now I don’t have any relatives or neighbors with a car so I don’t know what I’ll do for the next colonoscopy. I may just avoid having it. The clinic gives a list of places you can call for medical-appointment transportation. I don’t know how expensive or reliable it is; it’s probably like a taxi. And I don’t want to set up an Uber app and account just for an occasional medical trip. In the Eastside when we tried to find taxis for my relative to be discharged from the hospital and for later use, the taxi companies said they no longer have cars in the Eastside and they’d have to dispatch one from Seattle, because Uber has taken over the market so much. My relative doesn’t have a smartphone so that was out. I’ve heard Eastside for Hire might be an alternative, but when I looked at its websites it was confusing and inconsistent and didn’t seem to be designed for short ad-hoc trips.

      7. Sam,

        I’m curious what facility you know of where that car requirement is waived. Please share as that may be useful to some of us.

        Mike, one thing I would note is that different providers may use different sedation protocols so I would not necessarily rely on past experience as an indicator of how your body will react after future procedures. Having said that, I sincerely hope that you will not put off future check-ups like colonoscopies when advised by medical staff to do them, and that you will find ways to deal with the transportation requirements. The check-ups really do save lives, and a lot of pain, by finding issues early. (Not an expert, but I do have a relative whose specialization is gastroenterology).

      8. Harborview/UW Medicine

        “When you are discharged, you cannot drive yourself home. A responsible adult can drive you, or you can take public transit. If you take a bus, taxi, or other public transport, we suggest that an adult ride with you. For safety reasons, some patients may be required to have an adult ride with them.”

        “How will you get home when you are discharged from the hospital? – Personal vehicle (a responsible adult must drive you). – Taxi or bus. – Uber or Lyft. – Hopelink or Cabulance. – Other (please explain)”

      9. At least at the Polyclinic the rule is a responsible adult must accompany you after anesthesia. During the pandemic the responsible adult (Polyclinic and Evergreen) could not enter the clinic or hospital, and had to wait outside in a car until the patient was brought out in a wheelchair.

        Personally, if I have just had a colonoscopy or biopsy (which usually is not general anesthesia) and I did not own a car I would splurge on Uber since the fare for the bus and responsible adult is not that much less, and if a friend is willing to take the time out of their lives to accompany you home (and then get back to their home) I think Uber is the least one can do rather than making them wait for a bus with a groggy friend. I would hate to show up to pick up my wife from surgery or anesthesia and ask her whether she brought her Orca card.

        I also agree with Anonymous. No matter how much you might dislike cars or Uber I wouldn’t forgoe a colonoscopy or biopsy to prove my point.

      10. Thank you, Sam!

        I’ve not had to go to Harborview. My recollection of an experience at the UW Eastside clinic was that they required a driver (not just someone to accompany) but maybe it’s changed now, that was a good 5-6 years ago.

      11. “I also agree with Anonymous. No matter how much you might dislike cars or Uber I wouldn’t forgoe a colonoscopy or biopsy to prove my point.”

        Not everyone has access to a car or the finances it takes to hire a taxi. It isn’t a matter of proving a point: it’s that some people aren’t rich.

      12. “I also agree with Anonymous. No matter how much you might dislike cars or Uber I wouldn’t forgoe a colonoscopy or biopsy to prove my point.”

        “Not everyone has access to a car or the finances it takes to hire a taxi. It isn’t a matter of proving a point: it’s that some people aren’t rich.”

        What’s your point Glenn? Skip colonoscopies and biopsies if you are poor? Ignore medical advice and walk to a bus stop after surgery or anesthesia to get home? Demand medical facilities eliminate policies that require someone being discharged after anesthesia have a responsible adult take them home in a car or Uber? Anywhere in Seattle we are talking maybe $20 for an Uber above the two fares on transit. Plus how much is your friend’s time worth even if they can’t afford a car either? You don’t need to be rich to hire an Uber once every year or two for a medical procedure.

