Hope for American transit: things are getting better. (RMTransit video)

Top 10 US metros with the highest bus ridership per capita. Seattle is #4. (CityNerd video)

Washington congressional delegation asks FTA to fund Cascadia high-speed rail study. ($)

Trolleybuses vs battery buses. (City for All video)

The advantages of green tram tracks; i.e., grass between the rails. (City for All video)

A Taylor Swift fan from Canada vlogs her Seattle light rail weekend. (Keri Pratt video)

This is an open thread.

309 Replies to “Open Thread 13: Hope”

  1. RM Transit’s video is a good reminder that wallowing in cynicism and doomerism about North American transit infrastructure is easy to do and is to be blind to all the small good steps that are happening in the US and Canada in recent years.

    Rome wasn’t built in a day and Europe took many decades to create a more urban and transit friendly environment after taking out many of their original tram systems and building car centric infrastructure in many cities that we consider becons of good urbanism (Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Zurich, Copenhagen, etc.

    Alongside the fact that Europe, Asia, & Australia/New Zealand aren’t perfect or better either. They’re still just as flawed regions as we are, they can have sprawl and car centric design just as bad as we do. Rotterdam and Brussels have been trying to change their car dependent infrastructure over the last decade to include more bikes, trams, busses and metros. Or changing mobility habits, like Brussels trying to move people to electric bikes with cash incentives or redoing roads with more bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.

    At the end of it, it’s easy to complain about the problems of Seattle Mass Transit and still important to do so but there is still a lot of good happening because of it and it’s evolution and expanding the work/housing/recreation/social opportunities for people in Seattle Metro.

    1. I agree. But interestingly enough, I feel most optimistic about a lot of the little things, not the big ones. To be clear, Lynnwood, Federal Way and East Link are all big, and all important. They will make things a lot better. But so much of my optimism is based on what SDOT is doing.

      In Seattle I feel like we are definitely moving in the right direction, it is just taking a while. Streets that I never imagined would be made more transit, bike and pedestrian friendly are being rebuilt. There is talk of taking lanes on Rainier Avenue, Aurora and Westlake, which is really amazing. That doesn’t mean that we will go “full Amsterdam”. But taking baby steps in the right direction is a lot better than backsliding. There are a ton of other little projects that can make a big difference. For example, just yesterday I crossed Lake City Way here: https://goo.gl/maps/PjsL7frHysSmBgnG7. There was a nice traffic light, but it was more than that. If I was riding a bike, I would be on the south side of the street. I would be completely isolated from cars leaving Lake City Way. Not only is this a nice signalized crosswalk, but one that feels so much safer than ones build not that long ago. As more of these are added on Lake City Way, the communities are tied together, and buses (which run on both sides of the street) become a lot easier to access.

      Or how about this project, that is being worked on right now: https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/pedestrian-program/pinehurst-way-ne-and-ne-117th-st-intersection-and-sidewalk-project. This one is a bit more complicated, but if you look at the before and after pictures (by scrolling down) you can get the idea. Pedestrians and bikes are the only ones allowed to go straight on 117th. Everyone else has to turn. Those crossing on the crosswalk don’t have to deal with cars making left turns. In fact, the only turn that could happen when the crosswalk is “Walk” is someone making a hairpin turn from eastbound 117th to southwest Pinehurst Way. That is rare, and will likely only happen when kids are dropped off at school (and the very nature of the turn suggests slow speeds). This is much safer than it is now.

      It may not be happening fast enough for our liking, but it is definitely happening. It is probably happening in other cities across the country as well.

      1. SDOT has made some real and valuable improvements to the pedestrian friendliness of Seattle, and I applaud them for doing so. But, at the time, I remain pessimistic about the future of transit primarily because the cost per service hour continues to go up and up, and it outpacing revenue. I don’t blame Metro management for this, I think it’s simply economic reality about how much money it takes to find enough bus drivers and mechanics to do the job. But, and the same time, costs cannot continue to increase like this indefinitely, or else the same money is going to end up funding less and less service, until transit just disappears.

        Maybe automated buses will eventually save the day, but I would not count on that. Even when the cars and taxis the buses compete with are autonomous, there will be strong political forces (e.g. unions) that will keep the buses human driven, as well as safety concerns from passengers who might not want to be on a bus without any Metro employee on board.

      2. Some of the cost of labor may also be intertwined with the cost of housing, as bus drivers, like everybody else, have to live somewhere.

      3. “… costs cannot continue to increase like this indefinitely, or else the same money is going to end up funding less and less service, until transit just disappears.“

        I too worry about this. Much of the public becomes enamored with maps and diagrams. However, I see our leaders routinely avoiding the difficult topic of productivity.

        It reminds me of how many small towns keep building “industrial parks” that sit empty. But unlike land, the buses still cost lots of money to run effectively every day.

        In theory, our revenue subsidy streams should keep pace with costs. The most difficult source to increase thought is fares, as fare increases can discourage riders as well as expose equity concerns. We are probably overdue for a fare increase.

        Take Link for example. ST2 extensions will attract riders but the costs to operate a bigger system will be probably more than the ridership gain. It will be particularly hard with ST3 as most of the lines won’t increase Link boardings that much but the system will be doubled in length (62 miles for Link pre-ST3 and 62 miles in ST3). It’s not the new lines in Seattle that will cost so much to operate as it will be to operate mostly empty trains with each train running an extra half hour just one way south of Federal Way, north of Mariner and out to Issaquah. Even DSTT2 won’t add many riders since the stations are so deep that those riders will already be on the 1 Line in DSTT before opening day.

        Metro can be a bit more flexible about productivity targets. However, the only way to fight the rising tide of increased shared street traffic making buses slower is to be aggressive about existing lane conversions — and I think most east conversions have already been implemented.

        Neither agency seems to be doing persuasive things to attract more riders either. In fact, these Link service reduction hassles end up looking like ST doesn’t want to even keep existing riders. Metro still hasn’t seemed to push ST to open the southbound Rainier stop to Metro buses (and its adjacent bus queue jump) even though the station appears finished as everyone waits for plinth replacements.

      4. The driver shortage exists in most countries. The mechanic shortage seems to be more of a national situation. I don’t think anyone predicted this before the pandemic, so my guess is this will work itself out over time. It isn’t like nursing shortages (which were predicted long before the pandemic). Or software developer shortages (which tend to be very cyclical).

        Driver automation may create a glut, but that would probably take a while.

      5. “I see our leaders routinely avoiding the difficult topic of productivity.”

        The least productive routes were eliminated in the 2010s.

      6. I’m referring to another thread in another post where somebody dug up a chart showing that Metro’s cost per service hour has been increasing much faster than the consumer price index. This problem dates back at least as far as 2008 (the furthest the chart I saw goes back). It’s not just the aftermath of the pandemic.

        Just like increasing taxes, fares can only be raised so far. Already, a one way bus fare can actually exceed the cost of driving if the trip is short. If the cost of service doesn’t get under control, you quickly run out of things to try.

      7. ST2 extensions will attract riders but the costs to operate a bigger system will be probably more than the ridership gain.

        I see that as being a bigger problem with ST3 than ST2. ST2 has some very nice additions that will improve the overall transit network. We may reach the point that ridership per hour on the trains actually goes down (which is a really bad sign) but overall, it is still good, as riders switch from trains to buses. In contrast, I don’t see that happening with ST3. There aren’t that many buses that get replaced, and the trains won’t be carrying that many riders. Trains are only more cost-effective to operate if they carry more riders than a bus, and I just don’t see that with most of ST3.

        However, the only way to fight the rising tide of increased shared street traffic making buses slower is to be aggressive about existing lane conversions — and I think most easy conversions have already been implemented.

        Right, but we are busy doing the hard ones then. The tide has turned, in my opinion. I keep pointing to the 40. There is simply no way they come up with a plan like that ten years ago. That looks like something McGinn would have proposed, and people ridicule. “Taking a lane of Westlake?!? You gotta be kidding me!” Same with other changes (Converting a lane of Aurora to a bike lane, around the perfectly good Green Lake path?!?). Yet the bike lane is here, and absent some sort of last minute switch, the BAT lane will be as well. These changes are not being implemented by “Mayor McSchwinn”, but spanning two relatively conservative mayors (for Seattle). There is simply no way anyone to the right of Harrell has a chance against him. When it comes to “taking lanes” for bikes or transit, you better get used to it, because is happening, and will continue to happen.

      8. I concur with Ross that productivity will be better with ST2 than ST3. I would however note that many buses already end at Northgate so many Lynnwood riders are already on Link. East Link is where the big surge would be, but it’s going to be such a long wait after buses were kicked out of the DSTT that I’m not sure if the anticipated demand will happen. Finally, many of the current riders in these corridors are on ST Express and ST Express ridership has really tanked since 2019.

      9. Yeah, I see your point about ST2, but from a cost-effectiveness standpoint, there are still some very good things. Lynnwood Link will result in a lot of savings for Community Transit. It won’t save Metro a lot of money, but the eventual network will be a lot better. Even if they don’t incorporate all of things I want to see, it is still a very positive step in the right direction. For decades the north end has lacked good east-west service; it is clear that it will get it (along with a much faster connection to Link).

        Federal Way will have significant savings, and will result in significant improvements in the south end. Getting from Tacoma to the airport should get a lot better, for example. In the case of both Lynnwood and Federal Way Link, the extension isn’t huge. It adds 13 minutes on either end. This costs money to operate, but not that much. At worst is just a bit farther than necessary. The key is the freeway intercepts. Those will make a huge difference. The savings for the buses will be big because of it. Those buses may not carry a lot of riders anymore, but they still run a lot of them.

        East Link is a bit of a mix. Some savings, some rider improvements. It is by far the most dependent on high ridership. If it gets it, then great. If not, it will be tough to maintain.

        Overall though, perhaps the strongest argument for ST2 is that you are shifting costs from operations to (one-time) construction. When the dust settles, it will be cheaper to run things. It still might not be worth it (spending billions to save millions) but if you are most concerned about escalating operations cost, this is the type of thing you want. Maybe it went too far, but not by much. Again, you need good freeway intercepts, and neither Northgate nor Angle Lake have them. Likewise, it just isn’t a good value to send so many buses across the lake, especially since we no longer send them into a tunnel.

        In contrast, much of ST3 simply fails in that respect. Ridership per mile will plummet. Many of the trains won’t replace bus service, and will just add to the operational cost. Most of it will have little in the way of improvements. If it is noon and I want to get from Tacoma or Everett to Seattle, I will be nostalgic for the bus (if it goes away). Your main improvement is in trips like Ash Way to Evergreen, or Kent to Fife. Trips that are much faster by car, and faster by bus if they bothered to connect those places. As a result, you are running trains that very few will ride. This is where the problem lies. Fortunately, there are turn-backs aplenty. So, like every other similar system across this great land, the trains will run infrequently in the outskirts. Cheaper to operate that way, although you still need to maintain the miles and miles of track.

        In Seattle it is a different story. At best this really is a case of saving service hours. West Seattle will suffer, but at least we don’t spend so much money on bus drivers (or mechanics) giving those riders a fast ride to downtown. Ballard will improve things a bit. Not as much as most envisioned, but still an improvement. Rainier Valley comes out behind (with worse stops downtown, bad transfers, and the trains sent to SLU instead of UW). In Seattle is sounds a bit better, but not like everything they’ve built so far. Again, my hope is based on making travel better for the buses (like the 40) as they will continue to do the heavy lifting. We may have spent way too much money on the wrong things, but I do believe we will spend enough on the right things to have a decent transit system.

      10. Yes, SDOT should be praised, but it is a mixed bag. The SDOT work groups installing PBL or streetcars sometimes have slowed transit flow (e.g., Broadway, 2nd Avenue, Pike-Pine, NE 65th Street, Roosevelt Way NE). SDOT did a great job with 3rd Avenue since 2005; ST put pressure on downtown Seattle with its south-first choice for Link in 2001. In the weeds, the SDOT choices on the G and J lines have been odd.

        Yes, ST2 will be great; it could have been better. ST3 is disappointing. ST does not provide robust service; their headways are too long. Some ST2 timelines are painfully slow.

        King County sold CPS to help the WSCC and ended bus operations in the DSTT prematurely. Link headways are still not short enough to have ended joint operations.

      11. Kicking all buses out of the DSTT might have been earlier than necessary.

        But there was no reason for Metro route 41 to continue once Northgate Link opened.

        STX 550 and the 21n series buses lost their access to the express lanes what seems like a lifetime ago now. And yet the 550 resiliently remains STs highest-ridership bus route.

        Productivity on ST Express will continue to drop as the Link network grows.

        That said, Sound Transit might have exceeded Metro ridership for the first time ever on Taylor Swift Sunday, depending on Sounder ridership, when that is available.

      12. “the 550 resiliently remains STs highest-ridership bus route.”

        … because it connects the two largest downtowns and two largest cities.

      13. @Brent White,

        “ Sound Transit might have exceeded Metro ridership for the first time ever on Taylor Swift Sunday, depending on Sounder ridership”

        Ya, I’m curious about that too. People are really getting smart about switching to LR (and Sounder) during times of extreme congestion and demand like the Swift weekend. It shows in the data. Most of the non-street dependent modes were well up in ridership, but the Metro bus component was only up 5 to 8%.

        But we really need to get some of these LR extensions finished and in service. Because right now we have too much demand.

      14. Mike, I’m pretty sure the 550 stopped being the highest ridership ST bus pre-pandemic when ridership fell 1/3 when it was removed from the tunnel and the stops were on downtown streets, 2nd and 4th. Ridership fell on the 554 17% at the same time.

        So I don’t know that in 2023 I would proclaim the resiliency of the 550 when its ridership is a tiny fraction of it heyday. I also don’t know about the resiliency of travel — let alone on transit — from Bellevue to Seattle. That is pretty dead today, the 554 will be rerouted to Bellevue Way, and Metro is cutting bus service to MI and to Seattle.

        Do I think converting the 550 to light rail will magically increase ridership to Seattle while adding a transfer? No, I don’t. I don’t think eastsiders stopped riding transit to Seattle because the buses were dirty (although they have become dirtier with less decorum ironically after the loss of the peak commuter), or more inconvenient, or because of less frequency when you combine bus frequency.

        They stopped taking transit into Seattle because they didn’t have to spend two hours every day commuting to an office, and downtown became an inferior retail experience. A train can’t fix either of those. So much for resiliency

      15. “I’m pretty sure the 550 stopped being the highest ridership ST bus”

        I thought the 512 overtook the 550 but somebody found statistics that the 550 is still the highest-ridership route.

        “pre-pandemic when ridership fell 1/3 when it was removed from the tunnel”

        Other things happened at the same time. The South Bellevue P&R and the Rainier freeway station were closed. For a few years the bus stayed on I-90 past the Rainier station without stopping. Last year was the time I was going to Bellevue a lot, and it was still doing that. Now both the P&R and Rainier bus stops are open again.

        “Do I think converting the 550 to light rail will magically increase ridership to Seattle while adding a transfer? No, I don’t.”

        It will subtract a transfer in some cases, or make the total trip faster by moving the transfer point so you’re on the train for more of the trip. E.g., trips to Wilburton, the Spring District, Overlake, Capitol Hill, or Roosevelt.

      16. The replacement of the 550 with Link does many things, all of which should improve ridership:

        1) More frequency/less wait time, especially evenings and Sundays
        2) Much larger capacity when big events let out, such as Seahawks or Mariners games.
        3) Much quicker loading when lots of passengers are getting on at once, such as after a major event downtown
        4) One-seat rides connecting Seattle to Redmond and the Spring District
        5) One seat rides from Bellevue to Capitol Hill
        6) No traffic congestion in downtown Seattle or Bellevue streets
        7) No stoplights, so faster travel times through downtown Seattle and Bellevue, even without traffic
        8) A larger park and ride than what the 550 had before Link construction
        9) Additional ridership from trips between Bellevue and Redmond from people not going to Seattle

        None of the above may seem huge individually, but together, they all add up.

      17. Way upthread, Ross mentioned talk of taking bus lanes on Rainier. Ross, come down to the south end some time, and luxuriate on Metro route 7 and the red-painted lanes under parts of its path.

      18. “Last year was the time I was going to Bellevue a lot, and it was still doing that. Now both the P&R and Rainier bus stops are open again.”

        Wait a minute, the 550 is still on I-90 and is still skipping the Rainier station. I thought, if it’s going on Rainier this year, I would have experienced it, and I haven’t, and the map says it isn’t. Only the 554 is on Rainer.

      19. “4) One-seat rides connecting Seattle to Redmond and the Spring District
        5) One seat rides from Bellevue to Capitol Hill”

        In Daniel’s mind, the only place people go to along the 550’s route or future East Link is Bellevue Way. The entire rest of the Eastside and Seattle could float away because nobody is going to them, except U-Village.

      20. Mike, if you scroll up you will see you posted yesterday that the “resiliency” of the 550 was based on ridership between downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue, even though that ridership is down dramatically post pandemic. Now you post Eastside stations for East Link other than downtown Bellevue will generate the lions share of boardings.

        The 550 (and East Link) are predicated on Eastside riders going to downtown Seattle. Not Northgate. Not Lynnwood. Not Capitol Hill. It is why Eastside buses don’t continue to those stops and never did. It is why the Eastside pays 100% of the cross lake EXPRESS buses. It is also why the 550’s ridership is/was so peak oriented, and why ST and Metro are cutting service from the Eastside to downtown Seattle. WFH.

        Eastsiders taking the 550 to Seattle, and Seattleites taking the 550 to the Eastside, will take East Link in the future. Ridership on the 550 will be very close to ridership on East Link cross lake. The two major Eastside stations for folks going to Seattle on East Link will be S Bellevue and MI because of the park and rides, and some riders transferring at the BTC.

        There will be little intra-day work commuting by downtown Bellevue and Seattle office workers. They have phones and Zoom if they even are in the office.

        The one big increase in ridership I could see from Seattle is if Amazon starts moving Seattle workers to Bellevue, but my understanding is Amazon will locate mostly SLU workers who choose to work in Bellevue, mainly because they live on the Eastside and the commute to SLU is too difficult (unless they WFH).

        The 550 today doesn’t go to Wilburton, The Spring Dist., Overlake or Redmond because there is such little ridership demand for those areas, which is why East Link ridership estimates are predicated on these areas having massive TOD. Even though East Link was supposed to open in 2021 we are not seeing that TOD yet. Frequency on buses between downtown Bellevue and Redmond — along the same route East Link will take — is poor because again ridership is poor.

        People — certainly eastsiders — take transit because they have to in an area with an abundance of free parking. That one area was downtown Seattle. They didn’t like driving to a park and ride to catch a one seat EXPRESS bus to downtown Seattle (which had nothing to do with Seattle but just the hassle and waste of precious time, especially on a packed bus), and when given the opportunity they stopped. How would you like to commute to Issaquah five days/week?

        It has little to do with mode. Sounder S has arguably a better route than Link will, and is faster to downtown Seattle than the milk run Link will be, but commuters didn’t like that commute any more than eastsiders liked taking a one seat bus to downtown Seattle, when both trips started with a park and ride. So when they could they stopped even though Sounder S on paper is a good mode and route.

        Even when fully open ST estimates pre-pandemic downtown Redmond will have only 1300 boardings/weekday for a city of 84,000. Microsoft is WFH. Eastsiders going to UW will use 520 if they live near or north of Bellevue.

        East Link was predicated on ridership estimates that even pre-pandemic were highly inflated even when buses between Seattle and the Eastside were packed, and on inflated future population growth estimates. The irony is ST refuses to revisit or adjust those ridership estimates while at the same time ST will reroute the 554 to downtown Bellevue and Metro is slashing service from the Eastside to Seattle, or to MI when East Link opens, because the riders are just not there to sustain more frequency or bus runs.

        People talk about a “new normal”, except in August 2023 it isn’t new anymore.

      21. “Ridership on the 550 will be very close to ridership on East Link cross lake. ”

        East Link is much longer than Route 550, so this opinion seems pretty silly.

        The most popular non-Downtown destination on Link today is UW and the adjacent U-District. Route 550 does not go to UW. May Eastside riders on other routes will shift to Link to reach UW.

        Route 550 stops in Downtown Bellevue. There are another 7 stations east of there in areas with much redevelopment. Plus, I fully expect Microsoft to rely on Link more when it opens versus its own shuttles. The riders on several of the 520 buses headed to Downtown today will move to Link when it opens across the lake.

        Then there are riders who today travel between Snohomish and the Eastside. While some may continue to use express buses, others will find it useful to switch to Link depending on where their Eastside destination is. Parking for free in Shoreline or Mountlake Terrace and getting a direct smooth train ride to the Eastside every 8-10 minutes will be attractive to transit riders on 405 today.

        Finally, some will want to connect between the Eastside and SeaTac using Link. While Route 560 today goes to SeaTac, Stride will not (instead making SeaTac a problematic transfer at TIBS). A rider from Overlake headed to SeaTac won’t want to transfer twice carrying luggage to use Stride, and instead will probably just remain on the train and do only one transfer at IDC station.

        PS: Most of the 2 Line runs east of Lake Washington between Lynnwood and Judkins Park. While these riders will not cross the lake, the will ride 2 Line (some new to Judkins Park adding to East Link ridership and some switching from the 1 Line). So ST will get plenty of 2 Line riders beyond cross lake trips and won’t be tempted to do a drastic service reduction.

        So that’s four additional travel markets beyond Route 550 that when taken together will add a significant number of riders not on Route 550 today — and one additional new market (Judkins Park) that will ride “East Link” but not across the lake.

      22. “Now you post Eastside stations for East Link other than downtown Bellevue will generate the lions share of boardings.”

        I didn’t say that. They will generate some boardings that are currently not as practical by bus.

        “The 550 (and East Link) are predicated on Eastside riders going to downtown Seattle.”

        Metro rail is for a lot more than that. It’s for all trips between all its stations all day every day, not just for trips to downtown Seattle. It’s a general transportation backbone. Just because some voters think only in terms of peak commuting and some politicians’ messages are therefore geared toward that, doesn’t mean that was the only purpose of East Link. The main reason for East Link is that Seattle has 730K people and the central East side has some 300K, and both are growing, and they’re 12 miles apart, so some serious transit should fill the gap and run all across them. It’s like San Francisco and Oakland. It’s a long-term transit backbone that people in thirty years will be glad we built and can’t imagine living without.

        “It is why the Eastside pays 100% of the cross lake EXPRESS buses.”

        That was the historical situation when ST Express was set up, and is still the case for non-Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond routes and the oddity of Roosevelt-Lake City. The suburbs depend on Seattle, not the other way around, and no matter what you think. If Seattle didn’t exist, the Eastside boom would be smaller, and the other cities in South King County and Shoreline and Snohomish and Pierce Counties would probably be struggling. So suburban areas pay for express buses to Seattle. The 550 and 545 are a special case in that travel became evenly bidirectional in the 2000s. The formula wasn’t updated partly because Link would supercede it in a few years, and East Link was expected in 2021. The 545 and 550 are probably less subsidized than other ST Express routes because of their higher ridership and relatively short distance, so Eastside taxpayers are probably paying relatively little for them.

        “The 550 today doesn’t go to Wilburton, The Spring Dist., Overlake or Redmond [or Capitol Hill] because there is such little ridership demand for those areas”

        It doesn’t go there because that’s too much for a single express bus to do. It would be too slow and unreliable, and would take from the limited available ST Express service hours. An express bus can’t do the entire East Link route stopping at all the Link stations. Instead you need separate routes doing parts of it. The 550 serves downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue. The 545 serves downtown Seattle to Redmond Tech and downtown Redmond. The gap between downtown Bellevue and Redmond Tech is unaddressed. The buses are less frequent than Link will be, especially off-peak, so that limits people’s transit mobility. A single Link line can serve all these stations every 10 minutes, thus providing a lot more mobility and trip pairs than routes like the 550 and 545 can. And it can move big crowds at ballgames or parades or protests or peak hours — or when one of the freeways is closed due to a collision or maintenance.

        “How would you like to commute to Issaquah five days/week?”

        To Issaquah or from Issaquah? For to Issaquah I’d most likely be going to one of the administrative/warehouse companies in northwest Issaquah. Or I might work at Swedish or have an appointment at the Swedish sleep clinic. Coming from Capitol Hill I’d take Line 2 to South Bellevue and a 15-minute 554 to Issaquah. That’s not worse than the existing 554, and may be faster if the transfer is short. Or I might come from anyplace else, and the advantages/disadvantages would depend on the particular starting point.

        A worker from Issaquah might work anywhere from the Bellevue office district, Bellevue Way retail, Redmond Tech complex, Spring District, downtown Seattle, First Hill, U-District, a smaller commercial center like Ballard, a Kent warehouse, etc. The rerouted 554+Link would be better for all the Eastside destinations. 554+Link would be better for all the Seattle destinations, except maybe those right downtown. It wouldn’t be especially worse. And Metro plans to continue a 21x peak express from Issaquah to downtown Seattle anyway.

      23. And if some Renton-Seattle commuters who are currently taking the 554 switch to driving to the South Bellevue P&R, so what? That’s what we expected them to do. It’s why the P&R was expanded. The point is that they’ll gradually be replaced by OTHER 554 riders and riders on the other new Issaquah routes. People taking advantage of the higher frequency, people for whom the transit network is now feasible, people moving to the area as Issaquah grows, people going to expanding Issaquah jobs and retail as the northwestern urban center is built out, people getting over their distaste for transit or coming from cities where there’s less stigma against transit, etc.

      24. Brent: the DSTT could have continued to be used by several candidate routes to/from the south (e.g., routes 101, 150, C and H lines., 124, 131, and 132).

    2. Al S.

      First, Sound Transit projects are Sound Transit projects. There isn’t any ST2 and ST3 in the real world. I shouldn’t have to remind you that ST2 was an underfunded failure and that ST3 taxes are paying for it. Looking at inflation over time, ST3 was bound to fail the day in went into effect because of overpriced ST2 projects and the undeniable fact that putting price tags on construction projects 30 years in future is stupid.

      Inflation is what killed off Seattle’s first set of streetcars. The cost of running a transit agency will continue to go up over time, and the ability to tax the area for transit will go down. Where do you think this is headed? ST4? … another set of transit projects crippled by completing ST3? You think voters are going to kick the can another 30 years down the road?

      1. Oh I have my biggest productivity concerns with ST3 but the overall Link productivity will suffer with each major project opening of more Link stations. The only station that I think may have more riders than Capitol Hill or U-District is Downtown Bellevue. I understand too that ST3 back-funded some of ST2.

        The problem I’m anticipating is that the ST3 systems will drag down costs of operating the whole system each day after opening. The years of delay on project openings cost ST fares .too. The ST2 projects are already getting FTA funds but FTA has not ruled on the eligibility of most of new ST3 projects (mostly based on measures stemming from productivity).

        Then, after opening, ST must operate trains every day. Even if FTA pays to build things, ST taxpayers must pay to operate the system every single day. Rail not only has drivers but also has vertical conveyances, station maintenance staff and track systems maintenance staff.

        A rational system would be primarily focused on building for productivity. ST seems to operate like they are more like Santa for those playing a real estate game. It keeps ST from being primarily responsible to taxpayers and riders.

        When will a Board member dare to ask “what will this do to ridership and fare revenue, including is suitability for New Starts funding?” They should not vote to spend any more than $100M without an honest answer about productivity.

      2. I am not entirely sure what folks are “hoping” for. I watched the video of a guy standing in his apartment in a T-shirt and it sounded like “optimism” to me in the Joni Earl way. I am guessing this Urbanist article summarizes the hope for urbanists: https://www.theurbanist.org/2023/08/17/op-ed-how-to-plan-for-seattles-transportation-future/ but is that really the hope for those who must ride public transportation?

        I think “hope” if it is going to have anything to do with reality and the future depends on the following:

        1. Ridership. Transit ridership determines farebox recovery (along with fare payment), and it should determine how much an area allocates to transit. This is the number one objective data point of the success and future of transit. If not many are riding transit then less should be allocated to transit. The metric is dollar per rider mile. I don’t subscribe to the induced demand, build it and they will come, line of thinking because it isn’t true, and think that is the root of many of our poor transit decisions, especially with Link. Without a doubt reduced ridership is transit’s biggest issue today, especially since the peak commuter had such a high fare payment percentage. Link ridership has declined since 2019 despite the addition of Northgate Link, and ST originally estimated 600,000 to 750,000 riders on Link when ST 3 is completed, around 10 times ridership today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound Transit Unfortunately urbanists and transit advocates still pursue a policy of disadvantaging cars as the holy grail to increasing transit ridership when the car is the least of transit’s problems.

        2. Urbanism. Transit is really designed for urban areas that have the housing, retail and work density to provide the ridership without spending a fortune on first/last mile access. Especially post pandemic when so many transit trips are now discretionary. When an urban area declines — especially safety — transit ridership will decline which reduces general tax revenue and farebox recovery. Two good examples are:

        A. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/san-francisco-prices-are-sinking-and-property-owners-want-a-tax-cut/ar-AA1ffCVk?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=e56640c8170e4540a6bfada0f4b97e24&ei=15

        B. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/manhattan-real-estate-is-in-crisis-as-new-construction-flatlines-borough-president-says/ar-AA1f54Sj?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=e36343261b014315a6ca4a4d9b051364&ei=26

        (A third good example is downtown Seattle).

        Pre-pandemic these two cities were the most vibrant urban areas in the U.S., filled with work commuters, but now they must depend on discretionary travelers and transit riders, and not surprisingly Bart and MTA are experiencing huge declines in ridership and revenue. Transit for decades had become arrogant based on the transit slave: those too poor to own a car or use Uber or afford very high parking rates; and peak work commuters who didn’t want to live near work in an urban area and subsidized the transit system for those who could not afford a car.

        3. Transit deficits. Some legacy transit systems like MTA have such staggering maintenance deficits they are not sustainable. Unlike the video, it becomes a death spiral of unsafe and dirty graffiti splattered train cars. The CA legislature gave Bart 2 years and 1/2 the needed revenue to figure it out, and I doubt a congestion tax will be implemented in NY City or found legal, and still it is trying to stop the tide. MTA needs RIDERS. Mass transit needs mass riders. If this region has around 5-10% of trips by transit that tells me transit is getting almost no discretionary trips.

        Although ST is a relatively young agency it recently increased future O&M costs by $1.2 billion, and stated it will need billions more for trains and OMF than originally estimated. There is no way ST can pay for real future O&M with a 20% farebox recovery rate when its assumption was 40% with a lowballed future O&M figure.

        It does not help that the national debt is now $31 trillion, and with rising interest rates 20% of total federal revenue will go toward interest on the debt in 2033. https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/16/politics/national-debt-tax-interest-what-matters/index.html That is like an infrastructure bill EVERY YEAR toward interest.

        4. Funding. This includes farebox recovery which depends on riders and payment of fares which are down around 50% overall, and general tax funding. As the links above show, nearly every major urban center is looking at very large budget deficits due to WFH and declining office building valuations, on top of the staggering transit system maintenance deficits. If ridership on transit is still down 30-50% in 2023 and 2024 does it make sense to use declining general tax revenue for transit?

        5. Inflation. Inflation from 2009 to 2021 was almost flat, and many transit agencies assumed near zero inflation and interest rates in their capital and O&M budgets (as did many private developments), and not surprisingly some very bad decisions were made. Today’s interest rates for T-bills of 5.25% are not even high by historical standards, but it is hard to get folks to understand the corrosive effect of compounded inflation and interest rates, and the effect that has on future capital and O&M estimates over 20 or 30 years if originally based on 1% inflation. As some on this blog have pointed out, the catch-22 for the transit driver shortage is if you increase salaries to attract more drivers due to inflation you drive up operating costs which means you must cut service hours somewhere.

        6. The reallocation of tax revenue. Two huge tax changes were allowing states and cities to require online sellers to collect and remit sales tax revenue when online sales keep on rising, and WFH which shifted a lot of urban commuter tax revenue to where the suburban worker lives, including sales, income, head tax, B&O, and so on. Today more and more tax revenue is shifting to the suburbs while progressive politics in large urban areas like sanctuary cities or defund the police or tolerance toward crime and drugs are burdening the urban cities with huge social costs. For example, the huge costs for immigrants in cities like NY and the cost of homelessness could fix all their transit systems, except transit has less priority.

        7. Future technology. Four years ago, no one ever mentioned WFH. By 2017 the incredible popularity of Uber/Lyft was becoming known, because in an urban area they serve the same discretionary riders who owns a car but are relatively the same price as transit for a short trip, faster, safer, no first/last mile access, and no parking. Plus they count as a HOV.

        The next big change will be driverless technology, and no one knows how that will work out. And what no one really knows is the future technology we don’t know, which will likely be more WFH BECAUSE WORKERS DON’T LIKE COMMUTING TO WORK, ESPECIALLY ON TRANSIT. If we can glean anything from WFH and Uber it is folks don’t like to take a lot of trips (peak commuting) in any mode if they don’t have to, hate waiting or sharing their space, want zero first/last mile access, are afraid of crime, and they don’t find the experience on public mass transit today to be satisfactory enough for a discretionary rider.

        8. Demographics. Folks are getting older and didn’t have enough kids, and those kids are not keen on working 60 hours/week to afford the elderly who didn’t save enough and are now weak and sick and broke. Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid (assisted care for the poor elderly) will consume more and more of the budgets, and that money will come at the expense of other programs like transit, while servicing the debt will rise to 20%.

