Car2go Still Falling Short

My Car2go rental today wouldn’t end properly, so they want to charge me for a 40 minute rental instead of the 10 minutes I used. Grr. 

They asked if they could help with anything else, so I noted their recent addition of bigger, more polluting, more expensive cars to the fleet. Instead, I requested smaller, less polluting electric or hybrid cars that would cost less to borrow (Zipcar charges about 30% less to use hybrids). They said users asked for bigger cars in the fleet. I noted the existence of bigger cars like the Prius that use less gas and emit fewer greenhouse emissions. They said they’re owned by Mercedes and suggested they can’t (won’t) use cars made by anyone else. I think that’s a really lame, shortsighted excuse. I like the small size of Smart cars, but they’re gas-only and get 39 mpg. The first generation Honda Insight around 2000 got 70 mpg. That would be cheaper to borrow and save me money.

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Today in Poverty

So. Two weeks ago I saw the doctor. She referred me to physical therapy for my arm and an eye doctor for regular checkup (eyes are vulnerable to diabetes). At the Poor People Clinic, referrals never work properly, so neither place had received one from the clinic. I called the PPC and had to insist to speak to the referral coordinator, and ask specifically when they sent the referrals and how. She repeatedly interrupted me, which is infuriating when your brain is autistic, but I try to explain that and people just get indignant. How dare you call out their rudeness! It’s not like they use email or have website where you can do this. Of course, this woman reflexively blamed the clinics and declared there’s no problem with the PPC referral system, even though another worker there explicitly told me otherwise when a previous one took 6 weeks of fighting to get through. She said she’d call the clinics and get back to me. She called back later and said the clinics had received the referrals. I asked when that happened, and she just said Yes, they got them. I again asked when, and she admitted it only happened today. Her earlier claim was a lie, and if I weren’t angry and persistent about this, I’d probably spend another 6 weeks playing go-between among the clinics to get my PT and eye check.
 
Then I called the disability law firm seeking a second opinion. I’ve left them messages before, and they say they’ll call you back in 24 hours, but they’ve never called me back. Someone took some information from me and said they’d call back. I wouldn’t bet on it. My appeal hearing is scheduled for March, and the judge warned that she won’t grant another delay without a “compelling” reason. The clock is ticking, and I’m apparently better off withdrawing my 2 1/2 year old claim and starting a new one (so, July 2019?) than getting an adverse ruling on this one. You see why I want to make sure before I kill and restart the process.
 
The client I’m sitting for has a home “security” system and seems irrationally worried about crime. So when I leave to walk another dog, I set it before leaving. What I apparently forgot is that it has motion sensors inside, and that I’m supposed to leave two big dogs shut in a bedroom while I’m out so they don’t trip it (I don’t think the welfare of animals should be dictated by alarm systems). Apparently they did. While on the bus to walk another dog, client texted me saying the “security” people called. He asked several questions about what’s going on and what I did. He had me call them to explain the alarm, disable it, and cancel the police call. So I had to give them my name, client’s name, and his address and password. Over the phone. From the bus–where riders around you can hear what you say. Then client told me the alarm is pretty loud and might scare the dogs. So this comes full circle causing lots of frustration while accomplishing nothing. The alarm system that was triggered by dogs tripping a living room motion sensor–not any kind of theft, burglary, or crime–jarred the dogs. And bothered my client while he’s on vacation, and interrupted me from my normal day, making me worry about the dogs and the client’s reaction toward me.
 
These systems do not deter crime. They do not protect property. They do not increase anyone’s safety. What they do is prey on racist fear of cities (Seattle has little crime among big US cities), constantly create false alarms (this is hardly my first time), and make lots of profits for the “security” industry. (Recall Rep. Darrell Issa made his fortune on car alarms) They exploit and increase fear, anxiety, aggressiveness, harmful stereotypes, and division among people. They make us afraid of and alienated from each other. Ironically, the reason it takes me so long to get around town is our mediocre transit system; driving is faster, but much more likely to kill you–compared to both riding transit and being a crime victim. The press sensationalizes crime, while car “accidents” are treated only as traffic issues. But if you look at mortality rates, ignoring the causes of death, they are lower in cities because we use cars less, and cars cause more death than crime. If your goal is to avoid crime (which is no more or less than what WE define it to be), move to the suburbs. If your goal is to stay alive, move to the city.

Angle Lake Station a Near Total Waste of Money

Go visit the 1120 “free” parking spaces you’re subsidizing! They’re a top contributor to air and water pollution and cancel out the environmental benefits of rail. This station was expedited to placate Federal Way politicians upset that their extension got delayed due to the stupid “subarea equity” policy. This station won’t have 1/3 the daily riders of UW station, thanks to it being surrounded by parking instead of homes or jobs. That also means most of the investment in trains, tracks, and the station will be wasted because it won’t collect much in fares. It will also make it harder, and take longer, to run more 3-car trains. And it totally duplicates the existing A Line. This is what the vast majority of ST3 does.

