Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Civil Unions Law Takes Effect ... | Making Babies Without Men? »

Friday, February 1, 2008

Depressing Growth Management News

posted by on February 1 at 17:18 PM

As I wrote yesterday, Sound Transit is working out the details of a new regional transit plan—and trying to decide whether it should go on the ballot in 2008 or 2010.

What I didn’t mention was some disturbing news in one of the documents ST handed out at yesterday’s meeting—growth management, it appears, isn’t working.

The long-range plan Sound Transit adopted in 1996 called for the agency to invest in high-capacity transit that would “increase the people-carrying capacity of the region’s most congested travel corridors” and “support the region’s growth management policies.” That means adopting policies that concentrate population growth in places that are heavily served by transit (like central Seattle), encouraging people to live close to where they work, and providing transit links between various parts of the region.

Here’s the bad news. According to documents produced by Sound Transit’s consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, the biggest population growth is projected waaaaay the hell out in places like Marysville and far Southeast Pierce County—places that won’t be served by new transit. (The closest Sound Transit gets to Marysville is Everett, six miles away; the closest it gets to SE Pierce County is also several miles away—more if light rail only goes to Fife instead of all the way to Tacoma, a possibility.) Marysville is projected to grow by 117,000 residents (51 percent); SE Pierce County is projected to grow by 167,900 residents (45 percent); and Mill Creek is projected to grow by 83,500 residents (46 percent).

Meanwhile, the places we ostensibly want people to move to (urban areas well served by transit) are projected to grow much more slowly. For example, Capitol Hill and Queen Anne are projected to grow 20 percent; North Seattle, including the area to which Sound Transit plans to extend light rail, will grow just 13 percent; and South Seattle to grow just seven percent. Similar numbers hold for denser suburban cities like Renton (16 percent), Federal Way (17 percent), Shoreline (4 percent) and Tacoma (18 percent).

That’s really bad news, because it means the Puget Sound Regional Council, which did the projections, expects sprawl to continue unchecked in the formerly rural hinterlands of Snohomish and Pierce Counties.

That’s not Sound Transit’s fault, of course—as the person who pointed this out to me put it, “What are they going to do—build light rail between Monroe and Marysville?”—but it does point to a problem transit alone can’t solve. Growth management doesn’t work without growth management rules that a) have teeth and b) are actually enforced; ignoring the rules and allowing an explosion of suburban sprawl produces, well, massive suburban sprawl. We can turn it around, but it won’t happen unless lawmakers do something to curb sprawl and encourage affordable housing in places, like Seattle, where people want but can’t afford to live.

RSS icon Comments


What are the absolute number in those cases? Percentages are going to be strongly affected by the original population levels, right? If Marysville has a low pop, it might "grow" rapidly, but compared to central Seattle add very few people. Can we get those numbers before we freak out?

Posted by STJA | February 1, 2008 5:30 PM

Welcome to the crushing reality of life in the puget sound.

Posted by laterite | February 1, 2008 5:30 PM

The fact of the matter is that a lot of people still want their single family residence with a yard and a white picket fence because it's been idealized as part of the 'American Dream'. Until that psychology changes, outlying areas will be continue to grow because those are the only places where there's room for this kind of housing to be built. Growth in places like Capitol Hill can only occur when existing buildings are razed and replaced by taller structures, which of course has its own problems (not everybody wants to live in so-called luxury condos).

Posted by Jeff | February 1, 2008 5:40 PM

So long as there are areas which zone to allow residential development within driving distance, while others don't, you get this kind of effect.

Which is why RTID and all New Roads projects must, to be explicit, DIE.

Rebuild existing roads/bridges - no prob.

Repair existing roads/bridges - no prob.

Expand transit in areas with sufficient density - highly recommended.

New roads to semi-rural areas that have zoning codes that permit development - very very bad idea.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 1, 2008 5:42 PM

I agree with STJA. Percentages can be deceiving especially when you are dealing with such large differences in initial population.

For example an if an area that currently has a population of 1000 and increases by 1000 that is 100% growth, however if the same amount of absolute growth occurred on capitol hill it would be just a little more than 3.3% growth (assuming Capitol Hill's pop is 30,000). Big difference but same number of people.

Posted by Adam | February 1, 2008 5:43 PM

If you will recall, I've been screaming about Marysville in almost exactly the same wording you used for years here; possibly in my very first slog comment.

