Thursday, December 13, 2018

Northgate Link Webcams


U Dist Station Webcam


Now that the extension of Northgate Link is well underway, Sound Transit has three webcams capturing the progress at University District Station, Roosevelt Station, and the Maple Leaf Portal. The webcams went live back in February. You can track the progress since then and explore the excellent timelapse movies. Images from the webcams are updated every 15 minutes.

Symphony No. 2 in Perfect Grammar



Not all of the conversations I have on the bus are the gleeful bastardizations of syntax which I often record– and which are no less legitimate uses of the English language, mind you.* Here’s a sample of a perfectly grammatically acceptable discourse.

“So what’s playing at the Benaroya tonight?” I ask as we approach Union. He, a slightly older man in a crisp black three-piece, had asked earlier for Seattle Symphony.


“Oh, excellent!”

“Two symphonies, I don’t know them too well. Hey, you’re the friendliest bus driver I think I’ve ever seen.”

“Oh, thanks!”

“I especially appreciate the announcement of the upcoming stop after the next stop.” Referring to how I try to keep folks informed when we’re in the CBD in skip-stop heaven, as in, “the stop after this one is James.”

“Oh, thanks! It’s great to get the feedback. Rachmaninoff, excellent! I’m not as familiar with his work as with other composers.”

“Did you ever see that movie Somewhere in Time, with Christopher Reeve, from the eighties?”

“Not for ages, but yes!”

“Well, the main theme for that is from a Rachmaninoff symphony.”

“Oh, terrific!”

“But yeah, I dont know these symphonies too well. These were free tickets!”

“Well, there you go! Not a bad way to pass the time!”

“Exactly!” Chuckling.

“Yeah, the last time I was here was for the Ninth symphony, Beethoven. Obviously fantastic,” I say, throwing my hand in the air, as if giving up at the act of trying to succinctly express how great it was. I was raised on Classical music. To me, it’s strange to consider it as a genre, as we consider folk or hip-hop; it’s so much infinitely larger. Classical’s been around for a thousand years. Popular music’s existed for a mere sixty or so. The vast, overwhelming percentage of existing music is Classical music, and some of it is absolutely worth your time. As Grand Puba says in the Tupac Shakur tune, “I wouldn’t be here today, if the old school hadn’t paved the way.”

“Oh, it’s such a great place.” I forget which of us said this. “It is,” the other said. We were both basking in the shared warmth of loving the same thing.

“I have season tickets!” he said.

“Perfect! Well, hope it’s a great evening!”

“Thanks! You enjoy the rest of your shift.”

The color of his tone was sincere, and the last sentence carried with it the implication that my time tonight on the road was as valuable as his inside the Symphony hall, if not moreso. What I loved about the exchange was the undercurrent drifting through all of it, which I felt all the more strongly because it remained unspoken: he, the man wearing a suit probably worth my entire paycheck, spoke to me with not a trace of condescension. A good day’s work and the ability to appreciate culture existed for him on a spectrum which included not just people like him in the narrow sense, but myself and everyone else.

A girlfriend once asked me why I like the LSBW (read the post about her or watch my speech on this legendary passenger if you haven’t already). I remember looking out the window and thinking a moment before saying, “because I have so much more in common with her than I don’t have in common.”

“Really?” she said, listening.

I thought so. Just a few changes in brain chemistry and life circumstances were all that separated us. Mr. Rachmaninoff, above– hopefully he doesn’t mind my calling him that– seemed to have a similar view, and it felt good to be on the receiving end of that.

*”The myth that non-standard dialects of English are grammatically deficient is widespread,” writes linguist Steven Pinker. We can all grasp that language evolves through slang and progresses to new places through colloquial use, but additionally, dialects such as the much-maligned Black English Vernacular (BEV) have just as constructed a framework as the more familiar Standard American English (or SAE, itself a derivation of British English). From Chapter 2 of Pinker’s The Language Instinct: “Where SAE uses there as a meaningless dummy subject for the copula, BEV uses it (compare SAE’s There’s really a God with BEV’s It’s really a God). Larry’s negative concord (You ain’t goin’ to no heaven) is seen in many languages, such as French (ne…pas). BEV allows its speakers the option of deleting copulas (If you bad); this is not laziness but a systematic rule that is virtually identical to the contraction rule in SAE that reduces He is to He’s, You are to You’re…. In both dialects, be can erode only in certain kinds of sentences.” BEV does not allow Yes he is! to contract to Yes he!, as SAE doesn’t allow Who is it? to contract to Who it? Pinker continues, stressing that BEV isn’t all about contraction: “BEV speakers use the full forms of certain auxiliaries (I have seen), whereas SAE speakers usually contract them (I’ve seen). He be working means that he generally works, perhaps that he has a regular job; He working means only that he is working at the moment that the sentence is uttered. In SAE, He is working fails to make that distinction.”

