Transit Is a Social Justice Issue

Comments

1
Thanks for this new info, Dan. And for anyone who agrees that people should be organizing to get better transit, please check out the Transit Riders Union. Website: http://transitriders.org

Transit riders in this group were a major force in getting the current Metro low income fare. The membership makes the decisions democratically on how to work on getting lower bus fares and better service. It's a great group. Check out the website and join up! ;)
2
i said this in the last comment thread, but on top of advocating for mass transit and affordable housing and all these other good things (and continuing to poster in protest = also good), we need to ensure that the neighborhoods and communities that develop around rapid transit stops are compelling and exciting places to live (ie Operation: Make the 1/2 mile radius around Tukwila Station awesome). the connectivity to the urban and job centers is not enough, though it is definitely a part of the equation. people need to want to spend time there when not working. this can manifest physically variety of ways (generous sidewalk widths, narrow & slow streets, street trees, ground floor retail, great parks), but the point is the areas around the stops that get developed around the Lynnwoods, Tukwilas, Federal Ways, Mukilteos, need to be addressed with the same level of design and planning thinking that Roosevelt or Broadway are getting. that these interstitial communities are never addressed as thoroughly as those in the inner city is the too often untold social justice issue in my eyes.
3
At a minimum, we need to stop making mass transit funding a political chew toy. Defunding transit was the stupidest thing the state legislators have done lately. First, Seattle allows developers to build micro-housing with absolutely no parking, saying this will encourage people to give up their cars and use mass transit, then the funding for mass transit goes away and bus service gets cut. If they want people to give up cars, they absolutely HAVE to put way more funding into workable mass transit.
4

And you know what's standing in the way Washington State building a great, fast Regional Transit System...Seattle.

If Seattle had not stolen billions of transit and transportation dollars and wasted it on a Bus-On-Rails and digging a lot of holes under itself, we would not have transit problems or a housing shortage.

But that would mean a few bigwigs couldn't get their payday, and their lackeys at SLOG who relentless promote "urban density" in the face of all popular need or desire would have not special place to stand.
5
I think it also is good to focus on what we do around rapid transit stations.

It should be legal to build a modest 2 or 3 story apartment building anywhere within 1/4 mile walk of a light rail station. Period. Even Seattle doesn't get this right.

The city should do what it can to make sure that there is a well-sized grocery store within a few blocks of at least every-other stop.

And these neighborhoods need to be of the quality that you can have a nice walk in that 1/4 mile radius. Tukwila station is terrible in this aspect - to get anywhere, you first have to walk past blocks of parking lots.

6
More for middle class than the lowest earners but... Every mortgage quote in the US should be required to take into account and provide quotes for:
1) Amount qualified for with 2 cars in family
2) Amount qualified for with 1 car in family
3) Amount qualified for with no cars in family

Difference between 2 cars and no cars is the ability to handle ~$2000/month more in mortgage payment.

Many people don't realize that they could live in a much better location (closer to work, transit, etc.) simply by choosing to live somewhere that they don't need a car.

Unfortunately the families who are struggling the most financially are also the ones that don't own homes. But if enough of the middle class had this info when deciding where to live, we would have much better transit which would help the renters who are struggling to escape poverty.
7
@4 JBITDMFOTP
8
@6: It's so much more complicated than "simply by choosing to live somewhere that they don't need a car."

First, you're grossly exaggerating the cost of car ownership, unless you're paying off a new luxury car. I couldn't find a source that was close to that figure.

Second, a lot of the working poor NEED a car or truck: They're landscapers and day laborers and people who work nights when there is little or no transit. Their jobs change frequently, so a home that was convenient to work now isn't. They tend to work very long hours, so the idea of adding to that by relying on our patchwork transit system -- particularly in under-served poorer neighborhoods -- is unappealing.

Third, they often have families, which complicates matters more because spouses may work far away from each other, and kids go to schools in another direction and have activities that are not accessible by transit.

And if you have a family and you live in a poorer neighborhood you probably don't have a decent supermarket nearby. It's not realistic to think you will do your family's grocery shopping by bus in a city where it often takes a transfer or two to get where you want to go.

It's always a good idea to think twice before using the word "simply."
10
@8 yes, you are making my point. If we had this type of law, then (not immediately but over a couple decades maybe) we would get to the point where transit could meet all the needs you list (late night, schools) except for the business uses. This would be because so many more people use transit that more people vote for transit funding, plus we save money by not wasting it trying to expand freeways all the time which never works.

And like I said, initially this would mainly impact the middle class (i.e. people who are buying homes) who could afford to make that choice when they see how much a car actually costs.