        I would be surprised if the co-pay isn’t at least $50, and Medicare has a 20% co-pay unless you have a supplemental policy, and all private policies have deductibles of at least $750/yr. If you can’t afford those you are not getting a colonoscopy or biopsy so don’t need to worry about the $20 Uber ride home.

      13. “Demand medical facilities eliminate policies that require someone being discharged after anesthesia have a responsible adult take them home in a car or Uber?”

        Bingo. That’s not advice, it’s coersion.

        Participating in society shouldn’t require an Uber account.

        I have always had a good response to general anesthesia: I wake up before most people do and I don’t have grogginess problems after being discharged. I wouldn’t mind so much if they allowed a companion to take you home on the bus, but I’ve been told repeatedly it has to be a car or taxi.

      14. “don’t need to worry about the $20 Uber ride home.”

        It’s not just that; it’s setting up an account with a company, giving them your information, installing a smartphone app you don’t otherwise want, paying by credit card, interacting with the app, etc.

      15. ““don’t need to worry about the $20 Uber ride home.”

        “It’s not just that; it’s setting up an account with a company, giving them your information, installing a smartphone app you don’t otherwise want, paying by credit card, interacting with the app, etc.”

        Really, installing an app you “don’t want” is a reason to not get a colonoscopy or biopsy? Maybe your friend has an Uber/Lyft app., probably the most ubiquitous apps on cell phones. Don’t you do this for an ORCA account, or a Good To Go pass, lease, or an Amazon account, or cable tv, or a credit card, or if you want to buy something at Bite of Seattle, or God forbid get a mortgage or open a bank account if you don’t keep your cash under your mattress or in gold. Think of the information you gave to your health insurer to get the procedure. We are not in rural Montana living off the grid. By the way, taxi’s take cash, although if you don’t want the app. you will have to call for a pickup.

        What is selfish is someone without a car is never able to help someone else out who needs a ride home after a medical procedure.

        If your doctor advises you it is not safe to walk to a bus, wait, and catch it home after a medical procedure are you going to ignore that advice and make your friend do the same because of $20 or an app you don’t want on your phone? This is where “urbanism” and “transit” get into weirdness for me.

      16. “Don’t you do this for an ORCA account,”

        An ORCA card is something the transit agency gives you that you can buy at a TVM for cash.

        “or a Good To Go pass,”

        People without cars don’t have that.

        “lease, or an Amazon account, or a credit card”

        I don’t have an app for those.

        “or cable tv”

        I haven’t watched TV since the early 80s.

        “or if you want to buy something at Bite of Seattle”

        Then I don’t buy something at Bite of Seattle.

        “or God forbid get a mortgage”

        People without houses don’t have mortgages.

        “or open a bank account”

        No app.

        “Think of the information you gave to your health insurer to get the procedure.”

        Uber is not my insurer or my health provider, and is not under HIPAA.

      17. At the end of the day, not everyone can afford an Uber on the fly. $30-50 ride out towards the city’s middle ring or city limits and than add a tip which makes it more like $36-60. Not everyone can comfortably afford that, for some that’s a week’s worth of groceries. Many people on here can afford this cost, but again trying to say “why are you wanting to ignore medical advice and take the bus. An Uber is just $20” Can come off as a bit daft or just ignores that not everyone has that luxury of affording an Uber or coralling a friend into driving them home. Could there be solutions for this, maybe.

      18. I agree that it’s “a bit daft” to be totally dismissive of the idea that responsible adults should be allowed to get themselves home via transit or via their own two feet after a medical procedure.

        Again, I wonder how hospitals in the many walkable cities of the world get away with the apparently extraordinary malpractice of letting their patients use non-SOV transportation after being released.

      19. I stated it is unwise to ignore a physician’s advice after a procedure that requires anesthesia or a narcotic/sedative.

