Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.


King County’s Original Proposal of Required Service Cuts

Opposition to proposition one proved to be too much. With the unofficial results, the measure appears to have failed. Current results show “Yes” on Prop 1 to be nearly 38,000 votes shy. The next step is unclear but King County will likely submit plans to reduce service by 16%. This will likely cut over 550,000 hours of service, disproportionately affect the poor that can’t afford cars, increase congestion and reduce economic opportunity. You can see the routes that will be changed or deleted for yourself here and here.

Perhaps the most important and dismaying result of this outcome will be to embolden those that are anti-transit. Showing that a transit tax can’t even pass in King County, the most supportive area in the state for transit, is not encouraging for legislators who are gauging the public attitude about transit. This gives much more leverage to rural counties. The desperate nature of funding allows anti-transit legislators to extract more from those whose livelihood depends on public transit.

Perhaps the only silver lining in all of this is that it may prove to be a rallying cry for those of us that care about people too poor to own cars, fighting climate change and designing a successful city. If you don’t want to stand on the sidelines but actually get involved in order to win the next fight, you can connect directly with The Urbanist by emailing


Posted by & filed under Culture.

Picture 7


People often ask me what “the most craziest thing” I’ve ever experienced on the bus is. Naturally there are far too many such incidents to single out as an answer. Also, frankly speaking, such incidents are not as interesting to me as the moments of positivity and human interaction I recount here. A man pulling down his pants in an attempt to defecate in the articulated section of the bus but having his feces accidentally miss their aim and end up inside his pants is definitely unusual, but is it thought-provoking? Such stories also run the risk of exoticizing their subjects as the incomprehensible “other,” which is not at all the thought pathway I’d like to travel on. More like the opposite. I do enjoy reveling in the bizarro atmospheres that live out here every day, but I search for the common ground.

I recall a man once approaching me on the 3/4. He was tall and thin, dressed in a conglomeration of undershirts and jackets, the sort of garb that becomes colorless when you spend enough time outside. He looked at me and said, “Hey, driver. What state are we in?”
“This is Washington State,” I said, in a neutral and helpful tone.
“Oh. Thanks,” he replied, returning to his seat.

Of course it was tempting to make some sort of play on “state of mind,” or laughing, or in some other way acknowledging the complete absurdity of the question. However, there was a very, very small but still possible chance that he actually needed that information, and it’s the sort of query which is strangely hard to get an answer for. Beyond that, what could be more awesome- is there another word for it?- than the rare, golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to answer such a question with a straight face! What a luxurious thrill! He appeared to be genuinely unclear as to which of the contiguous states he was in. “I love this job,” I thought to myself as I drove ahead.

Recently I had an interaction which, in its own special way, is for me one of the all-time unfathomables for me.

I pull into Third and Virginia northbound. Standing in the crosswalk on Virginia is an arguing couple. Rows of T-shirts and other items are on display, hanging off the top of the chain-link fence and arrayed on the cement below. A trio on both sides of the roadway engage in conversation, using their sixty-foot voices. Afternoon light glances across the scene at an angle. It is a tableaux of reds, blues, and blacks, clothing cuts of every manner, filthy and refined, set against the pale gray of newly finished concrete. I’m reminded of the benevolent chaos in Carracci’s 1602 painting The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, or maybe the background of Perugino’s 1482 fresco Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter-  unrelated clumps of characters populating the same space, mingling in and out of each other.

There, in the RapidRide bus stop, directly in front of my open doors, a seated figure speaks to me.
“Remember me?” she asks.
“Of course! How’s it goin’?”
“You don’t drive the 3 and 4 no more!”
“Oh yeah, I do somethin’ different every day now! I kinda like to get around.”
“Oh,” she says. Friendly.
“Well, good to see you again. Have a good one!”

What’s so bizarre about that, you might ask. Let me tell you. The woman speaking was- was- does anything other than italicized all caps with exclamation points suffice?- yes, she was the one, and the only, LIGHT SKINNED BLACK WOMAN!

Where were the disparaging racial epithets and songs about abortion? Why no mention of miscarriages and masturbation? Were my ears deceiving me? Don’t let me down here, my friend!