        I personally think transit was ill served when it was co-opted by “urbanists” and transit became a proxy for class warfare which progressive politicians used to their advantage. The real person who got screwed was the non-discretionary transit rider, and there are very few of those on this blog. A perfect example of this co-opting is the Transit Riders Union, which has almost nothing to do with transit, and whose views on transit are so unsophisticated it is a shame those who must use transit are represented by these folks. Suddenly the favorite villain, the suburban work commuter and car owner, was gone, and so was the money, which didn’t solve anything.

        Locally I don’t see a lot of hope for transit, except it will need to do more with less which is why ST 3 is so unfortunate. Ridership is down 50% and that is the new normal. ST 3 simply is not affordable based on new project cost estimates, but the Board will never admit that. Four subareas simply won’t have the future O&M revenue to run Link. Metro suddenly is supposed to be a feeder system in which it gets 47% of the fare but must run the most difficult routes with much more costly drivers, fuel, healthcare, etc. when truncation has realized a fraction of the savings claimed. Seattle will see $250 million operation budget deficits beginning at the end of this year and has $3.5 billion in unfunded bridge repair. The one true urban hub, Seattle, will take decades of hiring police and good politicians to reverse its ingrained perception of too dangerous to visit when Seattle is surrounded by better experiences, from U Village to Bellevue to Northgate Mall in the future, all of which are based on free parking.

      3. Oh I have my biggest productivity concerns with ST3 but the overall Link productivity will suffer with each major project opening of more Link stations.

        Maybe, but that shouldn’t be the main concern. It is about *network* productivity, not Link productivity. It is quite likely that nothing will match the ridership per service hour (let alone investment) of Northgate to downtown. So what? From a long term cost-of-operations standpoint, that isn’t the measure that is important. It is whether the extension is worth it, compared to just running the buses.

        From a total-cost standpoint, it is a different matter. Things get very complicated. The Maggie Fimia’s of the world will tell you it isn’t worth the really high capital cost, and we should just add more bus drivers (and bus infrastructure). I agree with her in some cases, but disagree strongly in others.

        But when it comes to the total cost of *operations*, things look a little different. There are several things that make ST2 look pretty good:

        1) The ST2 extensions to the north and south aren’t that big. Sound Transit already goes all way down to Angle Lake. Going to Federal Way doesn’t seem like a big stretch from there. Likewise, going north isn’t that far either.

        2) The north and south extensions enable much better bus connections.

        3) East Link will add a lot of value.

        It is fairly easy to say that north and south Link should have simply ended where it makes sense from a bus intercept standpoint (145th to the north, and basically a jog to the freeway to the south from the airport). You aren’t going to get that many riders from extending it. I get that. But you still need to go that far, otherwise, you are spending a bunch of money to run the buses. CT and ST run dozens of buses every day past Lynnwood and Federal Way. They spend a huge amount of time on downtown streets, or maneuvering around Northgate and SeaTac. If they are all truncated (miles away from the city) then you’ve saved a tremendous amount of service, which should (more or less) pay for running (far fewer) trains. Maybe they went too far — but again, not by much. Enough so that the value added (from various stops) make it a wash, at worst.

        But with ST3, things change, and change in a hurry. When Link gets to Federal Way, there will be relatively few buses running on I-5 south of there. Replacing a bus running every 15 minutes with a train running every 15 minutes doesn’t save you any money — it costs you. Issaquah Link is similar. No one expects Issaquah to be running buses every five minutes to Bellevue (before we can finally replace it with a high capacity train). Hardly. The same is true in Lynnwood. Worse yet, it is likely that CT will just continue to run buses along I-5 from Everett to Lynnwood simply because it is faster. You haven’t replaced a cheaper mode with one that is more expensive, you’ve duplicated the modes, while adding very few new riders. In downtown, you’ve doubled the amount of track, while not adding value. You’ve actually made things worse for a lot of existing riders in the process. There are bits and pieces that save money, but mostly by making things worse (like in West Seattle).

        It is always a bad sign if your train system is expanding, but ridership per mile is going down. You are absolutely right — would could have easily expanded while getting more riders per mile (by building Metro 8, Ballard to UW, etc.). But that doesn’t mean that the extensions aren’t worth it, if you consider the overall network. You are adding value — making life easier for existing riders — while in many cases you need fewer operators (since a train can replace many bus trips that are duplicative). It is only with ST3 that we into the territory where even operating the trains and maintaining the tracks becomes a big problem.

      4. Look at the context, Ross.

        ST3 Link promised a 38% farebox recovery of O&M costs.


        ST2 promised a 41% farebox recovery of O&M costs.


        Meanwhile, ST Link got to 34% in 2019. More notably, it was only 16% in 2022, although Link was getting about 70% of the ridership they expected. Even if 2022 was just at 60% of expected ridership, that 16% would be 27% farebox recovery if ST got 100% ridership on the system after Northgate Link opened.


        As far as your systems argument goes, it’s not particularly relevant. That’s because after ST3 opens, Link O&M is 66% ($441.91M) of total O&M ($669.36M) according to that first appendix listed above. It’s such a big component of O&M (2/3) that it drives the full system cost. It’s also the best predicted fare box recovery mode.

        As you admit yourself, the full ST3 system won’t be as productive per mile or per operating hour as it is today because these extensions won’t perform as well.

        Compared to other light rail systems in the US Link performs well. But that’s on a line with many great destinations popular for all day activity. Future ST extensions appear to be mostly commuter stations with huge parking lots where cars are expected to sit 8 hours a day.

        We really won’t know what farebox recovery will be. We will have a better idea in 2026 if ST can finally get several major projects open. I am however highly skeptical that it will be anywhere close 38%. Given how ST3 will double track miles, I think getting a 20% farebox recovery would be more likely (10% ST3 segments and 30% pre-ST3 segments). Maybe they can push it to 25% but that’s about it.

        Keep in mind how converting cars to electric will mean that gas prices will influence a shift to transit for personal budgetary reasons less and less. Plus, renewable energy is already proving to be cost efficient so I highly doubt the rates will exceed normal inflation.

        Then there are free fare advocates pushing for 0% farebox recovery. Would ST raise fares faster than inflation? I kind of doubt it.

        I feel like ST is in denial of the increasing O&M shortfalls . Once all the lines are built and paid for, there just doesn’t appear to be the money to operate them.

        There is however one bright cost savings and farebox recovery hope: automation. However, ST so far refuses to embrace it. With automation, labor costs drop. Let’s not even mention how automation can also save capital costs like no longer needing longer WSBLE stations or even DSTT2. I think ST needs to quit avoiding planning for automation and the savings possible from it, and start planning a retooling of the Link system starting NOW.

      5. Al S:
        That 2022 report indicates Link is doing better at revenue recovery than any other SoundTransit service. Sounder is especially awful.

        Not that Link recovery has been great, but if they might be able to use Link as an excuse to kill off Sounder.

      6. Al S. – there’s a clause in ST’s tax authority that allows it to maintain whatever level of taxation is necessary to pay for O&M after capital projects are finished.

        I think ST3 was set up to mainly do two things: finish the “spine” to give suburban politicians a jobs program to take credit for (despite the suburban extensions being inefficient uses of transit dollars), and (mainly) increase tax revenues such that when the projects are finished in ~20-30 years, there will be enough sales/tabs revenue to keep ST afloat without having to debate between raising taxes or cutting service. The rest of the capital program for ST3 is full of easily-sacrificed projects (like park-n-ride garages).

        The latest long-term financial plan (remember that ST is the only agency that has to produce a 30-year financial plan in WA) believes that in 2046, ST’s tax revenue will be just over $5B, fare revenues around $450M, and will serve ~160M rides at a cost of ~$2B in O&M.

        I think it’s unlikely ST’s tax base will fail to cover O&M expenses. It’s just also unlikely that we’ll see any of the taxes be significantly reduced as the current capital program finishes. If anything, I think we’ll see another capital program start up in ~15 years (but maybe in North King only), as the ST3 projects start opening and the next generation of transit-oriented-teens want to make some rail-transit dreams come true.

      7. The other Link operations challenge is going to be how to operate trains that are mostly empty for 10-15 miles yet are overcrowded for the last 5. When it comes to passenger loads, Seattle residents will be forced to stand while Lynnwood, Redmond, Issaquah, Federal Way, Tacoma and Everett residents always get an inbound seat with room to spare. At some point, the crowding inequity will force ST to short turn trains. It may only be during peak travel periods but I think that it’s going to end up being implemented. That will improve farebox recovery all other things being equal.

        I think it’s naive to think that ST actions of 2043 will be perceived like ST actions of 2023. First of all, ST4 has very few corridors left where there is general agreement to provide service (any more expansions will need to be smaller area funded) so another major regional package seems highly unlikely unless it is to fund enhancing the existing system. Second, I think ST will be considered an operator rather than a planner and builder that it is today so that will be how the public will judge ST.

        Recurring service disruptions are increasing in intensity — and note that this month’s disruptions are not related to expansion but to repairing or providing redundancy to what is already built.

        Will ST have to disrupt service every single summer to repair tiles in perpetuity? There are roughly 64 stations planned and tiles are making it less than 16 years — meaning an average of 4 stations a year and at a week a station that’s 4-6 weeks of disruptions every single year once ST3 opens just for platform tiles!!

        Ultimately, ST cannot continue to be run like it is. The future public will expect change. New leaders will demand change as public perception changes.

      8. Calling a projection a “promise” is one of my pet peeves in transit debates. We don’t need to adopt the misleading jargon of public transit opponents.

      9. tacomee, if you mean the streetcar network that was closed in 1940, inflation was not a factor. The great depression was one. it had large debt from acquiring it from an eastern bank; it had no tax subsidy, so spent too little on maintenance. it fell apart. auto traffic increased and made getting riders between the curbs and cars less safe.

    3. Al, I don’t include Lynnwood Link or Link from Lynnwood or Everett to Seattle as part of “East” Link. The only similarity is East Link trains will supplement CID to Lynnwood. . So I don’t count riders on Lynnwood Link in the ridership of East Link. I am focusing on eastsiders taking transit or East Link west. At the same time I am including Redmond Link in my ridership estimates although technically that is not part of East Link.

      Some of your potential ridership is speculative or light. The number of folks in SnoCo who will spend an hour or more on Link to get to Bellevue or areas east on a milk run is tiny and speculative. . They will drive or take a bus down 405.

      The stations east of Bellevue have little development. So does East Main. Most development has been placed on pause because it was heavily focused on office space. I am not a fan of build it and they will come (especially transit ridership based on proposed development that targeted a very non-transit resident or worker).

      I also don’t assume Microsoft will reopen. Certainly not 5 days/week. Plus it has massive onsite parking, and is reducing employment. In 2004 and 2008 Microsoft envisioned many of its younger techies would want to live in Seattle and commute to Redmond, (hence the shuttles), but those workers have aged and married, the Eastside is much more vibrant and Seattle much less vibrant today, and so many want to WFH.

      Some eastsiders will take East Link to UW if they live south of Bellevue but they use transit today for the same trip: 550 to CID. East Link won’t create a surge of eastsiders whobenroll at the UW. It is why the 554 was shifted to Bellevue Way from MI when East Link opens, in large part to avoid a transfer and East Link does not go to the major destination on the Eastside: Bellevue Way.

      I agree that you could add today’s bus riders from east of Bellevue along East Link’s future route in East Link’s estimated ridership, including Redmond Link, but that ridership is light. Although it is also speculative, I think more eastsiders will WFH in the future (which is supported by downtown Seattle’s rising vacancy rates) and the continued decline of downtown Seattle will continue transit ridership declines from the Eastside to Seattle, which has always been the main driving force for Eastside transit ridership, whether the 550, 554, 212, 216-18, or East Link.

      Thinking that ridership will magically increase because the mode is Link or the future will be materially different than the present in August 2023 is clutching at straws IMO, the same kind of clutching at straws people and ST use to support WSBLE, DSTT2, Tacoma Link, Everett Link, Sounder S and N, , the CCC, and Issaquah Link. Or what Joni Earl called “optimism”, although that optimism is now estimated to cost $152 billion.

      Look, East Link will open. Its route is flawed and may add a transfer for some, a pandemic resulted in WFH, downtown Seattle is not a retail destination for eastsiders anymore, and future office development in Class B and C areas in Bellevue looks problematic.

      I tend to think the future will look like the present absent something like a pandemic or huge tech change like driverless tech or Uber, because speculating on the future is usually influenced by one’s hopes, none more so than ST.

      In 2-3 years (hopefully) East Link will fully open and we will know what ridership between Redmond and the UW, especially Eastside boardings unless for some reason like Amazon shifting to the Eastside ridership from Seattle to the Eastside dramatically increases. My guess is that ridership will mimic on the same buses eastsiders are taking today to make those trips, with the 550 historically being the major number of those trips (with the 554 number 2).

      1. “ The number of folks in SnoCo who will spend an hour or more on Link to get to Bellevue or areas east on a milk run is tiny and speculative. ”

        Before you start making assumptions about travel times, you should at least take 15 seconds to confirm or correct your statements, DT.

        The official travel time estimate from Mountlake Terrace to Downtown Bellevue is 48 minutes. That’s well under an hour even if you add 8-10 minutes of worst case wait time for a train. Shoreline to Downtown Bellevue will be less.


        ST Express Route 535 today takes an hour to go between Lynnwood and BTC now. The 2 Line Link train will actually be faster even from Lynnwood — as well as more frequent and smoother.

        While I do think that ST is way overestimating ridership on East Link (like you), the estimated travel times won’t be significantly off.

        Plus, these are existing riders coming from other transit routes. These are not new transit riders.

      2. It will take a little time for people in Lynnwood and on the east side to determine what is the best way for them to commute to work, shopping or recreational activities and if it fits their needs and schedule.

        I can remember when Light Rail started ST used one car trains because the passenger load was so light but now it is a different story. I can see it at the Northgate Transit Center where the parking is completely full and it is standing room on the trains when there a game or concert at the stadiums or Climate Pledge Arena. I went to the Bite of Seattle and went that way and transferred to the Monorail.

        A couple of times per week I ride Light Rail in the morning rush hour and parking at that time of the morning is already limited. Add to that the Community Transit buses dropping off full loads and the train cars are full and that is before they reach Roosevelt and U District Stations where it becomes standing room.

        So when Light Rail is extended to the new areas people will need a little time for them decide what works best for them. It was the same when it was extended to Northgate.

      3. “I can see it at the Northgate Transit Center where the parking is completely full and it is standing room on the trains when there a game or concert at the stadiums or Climate Pledge Arena.”

        My friend in north Lynnwood experienced that on one event day: she took a 512 from Lynnwood and found the Northgate platform so backed up that she took a 67 bus instead.

  2. Something else I noticed about the Taylor Swift fans visiting Seattle and using only Link to get around video. It’s what they didn’t say. They didn’t say anything negative about the city or Link.

    1. Also, they need to hype this more. Contact news organizations. They have a driver shortage. They need to get people interested in the job. If top pay is now $37/hr, tell people it’s going to be gradually increased to $44/hr over the next few years. I’m guessing $44. Also, if top pay will be $44, that means overtime is $66/hr! If a driver works 45 hours a week, that’s over $100K/year, excluding benefits.

      1. The well-publicized, newly-negotiated $170k total compensation package for UPS drivers is an excellent example of new wages being used as good PR and to (presumably) increase the hiring pool.

      2. Ah, 100K is the bottom pay line for CDL drivers without overtime. Metro is still way under paying a living Seattle wage.

      3. Tacomee, what is a living hourly wage in Seattle? And, what is the current Metro operator hourly pay range?

      4. “Tacomee, what is a living hourly wage in Seattle? And, what is the current Metro operator hourly pay range?”

        “Ah, 100K is the bottom pay line for CDL drivers without overtime. Metro is still way under paying a living Seattle wage.”

        That sounds high Tacomee. I think Metro’s biggest challenge to hiring drivers today is the working conditions, which require a premium in pay.

        Someone earning $75,000/year and who lives alone would have $1875/mo. toward housing and meet the federal standard of affordability of 30% of gross income for housing.

        However, everything in Seattle is very expensive. Food, transportation, healthcare, vet bills, utilities, gas, daycare, education, insurance, kids, entertainment, because 50% of residents make over $115,000/year. Taylor Swift Tickets were hard to find for less than $1000/each, and those concerts were sold out. So folks in this region have money to spend, which is why inflation is remaining so sticky.

        What makes things much more affordable is if you don’t live alone and have a spouse/partner/friend who shares expenses, especially housing and utilities, maybe even a car. Living alone in Seattle is really a privilege for the wealthy, which is why so many minority groups in S. Seattle traditionally live in multi-generational housing, usually a SFH.

        Even a 100% AMI person living in Seattle earning $115,000/yr. is going to be at a disadvantage against a couple each earning $75,000/yr., let alone $115,000/yr. each, and it is those couples who are really driving the housing costs, especially buying a house. Two people earning $115,000, which is only the median income, would have around $6000/mo. to spend on a mortgage or apartment, so it would take a single person earning $230,000/yr. to compete with that. Which is why the average SFH in north Seattle today is over $1 million.

        The long-term advantage is although $1 million sounds like a lot, in 20 or 30 years when that couple is older and maybe retired or their earnings are below AMI inflation and paying down the mortgage (and ideally waiting for a low interest period like two years ago to refi) has reduced their housing costs to almost zero percent of their income.

      5. As a Seattle resident, I’d say $35 is the minimum wage for stable living. Studios are generally going for ~$1,800, so if you don’t want to be burdened by rent (>30% of income pre-tax), then you’ll be wanting to make ~$6k per month, or ~$72k per year.

        Of course, folks can form multi-income households through a variety of ways, but it seems morally wrong to believe that any job should pay less than what allows for stable, independent* living.

        However, since Metro tends to require that operators have “reliable transportation” (e.g. a car) to get to the bus bases before buses start running, the cost of living in areas where housing and parking are expensive is necessarily the cost of living for the bus driver employment pool.

        *Independent here meaning a lack of direct dependence on any specific people for housing. No matter your housing situation, we’re all inextricably highly dependent on many complex industrial systems for the basic necessities of life.

      6. From what I understand, Metro drivers currently make between $27 and $37 dollars per hour. I also believe the new contract will give them a raise that will top out at over $44/hour by 2026. For a job that doesn’t require a college degree, that’s a very good wage. Just because UPS pays more, or Seattle is expensive, doesn’t negate that fact $90K/year is a good bus driver income. Also keep in mind, Metro is a countywide organization, not a city of Seattle one. Many drivers don’t need to, or want to, live in the city.

      7. Apartments.com shows 12,941 rentals in Seattle alone today. 12,376 are apartments. https://www.apartments.com/?bb=v-37_1lyuQhl7rhd Not surprisingly most are located in D3 and D7.

        Here is the breakdown on price (each higher price increment includes units available for a lower price). Unfortunately, they don’t list the age of the unit (new vs. older construction).

        $800/mo. 31 units for rent

        $900/mo 78

        $1000/mo. 192

        $1100/mo. 267

        $1500/mo. 933

        $1800/mo. 1835

        $2000/mo. 2490

        $2200/mo. 3151

        $3000/mo. 5286

        $5000/mo. 6623

        My reading is until around $1800/mo. the number of available units is pretty small. This tends to prove something Tacomee and I have raised: Seattle has plenty of apartments available for rent at any one time, but few are anywhere near “affordable”.

        I wish the site listed apartments by age so the age of the unit could be referenced against how expensive it is. If 11,112/12,941 of available apartments are $1800/mo. or higher the issue is not total number of available units, but affordability of the units available for rent. Unfortunately, new construction only exacerbates this problem by replacing older existing apartments with new less affordable units, which is how we got in the situation in the first place in which 85% of apartments available for rent in Seattle cost $1800/mo. or more.

      8. new construction only exacerbates this problem by replacing older existing apartments with new less affordable units, which is how we got in the situation in the first place in which 85% of apartments available for rent in Seattle cost $1800/mo. or more.

        Wrong. We got into this problem because we didn’t replace enough houses, empty lots and other low-value property with apartments. From an economic standpoint, it rarely makes sense to replace an old apartment with a new one. Old apartments are still worth a lot more than a typical house.

        But in most of the city, you can’t replace a house (or even an empty lot) with an apartment. In most of the city, you can’t even convert a house to an apartment. Think about that for a second. The minimum lot size is so huge that much of the time you can’t even create a new lot. Even if you do — or just happen to have an empty lot — you can’t add an apartment. If you have a cheap, old house — or one that is falling down — you can’t replace it with an apartment. And the kicker: Big houses can’t be converted to apartments. Oh, you can add an ADU and DADU if you jump through enough hoops, but a simple conversion (big house to a three-unit apartment) is illegal in most of the city.

        As a result, we simply didn’t build enough housing. Because we didn’t add enough housing, prices went up. Old apartments, new apartments — prices went up. Consider this place: https://blue.kingcounty.com/Assessor/eRealProperty/Dashboard.aspx?ParcelNbr=1453601380. It is about 20 years old. There are older apartments around, but it sure isn’t new. It was originally worth around 20 million. Now it is worth around 80 million. It has increased in value four-fold, in twenty years (despite a housing crash during that period). I happen to know some people who have lived there. I used to hang out with the guy who ran a bar on the first floor. The general consensus is the building is crap. They just didn’t do a good job (cheap construction). Yet prices are really high (which explains why the building is so valuable) — https://www.apartments.com/solara-seattle-wa/02q9g91/. Do you really think that prices — in freakin’ Lake City — were like that twenty years ago? Get real.

        Oh, and will you look at that. Turns out the property just got devalued. What happened? New apartments were built next door. This is the part that the anti-development/anti-landlord folks never tell you. What worries a property owner more than well-meaning, but ultimately useless regulations (like rent control) is competition. Build enough places to live, and suddenly those crappy apartments aren’t worth so much. If you owned that property, you sure as hell wouldn’t want to see new places being built. You would find yourself allied with every NIMBY, and every I-don’t-believe-in-economics Tom, Dick and Harry in the city. Because the one thing that terrifies the owner of that building is that they might have to lower rents because they built a bunch of new places down the road.

        Fortunately for those folks (but not the folks actually renting) that isn’t likely to happen until the city actually addresses the regulations that are keeping supply low, and prices high. That might happen (after the next election). We’ll see.

      9. “As a result, we simply didn’t build enough housing. Because we didn’t add enough housing, prices went up. Old apartments, new apartments — prices went up.”

        This is a misstatement that is repeatedly posted on this blog. I have repeatedly posted an article based on census data that shows housing starts matched population growth, and units per person over the last decade has stayed the same. https://sccinsight.com/2021/09/14/what-the-2020-census-data-tells-us-about-housing-in-seattle/

        I have also repeatedly posted that the GMPC just completed a multi-year process to allocate housing growth to regional cities based on future population growth estimates from the Office of Financial Management that 1 million new residents would move to the region by 2040, which five years after the estimates are clearly incorrect, and still the GMPC found every city has existing zoning capacity TODAY to meet future housing growth even if 1 million new residents do show up.

        The myth that upzoning will increase the supply of affordable housing is just that: a myth. https://communitynotcommodity.com/wp-content/uploads/2021.11.06-CNC-Upzoning-Will-Increase-the-Supply-of-Affordable-Housing.pdf

        Housing prices went up in Seattle for the same reason everything else went up: rising AMI. I have debunked one post after another claiming upzoning in some other city from Montreal to Minneapolis to Tokyo to Houston somehow created housing that is less expensive than in Seattle when in every case the differential in housing prices matched the differential in AMI. Yes, an imbalance between CONSTRUCTION and POPULATION growth can put pressure on housing prices, but that is not the case in Seattle, and any pressure is capped by AMI. No matter how restricted housing is AMI will limit housing prices.

        Seattle has been on a building tear during a time of historically low interest rates, mostly in D3 and D7 naturally, and the region has existing zoning for a million new units easily. Yet all that new housing didn’t create affordable housing; it destroyed affordable housing. Exactly what the representative from Seattle testified to during the hearings on HB 1110, and Tacomee has tried and tried to point out: there is a certain floor per sf on new housing construction prices, and builders want to build to the AMI and higher because there is more profit building housing for rich people than poor people. So they buy low and sell high.

        I have just come to accept that folks on this blog simply do not understand this issue, or have some animus for a single-family home. The PSRC since 1991 has repeatedly advised cities to zone their multi-family housing in town centers and urban centers where retail and transit are within walking distance so someone does not have to own a car, and where lots and regulatory limits are large enough to pencil out and allow affordable housing set asides, but HB 1110 completely reverses that approach based on the same progressive misstatements as on this blog.

        Even when I post the number of available apartments in Seattle — regularly over 12,000 every single day — and break down availability by price to show the few older apartments available for under $1800 — DESPITE THERE BEING OVER 11,000 UNITS ABOVE $1800 — folks on this blog simply won’t believe it because it doesn’t fit into their ideological mindset.

        I have to give it to the realtors and builders. They took an unsophisticated demographic — progressives aggrieved at the price of their housing due to the influx of citizens with high AMI’s and more and more high paid tech workers — and sold them on the myth that a lack of ZONING in this region — let alone in the SFH zones — was the cause, and if only those zones were upzoned with the same regulatory limits their rent would go down because more new construction would occur, and it would be affordable. When their rent never does go down the builders and realtors simply tell them we just haven’t built enough high-end new construction yet so keep upzoning and waiting for your rent to go down or stabilize, or find one of the very few older apartments under $1800.

        I understand someone renting an apartment for $2000/mo. — especially if living alone — is willing to believe almost anything that will make that rent go down, but guess what: it won’t. Unless employment and AMI fall, and right now that looks unlikely. Builders are not going to build for you no matter what the zoning is for a parcel.

      10. To add some context on housing stock, from 2006 to 2022, 4,263 units were demolished in order to build 63,607 units within the city of Seattle. That’s almost a 16x return. This has been stated before, but as a unit ages and depreciate, it becomes more affordable (when compared to new units). In 30 years, we’ll have 63k units that will need some major rehab in order to maintain price competitiveness with whatever is considered desirable at that future date. Many of these units will be the next generation of affordable units.


      11. Daniel, I assume you were born in the 1950s. Since 1950, the Seattle metropolitan region has added almost 3 million people.

        Let’s assume Seattle grows equal to its slowest growth rate (per US census) which was in 1940 at 9.9% per decade. That still equals 880,000 people over 20 years. let’s just pretend that we go the route of Detroit as a region (assuming 2020 census data) and only grow 2.2%. That still gives us 214,000 residents new residents.

        It’s not hard to see how over the next decades we’ll hit 1m new residents in the Puget Sound Region, even a reasonable “worst case” scenario adds hundreds of thousands of people. 1m people might sound like a lot, but over decades it really isn’t overly remarkable or overly optimistic. What does this have to do with transit on a transit blog? We still need to plan for sizable population growth as a region that will strain our existing infrastructure. Doing otherwise is a fool’s errand.

      12. That “article” lacks any review, provides no data sources (other than mentioning the census, but I can’t find that level of detail in the census), and is really hard to fact check. And it’s not done by a demographer or a real estate expert, it’s done by a failed microsofty as a side hustle. And it’s been defunct for years.

        And it doesn’t even claim what you say it claims.

        Assuming he hasn’t presented crap data (a big if) the most obvious critique is that you can’t just look at the city. Housing is a regional problem. Just because the 20% of the region inside of the Seattle city limits failed to keep up with housing by only 2 percentage points, says pretty much nothing about the housing problem. Because the housing problem is regional. If housing isn’t keeping up in the rest of 80% of the metro area, it doesn’t matter if Seattle is only failing by a little. We see still see vacancy rates in the region plummet, rents sky-rocket, and the least able end up on the streets.

      13. A story about older “affordable” apartments….

        Back in the late 80s and early 90s I worked on apartment remodels mostly on Capitol Hill, but Beacon Hill and First Hill as well. Great old brick buildings! We tore down units to the studs and finished them with high end finishes, sometimes even antiques. I spent weeks cleaning and rewiring old sconces. Learned to lay new hardwood floors, install drywall and texture, how to professionally paint and set tile (often hand painted in Italy). This was an exciting time in my life. Capitol Hill was really fun to hang out in!

        The reality is I was a rent doubler. I helped take affordable apartments and make them worth $1500 a month, a huge amount of money in those days. I almost got into fist fights several times and was called all sorts of names because we showed up at 8 AM and made all kinds of construction noise until sometimes 8 PM at night. The goal was to push out the low rent tenants with construction bullshit, flip their unit and rent to somebody who made serious money. I used a company truck to move a couple of rich people into fresh units on Saturdays (the boss said OK) and made $400 in cash. Serous money indeed!

        At that time my little house in Tacoma was really run down, I didn’t have enough money to fix it up, I worked and commuted all the time and I had a couple weird ass roommates my wife absolutely hated. Times where a little tough. But after watching people get pushed out of their apartments, I knew the truth. As long as the money is rolling into Seattle, rent is only headed one direction . And the little house in Tacoma is worth 7-8 times what I paid for it.

        I’m not sure how people graduate from college and yet…. don’t buy a house. Or Condo. Anything to avoid building wealth for somebody else with monthly rent checks.

      14. “And the little house in Tacoma is worth 7-8 times what I paid for it.”

        You know this doesn’t happen everywhere, right?

        20 years in Buffalo. My family sold with maybe 50% appreciation. Probably didn’t keep up with inflation.

        5 years in Albuquerque before moving to Tacoma. Sold for 10K less than we bought.

        Sometimes you don’t actually win the lottery.

        Even in Seattle or Tacoma. The next 20 years may be very different than the last 20.

        There are a ton of great reasons to buy a house if you are one of the increasingly rare people who can afford to. But using it as a lottery ticket ain’t one of them.

      15. Cam Solomon,

        I’m aware how lucky I am. I was at the right place at the right time. If I had worked in manufacturing in Buffalo in the 80s, I would have a different life.

        But look at it this way…. let’s say you pay a mortgage for 10 years and things don’t go your way and need to sell. Maybe you get half your money back.

        If you would had rented, you’d get nothing on your investment. I’d rather own and cut my losses at 50%.

        Jeeze, how many times do we have to go over this? Home ownership, on average, is the number one pathway to generational wealth. Any “urbanist” vision of dense housing served by mass transit that doesn’t include home ownership is doomed.


      16. The Oregonian has reported a number of times on various tax breaks for affordable housing that have either expired as part of the 2017 “I just made you a whole lot richer” tax bill, and several other tax breaks that will expire in the next few months.

        Unfortunately most of their articles these days are subscriber only, or I would post links.

        So, it’s not just that AMI in Seattle has increased. It’s that we as a country have decided we’d prefer to have large numbers of homeless on the streets.

      17. “Let’s assume Seattle grows equal to its slowest growth rate (per US census) which was in 1940 at 9.9% per decade. That still equals 880,000 people over 20 years. let’s just pretend that we go the route of Detroit as a region (assuming 2020 census data) and only grow 2.2%. That still gives us 214,000 residents new residents.”

        Alonso, although I quibble with your statistics as noted below, they don’t have anything to do with current housing prices because:

        1. New construction in Seattle has kept pace with population growth from at least 2010 to 2023, the period of highest growth and highest price increases in housing. The ratio of housing units to population remained the same from 2010 to 2020, although rents and housing prices increased dramatically (in part due to the end of the great recession).

        2. The GMPC determined that every regional city has existing zoning that will accommodate another 1 million new residents by 2040 (the estimate was made in 2018 and basically assumed 50,000 new residents per year, which means the region as a whole is 250,000 residents behind the estimate in 2023). Based on past PSRC Vision statements that zoning is concentrated in town centers and urban areas because that is where there is walkable retail and transit so someone can live without a car and lots and regulatory limits large enough to pencil out and afford affordability set asides, and not surprisingly much of the multi-family growth has been in Districts 3 and 7 (both expensive). As I have raised before, I think one of the big issues for transit going forward as Link enters the suburbs is the cost of feeder buses when each fare is split with ST. HB 1110 just upzoned every SFH zone. Unless everyone uses park and rides, which means Metro/CT/PT get no fare.

        This is why Apartments.com lists over 12,000 apartments for rent in Seattle but only 15% are $1800/mo. or less.

        Here is a graph of Seattle’s population growth rate from 1890 to 2021. https://www.biggestuscities.com/city/seattle-washington There are years of growth and some with declines, and the last decade has seen the greatest growth by far with the arrival of Amazon and tech. There are no two decades where population in Seattle grew by 880,000, which is more than Seattle’s entire population, and I assume you meant the region as a whole.

        1940-1960 saw tremendous growth due to the baby boom. 1960 to 1980 saw declines due to flight to the suburbs and Boeing. Do I think this growth will occur over the next 10 years? Probably not because the situation in Seattle is a lot like the 1970’s that led to flight to the suburbs, and tech is actually reducing employment. The PSRC in its 2050 Vision Statement stated most regional growth over the next 20 years would be outside King County, and in fact King Co. has lost around 43,000 residents over the last 2 years.

        https://www.psrc.org/media/7067 Here is a change in population growth county by county from 2010 to 2021.

        “King County has had the lion’s share of the region’s growth over the last 11 years (56%). The county’s population boost was fueled by robust economic expansion, especially in the technology sector.

