Friday, 25 September, 2020

Baugruppen: Innovative Constructs


Editor’s Note: This is Part 4 of a series on Baugruppen, private owners collaboratively building affordable multifamily projects. Read Part 1 or check out the series.

photo: mike eliason

Baugruppen provide a vehicle for experimental modes of constructing versus traditional models of housing, where experimentation and innovation can prove difficult. Due to the nature of designing and building in a group, BGs allow owners leeway in the direction they’d like their project to go, or what type of structure the building should have. They allow the potential to incorporate highly individualized units, extremely innovative construction methods (prefab, CLT, brettstapel!), uber green buildings (passivhaus!) – all whilst remaining relatively affordable. And, in some cases, it is this experimental nature that brings the cost down.

Energy Efficiency

Previously, I wrote that individual BG owners have access to reduced rates for hitting levels of efficiency (via the state-owned bank, KfW). Some locations also give a further subsidy for higher levels of efficiency, such as those meeting Passivhaus (which, depending on jurisdiction, can entail little cost increase for window/door packages, ventilation system and increased insulation levels over ‘barely legal’ construction). For Vauban, there was an efficiency requirement for all projects, and several ended up meeting (or exceeding) Passivhaus. These projects provide a high level of comfort, acoustic privacy, and low operating costs – all quite handy for urban housing, or even housing geared towards the elderly. As Passivhaus has becomes easier to meet (effectively no up charge on certain typologies), the transition to net zero PHs, or even plusenergie (energy positiveprojects, is already underway. Awe. Some!

The Baugemeinschaft Sophienallee is a really well done multifamily Passivhaus by Neustadt Architekten, located in Hamburg’s dense borough Eimsbüttel. The 5-story, 16-unit project features a variety of unit sizes, and corresponding diversity in owners (seniors, young families, DINKs, singles), roof terrace, garden and two community rooms.  Construction costs were about $250/sf. Drawings, photos and details via deutschebauzeitungen, and Passivhaus stats also available.


BGs have the option of pushing as far as their budget will allow in terms of materials and structure. The group may feel that certain forms of construction are advantageous in terms of embodied energy or carbon (e.g. CLT v. concrete) – and it’s entirely possible given the right approach, those methods may even cost less as well. For the BG, being ecologically-minded may not be an afterthought, they may even be willing to take on the risk of an all-wood building whereas a risk-averse developer might avoid that route. They can debate the merits of EPS, XPS, cork  in financial terms yes, but also through other lenses.

The 3xgruen BG (also by A52’s designer, roedig.schop architekten) is a phenomenal, jaw-dropping game-changing 5-story,13-unit wood building incorporating CLT and prefabricated walls. In terms of sustainability + affordability + density, I’m not sure a better project exists (and I would know!). Construction costs are incredible (about $175/sf gross) – even though the quality is quite high. This low-energy project was envisioned as a prototype, with the form and structure being transferable to other sites, which could result in even lower prices (whuuuuuut?!?). Common areas include a garden (kid’s realm!) and roof terrace (adult’s playground!). Truly a stunning urban prototype. Info, drawings and pics from a bauwelt article. Short video of this award winning project is also worth perusal.


Building in urban environs can be difficult, and many urban projects are opting for panelized assemblies to reduce the construction duration. This is advantageous to both developers and baugruppen – for BGs , specifically because the design and decision making process can be quite lengthy.

Kaden Klingbeil’s e3 is an incredible, 7-story wood construction in the heart of Berlin. A lot has been written about this project already, I will just note that not only is it highly innovative – but special permission was required in order to build that tall (hence the adjoining concrete stairwell + elevator). Thankfully, they prevailed, and the world can revel in the beauty of this stunning project, built for around $280/sf. Nice writeup of the architects and project by Joe Mayo’s timbercity. Great video on the project, w/ English subtitles.

Fragments From The Road


Picture 20


I feel like I see so many fragments of universes, the visible tips of deep and storied lives, icebergs whose temperatures and histories we can only guess at. Here are the glancing shades of a few.

Shan (“not Shannon, just Shan”), standing at the front of my 358, telling me how she broke up with her emotionally abusive boyfriend and thus felt a new and heady sensation of release. She’s developed a heretofore untapped appetite for exercise and has lost 150 pounds in ten months. I look at her beaming face, long hair and the first beautiful aging lines, letting all that vitality hit me.

