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    Walking the talk about walkable urban places

    New data show the remarkable shift, all across the urban-suburban spectrum, to compact, walkable settings.

    A redevelopment in Vancouver outside Portland has transformed a park in the heart of the city as well as creating residential and business opportunities.

    A redevelopment in Vancouver outside Portland has transformed a park in the heart of the city as well as creating residential and business opportunities. Courtesy of Jean Godden

    Walkable streets mean viable shops

    Walkable streets mean viable shops City of Seattle

    A recent report from George Washington University suggests that a new pattern of urban development is emerging in the United States. The pattern does not conform to the previous model of two choices (urban vs suburban) that has held sway for the last 50 years. As new census data are revealing, there is a distinct reversal of a multi-decade trend of Americans moving outward and away from cities. (I mused about the outdated use of “suburb” myself in a past Crosscut article.)

    But while many Generation Y Millennials and Boomers are choosing to live in urban areas, it is not entirely a back-to-the-city movement. The phenomenon is much richer and nuanced than that. The author of the George Washington University School of Business study, Christopher Leinberger, identifies a number of distinctly different forms of development, some in cities, some in suburbs, some in-between. All thes magnets have a common attribute: you can choose to walk to many different places within a neighborhood. He calls these communities Walkable Urban Places, or WalkUPs for short.

    The ability to walk (or bicycle) to multiple destinations has become a major force in many people’s decisions about where to live. Leinberger previously identified a definite correlation between a neighborhood with a high Walkscore and  higher property values. The reason is that people have become conscious of how much transportation costs increase with distance. Although housing close-in is more expensive, when the lower transportation costs are factored in, the walkable choice is less costly.

    Arthur C. Nelson at the University of Utah has calculated that the average American household spends almost 49 percent of its income on both housing and transportation. This combined cost increases to 57 percent for households in neighborhoods that are automobile dependent. But it declines to 41 percent in neighborhoods that offer more options in how to move around.  Leinberger’s research underscores that many people are beginning to make smarter choices about where to spend their income.

    Recently, Emily Badger in The Atlantic Cities referenced Leinberger’s research. She notes that there is such a demand in the marketplace for more walkable neighborhoods that many people are actually willing to paysignificantly  higher prices for greater choices in mobility and proximity. This is almost the polar opposite of what was happening a few decades ago when suburbs were commanding higher values.

    In many regions, inner belt suburbs are now seen as places for immigrant families to find a good deal in a modest home, to start up  a business, and to begin their  participation in the American way of life. These diverse and mixed cultures are fueling a demand for places that provide opportunity, community, and multiple choices of movement, goods and services, and education. Go to any main street or shopping center in a formerly all-white suburb and you will see people of races and ethnicities from all over the world.

    Leinberger identifies six separate types of walkable urban places. In many cities, the established downtown area, with older buildings, warehouses converted to lofts, and infill development is one type. Certainly this is the one that often makes news stories and  magazine spreads. (Think of the area around Seattle's Pike Place Market.) But there are other forms, less well-publicized, that people are also choosing.

    One consists of older areas adjacent to downtown cores, areas that were overlooked for decades, the “gray” areas that contained auto sales and services, parking lots, low-rise office buildings, miscellaneous retail and wholesale businesses. In many cities, these are now being transformed into attractive livable places. Somewhat rougher and less charming than the older urban cores, they can also have an edginess that is appealing to many. (Think Pike-Pine.)

    Leinberger’s study also notes the rediscovery of urban commercial centers scattered throughout cities. Not long ago, these places used to be principally local service centers for their surrounding residential neighborhoods. Now they are teeming with new, multistory development, some of it above stores, others occupying lots that previously held parking or single-story structures. (Think Ballard.)

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    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 10:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    Our various cities have seen the rise of unique, compact, entirely walkable urban neighborhoods . . .. Wholly new centers are appearing along the light rail line.

    Writing while drinking again, Mark?

    There are not any new "unique, compact, entirely walkable urban neighborhoods . . . [ ] appearing along the light rail line." The area around the Convention Center hasn't changed appreciably, nor have the blocks around the other downtown/ID stops. The SODO and stadium stops have no residential buildings around them. The Beacon Hill station area still is just s.f.d..

    MLK has got five stations on it, and it looks worse now than it did before that train line went in. The s.f.d. housing values within a couple of blocks of those stations actually have lagged compared with other residential areas. There are lots of empty storefronts, pawn shops, vacant lots, hair and nail places, and public housing apartments. The one TOD project (some apartments at Othello Station) is not doing well and being so close to that rail line might be part of the reason why.