        I also think it is unfair to ask a friend or person to lie to the healthcare facility about how the patient will get home. The friend or “responsible adult” is the responsible person because the patient by definition is impaired. If the responsible adult lies — usually on a written discharge form — and something happens when walking to or taking a bus home the person who will be held responsible will be the unimpaired adult who lied to the healthcare facility because the very first entity who will be accused will be the healthcare facility for allowing someone to take a bus home who will then pull out the signed discharge form you lied on. God forbid something bad happens.

        I wouldn’t agree to do it. If the patient was a friend or relative I would use my car, borrow a car, or pay for an Uber. I would not knowingly falsely sign discharge papers for an impaired patient, even if some fool on a transit blog said it was ok.

      20. I’ve never had a discharge form to sign, much less one that asked the name of the companion and the travel mode.

      21. It isn’t the patient who signs the discharge form because they are impaired. The “responsible adult” signs the discharge form. I had to sign discharge forms for my wife. If a healthcare facility decides a patient must have a responsible adult ensure the impaired patient gets home correctly they absolutely are going to have the responsible adult sign the discharge form before releasing an impaired patient.

        Mike might have never signed a form because without a car or ability to obtain a car or Uber he could not be a responsible adult and a healthcare facility would not release a patient to him unless he lied.

        Even if there were not a written discharge form to sign — and there is — the discharge notes will confirm the responsible adult was informed of the discaharge instructions, also in writing, and agreed to them.

        If you can’t be a responsible adult for an impaired patient because you don’t own a car and won’t get a taxi or Uber or ambulance simply don’t agree to be one. Don’t endanger someone’s life or health or lie on a discharge form because of your views on transit or cars. Because you can be sure the police officer or jury all have cars if something goes wrong and your ass is on a bus desperately calling 911 that will also come by car/truck.

        Don’t lie to healthcare facilities about someone else and whether you can be a responsible adult. Let someone else actually be a responsible adult. I am certain that if the patient doesn’t have anyone who owns a car or is willing to pay for an Uber there is charity transportation that can be arranged before hand.

      22. DT is, as far as I know, entirely correct about discharge forms. At the most recent hospital trip I mentioned earlier, I was the care giver but not the driver. I had to sign a form indicating my care giving status (I would be with the patient for 24 hours after discharge, etc.); the driver had to sign indicating that they would be providing transportation. Both of these forms were signed prior to surgery and were required for surgery to commence. That is how Evergreen did it; other hospitals in the area may be different.

        I do not recall seeing the driver having to sign something else when the patient was physically released, but I was busy situating them in the vehicle so I may have missed it. I think that the pre-op paperwork took care of it, though.

    2. Totem Lake is pretty hard to miss. Go first to the mall area where most buses stop, and then it is pretty easy to see where Totem Lake housing fans out (mostly toward Evergreen Medical Center, which is huge). It mostly has that industrial design. If you go too far east or south you will eventually run into a more industrial area. If you got too far north you run into Evergreen with its maze of roads. 405 is to the west.

      The point I was making was not that Totem Lake is great urbanism. Totem Lake however is a good example of how to plan some kind of walkable community when starting out with basically a low-density industrial area. Letting retail or housing grow “organically” in these areas is usually a disaster in an area as huge as East King Co. For the eastside, Totem Lake is some of the best multi-family housing that doesn’t cost a zillion dollars with walkable retail, and on the eastside there should be some moderately priced multi-family housing for younger people who want a little retail action and want to be near transit, and tend to want a different kind of retail. If you want to be near walkable transit on the eastside you are going to be near a freeway. Not unlike Link.

      At the same time, Queen Anne, while a lovely semi-suburban city, is not urbanism either. Not even close. Because of its zoning, size, and low population Seattle has no real urbanism compared to cities around the world (and no neighborhood has fought upzoning more than Queen Anne).

