Tuesday, 21 May, 2019

On a Lighter Note


Picture 7


A woman in her twenties with a terrific, full-bodied Afro boards, all smiles and legs. It’s nighttime on Capitol Hill during Pride week. The white girls at the front see her walk past, and one almost falls forward as she hollers out,

“Don’t ever ruin your beautiful hair!” 

Meaning, of course, don’t straighten it. The atmosphere is one of Bacchanalian revelry, a Dionysian celebration of the marginalized and unfairly disparaged. Tonight judgment is suspended. I drive slowly through throngs of color and line, shapes and faces and skin all around me. Some of us are sober. I smile, listening to the seesawing lilt of inebriated youngsters just behind me. One of the girls calls out,

“Hey driver!”
“Do you go to like Third and Pike?”
“I go to Third and Pine… d’you wanna go Third and Pine with me?”
“Oh my gosh yes. Will you tell us when you get there?”
“I will so tell you when we get there!”
“You’re so AWESOME!”
“I wish you rode my bus everyday!”

The Afro lady steps out the back, and the girl who spoke earlier screams, “bye, Gorgeous!” Amidst the movement of bodies in the back of the bus I see the glimmer of her teeth forming a big smile, embarrassed but excited.

The girls up front, all in their early twenties, are accompanied by a boy of the same age. Sitting near them is an African-American man of roughly sixty. He and I wear big grins as we listen to the youngsters hold forth:

“I kinda wanna go on Oprah’s show, just so I can get a car or something.”
“You know what’d be funny? If Oprah and T.I. were dating!”
“Oprah and–”
“Is that true, what?”
“Now that’s a power couple!”
“It seems like just a thing T.I. would do for publicity,”
“D’you think Oprah’s hot?”
“Oh shit, my rainbow pop’s falling out.”
“You’ll just have to suck it off.”
“What made you think of Oprah and T.I.?”
“Suck it off, whoo!”

Into the mic I tell the crowd, “All right. This bus is turning into a 7. It’s time to become a route 7, going all the way to Rainier Beach. If you’re going to the Valley tonight, you are on the right bus. Once again, we just became a 7…”

“That’s where we’re going, right? Rainier Beach?”
“No, Alki.”
“Oh. Aren’t those like the same?”
“Slightly different places!” I chime in. “Both great, though!”

“Who do you like more, Oprah or Rosie?” One girl asks another.
“I don’t like Rosie.”
“Wait, Rosa Parks?”
“Rosa Parks is awesome,” I interject.
“Rosa Parks represeeeeent!”
“Can’t nobody hate on Rosa Parks,” says the older black man.
“Fuckin’ love that girl,” says the girl with the collapsing rainbow pop.
“She’s the lady that sat at the back of the bus, right?”
Me: “No, she sat at the front of the bus!”
“I like sitting at the back of the bus.”
“Wait, this is Rosie O’Donnell?”
“No, no,”
“Totally different Rosie,” I quip, and the black man and I can’t help but laugh together. It’s bordering on an inside joke; clearly Rosa Parks means a lot more to he and I than it does for our rambunctious friends. Or maybe we would just express our regard for her differently. But that makes it all the funnier.

“Yeah nobody hates Rosa Parks,” says one of the girls. “She sat down in the front and the cop was like you gotta move, and she was like FUCK THAT!”
“That’s it, word for word, I think!” I say.
“We got da recreation right here! What what!”
“She was all like fuck that, I ain’t movin for shit! You guys better REK-A-NIZE!”
“That’s, I think that’s, yeah, the exact transcription!”

They deboard at the (in)famous McDonalds stop, clearly having no idea where they’re going. I lean out the doors, asking them if they know where they’re headed. I step out to point out the C-Line stop and explain the way to Alki. This prompts one of the girls to say, “thank you.” The other expresses her thanks differently: “You’re hot.” Then she howls, in pleasure and ecstatic pain:


Sunday Video: National Transportation Crisis


Shabby Road by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

This pretty much sums up just how bad things are with US national transportation policy right now.

What We’re Reading: Saving Metro and Planning the City

Collect them all by wings777 on Flickr.