        “Of the remaining growth, 21% occurred in Pierce County, 19% in Snohomish County and 4% in Kitsap County. King County’s share of the region’s overall population increased over the last decade, while
        Kitsap County’s share decreased; Pierce and Snohomish counties largely held steady.”

        All I know is so far the predicted 1 million new residents have not shown up, and the estimates are currently 250,000 behind schedule if those 1 million new residents are going to be here by 2040. If King Co. has lost 43,000 residents over the last two years where will the estimated future population growth occur? Will SnoCo or Pierce Co. double their populations? The PSRC promised when it adopted the 2050 Vision Statement in 2021 which was obsolete the day it was signed it would revisit these assumptions, but so far has not, maybe not believing this is the new normal.

        Builders don’t believe any of this crap. They build when the folks arrive. That is why I (and Tacomee) constantly point out zoning is not construction. IMO, and from builders I know, the region is entering a glut of multi-family housing, but as noted on Apartments.com the vast majority is not affordable, because builders don’t want to build affordable housing with public subsidies and new market rate construction of any kind is the least expensive per sf, and tends to mirror AMI which keeps increasing. If you are very wealthy the choice of units is very large.

        Glenn had a good point: without public subsidies affordable housing in this area — certainly north Seattle — won’t happen because it can’t happen just based on the cost of the land and cost of new construction. However if the public subsidies are to provide every low income or homeless person a free place to live forever without some kind of rehabilitation or contribution to rent from work then we are just expanding Medicaid, and as King Co.’s hotel experiment is proving the cost is too great (usually 30% more than private development), not just to build or buy but to maintain forever.

        The question I try to ask is if housing has kept pace with population growth in Seattle since at least 2010 then why have rents gone up so much, and why are 85% of the 12,000+ available apartments listed on Apartments.com in Seattle more than $1800/mo.? It’s because AMI has increased so rapidly, and builders always build to the 100%+ (the plus is critical to understand) AMI.

      18. Daniel, when you claim that “housing construction kept pace with population increase” to somehow refute the idea that the city’s restrictive zoning was a major contributor to increasing housing costs, you’re mixing up causation and correlation.

        When population grows primarily by immigration (as Seattle’s has), people only move to where housing is available. Therefore, the population only grows as much as there is housing available to live in. Saying housing grew just as much as population is like saying your garden hose only puts out 5 gallons of water at a time because no matter how long you run it, it only puts 5 gallons in your 5-gallon bucket. It’s missing the bigger picture.

        What you’re ignoring is the number of new jobs in Seattle versus housing. Check out the housing and jobs dashboard, here: https://seattlecitygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/e405125f0082485fb250e29c58a48a4c

        For the 2015 comprehensive plan, the city predicted 115,000 new jobs and 70,000 new units of housing by 2035.

        In 2020*, the city reported total jobs had increased by 91,546 (80% of plan) and total new units (less demolished units) had increased by 39,954 (57% of plan).

        *Jobs numbers are only reported through 2021, and you might recall that 2021 numbers are not very representative of overall trends.

        Why do you think job density increased so much faster than housing density? AMI is increasing because high-income transplants are displacing low-income residents in their cheap apartments. If there were a new housing units for every new high-income household, there would be less displacement. It’s really simple math.

        Finally, your repetition of there being something like ~12,000 apartments available at any one time is extremely ignorant of the realities of rental markets as large as Seattle’s. The city reports that as of the end of the 2nd quarter of 2023, there 2022, there are 399,497 housing units in the city, with 206,142 of them located within one of the Urban Villages defined in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan. If we assume all the vacant units you observe are located within urban villages, that’s a vacancy rate of ~5%. If an apartment building can turn a vacated unit around in a month, and units are rented for an average of 2 years at a time, that gives you a ~5% average vacancy rate for an apartment building that’s relatively fast on replacing tenants.

        Kevin Schofield’s new blog (former author of SCC Insight), has a recent relevant post: https://seattlepapertrail.com/seattle-apartment-rents-and-vacancies/

        Fundamentally, it’s simple math: new housing attracts high-income residents away from cheaper apartments. Build enough new housing for new high-income jobs, and you protect low-income renters from displacement as landlords of old buildings can’t compete with amenities in new buildings. For purchasers, old houses are less valuable per square foot than new housing because old houses require more immediate upkeep.

      19. “Why do you think job density increased so much faster than housing density? AMI is increasing because high-income transplants are displacing low-income residents in their cheap apartments. If there were a new housing units for every new high-income household, there would be less displacement. It’s really simple math.”

        “Fundamentally, it’s simple math: new housing attracts high-income residents away from cheaper apartments. Build enough new housing for new high-income jobs, and you protect low-income renters from displacement as landlords of old buildings can’t compete with amenities in new buildings. For purchasers, old houses are less valuable per square foot than new housing because old houses require more immediate upkeep.”

        Nathan, I agree with these two statements of yours, except your assumption new expensive housing attracts higher AMI residents and creates or preseves more affordable housing, and that there hasn’t been a new unit for each wealthy transplant.

        That is exactly where new construction has gone: 100%+ AMI. If new construction actually resulted in more affordable units were the case 85% of the number of apartments in Seattle on Apartments.com — which is about as objective evidence as you can get because those listings are listed by landlords and not “estimates” — would not have rents $1800mo. or above.

        The article I linked to, based on census data for population growth 2010-2020, showed housing starts matched population growth no matter what job the people did, and more importantly the ratio of housing units to population was the same in 2020 as in 2010. There wasn’t a huge housing shortage in 2010.

        There are enough apartments if you have a certain AMI. Vacancy rates have been rising. There is no doubt a rising AMI is going to increase all rents, and over time influence new construction to cater to that 100%+ AMI. There isn’t a high AMI city with a plethora of market rate affordable housing anywhere in the world.

        What is interesting in your link is Seattle had the lowest three and five year rent increases in the state (and how closely vacancies in Seattle tracked the vaccine which is when the vacancy/rent ratios went haywire), and as noted many rent increases in cities matched inflation which was the main point of the article.

        “Over the long term, Bellevue, Tacoma and Everett have seen significant increases in rental prices, but surprisingly Seattle’s have been fairly stable outside of the annual volatility cycle.”

        Another factor not discussed in the article directly is rents in Spokane increased significantly because Seattleites with a high AMI moved there.

        “You can see that Spokane renters are in a world of pain: while rents have been flat over the past year, they grew by nearly 50% in the four years prior to that. Seattle renters have seen the opposite, however: a total increase of less than 8% over the past five years.”

        Spokane is experiencing what Seattle did: rising AMI from incomers and suddenly a shortage of housing, which Spokane like Seattle will solve with more construction. But as Spokane is/will find out is that new construction will market toward the new high AMI folks.

        Although the data only goes back to 2019 which means it mostly tracks during a pandemic (and as noted in the article is influenced by folks moving out of and back into Seattle) I don’t dispute that a shortage of housing will increase rents like in Spokane, especially in a city with a rapidly rising AMI. But that is not Seattle, which is reflected in the low rent increases. Seattle’s housing growth has matched population growth. Instead, what has happened in Seattle is over time new construction has matched increases in AMI, eliminating more affordable housing. Builders don’t build $5000/mo.+ apartments in low AMI cities.

        The key data IMO is vacant apartments in Seattle (and 12,000+ is around 5% to 6% when 6% is often considered a glut) are only 15% at $1800 or less. If your thesis was correct that the massive construction in Seattle of multi-family units over the last 10-13 years would suck away high AMI renters and lower prices on older units then there would be more than 15% of apartments for rent at $1800 or less/mo.

        If you are looking for a fundamental truth it is builders have been building in Seattle for the 100%+ AMI renter for over a decade, which is why 85% of available apartments are $1800 or more. I am not opposed to upzoning, but like the PSRC believe the better place to upzone is in multi-family and urban zones because they are near walkable transit and retail so someone can live without a car, have lots and regulatory limits large enough to pencil out and afford affordable housing set asides, and I would think most folks who want to live in an apartment would want to be in an urban area, like D3 and D7, which not surprisingly have seen the most construction (although expensive).

        Upzoning the SFH zones makes no sense to me, or the PSRC, and most folks in favor of it tend to have an animus with SFH zones which they equate with evil suburbia. HB 1110 won’t do squat to lower rent prices, so what is the point when HB 1110 allows any city to require TWO onsite parking stalls per unit because there is no transit in these areas, and no walkable retail, and Metro could never afford to service these areas.

      20. Nathan D

        Maybe the State of California has more control of the Seattle area housing market than the State of Washington?

        Sometime in mid 90s it the tech industry “outgrew” the Bay Area and started looking around for expansion cities to colonize. Seattle is a lot like San Francisco and it was cheaper, so Puget Sound was suddenly awash in tech jobs and money looking for real estate. It’s a free country, people and businesses can move to Seattle all they want.

        Seattle is still a great city…. if you have a tech job or trust fund or the means to afford it. If you’re flipping burgers it certainly sucks and maybe it’s time to move somewhere else.

        Money in California still sees Seattle as an escape port so I don’t see the real estate or rental market changing much. Right now the construction industry is downsizing, moving out of State or pivoting towards smaller high-end projects. That’s why the building industry is so invested in changing single family home zoning… because out-of-State money loves million dollar condos squeezed into classic Seattle neighborhoods. The trick is to clock the number of rich newcomers and only build that many units for maximum profit.

      21. “What is interesting in your link is Seattle had the lowest three and five year rent increases in the state”

        I think that’s because they rose so much in 2012-2018. The rapid increases were only possible with a large annual growth in jobs and in demand for housing. That extraordinary level of growth was never going to continue forever, and it was already slowing down in 2018 and 2019. Rent increases are based on how many people are competing for each unit. When there’s many, it’s easy to sustain an increase. When there’s few, you can’t, because people will go to the next building down the street that for a lower price. The whole point is to have enough available units that increases beyond inflation can’t be sustained. Seattle rent increases in 2012-2019 were 50% when inflation during that period was less than 16%. That’s what people are pissed about and why they’re demanding allowing more units on more lots.

        The suburbs and Spokane generally didn’t have that level of price increases in 2012-2019, but they’ve reached a tipping point in supply/demand so they’re having it now.

        If Seattle is really heading toward a better balance of supply/demand and rents remain at their slow-growth level for more than a couple years, then halleluja, that’s the first milestone in solving the problem. But we can’t assume a short-term fluctuation is long-term change, and we have to get further out from the pandemic distortion to see what the longer-term trends are.

        There’s a video I thought about putting in an open thread but it’s a short by a real-estate hustler. He says that cities around the country have recently built a lot of high-priced apartments in the $2000-$5000 range. He mentioned Austin as an example. Now, there are different markets at different price points. Somebody who can only afford $1500 or $2000 can’t bid on a $2500 or $3000 unit; they’re like separate markets. So the pool of people who can/will pay $3000 or $4000 a month is much smaller than the total number of renters. Especially if they think that $3000 unit is only worth $2000 so they reject it. So, the high-end developers have run out of high-end renters. They’re leaving a lot of high-end units empty for long periods of time, and the video author thinks they’ll have to lower the rent. He says some are already lowering it or offering two months free or similar sales. He says that when rents go down, house prices are sure to follow. He says it’s a great time to buy a house in Austin because prices are falling. That’s what a real-estate agent would say: it’s always a good time to buy. But he may have a point. If this is happening nationally to apartments, it may be happening on a smaller scale here. Not on houses, because the local house inventory is so extremely tight it won’t go down easily. But on high-end apartments. I don’t necessarily believe this but it’s a possibility.

        I’ve always thought that $6000 rent at a new U-Village apartment building was unsustainable. That requires a $216K income to keep rent at 33% of the salary. My income is right near the median, and $6000 is more than my entire paycheck. So only the top 25% need apply. There are only so many highly-paid professors and tech darlings to go around. So I think that $6000 rate is unrealistic and they might have to cut it in half.

        But we don’t have to worry about rich people getting what they want, or developers unable to sustain unrealistic prices. What we should be concerned about is people with below-median incomes finding that below-median apartments are full and none are available, or at least not enough are available for them to find one.

      22. Daniel, to be clear, the percentage growth numbers per decade that I provided are for the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) data for the “ Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, WA metropolitan statistical area” as defined by the US Census Bureau. Same goes for the data I pulled for Detroit’s metro area. The graph you provided is specific for the City of Seattle. Since we are having a conversation about regional growth planning and resource allocation (which affect housing availability and affordability), I provided regional growth numbers, not municipal data. Over the next decade, some municipalities will not meet their allocation but others will and will likely exceed. Overall, the MSA is on track to be within +/- 20% of regional growth targets. I’m not sure where you are getting that we are behind our targets by 250k. I haven’t seen any respectable demographer, agency or study point to a slow growth trajectory for the region. We did had slowed growth for 2 years during COVID but remember, a year does not make a trend. It’s easy to fall into the world of recency bias.
        Builders, lenders and developers respond to market pressures so decreases in permit activity across the region are a result of current market sentiment and cannot be extrapolated across decades.

      23. One phenomenon I don’t see mentioned or accounted for in any of the above conversations is the amount of vacant units.

        Some years back, travel show host Anthony Bourdain complained about this in his building: he lived in a big New York City condo building with hundreds of units, but he was only one of several people actually living in it. The rest were simply bought by investors to sit vacant and accumulate value.

        Supposedly Portland lost population last year, but under normal circumstances you’d expect that to produce some housing price reduction. People still complain that housing prices are their primary reason for moving somewhere else, while every house I see on the market only has the sign up a week or so at most. As to who is buying all these houses and then not living in them isn’t clear to me, and I’ve not found any articles that have actually investigated this.

        Under these conditions, you can’t expect simply adding housing to allow more residents, because a non-insignificant percent of the housing isn’t being purchased to serve as actual residences. Some of it is being purchased to just accumulate wealth. Some portion of it may even be part of criminal money laundering schemes.

        I’m not sure what the best solution would be, but the assumed correlation between housing construction and housing availability for actual people to use as housing no longer holds.

      24. Glenn,

        Another reason for buying properties could be to list on Airbnb and the like. In such cases, the properties could well be in use (not vacant) but also not lived in permanently. Not sure how such units are reported, but if you are looking at only the housing stock count relative to the population of the city, Airbnb use could be a factor.

        Advocating for the city to ban Airbnb rentals, or at least severely curtail them, would be one avenue to explore if you feel strongly about it. As well as, of course, grass roots campaigning for this to build up additional support.

      25. AirBnB use is certainly a possibility. Austin TX had something like 3x as many of them as houses on the market, which almost certainly impacts the pricing there.

        Not sure what the ratio is in Seattle?

      26. “he lived in a big New York City condo building with hundreds of units, but he was only one of several people actually living in it. The rest were simply bought by investors to sit vacant and accumulate value…. I’m not sure what the best solution would be”

        A tax on unoccupied units. Vancouver’s tax is based on an annual declaration that the property was somebody’s principal residence at least six months out of the year, or falls into various exempt categories. If not, the owner pays 3% of the assessed value of the property. There’s an interactive form you can go through to see the various qualifications. It doesn’t ask for a name or address, just the type of situation.

      27. Bourdain’s building is where rich folks live. They own homes all over the world, and most sit vacant most of the year. Plus if you live more than 180 days in a high-income tax state like CA or NY you are subject to the state income tax, so the unit must be vacant 180 days if not rented out. I know many people who have winter homes in Palm Springs and the State investigates people very carefully to see if they exceed the 180-day limit.

        When it comes to buying SFH for investments that was very popular when interest rates and returns on fixed income investments were very low, especially after the 2008 crash when prices were low, and REIT’s were busting with money that had to be invested (including office towers). Buffett was a big investor.

        The Wall St. Journal had a recent article talking about how many investors are getting wiped out with new interest rates, and in many areas declining house values. Houses are not like stocks or bonds: they have fixed costs like property taxes, insurance and maintenance. Plus tenant damage, time down during a change in tenant, etc.

        I noted before how many people I know who had SFH for rent in Seattle all sold out during the pandemic rush to buy a SFH. However most purchasers wanted to fix up and live in the house, not rent it out, and many eliminated the ADU. A big problem today is the shortage of SFH to buy means many rentals are being bought and converted to owner occupied. This will really accelerate when interest rates come down, and the one category of affordable housing with the smallest inventory is affordable housing for families.

        Investors today can buy fixed income investments with no costs and zero risk at over 5%/year, which is hurting all real property investments. SFH are hot because they are limited in supply and the Millennials are aging into a SFH and so are buying out of love (which is the best reason). I wouldn’t touch a multi-family building or office tower (or SFH) as investment today with a 10′ pole. So from 2008 to 2021 the SFH increased much more than the mortgage each year, whereas today investors would rather buy the mortgages at 7% for AAA rather than the underlying house which is not appreciating.

        Airbnb is a different beast. Some cities like Seattle limit a person to owning two Airbnb’s. https://www.proper.insure/washington-airbnb-laws/ Cities like MI restrict rentals to a minimum of 30 days as do many HOA’s (although you can still find Airbnb’s for MI listed online; the city was going to do a crackdown pre-pandemic, but the Island doesn’t have a hotel for visitors and likely won’t since a hotel opens a city up to state mandates on homeless shelters). According to IRS regulations the owner can only use the Airbnb 2 weeks year to write it off as a business, but there are ways around that.

        Airbnb’s have advantages for the property owner. Less wear and tear for the same income, so you can rent out a high end property. Higher class of tenant. No landlord/tenant regulations. Tenant screening through online reviews and Airbnb. Payment up front held by Airbnb until the stay ends, plus damage deposit. Cleaning fees every time a user leaves. Owner can also use the property. Airbnb provides up to $1 million in insurance for damage. And so on.

        During the pandemic Airbnb’s were like printing money especially in this high value market. We have an Airbnb and we were getting users who usually vacation on Bali or the South of France but didn’t want to fly or go overseas, so you had a captured market. Prices soared but have come back down to earth. Cities love the taxes on Airbnb’s.

        Those heady days are over, and now there is glut of Airbnb’s. They work well if you have a vacation home and want some extra cash to cover taxes, insurance and maintenance, but as an investment they are not very attractive right now.

        Renting properties or just Airbnb’s is a full-time job, with a lot of risk. One bad tenant can ruin your return, and in a city like Seattle it is nearly impossible to get rid of that bad tenant, and during the pandemic it was literally impossible. With current stock market returns and fixed income returns investing in real property makes no sense today, and not surprisingly development across the board except for starter SFH is declining.

      28. “Cities love the taxes on Airbnb’s.”

        Cities are also under pressure to have enough rentals for residents, especially for people who work in the city. That has led to AirBnB restrictions in the most targeted cities, which is the opposite of cities loving the AirBnB taxes enough to roll over for them.

        Cities also love commercial spaces because they generate sales tax. That’s a larger and more persistent issue than AirBnB. I’ve heard the Spring District has an imbalance of too many offices and too little housing because of this. That forces people to commute from far away like Woodinville or Renton or Snohomish County even if they’d prefer to live in the Spring District or Bellevue.

  3. I have visitors from out of town and they wanted to go to the Pike Place Market so for the first time in maybe a year or more I went to downtown. I have not gone because of what I have been reading and I felt it was not safe and not a comfortable situation and that many stores have closed because of that.

    What I found was true. We parked in the Pacific Place garage and exited through the building and saw many empty store fronts. Then we walked down Pike Street and again a lot of empty store fronts. But that was not the worst.

    In the six-block walk to the market there were people laying on the sidewalk passed out and in the block between 3rd and 4th avenue there was a group of about 10 to 12 people doing drugs with several already passed out. It was shocking to see this on a street in downtown and confirmed for me why I don’t come to downtown.

    In the market everything was fine except it was noticeable that several places of businesses had closed permanently so even one of the main tourist attractions is not immune from closures.

    I have lived in Seattle for some 70 years and it is sad to see what is happening to the city and government leaders at city hall do nothing because of conflicting ideologies on how to address the problem.

    1. I work in the Westlake area of downtown near Pacific Place. What you say about empty storefronts is absolutely true, but it is slowly improving. I haven’t seen additional closures in the past 6-12 months, but I have seen restaurants re-open and new stores (Ben Bridge and Uniqlo come to mind) and a new Bank of America open.

      Public drug use and people sitting and sleeping on the streets is a real problem without question. I’m not questioning that it happened, but I haven’t seen anything near a group of 10-12 people participating. Regardless of the count, this is something that the city absolutely needs to tackle, for people living on the streets, first responders and bystanders.

      One thing that you didn’t mention, but that really stands out to me, is the just the general population on the streets. When I first started back in the office in early 2022, pedestrian traffic was sparse. Walking around in the early morning or after work wasn’t comfortable. This summer, there are workers, shoppers and tourists everywhere. While there are people sitting and sleeping on the streets along with occasionally doing drugs, I never feel unsafe going out to get lunch or a drink after work.

      Seattle has a lot of work to do, but the conditions are slowly improving and shouldn’t stop someone from going downtown in my opinion.

      1. There were a lot of people walking west of 3rd Avenue and the market was full. Walking back to the garage on Pine Street the crowds were thinner east of 3rd Avenue.

      2. There’s usually a thick crowd of middle-class people on Pine between 4th and 6th. The derelicts are concentrated at 3rd around McDonald’s. I walk/bus by there at least 3-4 times a week. What I usually see walking east is tons of middle-class people at Pike Place Market spilling out to 1st, then sketchy people around 3rd, then a smaller crowd of middle-class people between 4th and 6th, then emptiest in front of Pacific Place. Is that not what you saw? If not, the pattern may have been unusual then.

        The biggest clump of sketchy people is on Pike between 3rd and 4th, and 3rd between Pike and Union. They move around on different days, and some days there are more of them than others. You can avoid them by walking on 2nd, Union, 4th, Stewart, or the surrounding streets. The north side of Pine Street tends to have fewer than the south side.

      3. Whenever someone on this blog who doesn’t live in downtown Seattle posts they went to downtown Seattle and were shocked by what they saw an urbanist on this blog will post that what they saw was not correct, or that the urbanist’s experience is different.

        The reality is both are correct because both are viewing something through their lens of a perception of danger, and whether the scene is dangerous to them or not.

        Someone like Mike might have a higher tolerance for danger than Jeff, and my guess is Jeff has a MUCH higher tolerance for danger than my wife, which is close to zero. Men have a hard time understanding what it is like to be a woman in an urban or public place, including transit.

        For downtown retailers the question is what percentage of shoppers have Mike’s tolerance for danger, what percentage have Jeff’s tolerance, and what percentage have my wife’s, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY how much does each demographic spend. The current state of retail in downtown Seattle compared to say U Village or Bell Square answers that question if you are still wondering.

        The reality is my wife and her demographic spend many times what Jeff spends if he is the typical retired male (if like me and married he doesn’t even shop for himself, let alone two kids), and many, many, many times what Mike spends.

        The problem for downtown Seattle, at least with my wife’s demographic, is they are not willing to be as brave as Jeff and see for themselves. With today’s online media we are bombarded with clickbait headlines EVERY SINGLE DAY about crime and drug use and DANGER in downtown Seattle from reputable media companies, let alone ND. When the police chief states publicly the loss of over 300 police officers means the SPD can’t investigate sexual assaults of women 18 and older that is not a good message. https://americandigest.com/retiring-seattle-police-officer-torches-leadership-in-15-page-exit-letter/#:~:text=Lt.%20Jessica%20Taylor%2C%20formerly%20of%20the%20Seattle%20Police,the%20city%20to%20descend%20into%20%22anarchy%20%26%20chaos.%22 Neither is this.

        What really hit home on the eastside was a pregnant women and Seattle business owner getting shot in the head while sitting in her car on 4th and Lenora, near Westlake Center, once Seattle’s retail core, not some remote place in S. Seattle at 4 am. That is when many eastside women said they — to paraphrase Taylor Swift — will never, ever, ever go back to downtown Seattle to shop or dine.

        For Seattle and cities like SF, WFH was like the tide going out and revealing a lot of underlying problems progressive mayors, DA’s, and councils had ignored or dismissed because the volume of work commuters and tourists like the ocean covered up the problems, which have become intractable because they were ignored for so long.

        It is unfathomable to me a city like SF could basically die (although one of the new tourist attractions is a walking tour of the “doom loop” in SF). The Dept. of Labor will be holding its Westcoast symposium in SF in Sept. except the new federal building is effectively closed and employees have been told to WFH due to safety issues, so the DOL is looking for a private venue. (The Dept. of Labor decided to build a building on Market without onsite, secured underground parking, which was a white elephant the day it was completed for a zillion dollars)

        The tide is a 44% occupancy rate in downtown Seattle, and a 44%-foot traffic rate. Rising vacancy rates (office space with no lease) means the tide is still going out, and that tide supplied the nutrients urban cities need to survive and deal with the problems we can now all see.

        If Mike’s demographic re: danger tolerance represented 80-90% of the population and spent 90% of the money re: retail then Harrell and the DSA wouldn’t care what Jeff or my wife “perceived”. Unfortunately, Mike represents 10% that spends closer to 5%, which is why Harrell and the DSA come up with a new seven goal plan to fix 3rd or revitalize Seattle, except the tide is not coming back in.

        What we each see when it comes to personal safety depends on our tolerance for personal danger. But retail sales and vacancy rates and occupancy rates and transit ridership rates are objective data, and not good or promising for Seattle.

      4. There’s a difference between being around people that are unpleasant/obnoxious/boorish and actual danger. When I see somebody shouting obscenities and walking around aggressively, I’m naturally on my guard. But in all cases they act like they either don’t realize I’m there, or if we brush up next to each other they step away or apologize, as if they’re more afraid of me attacking them than them attacking me, and as if they’re rant is not directed toward me or they couldn’t believe I could consider it objectionable. Only a tiny fraction of the sketchy people shout like that; often I don’t see shouters at all. The shouters are the only ones I’m concerned might be a threat. The others are all just doing their thing. There’s another threat, fentanyl smoke, but that’s not the people themselves, it’s the smoke, so I try to stay away from it.

        “With today’s online media we are bombarded with clickbait headlines EVERY SINGLE DAY about crime and drug use and DANGER in downtown Seattle from reputable media companies”

        The problem there is the media, and people overgeneralizing from it. People know the media overhypes and overgeneralizes sensational things and doesn’t report on normal good things, but somehow they don’t apply it. For my entire adult life living in the U-District and Capitol Hill and the CD (39 years), the police blotter says crimes occur every day and shootings occur often, but I’ve never been directly threatened and I rarely see the crime. It happens at times when I’m not there. The most I’ve experienced directly is two break-in thefts, one guy breaking into a back door in my building and trying to steal delivery packages, and a few panhandlers calling me a bastard or such when I didn’t give them anything.

        The media reports on the 5% of people who experience problems on any given day, not the 95% of people who don’t. It reports on one woman who is raped by a street person, not on the 25,000 women who aren’t raped, or the 97% of street people who aren’t raping anybody. People may still feel unsafe if they don’t want to risk that 1%, but that’s still an overreaction, and we can’t make policies based on overreactions or false impressions,.

      5. “People may still feel unsafe if they don’t want to risk that 1%, but that’s still an overreaction”

        Mike, as it has been pointed out previously, that is your opinion, not fact. It is not an absolute. There is no threshold of overreaction that can be imposed from above, by God or by State or by blog moderators. You choosing to not worry about that 1% chance does not in any way mean that DT’s wife is not just as within her rights to worry, and act accordingly. Claiming otherwise is, no offense, gaslighting, and it is extremely saddening to see a moderator on this blog engage in that behavior, even when it is clearly not intentional. Please do not do so again.

        I speak only for myself, but while I value everyone’s comments here, one thing that I value even more is respect for one another, and gaslighting is the opposite of that. I would hate to see this blog becoming a place where that is commonly accepted.

      6. @Mike Orr:

        You post that the people on the sidewalks are not threatening but you miss my point which is that I never saw what I did on Wednesday on downtown streets in the many years I have lived in Seattle and visiting downtown many times. Yes in Skid Road but not to the extent on what is going on today in downtown.

        You say that when crime is committed it is when you are not there but then you miss the point that it is happening and it doesn’t matter at what time of the day it is. And this week there was a shooting outside the Westlake Center at 6 am or several years a shooting at 3rd and Pine during the afternoon rush hour where innocent people who there waiting for their bus were shot and wounded and died.

        You can whitewash it all you want but Seattle has problems in downtown and until City Hall can put their political opinions aside the problem is going to get worse. And as I said I have no plans to come to downtown as I don’t feel comfortable or even safe in that area.

    2. Jeff, I saw the same today. There were tents on 3rd Avenue sidewalks and folks using fentanyl in the open. A couple began to light up on my D Line ride home but another rider objected and walked up the operator; the operator played a recording against smoking and drug use on board. There were also plenty of tourists on the sidewalks and at the market.

    3. Why would you want to park all the way over there? If you’re going to drive into town, you might as well use a parking garage close to your destination, no?

      1. And why not.

        The entrance to the garage is easy and you are dealing with less traffic and when you exit onto 6th Avenue it is right and then another right onto Olive Way and heading for I-5 NB.

        Parking closer to the market would be nice but parking is not always available and driving to and from the market area is not easy because of the market traffic. Sometimes the convenience of parking away from that part of downtown makes more sense.

        And we decided not to use Light Rail because of the rail replacement project meaning trains every 20 minutes. Then this morning the text saying that the trains would be every 30 minutes because of signal problems. Had no desire to deal with that not knowing if there would be more problems with further delays.

    4. My wife and I went down there not too long ago and it was the opposite experience. Granted, we took light rail, so we didn’t explore things to the east of Third. There was a police van parked next to the McDonald’s, so there was a minimum of illegal activity there.

      From everything I’ve read (and seen) basically things have just shifted east. If you have lived in Seattle for 70 years, you are no doubt familiar with the way things were back in the 60s and 70s — much worse. Crime was worse, way more people sleeping on the street. Huge parts of downtown would become empty in the evening, as all the workers went home. First Avenue was especially seedy. Tom Robbins wrote about it in Still Life With Woodpecker. I’m sure if you went back far enough the folks on the streets were on opium (everything old is new again) but back then it was mostly just booze. Lots of booze, vomit, guys sleeping on the street. Basically just a continuation of the conditions that created Seattle’s special contribution to the English Language: “Skid Road” went from a logging term, to an area of town that is rundown.

      It destroyed the city and we never recovered. Oh wait, that’s not what happened. Basically the problem has never ended. It ebbs and flows a bit, but mostly it just moves around. Sometimes in broad terms (it has taken decades for the problem to move east) but sometimes a block will look great one day, and a mess the next. The Seattle Times have written a number of great articles about the situation, including one for their magazine: https://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/crime-and-community-define-one-of-downtown-seattles-most-complex-areas/. I especially appreciate the input from Tom Umporowicz, a retired detective-sergeant with the Seattle Police Department. The cycle gets repeated (ignore, complain, bark up the chain of command, make a few sweeps and arrests … and then, ignore). Its hard to deal with the problem on a local basis (it is a national problem, and needs national resources). You’ll never actually “solve” the problem (there are drug addicts in every country) but you can mitigate it.

      Of course drugs go through cycles as well. Alcohol and opium go way back. So does cocaine; even methamphetamine is fairly old now. They just weren’t that popular. New variants become popular (crystal meth, crack cocaine, fentanyl). Each little wave of these drugs makes things worse.

      The homeless situation (caused by high home prices) makes things worse as well. We only have so many shelters, and it would be stupid to kick out people who are functioning members of society (but simply can’t afford rent right now) just to make room for junkies and winos. Resources are stretched thin as a result. So you end up just going through the cycle (ignore, complain, bark up the chain of command …).

      1. As I posted I have lived in Seattle some 70 years and what I saw on Wednesday in downtown was a lot worse than in years past.

        Where it was bad in those years was in the Skid Road area which now called Pioneer Square and yes you saw drunks on the street and possible drugs but not as open as I saw yesterday. Another bad area was the Central District and those days as today you had the ladies of the evening on Aurora Avenue.

        It was also a different time as we were not a 24 hour a day society and yes downtown emptied when the office workers went home. Stores closed
        around 6 pm and didn’t stay open as late as they do today. In those days, you also had blue laws which required stores to close on Sundays so downtown was empty on those days. You also didn’t have that many people living in downtown as you have today. Seattle was a different city in those days and more a mentality of a town wanting to be big city.

        To say it was worse back then is wrong because I went downtown a lot and that was when I was a kid and teenager and I never felt in danger or not comfortable being on the street. Yesterday I was not comfortable and felt at risk and for the future I have no plans to go to downtown until the city does something to clean up what I saw on Wednesday.

        It was sad to see what has happened to the city and sad for those people who need help.

      2. The most relevant difference from then to now is the almost complete destruction of Seattle’s Single Room Occupancy hotels. The Ozark fire was the excuse used to basically regulate them out of existence. The winos and junkies of old had a hotel room with a bathroom down the hall to go be wasted in. Personally I think converting some class C office space that’s never going to recover from WFH into these sort of spaces again is what’s needed to clean up the streets.

    5. Like you I have a long record of living in Seattle and frequenting downtown. In 1964 I would take the bus from Portage Bay to Frederick and Nelson and then walk to the Market. No scary people on the streets then. Inebriates were confined to the Pioneer Square area.
      Never expected to be shot at then but now it could happen. In the seventies I was a weekly attendee at Bushell’s Auction House on 2nd. Never had the expectation of any problems with safety.