    The area around the Tukwila station is just parking lots, the Port's massive rental car parking structure, and the same SR 99 strip clubs, gas stations, and cheap hotels/restaurants that always were there.

    People should actually ride that train. Look out the window, and try to find these "unique, compact, entirely walkable urban neighborhoods" Mark thinks exist there. You'll be disappointed.


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 9:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    The problem is what the Planners want is gross and disgusting, and not pretty. The developers will build it, since often 'anything brand new' sells, so they don't care much.

    Reality. It's not "organic" it is forced, and ugly.

    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 11:35 a.m. Inappropriate

    I appreciate the concept of town centers and a multi nodal plan for development. However, I do have to clarify some background for these findings.

    "Leinberger points to the resurgence of living in downtown Washington D.C., a place that only a few decades ago was all but abandoned, filled with derelict buildings, empty lots, x-rated theatres, and cheap discount stores. Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, and Capitol Hill are among the rebounded districts near downtown. I recall spending time on Capitol Hill less than 15 years ago when walking about during daylight hours was a dicey proposition. Now it’s a lively, solid neighborhood with both density and livability."

    I lived on Capitol Hill in DC about 30 years ago and it was grand and not different than most other neighborhoods. The thing that changed those areas was the DC 2000 plan which was a bare knuckled plan to gentrify and push the poor people to Maryland suburbs to the east and south east.

    In addition, the auto based McMansion sprawl continues unabated nearly to the PA and WV borders. Development of 'towns' has to be paired with inviolate preservation of farmland and open space, something that US private property rights and municipal interests will never permit. The result is the BosWash, soon to be the whole of the eastern seaboard - HampChar? Portland to Bellingham being a completely built environment is our predictable future.

    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 11:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, in Washington, some outer counties are way too loose in their growth controls. Oughta fix that.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Good luck trying.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 12:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    The ability to walk (or bicycle) to multiple destinations has become a major force in many people’s decisions about where to live.

    According to the U.S. census, 84% of the residents of Seattle owned cars a decade ago. The most recent census reported -- ta-da! -- that 84% of Seattle residents own cars. Big shift. And now that we're on the subject, I still await the day that the "progressive" urbanists stop implicitly regarding old people, and others with limited mobility who can't walk or bike their way around, as non-citizens who they'd just as soon shove off to sea on an ice floe.

    It would also be helpful if the urbanists would cease their habit of radically overestimating the cost of having a car. Their habit of multiplying the I.R.S. mileage reimbursement rate by 12,000 is getting to be a pretty old and tawdry lie.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 6:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    Seattle got gentrified a fair amount from 2000 to 2010, or so people say. It looks like some poverty-related non-car-ownership was replaced by choice non-car-ownership.

    Regarding cost of car ownership, AAA is by far the most quoted I'm aware of, with numbers higher than I'd have guessed independently.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    Fact is, no one knows what the composition of the non-car owners is, or how it might have changed. People tend to guess their wishes. But just for the hell of it, I'll indulge your guess. Let's imagine, just for the sake of argument, that half of the 16% non-owners were then, and are now, institutionalized and therefore can't drive. Nursing homes, elderly in houses being attended by home health care aides, jailbirds.

    So any change from gentrification would have occurred in the other 8% of the population. It wasn't zero a decade ago, i.e., the whole 8% being poor people. And it's not 8% now, i.e., the whole 8% being eco-yuppies. Any change would be at the margins, because that's how demographics work. Now, the real question would be why (if we accept your guess) that 2% or 3% of the population that doesn't own a car due to gentification gets so much bowing and scraping attention from the gullible fashionistas in this city.

    The answer is age old: The media, be it paper-and-ink or one or another form of electronic, is full of would-be status climbers. They aspire to gentry ststus, to the degree that they will feast on every dropping and call it a gourmet dinner. This has been The Way of the Press forever.

    Ecclesiastes had something to say about this. Check Chapter 1, verse 9. But, back to Seattle, I'd argue that the "walkability" conceit, and the so-called "car-free life" is an ephemeral fantasy. Even if it were real, it wouldn't have any discernible ecological impact, especially when you realize that the farmer's markets that the "car free" hipsters love are laughable energy hogs and more than counteract any possible savings from the bo-ho types who purport to give up cars except when they rent one or hail a cab.

    p.s.: There's something else to say about gentrification and car ownership. In both my experience and observation, the gentry tend to have more cars, and fancier ones, rather than no cars. This is hinted in the latest census, which shows that more people in Seattle own three cars than own no cars. I don't know how that might have changed. Therefore, my guess is that "car-less gentrification" would constitute a small minority of the newly arrived gentry, and a tiny segment of the population as a whole.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 7:58 p.m. Inappropriate

    I doubt the 8% figure. Jailbirds don't seem likely to sell their cars. The prison population isn't within Seattle. The very old are a small population, and even many of them have cars.