I closed the doors and drove away in awe. I had seen the Niagara Falls. I had heard evidence of extraterrestrial life, and made it to the jungle retreats of northern Laos. She was simply the better side of herself, chomping down on fried chicken, catching up with an acquaintance one sunny Friday afternoon. How incomprehensibly abstruse, and how terrific. I didn’t understand any of it, but I was happy to be that acquaintance.

Newer readers: read a primer on the great LSB-Dub, everyone’s favorite passenger, here. Watch a speech of mine recounting her adventures here.


Posted by & filed under Politics, Transportation.

Metro Pary

Tonight we’ll be meeting up at the Roy Street Coffee & Tea on Capitol Hill from 6pm-9pm. Feel free to drop in at any point. We’ll be talking urbanism, city issues, and ways in which you can get involved with our organization. The evening also is special because of the Prop 1 vote. We expect election results to come in some time around 8.15pm. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for celebration! You can find us at a big table toward the back of the coffehouse. The good news about the space is that it’s big, open to all ages, and has a great selection of coffees, teas, and beer. Yes, you read that right: beer!

In the meantime, make sure to get your ballots in for Prop 1, and make it a YES (not that we were expecting anything less of you). Ballots must be postmarked by tonight, so be sure to get yours to the Post Office or a collection box ASAP. If you plan to take your ballot to a drop off box, you will need to do so by 8pm. Mobile drop off locations have variable close times between 5pm and 8pm. And, if your ballot never came or because you need a replacement one, you can print one off the internet and send it back via fax or e-mail to King County Elections. Remember that you will also need to post a copy of the packet by mail afterward.

See you tonight!


Posted by & filed under Transportation.


Dow Constantine and employees supporting the Seahawks. Courtesy of King County - License

Dow Constantine is asking sports fans to support Metro Transit by voting YES on King County Proposition 1. “We need to save Metro to keep the 12th Man–and every fan–moving,” says the King County Executive, in a last-minute effort to rally sports fans in support of the embattled transit measure.

When introducing the measure earlier this year, Constantine warned that an absence of action by the Legislature on a statewide transportation package would lead to dramatic cutbacks in Metro bus service. “We are out of time for a statewide solution that includes a local option.” He stated, “We must move forward on our own.”

Proposition 1 would create  a Transportation Benefit District (TBD), providing around $130 million a year in funding for Metro Transit and county roads by imposing a $60 vehicle fee and a one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) increase in the sales tax. The measure is needed because of the decline in sales tax revenue, which Metro relies upon, that resulted from the Great Recession. Bus fares have already increased four times in the last five years, with another increase due in 2015.

The quality and quantity of transit options available to and from games significantly impacts the fan experience at sporting events. After Metro helped more than 700,000 Seahawks fans get to and from downtown for one of the most memorable moments of our lifetime, Publicola columnist Erica Barnett pointed to the Seahawks parade as an argument for preserving public transit. Investor Chris Hansen and his Sonics Arena organization have shown their commitment, emerging as one of the top 5 donors to the campaign, which has also been endorsed by the Seattle Mariners.

“A strong transportation plan is an important part of a successful fan experience for any sporting event,” advises Ralph Morton, Executive Director of the Seattle Sports Commission. ”It is essential that our world-class stadiums are accessible. To be successful, they require diverse and effective local transit, including buses and light rail, in addition to eco-friendly options such as bike and pedestrian access.”

Sporting events, especially for successful teams or critical games, create surges in traffic that require careful planning.

“Thousands of Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners fans need to get safely to and from the stadiums,” says Brooke Stegar, General Manager of Uber Seattle. “We regularly see a large increase in demand during home games in Seattle. Reliable transportation options reduce hassle and congestion. They also ensure public safety by taking drunk drivers off the road.”

Metro offers special shuttle service from certain park & ride lots for all weekend Seahawks and University of Washington home football games, in many cases providing a valuable introduction to public transit for residents who may otherwise be unlikely to try riding the bus. A suburban resident who successfully utilizes public transportation to attend a Seahawks game may consider transit options in the future when traveling to SeaTac airport or, if they enjoy their experience, may be more likely to ride the bus downtown for shopping, dinner or to attend a show.

