Tuesday, 16 July, 2019

Sound Transit Closing In on Tacoma Dome, Ballard, and West Seattle Options to Make EIS Cut


Both the Tacoma Dome Link Extension (TDLE) and Ballard/West Seattle Link Extension projects are moving forward with preferred alternatives for environmental review. The Tacoma Dome extension is the latest with the Sound Transit Board of Directors poised to recommend approval of the selected preferred corridor alternatives by the Elected Leadership Group and System Expansion Committee Board.

Officials hope that limiting the options for environmental study will keep light rail expansion plans on schedule–if not ahead of it–since studying a plethora of options is more time-consuming. Link service to West Seattle and Tacoma Dome is slated to start in 2030, while Ballard Link is tabbed for 2035.

Chosen Tacoma Dome Link Extension Alternatives

TDLE involves four segments stretching from Federal Way Transit Center to Tacoma Dome Station. During the early scoping process, various alternatives had been developed for each of the segments: nine for South Federal Way, five for Fife, six for East Tacoma, and five for Tacoma Dome. Policymakers further whittled down to no more than four alternatives by segment for additional evaluation, all of which would be grade-separated.

For South Federal Way, policymakers have identified the SF 2 West option as the preferred alternative. The South Federal Way station would be centrally located along the commercial node of Enchanted Pkwy S. The general alignment of the segment would otherwise run along I-5. The SF 2 East and SF 8/9 options will also be studied.

The Urbanist’s August Primary Endorsements 2019


The ballots hitting Seattle mailboxes this week mark the first decision point in an election that will likely reverberate throughout the next decade of civic life in the Puget Sound region. The second round of district-based city council elections is being claimed by all sides as a moment when the tectonic plates of Seattle’s politics may shift in their favor. Nearly half of the council will be starting their first day of work next January.

So far the primary has been dominated by district-centric issues like the Magnolia Bridge replacement or the West Seattle light rail tunnel, but every single councilmember will become a possible swing vote on all of the issues facing Seattle during an unprecedented homelessness crisis, while the city stagnates on climate issues and slowly inches forward on transportation.

The eight members of The Urbanist elections committee asked candidates to submit questionnaires and meet for a short interview. We will be publishing the questionnaires in the coming days. We also reviewed all materials for the ballot measures voters will have to consider. The endorsements below are the result of our deliberations, considering every candidate or measure through the lens of our mission statement, to examine urban policy to improve cities and the quality of life in our region.

The Urbanist’s elections committee membership and endorsement process can be found here.

Sunday Video: Are Cities Like Organisms?


Dave Amos looks into the metaphor that says cities are just like an organism.

Nathan on NPR: III


Did you miss Wednesday’s broadcast? It’s all here. Host Deborah Wang and I chat about “who (really) rides the bus” in Seattle, and so much more. As a writer for The Urbanist I try to bring a balancing element with my human-interest stories, reminding us that amidst all the housing, transit, and urban planning documents we (okay, maybe just I) love nerding out on, what really we’re talking about at the end of the day are individual human beings with stories and dreams, ordinary people who wish to survive– even thrive– in this increasingly challenging city. In response to the question of who rides our buses, Deb and I endeavor to touch on both the data side of things as well as the personal side. 

Click here for KUOW’s page with a link to the full radio hour (fascinating stuff!), as well as a direct link to my piece; scroll down for my segment. 

Huge thanks to everyone at KUOW who put this together, to you who support this site and take an interest, to Metro for letting me be me, and to the peeps out there for being exactly who they are.


For other interviews with me on NPR, various podcasts, television, and print outlets, click here. 

For more on my book (as mentioned in the broadcast), click here.

What We’re Reading: Democracy Sustained, Ignoring Human Suffering, and BRT Creep


UNESCO recognition: Eight buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright have been registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Democracy sustained: Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers program has survived the state supreme court in a ruling that it is constitutional ($).

Basic human rights: With surging property costs, Portugal has passed a right to housing law.

Dirty war: Washington is suing over the Navy dumping toxic wastes into Puget Sound.

Loser again: Another Tim Eyman anti-tax initiative has bit the dust.

Federal Way LRT funding: The Federal Transit Administration has dolled out $100 million in additional grant funding for the Federal Way Link light rail extension project.