    Of course, your "84% of residents" is wrong. You mean households. It's helpful to be precise if you want to use numbers in a credible way.

    Currently the by-choice carless are definitely a small number, but if based on anecdotal data, such as the fast leasing of a lot of apartments without parking, it's probably growing. Also, per oft-quoted statistics I'm not bothering to look up, car ownership among teenagers and young adults is down significantly, and was already down before the economy. The teenagers are presumably mostly in households with cars so they're not counted in your stat.

    As for rentals and cabs, surely you'd acknowledge that occasional use of a shared car has a fraction of the impact of each person having their own car, storing that car, using a car a lot more often, etc. Zipcars and taxis are pretty efficient.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 12:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    You're missing the point, and I suspect quite purposely so.

    Whether it's 8% or 6% or 10% who are carless because they are institutionalized and/or too old is beside the point. These are guesses, both yours and mine. The point is that the "carless by gentrification" trend isn't much of a trend, if any at all. At least there is no evidence of it other than some breathless anecdotes amplified by a news media ever eager to write the next "trend" story, especially if they think it involves rich white yuppies. And who's to say that every tenant 10 years ago used their allocated parking space, anyway?

    Fact is, the percentage of people who are "carless in Seattle" hasn't budged at all, in spite of the claims to the contrary by a mayor who has problems telling the truth in any situation, and by "progressives" who are using propaganda and supposition to push a radical agenda of really soaking it to anyone with an automobile. Until you have any actual data, I suggest that you go with what we have, even if it's terribly inconvenient to you and the others who are on your quest to soak the driving taxpayer. In the end, that's what this is about, and nothing else.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 7:59 a.m. Inappropriate

    All of which is your guesses. Guess you're ok with discussing guesses.

    As for the trends, you're confusing one non-contexted stat with authority on a very nuanced topic. And nearly 30 months out of date at that.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 10:35 a.m. Inappropriate

    You don't read too well. Go back up and check my first mention of guesses. You can use your finger to follow the words if you need to. As for your other point, you might try speakin' da English. I'm too stupid to understand anything about this "nuanced" and "non-contexted" stuff. And are you trying to tell us that the census numbers shouldn't be used because they are 2010 numbers that were released about six months ago? If so, why did your mayor, the estimable Mike McGinn, bother to try lying about them until he got caught?


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 5:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    Some people can process nuance and understand how to use data, and others can't and don't.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 5:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ah yes, the Seattle "progressive" conceit on display: Anyone who doesn't toe the megabucks developer line is stupid. Gotcha.


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 9:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    mhays, zipcars and taxis certainly may be replacing car ownership, but if the people in the zipcars and taxis are driving as much as someone who owns a car (and I know many who do exactly that because they live downtown, where parking a car is just too expensive), then we're still a car dominated world.

    Zipcars and taxis are marvelous inventions. I also yearn for rental cars with car parking structures (just like SEATAC) on both sides of every ferry terminal, run by WSF to help commuters and vacationers walk on the damn boats so we can move faster.

    Posted Mon, Sep 24, 12:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    I laugh when the "progressives" promote zipcars, as if a rental car isn't still a car.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 10:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    AAA's numbers reflect nothing occurring on planet Earth with regard to automobile ownership, and they steadfastly refuse to reveal how they arrive at their highly inaccurate numbers. Of course, this matters not at all to car- and mobility-hating urban fetishists.

    Obviously, if you've purchased a new car by financing it, your costs are going to be much higher than if you paid cash for a late-model used car. But really, how many people are doing either at the moment? While sales of new cars are up (mostly because buyers really need to replace older, very-used cars), most people are hanging onto the cars they have. They don't make cars like they used to; they make them much, much better. The average age of the U.S. light vehicle fleet has been going nowhere but up for many years now.

    In my own case, I have an 18-year-old compact station wagon I bought with a debit card in 2010. Since then, I've had to spend about $1000 fixing things that a car with almost 200,000 miles on it would need fixed. Now that they are, I expect to get another 50-60,000 miles out of it. It starts right up, runs smoothly and silently at idle, and gets 42 mpg on the highway, still. My only ongoing expense for it is liability insurance at $36/month; I could save $30 every six months if I could pay the whole premium, but my current financial condition doesn't allow that.