    6. “I never saw what I did on Wednesday on downtown streets in the many years I have lived in Seattle and visiting downtown many times.”

      It is recent; it started in 2020. Derelicts and dealers moved from 1st to 3rd Avenue sometime in the 80s, but the number of people, the tents, the stolen-goods market, the inhalers — that all started in 2020. It’s a combination of people losing jobs or housing in the pandemic, a new drug appearing that’s cheaper and more intense than previous ones, lacing drugs with fentanyl that don’t normally contain it and the buyer isn’t aware of, and professional stolen-goods criminals who found an opportunity. I can’t understand why several people in wheelchairs want to sit on a downtown street for hours.

      It needs to go; it’s not good. But the laws haven’t kept up, the city doesn’t have enough resources for everybody, and the city isn’t particularly ept (the opposite of inept) in dealing with it.

      Anonymouse, I don’t know what to do with your suggestions. There’s clearly miscommunication because I’m talking about general policies and you interpret it as against individuals or denying their rights or disrespecting them or gaslighting. I don’t know how to articulate it better.

      But I feel that if somebody sees a news report about one thing that happened to one person one day, and then assumes it happens to everybody all day every day, and therefore it’s likely to happen to them on the day they go, that is objectively an overgeneralization. If shootings were happening to everybody every day, then nobody would be able to live in inner Seattle neighborhoods, and they’d be empty. Yet tens of thousands of people do live in them for years on end, and they lead normal lives and have normal experiences.

      I certainly don’t mean that Daniel’s wife or Jeff or some particular person should feel bad, or that I disrespect them or their concerns, or that I’m all-knowing and have a right to tell them to do something different. I’m just saying that we can’t run our society or make policy decisions on, e.g., 3rd Avenue cleanup programs, based on overgeneralizations or false impressions or spot news reports, we need to make them based on what’s really happening.

      For instance, some people are saying that the buses on 3rd Avenue caused the problem of derelicts/druggies/salesmen/closed stores, and that removing the buses will solve it. That’s ludicrous. That’s not a personal attack against the people who promote this view; it’s a statement about the view itself and the implied policy. It’s possible to have a concentration of bus or subway/tram routes and a thriving, safe retail neighborhood in the same place. Removing the buses and making it harder to get around by bus or transfer to many routes has nothing to do with whether winos or druggies are in one place or another place. Buses run along the entire two miles of 3rd, yet the sketchy people are concentrated in a few particular blocks.

      1. Let me quote again to ground this discussion:

        “People may still feel unsafe if they don’t want to risk that 1%, but that’s still an overreaction”

        It would be fair for anyone to say “I think that that is an overreaction” or “I think that that is not a reason to change how society works” etc. etc. Fair enough, that is your opinion and you are certainly empowered to hold it, too. I don’t even disagree, for that matter. But it is worth thinking about how to express that opinion as an opinion, instead of as a statement of fact. “That’s still an overreaction” is a statement of fact and as someone who has been told in the past what one should think or believe, it rankles. Especially when I know that it is not your intention.

        With you and me, it’s not a problem – because we can work out the details and there is (on my part, at least) an assumption of good will on both sides. Other people will not be so quick to not assume ill intent, or use the quote as soundbites that corroborate what they might hear on Komo or Fox News, etc. etc. This is why I keep pushing for people to be precise in their language, too, in part – we should strive towards finding common ground, and overgeneralizations (IMHO) tend to not do that.

        I hope this helps explain what I mean :)

      2. My daughter has been going downtown now a few days a week, because of management flexing.

        Her business associates are the Idaho region.

        She told me that she hears from our dear friends in not-Washington land asking how things are, what with all the chaos?

        Her reply: “Stop watching Fox News.”

        She says the areas that were always sketchy still are, and the areas that weren’t aren’t. With more ‘regular’ foot traffic the situation has improved post-covid.

        She doesn’t live in fear, even when she has to walk in the 3rd and Pine area.

        It just takes, as always, situational awareness, which is something that most all women need because they have to interact with the male machismo.

      3. Anonymouse, I take your point on saying “I think”, because that’s exactly what I’ve told Daniel to do (and he has done).

        Oh, the national media! In May 2020 I got an email from a friend (the same neighbor I’d been going to the Ballard farmers’ market with, who had since moved away). He said he saw on the news there’s a no-go place in Seattle. I imagined some kind of ghetto war zone like you hear about in Chicago or LA. This was in the first couple days of CHOP. I said I’d gone through it on my way to Trader Joe’s and it was not a no-go zone, it felt like Haight-Ashbury. People drawing a chalk mural on the pavement, stands of free food, speeches, a guerilla food garden, talking about equality, etc.

        Then there were reports about Portland that summer. I didn’t go to Portland so I don’t know what it was really like, but I’m sure a lot of the national news reports were exaggerated or could be overinterpreted. I asked Glenn what it was really like compared to the national news, but he hasn’t said, so I don’t know.

  4. After a change in plans, I decided to get around all day today using a regional day pass. The new ORCA system is great in terms of it loading the pass quickly. I paid for it and put it on the card, and 10 minutes later it was working.

      1. I bought the $8 Regional $3.50 day pass, which covers any fare up to $3.50 and takes the rest from the card purse.

        My first attempt at using this pass didn’t work, as I never got a card reader that would load the pass. Even the supposed networked RapidRide readers.

      2. (This first attempt was in 2016 or so, so it was still the old “load stuff on the card and wait 24-48 hours for processing” system. So far the new system works vastly better, but this is the first time I really put the time delay to the test.)

  5. What would it take to get sound transit to abandon plans for Boeing Access rd Station? Surely someone at ST must realize how nearly-useless it will be?

    1. It doesn’t look like ST has started to do any planning for the BAR infill station. Isn’t it funded by South King? I believe that they laid out the station 15-20 years ago so I’m not sure how much more planning they need to do. ST would need to revisit things if they moved the station.

      The South King aspect is the rub. It’s almost exactly at the junction of the North King, South King and East King (which includes Renton) subareas. That leaves it without a strong advocate community. It’s surprising it even got into ST3.

      Had it been North King, the funds could be spent on enhancing Rainier Beach to be an intercept station with a nice safe bus transfer plaza for Renton buses. But it’s not.

      Maybe the idea should just remain a placeholder until some major development proposal happens somewhere on the corridor. The situation kind of reminds me of Potomac Yards station situation. That infill station opened this year on a line segment that opened in 1991 with developer assistance.

      1. I honestly expect the station may end up shelved as a cost savings measure for other projects for how low on the totem pole it is as a priority for ST. The main reason this project existed was as a possible infill for both Link & Sounder. But ST canceled the Sounder part of it. On some level, it was intended to address the problem of Tukwila Sounder-SeaTac airport connection changing it from 3 to 2 seat ride and to also connect to King County Airport via Marginal Way Route 124. But really the numbers weren’t great for this stop in what i understand of estimated projections alongside being an island in a sea of concrete makes it not that walkable.

      2. If done right, it could be a major hub. It could be a transfer point for Sounder, Link, local buses and buses running on the freeway (using a new freeway station). But that requires a real multi-modal vision. Someone to work with Metro and WSDOT to come up with a plan that could work, and be worth the money. I’m afraid that isn’t Sound Transit’s forte. They tend to focus just on a station, followed by a big parking lot nearby. In this case, the park and ride lot would be on the surface, and relatively small. This keeps the cost fairly low, which is why it is quite possible they built it. But without the focus on transit integration, it won’t get many riders, and a lot of people will wonder why we built it in the first place.

      3. BAR is scheduled for 2031 according to the 2021 revised schedule of 2021. It’s in the highest tier so it wasn’t postponed. Tukwila strongly advocated for it, saying it would (A) be a terminus for a RapidRide A extension serving a new urban village at 144th, (B) give better access to the Museum of Flight and Aviation High School on the 124, and maybe other reasons I don’t remember. Metro Connects had a 150-like route through BAR to Rainier Beach

        “The main reason this project existed was as a possible infill for both Link & Sounder.”

        That was just one reason for it, not the main one that the others were subordinate to.

        “But ST canceled the Sounder part of it.”

        ST didn’t cancel it; it just didn’t advance the candidate project into the ballot measure, like it didn’t advance the improvements to DSTT1.

        It was a high priority for South King before covid, and its status in tier 1 on 2021 when P&Rs were postponed suggests it still had high status then. As to why South King wants it so much and whether it would really be as beneficial as they think, there are plenty of projects in that situation.

        The Link/Sounder transfer has always seemed dubious to me. Who would use it? If you’re going north on Sounder to downtown, it’s much faster to remain on Sounder to King Street. If you’re going north on Sounder to southeast Seattle, there aren’t many people doing that. If you’re going north on Sounder to the airport, there are other ways from Kent Station (161) and Auburn Station (181+Link). If you’re coming from the airport and going south, if you miss Sounder you may be waiting half an hour or all night in the middle of nowhere, so why not use the other ways instead which are all frequent (and will be more so if the KDM and 320th RapidRides are implemented).

      4. In theory, somebody on Link could get downtown faster by transferring to Sounder rather than staying on Link. In practice, Sounder does not run anywhere near often enough to make such a transfer work, so the practical effect of the transfer opportunity would be to simply slow down both trains with empty stops.

      5. And without All-Day Sounder, I’m not sure the ‘hub’ is that worthwhile.

        If there’s a future state where ST has Sounder running all-day-ish, and there’s also a freeway station for buses, it could work great, but in the meantime I think it makes sense to defer the project. Keeping as a placeholder in SK’s budget make sense, and they could always repurpose for an infill Link station elsewhere in SK.

    2. Generally it’s a 2 step process.
      1. Defer the project within ST3 (as Mike notes, this has very much not yet happened).
      2. Remove the project from the scope of an ST4 vote.

  6. CityNerd also put out a video on visiting Minneapolis
    Some observations he made
    – Decent to good public transit with decent BRT and LRT system that punches above its weight with some amenities that are common in some Canadian or Scandinavian cities but rare in the US like heated on demand shelters
    – Their multicounty Metropolitan Council akin to Portland’s Metro Council has done a lot for zoning and housing developments which has helped the region stave off high inflation compared to other large cities.
    – UMn Twin Cities is a good urban campus with good walk and bike infrastructure like the bus/rail bike bridge between the campus and downtown.
    – City has an abundance of Lakes which are all public parks and has bike/ped trails connecting them together, which lends to bike oriented development of neighborhoods along the trails.
    – The Downtown Skywalk System is in his view a mix of good and bad urban design which creates a good system for winter months but also kills pedestrian landscape at the ground floor for outdoor spaces in the summer months. Saying that Nicolet Mall wants to be a pedestrian corridor but hasn’t fully committed to it because of the Skywalk and other design choices for streets Downtown.
    -Downtown is still a work in progress to improving the area to be more pedestrian friendly.
    – Lake Street has good TOD but suffers from the stroad problem which could be fixed with road diets of the street to have more of the road be for pedestrians and cyclists
    – Talks about safety on transit and how we need a more nuanced discussion about it
    “As a society we kind of don’t do a great job differentiating between being made to feel a bit uncomfortable from actually being exposed to a safety risk.” Pointing to the fact that often the issues on transit are issues that are less Transit’s fault and more societal safety net issues that need to be more broadly addressed by local, state, and federal governments rather throwing the brunt of the burden in transit agencies to deal with.
    Overall, the Twin Cities has good urbanism for a US city and kinda reminds me of Stockholm and Helsinki in terms of cultural mentality for Quality of Life in a region despite it being it really cold in the winter months.

    1. Thanks for the link. I’ve heard good things about Minneapolis, both in writing and by people who have lived there. It has a diverse economy, with a ride range of jobs. Like almost all Midwest cities, it went through a downturn, but has recovered sooner, adding a lot of people in the last 20 years.

  7. Is it true that proterra is going under? If so what does that do for dows dream of spend spend spend on battery only coaches? Maybe nothing changes…

      1. Apparently a big part of their issues are that their products are kind of crappy and not real reliable. Sounds like a perfect fit for Seattle’s anti car zealots.

    1. I hope Metro gets rid of their Proterras. Metro has too many different kinds of buses. Proterras, Trolleys, Rapid Rides with right doors. Rapid Rides with both right and left doors. These different types of buses limits their usefulness. For example, a diesel-electric hybrid can be used on the routes 226/241, but the Proterras which are used on the routes 226/241 currently can’t be used on any other route.

    2. Nova (Volvo’s bus division) is exiting the US market in 2025 as well. Meaning Gillig and New Flyer are the only major transit bus manufacturers left the US. Which isn’t great in my opinion for competition and manufacturing capacity. If the US regulations weren’t so onerous we’d probably have a more competitive market and improve choices for electric buses. As transit agencies could be able to opt for European manufacturers like Mercedes Benz, Van Hool, etc.

      1. I would imagine that from the perspective of the owners of Gillig and New Flyer (and their lobbyists), onerous rules to prevent foreign competition is precisely the point.

        This is the way the U.S. government works.

    3. One thing that has always bugged me about Proterra is that, as far as I can tell, all of the charging hardware is specifically designed for charging Proterra buses and nothing else. They don’t use the standard “CCS” plugs that other electric vehicles (including buses) use, instead, using an overhead gantry system that, eyeballing it seems like it would be much more expensive than having the bus driver simply plug in a cord at ground level.

      In an ideal world, charging would be more standardized. You’d have one plug that would be compatible with any bus by any manufacturer. You’d also have the bus charging integrated with car charging (which every large park and ride should have, by the way) in such a way that avoids the expense of the bus chargers and car chargers needing entirely separate pieces of equipment and power supplies (while still giving the buses priority, of course).

      The fact that everything was so specific to one brand of vehicle may have been excusable back in 2015, when almost nothing was electric and there were no charging standards for buses. It’s not really excusable now.

  8. When are we going to see real enforcement of fares and other laws and codes on Metro and Sound Transit. I am so sick and tired of following the rules and obeying all laws only to be treated like I am garbage and those who break the laws get treated like they are the good guys.

    1. This was an interesting article coming out of the Bay Area regarding the latest BART ridership survey and analysis. Below is a representative quote, and the link to the piece.

      “We’re in this post-pandemic era where people are making different choices today, and they have different options,” (Jim) Wunderman said. “There’s a solution to the problem, which is to maximize the number of people who could use BART to use BART, and the answer is safety and cleanliness.”


      1. TransitGirl, here is another article on the issue you raise:


        Although I can’t find the link there was an interesting article recently about how women in London have “tube outfits” they wear to discourage unwanted attention or harassment, while carrying the clothes they actually plan to wear at work or when going out in a bag.

        I said it many times before, but safety on transit (or anything) is a deal breaker for most. Forget about coverage, frequency, mode, fares. I have also noted before that many on this blog don’t realize their perception is as a male, urbanist, and regular transit rider, about three things retailers don’t like but are a zillion times different than what a women experiences in public. My wife always thought it was unfair that when she was a student at UW she could never walk back home alone in the dark through that pretty campus after studying when the guys could. She always needed an escort because there are so many creepy men. My daughter feels the same.

        I know that is an unpopular thing to say on this blog and like Voldemort this issue can never be spoken, but if downtown Seattle and transit can’t find a way to lure back the discretionary trip by normal women they are going to slowly die, and that means eyes on the street and on transit. U Village, Bell Sq., Issaquah, Northgate will be the beneficiaries, and so will Uber and the personal car.

        90% of folks in the region won’t notice any change in their lives so that is good. When I read The Urbanist or some on this blog I find it ironic they don’t see their progressive policies are what killed downtown and are killing transit in a discretionary world in which both have to compete. They just never thought downtown and transit would become discretionary with WFH and other places to shop, and have no idea how to sell either to lure the rider and customer back. Progressives are just terrible at selling. You will never see a progressive working in sales, except maybe Harrell these days.

        But the good news is how few people in the region this affects.

  9. Since this is an open thread- what do you all think of this hypothetical alternate to the second ST3 tunnel: Run a Ballard to Tacoma and an Everett to Redmond line in the existing tunnel. Then bring rail (streetcar not light rail) to West Seattle by extending a branch off of the 1st Ave. streetcar. This could add additional use to the streetcar tracks (assuming it goes forward) and eliminate the bad transfers and costs of the second tunnel.

    1. It’s a great idea to eliminate DSTT2. Almost everyone on the Blog agrees with that except Lazarus. However, knowledgeable contributors have long ago determined that construction of any sort of grade-separated “flying” junction in a three-line tunnel cannot occur between existing CIDS and the curve into the TBM vault at Ninth and Pine. At least, it can’t occur without destroying at a minimum the fairly new tall building in the northeast quadrant` of the Third and Pike intersection. That is not going to happen, nor is Skycastle Transit going to put a “level-crossing” junction through the slow-moving curve at Third and Pine. In a three-line tunnel the trains would be too frequent for that to be reliable.

      The most crowded segment of the system is expected to be between Westlake and the U-District, with crowding dropping quickly to “everyone gets a seat” north of Northgate. So it’s not a great idea to siphon off 1/2 of the trains just before it Westlake. The “main trunk” to Lynnwood will need the five minute, four-car service provided by having two lines run that far. During the evening peak “short turn” trains will have to run even more frequently between downtown and Northgate.

      Seriously, people spent the better part of two years trying to figure out a way to make a divergence happen, but there are just too many deep foundations to pull it off. The wonderful accessibility of the relatively shallow stations of the DSTT comes at the cost of it being hemmed in by newer construction all along it.

      Your idea to use the streetcar, presumably extended south along First Avenue, is an interesting one, but it really wouldn’t save much, if any, money overall. It’s not going to cross the Duwamish Waterway on the Low Bridge; it’s simply too unreliable for a transit backbone. An added trackway, even for the smallish Trams that the streetcar uses, would be too much of a load on the ailing West Seattle High Bridge.

      So that means that a new rail-only bridge across the Waterway would still have to be built and that’s the major budget buster for West Seattle. Maybe the streetcar could squeeze by alongside the West Seattle Freeway going up the hill to the Avalon District, avoiding the stupendous elevated structures that ST envisions in the two “final alternatives” and the “short tunnel”. With the smaller tram vehicles the stations in West Seattle would more likely be acceptable at-grade. Both those would certainly save money, but you’d be spending several hundred million in roadway construction to push the streetcar ROW down First to Spokane while the “West Seattle Stub” could use the existing tracks to SoDo. We have determined that a junction is possible at Lander, though it might require going “around the horn” alongside the Maintenance Facility northbound.

      But if Trams can run alongside the West Seattle Freeway from Spokane to Alaska, so can Link. The cars are only a couple of feet wider and it can climb the same grades as the Trams. Similarly, because Link has overhead power, stations for an Everett-West Seattle standard Link line can be at-grade also, though they might have to be limited to three-car trains by the length of the street blocks. The truth is that Lynnwood to Everett is unlikely ever to need any more than three-car trains, so that kind of balances.

      The problem is that ST and the pooh-bahs of the West Seattle Junction Association are simply not willing to allow them to be so configured. There would have to be an underpass at Alaska Street for the roadway to clear the northbound track, but whoop-te-doo, there are such underpasses all over the country.

      If there isn’t room alongside the Freeway up the hill, the tracks could poke into the hill at the curve of Avalon, underpass the roadway intersection then surface. A building on the southeast apex of the curve would have to be knocked down, but that’s only a few tens of millions of dollars, a LOT less than the existing tunnel proposals.

      I do think that eventually extending the streetcar down to Lander and Starbucks makes sense, since the neighborhood is rapidly being converted to housing, but something expensive would be required to get past the intense congestion of pedestrians at the stadiums. The cars can’t just plow through the throngs of people so a trench tunnel or an elevated section (either with a small station) would be required to get past the stadiums.

      The best solution is simply not to send rail to West Seattle and instead turn the Everett trains using the pocket at Stadium or going around the horn at the Maintenance Facility. Turn Tacoma trains at Northgate, and Redmond trains at Lynnwood. Some distant day in the future, if Snohomish County between Everett and Lynnwood continues to boom, extend the Redmond trains to Paine Field or even Everett. Three fairly well-balanced lines running in the existing tunnel will produce three-three-four headways between Northgate and CIDS, which should be sufficient for at least half a century.

      If Ballard-Downtown has to be built almost everyone agrees that it should be a fully automated, all-grade separated independent line with shorter trains and a small MF in Interbay. Design it to be extended into First Hill at a reasonably soon future day, and you have pretty much finished grade separated transit in Seattle.

      1. So not one of you three was willing to say “I agree with X but with this reservation” or “That’s a good idea Y; what about this alternative” when a good portion of two of the three three posts included a large portion of the same ideas.

        For instance, Glenn says (in summary) “Don’t build West Seattle; it’s too expensive and makes transit worse for most riders”. I said “The best solution is simply not to send rail to West Seattle”. How is that different? The scholarly thing would have been to say something like “I agree with Tom that building rail to West Seattle is a bad idea, and here are a couple of specific reasons I think so in addition to the excessive overall cost”.

        Also, about the three lines in the tunnel he said . I said “and instead turn the Everett trains using the pocket at Stadium or going around the horn at the Maintenance Facility. Turn Tacoma trains at Northgate, and Redmond trains at Lynnwood.” That’s not exactly the same because of the turnback sites listed, but pretty damn close. Again, something like “Tom’s on the right track [getting in a railroad pun] with the destination pairs, but I would suggest turning the Everett trains at ….”. Again, you’d be finding commonality rather than ignoring a potential “ally”.

        asdf2 talks about “For Ballard, connecting a standalone line into the exiting tunnel at Westlake is probably infeasible, so the best solution is to just end the line at Westlake station and build and underground walkway between the lines for good transfers.” Most of the rest of the first paragraph is essentially a rewording of my paragraph on Ballard-Downtown with additional information, of course. And that extra information is great. But what’s wrong with an occasional “attaboy” or “That’s basically what I believe, too”?

        I specified that the infeasibility he mentioned has to do with the buildings erected along the tunnel since it was dug. And I mentioned that a LOT of people had spent significant virtual “ink” trying to figure out a way to accomplish it. I then said, again with reference to the entire crew of posters, that Ballard-Downtown should be built with short automated trains serviced by a small MF in Interbay. asdf2 could have said something like “Yes! to automated short trains on a Ballard-Downtown route, and these are two of the big benefits: shorter headways and smaller, shallower stations.”

        The smaller, potentially shallower stations are a big deal, but in fact I think he’s actually wrong about Westlake. A shorter, shallower station which is not aiming to drop down to a deep station at CID North can be much less of a transfer hassle than the current design. If it’s built to allow continuing straight down Fifth or Sixth to Seneca where it would turn up to First Hill it can be right underneath the platform level of the existing tunnel. Sixth is better because the curve at Seneca can be gentler. Either street can have the tunnel just below the platform level (plus of course the thickness of the bottom of the station box and a few feet of burden), optimizing transfers.

        Glenn’s contribution to Ballard-Downtown was a different perspective, one I like a lot. There are some problems getting across the Ship Canal at Aurora that aren’t there at 14th or 15th, but it certainly serves more of the City well. So the right thing might have been to say something like, “I don’t know if you’re assuming the Expedia routing, Tom, but here’s a way to avoid a lot of the tunneling problems of that route: just continue straight north to Fremont and then go elevated to Ballard.”

        I did not actually specify the Expedia routing, though that’s implicit in “with an MF in Interbay”. I very much like going through Fremont and said so a few weeks ago, but something both of us need to answer is “where does the MF go” if the line goes through Fremont? It’s not so easy to site without that huge trailer parking lot west of Interbay Yard.

        Since WL’s contribution was mostly historic links, he’s kind of off the hook.

        This is why this Blog never seems to get anywhere, but instead goes round and round arguing about angels and heads of pins. Few people want to give anybody else credit for anything.

      2. Whoops, in the third paragraph, I the first sentence of I didn’t actually quote Glenn. It should have read:

        “Also, about the three lines in the tunnel he said first ‘If it were me, I’d run the existing Rainier Valley line to Northgate, to keep the existing through routing.’ Then he said ‘East Link trains should run all the way to Lynnwood.’ And finally he mentioned the Everett trains, saying ‘However, with only 16 trains an hour in the existing tunnel, there should be enough capacity to build a turnback track at Mt Baker and run the very few trains needed for Everett through the existing tunnel to that point. Or maybe Judkins Park?'”

        My apologies.

      3. The actual scholarly thing would be to attribute each of these ideas to the original comment/article where they were brought up, but that’s rather complicated without an indexing system.

        I like the idea of short automated trains for Ballard, but I’m not sure if that would completely eliminate the need for a preposterously deep and extremely huge excavated station at Westlake. It’s not clear which underground obstacles are driving this depth. Please see the illustration marked “Escalatorpalooza” here:
        to see just how deep and awful this station proposal is. Then imagine trying to use the station with 3/4 of the escalators not working…

        Anyway, last I checked, the stated purpose of ST3 was not to provide more escalators than actual rail transit, so what is planned really needs reconsideration, considering the actual landscape encountered.

        Also: about that whole “tunnel redundancy” thing they are using as an excuse: there should be buses on the surface to help with that through downtown. However, yesterday when I told Google maps to find me a route from Snohomish to King Street Station without Link, it told me the best option was the 512 to Northgate, and an hour long escapade through Ballard on the 40. To me, that indicates the real important piece that needs a good redundancy option is UW to downtown. It’s the key link that currently has no good backup surface option. The Westlake to SoDo
        second line does nothing to provide this connection.

      4. Glenn, your idea of quoting the first time an idea came up is great, especially when relating the history of a particular topic. i wish that “index” existed. However, I was suggesting giving recognition to what one likes about an idea to which one is directly replying, rather than constantly trying to reach the top of the greasy pole. Not you exclusively or even more than others. Pretty much everyone.

        Yes, it’s a geek guy “thing”, but a counter-productive one.

        The DSTT2 technical documentation states pretty clearly that the depth of New Westlake is dictated by 1) the need for Midtown to be deep enough to get down to either Fourth Avenue option at CID or the Deep Fifth, 2) the mythical “necessity” of a gentle curve to the north of the station into a straight north-south heading under or just east of Westlake, and 3) the “requirement” that the station be off-street.

        New Westlake’s two options have not changed even though Midtown is supposedly eliminated and the four CIDS options originally mooted have been eclipsed by “North of CID”, which will be “sort of deep” but nobody yet knows how deep.

        If the City would get over its vapors about digging decked stations and Skycastle will allow a not-very-tight but tighter curve into the Westlake ROW from Sixth Avenue, the station can straddle Pine under Sixth, allowing relatively short two- or three-section ramps up to the ends of both existing platforms. That’s a lot fewer than the six or seven proposed for Fifth Avenue New Westlake currently.

        The weight of the existing box means the new box can’t be right below the DSTT one, but it can be closer than Skycastle’s current designs, which have not changed even though Midtown supposedly has been eliminated.

        Presumably the trains would stop at the station, so they wouldn’t be going very rapidly through that tighter curve.

      5. @Glenn in Portland,

        “ Escalatorpalooza”

        Ya, I don’t know why they don’t horizontally displace the new DSRT2 station instead of vertically displacing it like in the Escalatorpalooza plan.

        Basically put the new station under Westlake Ave with the south end of the new platform about where the current streetcar stop is.

        You could build the new station using standard cut-and-cover methods. Low cost, low risk.

        The TBMs could pass under the existing station box without any issue because 5th Ave slopes downward to the west and the TBMs also descend while traveling to the east, giving increased clearance to the existing Westlake Station invert. There easily should be 20 ft of clearance, which is more than ST had when they passed under I-5 when building U-Link.

        Then you just SEM a ped tunnel between the two platforms. The distance between the 2 platforms would only be in the 400 to 500 ft range, just slightly longer than a 4-car Link train.

        Lower cost, lower risk, and ease of use for the traveling public. Seems like a win-win.

    2. If we have to build rail to West Seattle the obvious solution is to tie it into the existing line over at SODO and enter downtown using the existing tunnel. Anything else is spending way too much money. For Ballard, connecting a standalone line into the exiting tunnel at Westlake is probably infeasible, so the best solution is to just end the line at Westlake station and build and underground walkway between the lines for good transfers. This would result in a Westlake Station similar to ST’s current plans, even though DSTT2 south of Westlake would not be built. Of course, with no connection to SODO, the Ballard trains would need to be serviced with a separate O&M facility, which would presumably be built in Interbay. At some point in the future, an extension of the Ballard line to First Hill would be logical, but now you’re getting so far into the future that most of today’s STB commentators (even younger ones) would probably be dead by then.

      Of course, there are tradeoffs. Three lines in one tunnel might occasionally mean a train has to hold 30 seconds for a train in front of it during the busiest hours of the day. Ballard residents would also have to switch trains at Westlake to reach the south end of downtown or the airport. In exchange, you save a few billion dollars by deleting a mile of downtown tunnel with two giant underground stations, which might make the difference in whether enough money is available to get Link to Ballard at all, while also avoid adding additional transfers for Rainier Valley->UW trips.

      But, the big reason for not doing DSTT2 is really the money. If all the North King money gets spent on that, with West Seattle (for political reasons) getting priority for what’s left, Ballard could quite easily find itself getting the short end of the stick and having to take a bus to Smith Cove Station for decades to reach the train that was supposed to serve Ballard directly.

      1. The big reason to not do DSTT2 is because the current plan makes travel times much worse for a large number of people.

        I’ve taken Link from Northgate to Beacon Hill and seen the number of people that currently go all the way through downtown Seattle. Replacing that with 9 escalators makes their trip so much worse. The number of people doing this trip from U district to Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley is much more pronounced with so many downtown workers gone.

        I think the most important question to ask about West Seattle first is: where are the transit riders actually wanting to go?

        Because it might be worth considering making the junction to East Link and sending West Seattle trains there. It seems to me the Eastside is just as likely a destination as downtown Seattle, and a West Seattle to SoDo line transfer station wouldn’t be especially difficult, and such a line could provide a replacement for trains to do the southbound move currently proposed to use the CID center track.

        This increases the number of trains going to Bellevue, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Hell, maybe one day run them to Issaquah or Kirkland on that line?

    3. The original plan was for 1st Ave (rapid) streetcar to go to west Seattle. Option 2 of the below plan


      The west Seattle side isn’t too complicated. The hard thing is how to reach Ballard. And if it’s stub line where to put the operations and maintenance facility.

      Originally to reach Ballard it was at grade along westlake Ave/15th Ave plan 1 and 4 https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/ST3_Ballard_DtwnSeattle_11252015_11x17.pdf using 2-car train cars then it was going to be connected to west Seattle. Creating a Ballard to west Seattle line while link stayed as a Everett to Redmond and Lynnwood to Tacoma line.

    4. If it were me, I’d run the existing Rainier Valley line to Northgate, to keep the existing through routing. There’s a fair number of Rainier Valley to UW passengers that would be impacted by adding 15 minutes to their transit time through downtown. The current plan seems to be ≈7 -8 trains per hour on that line.

      East Link trains should run all the way to Lynnwood. That’s another ≈7-8 trains per hour.

      Everett Link as planned has really low ridership potential. I was just at SeaWay transit center. I was there for almost 20 minutes due to delayed Swift buses, and on a weekday ≈5:30 evening only about 5 people total used it. All were from other bus routes rather than walking from the Boeing building. So, I’d turn back those trains at Northgate.

      However, with only 16 trains an hour in the existing tunnel, there should be enough capacity to build a turnback track at Mt Baker and run the very few trains needed for Everett through the existing tunnel to that point. Or maybe Judkins Park?

      West Seattle: don’t build it / defer indefinitely. It’s too expensive and actually makes transit worse for a number of West Seattle locations.

      Ballard: the entire purpose of this line was basically because Expedia and Amazon wanted it. With the South Lake Union station now so expensive and deep that consideration is being given to skip that one, the entire thing needs to be reconsidered. What can actually be built, and where? Obviously somewhere along the way, someone skipped an evaluation of what other obstacles are already under ground. That part needs to happen first. What then gets built needs to depend on what can be done with those obstacles. It may be necessary to propose this as an elevated line or a surface line with shorter trains. It may not even be possible to build what they’ve proposed and wind up having to do something like Westlake – Fremont – Ballard due to the obstacles formed by the highway 99 tunnel.

    5. Any rail alternative to West Seattle ought to at least be better than the C and H Lines.

      A streetcar that runs along the west side of SODO and then 1st Ave lacks reasonable transfers to Stations from SODO to Pioneer Square. University Street would be the first reasonable transfer.

      I just don’t see the point of that line except to say West Seattle once again has a rail line.

      1. Any rail alternative to West Seattle ought to at least be better than the C and H Lines.

        Very well said, Brent. That’s the crux of it, and none is or could be.

        The bridge over the BNSF tracks creates a significant barrier to a transfer at SoDo. It’s less than the tracks themselves were pre-bridge but a pretty big hill. There is only a very convoluted path between Stadium and First Avenue which ends up being five blocks. There would likely not be a station on the West Seattle line at First and King, because there would be a shared one just north of Jackson. So the “nice” pathway along King and Weller Streets would remain mostly unused. People would be slogging along Jackson for those same five blocks. If a station on the CCC is sited at Yesler or Columbia, it would not be too bad to transfer between it and Pioneer Square Station, but yes, most people would probably use University / Seneca Street because of the Second Avenue entrance.

