Seattle loves waiting, in private life and public process

We wait two hours for a pizza. And, in public life, we also choose the luxury of spending extra time, debating endlessly on something like the waterfront and an Alaskan Way solution.

Alaskan Way Viaduct: Are we making it too complicated?

Alaskan Way Viaduct: Are we making it too complicated? Chuck Taylor

Ferry line.

Ferry line. Sue Frause/Crosscut Flickr group

"Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

–Yogi Berra (attributed)

Seattle loves waiting in line. People here are willing and prone to be standing, somewhere, waiting in line. Consider the lines at Hempfest and at this year’s Bumbershoot Festival. When it comes to food, movies, and even to politics, Seattlites are a patient sort, willing to stand in line and wait. We even have a monument to waiting in Fremont.

Our line waiting is a symptom of a local cultural pose; people here wait their turn, preferring slow incremental change big leaps forward. We lack impatience. This is true of big civic issues that affect sustainability too. While the planet heats up from carbon emissions created by cars, we are debating a billion dollar buried highway. Isn’t there a cheaper, faster solution consistent with a city that wants to be green?

I hate waiting in line. If there is a long line I opt out or arrive ridiculously early to avoid a wait. A preference or peeve, line waiting is also about supply and demand. Increased demand means reduced supply which means higher price. As the demand goes up, often so does supply. As supply goes up price comes back down. Eventually supply, demand, and price reach predictable levels. Sometimes the price we pay for something is the time we wait for it—an opportunity cost. Some things are worth paying more for than others at different times. We'd pay more for water in the desert than in the rain forest, for example.

But what about pizza? I decided to try getting in line. Delancey —a hip happening spot in Ballard — seems to break the rules of supply and demand and get away with it. Like a culinary BD Cooper, Delancey inspires hope among foodie outlaws: sell something people can usually get cheap and quickly for a lot of money and make them wait for it. Delancey gets away with it.

My Wednesday night wait at Delancey, the earnest host said when I arrived, would last an hour. "You're welcome to sit outside and drink wine or you can go across the street,” she said pointing out the sidewalk patio in front of the restaurant and the Mexican restaurant across the street, Tarasco. She told me that some nights the wait is two hours. But people keep coming. And Delancey has gotten smart about lines — they don't have one. Instead, the waiting becomes almost like an entirely separate experience.

Unless I’m mistaken, a frozen microwave pizza costs five bucks at any convenience store. And the wait is five minutes if the store has a microwave.  Why would anyone wait an hour — or more — for a $15 pizza? There is lots of cheap, easy, and fast pizza in Seattle. And not all of it is bad. Pagliacci —a Seattle standard—is fast, affordable, and satisfying.

But is it pizza I was buying and waiting for at Delancey? Or was I buying Delancey? The Delancey story is an interesting. one. It all started on a blog called Orangette run by Molly Wizenberg. (Wizenberg’s blog was named the world’s best food blog by the Times of London.) She met her husband through the blog; they were drawn together by their food fetish. They fell in love, got married, and started Delancey.

So the restaurant is now a local legend with homemade sausage, and bragging rights for those that brave the line. And the world has noticed as well. "Guess where I went the other night? Delancey!” I can say. The response is inevitable: “That’s the pizza place with the two-hour wait, right?”

Demand is about what we consider to be important. Buying sand in the desert says as much about the buyer's wealth as it does about the skills of the salesman. Waiting in line for pizza (Delancey's pizza is fantastic), breakfast (Glo's, Julia's), ice cream (Mollie Moo's), or movies (Seattle International Film Festival) indicates an extravagance of time. At Delancey the wait becomes early 21st century temporal rococo — waiting in one restaurant for dinner in another.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 7 a.m. Inappropriate

The premise of this article is BS. Just because we wait doesn't mean we "love" it - it'd be more accurate to say we "suffer" it.

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 9:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Unlike the personal decision to stand in line for pizza, Seattle's meddling in the SR-99 project is a burden on The Rest of the State. Has the State started billing Seattle for the cost overruns yet?

dbreneman

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

That can start right after Seattle starts billing the rest of the state for all the money we generate but don't get to keep.

ddmiller

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 10:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Crippling the city’s transportation matrix and spending billions frivolously in these hard economic times is not buying a pizza.

Holding out for real solutions that serve the greatest number of people, as opposed to jamming through narrow, self-serving solutions on behalf of a few special interests is not “enjoying the act of standing in line.” Bad ideas do not get better with the passage of time.