Your "absolute numbers" argument, @1 and @5, is answered in the post. These outlying areas dwarf Capitol Hill; Marysville is more populous than Capital Hill already, and is probably going to double in the next decade; and Marysville is just one place.

Also, consider this: building a thousand condo buildings in Capitol Hill, or none of them, doesn't change the urbanism of the Hill either way, but building three houses on a previously untouched stretch of foothills highway turns a rural area into a seed for an urban zone. There are hundreds of those seeds being built RIGHT THIS MINUTE, and hundreds of them that are turning into full-scale new cities RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Go out driving this weekend on some of the smaller lines on your map between the Sound and the mountains, in Snohomish and Skagit and Pierce. The new houses on 530 go almost all the way to Darrington now.

Posted by Fnarf | February 1, 2008 5:55 PM

So, when do you start pushing for a growth cordon like Portland has?

Posted by Gitai | February 1, 2008 6:09 PM

Sprawl is the new Seattle.

Posted by col | February 1, 2008 6:10 PM

Stay on this subject, we're fascinated!


Posted by Where's my copy of Seattle Weekly? | February 1, 2008 6:14 PM

Fnarf is the truth, as per usual. Marysville, Lake Stevens, Arlington, Monroe, and their associated communities comprise something around 100,000 people alone.

Gitai, there's loopholes in Portland's growth boundary. They're called Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Gresham.

Posted by laterite | February 1, 2008 6:20 PM

I can't even begin count the number of times I've been bashed by Slog posters as a Kemper Freeman-loving suburbanite for pointing this out.

Increasing density does NOT reduce sprawl, as long as it is legal and profitable to build in the hinterlands. However, in Seattle, it does drive the price of housing up (by removing older cheaper stock) and gentrifying affordable neighborhoods, though.

Told you so!

Posted by Mr. X | February 1, 2008 6:26 PM

Oh, and in regard to the last sentence in ECB's post - you really can't build affordable houses on expensive dirt without massive public subsidies. Sorry.

Posted by Mr. X | February 1, 2008 6:27 PM

@7 - we have one - unfortunately, the Urban Growth Boundary was gerrymandered in a way (in King County, at least) that you could drive a Snoqualmie Ridge through, and while I'm not as up on the details, I'm willing to bet it's even worse in Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, and Skagit Counties.

Posted by Mr. X | February 1, 2008 6:30 PM

Explain again how building rail to outlying areas will stop or slow down sprawl? Let's see. I can get 25 miles on a train and then drive another 30 miles to my brand new house.

Building trains the way ST is planning will only enhance spreading out the population not concentrating it and therefore will not gain the advantages of significant density.

Posted by whatever | February 1, 2008 6:34 PM

@7, @10, the biggest loophole in Portland's growth boundary is in a different state: Clark County, Washington has 400,000 people in it now, and is by far the fastest-growing large county in the state -- only tiny Franklin County is growing faster. Vancouver will probably pass Tacoma and Spokane for second place in the next decade.

Posted by Fnarf | February 1, 2008 6:49 PM

Absolutely. I don't think many people around here have thought about how much Vancouver has grown in the last decade, if they think about it at all.

Posted by laterite | February 1, 2008 7:06 PM

is all that development breaking any rules?

or is it that GMA rules are being followed, but are lacking, and do not produce the end result desired?

as in, maybe there should be more zoning rules added in?

making new growth pay for the new infrastructure?

or making Seattle a better place by having better schools, safer streets, more buses so you get to work faster?

cheaper housing options/smaller apts. and condos?

Like that developer on Cap. Hill who wants to do 400 SF condos despite the scorn meted out on Slog?

why is there any height limit in SLU anyway?

Hard to say suburbs shouldn't sprawl when really we haven't done shit to get quality density/better quality of life, in Seattle.

Posted by unPC | February 1, 2008 7:36 PM

Part of the reason I enjoy reading Slog is to smile at the dream-world you people live in.

Posted by MarkyMark | February 1, 2008 8:04 PM

I'm not sure, but I think part of the height restriction may stem from the fact that most of SLU/Downtown is built on landfill from the 1890s and therefore it could be seismic restrictions. But other than that I don't have a good reason.