An old but hardy man, perhaps a seafaring type, getting off at Seneca, quipping to me as he leaves: “okay, you can go home now!”

At Beacon and Lander. An African-American man stands up inside the coach, yelling through the open window at his friend across the street: “IT’S TEN O’ CLOCK! WHASS UP CHUCKIE!” I glance at my watch. It’s 3:42. Maybe he means New Zealand time.

On the 36, a little south of Judkins outbound. Who’s that Chinese senior walking with her head down, a half-smile on her face? I know that profile. I’ve pulled up to the stop, way past her, she’s back there somewhere, a hundred feet away, walking away- but I know that face. I saw her yesterday, for the first time in months. I throw on the parking brake and jump out of the packed bus- “gimme a second-” and cup my mouth as I yell, “MELBA!” That’s her name. “MELBATOAST!”
She looks up, looks to her right, now she’s turning around- that half-smile transformed, exploding as she recognizes me. “Nathan!” she shouts. We wave. I wish her a good day and jump back inside.
“Don’t mind me,” I tell the passengers. “Just sayin’ hey to my buddy!”

A working girl (you know what I mean) in a leering tank top, straps and bra straps, cleavage for miles, midriff exposed. No makeup today. Her sweatshirt is tied round her waist, somehow matching her hair tied back in a high ponytail. “Thank you,” she says as she gets off. She’s carrying, among other things, a hub cap for a Honda Civic.

Halfway down the bus sit two older Vietnamese, easily seventy, one a man and the other a lady. They sit across the aisle from each other, in their own separate seat pairs. Not relaxed around each other enough to be a couple; maybe they’re neighbors. They’re passing a cantaloupe back and forth. One really wants to give it to the other, and the other is just way too polite about it. Gestures of “no thank you, really” and “here you go,” until finally they grin back and forth, crinkling into ageless humor.

Sunday Video: 3.5M in Los Angeles


Many elements have to be considered when we talk about the total development capacity for a place. Gensler LA offers a good starting point for some of these. This Sunday’s video gives us a great visualization of what it would take to support 4.3 million residents in Downtown LA. Perhaps this is a worthwhile discussion for Seattle.

What We’re Reading: Accelerated Growth

Downtown Seattle - HDR
Downtown Seattle, courtesy of Matthew Whitehead.

Accelerating growth: Seattle grew twice the rate of suburban King County in population from 2012 to 2013, and that rate has massively accelerated from the previous yearly period when it only grew 25% faster.

Breath easier: Sightline breaks down 17 things you should know about California’s cap-and-trade system. Maybe this can be a model for our state?

Elevate your maps: Google Maps adds a hand feature for cyclists, now you can visualize your next bike ride with route elevations!

Competing proposals: Council Members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant propose alternative funding measures to save King County Metro Transit in Seattle. There’s a lot to like about this.

Racism and inequality: It may not be the sexiest mapping, but City Lab shows us maps of racist housing policies and the inequality state-by-state over three decades.

Bus stop or transit station?: It probably goes without saying, but not all bus stops are created equal. Some are flag stops, some are sheltered stops, and some are full fledge stations. Greater Greater Washington gives a great primer on the diversity of the “bus stop”. Meanwhile, DC’s Metro explores the differences in high capacity transit service typologies.

Unequal social welfare: We don’t spend money on social welfare in the way that you probably think we do. The system is pretty broken because we broke it more even though we spend more. To top it off, we’re losing a lot of our social housing to neglect and demolition.

City sets strict rules: The City Council adopted much more stringent rules for microhousing (even beyond what DPD proposed) and small lot development.

20mph zones: Paris is looking to expand its 20mph zones all across the city.

In trouble: It looks like the tunnel project may be even further delayed and that the City Council is poised to tank the city’s $15/hr effort.

Third safest: Smart Growth America released some interesting statistics this week, especially in respect to Seattle. Ranking 51 cities, Seattle comes out at top as the third safest for pedestrians.

Tragic realities: You may wonder why and how bicyclist deaths occur. The statistics show that it’s almost always the fault of a driver and the cyclist being rearended, but there’s more to it.