Income-Based Transit Fares!

Please sign this petition against 2nd class transit. Here are my comments:

ORCA Lift is a great program, and I commend you for taking the leadership to implement a low-income fare in a major jurisdiction like King County. As a transit junkie and advocate, I know there are many good reasons for shifting fare collection away from paper and toward smart cards. One of these is the ability to create just about any fare category you want, and charge it to targeted populations. So I’m interested in working *with* ORCA rather than seeking a step backward (in the long term) toward paper fare media.

I appreciate the rationale for peak-hour and two-zone surcharges; they make sense from a transportation perspective. And I understand the reasons for having senior, disabled, and youth fares too–I use an RRFP myself. But it seems to me that these last three are indirect attempts to help people who really need it, which is mostly people with the least money. And a large share of peak-hour commuters paying both the distance and rush hour premiums are probably employees whose fares are subsidized by their employers anyway, so the surcharges raise more money but don’t have the transportation or location effects desired.

I increasingly believe that simplicity is of great and underappreciated importance, and income inequality nationally and locally has become so great that I think it’s now more important than the reasons for, and effects of, the rush hour and two-zone surcharges. So I propose that, short of violating any federal requirements, Metro end the surcharges, abolish the special senior, disabled, and youth fare categories, and charge fares entirely based on income. We have lots of good ways to verify income for people under 200% of the poverty line; we can use existing infrastructure to charge still lower fares for people below 100% and 50% of poverty. Above that, the County has a large role in health care, and the ACA offers premium subsidies to people up to 400% of poverty. I suggest that the Health Department, perhaps working with WA Healthplanfinder, use that information to verify incomes in the 200-400% poverty range and apply an appropriate income-based fare category. This would be simpler and fairer for everyone.

Thanks.

Never Mind Upzoning; Can’t We AT LEAST Have Backyard Cottages?!

IS1rpku0qpwn030000000000I walked by this house today. It’s quite the sight to behold. What if everyone could live like this? The median home in Montlake is $990,000, and interestingly the foreclosure rate is 12% which is much higher than citywide. A 20% down payment at this price is more than most people can afford as a purchase price. What really sticks in my craw about it is that–forget upzoning the part of Montlake near UW Station–the mayor already agreed to scrap his compromise committee’s recommendation to allow ADUs (accessory dwelling units) in single family neighborhoods. Those are modest, affordable, unintrusive, and can add revenue for the homeowner and diversity to the neighborhood. Zillow says this home’s Walkscore is just 59, but consider all these perks of the site:

*walk to light rail
*shorter walk to frequent bus (48, 271) and several other routes (43, 167, 277, 540, 541, 542, 556)
*walk to campus and UWMC
*adjacent to park
*adjacent to Ship Canal
*quiet!
*ample parking
*right by 520 interchange
*pretty damn private for a major city
*good bike infrastructure around
*walk to library branch
*good boating access
*every neighbor seems to support Bernie Sanders (must be among the 10 richest US neighborhoods to love Bernie)

Ignore the logic of upzoning this area and the wealth (privilege) that prevents it. Isn’t it kind of elitist or selfish to reserve this location for people who can afford well over $1 million on a home, instead of allowing some backyard cottages too? They’re not a silver bullet, but they would definitely help.

20 May 2016

It’s been a hell of a day–again. I met with the new client who’s looking for a couple dog walks a week. She’s four bus stops from me. We chatted for 3 hours. Pets, Asperger’s, health care, housing, transportation…and Ruby licked and cuddled me, though she’s kind of reactive. The client also just moved and has boxes for me. 🙂

Then I went back to Goodwill. The printer was still there! I even found a power cord to match. And a sturdier case for my dying phone for $2. I can’t get my phone out of it, but that seems secure in a way. I spent $31 total. The printer weighs 30 pounds, and the Car2Go home was another $17. Denny and parts of I-5 were congested. We could fix most of that with a Denny subway and highway tolls, but we don’t like to do tough or sensible things. The navigation on my phone is better than the car’s. Yet again, the trunk refused to open. After Goodwill I picked up my study materials to upgrade my ham license. The tests are updated every three years, and these are good to 6/30/19. I didn’t even know they’d tried to deliver the books, or that they weren’t coming USPS. The call box at my building only works for land lines. And this is 2008 construction. We dealt with call boxes and cell phones in 2002-04 when I was on my co-op board in DC. I’m going to see about getting that fixed.

