What’s hot and what’s not in Seattle?

Where to invest next in Seattle/Eastside neighborhoods? I’ve been thinking about the list Seattle Metropolitan Magazine came up in April (see below). With gas prices up, rapid transit going in, I think the next hot spots will be along those rapid transit routes like what happened in San Francisco and Portland.

Here are 2 lists, one from last month and one from 3 years ago. My clients usually make a decision where to buy based on either the commute or schools, sometimes as specific as a certain grade school. What about home age and style. It has been suggested that buyers like the homes their grandparents lived in, not the ones they grew up in, so Will the next batch of buyers want the 50’s and 60’s houses as has been suggested and if so, should we be buying in those areas? There was supposed to be a trend away from large homes, and that’s probably the case considering home prices are so high most can’t have the size home the buyers of the 90’s did.

Here is the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine list of 15 of the hottest neighborhoods in it’s April issue.

Grandes Dames: established and well rooted neighborhoods:

  1. Medina: (recognize the house above?)
  2. Madison Park
  3. Admiral

The Rock Stars: fast rising districts surging with glamour and vitality.

  1. Ballard
  2. Pike/Pine Corridor
  3. Moss Bay, Kirkland

Cinderellas: Formerly neglected areas now traipsing to the ball

  1. South Lake Union (courtesy of Paul Allen)
  2. Columbia City
  3. Georgetown
  4. Westwood

Sleeping Beauties: Location, economy and neighborliness drawing overdue attention

  1. Upper Rainier Beach
  2. North Greenwood
  3. Monroe
  4. Stadium district, Tacoma
  5. Cape George Colony, Port Townsend

This is a dramatic change from 2003, when SeattleMagazine.com had their list of hot neighborhoods

  1. Bryant
  2. Montlake
  3. Sunset Hill
  4. North Beach
  5. Blue Ridge
  6. Olympic Manor
  7. Phinney Ridge
  8. Greenwood Manor
  9. North Admiral
  10. Westwood

Almost all of these were north of the U District.

Does this mean that our citizens are fickle and don’t have favorites more than 3 years in a row? Or was it this kind of story that drove the prices up in those neighborhoods so that they are now not affordable? Is it possible in 3 years that even Georgetown will be sizzling? I’d love to tap into the collective minds of RCG bloggers and see what you think.

I think Burien is an up-and-coming area and it’s not on either list. Any other hidden gems out there?

Interesting Insurance Program from King County Metro

I just received a newsletter from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute that describes an innovative project that is being tested by King County Metro.

King County Metro, the Washington State Department of Transportation and other partners has $2,2 million to develop a Pay As You Drive (PAYD) Insurance Pilot project for Washington State over a 4-year period to evaluate the impacts of a pilot including at least 5000 participants. They are in the process of recruiting an insurance carrier to join in the project. The deadline for expressions of interest is February 15, 2006. For more information contact Bill Roach (bill.roach@metrokc.gov) or Bob Flor (bob.flor@metrokc.gov).

I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it, but I noticed that the Cascadia Scorecard had an article on this topic today, Pay As You Drive Insurance, and they didn’t mention this interesting program. This makes me think that the project must be really below the radar and in need of some Rain City Guide attention!

So how does it relate to Seattle real estate? Barely… But what’s important is that if you are a King County resident whose car spends almost all day at home, then you may be able to save money by joining this program and only paying insurance on the miles that you drive.

Healthier Living Involves an Urban Home

A recent study was just released that concludes that living in a walkable neighborhood is healthier than living in the suburbs! Another good reason to live in Seattle!

The Seattlest nominated this article for the “No Shit Sherlock” department in that it does not take a study to conclude that people who walk more will be healthier. However, to the study’s benefit, this kind of data gets used in the most obscure (yet important) ways. For example, I found the data to be extremely useful for a transportation demand management (TDM) tool I recently built for the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT). It can be so darn hard to quantify the benefits that make neighborhoods special that sometimes us engineers, (yes, I am an engineer by training) latch onto relatively obscure concepts like “walkability” in order to differentiate good neighborhoods from bad! Besides just letting us know that a walkable neighborhood is a healthier place to live, the study also helped to define what it means for a neighborhood to be walkable!

