Picture 8

I was riding the 7 one night, going out to Orcas to meet a friend. Rain peeled down from all corners of the globe and splashed against the laminated glass windows. Outside, cars of all stripes and nations roared by in the dimming evening light, streaks of illuminated red and white, railing past in defiance of the wet blue darkness all around. I sat just in front of the back lounge area, on those high-seats above the rear wheel. Looking out the window to see the front half of the bus make turns, that great behemoth with its angled front wheel, negotiating the dotted lines and wet pavement. I shivered with pleasure inside my jacket, smiling to myself at the cozy thrill of being indoors.

I’ve sat in the back of a lot 7s, but this one felt different. What was it? I looked around. The bus was maybe three-fourths full, a population whose figure bubbled and eddied with each stop. A laundry list of languages permeated the air, lively, stories gleaming out from under hoods, veils, caps and more, bright eyes of every shade peering out. Here were most of the world’s continents, relaxing for a time, just hanging out together in a sixty-by-eight foot rec room.

Something linked all this disparity though, made it feel united. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Was it the rain? The fading thrill of the last light of day? I looked down the aisle at the grooved non-slip flooring, stained and starched from decades of use. I marveled at all the noise- traffic, conversations, the occasional clink of the poles hitting the switches, the patter of raindrops hitting the fabric of the articulated section….

More after the jump.

King County 2030: Introduction to Housing and Employment


Editor’s Note: King County 2030 is a series analyzing King County’s future through the lens of growth targets for the County’s Metro and Core cities. Topics in the series include: density, sprawl, apportionment of jobs and housing, traffic patterns, greenhouse gas emissions, and more. For other articles in the series, see King County 2030 in the archives.

Seattle Yonder

Over the next few months, we will be exploring the future of King County in a series called “King County 2030.” The series will analyze housing and employment targets for the Core Cities of King County, a top tier of cities that are dense and/or highly productive. Themes we will touch on include the effectiveness of the targets at managing growth, trip generation, commute times, and environmental impacts through greenhouse gas emissions.


Growth in King County is managed through the King County Comprehensive Plan (KCCP), a guiding policy document for the County’s future. The KCCP contains plan elements on land use, transportation, the natural environment, parks and recreation, and other planning and policy areas. While the KCCP largely focuses on the County’s policies for unincorporated areas, it also has strong control over countywide policies that affect cities in King County. Perhaps the most important of these are housing and employment targets. The current planning horizon for the KCCP is to the year 2030.

Every year the Comprehensive Plan can be amended to address technical updates and make revisions that do not require substantive policy changes. Every fourth year, the “Four-Year Cycle” process occurs to conduct a complete review of the Plan. In this review, broader policy issues are addressed and the Plan amended accordingly. The 2012 four-year cycle has been completed, so the next four-year cycle will be in 2016.

The KCCP illuminates different municipalities’ declared growth targets, and a brief analysis shows some very interesting trends. The document is rich with values and further exploration and analysis of the forecasts for this region. For the purposes of this series, we will focus primarily on data from the Metro and Core cities, a subset of King County cities. Now to look at and evaluate some numbers!

Cold, hard, and some reasonably generated population projections

In total, the KCCP has targets of 428,068 more jobs and 233,077 more households created by 2030. Countywide, that’s approximately 1.84 persons per household working a job. It’s a reasonable ratio because it assumes roughly 90% of new households will have two members (heads of households) working in a career.

If we look at the targets for just the Metro and Core cities of the 2030 KCCP, the ratio increases to 2.03 persons per household working in a job. This ratio is also reasonable because it assumes that roughly all new households will have two members (heads of households) working in a career. (In future articles that exclusively analyze the Metro and Core populations, this 2.03 working persons per household will be a key multiplier.)

For the purpose of this article, 1.84 persons is used as a multiplier to find the approximate working population that will be added to each municipality by 2030. An example of the math is as follows: Seattle’s housing target is 86,0001 households; 86,000 x 1.84 = ~157,947 working persons for an employment target of 147,700 added jobs. Below are two graphs. The first shows the raw values between housing (blue) and employment (red) targets. The second shows the values between adjusted/generated population (blue) and employment (red) targets.