The Transit App 3.1 Update


Bikes on the Transit App

We’re big fans of The Transit App because of its universality and dynamic form, and previously wrote about the big version 3.0 release. Last week, The Transit App pushed out a major update (version 3.1) of their app for iOS users. The update contains two changes: the integration of bikeshare data in select cities and a general user interface revision to the main screen (split incorporation of the movable map and bus arrival information).

The Transit App OverviewThe main screen is an elegant change. Users can now easily see both and realtime arrival of local buses. A simple gesture between the two will either make the screen go all map or all bus times. This removes the extra tapping required in the previous app version to toggle between screens. The map changes also mean minor adjustments in trip planning and dropping pins. The search bar at the top is now universal so that you can both locations and transit lines without evening having to find the nearest transit line in proximity to you.

Meanwhile, the other big change in the app is the incorporation of bikeshare. If bikeshare is a supported feature, it will show up right in the movable map. Icons appear showing how full a particular docking station is, and tapping on it reveals the number of bikes available and the total number of docks at the station. Cities currently supported for bikeshare include: New York City, Chicago, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis, Columbus, Paris, Toulouse, Strasbourg, and Rennes. The Transit App plans to support additional cities for the bikeshare feature in the future, and we would suspect that those cities will be where transit data is already available through the app. In other words, we hope to be seeing Seattle’s Pronto! included down the road. (Of course, it always helps to let them know what cities and services to include.)

No Longer in the Jungle


Picture 7


This guy stumbles on like a rock tumbling through an unstoppable river. An imposing physical presence. We’re somewhere at the bottom of Rainier Valley. He’s clad in a white oversized T-shirt that would be a dress on me, the shirt peeking out from under a puffy black jacket of colossal proportions. He asks if I go to Genessee, pronouncing it “Jensee.”
“Absolutely, yeah. And hey, I’d appreciate it if you kept that closed.” I’m gesturing at his paper bag, which contains a bottle of you know what–something other than pink lemonade!
“Oh, it is.”
“Thanks man, I appreciate you.”
“No probl’m.”

At Genessee, he mosies up , leaning forward, peering into the unknown distance. “I think I go one more.”
“Oh no worries,” I say. “We’ll see if somebody else wants this [bus stop]. Thanks for tellin’ me.”
“Sorry ’bout tha,'” he says after watching me greet somebody getting on.

He’s treading lightly, politely. I see him in the mirror, and in my periphery. Quarterback body, gold necklace, and a trim goatee, hints of jailhouse tats peeking out above the shirt.

“Oh, it’s all good. So kinda right up there, by Safeway?”
“Yeah. Hey, uh, thank you, for doin,’ for bein,'”
Hardcore manliness stops him short from an easy finish to the sentence, but the sentiment is no less real. I know what he means.
“Oh my pleasure man, it’s no worries. I like bein’ out here.”
“Thanks, dude.” He feels more comfortable now, more revealing: “I’m new here. Jus’ come up from California.”
“Oh wha’ part of California?”
“Dude, right on!” I exclaim, preempting the next question all Angelinos ask each other, which is, ‘what part of LA?’ “I’m from LA too, I’m from South Gate!”
To this his eyes light up, all pretense and vulnerability falling away: “WHAAAAA, no way! That’s just up from me, I’m from Lynwood!”
“No waaaayyy! Right there!”
“Oh, you right over there. You in it.”

This happens more often than one might imagine. On the 70 I took a couple toward the airport and discovered we all once lived on Firestone Boulevard in Downey. Recently on the 44 a woman overheard me discussing LA, and revealed that she’d come up from San Diego in ’96. “There’s a lot of us Californians taking refuge up here,” I marveled. “There are,” she responded. “Some folks don’t like it, us bringin’ our LA ways up here…”
“They’ll just have to deal!”