Bonus: One piece of my involvement in the TDM study involved creating a map that displayed the walkability of every single neighborhood in King County. My memory of the map was that the most walkable neighborhoods were almost all located in Seattle (surprise) with only a few located in the Eastside. If you’re really interested in learning more about what makes a neighborhood “walkable”, let me know!

The moral of this long-winded post? Living in a walkable neighborhood is not only more pleasant, but better for you!

Walking at the Ballard Locks

Yahoo Maps is Now Driving Innovation!

Yahoo Map of Seattle DestinationsI’ve been waiting (and searching) for a mapping site that gives multi-destination directions and the new (still in Beta) Yahoo Maps definitely delivers!

Here are some of the features that I have wanted to see in an on-line maps and how the Beta Yahoo Maps stands up:

  1. Multi-destination: This allows you to type in a bunch of addresses and get directions from one site to the next all on one map. This feature alone should make Yahoo Maps (beta) the default online mapping program for all real estate agents (and home buyers!). Thank you Yahoo!
  2. Best routing of destinations: theoretically, you’d be able to hit a button and have the mapping software tell you the most efficient route to get between multiple points. Yahoo does not have this feature (yet?), but they do let you manually change the order of your destinations! To do this, you simple have to drag the address within the sidepanel above (or below) another address.
  3. Remembering addresses. It is nice that Yahoo maps is integrated with my Yahoo Address book. The only problem is that I haven’t used my Yahoo Address book in years so all the addresses (and there are 100s) are old (including my “home”). It looks like it might be time to return to my Yahoo address book!
  4. Mobile Phone Integration: Getting directions via my mobile phone is currently a pain. I have a blackberry with internet access, but the current mapping sites are too slow and any misspellings require retyping things… I did try out Yahoo Maps a few weeks ago (and I liked that I had access to my on-line Yahoo address book), but, again, the addresses in my address book were so outdated, that it didn’t do me a lot of good. Seeing has how the Yahoo Maps has the “email map” and “Send to phone” options, it looks like it might be time to update my Yahoo address book!
  5. Live Traffic Data: I also like that Yahoo has integrated live traffic data (like freeway speeds). I’d be interested to see them add traffic cameras (Along the lines of Bus Monster).

Ideally, I’d like to be able to map out a bunch of homes while sitting at my home computer and email a set of directions to myself. All the addresses would be remembered (by Yahoo Maps) so that I could easily get an updated set of directions while on the road via my mobile phone. It looks like Yahoo is definitely going in that direction, but when I tried to email myself a map with four destinations, it only returned a generic map. I had similar problems trying to get a “printable version” of the map so I’m thinking that my problems might be related to the fact that I’m working on a Mac. Hopefully they will fix these issues soon!

And speaking of bugs, the beta version of Yahoo Maps did not work for me while using Firefox on my Mac. I had to revert to IE in order to see the graphics. Again, hopefully they will fix this bug soon!

One last thing before I call it a night… I played around with some of the programs that have been created with the Yahoo Map API, and it looks like they are finally at a level that is competitive with Google… My favorite mash-up so far maps out local events based on yahoo’s event calendar. Note that it would be really nice if this event mash-up had a city/zip search bar so that I could easily navigate from SF to Seattle, but instead, I had to zoom way out and zoom way back in is really nice that this program DOES have a city/zip search bar. (As Toby says in one of the comments: “For moving around in the events browser, you can highlight the city name above the map and type in a city or zip. It’ll jump straight where you want it to go.”) . Other than that issue, it It is a nice little program which I’ll definitely use again! I’m especially jazzed (or is it “rocked”) that I found out the Red Elvises are playing at the Tractor Tavern this Saturday! 🙂

Update 1: After posting this article, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one excited about the Local Event Browser. Jeremy Zawodny gives a good round up of all the excitement by Yahoo staff regarding the new map capabilities. I especially like that Yahoo has made an API for their geocoder. A free and easy-to-use geocoder is a major missing link from the Google Maps API. (what is a geocoder? In the simplest sense, a geocoder gives a latitude and a longitude for a given address.) It will be interesting to see if Google responds by opening up an address geocoder as well.

