Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

What We’re Reading: Ambitious on Tenants, Plymouth Housing, and Auto Row


PDX expanding LRT: The plan for Portland’s expanded southwest light rail line takes shape.

The suburbs: It’s the age old question of “how do we define the suburbs?”

Ambitious on tenants: New York could be on the cusp of major updates and extension to tenant protections ($).

Very cold leadership: Everett’s city council has chosen to temporarily block permanent housing for students and their families ($) experiencing homelessness.

Permitted for construction: After 137 years of construction, Barcelona’s grand church Sagrada Familia has been issued a building permit.

After dusk: Why are American parks closed at night?

Big plans to house: Plymouth Housing is planning to build 800 units for people experiencing homeless in Seattle.

Cleanup melting down: Nuclear waste cleanup is stalling out at Hanford.

The supertall game: How developers in New York City game the zoning code to build supertall towers.

Cleared for reopening: San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center is nearly ready to reopen after discovery of shoddy workmanship.

Building midblock crossings: Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog USA looks at how to build safer midblock crossings for pedestrians.

Auto Row-inspired: On 15th Ave E in Capitol Hill, plans for a new development to replace a service station show an Auto Row-inspired design.

Undermining workers: Uber and Lyft are trying to get legislators in California to block a worker rights bill.

Shrinking but prosperous: Richard Florida at CityLab looks at how some shrinking cities are still prospering.

Connecting provinces: Québec wants to get in on the light rail expansion in Ottawa to bring it to Gatineau.

How Will Emerging Mobility Technologies Reshape Seattle’s Right-of-Way?

A temporary low intensity travel lane in Kansas City Missouri. Credit: SDOT Emerging Technology and Mobility Options Operating in City Right-of-Way

Meet Veemo, an electric assist vehicle that advertises itself as “bike share meets car share.” From a legal and technical standpoint, Veemo is an electric assist tricycle, or e-trike, but Veemo also includes an enclosure to shield riders from the elements that makes it resemble the tiny car super nerd Steve Urkel drove around in the classic 90’s sitcom Family Matters.

Veemo is part of a new generation of velomobiles, or bike cars, that are creeping up in popularity as people have grown increasing concerned about the significant impact of car emissions on global warming.

Currently available as a shared vehicle on the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus in Vancouver, BC, the Veemo velomobile is just one example of the new wave of small electric powered vehicles the City of Seattle is preparing to see enter its streets in coming years.

Veemo is available for rental on the UBC campus in Vancouver, BC. (Credit: SDOT)

The Emerald City has already had its fair share of emerging transportation technologies hit its hilly and congested streets. Seattle was an early playground for carshare and rideshare, but Mayor Jenny Durkan’s hesitancy on e-scooter share has made the city a late arrival to the scooting phenomena that shaken up car-centric cities like Dallas, which already has four dockless e-scooter share companies operating within its city limits. Seattle has the largest dockless bikeshare fleet in the country making it one of the few places in the US where dockless bikeshare has actually flourished.

Sunday Video: The Green New Deal, Explained


In this video, Vox discusses the concept of the Green New Deal, a platform to change the American economy to a green economy while accounting for social welfare.

Avery Rising


We’ve grown accustomed to requiring a certain dose of cynicism in our fictions in order to find them believable. “Few people have the imagination for reality,” Goethe wrote. Because truth can be beautiful in ways we have trouble daring ourselves to believe. Said Mark Twain: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

I preface this story with these thoughts because I want you to know it really did happen. Yes, we conceive of awe as the appropriate emotional reaction to that which is extreme; but what about that which is happy? Doesn’t that equally warrant our reverence, our admiration and respect?

Readers of my book will know of Avery, whose story features prominently in the book’s delicate thematic organization of a series of seemingly unrelated stories. It’s included for several reasons– we touch briefly on my filmmaking background; we explore a character who rode my bus not once but dozens of times; and most importantly, we offer it to the reader almost as a dare. To what? 

