Wednesday, 20 November, 2019

Seattle Should Pass A Minimum Paid Leave Law

Courtesy of a Harvard Study on paid leave.

The United States is the only country among wealthy European, Asian and North American countries that doesn’t have a national minimum vacation requirement. France goes so far as to require a 30 day vacation minimum. When you combine leave with holidays, Portugal and Austria have 35 minimum days of paid vacation. The graph above and the graph below are both from a Harvard study on paid leave that is worth reading. Most working adults do have some paid leave but a significant proportion don’t have any at all. Additionally, many people have an absolute minimum:

Courtesy of a Harvard Study on paid leave.

The average amount of paid leave for all working adults is 12 days plus 8 public holidays. This means the average American has the same amount of leave as the minimum required in many other countries. Additionally, nearly a quarter of Americans have no paid leave or holidays. This burden falls disproportionately on those that make less money. Only about one-third of part time works have paid leave and only two-thirds of hourly workers making less than $15/hr have paid leave.

The Argument Against Paid Leave

The arguments against minimum vacation requirements are almost exactly the same as the arguments against paid sick leave and ultimately fall flat. Most of the criticisms of the paid sick leave ordinance revolved around increased business costs. As an example, John Schmidt who owns a few restaurants in Seattle (Eastlake Bar & Grill, Greenlake Bar & Grill, Lunchbox Laboratory) claimed that the paid sick leave law would increase his costs by $1,000 per employee. This opposition was somewhat predictable, coming from the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and other business interest groups. To the credit of Seattle business owners, nearly 70% supported the law in a follow up study. Furthermore, these dire costs didn’t pan out. The worst thing that can be said of the law is that some business may have raised some of their prices a little. This evidence comes from an industry back study and is hardly an apocalyptic outcome and might not be true. If it is true though, it’s likely that passing on cost to consumers in order to benefit low wage works is exactly the progressive outcome Seattlites wanted. It is unlikely that the affects of a minimum paid leave law would be any different than paid sick leave.

Why Seattle? Why now?

It seems like Seattle has all the right prerequisites to pass a minimum vacation ordinance. After recently passing minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, there are established grassroots organizations and politicians that would be natural allies to this cause. Additionally, this would improve the working conditions for many people in the city. Lastly, like the minimum wage law, this would set a precedent for the nation and could be a jumping off point for a national campaign. If you agree with this you can contact city council and tell them you support a minimum paid leave law. Council Member Sawant might be the most receptive.

Also if you agree that Seattle should have a minimum vacation requirement, we encourage you to support a national minimum.

Sunday Video: The Denny


Would you believe it? A Seattle designer created this amazing utility bike that has garnered national attention and was selected as the best utility bike design. Take that, Portland!

What We’re Reading: Beer Me, Please

Elysian Brewing Company by angela n. on Flickr.

Stay away: The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is closed today.

Drink it up: A map of every Seattle brewery, this could take you a while…

Social welfare reform: There’s a battle brewing over public housing policy and practices in Seattle. The mayor and the Seattle Housing Authority are odds.

Share the road: Maybe the mantra isn’t one that we should be touting.

In the dust bin: California has tossed away the old delay metric in Level of Service (LOS) analysis–too bad cars!

Closed: The Battery Street Tunnel will be closed later this month for 4 days, so watch out drivers!

The Denny: A new urban bike has been crowned king, and it’s Seattle-based.

Judgemental maps: It’s fun to be a jerk sometimes, and these mapheads have done a fine job at that.

Real ridesharing: It only took a few years for Lyft and Uber to decide that actual ridesharing would be a good idea.

Free ORCA pass: If you live north of 85th Street, you could get free rides and a free ORCA pass.

Parking design: Yeah, that doesn’t seem right, but this woman has worked to make parking lots a whole lot better.

Parking costs: We’ve said it a lot, parking adds cost to housing, which reduces affordability; the rules are outdated.

Phasing plan: There’s a good phasing plan for real highspeed rail in the US.

No more roads: Missouri voters turned down a horrendous roads tax.

Carbon tax: Voters are beginning to feel a lot better about a carbon tax.

Family-friendly Vancouver: The story of how Vancouver, British Columbia became on of the most family-friendly urban places in North America.

Pricing caps: France is toying with the idea of putting pricing caps on housing, but will it work?

Unincorporated cycletrack: King County is wading into uncharted territory with a cycletrack to connect two trails in the rural east county!

Bertha bust: The New York Times highlights our failed tunnel effort, and reminds of how screwed up the fix-it solution is.