“Anyone who’s joined the crowds for a big game knows how much easier it is to take the bus to the downtown,” advises Constantine.

Dow Constantine, more than any other elected official, has been a champion for fans of sports and other cultural events. I trust his judgment and encourage readers to support him by voting YES on Proposition 1.

Ballots must be mailed by Tuesday, April 22.

Brian Robinson is a lifelong resident of the Seattle area. He served as Co-Founder of Save Our Sonics and President of Brian’s complete bio is available at, follow him on Twitter @Coalition206.


Posted by & filed under Politics, Transportation.

Save Metro, Vote Yes

It’s not too late to turn in your ballot—tomorrow is Election Day! Ballots must be postmarked by the 22nd, so be sure to get yours to the Post Office or a collection box. And, don’t forget to remind your friends, loved ones, and fellow transit riders to vote YES. Begging is a totally acceptable option if all else fails. But if you need to arm yourself with reasons, we would encourage you to look at the Seattle Transit Blog’s reasons why here and here.

If you plan to drop your ballot off at a drop off box, you will need to do so by 8pm on election night. Mobile drop off locations have variable close times between 5pm and 8pm. If you’ve already voted, you can track your ballot online. Let’s save King County Metro as well as our roads and bridges!


Posted by & filed under Transportation, Video.

Preferred Alternative

Yesterday, Sound Transit released a video simulation of the preferred alternative alignment of North Link. The alignment simulated runs from Northgate to Lynnwood. In sum, the preferred alternative would consist of:

  1. Track running west I-5 on the segment north of the Mountalke Terrace Station;
  2. An option to locate a station at 220th St SW nestled just west of I-5; and
  3. Elevated track crossing the wetland area south of the Lynnwood Tranist Center (C3 Modified) and final station elevated corner to the current bus bays.

The alignment would be a mix of trenching, elevated, and at-grade (but separated from other traffic) portions.


Posted by & filed under What We're Reading.


Change is a coming: Community Transit is looking to add new services throughout Snohomish County in September. While Route 110 (Edmonds to Mountlake Terrace) will get the axe, significant restorations and efficiencies will be made. Feel free to comment on the changes.

Creepy open data: Access to open data is awesome, but sometimes it can go a bit too deep. One blogger, James Siddle, takes a look at London’s bike share data…and people’s personal riding habits.

War over a lifeless plaza: We thought this was dead, but apparently a University District activist is still fighting for a lifeless plaza space at the future University District Station. Transit-oriented development seems like a much better option for the University District. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill’s subway station site looks like it could strike the right balance where 14 developers are battling it out for the right to develop projects there.

Flowing green: The Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board has backed new stormwater permitting rules. Future development will be held to much higher and greener standards.

Explosive growth: Seattle and Washington, D.C. have more in common than say San Francisco. We’re both growing, and fast. By 2035, Seattle is to grow by 110,000 residents, but that ain’t nothing. If the Metropolitan Washington Councils of Governments forecasts turnout to be right, the District will have 281,000 new residents by 2040! The good news here? The District will exceed its peak population from 1950.

Bike lanes for all: Seattle loves bikes and, naturally, the City Council has adopted the Bicycle Master Plan (BMP)! There were lots of hurdles along the way, but it finally has happened. Of course, realizing the BMP means some temporary inconveniences like construction reroutes on the Burke-Gilman Trail. On the plus side, you soon will be able to ride all the way from Ballard to Issaquah once King County finishes the final paved stretch along Lake Sammamish.

Completely empty: It may seem shocking, but 4.8 million Census Blocks are completely empty. To see it visually is totally weird and absolutely fascinating.

Love and hate: Sound Transit keeps delivering record ridership because Puget Sound residents love their trains and buses. Meanwhile, the Tennessee legislature has gone out of its way to ban bus rapid transit (Nashville’s AMP) since Republicans there hate public transit.