Posted by pragmatic | February 1, 2008 8:47 PM

Isn't the question whether jobs are also being created in the areas where people are moving? The extent to which an area is a "bedroom community"? If you add 50,000 jobs in Marysville, but add 50,000 jobs, is that a bad thing?

Snoqualmie Ridge, far from even a store with a bottle of milk much less a job, seems to me very different than the development you're seeing in (for instance) Covington and Auburn, so tied to local jobs in Kent and Renton.

Posted by Big Sven | February 1, 2008 8:54 PM

For all you Seattle-centric folks: Don't forget that a lot of the people living out in those places never come to Seattle. They work in places like Everett and Tacoma and Kent.

There's a whole lot of job growth happening well outside the Seattle city limits.

Posted by tomcat98109 | February 1, 2008 8:59 PM

no they blasted away a big hill thus "the regrade"

the landfill is along the waterfront (everything below the pike market, that flat area? now called edgeville or west edge? all fill) and duwamish has lots of fill all pioneer square is raised up but solid underneath the original site of Yeser's Mill was chosen because it was a huge cliff down to the water and a good place to skid the logs thus skid row
Seattle very diff than other city locations -- siting the city on a cliffside is not typical

anyway the reason we have height limits is urban-ness paranoia which is rampant here

office jobs like MS or Premera in ML Terrace can go where they want--unless the zoning stops it

allowing low density office parks with huge parking lots and workers driving 1/4 mile to another big asphalt parking lot to get a teriyaki lunch in a strip malls --causes sprawl

meanwhile inside Seattle they just said SODO can't have condos, or biotech or software type industry, only old fashioned industry, thus causing longish auto commutes from Auburn and such

@21 we didn't forget that
and so what?

why you dissin' us in Seattle?

they could live in Seattle and still go to jobs in Tacoma and Everett and Kent, too.

to all: we are the enemy our zoning essentially mandates sprawl in the burbs and prevents real citification inside Seattle

saying Seattle is urban is almost a joke. a smallish highrise downtown, a few low rise multifamily zones outside downtown but no real density and certainly not much quality density

why should there be any height limit in Roosevelt, or Northgate, or Ballard, too?

Posted by unPC | February 1, 2008 9:35 PM

"Gitai, there's loopholes in Portland's growth boundary. They're called Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Gresham"

No, those cities are included in Portland's Urban Growth Boundary.

The loopholes are McMinnville, Estacata, and Clark County, Wash.

Posted by Orin | February 1, 2008 10:10 PM

Growth management has reduced sprawl dramatically outside each county's growth boundary. Some counties draw their growth boundaries more tightly than others. What the article talks about, in its semi-informed way, is the growth inside the boundaries in places where the line is too far out.

Posted by mhays | February 1, 2008 11:05 PM

Big duh here, what is clear is that people are willing to give away years of their lives sitting in their cars just so they can have the Ozzie & Harriet home with the garage and backyard. This, especially in the Bush Economy, is the main sprawl-driver.

That, and Seattle has no semi-half-decent restaurant with proper cheese steaks.

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | February 2, 2008 12:03 AM

No rules or laws are ever going change the fact that a lot of people don't want to live in an urban environment. We're always going to want a chunk of land around us, with trees and dirt for us to grow things in. Instead of lamenting the fact, plan around it.

Posted by Rebecca | February 2, 2008 12:10 AM

How much did Greenspan/Bernanke have to do with this?

I worry. Marysville with 100K+ when I was a kid that place had no more than 10K and I'm really not that old.

Posted by Andrew | February 2, 2008 1:52 AM

Bullshit. More people in the world live in "urban environments" than live in any fake-ozzie-and-harriet environment, and no one 100 years from now will be able to live in that sort of environment without cheap oil.

Posted by Andrew | February 2, 2008 2:05 AM

whatever spews his usual pointless poop. If this clown bothered to travel as far as Portland (challenging!) he would see sucessful growth management at work Even suburban cities can build density around rail stations. This is a no-brained...unless you're a cave dwelling anti-rail crank.

Notice how the perma-whiners never propose their own feasible plans.

Whatever has mastered this approach.

Posted by maurice | February 2, 2008 4:58 AM
Even suburban cities can build density around rail stations. This is a no-brained...unless you're a cave dwelling anti-rail crank.

Ah yes the reasoned non ad hominem argument.