Strangers in a strange land, no longer strangers. My friend looking for Genessee leans back in his chair in a way he couldn’t before. Relaxed now. He’d felt comfortable enough in my space to share that vulnerability, that he was new here, and the payoff was worth it. We pass under the dark trees at Byron, making our own sunshine.

He seems particularly glad that we come from the same mad realm of South Central. The Jungle, as it’s called. Whatever challenges he’s up to here in the Valley, they’ll be easy compared to life in the Jungle, and he knows I know that intimately.
“Out there, you know how they do,”
“Oh yeah!”
We’re in fistpound handshake heaven.
“Be safe!” we say to each other at the end of the ride. It is not a pleasantry for us, but rather a genuine urging, a belief that the other’s life is worth some extra caution. It’s late, and dark, but we’re both glowing.


West Seattle Waterfront Streetcar?


By Charles Bond and Gordon Werner

Potential route for an Alki streetcar.

In the discussions about the new Alaskan Way project and the 1st Ave streetcar, the topic of the old Greg Benson waterfront streetcar often comes up. Since the loss of their home on the waterfront, the cars have been tossed back and forth between the 1st Ave and Alaskan Way plans with each project seeming to assume that the other will take care of them. A new idea, however, is putting the cars somewhere else entirely–like along Alki Beach.

First, a little history

Streetcars used to run along the waterfront from where the Olympic Sculpture Park currently stands to Pioneer Square and the transit center on Jackson St. The streetcar storage barn was demolished to make way for the Sculpture Park and, though promised, a replacement never materialized. In the subsequent years, much of the track for the streetcar line was removed, though many have suggested it be added back to the new Alaskan Way design or for occasional use on the 1st Ave streetcar line. Unfortunately, both alternatives have problems.

The problem with 1st Ave/Alaskan Way

As documented previously on Seattle Transit Blog, in order for the streetcars to be used with the 1st Ave project, the old waterfront streetcars and boarding ramps would have to be modified for ADA-accessible equipment and to accommodate the streetcar floor height, respectively. They would also need to use different track gauge and voltage than they currently do and to allow boarding on both sides of the car. An Alaskan Way-only alignment has the potential to run the cars unmodified, but that would restrict the cars to only Alaskan Way, severely limit the usefulness of the connection, and likely be unable to keep up with transit demand in this corridor.

Why Alki Beach?

If these cars operated on Alki Beach, they could run in a single dedicated lane with passing zones as it originally did on the Seattle waterfront. They could connect the water taxi with the popular parks and shops on the north coast and boost both transit access and tourist appeal to the Alki Beach area. In a dedicated lane, the streetcar could run with relatively high frequency and fewer vehicles than buses generally need. Also, since the 37 bus route is slated to be canceled with the upcoming Metro cuts, this corridor could use some extra service.

Where would funding come from?

This is easily the biggest challenge, but there might be some creative solutions. Since there is a tourism component to this and lot of public support for restoring the waterfront streetcar, there might be some way to scrape up funds for this project using crowd-funding, local tourism boards, or other agencies/cruise lines that might be interested in generating more area attractions.


This idea is not problem free, of course. The aforementioned funding sources may be inadequate, the loss of parking required for exclusive lanes would garner resistance, and this small project does not serve the core transit needs for West Seattle (just some small piece of the transit service likely to be lost with the upcoming metro cuts). The line would also have to be designed carefully not to interfere with the existing bicycle facilities along the Alki trail. Nevertheless, it may be more meritorious to put these old streetcars into service somewhere where they would see daily use rather than relegate them to occasional festival service in the heart of downtown.

Sunday Video: Seattle Dream Pt. II


Seattle Dream Pt. II by F-Stop Seattle on Vimeo.

Watch this 5-minute timelapse tribute to our favorite city. You won’t regret it.

UPDATE: It appears that the video is currently unviewable. You can watch the original Seattle Dream instead, which is just as inspiring.

UPDATE 2: The original has been reposted, albeit with different background music.

What We’re Reading: Fireworks

Fireworks over Lake Union by Tiffany Von Arnim on Flickr.

Development in Seattle: The city council is putting the breaks on the Stadium District planning effort, largely because they have no direction on the matter. 10 crazy comments that people make about Seattle microhousing. The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has preliminary stormwater regulations out for review. And DPD has some new handy dandy interactive neighborhood data maps.