First female police Chief: Mayor Ed Murray chose Boston’s Kathleen O’Toole as the city’s new Police Chief. O’Toole becomes the city’s first female in the position.

Uneven recovery: Since the end of the Great Recession, the recovery has been very different across the country. And not just in the rate of employment growth, but also in the quality and pay of jobs.

There’s a fire in the house: Bad design of space isn’t just the fault of traffic planners or developers, a lot of this blame belongs with our “life savers”. Ironically, fire departments across this country are making us less safe with our streets because of their fire trucks.

Map of the week: This series of maps in London explores the social differences of the city’s districts in a number of ways like race, accessibility to public transport, age cohorts, unemployment beneficiaries, and more.

Is Seattle The Fastest Growing Big City In The US?


Yesterday morning the Census Bureau published a press release titled, “South, West Have Fastest-Growing Cities, Census Bureau Reports; Three of Top 10 are in Texas Capital Area.” The article has links to the best estimates for growth between July 2012 to July 2013. Sure enough, three cities in central Texas top the list. These three municipalities (suburbs of Austin, TX) are growing rapidly, as much as 8%.  But which big city is the fastest growing in the country. Here’s a glimpse at the top 100 ranked by growth:



The estimates show Seattle growing 2.8% from July 2012 to July 2013. This is behind two other cities in the top 100 but it is the fastest growing of the top 50. Beyond this simplification the measurement becomes a little trickier.

How Do You Measure A City’s Geographic Area

Before measuring population, it’s necessary to define the boundaries of a city. The easiest measurement to use is simply drawing the boundaries at the legal edges of the city. This is simple enough and makes a lot of measurements easy but often times the legal boundaries of cities don’t match our perceptions. For example, is Shoreline part of Seattle? With this measurement the answer would be no. You see examples like this everywhere. If you asked someone living across the river in New Jersey where they were from it wouldn’t be unusual if they said New York City. Just like many people around New York identify as New Yorkers, people who live on Mercer Island likely identify as Seattlites but Mercer Island also isn’t within Seattle’s legal boundaries.

This is also true in Austin, TX. People who live in Round Rock, Georgetown or Cedar Park very likely identify as being from Austin. If you consider the growth in these municipalities, Austin’s growth rate jumps above 2.7%, still less than Seattle but significantly higher. If you include Seattle’s suburbs in the equation of growth, Seattle actually grew slower. For example, including Bellevue (1.37%), Redmond (1.67%), Renton (1.27%), Kent (1.18%) and Shoreline (.69%), would mean Seattle only grew 2.15%.

Additionally, Austin is much larger than Seattle if you compare their incorporated boundaries. Seattle only has about 84 square miles of land compared to over 320 square miles in Austin. A conservative estimate of Austin’s urban metro area is over 500 square miles. Is it a good comparison to juxtapose these two incorporated areas?

Incorporated Areas Do Matter

If you are attempting to determine government policy that is leading to good outcomes, measuring areas by the incorporated boundaries might be the best strategy. While there is a lot of influence on cities from county, regional and state politics, city policy has a big impact on the two factors that influence population growth, jobs and housing costs. Taking this into consideration paints an even brighter picture of Seattle’s growth. I cant help but speculate that policies put in place over the last few years are part of the reason why Seattle is growing faster than its suburbs. The opposite is true in Austin. Many of the people living in the suburbs likely identify as Austinites but, for whatever reason, choose not to live within the actual city limits.

When more people can choose to live in Seattle it has a real, measurable impact. City services cost less per person, diversity grows and our tax base broadens. Other, harder to measure factors also improve such as the resiliency of the city, dynamism and the lowered environmental impact. Overall, it’s a win for everyone when Seattle grows faster than its suburbs.

Seattle Is One Of The Fastest Growing Cities

Where the boundaries are drawn for a city greatly influences population estimates. Still, there’s no doubt that the city of Seattle is among the fastest growing in the country. It’s extremely difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison but it seems to be on par or greater than all the other fast growing cities in the county. The one take-away that I think is most important is that the city of Seattle grew faster than its suburbs, meaning the city is both a desirable place to live and we are actually making some room for new Seattlites.