There have been a few surveys/studies recently looking at the cost of a car vs. transit. Some news stories that reference them
http://www.planetizen.com/node/75461/car…
http://newsroom.aaa.com/2013/04/cost-of-…
These show numbers in the range of $800/month up to $1000/month. That was where I got the $1000 savings per car that you don't own. On the high end, but still at today's interest rates look how much more home you can get if you can afford an extra $1600/month on your mortgage payment.

For example if you assume a 30 year fixed mortgage at 4%, for a $300,000 mortgage ($360,000 home with 20% down) your payment would be ~$1,432.25. Now if you add $1600 to that, a $3032.25 monthly payment would get you a ~$640,000 mortgage ($800,000 home with 20% down). I used http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/mort…
12
@3: When was transit defunded?
13
@5 Great suggestions, but I'd expand the zone from a 1/4 mile (3- 5 blocks) to a half mile (6 to 10 blocks), with decreasing height as you go out. So 6 or so floors for the 1/4 mile radius and then 3-4 floors for the next 1/4 mile. And zone commercial for at least a couple of blocks.
14
Seattle old money hippies love to blame vehicle drivers for everything... but it's the poor who drive these days... most people can't afford living close to the center of the city anymore and have no choice but drive in traffic and be stuck behind some rich bicyclist... yea, there are some free spirit no job bicyclists, but those are irrelevant and are mostly just having fun temporary while they can... there is no struggle among those compared to thousands of drivers trying to make ends meet in this region. they can't afford to take buses and ride bicycles... they have health issues, kids, or they just simply can not live in a filthy basement for $1000 on capitol hill.
15
I think, again, lots of folks are focusing on the 'Transit' side of this- Transit is not the issue, the issue is actually being able to live near where you work. Just creating a few extra vectors by which folks can move these long distances won't fix the issue- building many thousands of new units of housing in the city will, so long as there continue to be jobs in town.
16
#6

Unless I'm missing something, you are stating that a family with two cars has the ability to own two cars and that a family that does not own two cars does not have the ability to own two cars.

I'm drawing this from "Difference between 2 cars and no cars is the ability to handle ~$2000/month more in mortgage payment."

Which is, well, your perspective.

Not all of us want to or decide to live in the red, though.
17
The numbers aren't too far off for a young male driver who just picked up a loan for a $60,000 Lexus or something, low down payment included, with full insurance, gasoline and upkeep.

Or, someone who will be foreclosed on in the near future.
18
@13
Baby steps. Baby steps.
We can't get to your plan without first implementing mine.

For what it's worth, we're pretty good about getting at least 4-6 floors on the same block as the station, and we do get a pretty good taper-down going from that to plain-old-houses. It's just that the taper-down is way too tight, way too fast. Start at Othello station, and it is a 2 block walk to get out of the "urban village" and be back in houses-only zoning.

I would happily give up a few floors next to the station, to gain a few in the surroundings.
19
Destorying the city???? Hyperbol much? My how we've forgotten how scared everyone was in 2008 when all the construction stopped...
20
@14 " it's the poor who drive these days"

No, this is just false. Some of the poor have cars and drive, of course, but poor households are considerably more likely to be carless than wealthy ones. It's not quite as stark in Seattle as it is in the rest of the country, but it's still true.
21
Even if poor people have cars, if you've never had the experience of driving junkers you might not really understand what it's like to have *unreliable* transportation. I grew up poor but in an area with excellent public transit and safe streets. I can't even imagine growing up poor in LA (don't know much about Seattle, I think it's better than LA but similar in the "conglomeration of unlinked transit systems serving a spreading metro area" way).

But imagine waking up and not being able to get your car started? When you have an entry level job, your boss does not accept "car wouldn't start" with a wave of the hand. He replaces you with someone who can show up reliably.

But this is something I hear a lot from teachers, who like to say that the problem with poor kids is their parents. Because they never show up for conferences and don't care about education. Trying to explain the difficulties of poor transportation and lack of sick pay is impossible.

When you drive junky cars, they break. When you don't have the money to fix them, they stay broken. When you're living on the edge, you don't spend money on things like maintenance.

Let's add a race component? When you're getting tickets for DWB you pay more for insurance.