A conundrum: Many renters could get a mortgage, but they just can’t afford a home.

Cycling and wealth: The data surrounding cycling rates and income are very interesting, and maybe what you expect.

Parks won: In case you missed it, we had a vote on a Metropolitan Park District, and the parks won!

Measuring Housing Need Compared to Job Growth



Trulia’s blog provides another important contribution about housing costs. The most recent post includes the graph above. This graph reinforces the evidence that the price of housing is largely determined by the need for housing and the amount available. You might remember previous graphs they’ve produced showing the connection between costs and units built or between costs and permits approved.

Trulia’s graph doesn’t look at the actual number of units built, but it does make an important point about population growth. Frequently people make the mistake of thinking that the number of people moving to an area is the same as the number of people who wish to live in that area. A common erroneous assumption is a nearly 1:1 relationship between units built and new residents. Unfortunately, cities don’t work like that. Instead, most growing areas would likely grow faster if they had more housing, indicating that there are people who would like to live there but can’t. In other words, it’s hard to figure out what the need for housing actually is. Trulia tries to solve this problem by understanding why people move in the first place. In other words, if there are job opportunities in an area, it’s likely that people will move there, especially in an economy with high unemployment.

reasons-to-moveThis assumption is reinforced by other research. The Census Bureau acknowledges that a big reason for moving to a new area is employment. The Census Bureau regularly examines why people move. The reasons break into basically 3 categories: housing, relationships, and jobs (as seen in the graph to the left).

While housing reasons make up more than 48% of the total moves, housing is likely a small motivator for moves to new metropolitan regions. In other words, people may move for better housing, but this doesn’t necessarily change the need for housing in a region if they already lived in that region. To illustrate which moves change how much housing is needed and why those people move, the Census Bureau breaks down moves by distance and reason.

Meanwhile, in the table below, it is quite evident that housing disproportionately motivates the reason for intracounty moves and more than half of the moves of less than 50 miles. In other words, moving for better housing, is the biggest reason people move, but it doesn’t change how much housing is needed. As moves increase in distance, the motivation for moving changes significantly. Jobs and family motivate over 60% of the other moves and account for as much as 78% of moves over 500 miles.

Take Another Look


Picture 1


I see her brighten the bus stop as I pull up. Third and Union southbound, some time before midnight. Hers is a smile which renders her ageless; you see the girl she used to be, echoes of a happier time. She’s thirty-five and thin, ready to go home now, her rich black hair tied in a workaday ponytail, unbrushed for now.

I’ve seen her a few times previous. Why does she smile so when she sees it’s me driving? Perhaps she feels safer on my 7, or maybe she just enjoys the warm vibes. I greet everyone with enthusiasm. I get excited when we’re full up and late on the 7 at night. There are times when I feel myself bubbling over, thrilled beyond measure to be here, can’t hide it, thrilled to be in the vortex, Metro’s busiest route, the throbbing heart of this great city, maybe even– dare I say it? Changing the atmosphere just by being myself, reaching out to all these lives as though they were friends– because of course, they are. This euphoric bliss happens delicately, seemingly without my trying, and I feel lucky to touch it when it’s here.

Tonight I gab with various folks. Just passing the time. Here’s a Jack-in-the-Box employee and I, discussing the value of being a people person at our respective jobs. Tonight he’s looking for a payphone, and we wonder where any are. Another man extols the virtues of his bicycle’s disc brakes after I ask. Disc brakes on a bike seem luxurious to me. They’re great going down McClellan hill, apparently.

Eventually she steps up to the front. At first I think she’s getting off at an earlier stop tonight, but no, she just wants to talk. She’s happy to try, despite the trouble of speaking the new language. I feel honored that she feels comfortable enough to do so. Would you do the same in her place? It’s no easy feat, making small talk in a language and country that isn’t your own, but sometimes the feeling of connection is worth it.

“Are you just getting off work?” Yes, she is. An Indian accent. “You work late,” I marvel, noting the clock. 11:41. “Do you like it?”

She waxes and wanes in response, smiling, agreeing with my hand gesture of “more or less.”
“A job is a job,” she says finally.
“It’s true, a job is a job. A good thing to have.”

She explains that back home, people did laundry for her. Servants took care of stuff like that. Now, not only does she do her own laundry, she does everyone else’s, for work. Completely different world. She cried at first, disillusioned, feeling lied to by the great Dream, disappointed and alone on a crushingly fundamental level. They moved halfway around the globe and here she is now, mopping floors, working part time here and there, long and late hours, menial labor seven thousand miles from home. Working the dry-cleaning machine, struggling to keep her tears to herself.

