Tuesday, 18 February, 2020

Pierce Transit Charts 198% Growth In Long-Range Plan Update

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Pierce Transit has a vision of growth, but it will take a substantial amount of additional public investment to realize. A long-range plan update, as proposed, would put Pierce Transit to increase weekday ridership by 198% from 28,700 to 85,700 by 2040. This would be made possible by introducing three bus rapid transit lines, launching several new fixed bus routes, and increasing frequencies so that more routes benefit from 15-, 20-, and 30-minute service headways.

Pierce Transit has struggled in the past decade. The Great Recession devoured finances since the transit agency is heavily reliant on the sales tax. As a funding source, that type of tax is highly volatile to economic circumstances and based upon consumer purchasing. Demand for goods, particularly of high value, plummeted during the Great Recession in Pierce County. The transit agency also did not have a well-padded rainy day fund to pull from to cover continued operational expenses.

The combined financial troubles of Pierce Transit led to massive service reductions after reaching a record high of about 660,000 annual service hours in 2008. The transit agency subsequently tried to obtain voter approval for new taxing authority to save and expand service. However, anti-tax activists led by the car sales lobby were successful in ensuring rejection of new taxes at the ballot box.

In order to create service efficiencies and consolidate bus service, Pierce Transit sought to reduce the geographic area of its Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) in 2012. Cities like Bonney Lake, Buckley, and Sumner were taken out of the PTBA meaning that they would no longer be taxed but also would no longer benefit from bus service, limited as it was.

What We’re Reading: Rose Lanes, HS2 Green-Lighted, and A Useful Tool

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Rose lanes: Portland has adopted its “rose lanes” program to expand transit priority across the city, but will they be safe for people biking?

Meter parking: Everett finally resorts to pricing on-street parking.

Food deserts: Zoning restrictions on the location of dollar stores are gaining popularity.

Lost and found: If you lose something in Japan, there is a very good chance you’ll get it back due to a strong social lost-and-found system.

AVs raise concerns: Autonomous vehicles present a lot of concern over safety.

Not so cheap: Increasingly unaffordable housing in Texas is making its housing market look a lot more like California’s.

HS2 green-lighted: In a big move last week, the British parliament approved a plan to expand high-speed rail north of London as part of the HS2 program.

Transit wins: The Washington Supreme Court has found that the car tab fee schedule that Sound Transit must use is constitutional ($).

Housing debates: In Nebraska, the effort to expand other housing types in single-family zones is not terribly controversial.

Reduce by pricing: Mayors in Hawaii want the state to study decongestion pricing to reduce air pollution and reduce traffic.

Morally corrupt: Donald Trump’s administration is trying to sue King County to allow King County International Airport ($) to be used for their deportation airlifts of immigrants.

Roads funding: A new levy lid lift could be headed to the ballot in King County to fund road maintenance mostly in rural areas.

A useful tool: Vancouver’s vacancy tax is working, raising revenue for housing and lowering the rate of empty homes.

VA fare debates: Virginia is considering reduced and free transit fares across the state.

Parking economy: Strong Towns argues that parking is something that market can’t solve.

I-976 saga: A King County judge has tried to dispose most of the constitutional arguments on I-976 ($), but the initiative remains on hold as it works its way through the court.

The housing lottery: The King County Housing Authority has reopened its lottery for Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers ($).

Map of the Week: Light pollution is actually making stargazing problematic in many rural areas of America.

Sound Transit Committee Votes to Advance Opening 130th Street Station Earlier

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Credit: Sound Transit

Last week, Sound Transit’s System Expansion Committee unanimously voted to put forth a motion to the agency’s Board of Directors that sets the stage for moving up the 130th Street light rail station’s opening date, while still pushing the final approval vote ahead to 2021. The decision is intended to please both community advocates who support advancing the opening date of the 130th Street Station, and Sound Transit Boardmembers troubled by the projected $33 million accounting hit associated with the move.

Credit: Sound Transit

Initially incorporated into Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link Extension as an infill station set to open a full seven years after the nearby 145th Street/Shoreline South Station, advancing the opening date of the 130th Street Station has emerged as a rallying point for community advocates from nearby Northeast Seattle neighborhoods like Pinehurst, Haller Lake, and Lake City, many of whom have long argued that constructing the two stations simultaneously would minimize service disruptions on the future light rail line, while providing additional benefits such as better informed neighborhood planning and increased light rail access for North Seattle’s most racially and economically diverse zip codes.

Sunday Video: How Can Cities End Homelessness?

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Dave Amos of City Beautiful talks about the homelessness crisis in America. He covers two general approaches used to address the crisis and emphasizes the importance and efficacy of the Housing First model.

Nathan at MOHAI on February 19th

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My lectures sound like this. 

You may not think you like lectures, or maybe the word gives you college flashbacks too boring to recall, but I promise you that’s not what this is going to be. MOHAI’s a lovely outfit, and they’re letting me be, well, myself, and I’ve got some surprises for you. This is going to be a lil’ different from my other talks, in keeping with my tradition of having each of my events being unique in focus (so they continue to be interesting to show up to!), only more so.

No one’s ever asked me to give an hour-long lecture before, and believe you me, I’m going to take full advantage. In the same way that my cat speech is really a thirty-minute talk crammed into ten minutes, I’ve got a ton to share with you. We’re gonna dive deep. History is about more than the past, and buses are about more than transport. As in the image above, the talk is officially called “What Bus Lines Tell Us About Seattle,” but as it has evolved it might now more accurately be termed “What Bus Lines in Seattle Tell Us About Ourselves.” That’s right. Divin’ deep.