    Yes, I'm on the extreme low end of the scale. But most people are well below AAA's reckoning in what they spend...


    Posted Fri, Sep 21, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    AAA's numbers are way too high. They assume a new car bought every five years. In fact, the average car is on the road for 12 years, which changes the biggest expense in their numbers, depreciation, in a major way.

    AAA estimates numbers for small, medium, and large sedans, and for SUVs and mini-vans, driven for 10,000 or 15,000 or 20,000 miles a year. Depreciation is by far their largest expense, in most cases more than double the operating costs (fuel, maintenance, and tires). Their assumed license, personal property taxes, and registration costs are much higher ($441-$797) than what we pay here, and much higher than I've ever paid anywhere else.

    They also include finance charges -- and remember, that's based on the false assumption that people replace their cars every five years, and do so with a brand new car. And their maintenance cost assumption is fishy to me. They're assuming a new car held for five years, plus an extended warranty, plus a bunch of other things that may well be covered by at least some of the bumper-to-bumper warranties out there now that include routine service.

    I understand why AAA uses these numbers. They are similar to the I.R.S. reimbursement rate, which anyone who's ever driven their car on company business knows is very generous. But to use those numbers in a "transit vs. car ownership" analysis is complete bullshit; the fake "progressives" know it, even if they won't admit it.

    Here's where you can find the AAA study:



    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 9:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    I am one of the 84%. I also have difficult arthritis in my knees, walking and biking are a luxury I cannot accomodate often.

    Posted Mon, Sep 24, 12:20 a.m. Inappropriate

    Uh-oh, that's a problem. Now both Romney and the Seattle "progressives" think you're a parasite to be eliminated!


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    Kentucky has 120 counties with the fabled lore of everyone being able to go from home to the county seat and back home all in one day. Nothing like 'spreading the wealth' around and not really caring so much for 'density'.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 1:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    This article is intriguing - the most walk-able and transit supported neighborhood in Seattle is Pioneer Square. We claim we want dense, livable and walk-able neighborhoods but we have a long history of placing policy after policy on Pioneer Square and it has led it to be struggling to survive.

    We have historic preservation, human service policies and facilities, low-income housing subsidies, professional sports stadiums needs, restrictive height zones making it very difficult for private housing investments, and we have bus layovers, bus stops, lack of enforcement of civility, drug, public sanitation and noise ordinances.

    Can we try to get the walk-able neighborhoods we have working better?


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 2:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    Pioneer Square is the nation's original skid row. Probably not the best example. In any case, the whole "walkable neighborhood" and "walk score" thing is three parts real estate developer marketing, plus one part "progressive" justification to jack up taxes on the cars that people will not give up.

    Remember: "walkability" or otherwise, 84% of Seattle residents own a car, same as 10 years ago. McGinn and the other "progressives" were caught lying about the numbers when they came out, but that didn't last long.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 2:14 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Although housing close-in is more expensive, when the lower transportation costs are factored in, the walkable choice is less costly....Leinberger’s research underscores that many people are beginning to make smarter choices about where to spend their income."

    Me thinks that you and Leinberger are misusing the word "people" when you mean persons or households well off enough to be potential customers of Mr. Leinberger and the ULI .

    Reference: http://www.urbanland.uli.org/Meet-the-Authors/Christopher-Leinberger

    I agree with other posters: it is rather tiresome to be propositioned and preached to for the umpteen time to get with this latest cat's meow, when any number of us grew up walking, biking, and busing ourselves throughout this fair City. Like the cat, we were taught by our mothers what was necessary back when the masses were much less segegrated as to income. The car, bought used, disappeared with the breadwinner. When enough money had been salted away to qualify for a mortgage, the choice was between a used home in an out-of-favor streetcar neighborhood or selecting from the many small new houses being constructed on the less central bluffs. Either way, we walked, biked, and bussed,—those choosing a bluff becoming the more athletic.

    Now, I too need to be clear about who I am talking about— I am talking about all those NOT well-off enough to be Leinberger and ULI customers—the masses who now find themselves in South King and East Pierce County because they apparently lack Mark's math skills. Many of whom are also on prime farmland in the path of a still active volcano.