To believe.

“Half of them think it won’t work out,” Melanie Laurent’s character says in Mike Mills’ astute and grossly underrated 2011 romance Beginners, looking at a crowd of people. “And the other half… believe in magic.”

Community Transit Hints At Service Boost and Restructure Post-Lynnwood Link


It’s been well known for awhile that Community Transit plans to expand the Swift network further by 2024 to complement opening of the Lynnwood Link extension and I-405 and SR-522 bus rapid transit (Stride). That said, how the overall network might be shuffled around for local and commuter service has been less clear. Recently, Community Transit announced that the transit agency is currently evaluating what an overhaul of the full bus network will look like once the light rail extension is open at a briefing to the Snohomish County Council on service planning.

What the network in Southwest Snohomish County with Link could look like in 2024. (Community Transit)
What the network in Southwest Snohomish County with Link could look like in 2024. (Community Transit)

The 2024 concepts indicate that the local bus network will grow and improve service to Snohomish County communities with more frequency, coverage, and span of service due to saved service hours from truncating and eliminating commuter routes and increasing revenues. Much of the service planning emphasis will be on how to get bus riders to and from light rail and Sound Transit’s forthcoming Stride service. Community Transit’s own bus rapid transit lines (Swift) will continue to be major workhouses to do this work with the addition of a new Orange Line between McCollum Park Park-and-Ride and Edmonds Community College as well as an extended Blue Line southward to the NE 185th St light rail station in Shoreline. Community Transit will also look at how other first- and last-mile mobility options could factor into connecting local riders with several major transit centers near the county line.

Level of Service to Grow

Service hours are set to jump. (Community Transit)

In recent years, Community Transit has been increasing annual service hours with bouying tax revenues and a sales tax increase authorized in 2015. Once approved, the transit agency began a six-year process to grow annual service hours about 40%.

Annual service hours stand at about 450,000 right now, which made about a 10% year-over-year jump, primarily due to the introduction of Swift Green Line service in March. That number will jump to over 600,000 in 2024. A good chunk of this will become available with saved service hours (noted in orange in the graph) of buses that currently operate on I-5.

Commuter Route Concepts

Community Transit currently has 25 commuter routes (including six Sound Transit-branded routes) that operate between Snohomish County and King County, mostly to Downtown Seattle and University District. Buses spend much of their time stuck in congestion on I-5 and I-405 as well as deadheading (out of service trips to route terminals). The opening of light rail and Stride to Lynnwood will greatly reduce the need for commuter routes running into King County. With the new connections, the I-5 and I-405 service hours could be reinvested to more local versions of the commuter routes to reach light rail and Stride.

MASS Forums Reveal Stark Differences in Council Races

Candidates with their rapid fire round placards. (Credit: Doug Trumm)

The Seattle City Council candidate forums hosted by the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) coalition zeroed in on transportation and housing issues and revealed not all races were created equally.

The District 4 (D4) forum displayed a considerable consensus around adding density in single family zones and making streets safer for people walking, rolling, biking, etc. Granted, this consensus was furthered by the absence of Alex Pedersen, homeowner group groupie. Apparently Pederson was talking with some Magnuson Park neighbors about public safety instead. Here’s a tweet recap of the D4 debate by yours truly. (See D4 forum transcript.)

On the other hand, District 7 (D7) candidates were much more hesitant to go all-in on a safe streets and urbanist platform; our own Ryan Packer had a tweet thread from the D7 forum. In fact, most were much more excited to blow something like a half a billion dollars doing a one-for-one replacement of the Magnolia Bridge to expand car capacity in D7 rather than grapple with funding more pressing needs for transit, sidewalks, and biking infrastructure–which the same candidates often painted as too expensive. Queen Anne Greenways tweeted that they’d like to trade for some D4 candidates. (See D7 forum transcript.)

