Construction and zoning vs supply and demand

Frequent commenter RossB recently posted a link to the paper, The Impact of Zoning on Housing Affordability. The title is somewhat of a misdirect because in the opening paragraph it says:

This paper argues that in much of America the price of housing is quite close to the marginal, physical costs of new construction.

The Introduction goes on at some length to emphasis that it is about the cost of housing and not meant to address the issue of poverty. This is key to recognize because it separates the homeless issue from the affordability of housing. As it states on page 4, “To us, a housing affordability crisis means that housing is expensive relative to its fundamental costs of production, not that people are poor.” This is a key concept when related to supply and demand. People who aren’t in the market for a home by definition are not part of demand as it relates to economics. They may want a house, they may need a place to live, but they are not influencing the market price of homes. Or, as they say in the paper, “Hence, we focus on the gap between housing costs and construction costs.”

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I Shall Return

Naked bike riders on the Tilikum Bridge

When we last left our intrepid duo, they had arrived at PDX with a comfortable half hour cushion to catch the return Cascades train to Seattle. Comfortable is a relative term, since by 7PM it was about 90 degrees inside Union Station. No air conditioning but wind tunnel ceiling fans really helped. And since this was the first day of the heat dome the stone and masonry structure had managed to keep things 10-15 degrees cooler than outside.

The station seemed strangely crowded for a Cascades 7:30 train to Seattle. And by crowded, I mean 75% of the seating in use plus people sitting on the floor (marble?) to try and cool off. Amtrak provided free pint size bottles of water which were quickly gone, but there was a plumbed in water cooler across from the gift shop/cafe that I used to refill my water bottle several times. Regular water fountains were shut down due to Covid, but the bathrooms were well maintained and they seemed to have some method of keeping the street campers out of the building.

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PDX to the MAX

SP Daylight and #197

This is part two of our trip Saturday June 26th (wrong date given in part 1) from Seattle to Portland via Amtrak and using Trimet to explore the city. As a reminder, this was the weekend of record breaking temperatures in the Pacific Northwest which had serious consequences for rail travel.

Our primary destination was the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Many transit options from Union Station to ORHC exist, but the most straightforward was to use the MAX Orange line. We could see the MAX trains from Union Station and walked over to NW 6th Avenue. Having been forewarned of the large number of street campers, we weren’t shocked but amazed at how they had taken over the city. The first stop we came to, the ticket vending machine wasn’t working. We walked over to 5th and bought HOP day passes with my credit card for $5; and not a tent in sight.

I have to give Portland transit an A rating. Not an A+ because some of the signage and info on their transit maps is not clear unless you know the system. Like, what does this green square mean on the MAX “Orange Line” train we’re boarding. The colors and direction arrows are also really hard to read on the TriMET map and they have streetcars and MAX lines that use the same colors. It wasn’t yet noon, but already hot and muggy, so the air conditioning on MAX was most welcome. The Green Line train we were on ended at Portland State University. After a short wait we boarded a train with a little orange square and were treated to a ride across the Willamette River on the transit-only Tilikum Crossing Bridge, where we noted we could catch a streetcar for our return trip.

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Saying goodbye to the Point Defiance scenic route

MV Olympic on Ketron Island (photo by the author)

Saturday, July 2nd, my son and I took Amtrak Cascades from Seattle to Portland. Train 503 was scheduled to depart King Street Station at 7:25AM. We opted to take ST Express from Mercer Island P&R into Seattle. Our goal was to arrive at 6:30 a.m. to catch the 6:36 a.m. bus. We ended up making a big circle to find the entrance to the P&R and got to Bay 1 just in time to watch our bus pull away at 6:35. Our backup bus was the 554 scheduled to leave Mercer Island at 6:48 arriving at 4th and Jackson at 7:02. The bus didn’t show up until 7:00 which was going to make it really tight to catch our train. Fortunately there’s no traffic at that time on a Saturday morning and we boarded the train with 5 minutes to spare.

We took seats at the very back of the train facing backward. Normally I’m not a fan of facing away from the direction of travel but this gave us leg room and an unobstructed view of an entire window facing west. The train departed on time and after a peekaboo view of Boeing Field we were at Tukwila Station 12 minutes later. The ride from Tukwila to Tacoma was uneventful. I did notice that the speed and quality of ride was far superior to the experience I’ve had riding Sounder on the upper level. I’m also left to wonder why Amtrak Cascades stops at Tukwila but not at Puyallup or Auburn.

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