      Queen Anne is quite similar to the north end of Mercer Island except the eastside segregates uses in its zoning. MI has a town center with mixed use development, surrounding multi-family zone, and SFH zones surrounding that. Like the Pale of old. Not unlike Queen Anne (and I lived on lower Queen Anne for two years) except there are fewer cars parked on the street because MI requires higher onsite parking minimums, lots are larger and house to lot area ratios lower, and the retail reflects the different demographics (MI has great grocery stores and pharmacies but not the quality and quantity of bars and restaurants on Queen Anne because MI is older).

      It is the same throughout Seattle. There is no urban core. There is a neighborhood with maybe some “middle housing” among SFH and a “main street” devoted to retail or commercial. Last night I went to U Village to see the music and get a cocktail with my wife (what a fabulous retail experience and it was packed, mostly with young people). The mall is surrounded by new, dense multi-family housing, but no one would call that area of Seattle “urban”. Come on.

      Some folks on this blog have dumbed down the definition of urbanism because they want to think they are “urban” or living an urban life. Live in a truly urban area. Guess what. It isn’t all great. There are a ton of disadvantages to true urbanism, like extreme spreads in AMI, extreme housing costs, no SFH, congestion, and living among too many people where each private square inch costs a fortune.

      I lived in some very urban areas. I would take Queen Anne (especially in a SFH) over those cities in a second. If I were younger today with the crime issues in Seattle Totem Lake would be very attractive because it has a younger demographic (downtown Kirkland used to be young but is now oooooooold because the cost of housing and retirees). If I had a family and a wife MI is very attractive, and the north end is more “urban” than the south end which is why many prefer the south end with 15,000 sf lot minimums.

      So let’s not compare “urbanism” in this region because there is none, certainly Queen Anne. Seattle, and the eastside, chose different paths from urbanism, which makes sense because there simply is not the population in a 6500 sq mile three county region for any kind of urbanism. You would have to pack all 775,000 Seattle residents in the CBD between Yesler and Belltown to create any kind of urbanism. Queen Anne might be “urban” compared to SnoCo or Auburn or Sumner, but that does not make it urban on a worldwide scale, or more urban than Totem Lake, and Queen Anne residents don’t want that kind of density and “urbanism”.

      1. At the same time, Queen Anne, while a lovely semi-suburban city, is not urbanism either.

        I disagree completely. Queen Anne is like Capitol Hill. Sure, there are plenty of big old houses, but most of it is quite urban. It is also becoming more urban. At just north of the top of the hill (once one of the least urban parts of Queen Anne) the shops are bustling, and a big new apartment building is going in. The south side happens to be one of the most urban parts of the city (with very high density). The north side has SPU, and plenty of old apartments that make up a normal city. The east and west side resemble much of Capitol Hill. Plenty of big, wonderful houses (many with views) along with huge swaths of green belts. Is it attractive? Of course, the same way that houses in Montlake, penthouse condos in Belltown or large apartments in Greenwich Village are attractive. If you have the money (and I mean, a lot of money) then you can live right in the heart of the city, in a very nice place. You can literally walk downtown — past giant apartment buildings — that is hardly suburban.

      2. There’s a big range of urbanism between suburbia like Issaquah, and towering skyscrapers like downtown Chicago or Manhattan. There’s a lot of cities that most people would consider truly urban — Madrid, Boston, LA etc. — where the urban parts are 3-8 story mixed-use buildings and rowhouses. We have that here in Seattle too, and I’d describe that as urbanism at its most livable. There’s enough density for destinations in walking distance, and for frequent transit to get places that aren’t in walking distance, but isn’t completely packed with people and overwhelming.

    3. It has been a while since I’ve been to Totem Lake. But it wouldn’t surprise me if your best bet is to get on a bike. It is quite possible that it is an area where biking is really good, and walking is just OK. Of course you can walk on the bike path, it just takes a lot longer to find anything interesting. This might not be fair at all (and again, I haven’t been there in a while) but last time I was, there was a definite “mall-like” feel to the neighborhood, and when you left it, basically nothing. Thus biking to the heart of Kirkland seems like the way to go. The biking options have never been better.