        It’s just too expensive for the ridership likely to be generated to go to West Seattle using any rail technology. If the WSJA would relent and allow genuine density there, it might make sense someday, but they like their single-level storefronts too much for that to happen.

      2. Yes, West Seattle rail has to be better than the C and H lines and they could be more frequent. SDOT has added the South Lander Street overcrossing; West Seattle bus routes could connect with Link at the SODO station; the network could use it more than just Route 50.

      3. A rail bridge to Seattle is useful only insofar as it provides a unique dedicated ROW for transit. If the long term vision is for the high vehicle bridge to go away, extending the streetcar could be compelling as the low drawbridge would be prohibitively congested. But if the C has good signal priority between WS and SoDo, it’s hard to see how a streetcar on 1st is any better than a bus on 3rd.

    6. The core issue with Downtown tunneling is a process one. There are never any studies that look at other solutions. As I’ve mentioned before, the Ballard to Downtown study in about 2013-14 stopped at Westlake while the West Seattle studies from 2015 put trains into the DSTT. DSTT2 was cooked up in Murray’s/ Kubly’s office — and it made it into ST3 with no detailed study. Pretty much all of the WSBLE problems can be tracked back to the rash DSTT2 decision in 2016 and the subsequent decision to not study any changes or alternatives to it. There was a refusal to even study serving Harborview in about 2019 (by moving Midtown a few blocks) only to see later in 2023 a new more inconsistent backroom idea created by Constantine and maybe Harrell getting adopted without any detailed study either. Now in 2023 there is this needless pressure to pick something out of feigned “urgency” rather than simply admit that ST has skipped a step and wasted seven years chasing a rainbow.

      All these plans ignore some very real issues like the ridiculous station depths and building owners having site specific issues from CID to Seattle Center. The fact that WSBLE is still being primarily planned either as a nuisance or a component of a larger real estate investment game — and not to maximize productivity (and the myriad of other benefits like greenhouse gas reductions and rider travel times and convenience ) — will always end up making things worse for riders because riders interests are not on the table. Instead, we get awful future underground rat passages to use full of more escalators and elevators. The lack of riders on the SF Central Subway is the latest example of how excessive station depths result in low usage.

      ST also made some silly promises about frequencies. Having trains that each carry 600-800 people run every 6 minutes peak all the way to Tacoma Dome, Downtown Everett, West Seattle and Downtown Everett is just not a good way to use train drivers given the low demand that in some cases go for up to 30 minutes of service just one way.

      From the demand numbers I see, there is no need to have any more than 6 trains an hour to West Seattle and Downtown Everett, and maybe only 6 trains an hour to Redmond, with 8-10 to Rainier Valley — which DSTT appears to be able to accommodate especially if it is fully automated. Even 25 or maybe even 30 trains per direction per hour are possible. I’m also skeptical of the ST overcrowding claim between Pioneer Square and CID as that assumes surges no longer happening (the surges were flattening even before Covid) as I’m betting those forecasted riders are coming from Metro buses on the surface anyway (and that the hassle of even using DSTT for such a short distance isn’t accurately reflected in the forecasts).

      From a rider’s perspective, building everything above or occasionally on the ground is the fastest and cheapest solution as well as puts platforms closest to the streets and shaves years off if construction time. (Many still don’t grasp how the station platforms being so deep are the same vertical distance as being up in the air 10-12 floors.) I realize that no one wanted to study tracks in the air in Downtown Seattle, but the ST3 tunneling challenges for tracks and stations would be easily resolvable and the ST3 station and track proposals could easily be kept.

      Over time, I’ve seen many solutions mentioned here that seem worthy of study. That includes a realistic assessment of a three line DSTT, a branch or transfer station to add a stub Ballard service ending at Westlake, an entirely aerial alternative, partial aerial alternatives in the CID or SLU with a much shorter and shallower tunnel, automated short trains, and leaving West Seattle and Tacoma trains in the DSTT and sending East Link to Ballard (lots of different alignments, station locations and vertical profiles possible).

      So I see the core problems are rushing to a design without the badly needed alternative studies, and never optimizing rider access and convenient transfers. And how the Board insists to not deviate from ST3 unless it involves an unstudied backroom deal AND someone other than riders has a big problem with it.

      It still amazes me to this day that no one asks ST to inform how many people are expected to transfer between each of the Link lines. ST has not provided this basic info anywhere in the WSBLE materials. No Board member asks for it. No group like Seattle Subway asks for it. And without understanding and analyzing basic demand we might as well let Amazon or a second grade classroom lay out our plans and spend our billions.

      1. ” Pretty much all of the WSBLE problems can be tracked back to the rash DSTT2 decision in 2016 and the subsequent decision to not study any changes or alternatives to it. “

        This isn’t exactly right. DSTT2 was in play long before that. For instance, the long range plan update process in 2014 featured a discussion about how to pay for regional assets for precisely this reason.

        But it’s right in another sense. DSTT2 was an ST4 or ST5 project. Nothing urgent. It was only when ST3 became a 25-year monster with debt capacity maxed out that all the half-baked stuff on somebody’s vision list got swept into the ballot measure.

        That’s how you got Issaquah rail, how you got a $1 billion slush fund for unspecified not-urgent Sounder improvements, and an inadequately thought through DSTT2. More money than time or budgetary discipline. Then it all goes sideways as the costs come in higher than the inadequate planning has predicted.

      2. So I see the core problems are rushing to a design without the badly needed alternative studies, and never optimizing rider access and convenient transfers.

        This exactly!!!!! Why can The Board not understand this? They are responsible for oversight of the expenditure of a Croesian amount of money over the next three decades (at a minimum). Who hypnotized them?

        Everything in ST3 needs to be re-evaluated and re-thought in the light of a post-pandemic Central Puget Sound. Demand needs to be measured more accurately, new technologies investigated, and default assumptions questioned.

        Thank you, Al, for a Great! summation.

      3. “Now in 2023 there is this needless pressure to pick something out of feigned “urgency” rather than simply admit that ST has skipped a step and wasted seven years chasing a rainbow.”

        That’s it in a nutshell.

  10. That post above by Jeff Pittman about the crowds being thin east of 3rd on Pine rubbed me the wrong way. In the last four or five times I’ve been there, my experience has been completely the opposite and it’s been like this for awhile now. I was just there at Chan Seattle (an awesome restaurant btw) in Paramount Hotel, and there were massive crowds on Pine from 3rd to 7th on a routine weekday. I could hardly push my stroller through the crowds. Progress is absolutely happening, so it’s very upsetting for me to see suburbanites who never come to the city anyway constantly shit on it. Basically spewing the same propaganda against the major anchor of your metro area. To what ends? And for someone who says they’ve been in Seattle for 7 decades, surely you know 3rd has been a shitshow far longer than recent trends.

    That said, we absolutely need to get rid of the loiters and addicts around 3rd. Make it a no go zone for them. Close those DESC shelters and put them on Aurora where they belong.

    1. Third Avenue has not always been the shitshow far longer than recent trends. It was a street where you didn’t have people laying on the sidewalk like they are today.

      And I am not a suburbanite as I live in NE Seattle and have done so over 60 years so I know what downtown Seattle was like and I clue you it was not like it is today. And how long have you lived here?

      1. Yeah, 1st Ave south of the market used to be homeless zoo… it’s moved around some over the years.

        Seattle’s big problems are, 1. No SRO hotels or crap housing left downtown for those bent on self destruction. 2. Fentanyl is cheaper than malt liquor or Night Train. There’s just nowhere affordable left where the dead-enders can quietly destroy themselves.

        I think we need to honest about much of the homeless population– the ones of just given up all hope and plan to stay high and drunk until they’re dead. Maybe tiny home villages where we hand out free booze and pills… with a huge fence around the damn think so they “clients” stop bothering the rest of us.

      2. Pittman is correct; I have the same Seattle span. Seattle and the other high value west coast cities are faced with a multifactor crisis, like a hydra, a nine-headed serpent (e.g., high rents, alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, broken families, etc.). When these spill onto our public spaces (e.g., sidewalks, bus stops, parks), we are in crisis. We do not have enough SPD officers, or enough Metro operators or mechanics, or social workers and mental health workers. we need lots of funding, land, and smarts. we need to be smart. The other west coast cities face the same crisis.

    2. I wish some would stop blaming “suburbia” (which includes about 90% of Seattle) for the decline of downtown Seattle.

      The Seattle Times is not Fox News. People have eyes. WFH would have occurred even if Seattle were safe and vibrant because who wants to waste two hours of their lives each day on packed transit going to an office?

      One of the huge problems with this blog is there are no women on it. Women don’t sit around all day typing about the minutiae of transit. But they do buy 90% of everything in the U.S.

      So they go someplace else they think is safer, has free parking, cleaner, has lots of other women and not a bunch of creepy men, and has retail density and vibrancy. Like U Village which is packed. If done right I think Northgate mall will be a big draw for those from U Dist. to Lynnwood, at the expense of downtown Seattle. These guys understand women.

      So what? If you like shopping and dining in downtown Seattle do that. No one in suburbia is telling you not to. Some urbanists who may have lived in this area for a few years suddenly think they are experts Re: downtown. Jeff has lived in this area for 7 decades, I have lived here for 6 and worked 5 days/week in downtown from 1988 to 2022 so don’t lecture me on downtown Seattle. My wife has lived in the Seattle area and shopped downtown since the 1980’s and lived for a few years below the Market.

      Harrell, the council, the DSA all know downtown has huge issues. Women don’t want to be sitting in their car and get shot in the head for no reason. That just doesn’t happen on the Eastside.

      The reality is downtown was built on Eastside money and workers which funded 2/3 of the city and much of the retail. People still shop and dine. The lack of obvious and free parking, lack of retail density, higher risk of danger, dirtier, simply make downtown uncompetitive with the demographic that matters but who are not on this blog: women.

      Lucky for Kemper Freeman, the owners of U Village, Simon
      Properties, Issaquah. No one owes downtown Seattle shit. Even if it were clean and safe — which it isn’t — the forced traffic congestion, lack of free parking, lack of retail density and vibrancy, and just lack of normal people on the streets because going out is a social event in the days of Amazon and Door Dash make downtown less competitive than the options.

      The loss of the commuter/transit slave exposed some real problems with transit and downtown. Some can put their head in the sand, or think suburbanites are sitting around slamming downtown (when the press does it every day) but the reality is just like those former transit riders that was the past, and folks have moved on to places where they are actually treated like customers and don’t even think about the past. Even before Covid ridership on the 550 declined 33% and 17%on the 554 because the stops were now on downtown streets.

      There is a shit load of money in this region and that money knows this region and Seattle as well as anyone on this blog and they simply find the retail experiences in places other than downtown Seattle better.

      That’s it. They are taking their money someplace else they find more convenient, better and free parking (because folks with a shit load of money don’t ride transit), safer, cleaner, with denser and more vibrant retail.

      That’s it. Make downtown like that and they may come back, but the traffic congestion and lack of free and obvious parking means downtown will have to be a BETTER not worse retail experience.

      But if the region’s anchor Nike store is moving from 6th to FACTORIA I suggest downtown advocates take a long look in the mirror before blaming others for choosing a better retail experience. Some want to make it personal. Just the opposite.

      1. I posted earlier that it’s likely in the future, Sound Transit will run more trains from Tacoma to SeaTac airport than Pierce Transit runs buses to Tacoma Mall. Taking the bus to the Mall (or downtown Tacoma) is a short, easy trip….. it’s something my Mrs. will do. Going to airport? Call Lyft.

        Light rail from Tacoma to Seattle? Just dumb. There’s buses for that already. The trouble with the light rail shitshow is it’s going to be a milk run with stops all the way to downtown. S-L-O-W. and the train is going to be packed when it finally gets downtown. Light rail from Tacoma will never beat a bus, traffic be damned.

      2. Conclusion: Daniel Thompson believes the solution for Seattle downtown is to demolish every other building to replace with free surface parking lots for the remaining buildings, and maybe demolish some entire blocks on top of that so that streets can be widened. When all is said a down, what’s left of downtown is basically a few big event sites, separated by acres and acres of roads and parking, as far as the eye can see.

        Unfortunately, lots of cities tried this in the 1960’s, and it made their downtowns worse, not better. What’s the point of even having a downtown if it’s going to be nothing but roads and parking lots, empty for all but a few hours a year when there’s an event.

      3. “Women don’t want to be sitting in their car and get shot in the head for no reason. That just doesn’t happen on the Eastside.”

        You mean like the drive-by shooting in Bellevue a couple weeks ago?

        According to reports, there’s about 10-12 homeless people on Mercer Island, either living in cars or in various hidden ravines, etc. This is despite the effort at pushing people into the shelters in Bellevue and Kirkland.

        The Nike store moving is hardly surprising. Overpriced shoes with a celebrity name, when an equivalent is available (that probably came from the same Chinese factory) at Big 5 for ¼ the price, only appeals to a certain group. If someone really wants Nike shoes in downtown Seattle there’s several other stores that sell them. Sports brands across the country are closing their brand stores, and Nike is just one of many that are retrenching. Of course they would close a high rent location.

        So other than the fact national retail trends also impact Seattle, I’m not sure what the Nike store moving really indicates.

        There’s several vacant storefronts in Friday Harbor now too. Ideal locations, but according to those I’ve talked to, the rents are too high for anyone to want to move in. There are no piles of drug users on the sidewalks there. It’s just real estate speculators doing their thing and not caring about the broader impact the vacancies have on the surrounding area, which ultimately makes their return slower. I would not be surprised if Seattle has that going on as well with some of these vacancies.

      4. “One of the huge problems with this blog is there are no women on it. Women don’t sit around all day typing about the minutiae of transit.”
        Decent amount of trans women I know personally talk about issues like this. Either because they are part of the urbanist movement or because they rely on it everyday out of necessity. Just because you don’t see them here doesn’t mean they don’t exist on other forums of discussion or platforms. I see many women and trans women on my socials who are talking about this topic either frequently or occasionally.
        Because younger people have in larger numbers compared to previous generations have abstained from car ownership either for a longer period of time or more permanently. So, no, this notion you make that women aren’t talking about this topic is just off base. Just because it’s not happening in your own personal social circle doesn’t mean it’s not happening elsewhere in orher people’s personal social circles.

        I’d add that women according to APTA make up 55% of transit riders compared to 45% for men. Some food for thought.

      5. Many people live in Seattle because they DON’T want to shop in places like the Bellevue Collection or U-Village or Niketown. They want smaller independent places, more walkable, without a sea of parking lots or stroads around them. U-Village is an outpost of a suburban shopping mall and chain stores. So if you say more of Seattle should be like U-Village, you’re arguing for the shrinkage of what makes Seattle unique — and no I don’t mean the number of druggies passed-out on sidewalks. I mean the hopeful things that draw people to Seattle. Not Bellevue Square shoppers making a detour to U-Village, who will accept nothing other than national chain stores they see on TV, but other middle-class people who live in Rainier Valley or Wallingford or Ballard because it’s unlike areas outside Seattle. Seattle needs to become the best Seattle, not a copy of Bellevue or Kirkland or Renton. There’s already Bellevue and Kirkland and Redmond. There’s no other Seattle unless you go hundreds of miles away to Vancouver, Chicago, Minneapolis, or San Francisco. And living in Vancouver requires going through Canadian immigration and things.

      6. Tacomee, a few things to consider.

        One, Sound Transit would not exist without a commitment for light rail service to Tacoma. Pierce County support was instrumental in the creation of the RTA, and it was pushed through the WA House with decisive leadership from Tacomans like Ruth Fisher. If you don’t have Tacoma light rail service, then you lose Ms. Fisher. Whether it was the best use of funds or not, it was always coming.

        Two, light rail service to Tacoma is one of the few repeatedly affirmed Sound Transit projects for local voters dating back to the beginning. While local voters (appropriately) said no to ST3, they have always been bullish on extending light rail to Pierce County (ST1 and ST2, with their more refined project scopes, were approved locally; 2014 polls showed very strong support for light rail to Tacoma).

        Three, the Pierce County/Tacoma light rail extension was chiefly promoted for its service to Federal Way and SeaTac, for which the railway can be time-competitive and beneficial.

        The real trouble with Pierce County light rail—in the sense that it is actually avoidable—is that decades of inaction and political malaise now mean that Tacoma Link is on-track to never be integrated into the regional Link spine. This is despite the fact that Tacoma Link was approved by the voters, sent through the EIS process, designed, and built to be the southern end of the line. Not even Seattle Subway recognizes Tacoma Link as the genuine light rail extension that it is, despite its connection to a dominant regional center—and they paint railway lines everywhere.

        The legislative resources of Pierce County were not marshalled for light rail transit to bypass the heart of its biggest city fifty years later (and to permanently complicate transit planning there).

        The situation is bothersome when you reflect on the attention given to Seattle stations and alternative alignments by Pierce County subarea board members. Tacoma Link, by contrast, which physically exists as a down payment starter line, dies on the vine as an overbuilt street railway.

        Next up: light rail to Dupont!

      7. “The real trouble with Pierce County light rail—in the sense that it is actually avoidable—is that decades of inaction and political malaise now mean that Tacoma Link is on-track to never be integrated into the regional Link spine.”

        Do you mean the transfer distance between the Tacoma Dome Link station and the Tacoma Dome T-line station? That’s a design issue. ST should have designed it better, and Tacoma/Pierce should have made sure of it, but that’s not “decades of inaction”, it’s inattention for a couple years during design.

        Or what else do you mean? More T-line lines/extensions? (The original plan envisioned six lines or so.) But who could have paid for it, when all of Pierce’s ST contribution is going to Tacoma Dome Link, Sounder, and a few smaller things. It would have had to have given up one of those things for more T-line service. Or fund the T-lines via Pierce Transit or some other way. And Pierce Transit has found it difficult to pass an expansion measure, even for just regular bus service.

      8. Mike,

        My “real trouble” comment is concerned with how Tacoma Link—the integral component of the light rail line to Tacoma—is no longer planned to be folded into the regional light rail system. The process through which that shift occured did take decades, and it is the consequence of changes in political leadership, confusion, shifting goals, and the loss of institutional knowledge.

        Click on my highlighted name to see how I suggest resolving the local railway planning matters. There is a whole report there. Basically, I seek the resurrection and modernization of original long range plans produced by a Pierce County, City of Tacoma, and Sound Transit.

      9. @Troy,

        Tacoma Link was never planned to be part of the greater Light Rail system. NEVER. At least not in any voter approved tax package. There has been no change.

        Tacoma Link is a streetcar system. It has value, but it is not full light rail like 1-Link. They only called it “Link” so people in Tacoma wouldn’t feel like 2nd Class citizens.

        It’s marketing. Don’t be fooled.

      10. Lazarus, if I hadn’t already written a 13,000 word history on the railway—heavily supported by citations and interviews with key people who helped deliver it—I would elaborate on the ways in which your post is dead wrong.

        Instead, just click on my name.

      11. Please start a new thread for a Central Link Tacoma Downtown extension, with a link to your article. It will get too big if we continue in a subthread.

      12. Mike,

        That the Tacoma Link Light Rail project was built to be something other than a local streetcar line is bewildering to people, elected officials included. It is a hurdle to even confront that baked-in bias. As project documents are largely unavailable on the Internet (e.g., to avoid paying a high ST fee, I had to scan the Tacoma Link FEIS at my local library to make it available online), the original goals of light rail to Tacoma are largely forgotten. My work has aimed to change that.

        To then address the prospect of tying the lines together once and for all—even though my work is principally a resurrection and modernization of original Sound Transit plans and estimates—causes eye rolls and doubt.

        At the very least, I hope my efforts introduce skepticism toward the local transit planning processes and plans. Pierce County is not being well served by transit, and it can largely blame itself for that.

      13. Troy, that’s a great write up. Thank you for doing all the hard work of citations & screen shots.

        I’m now freshly baffled why TDLE isn’t an extension of T-Link to FW, rather than C-Link from FW to TD … given the cost headwinds, that should be a straightforward cost savings, as a whole station is removed from the project (and the alignment can still be fully grade separated east of TD). A Link line from Tacoma Dome to the Mall can still be fully baked into the LRP, it would just be a streetcar rather than a light metro.

        The streetcar presumably have a lower top end speed (relevant for the long stretch from Fife to SFW), but that could be mitigated by a much improved frequency as the single car streetcar would be more right-sized to the projected ridership?

      14. @Troy,

        I did follow your link, but I stand by my comments,

        I know this is the era of the great conspiracy theory, but there is no conspiracy here. The simple truth is that T-Link has not been built to Link Light Rail standards, and was never intended to be. Or at least it wasn’t intended to be after ST1 passed. Sorry, but them are the facts.

        T-Link is the downgrade Tacoma got when the Pierce County residents told their elected officials they wanted a smaller tax package in exchange for more of their votes for ST1. If there is any “blame” here, it is that the rural areas insisted on a smaller package, and insisted on sub-area equity. The combo left places like Pierce County with smaller revenue and smaller projects. Hence T-Link, because Tacoma can’t afford true Light Rail at the tax rates they are willing to support. And they probably don’t need it.

        So is T-Link convertible to true 1-Link LR? Sort of, but only in the exact sense of a bike lane being “convertible” to BRT. A bike lane actually can be converted to BRT, but really a better term is “replaced”. It’s called starting over.

        T-Link is basically a streetcar. It is not going to became true LR for a very, very, long time. And probably never.

        I suspect we will see self flying hydrogen powered AI taxis first.

        But streetcars, and T-Link, actually aren’t bad. I think T-Link will serve Tacoma well, and I intend to make a special trip down there in a few months to check out the new extension when it opens. Too bad Tacoma couldn’t keep the Swiss going. What a shame.

      15. Lazarus, Tacoma Link can host Central Link operations with well understood modifications. They are not particularly major changes either (for example, extend two existing platforms that can support a greater length and add a planned parallel track, etc). Everyone knows the railway was not built to Link standards—for it predates those—which is why the conversion work is necessary. None of the work required to integrate Tacoma Link compares in scope to the giant schemes proposed (and approved) in Seattle, nor even the programmed rail extension to the Tacoma Mall. It’s rather straightforward because Tacoma Link already exists, and resolving the tram issue eliminates most of the technical feasibility issues.

        It is helpful to note that the action that appears to have destined Tacoma Link to being only a streetcar line was that Sound Transit chose to piggy-back on an existing tram order in the 1990s to avoid solo contracting delays. That order happened to be for smaller vehicles than those adopted years later for Central Link, but are common elsewhere (I presume that the order was for Portland, but I am unsure of specifics). It dictated the locally unique platform geometry. If Tacoma Link trams had been of a regional standard as originally conceived, we would be having very different conversations about rail system expansion here.

        My work is not rooted in conspiracy, nor do I ever claim one occurred. Instead, light rail planning in Pierce County has just sort of evolved, largely due to inaction within a larger holding pattern. That’s resulted in updates to the long range plan that have moved the goalposts, but they don’t change the fact that Tacoma Link exists to be the terminal southern end of the Link spine.

        Our area just sort of forgot about the investment and why it made it. The City of Tacoma went from: rail systems integration is de facto city policy and the formal recommendation of its staff, to: we accept light rail ending at Tacoma Dome. That’s a big shift in thinking, one that is the result of passing time, rotating leadership, and a lack of memory. Maybe cynicism, too. There never was a decision made about Tacoma Dome being the city’s principal light rail station. It just happened, a consequence of a transit planning vacuum after ST2.

        ST3 has funded a railway that should finally reach the Tacoma city limits. Those conversations that Pierce County punted back in 2005 are now valid subjects of debate once more. And we should be having those conversations: how should Pierce County and Tacoma be served by rail?

        Well, in my opinion, it is an easy answer. If light rail must go to Tacoma, it should end in its city center, as has been planned since the 1980s.

      16. @Troy,

        “ Tacoma Link can host Central Link operations with well understood modifications. They are not particularly major changes either”

        Ah, no, that is a fundamentally false statement.

        T-Link and 1-Link are fundamentally different in design. T-Link streetcars are narrower, 30% shorter per vehicle, aren’t designed to run in 4-car trains, have a 50% lower max speed, have a significantly tighter turning radius, and their operating voltage is roughly half that of 1-Link. Oh, and don’t forget, the structural limit weight to which the line was built is also significantly lower than what is required to support 1-Link.

        Stated another way, to run 1-Link into DT Tacoma would take a complete rebuild.

        And this was all done by design starting with ST1 in 1996. This was not done as a result of a lack of direction or because ST piggybacked on Portlands streetcar order.

        But hey, Tacoma at least gets an extension to their streetcar which opens fairly soon, and there are more extensions being discussed. Seattle should take note. Their is a role out there for streetcars, and both Portland and Tacoma are leading the way.

      17. Instead of a back and forth about details and history that are clearly laid out in (now) publicly available documents, I will just encourage people to review the article and the changes needed to integrate the two railways.

        The Tacoma Link guideway was constructed with heavy duty sub-components that can support regional (Siemens/Kinki) trams.

      18. In Tacoma and elsewhere, ST has misused the power of Link; they have focused on the regional intercity spine; it is actually best at connecting dense urban pedestrian-oriented centers where surface transit is slow and unreliable. Everett, Tacoma, and Seattle are far apart. They each should have excellent transit within their centers. The same mode need not be used for all three. If Link is to reach Tacoma, it should serve downtown Tacoma. If the Link spine is to reach Everett, must if have scoliosis and serve Boeing? If Link is to connect Tacoma and SeaTac, why not improve Route 574 today and make it more direct and frequent? In between the three centers, Link is too often in freeway envelopes; freeways are to pedestrians as dams are the fish.

    3. AJ, it never went beyond the preliminary planning stage as Joni Earl came to Tacoma and said pick one for ST2: extend Central Link toward Pierce County or convert Tacoma Link to the regional standard—the subarea can’t afford to do both. So, the subarea punted the conversion to a later date. It’s been focused on the extensions ever since.

      Sometime around 2008 to 2014, it became incorrect common knowledge that Tacoma Link was exclusively a streetcar line with fundamentally incompatible infrastructure and technology.

      I would be less concerned if the regional railway was just ending at Tacoma Dome. However, our subarea has proposed a far more complicated railway to the Tacoma Mall, and that is absolutely not better than integrating Tacoma Link.

      1. I get the frustration with T-Link not being used. I am frustrated that ST has not even considered a level cross platform transfer for T-Link and 1 Line.

        However, taking an armchair look at what what the right technology is for Pierce County rail connections I feel that it’s neither streetcar (T-Line) or light rail (1 Line).

        Except for Downtown Tacoma, Pierce County is pretty spread out. It’s going to take a rider something like 20 minutes to go to Tacoma Dome from Federal Way with only three station stops in between — with a long travel .gap between South Federal Way and East Tacoma with just one stop in that 15 minute stretch.

        I don’t see more infill stations on TDLE either. Milton maybe but that is about it.

        T-Line won’t go faster.

        What’s needed is something like a battery EMU that has a 70 mph or 80 mph max speed. The EMU could hopefully also maybe run on Sounder tracks to DuPont. Even with a transfer time at a place like South Federal Way, the EMU would not only get to Tacoma Done faster and it would be easier and cheaper to extend. The technology is so much more appropriate when station stop spacing is mostly over 2 or 3 miles.

        Check out Arrow or Sprinter in California or some of the Denver area lines.

      2. AJ, I agree that Tacoma and Pierce County are not well served by light rail or streetcar. Busline upgrades and BRT are the path forward.

        Of course, as light rail and streetcars are coming our way, more of it has been approved, and because they have substantial impacts on the workings of the local transit network, Pierce County needs to consider the long range development of these systems and how they support the existing transit network.

        The ongoing struggle of where to center the bus network—at a park and ride in an industrial area (Tacoma Dome) or the established urban core of Tacoma—is a good example of the implications.

  11. I have seen most of the video headings. The only one I have watched so far is the Keri Pratt video. I intend to watch all of them. I saw this one about 7 days ago. I was on YouTube and typed in Link Light Rail. And filtered videos only from this week. (Last week). I saw 3 videos showing the violence on light rail last week. Almost turned off my phone but decided to scroll down just a couple more videos. I decided to watch this one. I like to see an outsider view on our city. It is entertaining and important. I have lived in Seattle over 50 years. My opinions are educated, based on lifetime experiences, and last of all, and most accurately, very very biased. It is nice to see other’s view of my home from a traveling visiter’s point of view. Even if I might not agree with all the different travelers’ views on it. No examples in this vodeo. These are fun to watch. In Keri’s experience, I was surprised how many round trip Link rides she took between Seatac and Downtown Seattle. I think 4 times in 58 hours. I live here. I don’t do that. It is too bad that tourists won’t explore on a bus like they do on rail systems. But that is a different issue.

    I think Sam pointed out this same video a few days prior. His comments are worth a reread.

    1. Keri Pratt’s video was first found by Sam and posted in a comment in the last open thread. I reposted it here because we’ve been keenly interested in how transit and the city held up during Taylor Swift weekend. I don’t go looking for visitors’ reports so I don’t see them, but if anyone finds any that are especially representative of all of them, by all means post them and we can see what outsiders’ impressions are.

  12. Received an email from ST encouraging fans who are attending the Seahawks game tonight who will be riding light rail NB after the game to board at Pioneer Station and that they will have additional trains ready there to pick up passengers so there will be room to ride.

    Smart move to discourage those passengers from boarding at Stadium station and then having to change at Pioneer Station. Now how many passengers will go to Pioneer Station is unknown but at least ST is trying to stay ahead of the situation.

    1. A really, last night I received free seats to the game. So I’ll be there, and I had already planned on walking up to PSS after the game and boarding there. Thought I was being clever, but looks like ST spilled the beans on my plan. Will be fun to see how many other people do the same,

      Good job ST.

    2. If Sound Transit really wants to encourage people to walk to Pioneer Square station to ride the train north, email isn’t good enough. They need actual signs on the ground.

      1. @asdf2,

        Just got home from the game and got everything put away.

        Rode Link both ways and the bulk of the people seemed to be taking ST’s advice. Either they figured it out in their own (as did I), or they actually received the advice from ST. It actually worked pretty well.

        Kudos to ST.

  13. When are the new keepers of this blog going to fix the posting issues? It’s rather annoying.

    1. Do you mean the long delay after pressing Post? That happens to me too when editing articles. It appears to be a WordPress or hosting issue. I’ve told Frank about it. He was hoping an update would fix it but it didn’t. Neither I nor Ross can do anything about it, and Frank doesn’t know what it is or what to do.

      1. For whatever it’s worth, I get a “double post” message every time I comment. So it’s not just a delay, it’s a delay due to a double post hidden somehow inside the form code.

    2. The comments post immediately. But you have to go to the post again to see that.

      It is the session resets that test our patience.

      1. I think you’re experiencing the same thing I am: that when you press Post Comment, the comment is registered immediately, but the requests hangs for a minute or three before showing it. If you open another tab in the meantime and go to the article URL, the new comment is there. The same kind of thing happens with editing articles, when I save a draft or preview or publish or when it autosaves. I can still type while it’s autosaving, but it won’t register until after it finishes and either it autosaves again or I press a button. That adds significant time to previewing and publishing an article, because I need to check all the links and read the preview but I have to wait for it to take its own sweet time. That’s one reason they aren’t published as quickly as I intended.

        I haven’t seen the “duplicate comment” message Anonymouse is getting, at least not regularly. I get it every couple months, and that hasn’t increased.

      2. To avoid having to wait for the reset, right-click on the link being tested, and select “Open in new tab.”

  14. So when is the royal brougham work now scheduled to be done so they can move on to replacing tiles at the south end?

    1. Today!

      The Pioneer Square do-si-do ends tonight. The tiles start tomorrow. Frequency increases from 20 minutes to 12 minutes tomorrow.

    2. I finally got to check out the Pioneer Square transfer mess.

      The extra-long headway was due to the trains waiting a few minutes in PSS for riders to cross over above and get to the other train.

      This has all happened before. And it will happen again, and again, and again.

      But once the 2 Line crosses Lake Washington, the split used this past week won’t work at all. Nor will the longer headways planned for this week work without similarly lengthening headways on the 2 Line.

      ST will need to try to contain impacts within a shorter section of a line, rather than impacting the trips of large swaths of the ridership.


      There were work-arounds ST could have employed last week, such as having a bridge train just going back and forth between ID/CS and Westlake — so three trains could be moving between the switch south of Stadium Station and the switch north of Westlake at once — to avoid impacts to the majority of riders not traveling south of Westlake or north of ID/CS, and offset the trains so that the train a passenger is transferring to pulls up shortly after the passenger crosses over above. Or choose USS as the north transfer station if the timing works out better. 10-minute headway might have been kept along the whole line, limiting the impact to just the passengers riding between north of downtown and south of downtown, adding about 12 minutes to such trips (due to slowing trains down when they go through the switch), and riders partially traversing downtown (6 minutes extra travel time). That 6 minutes was roughly the average impact imposed for the past week on all riders not crossing over at Pioneer Square. For riders crossing over, the impact was ca. 13 minutes on average.

      All riders suffered more crowded trains (though many found alternatives), and capacity was cut by half off-peak and 60% during peak.

      1. “The extra-long headway was due to the trains waiting a few minutes in PSS for riders to cross over above and get to the other train.”