Go figure: If your state promotes active transportation, you’re probably healthier. Where does active transportation happen? In cities because duh. There’s a strong correlation that increased walking and bicycling leads to better health outcomes.

Even more parklets: The Seattle Department of Transportation has added even more parklets for its expanded pilot project. And, it looks like the Central District will get a hoppy one at that.

Your BMW says “take the bus”: You read that right. It appears that cars may soon be telling you to take the bus when it’s faster.

Rodney Tom calls it quits: The man who controlled the Legislature for two years is calling his political career quits. We can’t rejoice enough.


Posted by & filed under Land Use, Policy, Seattle 2035.

Editor’s Note: In case you missed our previous coverage of Seattle 2035, check out DPD’s Background Report, which covers the city’s planning data from 1995-2012.

Pike Place

The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is wrapping up its scoping process for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analysis. The scoping process is concerned with determining what people want the EIS to address as issues. The EIS already has basic programmatic issues that must be addressed as topics like transportation, land use, environmental health, energy, and more.

DPD is proposing three broad alternatives to accommodate growth. The EIS will analyze these for possible impacts, mitigation measures, and policies to ensure that a preferred alternative will be achieved. By providing specific comments on topics in relation to the proposed alternatives, you can have an impact on the environmental review process and the future policies.

Comprehensive Plan Alternatives


The comment period for the EIS Scoping process ends on April 21, so be sure to provide your feedback. When you do, be specific about the type of things you’d like DPD to consider in its analysis. Comments can be made through e-mail:


Posted by & filed under Culture.


A representation of Tilikum Crossing, courtesy of Tri-Met.

Portland’s newest car-free bridge will be named “Tilikum Crossing”, and it’s by no accident or quirky Portlandia-style convention.

Prior to the settlement of the Pacific Northwest, before the Bostons hauled their canoes up on the shore,this land was–and still is–a busy land of indigenous peoples of all sorts. Among these in Portland are the Clackamas and Willamette peoples who set up large longhouses along the shores of the rivers that now bear their name. The region also hosted tribes from all over who traveled from miles around to trade and to meet their relatives in the area. Currently, we see many of these original peoples in tribes around the region, including the Portland-area Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, and in the indigenous peoples of all tribes living here.

With so many different peoples in the area the ability to actually get along and to trade in common was frequently complicated by dialectic differences and variations. Even families can have a common language that differs from their neighbors. For the most part these variations aren’t necessarily problematic when they’re minute or a few short steps from one another on a temporal scale, but what happens when someone is far-removed?

This is where Chinook Jargon comes into play.

Language is central to the culture of the region’s first peoples, but before English took over as the area’s primary language in the early 1900s the region’s wide variety of dialects often proved to be barriers to visitors and new residents. To get around these barriers the core of the Chinookan languages was standardized over generations and mixed with native and other languages including English into a pidgin known as Chinook Jargon. This jargon proved to be a powerful and easily understood lingua franca that gave locals and visitors alike a common language full of simple yet powerful words that allowed big ideas to be conveyed with few words.

Many of these words are familiar to us in the Pacific Northwest: alki (at some point in the future), hyak (something fast, or doing something quickly), illahee (a defined place), potlatch (giving away) and so on. We accidentally–or by design of our forebears–have learned the Chinook Jargon.

For many native peoples the word for person, people and for friend alike is the most important word. If you don’t know other words, know this one. In Chinook Jargon tilikum can mean person, people, friends and the human collective around you. On its own it’s a unifying term used to put people on an equal ground. The core of what we as urbanists consider the heart of a city, people, is in this word.

Tilikum Crossing is not appropriation or a cute Portlandia-style convention. It incorporates a meaningful word that is powerful and transcends a great deal of history to give its blessings to a vital piece of infrastructure while reminding us of its true purpose: to serve the people.

Article Notes: Please see the following for further resources on culture of the First Peoples.

  • Deloria, Vine. Indians of the Pacific Northwest: From the Coming of the White Man to the Present Day. New York: Doubleday, 1977.
  • Thrush, Coll-Peter. Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-over Place. Seattle: U of Washington, 2007. Print.
  • A Chinook Jargon Phrasebook and Glossary