KCCP Housing-Employment-Populations Targets

Population to Employment Target ratio

The ratio between the projected population and employment targets is perhaps the most interesting value in the KCCP 2030 Technical Appendix D targets. It is arguable that a 1.0 ratio between working household population and employment targets is the most efficient number for each municipality’s growth. Theoretically, in terms of traveling to and from work, a new person living in the city would/could also work in that city, thereby reducing the distance and time traveled to and from work. (Commuting will be addressed in a future article.) In reality, due to unemployment, it is probably best to plan for slightly more new residents than targeted employment opportunities to account for this.

Let’s look at that in the graph below2:

Projected Population to Job Target Ratio

Note: “Unclaimed Urban Unincorporated” was not included in this graph because the adjusted population to employment ratio was a massive 13.26 to 1. As an outlier, it dominated the graph and significantly detracted from the point of visualizing the 1.00 ratio line.

Now that we’ve seen the data (be sure to look closely at the 1.0 line), let’s discuss three different municipalities’ ratios that are large “players” in the growth of King County:

  1. Seattle: The projected ratio of new working persons to job targets in 2030 Seattle is 1.07. A figure above 1.0 means Seattle will have a surplus of new residents relative to the number of jobs offered in the city.
  2. Renton: The projected ratio of new working persons to job targets in 2030 Renton is 0.94. Being so close to 1.0, it could be said that Renton will have an adequate amount of new residents relative to the number of jobs offered in the city. Put differently, Renton will have an adequate number of new employment opportunities relative to the number of households built in the city.
  3. Bellevue: The projected ratio of new working persons to job targets in 2030 Bellevue is 0.59. A figure below 1.0 suggests Bellevue will have a surplus of new employment opportunities relative to the numberof households being built in the city.

You be the judge.


As noted earlier, we believe a figure slightly above 1.0 to be the realistic ideal. That said, these ratios come from projected targets adopted by planning departments from the various municipalities and from household populations generated for the purposes of analysis. Keep in mind that 2030 is more than15  years away. Only then will we have the luxury of looking back on how well (or poorly) each municipality did in estimatingits growth and the impact that growth had on King County.

Article Notes
1The Seattle 2035 plan alternatives are advertising 70,000 new households and 115,000 new jobs—16,000 households and 32,700 jobs fewer than the 2030 targets. While the planning periods between Seattle 2035 and KCCP 2030 overlap for only a 15-year planning horizon, the targets do not seem to reasonably align. Speculating, we think that this could mean a number of things: 1) the KCCP growth targets are wildly optimistic, 2) the City of Seattle has revised its plans to reflect its buildable lands reporting data and trends, or 3) the City of Seattle does not believe it can reasonably commit to the growth targets in the KCCP.
2Shoreline isn’t considered a Core City, which seems inappropriate. In 2012, Shoreline had an estimated population larger than Burien, Bothell, and Kirkland and directly borders Seattle.

Seattle Streetcar Maintenance Facility Phototour


The Seattle Streetcar Maintenance Facility is a newly completed LEED-certified building in the International District that will soon provide operations, maintenance, and training space for King County Metro employees. Streetcar vehicles will access the facility on 8th Avenue South via a single track connecting to the mainline on Jackson Street with the opening of the First Hill line later this year. The building is located in the City-owned maintenance yard between Dearborn and Charles Streets.

YPT Seattle had the opportunity to take a tour last week with the City of Seattle and has shared the photos below to provide a closer look inside this exciting facility.

All photographs are by Nathan Barnett, YPT Seattle Chair for Administration.

Young Professionals in Transportation is a national organization that aims to provide professional development opportunities, fellowship and networking events for young professionals. The YPT Seattle Chapter is designed for everyone that is involved in the transportation sector, including transportation and land use planners, engineers, architects, landscape architects, advocates, and policy makers both in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This cross discipline focus complements existing professional groups, bringing professionals with multiple perspectives together in a way that is different from discipline-specific groups.

Census Bracketology


Census Bracketology

March Madness may be over, but there’s no reason why you can’t fill out your bracket—census bracket that is! The Census Bureau has put out this cool game online to test your geography skills. As you can see above, you simply pick the larger metro area (or state) to move your way up the brackets. If you do it right, only two cities (or states) should make the final round every time. (I hope you get those right.)