        The Times article ($) said that wouldn’t happen this time:

        “The Pioneer Square switcheroo will be similar to early May, when trains detoured around a punctured ceiling section at Westlake Station. But arrivals won’t be synchronized this time, so some people might wait a minute, while others wait 12-plus minutes after taking an escalator climb and mezzanine walk between boarding platforms at Pioneer Square.”

        How long did the train wait? I could see it waiting 3-5 minutes because practically all trains do at their termini (e.g., Northgate and Angle Lake). If it remained idle 12 minutes, then I’d wonder if they were being synchronized after all. ST’s announcements were coy about this, saying passengers should expect to wait up to 11-12 minutes but not saying whether the transfers would be timed. So I don’t know what Lindblom based his statement on, although I trust him to fact-check. Still, ST could have changed the pattern afterward. It made at least two changes after the initial announcements, and one after transfers started. Trains were initially going to be every 15 minutes, than that changed to 20 minutes. (They were 30 minutes for a partial day, but that was due to signal issues I understand.)

      2. Both trains I saw at Pioneer Square waited about four minutes for each other’s passengers, gave final warnings that the doors were closing, then moved.

        Several signs said trains would come every 15 minutes. Others said 20.

        Trains can wait several minutes at Angle Lake and Northgate because the next train can pull into the other track.

        ST has room to install a switch south of ID/CS. I’m not sure whether the 2 Line will have a switch somewhere between Judkins Park Station and ID/CS.

        An agency capable of installing side platforms instead of center platforms in above-grade stations is capable of many more catastrophic freshman engineering mistakes. I hope they have studied how Vancouver handles track closures.

      3. “But once the 2 Line crosses Lake Washington, the split used this past week won’t work at all. ”

        ST does not seem to be developing longer-term strategies for maintenance closures other than say to riders “Deal with it!”

        It’s particularly concerning to me about tile closures. I’ve lived in light rail cities for 33 years of my life — and ST is the only agency I’ve ever seen doing two-week service reductions for station tile placement. Other cities figure out how to do it over a weekend or overnight or whatever.

        I see it as a systemic management problem. If ST recruited more experienced operations staff from other systems they would think of less disruptive ways to do these things. Then, ST needs to invest in better contingency planning as well as things like strategically add more crossover tracks and crossover platforms that can be occasionally used. But that’s not going to happen until the systemic institutional arrogance gets addressed.

        It’s like watching a small school football star arrogantly thinking they are the greatest — but then they perform poorly at a national all-star game because they never have been challenged at a more advanced level. Handling two lines and riders on trains every four minutes is one of those “advanced levels”.

      4. I’m not sure whether the 2 Line will have a switch somewhere between Judkins Park Station and ID/CS.

        2 Line has a long third track and switches just west of Judkins Park:


        You can use the satellite view to look for switches along the line. There are a handful between Judkins and S. Bellevue, as well.

  15. The Waterfront Shuttle is back, but really, we need a permanent route through either the waterfront or 1st Ave. Back before the pandemic, the Urbanist ran an article about options Metro was considering: https://www.theurbanist.org/2019/01/24/metro-studies-how-to-better-serve-the-waterfront-and-belltown/ . New trolley wires would need to be installed, but this is way cheaper than CCC.

    Since CCC will likely remain vaporware, we should re-route Rt 1 back to 1st Ave. It will provide much needed public transit access to the waterfront section of Belltown and connect 1st Ave from the ferry terminal to Seattle Center.

    1. “Another option is to move the alignment of Routes 1 and 14. These routes normally operate as trolleybuses through Downtown Seattle, with Route 1 continuing to Uptown and Queen Anne and Route 14 to Judkins Park, Leschi, and Mount Baker. Moving these routes off of Third Avenue to First Avenue would require adding new overhead catenary wire. A small gap of First Avenue lacks overhead catenary wire between Broad Street and Virginia Street (a total of 0.6 miles).

      “Routes 1 and 14 currently operate every 15 minutes at peak hours and every 20 to 30 minutes at off-peak times. This frequency would likely be retained if the routes moved. Metro estimates that the new wire would cost somewhere between $1 million and $4 million to complete. The operational cost, however, would be marginal over today.”

      For just $4M (to wire 0.6miles of the missing trolley wire on 1st Ave) we can achieve most of what CCC will do at much faster speed. In fact it will be better than CCC since it will connect to Seattle Center/CPA and also disrupt 1st Ave businesses for far less duration.

      1. I believe two things are preventing Metro from considering moving routes to 1st Ave. The first is the possibility of the CCC someday happening. And the second is 1st Ave buses usually had to split the lanes, which isn’t ideal. I imagine bus drivers who didn’t do that took off a lot of mirrors and opening doors.

        Example of why a bus would take up two lanes on 1st Ave rather than driving in the right lane:


    2. Another solution…

      If enough new vehicles can be purchased, I would consider extending RapidRide G up First Avenue to Seattle Center. No wires needed! Median First Ave stations northward through Belltown (remove some on street parking)! More level boarding stops for RapidRide G Downtown! Extending a project already given other FTA funds by simply changing mode in grant from streetcar to BRT (maybe no need to return funds)!

    3. It’s worth mentioning that even if you ignore the cost of trolley wire, moving route 1 to 1st Ave. does have tradeoffs, which could leave some riders worse off. For example, people that currently ride route 1 to points east of 3rd Ave. would have to walk two additional blocks, as would people riding route 1 to connect to Link. (From Lower Queen Anne, they could take a different bus instead, but not from the route 1 tail up the hill). It would reduce the number of bus options for people waiting at 3rd and Pine for whichever bus will take them to Lower Queen Anne first, slightly increasing wait times. Another problem is that 3rd Ave. has bus lanes, but 1st Ave. does not, so if the 1 were moved to 1st, anybody riding the 1 downtown would not have to sit in traffic with the cars, unless bus lanes on 1st were added, which might be difficult to justify just for route 1, alone.

      So the question is, will the move allow route 1 to pick up enough riders from people on or west of 1st in Belltown in order to compensate for people traveling between Queen Anne and downtown shifting to other routes, due to route 1 no longer being part of a high-frequency spine and no longer having dedicated bus lanes through Belltown and downtown. My intuition is that route 1 ridership is probably pretty light regardless, and the move would simply be a trade between a few riders in one group vs. a few riders in another group. In which case, the tie presumably goes to the solution that does a little better on the coverage department. But, then you have to ask, is this coverage improvement worth enough to justify the cost of all that new trolley wire on 1st Ave. And, with the cost of labor and bus operations getting higher and higher every year, I’m not sure it is.

      1. The cost is only $4M as most of 1st Ave has the trolley wires already, just a small section in Belltown do not.

        There are plenty of buses that go from 3rd/Pine to LQA. Rapidline D, 2, 13 also go through same path. It’s incredibly redundant and already has high frequency.

    4. The waterfront shuttle may be back, but last week I only saw one stop. I knew they were operating because I saw a few operating on Monday as they came into King Street Station and got stuck in the idiocy of trying to turn around in that mess.

      I wound up just walking from the D though the sculpture park along the waterfront to King street. I only saw one of the buses and it was headed northbound.

    5. The South Lake Union Streetcar was a mistake pushed by one man, who has joined the departed. Putting red lanes down Westlake for buses would have enabled SDoT and Metro to add buses at will.

      The First Hill Streetcar became a multi-modal Reclaim-Our-Streets project, with the streetcar sometimes as an afterthought. Fleet was clearly an afterthought, since we can’t even get 10-minute all-day headway. A RapidRide line and red paint would have done the job better, with fleet flexibility to get up to 4-minute peak headway.

      I know of only one way to rescue these investments, and that is to build the First Ave Streetcar, order enough vehicles to get the whole line up to 4-minute peak headway, with extra vehicles for spare ratio, and design the car barn to be large enough for this enlarged fleet.

      If the City isn’t willing to go that big, then I’m not sure what the point is.

    1. Agreed.

      The last time I checked the FTA CIG Dashboard, this Small Starts Grant-funded project sponsored by SDOT still showed the grant ($75M) award date as “TBD”.

      This ill-conceived project has been in limbo for so long I would hazard to guess that the vast majority of folks who have ever reviewed any of the submitted items have moved on to greener pastures, as it were.

  16. We’re now in phase 5 of Link’s August-September reductions. The Pioneer Square universal transfer is supposedly gone. Trains are running every 12 minutes (instead of 8-10), and are single-tracked between Othello and Rainier Beach stations full time until September 3.

    There was a question about whether it was partial days, but if you go to the article, click “More Details on phases 1-5”, and open the Link Light Rail dropdown, it says all times.

    1. Make it every 15 minutes as I received an email from ST with that information. So we go from 12 to 15 minutes and the way ST does things that before this project is completed it will be more than likely be every 20 minutes.

      ST comes across as an organization where you wonder does anyone there know what they are doing.

      1. After avoiding Link like the plague for over a week, I tried it yesterday (when I didn’t need to be at my destination at any particular time). I arrived somewhat before 4PM to a fairly full platform at Westlake, and waited for 12 minutes for a northbound train. The crowd may have doubled as I waited. The train was heavily loaded.

        Recognizing that extrapolation is pretty inexact in this situation, but doing it anyway, I’d guess that headways were 20-30 minutes. Not good.

        Has anyone else dared to try it this week? What were your guesses as to ACTUAL frequency?

      2. @FBD

        I used it 2 days heading north, though I got off at CID before the Pioneer Square transfer. It seemed to take around 10 minutes?

        I do find it odd though that the live tracking of link trains on google maps/onebusaway seems to have broke though. (While the bus tracking still works)

      3. FWIW Pantograph yesterday showed a couple of trains (at least at times), but definitely not anywhere near all of them. It’s not showing any today, as of the last time I checked.

        Given that, I wonder if the problem is difficulty in relating/assigning a particular train to a particular “block” (i.e., a segment of the schedule operated by a particular train – or bus). OBA, Pantograph, etc., use the data for the assigned block to determine how late or early the train or bus is running. A train I noticed on Pantograph yesterday was indicated as running extremely late. Maybe the applications don’t show vehicles which cannot be related to a defined block?

      4. @FBD

        My best guess is that they had trouble submitting a new GTFS schedule/real time data to account for the turn around, so they just turned it off?

      5. I was in Seattle yesterday and could have taken Link, but in light of the service disruptions, opted for the bike instead. Was glad I did, the weather for biking was just perfect.

  17. What was people’s experience with the Pioneer Square transfer pattern this time? I’m surprised so few people commented on it. Did most people avoid Link during that period so they have no experience to tell? I was going to go down there to see how well it was working, but then the heatwave hit and I didn’t want to go out until it was over.

    When I heard Link had been further reduced to 20 minutes (and one day 30 minutes), I stopped using Link. For short trips within the UDistrict-SODO area it seemed better to take a 15-minute bus than a 20-minute train. And for my periodic park walks, I avoided locations that would require Link or a 40-minute bus ride. If ‘d been going further further like to Northgate or the airport I might have taken Link anyway. (I think the closest downtown-Northgate bus alternative now is the 49/70+67 or the 40, now that the 16/26 is gone. And the 40 is definitely worse than waiting 20-30 minutes for Link.)

    So I predict Link’s ridership will be way down during the Pioneer Square transfer period.

    1. I avoided Link personally. I had to travel from the north end to the airport. I was hesitant to deal with stairs or multiple elevators while we were lugging suitcases nor was there a convenient way to bypass Pioneer Square (the closest would have been the 372 to the 48 to Mount Baker, but that’s still a 3 seat ride). And once ST reduced headway down to 20 minutes, that was the nail in the coffin. We bargained with a family member to drive us to the airport in exchange for favors to redeemed in the future.

    2. Do the supermajority of riders traveling between points north of Othello really have to be impacted by the work at Othello and Rainier Beach Stations?

      What happens if it rains on Wednesday (please), as predicted?

      1. Yeah Im not sure why Sound Transjt seems to love overly using single track frequency throughout the system. I understand a couple times in a year but it seems to be trending towards a quarter of the year it has lowered frequency. Especially as it adds more and more stations in the future which also need maintenance

      2. Last year when ST replaced the tiles at Columbia Station it was worse as every other train was turned back at Stadium Station. You had to watch the sign on the first car to see if it was going to Angle Lake or only to Stadium.

        I remember seeing passengers who were going to the airport at Stadium Station with their luggage as they had gotten on a train only going to Stadium Station and had to transfer to another train to get to the airport.

        The reduction in service is not ideal but at least this year all trains are running the full route.

  18. South King County cities use loopholes to block homeless shelters. ($)

    I wonder if a PSRC-like approach might be best. Require King County cities to have a minimum quota of homeless units based on the city’s relative population size and the total number of King County homeless estimated in the following year. And pre-empt rules like Federal Way’s prohibition on two shelters within 1000 feet of each other. I’d also look for a mixture of temporary shelters to meet people’s immediate needs, and long-term housing to get out of homelessness.

  19. https://seattleagentmagazine.com/2023/08/17/seattles-construction-pipeline-q2-2023/?utm_source=emailoctopus&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=08.21%20SEA%20-%20AU

    “Over 115,000 apartments could join the Seattle housing market, according to the Q2 2023 Construction Pipeline report from Berkadia.

    “In addition to the 2,574 apartment units that have launched in the past year, 19,396 units are under construction in Seattle. The area with the most new construction activity is the Capitol Hill/South Lake Union neighborhood.

    “Furthermore, 26,028 units are in the planning stages, meaning their respective projects have received approval from planning and zoning authorities. Builders and developers have also expressed intent to construct another 67,269 units, although no formal plans have been submitted for these projects. Most of these prospective units are located in north Bellevue.”

    Not surprisingly the majority of new Seattle units are in D3 and D7. Average rent prices are not stated.

    I guess that lack of zoning capacity was a ruse.

    1. I think 10,000 is the annual average in Seattle. So 19,396 would cover two average years. Or in other words, a 1-year buffer.

      It’s unclear in which years all these various numbers would open, or how many of the ones in the third paragraph are in Seattle. If we assume all 115,267 open in the next ten years and are in Seattle, that’s 11,527 per year, or about average. But wait, most of the units in the third paragraph are “in north Bellevue”. Let’s assume Seattle gets a third of them. That’s 9,330 in Seattle per year, or again about average or slightly below.

      That average is what has been keeping Seattle’s vacancy rate this side or that side of 5%.

      Note that developers haven’t given up on Seattle. They think a typical number of people will continue to move here every year.

    2. According to OFM, the entirety of King County must plan for 350K to 400K new residents in the next 20 years (the Growth Management Act Target requirement). Seattle is about 1/3 of the King County population so proportionally that’s about 120K to 140K new residents. Given how many suburbs don’t want significant growth and many undeveloped areas are protected (like mountain forests), it probably should be higher. Since it often takes 3-7 years to redevelop a project, an average year should see about 25% of that target in active approval or construction. So we should be seeing projects to house 30K to 35K people just to normal. Since many of these units are only suitable for single person households, that’s somewhere in the 20K to 30K units in development any given year — ON AVERAGE!

      So these numbers are merely about average of what our market demands. It doesn’t indicate any sort of unusual pace to me.

      1. https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/executive/performance-strategy-budget/regional-planning/UGC/KC-UGC-Final-Report-2021-Ratified.ashx?la=en

        “The 2021 Urban Growth Capacity Report finds that urban King County has capacity for over 400,000 housing units and 600,000 jobs. This capacity is sufficient to accommodate the remainder of its 2035 housing and employment growth targets, and looking ahead, sufficient to accommodate projected future growth during the next planning period. See Exhibit 5 and Exhibit 6 for summaries of residential and employment capacity by Regional Geography and density level.”

        Page 7.

        https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/executive/performance-strategy-budget/regional-planning/UGC/KC-UGC-Final-Report-2021-Ratified.ashx?la=en Seattle has its own market guidance in appendix B based on neighborhoods.

        https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/executive/performance-strategy-budget/regional-planning/UGC/KC-UGC-Final-Report-2021-Ratified.ashx?la=en Page 85 begins the profiles of each city for future growth.


        This is page 32. It shows each city and the percentage of housing growth they achieved under the 2035 housing targets. Overall target achievement was 104%. Small and midsize (“larger”) cities did much better than the larger core cities, although they had smaller targets.

        As noted this is only for King Co.

      2. Daniel, “zoned capacity” is just the theoretical maximum number of units that can be legally built, and does not account for common limitations to real construction.

        But you already know that, don’t you? And yet you choose to sneer and loosening the restrictions on zoning anyways.

        Your use of raw values without reference to historical trends or other forms of statistical normalization is not the way someone would engage in this discussion in good faith.

      3. “Daniel, “zoned capacity” is just the theoretical maximum number of units that can be legally built, and does not account for common limitations to real construction.

        “But you already know that, don’t you? And yet you choose to sneer and loosening the restrictions on zoning anyways.

        “Your use of raw values without reference to historical trends or other forms of statistical normalization is not the way someone would engage in this discussion in good faith.”

        That is not a fair thing to write Nathan. I linked to and quoted from the GMPC report. If you had read any of the report you would have seen nearly 100 pages of historical data and land use models were devoted to “historical trends or other forms of statistical normalization”. Do you actually think you know more than the folks who put together the GMPC report, or that they took four years and spent 100 pages to simply calculate existing zoning in King Co.?

        Of course zoning is simply potential land use capacity, for anything from office to retail to multi-family housing to SFH. As Tacomee has point out a dozen times, builders build where they make the most money, as they should. We are talking about MARKET RATE HOUSING.

        The GMPC decided King Co. had adequate zoning in aggregate to meet 2050 population growth estimates assuming another 400,000 residents move here by 2035, and the same again by 2050, and then allocated those housing targets to cities based on how well a city had done on meeting targets so far (for example MI is at 105% of its 2035 housing targets so got no new housing targets above the its remaining 1200), how much new housing growth a city wanted (Shoreline wanted more than required although it is regretting that now because its TOD is looking like a slum, and Sammamish wanted less), and basically left it up to the city to zone for that housing, taking into consideration the GMA and PSRC.

        It is for government planning agencies to figure out how to incentivize that new housing, and where. Since 1991 the PSRC, which was formed when the GMA was adopted, has advocated that zoning for new construction should favor town centers and urban areas — especially for smaller 1-2 person units — because they would be near walkable retail, walkable transit so they could live without a car, and in a multi-family zone with lots and regulatory limits large enough to allow for real density (7-60 stories) so it incentivized developers, allowed someone to live without a car, and created enough profit to mandate affordable housing set asides in exchange for greater height. That is why the GMPC and PSRC divide cities into metro areas, “larger’ cities (really medium), and smaller cities.

        The cities are then left to decide where and how to allocate that new housing, especially in a large and diverse city like Seattle that has every zone listed in the GMPC in one city. Does Seattle allow SLU scale buildings in Ballard or Capitol Hill or S. Seattle or Queen Anne or the CID? No. Why. Because a neighborhood is a living thing, and scale is incredibly important to that living fabric, and more often than not that fabric is sheer luck.

        Not surprisingly if you look at the GMPC housing maps for density or the map from the article I linked to where new construction will go that housing is focused in areas that are dense with walkable retail and transit and are expensive: SLU and Capitol Hill and N. Bellevue. Same in suburbia, because that is what we were told to do by the PSRC, which we thought made sense. We want a walkable area even in suburbia, with dense retail and dense housing, to create vibrancy, the distillation of urbanism.

        Those of us who have been involved in this issue for over a decade don’t understand why the Legislature would throw out 30 years of PSRC planning, and decide the place to allocate future housing growth is in remote residential neighborhoods with small lots, restrictive regulatory limits, and no walkable retail or density when transit budgets are facing cuts in service.

        For some Democrats in the Legislature, it was simply donations from the Master Builders Assoc. and Realtors (who adamantly and successfully opposed any affordability mandates in HB 1110), and for some progressives like you just blind hatred for SFH zones and a lack of sophistication about land use and zoning that you think symbolize the inequities in society.

        What HAS changed is population in King Co. has GONE DOWN since the GMPC issued its housing report and the PSRC issued its 2050 Vision Statement in 2021, based on faulty and political population growth estimates by the OFM in 2018. All of this, and most of our transit, is predicated on huge population growth I don’t think is coming.

        Builders are not going to build three and four plexes on small residential lots with 40% to 50% GFAR in a remote SFH zone with two onsite parking stalls per unit, and in fact I think the county as a whole is reaching a glut of multi-family housing, which is why those 69,000+ new multi-family units in “north Bellevue” are on pause.

        ALL of this, from urbanism to Link to transit to upzoning was predicated on one critical thing: that hundreds of thousands of new residents were going to move to King Co. — which is larger than most east coast states and is 1,476,480 acres for 2.27 residents (and of course commuting to an office in downtown Seattle five days/week). None of it pencils out if those 400,000 to 800,000 new residents don’t move here, and I don’t think they will. There isn’t a lick of real urbanism in all of King Co. Just shades of suburbanism and rural.

        If anyone has been critical about the PSRC 2050 Vision Statement and GMPC housing report for ignoring ” historical trends or other forms of statistical normalization” in 2023 it is me, because the people needed to move here to make them valid are not coming.

    3. These numbers show housing growth that somewhat approximates the number of new people moving to the region, but they do nothing to address the large backlog of people who have been displaced from Seattle or are being displaced or who want to live in Seattle but can’t. And the same for other cities, for those who want to live in Bellevue or Renton but have had to move to Lynnwood or Everett or Tacoma or Olympia to find something at their price point.

      The PSRC doesn’t count this shadow demand: it assumes the number of people who are currently living in Seattle are the number of people who want to live in Seattle, and that nobody has been displaced, so it takes the current level and adds the estimated number of future migrants/births. That’s what’s wrong with the PSRC’s formula and the cities doing little about the backlog.

      1. Mike Orr,

        These numbers show housing growth that somewhat approximates the number of new people moving to the region, but they do nothing to address the large backlog of people who have been displaced from Seattle or are being displaced or who want to live in Seattle but can’t. And the same for other cities, for those who want to live in Bellevue or Renton but have had to move to Lynnwood or Everett or Tacoma or Olympia to find something at their price point.”

        As long as out-of-State folks with money keep moving into Greater Seattle, that “large backlog of people who have been displaced from Seattle or are being displaced or who want to live in Seattle but can’t” are just out of luck. Move on already! There’s zero political will or money for fix that “backlog of people who want to live in Seattle”…. Sometimes life is just unfair.

        No one has the right to expect to live Seattle if they can’t afford it.

      2. I would soften Tacomee’s last point slightly and say that “it is unlikely that a significant number of people who cannot afford to live in Seattle now will be able to afford to live in Seattle in the near future”, but I think that, unfortunately, the point is fundamentally sound. People can (and should) advocate for changes, but being realistic about the likelihood of those changes effecting the result which they are hoping for is also important. So, yes, it is not unreasonable to also advocate for people to consider living in cheaper places. Not everyone can, or should, do so, of course. But it’s a reasonable tool in one’s toolbag.

      3. Anonymouse,

        It’s true America has a housing problem, but I highly doubt Seattle is any part of a solution. It’s expensive to build in the Puget Sound and there’s high market pressure from out of State. I say this over and over again… there are only a dozen or so housing markets rich Liberals want to live in. So if you’re not a rich Liberal, Seattle is not going to be kind to you.

        One thing that’s never talked about on this blog is the number of working class people who’ve made big money selling houses to rich Liberals and moving to a cheaper market. I’m wrapping up a 30 year run in the NW and heading to Utah. To say I’ve done alright with real estate would be an understatement. Was I lucky? Yes, absolutely. But I also played the game. If you don’t play the game, you have no chance of winning. So buy a goddamn house… somewhere you believe is on the rise. It’s not a sure bet, but nothing is. Except paying rent– that just means you have no chance of winning.

        I feel like a great deal of the advocacy done on this blog about land use has more to do personal circumstances than the greater social good. I have friends in Tacoma who have believed that political change (zoning, rent control, social housing) was the pathway to their personal security. They’ve been telling me this for 20 years now and none of it has happened, nor is likely to happen in the future. It’s just sad to watch people, good people, waste years and years on ideas that will never happen in America.

        Housing is largely market driven in the USA. It is influenced by political events, but that influence is greatly limited. Any political change, like zoning, is changed by market forces, often into something completely different. We ride the wave… we do not control it.

      4. If more areas had walkability and transit like Europe, Canada, Asia, and Latin America it would be more reasonable to tell people to just move. But most of the areas you’re telling them to move to are bad to really bad to horrible. And those areas too now have rising housing costs, so if you move there you’re displacing a local, and then where will they move to? Haiti?

      5. “the number of working class people who’ve made big money selling houses to rich Liberals and moving to a cheaper market.”

        If the zoning and regulations had been looser the prices wouldn’t have risen so much because there would be more choices. So the sellers wouldn’t have made as much, and maybe they would have decided not to sell.

      6. “I feel like a great deal of the advocacy done on this blog about land use has more to do personal circumstances than the greater social good. I have friends in Tacoma who have believed that political change (zoning, rent control, social housing) was the pathway to their personal security.”

        I hear this. And I’m sure it is true of some people.

        I don’t think it’s true of many on this blog, however. I think most here are much more interested in policy-level impacts, than their own personal circumstances. We want to make the the world a better place. For everyone, not just ourselves. Personally, I am in exactly the place I want to be. I own a home in what I consider as close to as perfect an environment as can find in America. The only way I could improve my personal situation would be to move to another country.

        Regarding market forces and zoning. I think you have it backwards. Zoning actually hamstrings the market forces you say are impossible to control. Zoning and twisting and perverting those market forces.

      7. Cam Solomon,

        I don’t think the Northwest construction industry could have built any more housing units in the last 20 years, zoning be damned. From the builder’s prospective, changing the zoning on single family homes is just an opportunity to build 3-4 expensive units on a single lot in a desirable neighborhood. Builders don’t care about affordability whatsoever. Why should they?

        Let’s say Seattle did manage to get a handle on housing affordability and reduce homelessness. What would that do to the housing market? There’s absolutely nothing stopping out-of-State people from moving in if Seattle becomes a more “livable” city. In fact I’d bank on that. Never underestimate the ability of high income people to ride the wave… Successful people don’t try to change the world around them as much make the world work for them.

        If Seattle managed to separate itself from the current housing/homeless problems infecting the whole Left Coast, and I doubt it can, the result would be a mass influx of people with money escaping California. And that’s what blew up the Seattle housing market in the first place, right? Tech jobs and money flowing in. Amazon is the problem, not zoning.

        There’s been a few articles on the web lately about how the Twin Cities have more reasonable housing prices the costal US cities….but they don’t have Amazon. Rich Liberals are likely to target poor Minneapolis next for all I know. Move in, bring work from home jobs along, take advantage of the “good bones” the City has to offer and make the place utterly unaffordable for the current residents. Sound familiar?

      8. “Builders don’t care about affordability whatsoever. Why should they?”

        Although I understand the point you were making Tacomee, builders absolutely care about affordability, which is why the Master Builder’s Assoc. and Realtors — after pimping affordability to support HB 1110 — adamantly opposed any affordability mandates in HB 1110, and why builders and developers constantly fight to reduce or eliminate affordability set asides in multi-family housing, or at least to pay a fee in lieu of so their market rate tenants don’t have to mix with below 80% AMI tenants.

      9. Mike Orr

        “If more areas had walkability and transit like Europe, Canada, Asia, and Latin America it would be more reasonable to tell people to just move. But most of the areas you’re telling them to move to are bad to really bad to horrible. And those areas too now have rising housing costs, so if you move there you’re displacing a local, and then where will they move to? Haiti?”

        First off, I don’t find much of Seattle all that walkable and Metro is doing a pretty hard downward slide. Capitol Hill? Great walkability and transit. Aurora Ave. ? Not so much. I’d guess on a walkability scale, Tacoma is way better than Seattle. Tacoma has a lack of services on the Eastside and Southend, but much of the town as a grocery store close by. Just by being smaller Tacoma is more walkable…. it’s also a great town for bicycles!

        Everything good about Seattle, all the stuff you like, was built before 1960. So was all of the “good stuff” in Midwestern towns. Seattle isn’t some special snowflake. There are walkable, more affordable neighborhoods in other places.

        Last of all, history shows it better to be a colonizer than to be colonized. Thousands of yuppies moved into Seattle and pushed me out… I doubt any of the bastards are losing sleep over it. And why should they? They can have Tacoma too I guess…. not that I could stop them. As long as I get paid, fuck it, that’s life. But that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t break watching people I know get displaced. It does. In fact it’s a big part of the reason I want to move away…. I can’t stand watching.

        The most important thing is to stop believing there is some political solution to this economic problem.

      10. “If more areas had walkability and transit like Europe, Canada, Asia, and Latin America it would be more reasonable to tell people to just move. But most of the areas you’re telling them to move to are bad to really bad to horrible. And those areas too now have rising housing costs, so if you move there you’re displacing a local, and then where will they move to? Haiti?”

        Mike, even in this county 90-95% of trips are by car. Probably 95% of the land area is not “walkable”. What makes you think walkability or transit is a major factor in where people choose to live?

        Jobs, public safety, schools, green and open space, affordability (AMI vs. cost of living), type of neighborhood, family, weather are the factors that people consider where to live. When WFH became available folks in this area couldn’t wait to abandon transit. The one possible urban area — downtown Seattle — is seeing the biggest decline in visitors and foot traffic.

        Seattle suffered what any city suffers when it grows too fast and the growth is people with much higher AMI’s moving in than the existing residents have. The lower AMI residents have to move, first from the more desirable neighborhoods, then from the city itself. That is exactly what the Times noted in the article I linked to: wealthy folks wanting to flee SF and NY are moving to Seattle while lower income residents are leaving and lower income outsiders are not moving in. Welcome to population growth.

        Even when construction keeps pace like in Seattle the new construction is geared toward the new high AMI transplants, and usually replaces older more affordable housing. Some think gentrification is all good, at least those with a high AMI.

        The good news is the U.S. has a lot of great places to live, and almost every one of them is less expensive to live in than Seattle, with better weather, although with a lower AMI. I wouldn’t want to raise a family in most parts of Seattle, but there are some great cities — in King Co., WA and in the U.S. — that I would want to raise a family in. Look at the growth in cities like Spokane that still cater toward families and kids. This is a natural migration that is now hitting Seattle. Tacomee is not saying move to Haiti, just like folks who wanted to get away from the cost of living and urbanism of SF who moved to Seattle were not moving to Haiti, or those leaving Seattle for Tacoma, SnoCo, Spokane, Boise, Phoenix, and so on.

        It is too late to hope for affordable housing in Seattle. The average median cost of housing is only going to go up, even with (actually because of) all that new high-end construction. The city will keep gentrifying, except ironically downtown.

      11. RE, ” Builders don’t care about affordability” – an entire article about how builders are adjusting the scale of homes they build so they are priced to sell in the current market.

        Shrinking the size of a new single-family home is an increasingly popular way to do it. Smaller homes can help cost-constrained buyers facing high mortgage rates. They also boost the bottom line for builders who are contending with spiraling labor and construction costs.
        Since 2018, the average unit size for new housing starts has decreased 10% nationally to 2,420 square feet, according to Livabl by Zonda, a listing platform for new construction homes. Construction starts for new single-family homes declined in 2022. But starts for homes with fewer than three bedrooms increased 9.5% over the same period, according to a Zillow report.
        Home sizes are shrinking the most in some of the hotter markets of previous years. The Seattle area, where the size of newly built homes is 18% smaller than it was five years ago, tops the list. New homes in Charlotte, N.C., and San Antonio shrank by 14%, Livabl by Zonda said.
        Most builders and architects follow the same basic playbook to produce tighter, more efficient living spaces. They are axing dining areas, bathtubs and separate living rooms. Secondary bedrooms and loft spaces are shrinking and sometimes disappearing.

      12. “even in this county 90-95% of trips are by car. Probably 95% of the land area is not “walkable”.”

        As Poirot said to Hastings, you mention the problem and its solution in one breath without realizing you have done so. The second sentence is the reason for the first.

        I’m pursuing a two-pronged approach of getting more units into Seattle while also making the surrounding cities more walkable and with usable transit. Then more people can fit into Seattle, and those who don’t want to can live in the outlying cities more easily.

        “changing the zoning on single family homes is just an opportunity to build 3-4 expensive units on a single lot in a desirable neighborhood.”

        They build more than that when they’re allowed to. They make more money that way, and have a larger pool of potential buyers/renters.

        “least to pay a fee in lieu of so their market rate tenants don’t have to mix with below 80% AMI tenants.”

        Not everybody can be above average. Half of people can’t.

      13. tacomee, you seem to think that there is an Eleventh Amendment in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing people the right to live where they’re born regardless of their economic value added. So, it seems to me that behind your veneer of rugged Capitalist he-man there’s a snowflake Socialist whining about those horrid Californians.

        Don’t cry about the baristas who can’t find a two-bedroom 2 full-bath apartments they can pay for with their tips. When they get scarce enough that Starbucks stores are closing at 2:30 PM Howie will start paying them more and raise the price. Those horrid Californians will be paying $10 for a venti macchiato with two extra pumps instead of $6. You should celebrate their pain. There’s nothing like a bracing dollop of Torani envy.

        Oh, and don’t put too much stock in Utah. The place will dry up and blow away along with the toxic salts in twenty years.

      14. Tom Terrific,

        I don’t know the future. Maybe Utah just doesn’t pan out for me, who knows?