The inequities heaped on the poor keep them poor.
22
Yes Dan, mass transit would be helpful and I agree with your point. I don't agree with your tone like you just came up with the idea that we have to demand for mass transit; Seattlites and most of the surrounding area have been demanding better mass transit for over 30 YEARS!!! We haven't been sitting around wondering "gosh what would make it better?" But due to the lovely "does EVERYBODY agree on this plan, because we can't go forward unless there is 100% consensus" attitude of local government, and the unpleasant developer/contractor/politician relationships where everyone seems to have an open hand waiting for money to be put into it, we are 60 years behind where we should've been. Back in the early 80's when Portland, San Francisco, Detriot and other cities gladly took Fed money for transit, Seattle said "no thanks, we'll build a bus tunnel instead". 25 years later we're still screwed and the most likely plan going forward to help with downtown is what? Another bus tunnel to get the busses out of the one we already have! Our system for dealing with these things is fucked, and all of the "demanding" isn't going to make anything happen quick.

Since you brought up your last "article" on this subject, I feel inclined to comment on your snarky reply that "London had been around for 2 millinea" when it built mass transit, in reference to a comment that it's hard to build mass transit changes in a city today. While that's true London had been around , they weren't trying to build through 20th and 21st century infrastructure. Dirt moves easier than poured concrete, in case you missed that.

Perhaps instead of chiding us like a bunch of misbehaving children for voicing our discontent with how Capital Hills unmanaged transformation is pissing us off, you might make some useful suggestions other than "demand mass transit to the fictitious place you fags and artists will live next".
23
I could not get my child to daycare by 7 a.m., myself to work by 7:30 a.m., pick up my child from daycare at 4:30 p.m., get us home to eat and go to bed in time to repeat the whole damn routine without a car. If I were trying to accomplish this with mass transit, I would get about 3 hours of sleep per night, and my child would probably get 4. Never mind grocery shopping.

Mass transit is for single people who make enough to live near mass transit, or partnered people without young children, who live close enough to the center of a transit web that it doesn't matter if their work place changes, and close enough to reliable food sources that they can mostly pick up what they need on their way home, etc.

I know this because I lived this way as a 30-something in NYC. I also ate out or got food delivered 5 days a week and had my laundry done by someone else because I "didn't have the time." At a certain point, I decided that I didn't want to have a family in a place where I needed 4 keys to get into my apartment. I'm sure I couldn't afford the rent where I used to live in NYC post 9-11 anyhow.

Now that I'm a single parent with a young child in the Seattle area, I'll keep my car, thank you very much.
24
"I could not get my child to daycare by 7 a.m., myself to work by 7:30 a.m., pick up my child from daycare at 4:30 p.m., get us home to eat and go to bed in time to repeat the whole damn routine without a car."

@23 the problem is not that you need a car, the problem is that you, your city, your county, your state have all been colluding to design your entire life around a car. If we had sufficient density (real density including shopping, employment, daycares, schools) around rapid ride stops and LRT stations, then you would have lots of options of where you could live such that you could easily do all of this. BRT and light rail go a lot faster than your car does today after all. We just need it to go to the places that people live and work and right now it doesn't because we spend all our money expanding freeways.

And if you could live without a car, you would have ~$10,000 per year or almost an extra $1000/month to pay for a more convenient place to live. Do the calculation and see how much extra home you could have gotten (and I am not talking about the "drive until you qualify" type of home search, but the "go toward the employment center around dense transit" type of home search) if you had an extra $900/month for mortgage payment or rent.

It is your car that has trapped you in this Sisyphean routine, not the thing that is saving you from it.
25
#24 - thanks for putting some thought into my specific situation. However, you assume that as my job location and work hours change, that I'm also willing to change where I live (maybe, to some degree), the school my child attends (not unless I have no choice - the program she's in is hard to get into and doesn't exist everywhere), and the (home) daycare (that works best for her), just to be able to use mass transit to do all the travel described above.

Three locations: the location of my child's school, the location of the daycare, and the location of my work, together determine where I choose (and will choose) to live, and also determine the degree to which I need to use my car. If we were lucky enough for us to live or me to work near her school, during hours that would permit me to walk or use mass transit to either pick her up or drop her off, then I could cut out at least one leg of my daily trip. But that's not the case.

I lived in New York City for four years, and got everywhere I wanted to go by subway, the occasional bus, and the even more occasional gypsy cab. I lived in Tokyo for four years as well, and used train, subway and (rarely) taxi, to get around. I'm skilled at the mass transit thing. This was before I had a child, however. And I chose to leave the Big Metropolitan Areas in order to have a more sane existence for me and my child.

I don't think I spend $10,000 on my car - more like $5,000, and it will be paid off in less than a year, so my annual spending on it will be even less. The difference between having a car and not having it will be about $200/month more than I have now. With Seattle area rents being what they are, $200 a month more won't get me into that light rail or transit center radius you mention.

So I think the specifics of my situation, certainly affected by infrastructure or lack thereof, are still not amenable to being solved by your theoretics, which work well for people who only need to deal with work -- home commutes, but not anything much more complex than that.