Ignoring human suffering: The Everett City Council held a hearing this week on maintaining a moratorium against supportive housing in the city ($) after the school district and nonprofit proposed development of apartments for homeless students and their families.

Conditioned: How do Americans use air conditioning?

Consumer preferences: Cities with walkable neighborhoods are seeing housing and office construction soar while suburbs without them are seeing property values fall.

Apartment factory: A Chicago company is banking on a factory for apartments.

BRT Creep: The Madison Bus Rapid Transit project has received several significant updates in advance of construction in 2020.

Subsidizing sports: Will Tacoma spend millions for a new stadium to support professional sports teams?

Map of the Week: CityLab highlights what micro-mapping can reveal about city density.

King County Council Approves North Eastside Bus Restructure


King County Metro’s proposed restructure of bus service in the North Eastside will go into effect next year. On Wednesday, the King County Council approved the proposal with minor changes. The restructure means consolidation of some routes, but generally maintaining the same coverage of the service area. Span of service and frequency will also improve for rider. However, several routes will be deleted and replaced.

Deleted services include Routes 234, 235, 236, 238, 243, 244, 248, 277, 540, and 541. In their place, Metro and Sound Transit will create new Routes 225, 230, 231, 239, 250, and 544 (the latter of which will be an ST Express route).

Midweek Video: Can Tourism Ruin Cities?


Global tourism is growing rapidly and it is having significant impacts on the viability of communities. Not all tourism is inherently good, but there are ways that communities are trying to steer tourism toward a sustainable path.

Ballard High Line: Not a Solution for the Burke-Gilman Trail’s “Missing Link”

The end of the Burke Gilman trail marks the beginning of the 1.4 mile segment running through Ballard known as a the "missing link." Photo by author.

Despite ongoing legal woes, the City’s current Preferred Alternative for completing the Burke-Gilman Trail remains the most feasible option for getting the job (finally) done.

Update: Since this post was originally published on July 10th, Dan Strauss reached out to The Urbanist and provided some additional details on his concept for a Leary Way NW alternative for the “Missing Link.” Those details are now included in the post.

On the surface it might appear to be an ingenious solution to a problem that has belabored Seattle politics for over three decades. Construct an elevated trail over the infamous “Missing Link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail, where pedestrians, cyclists, and freight trucks currently compete in a mad scramble on the right of way for nearly a mile and a half. To proponents of the so-called “Ballard High Line,” one of whom is District 6 City Council candidate (and former councilmember) Heidi Wills, an elevated trail promoted by Ballard resident Russell Bennet offers a novel solution.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch. A big one.

When the City published its Burke Gilman Trail Missing Link Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 2017, the concept of an elevated trail was specifically addressed:

This [elevated] alternative was eliminated from further consideration as there is insufficient space to construct a facility that would meet fire code and ADA requirements due to existing development. Additionally, the ramps (at a 5% maximum grade) needed to access an elevated trail would be a minimum of 75 feet long and would require additional right-of-way, greatly reducing the advantages of elevating the trail in proportion to making it accessible to users. Furthermore, the cost estimate to construct an elevated structure of sufficient length to avoid potential conflicts along Shilshole Ave NW or other segments would be 400 to 500% higher than an at-grade structure.

Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link EIS, SDOT, May 2017

Now for the supporters of the Ballard Highline, including Wills, the fact that the EIS excluded an elevated alternative from consideration is not a reason to step away from the concept. In fact according to a post by the page author, presumably Bennett, on the Ballard Highline Facebook page, a flaw in SDOT’s EIS is that “…it looks at the effects on existing users [freight drivers] and not on those of prospective users [trail users] as well.” According to their line of thought, freight traffic from the three business driveways that intersect with the Preferred Alternative route will be disruptive and frustrating to trail users, something that was not taken into consideration by the EIS, which likely assumed that trail users would be happier on designated multi-use trail than weaving between freight vehicles on a No Build alternative.

“I can easily imagine the fist shaking and cursing confrontations between bicyclists and ‘existing users’ entering/exiting their properties. Is that really the solution we want? I would much rather hear elevated pathway users grousing about diesel fumes from trucks that haven’t yet converted to electric power,” Ballard Highline posted.

Such a response completely ignores the fact that site simply lacks the necessary space to build an elevated trail.

Bike Works

Bike Works