In case you didn’t know, the Seattle metropolitan area is currently the 15th largest in the country. And last week, we learned that King County is the second fastest growing county right now. If there’s any reason that we need to plan for growth, save King County Metro, and encourage affordability, that is it! (Just for the record, I’m not that bad at geography. I scored 59 out of 63 the first time I played!)

Seattle’s Largest Down-Zone


Lots less than 3,200sf won't be able to be developed or raised above 18' tall (22' with sloped roof)

On the April 18th, there will be a final public hearing regarding small lot legislation, which is targeted for passage in early May. Although almost unnoticed by the media, and not acknowledged in presentation materials, “interim” legislation has already been passed that may have been the largest down-zone in Seattle’s history. The proposed permanent legislation will slightly lessen this down-zone, but will carry many features of the original interim legislation.


A few years back, developers started building houses on small lots in Seattle that were previously side yards or back yards. These houses were often tall, up to three stories in some case and built looking over yards. Inevitably, there was a public backlash from neighbors who were close to these developments. The City Council created emergency legislation to stop small lot building, and directed the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to come up with a longer term solution.

Your humble writer made it to meetings early on, one of which was poorly attended (four attendees). At the time of the interim legislation, it appeared that the subject of the legislation was only about blocking small-lot developers from building new houses in side yards. It also seemed like the legislation was simply a minor code change. But my sensibility all the same was to oppose the legislation. Why? Density is density, even if it’s just a little bit.

Looking into this more recently, I realized that the implication of the new rules would actually impact a large number of homes, not just side yards. It turns out 45% of homes in SF5000 zones are on small lots. And, the legislation will effectively down-zone 7% of all single family homes in the city. Looking back, it’s amazing to think that very a small group of vocal critics could have such a dramatic impact on the future development of our city.

More after the jump.

You’re Foonie


Picture 2

“You’re a foonie bus-drivin’ horse master, y’ know thaht?”
“Oh yeah?”

I’m strolling back to my bus one morning at Aurora Village Transit Center, after using the restroom. My job is to take people who call me foonie bus-driving horsemaster seriously. This fellow, a passenger on my most recent trip, has approached me. He’s stockily built, but with the romantically scraggy locks of hair you expect to see on the front of pulpy romance novels. His terrific Scottish accent carries a tone ambiguous, a current of anger whose level I can’t quite place.

“Yeah, calling’ out THS. You might not wanna dew thaht.” THS is the methadone clinic. The letters stand for Therapeutic Health Services (“we know what that means,” some users and I joked when I once explained the acronym to a curious onlooker).

“But that’s where everyone’s goin’!” I reply.
“But they’re in treeetment, maybe they don’t want everyone to know they’re in treeetment,” he growled darkly.
“Oh, but they may not be goin’ there. Maybe they’re goin’ to the taco stand across the street…or hey, the smoke shop!”
He resigned himself to a chuckle. “You’re a foonie horsemaster!”
“Have a good one!”
He gave me the peace gesture, two fingers.

Later, he tells me again, under identical circumstances, a tinge of burly threat coloring his words: “I’m teeellin’ you, you got to stop sayin’ THS. I’m the only person got off there this morning and yew said THS, now everybody thinks I’m an ahddict!”

He sounded angry, but I pretended not to notice. “Oh man no, they don’t think that! They’re self-absorbed in their own stuff. You know I’m just callin’ out the local attractions! Maybe they think you’re goin to Aqua Quip, gonna buy a hot tub…” There, I got him to smile.

I knew I needed to pay a little more attention when he was next on board. Which is why the next time he rode, I glanced in the mirror before announcing, “this is 165th next, by THS. Also by the Credit Union and the auto shop, Shoreline Motel, there’s a U-Haul, let’s see…we got Dana Waterproofing right here…”

Never did 165th receive such a careful and studied series of announcements.  He indicated his approval by way of congenial silence. I imagine Dana and Sound Credit Union never dreamed they’d get announced as local attractions, but hey, everyone deserves a moment in the limelight.