City Hall Drama: City Light director Jorge Carrasco has an embarrassing week that ended in no pay raise.

New digs: We may be getting a Downtown school in the next few years, the first elementary in the area for over 65 years. KEXP could soon be moving into their new digs at the Seattle Center, but they’re holding a fundraiser to make it a reality. And Seattle’s first pot shop looks to be set to open on Tuesday, but it could take a while for others.

Maps: A new tool for NYC residents lets them know the development potential of parcels throughout the city. Google Maps has a fun new game to test your geography knowledge and give you points. Track a century of development in the US using these cool, old USGS interactive maps. And, another app tracks how we move through cities (check out the Seattle data).

Transportation: The mayor has made his pick for a new director for SDOT, Scott Kubly; Kubly is getting a lot of praise. We’re very quickly approaching the fiscal cliff for transportation in the US, and it looks really bad. Mercer Street made a switch for walking and biking to south side of the street on Thursday. And the Seattle Transit Blog goes in depth about transit-oriented infrastructure projects for Bellevue. Seattle gets called out for one of the eight worst interchanges in the US. Which one is it? I-5/1-90.

Enjoy Seattle summer: The city was lit up last night for the Fourth of July, and CHS has some great photos to prove itPublicola has a great summer calendar so that you don’t miss out on any of the action in the city.

Good reads from elsewhere: A study shows that there are only 86 affordable homes in London. There is also a worry that too many main streets in London are going the way of gambling businesses. Belgium has a cool perspective-skewing artwork that encompasses 99 buildings. As growth booms in Arlington, Virginia, traffic volume on streets has plummeted. Vacant lots in Chicago are selling for $1, but there’s a catch. If you’re familiar with Nice Ride Minneapolis, then you know it’s pretty nice. And Matthew Yglesias makes the case that a land value tax couldn’t even save San Francisco from its development crisis.

Neighborhoods: Should you be afraid Rainier Beach? From this resident’s perspective, absolutely not. She loves it dearly because it’s a solid neighborhood. Meanwhile, Lake City residents are fighting to save this strip of beach for public use. It turns out our little big icon of Pioneer Square has turned 100 years old–we still love Smith Tower dearly, happy birthday!

Tim Eyman loses…again: Eyman’s supermajority for taxes (to be passed by just a majority) initiative fails to make the November ballot. We were hoping to have the opportunity to vote against yet another one of his nonsensical efforts. Oh well. 🙂

Waterfront Rezoning: The Commission District


The borders of the DMC-160 zone, from On Tuesday, recommended zoning changes to the Seattle Waterfront were presented to the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD).  The area considered for changes is colloquially known as the “Commission District” and roughly spans from Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square between Alaskan Way and 1st Avenue.

The rules and exemptions proposed by DPD are intended to promote construction of residential, hotel, and street-level retail throughout the neighborhood. While many of the proposed zoning changes are good ideas, they don’t go far enough in providing for a truly pedestrian-centered waterfront.

As mentioned in a previous post, the proposal would make several zoning changes to encourage residential and hotel development through exemptions to floor area ratio (FAR) restrictions, and by designating Western and Alaskan Way as Class I pedestrian streets. The Class I designation brings with it restrictions on storefront utilization and street-level parking complexes in order to encourage active use of the sidewalk and shield the public from parking garage eyesores.

12th Avenue ParkSome of the proposals may very well have the desired result, but the more effective way to promote pedestrian activity in the area is by significantly reducing the amount of automobile activity. DPD and the City Council could do this by redesigning designating several streets in the area under discussion as woonerfs or as exclusive pedestrian right-of-way.

The streets in question are perfect candidates for the kind of project planned for 12th Avenue next to Seattle University. Anyone who visits the waterfront now can tell you that streets like University and Seneca have limited automobile use already. By designating them as exclusive or priority pedestrian right-of-way, DPD has the option to make them into an extension of the waterfront open space already planned for Alaskan Way. They could also go a long way toward accomplishing their stated goal of creating an “active, pedestrian-friendly frontage” on Alaskan Way, without the use of zoning restrictions.

If city leadership is willing to set an example with this area, the waterfront could be home to a dense, walkable community a stone’s throw from many transit options. The date for the public committee hearing on the proposed zoning changes is July 15th.

Cody Little is a first-time contributor to The Urbanist. He is a naval officer and lifelong resident of the Puget Sound in the process of transitioning to civilian life.