Local headlines: Residents of affordable housing in the Central District fear that they could lose their housing due to sale of their building. Pacific Place has traded hands in a recent sales for $271 million, the City-owned garage will stay in City ownership. Washington residents support a new gun control measure on background checks by a long-shot. Developers are building a lot of new housing stock, and they’re doing it with a lot less parking. One third of homes purchased in Capitol Hill are made fully in cash. Ridesharing services are now legal in the City of Seattle. The City is exploring voluntary identification cards for residents. And, Mayor Murray has tapped Cuc Vu as new head of the Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Office.

A jumble of maps: NOAA has a fairly disturbing map of California’s drought from last month, and it probably hasn’t gotten better since. Max Roberts, a subway and map enthusiast, has perfected a modern version of Massimo Vignelli’s famous NYC Subway map. Evidently you can follow the daily trail of New York City’s taxi drivers, in detail. Tableau has come out with free-to-use online software to create your own interactive maps. And, a cool interactive map of the future California High Speed Rail system.

Happening outside of Washington: A new mixed-use and wonderful shared space will be coming to Washington, D.C.’s Southwest neighborhood–this is a good model. Paris is looking to fine commercial property owners that leave their buildings vacant instead of converting the spaces into residential units. Strasbourg doesn’t get much talk, but it is small city with big city infrastructure and design. Apple has started work on their Cupertino spaceship campus, despite the fact that they could have made a more efficient and profitable mixed-use campus for their employees.

Grab bag: In the past few months, Car2Go has been sending out black membership cards to preferred members, and naturally there is speculation on what they’re for. The fleet of vehicles in the US has seen a dramatic, but quiet increase in fuel efficiency for all vehicle types in the past decade. It looks like Alta bikeshare programs will be delayed due to the death of their vendor Bixi earlier this year; however, Seattle will be an exception and rollout on-time. Nikki Sylianteng has come out with her third version of a simple-to-use parking sign. And, NACTO is now recognizing contraflow bicycle lanes as an option for designing streets.

Planning the city: It looks like there wasn’t much headway made by Council Member Mike O’Brien’s Microhousing working group. The final meeting has ended without any strong recommendations or consensus. Dan Bertolet over at City Tank argues that Rainier Beach has a lot of potential as a mixed-use and livable urban center in South Seattle. Bertolet floats his unique vision for this transit paradise and underutilized area. And, bicycle lanes are now a thing on the University Bridge.

National drama continues: Jon Stewart summarizes Congress’s failure to come up with a sustainable funding measure for the national transportation system well, declaring “This is so stupid.” The House Democrats opposed the Republican measure on funding, but went along anyway in the end (although most Republicans voted against their own bill). Of course, Republican Senators are still trying to throw wrenches into Senate’s companion bill.

Local transit: The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has released a long list of transit-oriented projects for new funding this year. The PSRC acts as a pass-through for Federal transportation dollars. Central Link Light Rail has turned 5 years old, and ridership continues to beat projections. Capitol Hill Seattle Blog spotlights the Metro Route 2 and Metro Route 47, it will be tough to see the workhorse 47 go away. On the plus side, we will be having a city vote to reverse cuts and save Metro service. The fight over where to put the East Link Light Rail maintenance facility in Bellevue continues with no conclusive decision. And, Velo Bus Driver (aka Matt Leber) does a write-up on the future Mercer Island Station.



Picture 2


Josh is in his late teens, African-American and something else, tall but not too tall. In our youth we sometimes oscillate between dialects, particularly when we have multiple backgrounds. Regional dialects and generational slang can surface on will for people of any age. Lyndon Johnson would speak differently based on who was in front of him, sometimes employing the heavy Texan twang, other times keeping things to a more civilized drawl. When people chat with me, especially younger folks, they’re sometimes not quite sure how formally to style their language. I like when they start out hesitantly but gradually open up, easing back into their normal self. I find myself doing the same.

Josh didn’t bother with any of that, though. He seemed comfortable from the get-go. He first accosted me with: “Yo, how old are you?
“Fifteen,” I deadpanned, checking my blind spots.

We did the conversation where we discover my real age, working through the motions of a well-worn exchange, still enjoyable every time. This time I steered it in the direction of jobs. He asks how long I’ve been at it, when I started, and so on.