With a little help from Flexcar

Driving the ViperWith gas prices seeming to rise on a daily basis it seems like a good time to mention a little bit about Flexcar.

The Seattle Times describes the idea behind the organization pretty well in this article: Fueled by Flexcar. In short, Flexcar provides cars at specified locations throughout the City of Seattle and the Eastside that members can rent by the hour. For people who don’t drive a lot, these cars could provide their sole form of auto transportation. For the rest of us who need at least one car in the house, we can use these cars as our “second” or “backup” cars.

If you are a Seattle resident and you are seriously considering getting rid of a car, then consider taking the One Less Car challenge. It is a program where the City offers some pretty substantial rewards to families willing to give up at least one of their cars!

Inbox: Where to Live Within Biking Distance of UW?

Sasha With BikeI had someone email me the other day with an interesting question, and I thought I would share my response… and then see if anyone in the community could improve upon it.

Question: I’m moving to Seattle and interested in finding a neighborhood where I can bike to my work at the University of Washington (UW). Where should I be looking?

My Answer: There are a bunch of great places to live in North Seattle that are within biking distance to the UW. I would stay away from the south part of Seattle because there are not a lot of good north-south bike route through the downtown… (too many hills and not enough dedicated bike lanes).

Seeing as how I live in North Seattle and I bike a lot, I end up referencing the bike map put out by the City of Seattle quite often. Here is a direct link to the bike map of North Seattle (*.pdf), but note that this is a large file (1.5 MB). If you download the map, you’ll notice that the Burke-Gilman trail (a solid red line) goes through the UW campus. The Burke-Gilman is a wonderful commuting trail and has been recently expanded to the north-west all the way to the Golden Gardens Park. If you can find a place to live within a short ride to the Burke-Gilman, then you will have an easy ride to work!

By the way, if you follow this link, you can order a free hard-copy of the bike map: http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/transportation/bikemapform.htm

Do you have a better answer for this question? Are there any neighborhoods that are particularly attractive for bicyclists? Please share your knowledge in the comments section!

How far is too far to commute?

[photopress:round_and_round.jpg,thumb,alignright] The most common question I get from people moving to Seattle regards their potential commute… The question typically follows this format:

“How far away from my work can I live and still have a reasonable commute?”

It doesn’t really matter whether the person is planning to work in Downtown Seattle, Downtown Bellevue, the Amazon Campus, or the Microsoft Campus, because a “reasonable commute” is different for each person.

Some people are willing to drive an hour to save money on a home (or be able to afford a home for that matter), while others want a commute that is less than 20 minutes. Across the country (and especially in the Seattle area), the farther you are willing to drive every day, the less you have to pay for a home.

Interestingly, my work as a transportation planning consultant has put me in contact with some very interesting resources. For example, I recently came across these five maps that were put together by the regional government (PSRC) that give a great indication of the average commute:

These maps are great if you know the area you are going to be working (say Downtown Bellevue) AND you know that you are willing to commute a specific distance (say 40 minutes) because then they can help you put a definitive boundary on your home search!

NOTE: These maps are created “topographical-style”. If you are new to this, imagine that the graphic is displaying a huge mountain centered on the point of interest (like Downtown Seattle). If you move anywhere within the first circle (the top of the mountain!), then your commute to Downtown Seattle would be less than 20 minutes. However, the farther out you live, the large the hill you have to climb to get to work. For example, if you were to move to Issaquah, then you could expect about a 40 minute commute to Downtown Seattle.