Portland has a population density of less than 4500 per s.mile. Seattle is right at 7000. A lower percentage of Portlanders ride transit. Seattle is attracting more of everything: jobs, business, people, housing, sports, etc.

We need to get even more density in Seattle to become a more efficient user of space and energy. I would upzone the townhouse areas to real apartments and allow for even bigger buildings on arterials and in urban centers. SF has a density of 15,000 per s. mile and we should be striving for that. Add in-city transit that's rapid, add more amenities to the city, encourage companies like MSFT to meaningfully expand office space in the city to reduce longer distance commuting demands.

Check on the cities that have the lowest per capita energy use. They are dense and they have intra-city transit service. Put in enough density and you'll get the kind of commerce that lets people walk their community. Burbs with a little density arouind a station will not provide that.

Capitol Hill Regional Growth Center had a year 2000 population of 33,447, an increase of 17% from the 1990 figure of 28,472.

Marysville had a population of 25,315 in 2000.

Posted by whatever | February 2, 2008 8:52 AM

whatever, I think you may be setting up "the burbs" as a straw man here. Single-family residential development full of boring, horrible people, as vs. vibrant, dense, urban neighborhoods.

The problem with that argument is that many people do not wish to live near the center of a city. Think of it as a cost-benefit analysis: What if you could get a house with its own garden farther away from town (maybe in a child-friendly area, if you're starting a family?) for around the same price as a downtown loft? Depending on peoples' core needs and values, a lot of them will decide they like the first option better.

You're absolutely right that density is energy efficient and has a lot of other social benefits, but your argument still has an ideological character, and it's just impossible to force people to live in dense neighborhoods. They have a number of choices as consumers, one of them is suburbia.

Also, it's absolutely impossible to serve all of the demand for housing inside the city limits of a growing, thriving metropolis. So the argument is not really urban infill vs. unchecked sprawl. It's smart growth management vs. policies based upon fallacies and ideology.

Focusing all of your time and energy on promoting dense urban infill is just going to let the developers throw a wild McMansion-building party out in the suburbs. Growth mansion means developing light rail corridors. Is it the lesser of two evils? Absolutely.

Is it better than tunnel vision focusing only on infill, while acting as if the suburban hinterlands don't even exist?

Also, absolutely!

And suburban living is improvable. It is possible to build energy-efficient, walkable developments that consist entirely of single-family detached units.

Posted by k | February 2, 2008 9:34 AM

k - well stated position except I didn't characterize the people as being in any way bad.

Many things people used to prefer doing is no longer allowed such as smoking in public locations or chopping trees down to the edge of rivers. People driving out to the burbs spew out pollution and we will not be able to supply them with rail transit to stop them. European cities have strict land use codes and density.

Millions and millions of people have grown up in apartments and lived their lives in them. If we can't do stand alone without gassing the the world, then we need to densify.

If we build to Everett and Marysville people will build even further out.

Land use first!

Posted by whatever | February 2, 2008 10:02 AM

Marysville's population is only 30,000, if it grows by 117,000, that is way more than 51% -- that would be about 400% growth. Something is wrong with that data.

Posted by tree | February 2, 2008 10:27 AM

Erica, it took us 40 years of sprawl-oriented auto-centric growth to get where we are today, and it's probably going to take at least that long to move society into an alternate, more contained environment. Please take a longer view.

Posted by Perfect Voter | February 2, 2008 10:49 AM

Perfect voter is right. This process is a generational thing. It requires a shift in our culture and values.

My girlfriends parents, who grew up in the Rural,OR and moved to Bumfuck, WA think we are nuts to live in the "Big City". Many of her extended family think a condo is a bad investment. They think the noise and energy has a negative effect on people who live there. I think they are nuts for a 70 mile commute. I don't want a huge yard and I think a condo is a fine investment. I feel claustrophobic when I visit them because I cannot go for a walk very easy.

It is a culture shift. "Our" generation has different values and a different outlook than that of our parents. It isn't fair or realistic to expect a 65 year old person nearing retirement to sell their 2 acre lot in the country, sell almost all of the possessions they have that fill the said lot, buy a condo in downtown Seattle and deal with "urban issues".

All you can do is raise your own children in the city, build them a world class transportation system, and hope they and their generation keep the trend.