She’s been here three years and has lived that entire time on Rainier Avenue. What a notion of America she must have, so specific to her experience. How little those around her know of her past. Take a second look at the gas-station attendants, the gardeners and cooks around you. Some of them used to be dignitaries, scientists, and more before they came over. A good bus driver friend of mine was once Assistant Vice President at the University of Tehran. His passengers get on without a clue.

I think it was Gombrich who said, an accent is a badge of honor. It means that person, or their family, possessed the unthinkable courage to completely restart their lives from scratch, with no safety net, in a place they don’t know and often are not welcome in. That is fortitude.

Is she a stronger person now, though, than she was before, moving beyond all those years of soft living? I think so. The expanded perspective, the seeds for empathy, the learned skill of appreciation…. Out loud I say, “well, it makes your character stronger. You know?”
She gets it. “Yes, it’s true.”
“And you are always so happy, smiling. Every time.” She beams anew in the darkness. “As long as you can be happy, people can be happy, that is very impressive to me. Anyone really, who can be happy in this life,”
She affirms the sentiment, and I continue, “I love driving the bus! Helping all the people, talking to people….”
Now she’s laughing, in surprise, delight, in newfound freedom. You can make the most out of anything.

“Where you are from?” she asks. It’s normally a question I don’t care for, but I know what she means.
She’s happy at the response, excited at the commonality of displacement. She asks for a night stop, thirty feet closer to her apartment, and thirty feet away from the drugged-out thugged-out ghettotastic reunion that’s forever taking place in the bus shelter,  over there by the gas station, the omnipresent hustle bubbling on just this side of violence. Those thirty feet make all the difference. Thanking me, she dashes off into the shadows. She had her keys ready.

What We’re Reading: Highway to Hell

Seattle Light by Jonathan Cheng on Flickr.

Highway to hell: Long Beach, CA plans to remove the first freeway in southern California. The freeway revolt in Los Angeles that you probably never knew about. The Senate Democrats cave to House Republicans on national transportation funding–we may keep the roads, bridges, and buses going, but the system is still broken.

Design and development: The Seattle City Council wants a new housing affordability strategy. Urban Kchoze argues that building width, not height, is what really matters when designing and constructing buildings; he looks at a number of case studies. Capitol Hill Housing buys up Squire Park, a controversial situation due to the number of affordable units in the building. A developer sues a homeowner for delaying their E 15th St and Madison Way project. The San Francisco Transbay Transit Center is spurring a lot of development that is quite unique. And a cool microhousing project is on the way for Howell and 15th.

All for the bikes: The Fremont Bridge bike counter sets another record, but just barely–and it appears that we’re on the way to top 1 million bicycle rides across the bridge. The Westlake bikeway continues to evolve, and this iteration has some seriously unique features that we’re not so keen on–like a cycletrack in the middle of parking lot drive aisle. Seattle Bike Blog talks helmets and Pronto! Houston is making bike interstates out of its utility networks. And a study suggests that buffers are need between bikes and parked cars if you want to keep cyclists safe.

Maps this week: A proposal to get rid of gerrymandering; not only would the political landscape likely be a lot different, but congressional districts would just make sense–people, not politics. A simple map of DC’s Metrorail shows the walkshed of each station within the District and its immediate suburbs. The new geography of consumer debt, it’s widespread.

Transit talk: The freeway stations along SR-520 are now both open, and Tim Bond gives a report on them for transit riders. Meanwhile, Frank Chiachiere wades into the progressive/regressive tax debate and argues that labeling taxes as such that is really a blurred lines situation. FiveThrityEight rates your transit, how do you rank? And bikeshares help support transit.

The random stuff: Forget Uber or Car2Go, BlaBlaCar is taking over Europe–it’s a unique carsharing venture. Saville is banning outdoor dominoes (and lots of other stuff) because they’re noisy. Former Mayor Paul Schell dies. European cities are trying out different cooperative approaches to getting real estate refurbished and occupied. Big cities that restrict development ultimately hurt the economy.

Metropolitan Park District Passing


Parks DistrictThe first round of results have dropped, and most prominently in tonight’s election returns is the Seattle Metropolitan Park District. Currently, the proposition is passing 52.4%-47.6%. We anticipate that this trend will continue as the remainder of the count is tallied over the coming days. Younger and more progressive, liberal, and urban-inclined voters tend to turn in their ballots later than older and more conservative voters.