If you’d like to look at more of the data, perhaps coming up with estimates for the metro area, I’ve put it all in a spreadsheet here.

Overcompensating Waving Bonanza

Picture 15
On the incredible 3/4

A young man on the other side of Jefferson makes a noise. It’s Jermain (from here and here, among other stories). He yells a quiet hey from across the street, and I’m happy to see him. Great. I get excited when young people show a buried promise, and you can wonder at what considerable accomplishments they have in them to achieve in the future.

Several hours later, as I pull into Third and Virginia southbound, mulling over how the zone feels like a landing strip because of how huge the sidewalk is, I start lightly tapping the horn- it’s Genevieve!!! In the living breathing flesh! She’s a nurse at several Swedish’s, and used to be something of a regular; I haven’t seen her in over a year. Here she is again, out of the blue. The multiple exclamation points really are necessary; her ebullient energy is infectious. I ask her about her twelve-hour night shifts, her multiple degrees, other interests, children, and her passion for burlesque… and how it is that she still has room to be happy. We get to talking, and both of us are very excited. We both suffer from the same problem of looking ten years younger than we really are, and are able to commiserate on such matters. At James and Third I see Jermain again at the zone, and I’m excited to say hey once more; but I focus on the individuals getting on in front of him, making eye contact with every person in the crowd, knowing I’ll get to talk to him in a minute. Each person needs that moment of contact, however brief. The difference between a short second of eye contact and a slightly longer moment is not so great; the difference between eye contact and no eye contact is vast.

The last guy steps on. It’s a young black American teen with basketball shoes and a T-shirt that’s too big, so far so good… but wait! Who’s this kid? That’s not Jermain! Just a lookalike!

Where on earth is the guy? Is he still at the zone? Maybe, as there’s still a few fellows loitering around. I want to get out of the seat, lean out the door and yell, “Jermain! As-salamu alaykum!”

I don’t do this. Instead I mutter darkly, “why isn’t Jermain on this bus?” as Genevieve and I resume our conversation. Later, I’m puzzled. Why didn’t I lean out the door and say hey? Why? What makes us hold back from ourselves, from the actions we know we could perform and share? Why do we avoid interactions which we have every confidence will go over well? It’s not like I would have made a fool of myself- okay, maybe I would have, but who cares? Not in this instance. What strange virus is this, that forces timidity where there is no reason for it? I feel lame afterwards. I resolve to be more open with myself.

I pull into Third and Pike, notice the wonderful tiny old Filipino woman, Rose, and pull way beyond her to the head of the zone to load passengers.

As soon as they’re all onboard I, in a moment of utter overcompensation, completely step off the coach, and yell down the zone, through all the people: “ROSE! ROSE! HAVE A GOOD DAY!” She’s confused, then thrilled, as she pieces this bizarre situation together. She returns the wave as energetically as her aging arm is able.

Continuing in this vein, I embark on a waving bonanza. At 21st & Jefferson, I arbitrarily wave for no reason at a man waiting across the street. I guess I’m banking on the fact that he knows me, or that he’s into waving at strangers. He returns the wave.

I’m announcing an upcoming zone, and my hands are full with holding the mic and the wheel, but I see a man with a walker on Third looking up at me from the sidewalk. We’re nowhere near a zone, and he doesn’t want to get on; he just seems likes he wants to wave. His hands are full too, maneuvering his walker. In the midst of announcing, I give him the upward-head nod and smile, and he returns it with a nod to the skies and down again, a face of joyous mock surprise.

The energy is flowing. “JAGPAL,” I yell, upon seeing Jagpal across the street, driving the 358.

Sometimes this openness falls completely flat. I’m inbound at Seneca now. A young businessman in his thirties, dressed in a navy oxford and black slacks, steps forward, preparing to get off. He has earphones in.

I glance at him in the mirror and say, “How’s it goin’?”
“Whhuuu?” he intones, taking out an earpiece temporarily. He gives me the face I probably make when I’m in foreign countries and people are yelling at me.
“Just sayin’ hey, nothin’ major,” I answer.
After a pause: “Ooooohhh.”
“What are we listening to?”
Dead silence.
A lady nearby and I burst out laughing together- she says, “he can’t hear a damn thing!”
“Must be some pretty good tunes!”