“Pay is good?”
“Oh, man.”
“It is not bad.” I remember my first job at the library, where I was thrilled to receive seven dollars and seventy-eight cents– over and over, with each new hour! “I’m never gonna complain about this job. Trying to justify that paycheck, you know?”
“Ah heard dat!”
“Where you work at?”
“I used to work the shipyards, getting’ paid twenty-seven an hour.”
“Wow, hey. Somebody’s getting’ paid.”
“Well, used to. Hey, you know them e-cigarrettes, the vapor ones?”
“Yeah yeah, the electronic things,”
“Are those allowed inside the bus?”
“That’s a good ques-, actually they just changed that. I was talkin’ about that with someone earlier today. It was legal, but now they’re changing it so they’re allowed only where real cigarettes is also allowed. How come, somebody givin’ you beef?”
“Naw, I’s jus’ curious, couple drivers sayin’ different stuff about the rules,”
“Hopefully they just ask you to put it away. You know, there’s so many rules these days. You know how older folks talk about earlier times when there wasn’t as many regulations?”
“I wanna get back to that time.”
“I’m down with Metro, man.”
“You and me both! So, working’ in the shipyards. That’s work.”
“Yeah, I used to do welding-”
“-but I hadta get outta there, man, too many layoffs. Cause I got kids, bro.”
“Okay, so now you lookin’ for something a little more stable.”
“Well, I got one now, I’m at the dispensary.”
“Oh that’s right, right there off Aurora.
“My uncle is a boss there.”
“There you go, helping each other out! Symbiotic relationship!”
“Yup yup! Well, actually iss my girlfriend’s uncle.”
“Oh right on, man. Shoot. Don’t break up wit’ her!”
“Aw no way, dude, never. She pregnant with my baby.”
“That’s a beautiful thing. Makin’ it work.”
“For sure! You always on this one?”
“Same time same place, every day!”
“Coo’. I see you around!”
“You too!”

As he bounced off at Bell Street, gliding over to his next bus, I realized he was the youngster who profanely but wisely counseled the agitated fellow described here. There are times when you realize all the acting, the facades of clothes and cool, are merely a vernacular for youngsters to cope with the impossible business of being an adolescent in the modern age. You realize, as I did listening to Josh’s tone as he mentioned his girlfriend and baby, that there is in fact just as much depth of caring in there, and that over time the facades will peel away like so much dead snakeskin, and they’ll blossom into the good people they always were. Moments like that make me believe in the future.

Cross-Sound Passenger Ferry Service to Return


Kitsap Transit is seeking public comment on its long awaited restoration of cross-Sound passenger only fast ferry service to Downtown Seattle. Among the three routes under consideration, the most obvious candidate for foot ferry service is Bremerton. The current service between the two cities has the largest proportion of walk-on passengers of any route in the Washington State Ferries network.

Travel time on the Bremerton-Seattle ferry route is about an hour, a commute that is only negligibly shorter than the 65 mile trip over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. A fast (about 35 minutes), convenient ferry ride from downtown Bremerton to Downtown Seattle could serve the dual purposes of revitalizing an urban center in sprawl-plagued Kitsap County while providing relief for the malcontents of skyrocketing Seattle housing prices.

Potential Ferry Routes
Potential routes, courtesy of Kitsap Transit.


The story of how Bremerton lost its fast ferry service is long and sordid. Land owners with property along Rich Passage, the narrow stretch of water that the ferries must pass through on their journey, have been suing ferry operators over alleged shoreline erosion since the early 20th century. After years of research, development, and environmental studies, Kitsap Transit is set to finally bring back convenient cross-Sound foot ferry service to Downtown Seattle using a low wake vessel purchased several years ago with Federal grant money.

There is, of course, already ferry service available for foot passengers to Bremerton aboard the Washington State Ferries route. In its current form, the trip is about an hour long in each direction. The difference between 35 minutes and an hour for each direction of a commute to work is significant. 35 minutes is about as long as a weekday morning bus ride to Downtown Seattle from Ballard. Reducing the commuting time between Seattle and downtown Bremerton could have transformative effects on the city, a once thriving industrial and urban center that has been hollowed-out by sprawling development in Silverdale to the north.

The Rich Passage I, a low wake passenger-only ferry designed for the Bremerton crossing, courtesy of The Kitsap Sun.