I assume this article is supposed to be one of those witty, forward-thinking opinions about turning downtown Seattle into Paris. You will probably get more laughs with it at the next meeting of the Central Waterfront Partnership.

jmrolls

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 3:44 p.m. Inappropriate

There has never been conducted a full, fair and open discussion to conclusively determine which AWV replacement option is best engineered to achieve the goals of managing traffic, minimizing environmental impact and risk at a reasonable cost. Too many years of needlessly wayward studies have always led to conjecture and choosing sides, one interest group against all others.

There is clear evidence that WSDOT has not acted in the interests of the public; most likely to extend the planning process ad nauseum so the alternative which does NOT achieve essential goals can be foisted on a disgusted and misled public while their cronies in automobile-related business interests laugh all the way to the bank. Seattle's notorious traffic is intentional. WSDOT directors know the proposed deep bore tunnel is the worst option and have rigged the planning process to undermine the obviously best engineered option - a cut/cover tunnel. Even the surface/transit option has less environmental impact than the deep bore tunnel.

Wells

Posted Mon, Sep 13, 7:43 p.m. Inappropriate

The tunnel was proposed as a sop to those in Seattle who wanted the viaduct gone at any expense (and what it expense it will be), while still allowing traffic to move on this state highway relatively unimpeded. If Seattle doesn't want the tunnel, fine. There is an option which, as Wells says, "is best engineered to achieve the goals of managing traffic, minimizing environmental impact and risk at a reasonable cost." Replace the few sections of the viaduct that are damaged and retrofit the rest. That will put the day of reckoning off for another generation, and maybe around 2040 or so there will be people in the city ready to discuss a reasonable solution. Automobiles are not going to disappear in this century. That fact needs to be front and center in any discussion of this issue.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Sep 14, 7:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Roger's case would be stronger if:

1. Most people in Seattle waited for pizzas for two hours. They don't, not by a long shot. Most people avoid ferry lines if at all possible. People in Seattle hate lines.

2. If it was obvious that the surface option is actually the best green solution. It isn't, necessarily. The best way to promote the densities we require is to re-shape Seattle central waterfront.

3. There were not agreement between the state and the city about how to proceed with the Viaduct replacement. There is agreement.

4. If, by just seeing things Roger's way (and declaring the surface option the winner) the debate would end. It wouldn't, and all that state money would be re-directed to road projects to serve sprawl instead of rebuild a better city.

Jan

Posted Tue, Sep 14, 9:41 a.m. Inappropriate

In every engineering sense, the access ramps to SR99 in Lower Belltown, as well as the Columbia and Seneca ramps onto 1st Ave, are disgracefully poor in design. Retrofitting or replacing the AWV does nothing to correct their egregious errors.

From Elliott Ave, the southbound entrance to the AWV is an uphill climb and 'blind' merge. And, the exit ramp onto Western is downhill which accellerates vehicles dangerously onto surface streets. The access ramps to Battery Street Tunnel have the same problem. Rebuilding SR99 'below' Elliott & Western as proposed with the cut/cover tunnel makes the entrance ramps a safer 'downhill' with a clear merge and the exit ramps 'uphill' which slows traffic to surface street speed. Moreover, the overhead highway there is ruinous land-use. By lowering the highway, Lower Belltown blocks above would be capped and ideally redeveloped.

The traffic on Seattle's dangerously steep side streets leading to the Columbia and Seneca ramps should not be encouraged. 1st Ave is an important pedestrian and transit corridor with too much traffic.

The DBT closes the Battery Street tunnel and dumps traffic at its north portal, displacing and 'dispersing' more than 50,000 vehicles from the existing, straightforward route onto more surface streets than would occur with the surface/transit option which 'contains' the displaced traffic and its impacts to Alaskan Way. BTW, the current design for Alaskan Way is incapable of handling the lesser amount of traffic expected with the DBT. The absolutely atrocious Mercer West, the insane risk of the bore tunnel beneath downtown buildings, catastrophic costs, etc etc etc.

If anyone cares to debate this engineering assessment, I've always been open to that. But you're all accustomed to waiting for pathetic transportation planning departments to agree amongst themselves how to best serve automobile-related business interests, some of whom are more than willing to walk the unsuspecting down the garden path leading to a freshly dug hole.

Wells

Posted Tue, Sep 14, 9:45 a.m. Inappropriate

It's funny when you think about it though. If we knock down one of the most efficient transportation elements in the city, everyone will truly find out just how much "waiting in line" they can stand. That's why most of us still want to maintain the Viaduct.

Still time to do the right thing.

Anyone up for a vote..?

jmrolls

Posted Sun, Sep 19, 12:15 a.m. Inappropriate

The best thing to do is relocate now, before they cripple this city.

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