    Not a good idea to write lobbying pieces as news reports, Mark. You can and have done better.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 4:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    There is another dimension to the walkable neighborhood discussion that tends to be ignored. It's the proliferation of activity destinations apart from workplaces. There literally has been an explosion of diverse nonwork attractors - eating places, taverns, nightclubs, theaters, museums, specialty and big-box shopping centers, recreation venues, etc. - that draw people 24/7. They are scattered across the larger urban environment, and they generate trips that far outnumber neighborhood trips. And they account for the fact that about 9 of 10 all trips are still made by personal vehicles, and for the continuing high levels of congestion on our roadways.

    As to the multistory development in Ballard on former parking lots, the parking is now located in several stories under the development.

    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 7:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    Not only is the parking underground, but there's less of it, courtesy of the Best City Council Money Can Buy.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 8 p.m. Inappropriate

    You sure love overbearing government regulations.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 12:41 a.m. Inappropriate

    What I "love" is politicians who don't make and enforce one set of rules for the proles, and a very different set of rules for any fat cat with a thick wallet. The Best City Council Money Can Buy spares few opportunities to feather the nests of those who are already quite well feathered. The "progressives" of Seattle, meaning the architects and developers and yuppies whose paychecks are signed by those same forces, are ever eager to portray the interests of the Skanksas, the Hansens, and any other fat cat as those of the public at large.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 8 a.m. Inappropriate

    The parking rules are set by standard zoning, not variances.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 10:41 a.m. Inappropriate

    The "Progressive" Best City Council Money Can Buy routinely carves out zoning exemptions to its well-connected best rich friends, and to new best-friend billionaires.


    Posted Wed, Sep 26, 7:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    The parking under the majority of buildings in Ballard is only for the residents. Those who drive in to spend a few bucks dining or shopping have to arm wrestle for the few other parking spaces available, or simply drive away.

    Parking is a reality of our lives. This isn't NYC.

    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 7:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    Here's another rarely discussed dynamic: A lot of people move closer in and still drive. But the proximity is still beneficial -- they get a short commute, and their long drive becomes a short one, with greatly reduced traffic impact and operational energy use. (Though obviously the car still has to be built, and parking is needed in two places.)


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 7:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    I'm sorry, but that's another case of wish-projection dressed up as a guess. I'll indulge it once, but not twice.


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 8:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    According to WSDOT, 2011 had fewer vehicle miles traveled than any year since 2002 -- despite substantial population gain.

    As for my statement, I can't wait to hear which parts you're going to argue against.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 12:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    As a rich guy, or maybe just a wannabe, but a wannabe with a job, you seen to have overlooked the fact that there's a depression on. People are cutting back on all kinds of things. By the way, I believe those numbers are about gas tax revenues, not miles driven, and that if you look into the methodology you'll find some problems in the extrapolation of one from the other.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 8:01 a.m. Inappropriate

    The table I looked at was VMT. It's a WSDOT report available on the PRSC website.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 10:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    Can you quit speaking in acronyms? What is the PRSC? The Progressive Regurgitation Stinkhole Craptastic? And the VMT? The Seattle "progressive" Virtue Maintenance Tax? Even better, how about presenting your evidence rather than simply claiming its existence?


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 5:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    Should I map out your keyboard too? The PSRC is a regional governing/advising body that has many statistics. Given your expertise in all things I find it hard to believe you don't know this.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 5:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    For starters, you just changed the acronym. And you didn't provide the link. What's the matter? Did you just make it up? And what about that Seattle "progressive" Virtue Maintenance Tax, anyway?


    Posted Wed, Sep 26, 7:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    But they pay a LOT more in their home prices by just being a few miles closer. That doesn't make much sense either.

    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    (Somehow, Crosscut's software duplicated my posting. Try as I might, it refuses to be deleted, so I just edited it.)


    Posted Wed, Sep 19, 9:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    It's a rare neighborhood transformation that doesn't begin with artists-in-residence soaking up the cheap rent while they can. In the process they clean up stanky buildings and storefronts, revitalize neighborhood groceries, diners and bars while generally talking up their neighborhood. That architects and developers have discovered this co-relation is sort of old news. What is different is a commitment to making neighborhoods user friendly by rethinking everything from parking strips to building heights. Frequently city commissions put in place to protect a neighborhood can kill the buzz. Exploitative landlords can drive away the creative types too ala what happened in Pioneer Square. But there is usually a golden decade or two where everything works. Belltown had one, now its scary. Ultimately its still about people. Rich or poor the sense of identity with where you live is key. Walking makes it possible to actually know your terrain, your neighbors, your local merchants. When there's crime, you'll notice it. When there's good news you notice that too. And people do say hello. Though i've never owned a dog I must say that the dog owners relish that walk, i can see it in their smile and jaunty pace. Taking a walk, a panacea for so many ills!