Take a deep breath an go with the flow. There is only so much we can do in our short lifetime.

Posted by crk on bellevue ave | February 2, 2008 11:27 AM

From wiki-source:

Marysville: 31,000 (2006 est.)

North Marysville: 21,161 (2000)

Arlington: 14,491 (2004)

Arlington Heights: 2,510 (2004)

Monroe: 13,795 (2000)

Lake Stevens: 6,361 (2000)

West Lake Stevens: 18,071

Total: 107,389, and that's with 2000 census data mixed in, which is surely out of date by now. For example, Lake Stevens is annexing like mad. Overall, Snohomish County has over 685,000 residents.

Posted by laterite | February 2, 2008 11:52 AM

crk - people have been living in cities for like hundreds and hundreds of years in apartments and townhouses.

I'm certainly not saying that the parents need to move to the city but if we are to make a dent in pollution and GW then we must densify the urban core and not make it easier to live far away from work, school and commerce.

Posted by whatever | February 2, 2008 2:03 PM

Erica! You note, "[g]rowth management doesn’t work without growth management rules that a) have teeth and b) are actually enforced ..."

Land use (GMA, interpreted city by city) and transportation (various agencies and various standards) have to be linked.

Yes, with teeth. Yes, enforced.

Fred and I call that "governance reform". It involves both accountability and standard-setting. Wonky, yes. Lots of details to be worked out, yes. But what we are 110% sure of is: somebody or someone or some agency has to do it, be responsible for it (instead of just complaining about it).

We think it's PSRC.

Posted by Deb Eddy | February 2, 2008 2:28 PM

First, this isn't news. Organizations like the Urban Land Institute and the PSRC have published predictions like this for years. And blowhards like Joel Kotkin have been gloating all over the mainstream press about how sprawl is winning.

Second, while growth management may not completely halt sprawl, it does reduce it. Sightline has published piles of research showing how urban areas with growth management sprawl less than those that have no growth management.

That said, not doubt that growth on the urban fringe is a big problem for which there are no easy solutions. If people had to pay for the true environmental cost their lifestyles, we'd see a lot less of it.

Posted by dan | February 2, 2008 4:00 PM

The straw man here is that all this growth is going to directly translate into more traffic from Suburb X to Seattle.

My friend from Sunnyvale, CA is moving here this summer. He's going to work in Kirkland. He's buying a house 3-4 miles away in Bellevue so he can ride his bicycle to work. Growth, yes, but not "sprawl", and not "traffic."

Posted by Big Sven | February 2, 2008 5:17 PM

From what I can tell, trying to build new train system infrastructure into a 21st century urban landscape makes no sense from an environmental, monetary, or any other perspective.

Posted by Alfie | February 2, 2008 5:22 PM

Sven I don't think anyone said or implied that

all this growth is going to directly translate into more traffic from Suburb X to Seattle.

The issue for me is how can we encourage what your friend is doing. How can we encourage urban core density - the kind that produces an urban environment where the things of life are nearby. Putting people in Fife or Marysville and in general spreading growth evenly in the UGB will not produce that density. I'm hopeful that at some point the world will realize that population control is necessary and that that happens before the CPS has the 15 million people it would take to make it urban dense.

Posted by whatever | February 2, 2008 6:02 PM

whatever- I'm confused.

I don't think anyone said or implied that

Isn't that a supposition of ECB's...

What I didn’t mention was some disturbing news in one of the documents ST handed out at yesterday’s meeting—growth management, it appears, isn’t working.

...and anyone who used the noun "growth" as a pejorative? Otherwise, what's wrong with growth? Growth without sprawl or traffic is just hayseeds moving to the big city from the hinterlands, which seems like a good thing. Is the fact that NYC has 10 million people a bad thing? Would NYC be better with 2 million people?

Bottom line: what's wrong with growth if the jobs and services get created in parallel with and local to the housing capacity?

Posted by Big Sven | February 2, 2008 10:30 PM

whatever, I LIVE in a European city. And I study urban planning here. And let me assure you that, despite those strict controls on sprawl, Europe still sprawls, it really, really does. European cities struggle constantly with the loss of their tax money to suburban areas as well as everything else mentioned in this article. Trust me on this, I'm procrastinating from doing my report on rail-transport oriented housing development as we type.