        Where you’re are off base about me is…. I’m a complete Liberal. Really. I have endlessly asked my local government to fund more low income housing. I have asked for more Pierce Transit coverage in for the South End and Eastside of Tacoma (Routes 41, 48 ,53, and 1)I’ve been a relentless booster of Lincoln High School (Go Abes!). I’m often the go-to person for little free libraries and community gardens. I know Tacoma and I love the place.

        What this board misses on is the here and now. We currently have a bus driver shortage. There really isn’t any other issue nearly important in Puget Sound transit and it needs to be fixed, right now. There’s no push to do so on this blog. Because this space has absolutely nothing do do with the real world. Nothing.

        This blog is only about shit in the future, when light rail and zoning change the entire structure of Greater Seattle. Mass transit fans can’t even come together to fix a bus driver shortage, so this transit heavy future is all talk. It’s important for readers to understand this… and not buy into these “pipe dream” as fixing their personal future. There’s no socialist revolution where apartments cost $900 a month again with magic transit system for all.

        Well, I’m off to Utah. Good luck with your utopian dream Seattle.

      15. “Mass transit fans can’t even come together to fix a bus driver shortage”

        How can we fix it? It’s part of a larger labor shortage in the economy.

        So what is walkability and transit like where you’re moving to? Did you even look? How much of the metropolitan area’s jobs, services, and people can you get to without a car without extraordinary hardship?

        RMTransit says Salt Lake City transit punches above its weight, so that’s something. If you’re living in SLC; it doesn;’t necessarily apply to the rest of the state.

      16. I think I read that Salt Lake City was one of the few cities who committed to building enough housing for all their homeless, so they were able to get people off the streets. Something to look at while you’re there.

      17. tacomee, yes, I can see that you are, so I apologize for lumping you in with the anti-transit mob.

        I would love to see Pierce County improve its bus system instead of extending Link beyond Federal Way*, but the Leg — including Pierce Reps and Senators at the time — only gave the Central Puget Sound RTA [“Sound Transit”] the needed taxing authority. Local RTA’s just have 1/2% sales tax and $20 (I think) car tab funding available. If the municipalities use property taxes, it comes out of their levy limits.

        Since rail transit demonstrably does help shape the cityscape — look at the Roosevelt District — local leaders see it as a “plus” in their efforts to create more housing while not replicating Los Angeles along Puget Sound. So Link has a purpose, though one considerably smaller than it’s being tasked to meet.

        So far as the driver issue, pay them more, if necessary, half again as much. Ditto mechanics.

        [By the way, this should resolve itself in the coming years as both auto and bus fleets become more electrified and simpler to maintain. Mechanics will be begging for jobs.]

        * I’d rather the Board had chopped it at Midway with bus-only ramps to a new bus-only bridge at 240th. Or as an even more radical idea, add bus-only ramps to 26th S to and from the 509 extension for a better bus intercept at Angle Lake. But both those ships have sailed.

    4. “Most of these prospective units are located in north Bellevue.”


      It could be the Spring District, although Daniel says nobody wants to live there.

      It could be north Bellevue Way, which has 1950s-70s 1-2 story apartment buildings, and has only a coverage bus route. Although the East Link restructure plans to put a frequent 270 there.

      It could be around 130th-136th, an expansion are for the Spring District which Sam says has buildings under construction.

      It could be Overlake (Village), where a few large buildings are under construction and more are on the way.

      It could be on other parts of Bel-Red Road, which has 1-2 story buildings, mostly commercial.

      It could be in Crossroads, which is also 1-2 stories and has degenerated into dollar-type stores.

  20. Oops, all the links are to page 84. However the index to the GMPC report is easy to use and I list the page numbers.

    In a nutshell most cities are ahead of their 2035 housing growth targets, and overall the county is at 104% of housing growth targets in the 2035 Vision Statement, and there is zoning capacity for future estimated growth through the 2050 Vision Statement.

  21. What the 2021 GMPC report did not expect however was for King Co. to actually lose net residents after its report was issued. King Co. as a whole has lost 43,000 residents over the last two years.

    At the same time, The Seattle Times has an interesting article today by Gene Balk noting that post pandemic Seattle’s net in migration has only been from high-cost metro areas, whereas prior to the pandemic Seattle experienced net in migration from all four metro areas (small to large, high cost to low cost). https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/the-pandemic-changed-who-moves-to-the-seattle-area-heres-how/

    “Since the third quarter of 2022, Seattle is only experiencing a net gain from one of the four types of metros — the high-cost one. So now we’re only gaining more people than we’re losing from places like San Francisco and New York. Overall, the net gain from other high-cost metros was around 2,000 people in the first quarter of 2023.

    “But for the other three types of metros, Seattle has gone from a net gain to a net loss in population since the pandemic.” [Seattle is still experiencing a small net increase in population due to from international migration and net births exceeding net deaths].

    “Add up the migration numbers from all four types of metro areas, and Seattle had an overall net loss to other parts of the country since 2021. In the first quarter of 2023, the Seattle area had a net loss of roughly 3,400 people to other areas of the U.S.

    “What happened since the start of the pandemic that changed the balance of movers to and from the Seattle area?

    “Your strong candidates, of course, are remote work, increases in crime and changes in housing prices,” Whitaker said. “Those are probably the main ones.”

    “But, he added, it could also be that other metro areas have done better than Seattle at attracting new residents.

    “You could have a situation where other metro areas have put together a more compelling value proposition,” he said. “So it used to be that the combination of price and unique amenities in Seattle was the best thing out there for people on the move.” That may no longer be the case for a lot of movers.”

    What does this mean? AMI will increase as high net worth folks move in and lower net worth folks move out, and so will average median housing prices as builders build for new, high wealth transplants. There is and will be plenty of housing, and zoning capacity, but as we see that new housing is going in the most expensive neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, SLU, and downtown Bellevue.

    1. “that new housing is going in the most expensive neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, SLU, and downtown Bellevue.”

      Capitol Hill probably has the biggest growth but it doesn’t have the highest rents, and it’s pretty good on the rent-to-urban-amenities value (e.g., walkability, transit, variety of retail), so that’s OK. Capitol Hill did have the highest rents for a period in the 2010s, but then SLU and downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue surpassed it.

      1. Let’s take a look at the three main population estimates folks are using today. After the 2020 formal census each method is more speculative and will be until 2030, and two definitely have some biases built in.

        But first it is a good idea to look at why we are doing this in the first place.

        1. PSRC. This is the regional planning council that was formed along with adoption of the GMA. Since around 2008 the PSRC has really doubled down on two things: 1. TOD in which most new development is multi-family located in urbany areas within walkable transit and retail to limit car use to reduce congestion and carbon emissions, and to achieve some of the other goals I have listed before re: affordability set asides; and 2. disperse jobs and housing to all the “urban” areas or town centers throughout the county to avoid commuting and car use. What the PSRC did not anticipate is WFH, which ironically accomplishes the PSRC’s goals best, except the PSRC’s goals are heavily influenced by Sound Transit, and WFH guts ridership and farebox recovery, and as we are learning reallocates tax revenue when the PSRC is heavily staffed by urban planners.

        2. The GMPC then decides whether a county (King in this case) has adequate aggregate zoning to accommodate both housing and job growth estimates, and what each city needs to do (zoning) to meet the PSRC’s vision of dispersing jobs and housing to the different “urban” areas in the county. The GMPC allows cities to request more or less than the zoning the city would need to meet future job and housing growth estimates, to a certain extent, as long as the aggregate meets the estimates, which the GMPC determines it does through 2050, even based on the OFM’s inflated population growth estimates. However, the GMPC and PSRC have little control over where people actually decide to live, affordability, where businesses locate, how they desire to travel, and where builders decide to build.

        Here are the three different population estimate formulas I see today:

        1. The U.S. census. After the 2020 census any population growth estimate becomes more speculative until the next formal census. The U.S. Census estimated population in King Co. declined a little over 20,000 residents from July 2020 to July 2021, but then added a little under 14,000 residents from July 2021 to July 2022. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/after-first-population-drop-in-decades-king-county-rebounded-in-2022/ Some think the U.S. census is the gold standard, and it has the least bias. Estimates for July 2022 to July 2023 have not been released as far as I know.

        2. The Office of Financial Management. The OFM uses different data and assumptions. Here is a good overview. https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2023/04/12/king-county-population-growth-2022.

        “The state Office of Financial Management, which does its own calculations of city and county population changes each year, concluded that King County gained people in 2021 and again in 2022, based largely on the number of housing units added countywide.

        “According to the state agency, King County added roughly 32,000 housing units between 2020 and 2022.”

        Many of us believe the OFM has been politicized under Inslee because Inslee wants greater population growth to support his goals for upzoning to pay back his political supporters, and because he believes greater population will somehow reduce carbon emissions or take a 2300 sq. mile county like King that is mostly zoned and make it more urban with more transit use, although ironically the OFM and Inslee are not thrilled with WFH. To us it seems like a tautology to use housing starts, which often take years to permit and build, to determine population growth when the exercise is to determine population growth to determine future housing growth. Why a state agency would not use the U.S. census data and estimates also raises questions.

        3. The third approach is favored by builders who often want to see whites of newcomer’s eyes before building, and smaller cities who question not the PSRC’s Vision and planning guidelines, but state zoning like HB 1110 they think is based on false assumptions for the campaign donations, and a flawed ideology or hope that new construction in suburbia will lower or stabilize housing prices when they know that is not the goal of builders or realtors. Small town councils know this new growth will increase taxes and costs for the city and its residents, and usually has little benefit to the city or its existing citizens.

        So they begin with the U.S. census, which through July 2022 shows around a net 7000 population loss when those three years under OFM pre and post pandemic estimates would have added over 100,000 residents if the region as the OFM predicts will add 1 million new residents by 2050.

        Then they look at the underlying data of who is leaving and who is coming into King Co. to try and determine who will be permanent, and what kind of housing they will need. As noted in Balk’s article:

        “In 2021, King County grew by an anemic 9,000 through international migration. Last year, that number surged to 23,000, making international migration the primary driver of growth in 2022 by a wide margin.

        “But even as international migration soared, we continued to lose residents to other U.S. counties. In 2022, King had a net decline of 16,000 people through domestic migration — in other words, the number who moved away to other U.S. counties exceeded the number who moved here by 16,000. That sounds pretty bad until you consider that in 2021, King lost nearly 38,000 through domestic migration.”

        What some believe is foreign migration is made up of students and temporary visa holders while the population exodus is more permanent King Co. residents, and foreign migration is much more likely to live or work in urban Seattle or Bellevue, not the smaller suburban cities.

        Finally they look at the new data I linked to https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/the-pandemic-changed-who-moves-to-the-seattle-area-heres-how/that shows lower income residents are leaving Seattle, and unlike pre-pandemic when King Co. had net growth from all four segments.

        “Since the third quarter of 2020, Seattle is only experiencing a net gain from one of the four types of metros — the high-cost one. So now we’re only gaining more people than we’re losing from places like San Francisco and New York. Overall, the net gain from other high-cost metros was around 2,000 people in the first quarter of 2023.

        “But for the other three types of metros, Seattle has gone from a net gain to a net loss in population since the pandemic.”

        Granted, this approach is also biased because many of the smaller cities that object to HB 1110 don’t want that upzoning, but at the same time this data suggests the OFM’s 20-30 year future population growth estimates are way off, new high income transplants are unlikely to move to the more rural areas of King Co., probably the exodus has little to do with WFH because it is the low wealth citizens leaving, and in fact real county population growth is probably flat and will stay flat for a long time, in part because of crime, housing costs, reductions in tech employment, and just not very good quality of life in downtown Seattle, ironically exactly the things high net worth folks from NY and CA are fleeing from.

        These smaller cities also believe a flat county population growth would be a good thing, and don’t accept the OFM’s and urbanist’s and ST’s belief that all population growth is a good thing, or will offset WFH, or God forbid create affordable housing.

        What most medium and smaller cities can’t understand is why the Legislature would abandon 20 years of PSRC planning and TOD — which pre-pandemic made sense — for HB 1110, except of course for the donations from the MBA and realtors, which is why HB 1110 — despite being pimped on affordability — has no affordability set asides or mandates — NONE — although pretty much every multi-family development does.

        The reality is the cities control the regulatory limits under HB 1110, most residential lots are small, and because these neighborhoods have no transit a city can mandate two parking stalls PER UNIT under HB 1110, so if a city wants to discourage HB 1110 it can, which they will because they truly believe the PSRC’s planning approach is a much better model under the GMA than HB 1110 no matter what future county population turns out to be, which I think will be flat to mild growth which is why those 69,000 housing units in north Bellevue are on hold. These cities already have zoning under the PSRC paradigm to meet their future population growth through 2050, and they will adopt policies that stick with that.

      2. I think some learning about terms and concepts are in order.

        Estimates are about what is either now or in the recent past.

        Projections are multiplying out simple long term trends.

        Forecasts are visions of the future based on a complex set of factors.

        That means a few things here.

        Estimates. The Census Bureau is the gold standard because they have records of IRS data (like home locations and numbers/ ages of dependents) and SSI and Medicare recipients as well as school enrollments by grade. Now people may not always be accurate about where they live, particularly if they are there temporarily, but generally these sources plus public health records on births and deaths are a pretty good estimate.

        I would note that DT is comparing a July 2020 estimate rather than a real count from April 2020. Neither point is great to use because of Covid, but the July estimate is more off because it’s not a full count and it was at a time just after the lockdown when life was a mess for many and employers were getting paid to prevent layoffs. At least April 1 was at the very outset so most urgent migration had not yet kicked in. So the better comparison should be April 2020 to July 2022 and not July 2020 to July 2022. That’s the 3K decrease that I mentioned above.

        I find it unfair yet amusing that so many right wingers are downright giddy to see major urban counties lose just a little population these past few years, somehow thinking that Covid is a projectable trend and not a short term blip in migration. All the while, ignoring the sustained population decreases in so many Trump counties that have occurred over the past 20years and often longer across the US. Most of these counties also continued their population decreases since 2020.

        I further highlight that the Seattle estimate for this time period shows an increase of 12K for this same period. Thus the loss is found in the suburbs and not Seattle. A macro view could maybe conclude that suburban residents chose to move into Seattle! For example, Mercer Island lost 2.2% of its population from April 2020 to July 2022. Is Mercer Island dying (because it appears people are fleeing)?

        The other cited sources are made to create public policy projections or forecasts. Their accuracy is certainly speculative because that future has not been tabulated yet. However it makes some sense to count units rather than people because vacancy rates fluctuate but most housing will be a constant number.

      3. “I find it unfair yet amusing that so many right wingers are downright giddy to see major urban counties lose just a little population these past few years, somehow thinking that Covid is a projectable trend and not a short term blip in migration. All the while, ignoring the sustained population decreases in so many Trump counties that have occurred over the past 20years and often longer across the US. Most of these counties also continued their population decreases since 2020.”

        Al, while you may find this process personal or political most others don’t (unless they received a huge amount of campaign donations). No one is “giddy” at population loss. I don’t know many even in suburbia who are giddy about the decline in livability in urban areas like Seattle or SF or NY. What we are trying to do is to determine planning which depends on future population growth. What happens in rural America or what you call Trump country (and by the way the eastside is heavily blue, and my county rep. Balducci and three 41st reps are as blue as they come) is irrelevant. I could note Florida and Texas are two of the fastest growing areas in the country (as Desantis likes to point out), but what does that have to do with planning in King Co.?

        Mercer Island grew too fast under our prior council, and it caused strains to our schools, parks, police and fire, water and sewer, roads, budgets, and so forth. Sudden growth, including Seattle, is usually not a good thing. We are actually back to the population the PSRC said we should be at this time back in 2014, except our prior progressive council believes any population growth is good, which is why they all got voted out of office.

        What you miss about “Seattle” is how diverse the neighborhoods are. Most like West Seattle are suburban. Same with Ballard and S. Seattle. And then you get to some neighborhoods that are less dense than the eastside. In between you have Capitol Hill, although I would not call Capitol Hill “urban”. Most neighborhoods, which are suburban in character, are doing well in Seattle, and that is where the population growth has been. It is the urban CBD and downtown that are struggling, and I doubt WFH is a temporary phenomenon, and personally I think migration patterns between urban and less urban areas have changed for the foreseeable future, not unlike the 1970’s.

        I think it is ironic you state the U.S. Census is the gold standard, but then manipulate the dates to achieve the population growth/decline you want, which is a whopping difference of 3000 vs. 7000 in raw numbers through July 2022 in a county of 2.27 million. As I noted, almost all estimates and projections when it comes to population growth are influenced by biases. It isn’t whether King Co. declined by 3000 or 7000 or even increased slightly, it is that our planning policies are based on huge future population growth through 2050, and post pandemic those projections look very questionable.

        I am not sure why you automatically believe population growth is a good thing, no matter how sudden. Has population growth made Seattle more affordable, more equitable, the downtown area more vibrant, decreased crime, increased transit ridership, made public schools better? No. In fact, the data shows population growth has replaced lower- and working-class folks in Seattle and King Co. with wealthy transplants from outside the U.S. ore areas like SF and NY that Seattle is in danger of emulating, drug use has skyrocketed, and so has crime. Ask your Black neighbors in S. Seattle if all these wealthy white transplants have been good for them.

        The real issue however is where to allocate any future growth. The PSRC wants to locate and dipserse most of it in urban areas throughout the county near walkable transit and retail. Now “urbanists” want to allocate it throughout the 2307 sq. miles in remote residential neighborhoods. I think the PSRC’s planning model is the better model, although city councils — especially in Seattle — need to adopt policies in which folks actually want to live in urban areas. Otherwise we will see more migration from the urban cores.

      4. Manipulative in dates? Why do you choose the only time period since 1974 where King County lost population (noting too that 2021 was still higher than 2019) and then argue that projections are too high? One year during Covid out of the past 50 is not a statistically valuable trend that needs to be significantly reflected in government projections. Why don’t you talk about 2019-2022 or 2021-2022 or 2017-2022? Is it because that you chose the only annual interval that validates your opinion?

        Here is the trend graph:

        Plus originally you said King County lost 43,000 residents. That is beyond data manipulation. That appears to be just lying.

        I can’t understand your motives for lying or your sources of such bad information.

      5. Al, I used the same dates the Seattle Times used in their article. You would have to ask the author why they used those dates. My guess is because the U.S. census releases estimates July to July. We don’t have U.S. census data for July 2022 to July 2023 yet, at least we haven’t seen it.

        The Times did not use dates before the 2020 census date since the 2020 figures are the most accurate and serve as the baseline, and of course the beginning of the pandemic, since the question we are looking at is whether the pandemic has or will affect population growth in King Co.

        No one is lying. I tried to explain how different entities estimate or project population growth. Through July 2022 the U.S. Census has King Co. population declining 7000, not a big deal unless planning is based on significant population growth each year through 2050. You apparently calculate a 3000 loss using April as the start date. According to the same time period (and perhaps including 2023) Justin states the OFM calculates population grew 78,000 and would be high even by pre-pandemic growth, which is certainly inconsistent with the census estimates. My figure of 43,000 tends to remove the out of country in migration because many think those folks are temporary while those leaving King Co. for other U.S. counties were permanent residents.

        One thing I did note is projections tend to incorporate biases, whether me, you or the OFM, and they are just that: estimates and projections. Still the key point I have mentioned several times is not a slight decline in population growth but the very large population growth projections the OFM is sticking with, based upon its own unique data, and the fact King Co. had not experienced a decline in population for some time.

        At the same time, I don’t think population growth is all good, and some could argue it is mostly bad. All I have said from day one is the local planning under the PSRC or state legislature should wait until we have more population growth data. No need for the GMPC to revisit its conclusions because it concluded every regional city already had existing zoning capacity through 2050 even based upon the OFM’s projections. So why are cities being forced to upzone?

      6. “In between you have Capitol Hill, although I would not call Capitol Hill “urban”.”

        It’s hard to take you seriously when you make assertions like this. There is no definition of urban that doesn’t include Capitol Hill. In fact, its population density is roughly equivalent to Queens, NYC.

        “Most neighborhoods, which are suburban in character, are doing well in Seattle, and that is where the population growth has been” Earlier in this thread: “Seattle has been on a building tear during a time of historically low interest rates, mostly in D3 and D7 naturally.”

        Ah yes, D3 and D7, home of Downtown and Capitol Hill, the most suburban of neighborhoods.

        “The real issue however is where to allocate any future growth. The PSRC wants to locate and dipserse most of it in urban areas throughout the county near walkable transit and retail. Now “urbanists” want to allocate it throughout the 2307 sq. miles in remote residential neighborhoods”

        Only 460 of those 2307 sq. miles (22%) are within a UGA.

        “I am not sure why you automatically believe population growth is a good thing”

        Of course it’s not automatically good. The problem is when you don’t adequately plan for growth as we didn’t in the past. Let’s say we upzone, but your predictions come true and the predicted population growth never materializes. So what? The excess zoned capacity just doesn’t get used. But what if we don’t upzone and the population growth does happen? Like San Francisco, afforability will nosedive even further.

      7. Justin, maybe because I lived in cities like London and NY, and travelled Europe extensively, I don’t think Capitol Hill is “urban”. In fact, there are still many SFH on Capitol Hill, where I grew up (lower). I think folks in Seattle have a watered-down definition of urban. 5-7 stories is not urban to me. SFH are not urban.

        Some consider West Seattle, Ballard, downtown Kirkland, and downtown Bellevue with a 660′ height limit urban. I don’t even though I think downtown Bellevue and downtown Kirkland have more retail and housing density than Capitol Hill. I thought downtown Seattle was the one true urban area in its heyday when it had retail density, and the office buildings were packed and so were the streets. Capitol Hill is a residential neighborhood, and its association consistently objects to further upzoning.

        “The problem is when you don’t adequately plan for growth as we didn’t in the past. Let’s say we upzone, but your predictions come true and the predicted population growth never materializes. So what? The excess zoned capacity just doesn’t get used. But what if we don’t upzone and the population growth does happen? Like San Francisco, affordability will nosedive even further.”

        I don’t know how many times I can repeat this, or post the actual language from the GMPC’s report (above), but the GMPC found this county ALREADY has adequate zoning for another 1 million residents. Do you not believe the 100-page report with all the appendices? Are you expecting more than 1 million new residents to arrive by 2050?

        Or how many times I can repeat or post articles based on census data that show construction in Seattle kept pace with population growth over the last decade. The ratio of housing units to population is THE SAME today as it was in 2010. It is just that new construction is geared towards those new residents who came from high AMI areas with a lot of wealth so is very expensive.

        For example, 2300 new apartments have been built near U Village, but they range in price from $2000/m. to $6000/mo. I have linked Apartments.com many times to show 85% of the 12,000+ apartments available for rent in Seattle every day are $1800/mo. or more.

        At some point folks on this blog have to get over housing prices. Prices are not coming down. Rents are going up. And up. New construction will make them go up even more, not down. Every one of those thousands of new units being built in D3 and D7 will be at least $2000/mo., and probably closer to $3000/mo. And will keep going up.

        If you got the AMI there is a very good selection of apartments to rent in Seattle. If you don’t then as Tacomee points out you are going to have to move, and in fact I also posted an article from the Seattle Times noting wealthy folks are still moving into Seattle while less wealthy residents are moving out.

        If you want to live among rich people like in Seattle don’t expect the housing to be affordable, or the restaurants or bars or anything else. Seattle is one of the most expensive cities to live in, with one of the highest AMI’s in the world, and if you want housing you have to compete with those folks. That is why ST is building Link. TOD in Shoreline and MLT and Federal Way with transit to Seattle so folks can afford to work in Seattle and visit and afford to live someplace else.

      8. 5-7 stories is not urban to me.

        So basically DC and Paris aren’t urban, except for a handful of buildings, most of which are in the suburbs. Neither is most of Montreal either I guess.
        Parts of Manhattan (Chelsea, Greenwich Village) aren’t very urban and … sorry, I can’t go on. It is just absurd.

        Density largely defines “urban”, and height is not the same as density. I repeat, height does not equal density. If you doubt this, just look up the data. We live in the information age, and census data is easily available.

  22. I wonder how haiwaiis governors emergency executive order to upzone will go. Its definitely needed considering how little haiwaii has approved housing. It’s the first time I’ve seen upzoning through executive action rather than legislature in usa so it’s quite a test to see if it’ll live up to legal challenges

  23. Having just visited four foreign countries I think it’s harder to be a booster for US transit.

    The “rules are racist” attitude has led to a social breakdown on transit and no billions on capital projects are going to solve that.

    When transit are drug and crime dens, only criminals will be comfortable using transit.

    1. And Taylor Swift fans, and sportsball fans, and people going to school, and people going to their non-WFH jobs, and transit dependent people, … basically everyone who was riding in the Before Times.

      Here’s a little secret: Free transit for youth and no-income riders did not create the fentanyl crisis. But it did create a more welcoming situation for youth and poor riders.

      It seems clear to me that getting COVID cases and deaths down has a strong correlation with the return of ridership.

  24. After the Denny Regrade No. 2, which took place from 1929 to 1931. Can anyone spot the streetcar? The line of buildings on the right where they meet the empty field is 5th Ave. I believe the building on the far right of that line at the edge of the picture is the Devonshire Apts, at 5th & Wall.


    Another view of the area


      1. You are right! When first saw the old pic, I was wondering what that building was, and where is was. Thanks for that.

      2. A fair chunk of the skyline in those photos remains, but is occluded by new towers today.

        I’m fairly certain that the entire foreground of each photo has since been redeveloped, mostly with Seattle Center and the western portion of today’s South Lake Union.

        Funnily enough, a good chunk of the central portion of the photos (the block between Thomas, John, 6th, and Taylor) is currently just as flat as it was 100 years ago, pending redevelopment.

      3. Barely visible in the second link at the very bottom to the left is a small portion of the rear of the North Seattle Trolley Yard, today’s Gates Foundation.

        Another building I recognize that still exists today, in the center, a couple of building to the right of Ryan Furniture, is the Fifth Avenue Court apt building, at 5th and Blanchard. Back then it was called Sibbella Court.

      1. @WL,

        Yep. This is one small step for Sound Transit, one giant leap for Tacoma.

        Now if they could just speed up the next planned extension. The current timeline is too long.

        But this is good news.

  25. “Why the buildings above Capitol Hill Station aren’t taller.” – Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

    While this poorly written article oddly isn’t about why buildings around the station aren’t taller, there is a link in the article to an earlier article that does discuss it. The Capitol Hill community fought against increased density spreading throughout the neighborhood.


  26. The central issue is what is voluntary and involuntary homelessness, and whether an individual who refuses a shelter is voluntarily homeless.

      1. For 2021, the City’s outreach team made a whopping 1072 shelter referrals, with 512 successfully accepting it.

        In no way does that come close to offering shelter to everyone visibly homeless.

        I don’t mean to disparage the hard and dangerous work of the outreach team (especially in 2021), but the availability of shelter space just does not scale to the need.

      2. “For 2021, the City’s outreach team made a whopping 1072 shelter referrals, with 512 successfully accepting it.

        “In no way does that come close to offering shelter to everyone visibly homeless.”

        2021 was the height of Covid which shut down many congregate shelters and limited the number of shelter beds and made it very difficult to remove homeless camps.

        However, during the time of Covid the homeless industrial complex made a paradigm shift from shelter cot to enhanced shelter room with sobriety to subsidized housing with work straight to hotel room or apartment without treatment or sobriety or work.

        As many predicted, this paradigm shift, especially when the treatment never came, has turned out unaffordable (one of the complaints SF is making, because that $672 million/year it spends on homeless could be spent on many other needs. King Co. pays on average $65,000/yr per hotel room that houses one homeless individual, which is the equivalent of $5416/mo. in rent. However, if you are a sober working-class person you get nothing, except higher rents since all the homeless programs and levies are funded by property taxes.

      3. “the City’s outreach team made a whopping 1072 shelter referrals”

        And 1072 out of 5000+ homeless people is…

      4. When I’ve seen homeless people interviewed in the past about why they have declined an offer for housing or shelter, they usually complain about rules. Maybe it’s a rule that says no smoking in the unit, or no pets, or no couples, or no drugs, or it has a curfew, etc. Living in a tent next to the freeway or in a park, there are no rules. Shelters and housing come with conditions or rules, which some homeless people hate.

      5. “And 1072 out of 5000+ homeless people is…”

        What I mean is, is that 97%, 50%, or 20%? The crisis of unsheltered people is affecting everybody and the economy, and then politicians vow to fix it and declare it an emergency, but they take only half steps or quarter steps and the problem never gets solved. And it often gets bigger in the meantime if the number of people entering homelessness is greater than the number of people exiting homelessness. Yet conservatives and tax-haters say, “Look, we spent all this money and did all these things and the problem is still there.” The solution has to scale to the size of the problem in order to solve it. A half solution or quarter solution isn’t going to solve it.

        This happens again and again in American society. I think Sam brought up that Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society didn’t solve poverty. That’s because we didn’t do enough. Many politicians tried to obstruct it or to make sure that certain groups of people didn’t get it. They invented a fictional “welfare queen” narrative and them claimed most poor people were like that. In the Clinton era they succeeded in cutting back the programs (and Clinton supported it). And then in the next two decades poverty increased, housing prices increased relative to income, more people became homeless, and the problem got worse.

        Or look at Pugetopolis transit. After decades of work we finally get voter apporoval for a second Link line in Seattle, one that puts the western half of the city on the network. But what does ST do? It makes the train-to-train transfers one of the worst in North America, so that people can’t get the benefit out of the network they expected, and we still fall short of a normal transit network. And ST refuses to acknowledge this, or recognize it as a serious problem, or consider alternatives like automated trains that could solve the problem at lower cost than the current plan. Or we build Stride 3 or Stream 1 or RapidRide E or route 40 or 62 or 65 enhancements, and they get watered down for non-transit reasons, because somebody doesn’t want to lose GP lanes or parking lanes or have a few years of construction.

        This is why we can’t have nice things.

    1. “The people who refuse shelter are a tiny minority, so that’s not the central issue.”

      That isn’t true Mike. You should watch the oral argument. The city of SF is asking for the authority to remove only those homeless sleeping on the street who refuse a bona fide offer of a shelter bed. Without a bona fide offer, which requires an actual shelter bed, the homeless person cannot be removed from a public street or park.

      Seattle has the strictest criminal provision prohibiting sleeping in a park in the region, a gross misdemeanor whereas every other regional city makes it a plain misdemeanor, as well as a very strict civil provision prohibiting the same. The criminal provision allows the police to remove someone sleeping on the street or in a public park without a long and lengthy civil process, but the city must show a bona fide offer was made to the individual of an exisitng shelter bed so the homelessness is involuntary.

      In Martin v. Boise the 9th Circuit held a city could not criminally prosecute a homeless individual sleeping in public unless it could show a shelter bed was available, and set forth a formula for measuring the number of homeless vs. the number of shelter beds (Boise had virtually no shelter beds). In a later case, Grants Pass, the 9th circuit abandoned the strict formula and held — at least according to this court — that a homeless individual who refuses a shelter bed is not involuntarily homeless and can be removed from the street, or criminally charged, which the city is asking this court to make clear.

      It is ironic that the most liberal city on the west coast is now overrun with homeless and is now the party requesting the authority to remove homeless from its streets, which is killing San Francisco’s downtown.

      The city is also requesting clarification that there is no formula, because unlike Boise the city of San Francisco is so overrun with homeless it is probably impossible to provide a shelter bed for every homeless person on the street despite the fact San Francsico spends $672 million/year on homeless. The plaintiffs representing the homeless appear to argue there must be a shelter bed for each homeless individual before any homeless can be removed from the street, whereas the city argues there only has to be a shelter bed for each individual removed from the street.

      Although both the city and party opposing the city’s actions both agree that an individual who rejects an available shelter bed is voluntarily homeless the District Court in the injunction states this was a “novel” argument.

      This hearing is relevant to Mercer Island because some on our council (who are up for reelection) wanted to eliminate the trespass/misdemeanor provision in the city’s ordinance 14-02 (which every other regionally city has including Seattle) that allows police to remove a homeless person sleeping in a park or on a public street without a long and lengthy civil process, which would have eviscerated the city’s ability to remove homeless from the parks (although the city has never had to forcefully remove a homeless person sleeping in a MI park or prosecute such an individual). Many regional progressives attacked MI for adopting this common ordinance that Seattle uses to remove homeless from parks and streets, and other cities like Kent have adopted the same ordinance since. Now we have San Francisco requesting the same authority, but asking for clarification on the formula of shelter beds to homeless.

      1. “The city of SF is asking for the authority to remove only those homeless sleeping on the street who refuse a bona fide offer of a shelter bed”

        That doesn’t say anything about the number of people who refuse shelter vs those who accept or the total number of homeless or shelter beds.

        If Seattle had enough beds it would have offered them years ago and most of the camps would already be gone and the number of remaining unsheltered people would be much smaller. It can’t offer shelter spaces to everybody in all camps now so it rotates one at a time, to the one that is the most controversial at the time or that it hasn’t been to the longest. There’s not only limited shelter spaces, there’s even more limited long-term housing for them to go into after a short shelter stay to free up a shelter space for somebody else. That’s where the bottlenecks are.

    2. There was a homeless woman near our neighborhood. She told us she refused a shelter because her belongings kept getting stolen. That’s definitely a legitimate reason to not go to a shelter, or at least one with fewer safeguards.