Likewise, a wide variety of transportation and housing takes were on display District 6 (D6) and some were not too into the MASS platform. Retiring Councilmember Mike O’Brien has generally been a stalwart for safe streets and housing justice, but some in the district are taking his retirement as a chance to go in the opposite direction. (See D6 transcript.)

District 2 (D2) was somewhere in-between with some candidates telling MASS supporters to take a hike on their priorities and/or making stuff up (cough: Ari Hoffman). But frontrunner Tammy Morales (who lost by less than 400 votes to retiring Councilmember Bruce Harrell last time around) displayed a firm grasp of the issues. (See D2 transcript.)

The District 3 (D3) still has an incumbent in Councilmember Kshama Sawant so it had a different dynamic with challengers taking an aggressive stance in hopes of erasing the advantage of incumbency, as Natalie Bicknell reported. Fireworks aside, candidates seemed amenable to reducing the primacy of cars to make space for people, while their housing solutions varied along a spectrum from free market-focused fixes (Logan Bowers) to social housing centered platforms (Sawant). (See D3 transcript.)

Rooted In Rights recently released all the forum videos (complete with transcripts and closed captions) so you can see for yourself who were the standouts. Seattle Tech 4 Housing was nice enough to code all the rapid-fire responses into spreadsheets for each race to more easily see the differences.

Ride for Safe Streets this Sunday!


Seattle’s streets should be safe for everyone: people of all ages, languages, ethnicities, genders, races, and abilities. But currently many of our streets aren’t and the Durkan administration hasn’t made fixing them a priority.

Join a coalition of groups that care about our safety, our climate, and our city on Sunday, June 16 to celebrate the joys of biking, rolling, and walking, and urge City leaders to fast-track improvements to make Seattle’s streets safe for everyone.

We’ll meet at Seattle City Hall at 1pm for a lively rally with face painting and other family activities and then travel with hundreds of people down 4th Avenue to Westlake Park. It’ll be a family-friendly fun Father’s Day afternoon coming together to make our streets safe for all families.

There’s also a bike train from Othello Station and Plaza Roberto Maestas to help the Southeast Seattle contingent arrive safely and in style. See below for details.

Ride for Safe Streets
Sunday, June 16, 1-3 pm
Seattle City Hall to Westlake Park
RSVP here and share the event on Facebook.

Unlike Seattle, Golf Really is Dying

Interbay Golf Center used to be a landfill. (Credit: Interbay Golf Center)

Last week, The Seattle Times ran an article headlined, ‘Study questions ‘best use’ of golf courses Seattle operates’. The article stems from a report that the City commissioned in 2017. The report was apparently due a year ago, but was only recently released, as reported by Erica C. Barnett at the C is for Crank.

A number of candidates immediately jumped into the fray, including former councilmember Heidi Wills on her campaign facebook page. “The City is wasting time and money studying the best use of our city’s golf courses. These green jewels are our inheritance,” she opined.
Merely studying what the best use of rarely used 528 acres (11%) of Seattle’s city-owned open space — amidst an open space shortage, a housing crisis, and rapidly devolving climate situation— is a waste of time and money, Wills alleges. The city’s report is mostly full of fluff, seemingly tilted to elevate the importance and forthcoming increased usage of municipal golf into the future, in order to justify the large expenditures it will require in coming years. Unsurprisingly, the data indicates the opposite.

Total rounds are in freefall. (Credit: City of Seattle Golf Study)

Golf’s Severe Lack of Diversity

The data shows a disturbing lack of diversity, heavily tilted toward men being the dominant user — no municipal course in 2016 saw more than 17% of users were female, and half saw as little as 10%. This isn’t really surprising, golf has long had a diversity problem, as well as a troubled history of misogyny. Also worth noting, according to the report, nearly 70% of players stated they don’t actually play most of their golf in Seattle. The report doesn’t have any data on racial diversity of users, but notes that until the 1960s, minority golfers faced significant discrimination.