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 12:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    I am always fascinated by the degree to which Seattle's "progressives" routinely ignore anyone who can't walk so well (or ride a bike) due to physical limitations, and by their willingness to pour scorn on the elderly in general.


    Posted Fri, Sep 21, 7:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    Oh good god, NotFan, many of us progressives are poor and old. You're interesting when you actually talk about issues; the progressive shtick dilutes your message.


    Posted Sat, Sep 22, 10:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    I doubt that the corrupt "progressives" will like my message if I drop the quote marks that indicate what phonies I think they are here.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 1:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    I think the author is looking through rose-tinted glasses. There has been a growth in urban centers for those who can afford it but anyone who occasionally drives our freeways south to Lacey, north to Marysville or west to Issaquah can't help but notice how congested these places have become due to rapid development. Our region is growing all around and with limited land space, infilling and urban renewal is inevitable. We have planning and growth management laws that favor renewal but because of what I would describe as a complete lack of a sensible plan for regional transportation (major investments in new roads are ideologically unacceptable and our investment in public transportation is largely being wasted on a slow light rail system that will never rival the DC Metro or the Bay Area Bart), we have placed an enormous premium on locations that are conveniently situated near to work. As a result the affluence and pleasantness of these near-in neighborhoods has grown, often with the support of a disproportionate spending of public dollars, while with the exception of a few mixed income developments, the poor have been left in the few remaining undesirable city neighborhoods or with ever growing commutes. It is nice that Ballard has turned into a Yuppie paradise but what happened to the people who used to live there? This growing disparity in lifestyles is quite an indictment of our liberal political ruling class.

    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 8:04 a.m. Inappropriate

    Downtown Ballard's new housing has nearly all been on former low-density commercial sites. So generally nobody's home has moved.

    Low density commercial uses are another matter. Most retail transfers easily to high density buildings, but loud industry etc. doesn't.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 10:46 a.m. Inappropriate

    The urbanist Seattle "progressives" are about mid-way through the process of ruining "downtown Ballard." I especially love what they've done to Ballard Commons, and so do the nearby residents. They really appreciate the drug dealers and schizophrenics that Mayor McGinn has bequeathed upon them.


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 9:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    That's only true for the apartment/condo buildings. All the grandmas houses have been turned into density 4 - 8 units on grandmas lot.

    Hard to configure a "neighborhood" of permanence out of any of that.

    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 9:53 p.m. Inappropriate

    Agree. Many of us have moved to Whidbey Island. It's not perfect, and ferries are archaic messes, however, home prices are at least 40% cheaper than Ballard or Bellevue.

    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 12:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Walkable Urban Places" isn't a very apt description though "Walk-UPs" is a catchy phrase. The main principle underlying New Urbanism is mixed-use development that incorporates a more ideal mix of travel modes, walking included. Also, 'district' is a more apt term than 'place' to describe urban development. Also, 'walkable' districts can be at scale so small they may not be considered urban.

    Hinshaw makes valid points that favor walkable urban infill development, but negects other important aspects of transportation that walkable districts require; mass transit, bicycle ways, and the roads/streets/highways within or leading to walkable districts which don't present a mortal danger to pedestrians.

    And in that vein, the deep bore tunnel presents a mortal danger to miserly-walkable Pioneer Square.
    The Underground is doomed as are most of its historic buildings above when the predicted Big One hits. Earthquake waves will thrust over its surface and with liquifaction push unmeasurable tons of malleable soils at vulnerable building foundations, or as voids form over time create sinkholes large enough to cause buildings to collapse of their own weight. The proposed seawall treatment is likewise woefully insufficient to withstand earthquake damage.

    Seattle's ruthless developers know the danger perfectly well and plan to reap the benefits of rebuilding the rubble as poorly as possible for repeat profiteering because the bored tunnel will forever pose a danger to replacement buildings built above. How can Seattlers be so ignorant of this danger?
    Answer: Highway Robbery Boys employ effective propaganda, rig studies, buy politicians.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    They should have repaired the viaduct. It would've cost $800 million. But it would have entailed maintenance, which Seattle hates.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 7:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    The viaduct was beyond repair. It was slated for replacement decades before the earthquake. Wsdot delayed replacement on the basis of they don't care about public safety, especially for Seattle liberal bike riders and transit users.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 9:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    It wasn't beyond repair. Two highly experienced engineers at the state highway department costed it out at $800 million to repair. I've never seen the powers that be in this state smother an idea so fast. The only constituency in this city, or this state, for maintenance is the taxpayers, and no "progressive" will ever be caught dead sticking up for their interests.