  27. “There’s not only limited shelter spaces, there’s even more limited long-term housing for them to go into after a short shelter stay to free up a shelter space for somebody else. That’s where the bottlenecks are.”

    Maybe if the region hadn’t spent its $152 billion wad on ST it would have the money for that housing. The press and Harrell are worked up over a $970 million housing levy in Seattle (which ironically will be funded by property taxes so will raise housing costs) whereas WSBLE alone has increased $9 billion in projected cost.

    The key to long term housing costs is rehabilitation and getting a homeless person to some form of work to contribute SOMETHING to their long-term subsidized housing. This is fairly easy with the sober person who is homeless simply due to rising housing costs or a break in employment (despite unemployment insurance), but that is not who were are talking about or who are living on the street.

    But if the new housing paradigm — which began as “housing before treatment and rehabilitation” but became housing with no treatment or rehabilitation — is to give every homeless person their own free apartment forever funded by all other property owners that will never be affordable, especially in a city like Seattle or San Francisco with a very high AMI.

    It is somewhat ironic that some think a drug addict living on the street with no residual wage-earning capacity and no desire to work deserves a free apartment in the heart of a very expensive city forever, when there is no chance a working class or working poor person can afford that, but must fund it through higher property taxes that bleed into higher rents.

    The other irony is the homeless seem to prefer living in large blue progressive cities, so it is their problem to solve, although some like SF appear to be getting sick of it, not like the homeless care.

    1. “Maybe if the region hadn’t spent its $152 billion wad on ST it would have the money for that housing.”

      They have little to do with each other. There was never a choice between $152 billion for ST3 or $152 billion for housing. The legislature and public considered each issue in a vacuum, and decided to fund ST at a high level, local transit agencies at a low level, and hardly anything for housing. Each issue was decided at a different time. Many of the ST decisions were made in the 1990s before housing and homelessness became such a crisis.

      And anyway, we’re not spending $152 billion now for ST3. That’s future inflated dollars that look high because it’s the future.

    2. And we could lower the cost of housing and transit infrastructure significantly by just changing policies. Some of the reasons for the US’s high construction costs are national and we can’t do anything about them at a lower level, but others are under the control of city and county councils and the state legislature and transit agencies.

      – Streamline housing permitting, reduce delays, eliminate design review. These add to cost, project risk, and the housing shortage. And that’s not even touching zoning.

      – Get the cost of healthcare off employers as much as we can.

      – Follow the transit state-of-the-art and transit best practices. Build automated train lines that can run more frequently and have smaller cars and lower cost. Get serious about prioritizing transit over cars to give trams and buses their own lanes, so that they can move more quickly and make more runs for the same cost.

      – Buy open-gangway Link trains, which can hold 20% more people. We should have done this starting with the U-Link order, and then we would have a lot of open-gangway trains now. We can’t replace the new fleet easily but we should switch to better practices for future orders. The first step in getting out of a hole is to stop digging.

      – Be more willing to consider high-quality trams in more areas, like other countries do.

      – Read the other advice of Alon Levy, Reece Martin, and others, and seek out and imitate what works outside the US and outside English-speaking countries.

      – Push for an exception to the Buy America act for trains and buses so that we can have more than a tiny choice of vehicles. The US transit market is so small and inconsistent from year to year that other companies won’t open US plants offering all their products. Or find some way to make it worth their while to do so, or to get American companies to offer more of the missing transit products.

      Those are off the top of my head; there are probably many more.

    3. “This is fairly easy with the sober person who is homeless simply due to rising housing costs or a break in employment (despite unemployment insurance), but that is not who were are talking about or who are living on the street.”

      That’s actually the vast majority of the homeless people. They can’t afford housing and so they wind up living on the street.

      Maybe if a certain political party hadn’t spent the last 43 years fighting for the reduction or elimination of every single social safety net and replacing them with tax breaks for the wealthy to support “trickle down economics” we wouldn’t be where we are today.

  28. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/city-crews-remove-notorious-seattle-encampment-after-large-fires-murder-and-assaults/ar-AA1fGMsu?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=c599bddd63294920881f19ddf51db776&ei=10

    “Work began Wednesday morning to dismantle and remove the illegal homeless encampment on Mercer Street in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

    “The encampment was the scene of a huge fire last week that sent a plume of smoke over downtown Seattle.

    “Neighbors of the encampment have been raising concerns since last year. In March, the body of a 66-year-old woman was found in the encampment. Investigators believe the woman was strangled and her body was left in the encampment for up to four days.”

    My niece worked near these apartments when she worked for the county downtown pre-pandemic. She had to move (first to Belltown then Issaquah Highlands which she loves) and King Co. went to WFH although she opted to work two days in office/week.

  29. Checking the Tacoma BRT project, it seems they’ve cancelled it.

    August 15, 2023
    > Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners reviewed the agency’s Pacific Avenue/State Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plans and voted unanimously to pause the project for now, requesting that agency staff move forward instead with Enhanced Bus service along the Pacific Avenue/SR-7 corridor.


    It seems they’re implementing an overlay service over the existing bus route 1 instead stopping at 14 major stops. Without the bus lanes, they recognized they aren’t going to qualify for federal funding and have opted to move forward with just local funds.

    In the longer term they want to work together with the plan to rebuild Pacific Avenue with a “Picture Pac Ave” project aka complete streets. I haven’t really followed Tacoma that much, so unsure how politically likely a complete streets rebuild will be. I guess they’ll reapply for federal funds then?

    https://www.piercetransit.org/file_viewer.php?id=6849 (Page 7 of the pdf has the picture of the enhanced bus service)

    1. Andrew reported on the alternative as it was emerging. When you peel through the obscure wording, it’s a peak express route.

    2. Ah, doing what Denver does and have L routes overlay core routes for somewhat express service.

  30. FYI from your friendly admin: folks have been having trouble with comments taking too long to post. I’m going to try breaking the comments into multiple pages to see if that helps them load faster.

    1. It’s not the posting of the comments that is the problem. The comments actually post almost instantly. The problem is that the webpage doesn’t release itself back to the comment section.

      Try this experiment: Open 2 tabs, one to a comment post page and the other to “Latest comments”.

      Post a comment in the first tab and then quickly go to the second tab and refresh it. The new comment will be there.

      Go back to the first tab and you will find it is more than likely still hung. Yet the comment has already posted.

      Ie, it’s not the posting that is the problem, it’s the comment code that is getting hung somehow after it posts.

      1. This is profoundly easy to fix for the user. After you click “Post Comment”, click the “X” to the left of the address bar. Then click the “refresh” circle that replaces the “X”. Your comment will appear.

    2. Frank is talking with WordPess support and trying some things to alleviate the posting issue. As you see, the large comment section is currently split up into four pages, and it defaults to the last page (the most recent threads)..

      I’m doubtful it will solve the original problem, but it raises another question. Do you like the paged format? We’ll see how well it retains the blue “new comment” highlights on other pages. I’m also concerned whether all readers will realize there are other comment pages. The first time I saw it I thought, “All the earlier comments are gone.” But we’ll see how it goes the next few days.

      1. With posts occurring at different places, page breaks can make it confusing to review all new comments.

        I think the better strategy is to not go more than 3 days without an open thread.

        I get interesting clippings daily with my free Mass Transit subscription via email. If there isn’t an apparent local topic available, I suggest some sources like this to entertain riders about transit news elsewhere in the US. I actually find that learning how different systems work can be very informative.

        Back to the loading problem, it looks like it is due to automatic refreshing protocols. Maybe it refreshes too quickly and gets confused.

      2. I first tried making a new open thread when the last one approached 150-200 comments, but you all are so prolific nowadays that that fills up pretty quickly. Now I’m targeting 250-300 comments. But I’ve also started commenting on a phone occasionally, and finding that it’s even harder to find new comments on a phone when there are that many of them. So I’d like to get to a new open thread every 100-150 comments. That may be unrealistic.

        Is anyone reading comments primarily on a phone? What is your experience?

      3. @Mike

        Reading on my phone is fine. Though posting just gets complicated trying to scroll all the way down the correct comment lol.

        For finding new comments I just use latest-comments link. Granted I guess I do miss some if people post lots of comments but that’s fine I not expecting to keep track of every new comment.

  31. https://www.theurbanist.org/2023/08/24/op-ed-chinatown-deserves-a-transit-hub-not-terrible-transfers/

    “Op-Ed: Chinatown Deserves a Transit Hub, Not Terrible Transfers”.

    This is Seattle Subway’s editorial in The Urbanist. It examines all the reasons transfers — mostly from the eastside — will be worse at CID N/S than the transfer would be at CID.

    Although I never knew SS was so concerned about (the few) eastside Link riders who will actually transfer south at CID N/S, the title of the editorial misses the entire reason for CID N/S: the editorial never once discusses why a station at CID and the years of disruption would be better for the CID. Instead, the editorial and videos only discuss how a station at CID would be better for pass through transit riders.

    Naturally there is criticism of Constantine in the SS editorial (but little of Harrell although I think Harrell made the call on CID N/S because Harrell really does not care about WSBLE compared to the stakeholders, and CID N/S is a purely political call) without ANY understanding of:

    1. Yes, Constantine understands a station at CID would be better AND $168 million cheaper than stations at CID N/S. Is it so hard for SS to comprehend that the King Co. Exec. and chair of the ST Board understands this basic concept that SS (and everyone) understands, and why a station at CID was in the original plan?

    2. The “stakeholders” who are the businesses and people who live next to a Link station count too. Otherwise there would not be so many Link stations in freeway ROW’s, or a missing Midtown station. Granted, unlike SLU or Midtown, ST (and SS and transit advocates) thought the brown poor people who live or work in the run down CID would be no match for the mighty and dishonest ST, until the CID laid down the racism card and froze the Board (and has any white group played the racism card more than The Urbanist).

    If SS wants a station at CID it has going to have to convince THE CID why that is better for the CID. This is hard for some like SS because they think there is some inherent good in transit, or Link, or some morality, that everyone must see, even though less than 10% of trips are by transit.

    I negotiate for a living, usually against better funded and smarter people. What you learn is you have to UNDERSTAND what the other side thinks is better for them, and what they want. It is pretty damn obvious the CID does not think years of disruption, or just a second Link station, is better for them, which is why they didn’t want the station. So stop trying to sell a second Link station at CID to the CID based on the station alone, or what is better for transit riders.

    Only when a group like SS can truly understand that the vast majority of folks, including the CID, are meh about transit at all (certainly merchants), and so that is not what they want, can they begin to try and discover what the CID does want in consideration for a second station, if anything.

    At the risk of repeating myself I will list some of those things:

    1. Money. Everyone wants money. The CID is worried years of disruption will cost residents and businesses money. If 4th Ave. S would cost $800 million, and CID N/S an extra $168 million, there is a mitigation figure in-between those two figures. ST does it all the time, even when Link has little impact like Bellevue or UW.

    2. The CID wants to be unable to play the racism card which means their neighborhood is not the blighted and shitted on neighborhood in the downtown area. That means police, roads, healthcare, education, infrastructure, less homeless or drug shelters, zoning that won’t destroy the CID, all the things the wealthier and white Seattle urban neighborhoods get.

    3. Safety. Link stations are unsecured. One only has to look at the bus stop at 12th and Jackson or 5th and Jackson and see a transit stop is usually not a good thing in a blighted neighborhood.

    4. Parking. Yes, I know, parking is like Voldemort to folks on this blog and SS, except all the areas competing with the CID have free and obvious parking including more and more Asian restaurants on the eastside which is becoming heavily Asian, and most of Link has huge park and rides so folks can get to downtown, The CID FOREVER has asked for more and cheaper street parking, and really wants a central parking garage like Sumner, Auburn and Kent are getting with free parking.

    5. More retail action and attention. What was the main complaint by the CID for the All Star game and Taylor Swift concerts? Little of the retail bonanza went to the CID. Why? Because today the CID is dirty, run down, with lots of tents and homeless and drug addicts, and that is what the travel books say. It is stupid to tell the CID a second Link station will change that after 6-10 years of disruption when the current station didn’t help for the All Star game and TS concerts. The problem with a second station for DSTT2 is even without it East Link will stop at the CID, and the CID has been waiting for that customer forever, and doesn’t want years of construction when East Link finally gets there, five years late.

    6. Less incompetent and arrogant construction schedules. ST hasn’t built anything on time, ever. This reputation is really coming back to bite ST in the ass with Midtown, CID, SLU, and probably soon Ballard and WS. Every construction site turns into a war zone, ST always misses something, and construction goes on FOREVER.

    My guess is the folks at SS don’t’ negotiate for a living, because they and The Urbanist pen one editorial after another stating why a station at CID would be better FOR THEM, when the CID is not keen on THEM (transit riders hanging around 12th and 5th and Jackson and the current Link station). Figure out what the CID wants for the CID, and begin with the realization it isn’t more transit or another Link station, so what is it.

    Because otherwise SS is correct: the fallback right now is no station at CID because ST just like SS ASSUMED the CID would roll over and actually think a second Link station was in the CID’s best interests so missed the opportunity to begin mitigation negotiations with the CID years ago.

    With what is on the table right now the CID is happy with CID N/S (although it wishes ST would get its act in order and get East Link to the CID) so stop trying to sell the CID on a station for DSTT2 based on the station itself, or transit, because the CID obviously does not value either.

    1. “The “stakeholders” who are the businesses and people who live next to a Link station count too. ”

      I’m sorry but this is a deceptive comment. Plenty of Chinatown residents, visitors and patrons have expressed displeasure at the proposed elimination of the stop. To say that the CID is united against the station is demonstratively FALSE.

      Plus, there are plenty of Sounder riders who have a stake in this too.

      The appropriate mitigation for adjacent business owners and property owners is financial assistance during construction. That’s as opposed to a hundred years of hassle to the region as a whole and especially to their customers! Yes they do “matter” as you say but there are other remedies available.

      1. “The “stakeholders” who are the businesses and people who live next to a Link station count too. ”

        “I’m sorry but this is a deceptive comment. Plenty of Chinatown residents, visitors and patrons have expressed displeasure at the proposed elimination of the stop. To say that the CID is united against the station is demonstratively FALSE.”

        So Al, are you saying the people who live or work next to a proposed Link station don’t count too?

        Sure a few CID residents supported a CID station, except what their petition really asked for was an $800 million station at 4th Ave. S. PLUS financial mitigation. That was pie in the sky amateur negotiators.

        The CID was united against a station at CID (although most of the protestors at the DEIS hearing were non-CID folks like SS). I never said it was unanimous, but the CID position against a station at CID was so overwhelming the Board (including Harrell) decided to abandon the station although CID N/S will cost $168 million more, and a station at CID was part of the plan for years and years. It wasn’t even made part of the DEIS for study, which means it is dead.

        “The appropriate mitigation for adjacent business owners and property owners is financial assistance during construction. That’s as opposed to a hundred years of hassle to the region as a whole and especially to their customers! Yes they do “matter” as you say but there are other remedies available.”

        I agree with this statement, and of course this is number one in my post. But that time has probably passed, and as I noted without a station being in the DEIS it can’t be studied. Too much bad blood, and the CID really feels they were treated worse than all the wealthier and whiter areas of the city because of racism. I think that hurt them so it became personal, the worst thing that can happen in negotiations over money.

        Those residents and businesses don’t care about a hundred years of hassles for transit riders transferring between trains (and my guess is mass transit is fundamentally different by 2050). You make the same damn mistake ST, SS and The Urbanist make: you think because transit benefits you, or a second station at CID would make it easier for you to transfer between trains, that benefits the folks who actually live and work in the CID who will make this decision.

        I think there was probably a time long ago that negotiations with the CID over mitigation they actually wanted might have worked (and I list the things the CID has wanted in the past), but the way ST went about it was so disrespectful to the CID I think that time has passed. Personally I think if the mitigation I list in my original post (which all come down to money) had been offered it would have been better for the CID in the long run, and Link, although a station at CID for DSTT2 would be worse in the long run for the CID.

        I also don’t think CID N/S are terrible options (except there should be a station at Midtown in case downtown ever recovers the work commuter). I had to laugh when the majority of SS’s objections to CID N was we eastsiders will have to walk 100 yards in a tunnel to transfer to Link going S. like that will ever happen.

        I believe there was a time a station at CID could have been negotiated, but it would have taken a deft touch, and few trust ST. It really would have had to start well before Harrell, but Durkan was so abusive to the CID too much hatred was built up.

        If I have to transfer at CID N to catch Link south I think I can do that. After all you were the one who told me walking 1/2 mile at each end of a Link trip is reasonable. It isn’t the end of the world at least for me. I don’t think the CID is worrying about an eastsider like me walking 100 yards from CID N to Pioneer Square station.

      2. “I had to laugh when the majority of SS’s objections to CID N was we eastsiders will have to walk 100 yards in a tunnel to transfer to Link going S. like that will ever happen.”

        It’s not just Eastsiders. It’s also two of Link’s highest-ridership segments: southeast Seattle/SeaTac to northeast Seattle. They currently have a one-seat ride and will in ST2 (as is appropriate because they’re high-ridership areas), but will be split in ST3 with not just an ordinary transfer, but an unusually long and deep one.

      3. I thought this thread sounded familiar, and did some searching for previous Chinatown articles and posts. Below, pasted in its entirety, is a response from Betty Lau to Zach B, from a year ago, to the No Station in Chinatown thread which link is also included.


        Hi Zach,

        Can we meet to 1) discuss your views of CID business owners “shooting themselves in the foot” and “A little bit of pain for a few years is worth more it’s weight in gold for the long term returns they’d get for a station in the heart of CID.” I am very curious as to what these unspecified benefits are and how you can answer questions that Sound Transit has yet to answer, which is why there is a 6 month pause, to give ST time to get their answers together–the DEIS was way too vague. For example, one DEIS touted benefit is the presence of hundreds of construction workers looking for lunch. The only future benefits cited were: faster access to downtown jobs for residents and a connection to Pioneer Square. No benefits were cited for the 1200+ elderly non-English speaking residents or the assisted living facilities or daycares or even the mom and pop businesses. Particularly helpful would be examples of another Chinatown, Japantown, Little Saigon anywhere in the US that you know of that has benefited many times over from light rail going through the heart of their communities after only “a little bit of pain” from 10 years of demolition and construction noise, dirt, debris, vibration, environmental degradation, utilities shutoffs. 2) We can also discuss why community people oppose light rail through the lens of the NIMBYism of Chinatown forced off the waterfront as it became too valuable for Chinese laborers to live there (late 1800s-1910), the 2nd Ave Extension (1920s) that forced the 2nd Chinatown to its 3rd & final current location; the taking of the Charles Street area for a city vehicle repair facility and streetcar bus barn (1950-present); I-5 bisection of an extensive Japantown, Chinatown (’50s-’60s); stadium construction & operations impacts (1970s-present), the 4th Ave. Transit Tunnel debacle in the landmark CID historic district (1980s) ; I-90 ramp construction (1990s), Seattle Streetcar construction (2012-2016), to name a few major projects that CID was forced to accept. And 3) I’m also very eager to read the same arguments you found and hear your analysis of the “bizarre reasoning” of CID community members that “….[the arguments] fall apart fairly easily once parsing what they meant. “

      4. Great find TransitGirl. I remember Betty posting on this blog during the process over a station at the CID. She turned out to be a force within the CID and got what she wanted, and she played the racism card very well, and legitimately. Because with ST placing no mitigation on the table what could a station at 5th and Jackson with a decade of disruption be except disrespect because the CID is poor and brown.

        What Betty’s post highlights, and I mentioned in my post, is how ST and transit advocates and the CID talk past one another. Zach’s “benefits” from a second station at 5th and Jackson were so strained Betty found them incredulous. Because Zach was trying to explain to Betty how a station at the CID would benefit transit riders, and some mythical transit ideology, which Betty noted does not benefit the CID (and who knows, Betty may not even ride transit). Once Zach mentioned hundreds of construction workers getting lunch he played right into Betty’s hands because it highlighted the years (according to Betty up to a decade) of massive construction.

        The only “benefits” or MITIGATION the CID is interested in have NOTHING to do with transit. ST should almost hire someone who doesn’t ride transit or care about transit to negotiate with the CID, because that person would begin by agreeing with the CID that a second station — and transit in general — is not a benefit to the CID. Like a station at Midtown, or SLU, or along Bellevue, or on UW campus, or on 20th, you know, the powerful white stakeholders.

        Then the mitigation discussions would get down to money, zoning control, more resources like police although our progressive council has gutted the police force, health clinics, better roads and lighting, fewer shelters and drug shelters, fewer homeless, a public parking garage, a construction schedule that has liquidated damages if it exceeds the scheduled completion, and so on.

        The CID was clever to make sure a station on 5th and Jackson is not part of the DEIS. The Board’s recent decision to reopen some parts of the DEIS for CID N/S is about a station 4th Ave. S., because that is the only other option in the DEIS, except it costs $800 million, and even then the CID is demanding cash mitigation for construction for a station at 4th Ave. S.

        I just find it tragic this played out how it did. The “non-transit” mitigation should be going into the CID, and there should be a station on 5th and Jackson, but I think that door is closed.

      5. For the record, people make mistakes and can acknowledge that when they don’t fully understand what was happening. I did, including apolozing for being a bit hot-headed in my opinions and making assumptions as I didn’t understand the whole situation fully and she provided more context in further posts down the line which helped me understand her perspective and appreciated.

      6. Zach, I didn’t mean to imply I have any great understanding of the CID. I was surprised as anyone at how deep the anger and sense of disrespect the CID felt that they ascribed to racism, although Durkan’s administration treated the CID like a dumping ground.

        But it isn’t our job to know these things. It is ST’s job to ASK the CID long ago what it knew every other neighborhood wanted for a link station: “mitigation”, when the CID really did need mitigation.

        Obviously ST was asking every other neighborhood along WSBLE what they wanted, except those neighborhoods are wealthy and white.

        Transit — even when construction is completed — is not mitigation. Mitigation is something to offset the impacts of construction and litigation. The station at 5th and Jackson for DSTT1 has been there for over a decade and done nothing for the CID that has declined in that same time period. So obviously a second station isn’t “mitigation” even when completed.

        I wish a station at 5th and Jackson had been left in the DEIS but the CID didn’t trust ST and felt simply leaving a station at 5th in the DEIS — along with acceptable mitigation — was racist. It didn’t help that there was no core leadership for the opponents to the station to communicate with, and to some extent the CID was fractured. It also didn’t help when a bunch of white transit groups came forward with a petition they claimed showed the CID really did want a station at 5th which is what The Urbanist claimed when the petition actually supported an $800 million station at 4th PLUS mitigation for the CID, which was a bit much after just publicly calling the Board racists.

        A station at 5th is not part of the DEIS and I think Harrell has zero interest revisiting this issue, or the CID. Pretty hard to claim Harrell is racist, although he is disinterested. If ST comes up with $800 million for a station at 4th Harrell will say great. If not and the stations are CID N/S Harrell will say great. Because he doesn’t care either way. He has bigger fish to fry. But the CID left a boatload of money on the table, and the one thing the CID needs is money.

    2. “the editorial never once discusses why a station at CID and the years of disruption would be better for the CID. Instead, the editorial and videos only discuss how a station at CID would be better for pass through transit riders.”

      The CID has maybe 50,000 people. Link’s cachement area has has hundreds of thousands. The region and Seattle need a robust transit trunk, with good train-to-train transfers in the center, which is where the CID is. The CID is lucky so many other areas have access to it, and it has access to so many other areas. Over time Link will bring more customers, as more people find it easier to go to the CID without a car. But the transfer closeness determines how well it can do that.

      “ST just like SS ASSUMED the CID would roll over and actually think a second Link station was in the CID’s best interests so missed the opportunity to begin mitigation negotiations with the CID years ago.”

      We VOTED for a CID station in 2016. The default location all along had been 5th & Jackson next to the existing station. If the CID had concerns about that, it could have raised them before April 2016 when the ballot measure was written. One neighborhood can’t just stand in the way and veto a transit project we have already voted for. Otherwise you’d never get infrastructure anywhere, or it would work badly overall because every neighborhood could act parochially and beggar-thy-neighbor.

      “SS wants a station at CID it has going to have to convince THE CID why that is better for the CID.”

      It’s not the CID’s sole decision; it’s the subarea’s and the region’s.

      “I never knew SS was so concerned about (the few) eastside Link riders who will actually transfer south at CID N/S”

      Obviously they care about it because they propose an extensive Eastside network and they know what a subway is. One of the basic expectations of a multi-line subway is that you transfer in the center to other lines. That’s one of the network’s purposes: so that you can get to destinations on all lines, not just the line your home station is on.

      “so stop trying to sell the CID on a station for DSTT2 based on the station itself, or transit, because the CID obviously does not value either.”

      That’s only some of the CID, not all of it. You’re taking the most anti-transit factions as representing all of the CID.

    3. > The CID FOREVER has asked for more and cheaper street parking, and really wants a central parking garage like Sumner, Auburn and Kent are getting with free parking.

      Where exactly are you getting this idea from. I have not heard of CID asking for a central parking garage. Also if it was free it’d be swamped by other commuters using it so it’d need some form of pricing either way. Additionally where exactly are you going to build such a massive parking garage. It’d probably be on the edge of chinatown, to where you might as well just lease the existing union station parking garage.

      1. Some Rainier Valley residents asked for a P&R in the 2000s. Seattle has an ordinance against any new P&Rs so it didn’t go further than that. I haven’t heard of the CID wanting a big garage. It’s possible that some businesses do, while others realize it’s unrealistic. It’s most likely that the same faction that wants to push the station away is the one that wants a garage, as if they don’t understand cities. If they really want a garage and lots of cheap/free parking, they could relocate to the suburbs which specializes in that. The corollary is they’d no longer be in Chinatown, and no longer get as many walk-up customers or tourists.

      2. The CID has long wanted a public parking garage, but not for a park and ride. Look at the huge amount of parking Uwajimaya put in when it built its new store. That is where my wife and I park if we go to the CID, because each hour is free if you buy $10/hr. worth of items. So two hours for $20 in groceries my wife was going to by anyway.

        One of the things that is really holding the CID back retail wise is the lack of parking. The CID knows eastsiders won’t really take Link to the CID but will still drive, but the real danger is the eastside is opening so many Asian restaurants that are very good and have free parking.

        Based on the current zoning in the CID, and the likelihood building heights will be raised to support steel framed buildings (22 stories to pencil out) I don’t think the CID as we know it will be around in 15 years. More like The Spring Dist. which many on this blog think is the bees knees.

        But a parking garage was never offered to the CID, and so the stations will be at CID N/S. Looks like each side snaked the other.

      3. https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/ParksAndRecreation/Projects/LittleSaigon/LittleSaigonParkingStudy_final-20210910.pdf

        Here is one of many requests for more parking from CID to Little Saigon.


        This is a humorous take.


        This is one of the online sites for nearby parking.


        This is a good article on the CID’s objections to the second station.


        This article discusses McGinn’s roll back of parking rates in the CID after the CID objected.

        Here is an opposing view: https://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-city-life/2012/02/is-paid-parking-killing-chinatown-in-a-word-no

        I doubt any garage would have free parking. But just about every retail area from U Village to Northgate Mall to Bellevue to Issaquah to Crossroads has lots of free parking. As Brooks notes, obvious parking is the most critical. Some fee is good to manage use.

        But the fact is the city and progressives decided the CID did not need parking, and the CID decided the CID did not need a second Link station. Everyone got what they wanted. A station at 5th and Jackson is not part of the DEIS so end of story.

        Me personally, I would have negotiated with the CID, because I would rather pour money into the CID and have a station on 5th and Jackson and address the historic problems in the CID than spend it on CID N/S or God forbid $800 million for 4th. (Of course I would have used the zillions the eastside subarea has to run a tunnel under or next to Bellevue Way). But progressives and transit advocates are so blinded by their hatred of cars and belief transit even in the era of discretionary transit will change how people live and travel and society as a whole they can’t see 90%+ of citizens don’t see it that way, and if transit advocates wanted a station on 5th and Jackson they were going to have to pay for it, and that probably meant a parking garage like Kent, Auburn and Sumner got. Big deal. But the CID is brown and I guess Sumner, Auburn and Kent are not.

        It is no skin off my nose. We park at Uwajimaya, but the CID is falling into such disrepair with declining retail and safety we go more and more to the eastside for Asian food. I can’t tell the difference, but my wife can, but she also does not like walking around the CID these days. My guess is in 15 years no one will even recognize the CID.

    4. > Less incompetent and arrogant construction schedules. ST hasn’t built anything on time, ever. This reputation is really coming back to bite ST in the ass with Midtown, CID, SLU, and probably soon Ballard and WS. Every construction site turns into a war zone, ST always misses something, and construction goes on FOREVER.

      ST could always be better but it’s not that out of line with other transit agencies construction. I’d say it’s more American’s tolerance for construction has just decreased. The original transit tunnels dug on 3rd avenue or say San Francisco’s muni tunnels were a large endeavor as well.

      Additionally a lot of the changes people as asking for ‘less impact’ really lengthen the construction time (and could honestly end up impacting more). For instance the shifted north alternative Denny station to maintain some lanes on Westlake Avenue means construction would take 8 years rather than 4 years. The interbay station consolidation so it doesn’t impact the street as much also means a lot more tunnel digging and additional construction time etc… People say they want less construction impacts, but then ask for the complete opposite half the time.

  32. The ST board is meeting now, and will probably vote on the East Link Starter Line, increasing the Ballard Link budget for the additional environmental review, and something called “Adopting a Board Policy for the Sound Transit Tacoma Link Light Rail Substance Abuse Program.” Please hold off any long discussions on these until the next open thread tonight or tomorrow. I can’t attend the meeting; is anyone else there? If you have information from it you can send it to the contact address to incorporate into the next open thread.

  33. So the Eastside starter line is approved. W car trains every 10 minutes. whoop de dooo

    1. Big whoop. There is virtually no comment on the Eastside, except for some preternatural hatred of ST I don’t quite understand. The express buses haven’t been bad and we haven’t had Link. ST is just hard to like.

      Normally I would think this is a political sop to Balducci and the “TOD” developers in Bellevue, except all that development including the 69,000+ multi-family units in “north” Bellevue are on hold, as in not even submitted for permitting, which usually means the zoning is there but not the financing. I know several of those developers and they are scared. The only thing that pencils out is office buildings.

      More and more I am thinking the capacity across the bridge will be limited. This really isn’t a starter line because even Lazarus know it makes no sense if East Link will open fully across the bridge one year later in 2025.

      I don’t really care about the increased capacity from “East Link” trains running from CID to Lynnwood, but I am worried about ST showing up on MI claiming we need to be a bus bridge from the east and west, which this time I hope we know how to fight. The pandemic solved the issue about the intensity of a bus intercept from the east, and probably from the west, but a double intercept is out of the question. Like many Eastside areas we just want East Link to pass through without stopping.

      1. @DT,

        Actually, this is a big whoop! The Eastside finally gets a taste of what Seattle has had for over a decade now.

        Ya, it’s not fully connected to the rest of the system, and it doesn’t take Eastside riders where most of them want to go (Seattle), but it is a start.

        What I haven’t seen covered very well though is the side commitments to not let the East Link starter line interfere with the opening or service levels of LLE. Since Lynnwood Link is expected to carry roughly 8 times what the East Link starter line will carry, committing to supporting it as a first priority is important. And apparently that commitment has been made.

        Also not a lot of coverage of the bus bridge from South Bellevue to Seattle, nor the potential for extra buses parallel to LLE.

        But, assuming ST can do this without impacting Lynnwood Link, this is good news. And a very big WHOOP!

      2. @DT,

        Oh, and to be clear, apparently a temporary bus bridge from SBS to Seattle is part of the agreement to open the EL starter line.

        However I’m not sure what form that bus bridge will take, nor whether or not it stops on MI. Hopefully it will, because the point is to mimic the eventual full East Link. And the full East Link will stop on MI.

        But we are finally entering a period of continuous Link service improvements. Progress is being made!

  34. I think the “bus bridge” will be called the 550. It stops on MI and at SBS and continues to Bellevue Way. The other access will be the park and ride at S. Bellevue, but that is rarely used today and extremely rarely for someone taking the 550 east.

    I don’t think any of the Issaquah to Seattle buses will divert to SBS, and why would they. Plus Metro is cutting service on those.

    The subarea has the money for this folly. But I don’t know why anyone would take it as transit. The real question is whether this is a “starter” line or The Board knows something more.

    I do agree though the focus should be on Lynnwood Link.

  35. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/bezos-backed-company-surpasses-100m-in-single-family-home-acquisitions-while-u-s-housing-shortage-worsens/ar-AA1fMj6r?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=48d8357ce186453dbd532208da93b98c&ei=11

    “Shortly before home prices began to surge in 2021, Amazon.com Inc. Founder Jeff Bezos made a bet on a Seattle-based startup that had a mission to make real estate investments more accessible to retail investors. That year, Arrived Homes became the first company to legally sell shares of individual rental properties to nonaccredited investors.”

    “Investors on the real estate platform have now funded over 294 single-family homes with a total value of more than $109 million.

    “Bezos’s investment in the real estate company’s seed round appears to have been well-timed since skyrocketing home prices followed by rising mortgage rates have helped send the homeownership rate in the U.S. to its lowest level since 1970.”

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