The man’s earphones are back in, and he doesn’t hear a word of our cacophony. He’s the 21st century zombie: slick, fast, well-groomed, and completely and voluntarily deaf. He goes racing down the street, a man on a mission.

Another wave at a middle-aged Latino man walking on a street somewhere in the Judkins neighborhood. His stance seems to say, “it’s that crazy bus driving kid who waves at people.” It works again as I pass by the dealers and users at Parnell’s, the mini-mart at Dearborn. They’re notoriously unresponsive when it comes to interaction, but today one of those faces transforms into a beaming grin, bloodshot eyes relaxing around the corners. Another fellow in a wheelchair offers a lazy salute.

Continuing through the Judkins area, a petite young lady kneels down by her dog as I pass by, returning my friendly demeanor with a bright smile.

While I’m in the mood, not quite knowing what’s come over me, I wave yet again- an extended fist way too much like a black power salute- at a man and his friend hanging out in the parking lot adjacent to the Center Park project housing at MLK and Walker. I definitely don’t know these guys. It’s completely random. There’s no reason for it. It doesn’t make any sense. They return the wave, getting excited, new smiles where there were none before.

Seattle Transit Funding Shouldn’t Be Used To Cut Service

Metro Cuts
Routes slated to be axed, photo courtesy of Metro.

This fall Seattle voters could approve new taxes to pay for bus service — and still lose their bus route. It sounds crazy, but if some activists get their way, Seattle bus riders will still see a shrinking system no matter how much money they pour into the system.

As Seattle debates which revenue source is the most progressive, a parallel debate is unfolding that pits progressive solutions against regressive cuts. Those cuts, justified by the ideology of austerity and sold in the language of efficiency, would scale back bus service even further, leaving only a privileged few with the chance to leave their car at home and ride an affordable, sustainable bus to work or to school.

At the press conference announcing the proposed head tax and commercial parking tax, Nick Licata hinted at this debate–and suggested it be deferrred until after the revenues were approved:

In many cases, the routes on Metro’s cut list have the lowest ridership–but may be the only transit at a particular time or to a particular neighborhood. If Seattle approves more tax, council members may buy service for routes where buses overflow, or stave off Metro’s cuts to less-used routes, or a mix.

Licata said route choices should be debated later, after the city approves money to protect bus riders.

This is the wrong approach. Now is the time to make sure that whatever revenue plan is adopted ensures that its spending is progressive, not just its revenues. Otherwise voters may reject the proposed funding sources if they lack confidence that the revenues will be used to save their bus.

Sustainability Isn’t Always Efficient

Who would argue that there’s such a thing as good cuts to transit service? One such argument came from, of all places, Sightline Institute. Jennifer Langston wrote soon after Prop 1’s failure that there could be such things as good bus cuts:

Some proposed cuts may increase Metro’s operating efficiency by targeting poorly performing routes—the ones with high operating costs or low ridership or that duplicate nearby transit service. Some will be painful and leave people stranded. Some might do both at the same time.

So far, Metro and its supporters haven’t done a great job of distinguishing—at least in the public debate—between cuts to low-performing routes that arguably ought to be sacrificed or restructured for the greater good and cuts to well-functioning routes with high ridership that will be gutted or cut back solely for lack of money.

This is a very regressive line of thinking, rooted in right-wing frames that emphasize “efficiency” over universality. Langston, writing for a sustainability think tank, is embracing concepts that exist to undermine sustainability itself.

If we are going to build a carbon zero city, we need to reduce the single biggest source of CO₂ emissions in Seattle: from transportation. That means we need to get as many people as possible to ride transit.

To do that, there have be routes operating for people to hop on board. Some of those routes will be packed. Some won’t be. But we must have a system with the capacity and coverage to pick up as many people as possible when high gas prices, traffic, or guilt about burning up our planet cause even more people to ride.

The concept of “efficiency” — that the only bus routes worth funding are those with the highest ridership levels — means that transit service can never expand to meet potential or growing demand. It means the suburbs will never get better service, since there won’t be bus service available to generate the levels of ridership that those calling for “efficiency” insist on seeing before supporting such service.