  18. Denver transit news, RTD has officially approved changes to their fare structure starting next year. RTD will remove the fare zones with Local, Regional, and Airport and just have two fares, Standard and Airport.

    Standard Adult Fare: $2.75 for a Single 3 Hour Ticket, $5.50 for a Day Pass, and $88 for a Monthly Pass

    Airport: $10 for Single 3 Hour Ticket, but will have one notable change in that the $88 Monthly Pass will count towards the fare as well.

    Seniors & Disabled riders will have a systemwide fare of $1.35 Single 3 Hour Ticket, $2.70 Day Pass, and $27 Monthly Pass.

    Other changes include
    – 1 year Pilot program for free youth fares for 19 and under
    – Expansion of LiVE (Basically RTDs ORCA Lift) to have higher income limits, remove in-district address requirements, and discounts to Paratransit (RTDs Access-A-Ride) fares ($2.25 Standard Fare & $9.50 Airport Fare compared to the current $5/$9/$20 Access-A-Ride Fares)
    – Streamlined Pass Program for Employers & Organizations

    This is a major step for RTD in my opinion as the current fares are expensive with fares starting at $3 passes being as high as $200 a month for a Regional/Airport Pass. The biggest winners are clearly Monthly Pass users as they’ll see the biggest discounts in paticular if you currently hold a Regional Pass. I wish the airport fare was cut in half but I guess a compromise had to be made somewhere with the Single Ride high fare staying but a better Monthly Pass discount.

    1. I hope the free-fare pilot project was funded by the state. Nobody agency need reinvent the flat tire of eliminating fares without the state legislature’s blessing, and then getting punished by having other revenue sources stripped away, as happened in Austin.

    2. In comparison, Metro’s fare is also $2.75 and the corresponding monthly pass is $99 (36 trips, or 18 round trips). So Denver’s monthly pass is more economical for users (32 trips, or 16 round trips). Some agencies try to get as many regular riders as possible onto monthly passes to minimize daily fare collection overhead, so that could be part of it.

      Pugetopolis doesn’t have a day pass except for Link tickets, so that incentivizes monthly passes further.

      When I went to Denver in the 2000s the airport bus fare was $13, which I thought was outrageous. But then the ride was ten miles through nothingness, so that made some sense. Since then I’ve heard the area between the city and the airport has filled up, so there are actually places to go to or live in.

      1. There is a regional day pass, but didn’t use it until recently because it was painful to get it onto the ORCA card. You had to order it at least a day in advance, and know that it might drop onto the card at any random moment throughout the day prior to when you actually needed it. You could get it immediately at a Link station, but I could never get any of the RapidRide readers to drop the pass onto the card.

        The new readers seem to be as good as TriMet’s Hop Card readers in terms of it being nearly instant, so I’ll probably be using it a lot more now.

    3. This is something ST should strive toward as distance-based fares can complicated and confusing to customers. Our regional fare structure is already convoluted as each agency has its own fare yet depends on connecting/transferring between the other. A flat regional fare makes the most sense and is customer-friendly.

      If not, at least combine the categories of Disabled, Senior, LIFT into a single category of “discounted” for the sake of marketing and streamlining.

    4. That’s great news! Denver seems like our closest transit analogue, except for the airport transit fare which only was competitive with cab or rideshare if you were traveling alone.

      Now if only we could get a day pass here… When we visited Denver in 2019, we just bought a day pass every morning in the RTD app and definitely got our money’s worth out of it, just had to remember on the first and last days that we were going from/to the airport and buy the super-expensive one.

  19. Andrew Bowen, if you are out there, a couple of months ago you wrote a post I really liked: The Surprising Efficiency of RapidRide A. You said the post was “part of a series on high-performing transit routes in the Puget Sound region.” I look forward to your next post in the series. Any idea of what it will be on, or when it will be finished?