Puget Sound Bike Share Launching Soon


Proposed Puget Sound Bike Share Docking Stations


It’s official: the Puget Sound Bike Share (PSBS) will launch in 2014! PSBS’s primary vendor Alta Bicycle Share has teamed up with D8 Technologies. D8 will provide Alta with the necessary software to run the docking stations and bikes. Alta will be responsible for delivering 500 bikes and 50 docking stations for Phase I of the system.

PSBS has created a crowdsourcing map to receive feedback on potential docking stations. As you can see from the map above, the green area is the service area for Phase I with blue dots indicating proposed locations by PSBS and green dots proposed by the public. Most of the proposed locations are heavy concentrations of docking stations along corridors and core areas.

Barclays Cycle HireWhen we consider what the launch plan for docking stations, we should look at successful bike share programs like Washington, D.C., New York City, and London for best practices. Each of these systems distribute their docking stations in a fairly balanced manner across city cores. Instead of over-concentrating docking stations (except in a few instances) in city cores and corridors, the stations are spread out to provide riders with many options and ease of access. Like transit riders, cyclists are only willing to walk a few blocks in any direction to and from a docking station. This means that docking stations need to be in residential heavy areas too, not just primary activity centers. Where docking stations are highly popular, the bike share provider simply provides additional docking ports at a station.

Capitol BikeshareLooking back at the map above, residents in Belltown, Eastlake, and the University District have clearly indicated that they want stations near them. If stations are too far away from residents in the University District or Eastlake, many will probably just walk, catch the next bus, or rent a car2go instead of bothering to use the bike share.

All of this is trial and error, of course. The Capitol Bikeshare program has been a constantly changing system since its inception. Planners have repeatedly recalibrated the system based upon data, demand, and comments. I expect that PSBS will do the same. But we want to strike the right balance on Day One so that we have a vibrant and well used bike share system from the beginning. Doing so will help make the case for expansion sooner, rather than later, much easier. So please be sure to provide your feedback to PSBS!

City As Affordable Housing Developer?

Guided Tour Youth Olympic Village at Jan 11th as part of the Innsbruck 2012 YOG
Passivhaus development in Innsbruck. Courtesy of Innsbruck 2012.

It should be painfully obvious by now that a ‘free market solution’ to low-income housing (and at this rate—even quality, affordable housing) in Seattle is getting further and further from reach. Seattle’s Office of Housing is doing what it can, spending roughly $34 million in 2012, with much of that stemming from the 2009 housing levy. While this is a good start, it falls well short of the critical need, and a large portion of that funding was loans to non-profit developers.

But what if we, the enlightened denizens of Seattle, pushed for the City to take on a greater role in the development of affordable and low-income units? Could the City itself become a non-profit developer of sorts, taking on construction, development and funding of large scale affordable housing projects? Could we position ourselves as a leader in addressing critical housing shortages while at the same time pushing innovative, high-quality, low-energy buildings for low-income residents? If this region ever decided this was a viable option (and I’d posit that it is), then perhaps Neue Heimat Tirol (NHT) could be a solid role model.

Neue Heimat Tirol is a non-profit developer jointly owned by the Bundesland of Tirol and the Tyrolean capital, Innsbruck. Founded as a for-profit venture in 1939, by 1968, after post-war construction slowed, the organization’s nearly worthless shares were picked up by the State and City. Today, NHT is one of the largest housing suppliers in Western Austria—providing attractive, clean and affordable social housing. NHT develops, rehabilitates and manages a variety of projects—rentals, condos, and elderly residences—with many incorporating secondary functions, such as kindergartens, schools, and community centers.

Lest you think I’m pulling this organization out of thin air, I do have some rationale for my choice. Presently, Innsbruck’s median condo cost/square foot prices are comparable to Seattle’s (approximately $340/sf for both). Tirol’s population (714,500) is also comparable to Seattle’s. Tirol also happens to have a phenomenal wood-based, low/mid-rise, digital fabrication and high performance building sector which should really be reason enough to imitate. Furthermore, the geography and labor costs are also comparable to our region. Over the last decade, NHT has seen tremendous growth, presently managing nearly $160M of construction per year—both in new projects ($120M) and energetically-focused rehabs ($40M).

More below the jump.