Another significant Primary race for Seattle is the challenge from the newcomer Socialist Alternative candidate Jess Spear against incumbent House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford). Spear presented herself as a young, social welfare-minded candidate in the same vain as City Council Member Kshama Sawant. In a nearly identical redux of Sawant’s campaign before council, Spear attempted to knock Chopp out of the Legislature. At this point, it looks unlikely that Chopp will be seriously challenged in the General Election; he leads nearly 80%-20% in the race.

For elections results within the City of Seattle and King County, be sure to visit the King County Elections results page. Legislative District and Congressional races are best viewed from the Secretary of State’s election page as many district boundaries straddle two or more counties.

East Link: Rainier Station Open House

Rainier Station
The site of the future station, in the middle of I-90 and accessed from 23rd (right) and Rainier (left, a little after where all the signs are).


On Thursday, Sound Transit held an open house about the Rainier Station, a station planned as part of the East Link extension. The station is planned as a center platform station wedged in the median of I-90 between Rainier Ave S. and 23rd Ave S. The station will serve riders in the Central District and Rainier Valley.

Trains will operate to the Eastside and Downtown Seattle with service continuing northward. Those looking for service southbound are better served by bus or changing trains westward at International District Station, although this may be somewhat circuitous to simply heading south to the Mount Baker Transit Center/Mount Baker station.

The station will be a significant improvement over today’s bus-only Rainier Freeway Station. An entrance is added at 23rd Ave S making world-class transit accessible to many more people with elevators and a new access point. The experience for riders will also improve. Currently, riders wait in the middle of a very noisy 10-lane freeway. The new station will have the most efficient sound walls ever conceived.

Vegetation opposite of the tracks and center platform will give a garden-like feel to the station, a cue taken from the extensively-landscaped Mount Baker freeway lid and Mountains-to-Sound trail. Meanwhile, entrances to the station will be very light. The station structures will consist mainly of glass and steel, which provide for excellent vistas of Mount Rainier or Downtown Seattle. There will also be plenty of weather protection.

Light rail riders will have many options for accessing the station. Bike cages will be provided on-site for cyclists. These can be paid for by simply using a preloaded ORCA pass and will be located at both station entrances. Cyclists will have plenty of safe routes thanks to the City of Seattle’s Central Area Greenway projects and similar projects in the south end, in addition to the existing I-90 trail.

King County Metro Transit will continue to provide frequent bus service along 23 Ave S. (Route 48)  and Rainier Ave S. (Routes 7 and 9). Other bus services within the walkshed include Routes 4 and 8. Presumably the arrangement of service will be revised by the time of the station opening, but the point stands that the station will be well served. The good news for riders here is that most of those buses are at high frequencies, so there will be little time penalty when transferring to and from light rail.

Unlike the much more car-oriented Eastside, the station has no need of a Park-and-Ride facility. Although there is the legitimate concern by residents that light rail will bring Hide-and-Ride to the neighborhoods in proximity to the station. Action by the city may be warranted to allay these concerns and actively discourage such rider behavior. One way to achieve this for instance is a Restricted Parking Zone.

There were concerns about the at-grade crossing for riders entering and exiting from Rainier Ave S. The entrance from this end is focused to the northwest of the center platform, which means that riders must cross over tracks to reach the center platform. Meanwhile, plazas at both ends of the station will be able to handle food carts. The spaces are designed so that they might be expanded in the future to accommodate food trucks or even permanent stores. Discussion on these potential facilities were both positive and negative.

Lastly, there was a significant revision for D2 roadway–a roadway located just west of the future station area. This roadway currently serves as the express lanes segment running from Rainier Ave S. to International District Station. The right-of-way was initially slated for use by light rail and an eastbound bus lane. The bus lane was planned as an 11′ wide lane; however, it was ultimately dropped from the project in this iteration. The roadway is now planned for exclusive light rail use, leaving a surplus and unused bridge over Rainier Ave S. and the eastbound flyer stop. It’s unfortunate that Sound Transit plans to keep the unused roadway–unlike its westbound counterpart that will be demolished. Though the East Link project has no budget to demolish the bridge, it should be taken down in the future to allow for more light rail to reach Rainier.

Also, in case you missed the video put out by Sound Transit last week, we’ve got you covered. Take a ride from the International District to Mercer Island and see the future light rail stations along the alignment, including Rainier Station.