People go to Europe and they see the dense city centers, and this leads them to believe that Europe is an urban density / untouched landscape wonderland . It is not. Parts of Europe which are not currently growing in population *at all* have trouble with suburbanization. Parts of Europe which are currently hemmorhaging population due to the demographic shift have trouble with it too. Population control would not end suburban sprawl either.

This is all pretty indicative of the fact that a growing region like the Seattle region *cannot* avoid the growth of the suburbs.

But one piece of urban-planning fu that can really, really help create more sustainable suburbs is in fact encouraging growth - mixed-use, fairly dense growth - along a light rail line. Guess what? That strategy is highly effective and popular in Europe, and it has been for decades. It is helping Europe control its sprawl problems in many, many metropolitan regions.

Also, since we're talking about the common perception that density equals sustainability, here are some other things that a focus on our urban cores (much as we love them and I think both love living in them) promotes: Long commutes for people who *do* live in the suburbs, because no central functions are being promoted out in the exurbs. Long transport times and distances from farmers' fields to your mouth, driving the cost of food up and its quality down for urban residents. Long distances for our electricity and water to travel from their sources, resulting in loss of efficiency, unless of course you have a solar panel on your roof. Many people living in older housing stock that is not energy efficient in the least, creating a great deal of waste.

Those are just a few of our dirty little secrets, we urban residents. In my opinion, we should have a guilty conscience about them, and we should be especially wondering how we can possibly justify living so far from the places our food is produced.

Plus, who says that the things of life - work, shopping, public space - have to be out of walkable or bikable reach for suburbanites? Take a look at Big Sven's description of his friend, who is soon going to be cheerily, healthily, sustainably biking from suburb to suburb. One of the great things about encouraging growth along light rail lines is that it can be used to promote mini-cores near the stations, offering sustainable transport, walkable distances, and a hell of a lot more quality of life for people who ARE going to buy a single-family detached unit somewhere anyway.

As I said, I live in Europe. I live in one room of a 5 room apartment, and have 4 roommates. My building is on one of those teensy little alleys built in the late 19th century. That is about as dense as it gets and I love it, I want my kids to grow up this way, etc. etc.

But it is not for everyone. And when you imply that the urban centers are the only places where the things of life are to be found in an acceptable quantity and quality, and the only places to live sustainably, then that IS a value judgement on suburbanites, whether you mean it to be or not.

That is a good way to make your arguments seem like the arguments of an urban elitist, and that's not a good way to get the suburbanites on board, now is it?

OK, back to work now...

Posted by k | February 3, 2008 3:55 AM

Oh and Alfie, due to your use of the the term "urban landscape" has been making me gnash my teeth lately, becasue it's far too often used in the political realm as code for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

I don't think the theorists who first started talking about, say, industrial landscapes intended this, but "urban landscape" has a whiff of naturality and inevitability about it that really helps people justify our lifestyles and use of space as they are.

Here's an example. Here in Hamburg, the city government decided it was a good idea to let Airbus build a giant factory and private airport over a nature preserve in the middle of an agricultural area right on the river Elbe.

The city also recently updated a document I'd translate as its spatial guide to the current state and future goals of the city.

Guess what they called the section of the Elbe now dominated by tarmac and flyovers at all hours of the day, instea d of apple trees and wetland habitat?

The Luftfahrtelbe. Yes, that part of the river coast is now "the airline-industrial Elbe".

Estimated time from giant planning snafu to inevitable, natural part of the "urban landscape"? 2 years.

*golf claps*

I love it when highbrow terms boil down to an intellectual justification for keeping our land use crappy.

Posted by k | February 3, 2008 4:43 AM

K - you state that the Europeans struggle constantly with the loss of their tax money to suburban areas as well as everything else mentioned in this article but then you say But one piece of urban-planning fu that can really, really help create more sustainable suburbs is in fact encouraging growth - mixed-use, fairly dense growth - along a light rail line. Guess what? That strategy is highly effective and popular in Europe, and it has been for decades.

So for decades light rail has been used and they still struggle - another way of putting it is that light rail running to villages doesn't work.

Also, building rings of suburbs around cities would seem to move the farmers even farther away but maybe I just didn't get that point.

Saying that here the towns on the light rail route will not provide the kind of facilities that make for a walkable community is not anti suburbanite.