On Capitol Hill I passed the shuttered Harvard Exit theater. It’s so sad. Such a great old building with countless memories. I took my Meetup group there on Christmas 2008 and saw Slumdog Millionaire. STG saved the Neptune, and SIFF saved the Uptown and Egyptian, but I guess our arts community lacked the resources to save this one (our millionaires don’t, but they spend only on their whims). Meanwhile SIFF is showing films in Kirkland, Shoreline, Renton, and Bellevue. Toronto (our rival in North America) does nothing like that–if you hurry you can get between all their venues on foot. I also passed the former diabetic-friendly Mexican restaurant Galerias. It was among my favorites here, but they had a fire and didn’t reopen. The first time I went there, a young woman was dressed up playing a harp. No one seemed to notice when she switched from classical music to Stairway to Heaven. Now it’s a Tex-Mex place called Rooster. :/ Our best Greek restaurant, Costas Opas, is gone too; replaced by a damn Chase bank branch–2 blocks from Lenin.

InterConnection is having a $30 sale on smartphones, but they’re old. So I saved a trip to Fremont. My health clinic just got my MRI results, but the doctor hasn’t analyzed them yet.

Shockingly, Bruce Harrell’s staff got back to me about the vacant lot next door. It’s fenced off, with intermittent barbed wire, and neglected to the point that it has 3-4 foot grass, and thorny branches poking out. Not the right message to send in the heart of the neighborhood. I asked who owns it because I want to see why it’s just sitting there, and at least get them to maintain it a bit in the interim so it’s not so ugly. So is it notorious slumlord Carl Haglund? A developer stuck in permitting? A rich guy who’s holding the land to sell when it’s worth more? Nope. It’s… The Seattle Housing Authority! What the hell?!? Are they waiting for the housing levy to pass before building something? We could really use 6 floors of affordable housing above shops and restaurants. (The zoning is 40 feet–stupidly–but we make exceptions all the time) This is crazy. I have to get to the bottom of it.

The new printer has no ink, but I managed to set it up after a long call with Filipino tech support. I’m blown away. It has features I’ve never seen in a printer. It’s a 2014 model; mine is 2007. It can automatically scan and print double sided, has a top feeder so I can scan much more quickly, two paper trays so I can do regular paper and envelopes for example, very low cost per page, can fit legal paper…I can even print over wifi from my phone! And I think it may be able to print remotely via iCloud. It’s a productivity boost I’ve needed for a long time. Money well spent.

I made some final tweaks to my info flyers for the bus stop out front and posted them in the shelter. Hopefully they’re helpful to riders. I still want to represent the information visually since many people here don’t speak English, but it’s great for now. I got another round of things from the house and can print the food stamp paperwork on my old printer until I get ink for the new one. I got my mail for the first time in 10 days and need to do laundry for the first time in 2 weeks. I walked 13,000 steps today. Tomorrow there’s still more to do before a brief sitting job in Greenwood.

What’s Wrong with Sound Transit 3

Seattle Times article

How telling that ST3 would build as many miles of rail as DC to serve 50% fewer daily riders. The article doesn’t mention this, but the proposal would extend Sounder (commuter rail) service in the south from Lakewood to Dupont, and it would lengthen platforms to accommodate longer trains. But it wouldn’t go to Olympia, it wouldn’t try sending any trains *through* downtown Seattle, and it adds no trips to move toward all-day Sounder service.

Everett light rail makes no sense. Tacoma light rail makes no sense. The $5 billion Ballard tunnel is a ludicrous boondoggle that bypasses Fremont and Seattle Pacific University. The Ballard Spur is missing even though it’s cheaper, faster, and would carry more riders. I don’t know why West Seattle’s line would end at Alaska Junction, though I predicted it wouldn’t serve White Center or Burien. More car-based park and ride stations, no Burien-Renton crosstown line, no Kirkland (though I know local officials and ST are fighting there), no Denny Way subway to unclog that mess. I can support the short extension of East Link to downtown Redmond.

This is the wrong modes the wrong way in the wrong places. It’s a ridiculous amount of money ($50 billion!!!) that takes 25 years–if their predictions hold (they’ve had 2 big failures here)–to deliver what it promises. I would be 65 when it’s complete. It wastes precious infrastructure investment to serve far-flung areas where people will drive to stations and leave trains empty half the time–it won’t increase walkability or improve bike conditions, it won’t increase transit use much for the cost, and it won’t reduce car dependence. It doesn’t create a comprehensive urban rail network at all.

An MVET (motor vehicle excise tax) increase is fine, but further sales tax increases just pour salt in the wound of our mostregressiveinAmerica tax system. Sales tax in Seattle would be 10.1%. The poorest 20% of us are already paying 17% of our incomes in sales tax (higher than federal income tax), while the rich pay 4%. Seniors are fed up with high property taxes forcing them out of their homes. It’s not as bad as sales tax, but it’s not progressive. And they have authorization for other funding sources that would be more progressive and better for the environment like an employee hours tax (which Seattle repealed in 2009 as Tim Burgess pandered to Joe Mallahan).

There’s almost nothing to like here. It’s better than a stick in the eye, though that would be a comparative bargain. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

 

UPDATE: The Ballard extension would NOT serve Belltown, where we’ve built a massive amount of tall, dense development. And the package would build the horrible new “transit center” Renton wants at a highway interchange (I-405 & SR-167) instead of breathing life back into their downtown.