This approach is especially damaging when considering the huge cuts to Metro service that will happen without new funding. Metro has estimated these cuts would leave 10 million riders a year stranded. That’s almost a 10% reduction in ridership — even with a series of restructures designed to mitigate the impact of the cuts in the name of efficiency.

Many of the routes Metro identifies as “low performing” are not actually low performing. It’s an accounting trick designed to determine which parts of the system lose limbs and which merely lose fingers. One of the routes deemed “low performing,” the 28, is a workhorse that routinely carries full buses from Crown Hill through central Fremont, and down the growing Dexter corridor to SLU and Downtown. But because some other routes have even higher ridership, the 28 was seen as expendable. That doesn’t mean it’s an inherently bad route. It just means the proposed cuts will significantly undermine our transit system at a time when we need it to grow.

But there’s a bigger point here. Sustainability advocates must utterly reject the idea that our bus system should be focused on efficiency. It’s a metric imposed on us by right-wingers who dislike transit and don’t want to pay for it. Conservatives seek “efficiency” in transit because they hope that it will lead to an elimination of public funding for transit. Conservative voters won’t ever support transit taxes because they believe it’s an inherently wasteful use of money that doesn’t benefit them. If transit systems operate with less costs, that savings doesn’t get plowed back into transit — it gets used by conservatives to justify cutting transit budgets or cutting taxes.

Sustainability advocates have to reject the “efficiency” game because it is played with dice that are loaded against us. We must instead emphasize a robust bus and rail network that gives everyone a chance to get out of their cars and save the planet by riding a bus. Losing bus routes and thus losing riders is a huge step backward not only for transit in Seattle, but for any hope that we can lead the way to a carbon zero region.

Rejecting False Choices In Maintaining a Bus Network

There’s a similar argument at work from some transit advocates who argue, following Jarrett Walker, that we have to sacrifice broad geographic coverage in order to improve the frequency of a few popular routes.

This robbing of Peter to give more service to Paul doesn’t make sense from the perspective of getting as many people as possible to ride the buses. Usually those who lose bus service are of lower income and live in neighborhoods without many other travel options. Those who gain bus service tend to be higher income and live in dense neighborhoods that do have other options.

Those who advocate for this strategy usually justify it by citing smaller operating budgets that force hard choices. The way out of that, of course, is to expand the available funding for transit. That’s the entire point behind Seattle going it alone to approve new funds for Metro buses, ensuring that the “frequency versus coverage” argument is a false choice. Seattle can and should have both, especially if the goal is to build a sustainable city by getting as many people as possible to ride transit.

Why Shrink the Voter Base?

Not only is maintaining a broad network the right thing to do from an environmental, social justice, and transit perspective — it’s also a political necessity. Prop 1 failed in those parts of King County that didn’t have good bus service. Even within Seattle, voters were less likely to vote yes on Prop 1 if their neighborhood had no or infrequent bus service. It doesn’t make sense to shrink the number of pro-transit voters by shrinking transit service. It’s hard to imagine Seattle voters supporting funding for a few high frequency bus routes that serve a few dense corridors.

We can look to Pierce County for an example of what happens when huge swaths of voters are cut off from bus service. Voters there had rejected a countywide funding plan to maintain the existing system. Pierce Transit then made huge cuts, emphasizing service in a few core urban routes. Yet voters within Tacoma still rejected a proposal to fund a smaller network. There is just no political support for the kind of restructures that some transit advocates like.

This is part of a broader problem of political economy. Whether it’s cuts to Social Security benefits, transit, or other public programs, you can usually find some technocrat who believes voters will be happy to give up services or benefits in order to make things more “efficient.” Yet Social Security cuts remain hugely unpopular with voters. And as we’ve seen, so do transit cuts.

Voters don’t support austerity-based restructures. There’s no evidence to suggest they care about “efficiency.” Voters routinely have shown they prefer progressive solutions that expand public services, rather than regressive service cuts that privilege some at the expense of others. If Seattle and Metro followed this path, public support for transit would erode. It’s not a pretty future.

So what does a solution to this look like?