I’ll be exploring what we so often find ourselves thinking about when we’re moving about in the big city–communication, loneliness, cultural divides, generational shifts in perspective, how transit brings us together… What we do and don’t do and all the details and habits of daily life that history will fail to record, but which we knew were real. Let us celebrate the rich denseness of present existence as it passes before our eyes, unbeknownst to us because of how quickly we’re zipping through life. 

Basically: let’s stop and smell the buses. Or something.

I’ll see you there. (Click here for a less poetic breakdown of the evening’s event here; also, books will be available for sale!)

MOHAI

860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

6:30 – 8pm

Free

Location, bus, and parking details here.

City and Seattle Housing Authority Announce Future 8.5-Acre Equitable Development Site in Northgate

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An aerial view illustrating the proximity of the future Northgate Commons equitable development site to the Northgate Mall Redevelopment and Northgate Station. (Credit: City of Seattle)

In the mid-20th century, Northgate Mall was considered to be one of the most ambitious commercial developments in North America, if not the world. The “Fabulous Northgate” may not have actually been the world’s first suburban shopping center or climate-controlled indoor mall, but it was certainly among the earliest constructed, and its design, which provided thousands of parking spaces separate from a pedestrianized shopping area where visitors could wander from store to store, heavily influenced the concept of the classic American shopping mall as we know it today.

An early aerial view of the 60 acre Northgate Shopping Center. The original design included 3,500 parking spaces. After the completion of Interstate 5 in 1965, about 50,000 cars visited Northgate daily during its commercial peak. (Credit: Seattle Public Library Special Collections)
An early aerial view of the 60 acre Northgate Shopping Center. The original design included 3,500 parking spaces. After the completion of Interstate 5 in 1965, about 50,000 cars visited Northgate daily during its commercial peak. (Credit: Seattle Public Library Special Collections)

Today, however, a stroll through the mostly shuttered remains of Northgate Mall reveals an institution and neighborhood sitting on the precipice of major change. Much of the existing mall stands shuttered as construction crews labor away at the Northgate’s reinvention as the site of a new Link light rail station and National Hockey League training facility, both expected to open in 2021, along with the much anticipated Northgate Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, which will span across Interstate 5 to connect these sites to North Seattle College and the Licton Springs neighborhood.

While plans for King County to build transit-oriented affordable housing on the site of a 5.7-acre former parking lot and bus depot have stalled, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) Executive Director Andrew Lofton announced the intention to partner on transforming 8.5 acres of property into a mixed-income community near the Northgate light rail station this week.

Connection to Thomas Street Overpass Slated for Upgrade

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It’s hard to believe that before 2012, there wasn’t a way to get from Uptown to Seattle’s world-class waterfront walking and biking trail without backtracking nearly to Belltown. The Thomas Street Overpass today is a key part of Seattle’s transportation network today, bridging the gap over both the BNSF railway tracks and the car sewer that is Elliott Avenue W, connecting 3rd Avenue W with the Elliott Bay Trail.

Yet the Uptown side of the bridge has always dropped people off at a narrow sidewalk or on a narrow two-lane road that many drivers tend to zoom down after exiting Elliott Avenue. As the logical destination-point of someone biking east-west in Uptown, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is planning an upgrade to the 3rd Avenue side of the bridge to coincide with the upgrades to Thomas Street planned in conjunction with the renovation to the Seattle Center Arena. We covered the improvements planned for Thomas Street on the east side of Seattle Center last year.

The planned changes near Seattle Center. (City of Seattle)
The planned changes near Seattle Center. (City of Seattle)

SDOT is considering three different options, which all essentially ramp up how much space is taken from the roadway. Here are bird’s eye views of the three designs side-by-side so you can compare them.

The Streetcar Symphony

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Nothing stops the chorus of a city’s urban dance than a parking garage or surface lot. In the booming age of Seattle’s downtown core, with cranes becoming mainstay images of our skyline, it’s amazing that any parking lot still exists in this city. For some major sites located adjacent to the streetcar and within a stone’s throw of Amazon’s main campus, that orchestra is about to commence.

At the end of 2019, Kilroy Realty purchased the sites that included a multi-level parking garage, a single-story bank, a few surface parking lots and the Lloyd Building, a 10-story landmarked office building. The project goals have recently been released and these two blocks are about to gain 7,500 users on any given day. The one and three-quarter block development will bring 900,000 square feet of office space, 25,000 square feet of food and beverage businesses, and over 800 residential units. The developer promises the most sustainable of developments, with carbon neutrality as a key component.

These three parcels will house 800 or more residential units, 900,000 square feet of office space, and 24,000 square feet of food and beverage retail. The mixture of uses will generate over 7,500 users in and around the streetcar stop on Westlake. (Google Maps, edited by the Author)
These three parcels will host 800 or more residences, 900,000 square feet of office space, and 24,000 square feet of food and beverage retail. The mixture of uses will generate over 7,500 users in and around the streetcar stop on Westlake. (Google Maps, edited by the author)

Mixture of Uses

While the Lloyd Building is landmarked, the businesses it houses are not. There is no knowledge if this development will house multiple addresses, like the current layout of the Lloyd Building’s many office tenants, or if the goal is to lease to a larger company. With Seattle’s growth in a single sector, and many of those marquee businesses seeking Seattle as a second hub to their Bay Area headquarters, it’s likely that a larger name is in mind. Either way, the commercial space will house 5,000 or more people commuting to this address every day.