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On Other Blogs Today: The Minimum Wage, Density, Transit, and More
Our daily roundup.
1. In minimum-wage news: 1) A new report, via CNN, concludes that San Francisco, which has the highest minimum wage in the nation at $10.74 an hour, had the greatest job gains in the past year among all U.S. cities measured. 2) Yahoo! News reports that McDonald's, whose downtown Seattle location was the site of a pro-$15-minimum-wage protest yesterday, is "turning in a nice 2014," with an all-time intraday stock price high of $103.78 per share. 3) Meanwhile, in Portland, Gawker reports that the city has divested from Wal-Mart, the company perhaps best known for the high percentage of its minimum-wage employees who rely on food stamps,
2. Are higher rents in dense transit-rich areas bad? Not necessarily, says the Atlantic Cities blog, which argues that so-called "gentrification" actually decreases overall living costs by lowering transportation costs for residents who no longer have to rely on cars.
"Gentrification" actually decreases overall living costs by lowering transportation costs for residents who no longer have to rely on cars.
It's a logical conclusion, but one that opponents of rising rents often don't take into account when they argue that renters are being "forced" to move into the suburbs by higher rents in the city:
In fact, they report,
better transit options allow households to reduce transportation costs by replacing car trips with cheaper public transportation trips. Sometimes residents can eliminate car use entirely. So if families redistribute their costs from transportation to housing, they should be able to afford more expensive rents or mortgages. The average car owner spends about$9,000 a year on the vehicle, versus roughly $900 to$1,300 for an annual unlimited transit pass. A complete switch from private automobile to transit could leave a family up to $700 for additional monthly housing prices.
3. The cost-of-living argument is as good a case as any against the spurious argument on the Federalist blog that public transit is a bad investment because it's "expensive" and "subsidized" (unlike highways, which supposedly pay for themselves, which, spoiler alert, they don't.)One person's selfish prejudices are no reason not to fund transit for the rest of us.
Using the example of King County, where voters recently rejected a proposal that would have kept bus service in Seattle and its suburbs solvent after the state legislature failed to pass a transportation funding package two years in a row, the Federalist argues that "trains are an excuse to plan a condensed city around a transit network, instead of planning a transit network that serves the city’s widespread population." Um, yes. Because cities evolve. And grow.
And we need ways to get people around that aren't freeways. I'm sorry to hear that, during her "two years in college" spent using Metro's bus system, the writer "loathed every minute of" not being able to drive from place to place in her own car, but lots and lots and lots of commuters not only use public transit every single day but actually enjoy the time spent not focusing on traffic.
And anyway, one person's selfish prejudices are no reason not to fund transit for the rest of us. If anything, you should be thanking us bus riders for taking traffic off the roads (that, again, we also subsidize), not complaining about how annoying it is that you may pay a little more to help us make your car commute more convenient.
4. In less rant-inducing bus news, KOMO reports that some of Seattle's bus-only lanes will soon be painted red, to let drivers know they aren't supposed to be in them. (Apparently, markings that clearly read "BUS ONLY" aren't enough to keep people from driving in the lanes.)
According to KOMO, three spots will be earmarked for the pilot program: westbound Midvale Place approaching Aurora Avenue in Wallingford, Pacific Street approaching the Montlake Bridge in the University District, and Wall and Battery Streets between 3rd Avenue and Denny downtown.
5. Grist reports that one possible reason Proposition 1, which would have funded about $75 million in Metro bus service per year, failed was because in Seattle's suburbs, which voted overwhelmingly against the measure (only Lake Forest Park, north of the city, voted for it), is that the suburbs aren't well served by Metro service. In short, buses don't serve many suburban residents (specifically: They don't provide routes that serve 500,000 jobs within an hour's transit time) very well, so the suburbs voted against funding transit service.
Or, as Grist puts it, "Public transportation is just not a viable option for getting to and from work in the suburbs. No wonder suburbanites aren’t willing to support transit measures."