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 9:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    Wells, not true. The Viaduct could either have been repaired, or torn down and rebuilt. Far cheaper, and would move more vehicles, much more efficiently.

    Posted Mon, Sep 24, 9:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    The issue is that the fake "environmentalists" in Seattle object to moving any vehicles. They'd rather have everyone stuck and not moving, their cars idling. Idiots.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 9:12 p.m. Inappropriate

    These walking spaces aren't for REAL walkers, but for dilettantes who like to stroll a few blocks. REAL walkers go for distance, and for such people, the Seattlescape isn't so inviting. Try walking around Lake Union, for example...with the freeway noise, the risk of being crushed by a speeding bicycle on the Burke-Gilman, and other trials. If you walk across the NEW, IMPROVED Mercer mess, you'll notice the absence of pedestrian overpasses and the interminably long waits for lights. As for pedestrian overpasses, the city is woefully under-supplied with these wonderful inventions. Visiting downtown? Note the frequent sidewalk obstructions, and beware the late-light-turning cars who'd just as soon run you over as wait for another cycle of traffic lights.

    Just sayin' here...while there may be some improvement in small neighborhood environments, there hasn't been one-tenth as much thought to promoting reasonable-distance pedestrianism as there has been to cycling.


    Posted Thu, Sep 20, 9:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Walkability" has never been anything other than a slogan used by whatever wired-in developer with a suitcase full of cash to provide cover for the corrupt fake "progressives" in the mayor's office and the City Council to blast another hole in the land use code and the city master plan for their latest "greenwashed" building.

    As for the bicycle stuff, that's nothing more than a tool that city government is trying to use to jack up taxes on the 84% of Seattle residents who own a car. They know that hardly anyone will actually give up their car, but by God, McGinn and his trained seals on the Council want to make every driver pay through the nose to have one.


    Posted Fri, Sep 21, 11:20 a.m. Inappropriate

    No doubt, NotFan, you've perhaps noticed the AWV was buttressed with steel girders after several sections sunk about 6" and that subsequent structural surveys reported new cracks developing? It could have been further buttressed, but its long predicted end has come. It was always a piece of crap engineering. The ramps to 1st Ave were a mistake. The southbound on-ramp (uphill blind-merge) and northbound off-ramp (downhill onto Western) in Lower Belltown are both piece of crap engineering. Wsdot specializes in crap engineering for the State and especially Seattle. Wsdot may be staffed with over-educated psuedo-progressives, but the agency is run by SOB conservatives only serving automobile-related business interests who poison the planet for profit.


    Posted Fri, Sep 21, 3:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    Your "progressive" ideological jihad is showing. Yup, I want the highway department to be staffed by people who like roads. You want the state and city governments to tax the hell out of drivers for the benefit of bicyclists who do nothing but make demands while not paying into the roads or their maintenance. The viaduct was fixable; this is what the engineers said, but no one would listen.

    The bicycle fanatics didn't want any replacement of any kind. No fix, no new viaduct, no tunnel. The pollution argument is a lie, because your congest-the-city policies only wind up making cars and trucks do more idling, which is even more polluting. Only 3% of commuters here do it by bicycle, yet you "progressives" want to hold everyone else hostage, and you're willing to tell every lie in the book to accomplish it.


    Posted Fri, Sep 28, 11:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    If you walk across the new improved Mercer mess, you'll be killed. There's a good chance of that even if you're in a vehicle.


    Posted Fri, Sep 21, 11:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    The Kent Station center is one reason why Kent has become so an ideally sized city. Open air mall, shops, restaurants. Proximity to walkable, small downtown streets and to the spectacular Interurban and Green River Bicycle Trails.


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 8:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    "The viaduct was fixable. This is what engineers said but no one listened," is a total fabrication. The AWV shouldn't have been built and wasn't fixable, period. Notfan is needed in this debate because republican leaders, ruthless business-oriented conservatives, religous wonks, unsuccessful libertarian philosophy which does NOT always apply, the misled, confused minnions who indeed vote against their own best interest repeatedly, have steered the ship of state aground again and over again throughout our history in every state.
    Blame the money-mongers whose concern for others is Nil WAY TOO MUCH of the time.
    Low-budget bicycling IS at many times efficient for the Democracy Majority of us Americans, even you in your youth. I'll give you this though, Seattle has more agro-speedster bicyclists dressed up like jock clowns than most cities. I'll bet it's them who think they know highway planning. HaHah! Oh yes...