  20. Ryan Packer reporting that Ballard Alliance, Fremont Chamber, North Seattle Industrial Association, and Pelington Village penned a letter to SDOT on June 6 claiming that many of the improvements planned for the Route 40 Transit-Plus corridor will damage business.

    The letter basically claims that Westlake and Leary are already congested, and takings of general purpose lanes for bus lanes will result in additional traffic congestion and impact businesses. However, the letter also claims that this congestion somehow doesn’t affect travel times or reliability of the 40.

    The letter goes on to claim that ridership on the 40 (one of the best-performing routes in the city) is too low warrant transit-oriented improvements.

    Anecdote: I typically avoid riding the 40 because it is usually delayed by traffic and often very busy such that finding a seat is difficult, and destinations along the 40 that I go to are easier accessed via bike trail or the D. This is a common sentiment among my friends, as well.

    This letter claims the corridor improvements are not based on reality, but frankly, that’s a more apt description of its own contents.

    There have been three years of community outreach for this corridor, and all of even remotely substantive issues raised in the letter were address by SDOT in their Spring Outreach Summary:

  21. I see The Urbanist is already throwing cold water on Seattle’s handl8ng of large crowds for all star week and Taylor swift. These events don’t match their political agenda so they feel the need and have the megaphone to downplay them and criticize them as not being helpful to the city. They rather push the Sawant narrative that there’s nothing wrong with seattle rhat more taxes and an explosion if spending on criminals can’t fix. The urbanist has used up its 15 minutes. Their posts largely consist of socialist tripe and appeals for funding while their “experts” push the same policies rhat have led to this mess.

  22. This was an interesting alert on the KCM website for route 255. Perhaps related to the bus maintenance backlog and availability of certain bus models?


    Routes 255, 257, 268, and 311 notice: The SR 520 Evergreen and Yarrow Point Freeway Station Platform Stops have Limited Accessibility for Ramp or Lift Deployment.

    Beginning immediately, and until further notice, the eastbound and westbound platform stops located on SR-520, at Evergreen and Yarrow Point freeway stations:

    Stop #71355 – SR 520 Evergreen Pt (Westbound)

    Stop #71348 – SR 520 Evergreen Pt (Eastbound)

    Stop #71356 – SR 520 Yarrow Pt/Clyde Hill (Westbound)

    Stop #71359 – SR 520 Yarrow Pt/Clyde Hill (Eastbound)

    Are not available on some routes for riders requiring bus ramp or lift deployment. This limited accessibility is due to the inability of some coach types to safely deploy the ramp or lift at these platforms.

    Metro routes 255, 257, 268, 311, 982 and 986, operating coach numbers 8100 through 8199, are affected.

    Metro Route 167 and Sound Transit Express routes 542 and 545 are not affected and are able deploy the ramp or lift at these stops.

    For alternative ramp or lift service, please board or exit affected routes at one of these bus stops:

    – Routes 255 & 986 to Kirkland, the University District or Haller Lake: east of these stations at the South Kirkland Park

    and Ride.

    – Route 257 to Kingsgate or downtown Seattle: east and north of these stations at NE 128th Street and 116th Avenue NE.

    – Routes 268 to Bear Creek or downtown Seattle: east of these stations at SR 520 and NE 40th Street.

    – Route 311 to Woodinville or downtown Seattle: east and north of these stations at the Totem Lake Freeway Station.

    – Route 982 to Haller Lake or Bear Creek Park and Ride: east of these stations at the Redmond Technology Station.

    Effective Dates: 6/12/2023 to 9/2/2023

    1. It sounds to me like there was something blocking part of the platform so that, say, an articulated wouldn’t be able to safely get close to the curb.

  23. After the All Star weekend, two Taylor Swift concerts, bite of Seattle and many neighborhood and regional events along with SeaTac surpassing pre-pandemic volumes there has be no increase in the number of Covid cases.

    I think 99% of Americans have returned to their lives without any concern or risk of Covid, and it is unwise to think Covid is a factor in transit ridership levels or office occupancy.

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