The data and opportunity at hand

In a recent study, MIT researchers demonstrated that the distribution of commute times for a given metropolitan area is fairly constant across modes of travel, and is largely unaffected by changes in commute distance or in population growth. The study provides more evidence supporting the fact that people change their habits as transportation modes are expanded. It also suggests that the existence of something like a localized form of Marchetti’s constant, a theoretical limit on daily travel time that remains relatively constant at around one-hour for all societies. The mean commuting time for Seattle is around 25 to 30 minutes each direction, and varies between 20 and 20 minutes across most metropolitan areas in the United States.

When a city adds transit capacity that reduces the commute time for a neighborhood below the threshold time people are willing to spend traveling each day, it has essentially expanded the boundaries of its housing stock for a large number of residents. In the case of a Bremerton foot ferry, this would result in the addition of a significant amount of affordable housing. Zillow lists the median home value for Bremerton as $190,900. A quick search reveals that there are over 200 homes currently for sale for less than $350,000 within about a 10-minute bike ride of the Bremerton ferry terminal.

While the problem of affordable housing in Seattle won’t be solved with a passenger ferry, residents on both sides of the Puget Sound should see the restoration of convenient ferry service as a hugely positive development. A passenger ferry has the added benefit of spurring pedestrian activity around the terminal. And, Bremerton is a city desperately in need of pedestrian activity. If public officials provide reliable ferry service and allow smart development to occur in the city’s downtown core, there is a potential for the kind of walkable, transit-oriented development that has been missing from the west side of the Puget Sound for decades, since the days of the Mosquito Fleet.

Passenger ferries departing Colman Dock circa 1912, public domain.


There are two other possible routes under consideration, from Kingston and from Southworth. Neither of these routes has anywhere near the potential ridership of a Bremerton route, which would provide service to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the largest employer in Kitsap County. And, neither Southworth nor Kingston has the same potential as Bremerton for creating a walkable urban center.

If you are a cross-Sound commuter, or if you care about expanding options for transit and affordable housing in the region, send an email to pofinfo@kitsaptransit.com and tell them. In your email, make it clear that the Bremerton route is clearly the best choice for what will hopefully just be the first of more passenger-only ferries returning to the Puget Sound.

Sunday Video: Transit-Protected Bike Lanes


We already have some of these “floating” transit islands that protect bikes by allowing cyclists. These islands give cyclists a buffer between platform and sidewalk so that they smoothly bypass in-street transit. Where are these in Seattle? Right on Dexter Avenue N, and SDOT has considered other locations for the future.

What We’re Reading: Put a Lid on It

I-5 lid study area, via The Northwest Urbanist.

Put a lid on it: Scott Bonjukian takes another look at covering I-5 with a lid.

Climate controlled: Dubai has plans for a the world’s first fully climate controlled city.

Bike lanes on 2nd Ave: Protected bike lanes are likely to arrive just in time for the launch of Pronto!

Giant blob: The Jersey Shore’s got a massive blob of algae blooming off its coast.

Federal funding drama: The House and Senate inch closer to solving the transportation fiscal cliff, but they have a ways to go. Of course, all approaches of the feds are less than ideal, but Oregon is a good model for the future.

New BAT lanes: Pike Street quietly gets some new BAT lanes. Hopefully this means faster bus service!

Big old hole: Yeah, you’ve probably seen that big gaping hole in Downtown at 4th Ave and Cherry St, and there’s no guarantee that it’s going away anytime soon. But a land value tax would likely make it develop quickly.

Legal pot: Marijuana is now legal for sale, and it’s quite expensive.

Post-apocalyptic Detroit: The city is on a rebound, and many think it’s time to invest. However, the city could lose some of its precious artwork.

Gentrification segregation: As the US continues to gentrify, it’s largely happens along the lines of education which leads to wealth.

We want it more: Homeless advocates are still trying to acquire the Federal building in Downtown and push the Seattle Public Schools out of consideration.

Sand Point Crossing: Seattle Subway makes the case for a different cross-lake option, this one via Sand Point to Kirkland.

7th Ave bikeway: The Puget Sound Regional Council is recommending federal funding for a 7th Avenue bikeway.

Musical references: People love to sing about New York City, and luckily there’s a map of all the places they’ve sung about in popular music.

Saving Metro: The Seattle City Council is still considering two options to save Metro, and it has until August to do so.

Scared of biking: People are often scared of biking in traffic, but these cities are showing the way to make it safer.

A report card on Denver: Zach over at the Seattle Transit Blog gives a great transit report card on his experience in Denver.

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.