Initiative 118, developed by Friends of Transit, offered a sensible solution to this issue with the following language. First, it defined what “Metro Service Cuts” were:

“Metro Service Cuts” refers to proposed reductions in service announced by Metro in November 2013 and April 2014, and any subsequent service reductions proposed to address Metro’s current projected funding shortfall;

And then it mandated that the funds were to be used to reverse those cuts:

100 percent to purchase service for Seattle Routes until Seattle Metro Service Cuts are restored

Initiative 118 also created a Public Oversight Committee to oversee the spending of these revenues. The initiative did not prevent Metro from finding sensible ways to improve bus service. But it was deliberately crafted to provide assurance to voters that their money would be use to save their bus routes.

We haven’t yet seen the language for Mayor Murray’s proposal, nor for the plan announced by Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant. But both ought to incorporate similarly strong language ensuring that Seattle’s existing bus routes will be restored. Seattle voters deserve to know that their money will be used to stop these cuts.

Those routes don’t have to last forever. Initiative 118 lasted only six years, a deliberate choice. 2021 is when North Link light rail opens to Northgate. That rail service will allow Metro to make big and positive changes to the bus route map in north Seattle. It’s also hoped that a lasting regional transit funding plan will be approved by that time.

Until then, it doesn’t make sense to slash any existing bus routes. With rising gas prices and rising sea levels, Seattle needs to make sure as many people as possible, no matter where in the city they live, have access to good transit. Doing so is essential to building a sustainable city.

The job of transit advocates is to work to expand the transit system and to aggressively seek the funding to pay for it. It’s time to abandon the flirtation with cuts and instead work to bring Seattle the robust and expansive transit system it deserves.

Westlake Cycle Track Open House



On Wednesday, May 5th, there was another open house event for the Westlake Ave cycle track. This was the latest in a series of events for getting public input on the proposed dedicated cycle lanes to link the Fremont Bridge to SLU and Downtown.

Last night’s event was the first one open to the public since mayor Murray created a panel of stakeholders (including business owners opposed to the cycle track) to inform the design process. This time the event was held at Fremont Studios, just off the Burke Gillman trail in Fremont. The large space was needed to accommodate the large crowd of attendees, coming both from the bicycle community as well as residents and businesses along Westlake Ave.


At the entrance to the event, cycle advocates were handing out green stickers to note support of the cycle track. To the left of the entrance, “Westlake Stakeholders” (a group who has formed in opposition to the cycle track) were selling blue T-shirts to attendees to mark support for the local businesses.


The crowd inside was quite large and seemed divided evenly between bicyclists and folks wearing those blue shirts being sold at the entrance. Several display boards were present, showing relevant information to the cycle track and staff were present to answer questions related to the display boards. There were also several tables with detailed segments of the Westlake ave parking corridor with paper provided for comment for each segment.

In the speech held around 6.15pm, an overview of the need for the project and some background on the previous studies was given. During the speech both the safety concerns and a desire towork with local businesses to minimize impact were strongly emphasized.

For the Q&A period, a majority of the questions appeared to come from the opposition, which generally consisted of:

  1. Why can’t this cycle track be on Dexter instead?
  2. Is the city aware how much this will hurt local businesses?
  3. How much parking are we going to lose?

The Dexter question was mostly addressed by noting that Dexter is a steep hill and that the existing structures are not adequate for many users. The other two questions were mainly addressed by asking the folks present at the meeting to provide ideas to help the designers work around the problems the people who live and work along Westlake are facing.

A number of the questions were asked again and again in a different form, especially the Dexter and impact on businesses questions.

The questions from supporters mostly dealt with the use of the parking lot by people not in the area, the suggestion of charging “market rates” for parking and referencing the speed limit of the cycle track. The first two questions were addressed as “interesting questions that could be looked into”. It was made pretty clear though that the design speed was going to be 10 mph and would likely not be reconsidered.

After the Q&A there was additional time allowed for folks to ask direct questions to staff members individually, but most of the crowd cleared the building and headed home.

It appears that there is still quite a lot of support and opposition for this cycle track, but there may be some room for compromises to try and appease both sides. Many of the stakeholders group oppose the loss of any parking at all, but perhaps if some new management schemes of the existing lot are brought up it could address some of the space issues in the existing parking supply. It was also suggested that the sidewalks that were widened previously to allow for bikes and pedestrians to share some room be narrowed, and that space be used toward the cycle track. This concept was new to the panel members and may be looked into in the future.