Perhaps you could give a list of these new suburbs and new light rail lines near Hamburg or wherever you are referng to.

One big difference between what you are working with in Germany and Seattle is that the cities there have well developed in-city transit systems that have grade separated rail systems. Here in Seattle we have no such system and the only planned rail is to the burbs.

How does "fahrt" become "industrial" wouldn't that be more like Air Drive Elbe?

Posted by whatever | February 3, 2008 7:32 AM

whatever -

Don't get me wrong, I agree that it would be truly fantastic for the environment if the Seattle metro area had such a low rate of growth that infill could be used to account for all that growth.

I'm just fairly convinced that this is not the case.

Note that I'm not anti-infill. There are plenty of great infill concepts that people love to live in. Development in urban cores should definitely continue to take place, and light rail to the burbs is not a substitute for its positive effects.

It's just that infill only is not going to take up the slack in Seattle's case. The problems are partly cultural - for instance, peoples' conviction that they need to move in to a brand new single-family unit to raise their kids - but they are also simply an issue of numbers of buildable units per year.

As for the idea that rail to villages "doesn't work", I submit that when it comes to controlling sprawl in rapidly growing regions, there actually isn't a hell of a lot that DOES work. No planning strategy is going to get you a 100% success rate here. This is something that I believe needs to be accepted, it's one of the central truths of planning. We can't make people do what we want them to. They are acting under economic pressures that wield a way bigger stick than some wonk with a zoning map and a Powerpoint presentation. We can, however make a bad situation a lot less bad.

So yes, when we're talking light rail we're talking damage control. Of course we are. When we're talking urban planning AT ALL we're talking damage control.

As for the rest, I'm not sure if there's any english-language info about Bremen's regional planning concept out there on the web, but it's a good example of new rail corridors getting off the ground. Corridors, not rings, so there are corresponding green corridors that reach far into the burbs. That keeps farmers and natural areas close to town. If you google "intra bremen" you may be able to get a graphic of this.

You are perfectly correct about the grade-seperated rail systems, that's true. Of course it is silly not to build rail all over the damn place, but I don't think that completely sinks Seattle's light rail idea.

Hamburg has a well-established train system to its suburbs and hasn't been building a lot of new tracks lately, but Neu-Allermöhe is a decent example of a new suburb (late 80's to mid-90's) that is walkable, hooked up to light rail, and about 30 minutes from downtown on the train. There's also a nice example in the city of Langenhagen.

I'd also like to point out that walkable communities are actually not rocket science. They are doable. So are changes in existing structures to encourage walking and biking. Reliable public transport is one of those changes you can make.

Lastly, "Luftfahrt" is indeed "air driving" when you translate it literally, but it also refers to the airline industry - Lufthansa and Airbus are both Luftfahrtunternehmen.

I thought that as much of a gibberish idea as the "Luftfahrtelbe" is, it still deserved a translation that would help people make sense of how silly it is... ;)

Posted by k | February 3, 2008 9:33 AM

K thanks for the posts. I've suggested that in order to solve the population problem there should be a death penalty for any politician that uses the word solution and transit/transportation in the same sentence.

I agree with you on all major points. There will be both infill in the urban core and inside the urban growth boundary.

We have little farming left within the UGB and we tend to fill all space between housing centers with houses and strip malls.

So the question is degree If we have a system that takes the same amount of time for people from 20 miles from the city center and people inside city five miles from the center to get downtown, we will not encourage people to live in the urban core. Yes we probably will build more density around light rail stations but not enough.

Thanks again for reasoned discussion.

Posted by whatever | February 3, 2008 1:13 PM

Well..these population figures are just from Marysville and Lake Stevens, but look at it and its very very possible to imagine that many more people moving up there. These were taken from the US Census data. Plus moving into the Seattle area in general. The other NUMBER 1 factor is AFFORDIBILITY. Depending on where you work,etc. Its really a no brainer when comparing buying a tiny 1 bedroom condo for 317000 dollars or buying a 3 bedroom house with 1/3 of an acre for the same price. At least for most peoople.

1970- 4,343
1980 - 5,544
2000- 25,315
2007 Estimate - ~36210

Lake Stevens

1980- 1660
2000- 6361
2007 Estimate- ~13350

Posted by Brian In Seattle | February 3, 2008 6:55 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).