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 7:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    I suppose I could respond to all of that in detail, and maybe I will later on. But for now, I'm having fun laughing at your patronizing arrogance, not to mention your being so far, far off the mark about my supposed alliance with, what did you call it, "republican leaders, ruthless business-oriented conservatives, religous wonks, unsuccessful libertarian philosophy."

    Holy cow, if ya only knew! Actually, Wells, if ya only knew, you'd probably just pull a McGinn or a Conlin and lie about it anyway. Which is why I doubt I'll go into the details. Why bother a Seattle fake "progressive" with the truth?


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 2:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    And thanks to those who agree with my analysis and bold assessment of extreme danger & worse traffic with the dbt/MW/AW-Seawall (separate projects). BST & BSU also in question. Most Seattlers (I know you hate being called that) Seattlers all have NOT given 2 ounces of thought to this dangerous direction in any sense they can put in words other than "Duh, its happening so, uh, forget it, see?"
    Mike, Mikes, courageous actors upon their gut instincts, you must oppose your DOT directors as intolerably incompetent for this grave error AND impose 'penal' penalties. Good night Bob Hope...:^'


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 8:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    Don't forget that before the tunnel proponents and their professional witnesses fired up their spin machine the elevated replacement was the choice for the waterfront. And later, the WSDOT's own consultant said that it could be replaced or refurbished to modern seismic standards with a service life of 75 years for less than the cost of the current congestion producing tunnel/park mess with less access and capacity.

    No other proposed replacement for the AWV match the existing viaduct in any transportation related category. The rights of ways already exist. The configuration already can handle 110,000 vehicles a day. It already provides a bypass for downtown and off ramps for the core, Ballard and West Seattle. It already meets the demands for commercial (Port) vehicles. It can incorporate modern seismic protections and other enhancements for noise abatement, bikes, pedestrians and aesthetics. It provides the only effective way to modulate traffic in the core. And it’s billions of dollars cheaper than this present tunnel/surface disaster we're pretending will take its place.

    The tunnel/surface option is a terrible substitute for one of the most successful north/south arterials in the city. It will add to the tax bills and collect tolls from the over-taxed, and it will add to the growing congestion faced by local and regional commuters. Probably wouldn't even notice another arena with the serviceability of the viaduct.

    If there had ever been an honest vote on the issue we would be replacing it now.


    Posted Sun, Sep 23, 10 p.m. Inappropriate

    Jim Rolls, correct and well said.

    Posted Mon, Sep 24, 10:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    To say "No AWV replacement matches the viaduct in any transportation related category" is just not true. The Cut/cover tunnel in the DEIS matches capacity and route. Only the ramps to 1st Ave are eliminated but they add too much traffic to 1st and along steep hills leading to the ramps. The Cut/cover makes seawall strong. The DOT waterfront soil stabilization treatments will not prevent damage in an earthquake. A seawall could rehabitat just as well as this stupid beach and under-pier lighting nonsense.


    Posted Mon, Sep 24, 3:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    So if the CC is the same except that ramps providing access to 1st Avenue are eliminated then it’s not the same….it’s “different.” In this case different as in deficient…missing some features…not all there…short. As for "crap engineering," the viaduct has been in service for 63 years including the Nisqually earthquake in 2001.

    We should all be so durable.


    Posted Fri, Sep 28, 10:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    I live in the heart of Kent East Hill.

    I don't know if its "walkable" -- but a lot of people walk here.

    There are pedestrians, bicyclists, strollers, skateboarders and scooters on the main shopping streets all the time.

    I think that having a local shopping center is adequate for most people's needs of walkability and that focusing too much on having one central "urban core" rather than just good stores nearby is to the detriment of the majority.

    I would like to see more bike lanes, cycletracks, better crossing markings and road diets in these towns (I call them towns, the diminutive "suburb" as you suggest is no longer appropriate) to make walking and biking safer.

    However, at the same time, I advocate the building of more highways. With a 60 percent population growth in the last 2 decades, this region has not built a single new restricted highway!! That's incredible. What it means is that we local streets and roads being used for cross regional transport. With the current highways not having enough lanes and with inane planners taking away lanes for HOT/HOV the cars spill into the neighborhoods.

    We need to flush out the current coterie of government planners in Olympia who spend billions on a few miles of track in Seattle, and get people who recognize and can respond to the needs of the archipelago of new towns and town centers being built around Washington State.


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