By the way, the maps are a little dated (they are based on 1997 data), but the commute patterns have not changed much in the last 8 years, so the trends are still pretty accurate.

The same regional model that was used to create this data also spits out data for future years! Wouldn’t it be great to have the same maps for future years (2010, 2020, etc.) so you could gauge how your commute might change? This can be done! And if there is sufficient interest, I’ll put something like this together!

Monorail Death Watch

monorail's green lineInspired by Timothy Noah’s Death Watch (the latest regarding Karl Rove) series on slate, I’m tempted to start something on the Monorail as the whole operation seems to be in a death spiral lately… However, rather than go for the jugular, I’ve decided to give my view on how the monorail’s future became so dire.

After the defeat of Initiative 83 that would have effectively banned the monorail, the project seemed on a high. The monorail supporters (rightfully) saw the overwhelming support as a great sign in that the project could now move forward with the full support of the City (at least at the highest levels of the City government). However, as the negotiations between the sole-bidding contractor and the monorail agency dragged on, support seemed to wane. I heard numerous times from people who said that they were tired of all the delays and their support was waning with each passing day.

The latest crop of news began when the monorail announced on June 3rd that an tentative agreement had been reached with the prime contractor for the (relatively unusual) design, build AND operate contract.

On June 21, more details of the agreement were released to the public. This set into motion a series of articles documenting the total cost of the proposal. The Times has a decent article, while the PI put out sensationalist piece giving the total projects costs as “$11 billion”. This holds the monorail up to a higher standard than any other public project and is really just bad economics. For example, it is like saying the price you paid for your $400,000 home ballooned to $1,200,000 because that is the total amount you will pay over the life of your loan. The worst part of this journalism is that I’ve heard numerous individuals quote this number as if the cost of the monorail jumped from $1.7B to $11B overnight. This type of apples to oranges comparison seems irresponsible of the Seattle PI…

If the monorail fails someday, I would say that a definitely turning point happened around the time of the PI’s “$11 billion” article. After that, the Monorail Board and the City Council members had to start explaining economics in order to justify their positions, and this became a no-win situation. Both the Times and the PI ran articles describing how support was quickly evaporating.

Seattle Center FountainThen on July 1, the Monorail board rejected the complicated 50-year financing scheme which led to the resignation of Project Executive Director Joel Horn and Board Chairman Tom Weeks. The Seattle Weekly has since written a scathing article about Joel Horn.

Does this mean that the monorail project is dead in Seattle? Not necessarily. The acting director is working hard to attact a new director and sway public opinion back in favor of the monorail. However, the odds are definitely against the monorail at this point.

On Friday (7/15) the editorial board from the Seattle PI, which has generally been a supporter of the monorail, gave an editorial which asks for the final nail to be put in the coffin of the project. (This had the anti-monorail voices over at the Sound Politics blog jumping for joy, or as one writer put it: “Stunned. Encouraged, but stunned.”)

Can’t get enough monorail information? Here’s a list of my resources:

Bus Monster! WOW!

bus monsterI just ran across the best google map hack yet:
Seattle Bus Monster

and the more I browse the site, the more impressed I am.

Some of the things to notice:

  • real time bus location information with estimated arrival times!
  • real time traffic cameras
  • bus stop information
  • the ability to search for a bus top and/or route
  • route markers drawn over google maps!

Everything about the site is professionally done. For example, try typing in “2nd and Spring” when searching for “bus stops”. The site will return all the 2nd and spring locations in King county!

Play around and I think you will find that Chris Smoak has made the life of Seattle transit commuters MUCH easier.

Zoom… monorail agreement finally reached

107 0791 IMGThe Seattle Times is reporting that an agreement has finally been reached to build the monorail. As stated in a previous post, you can be pretty sure that high-capacity transit will increase property values.

On a related note, does it seem odd to anyone else that they announced the agreement on a Friday afternoon?

After all, this is the only positive news that’s come out of the Monorail agency in months, and then they effectively bury the story… Of course, the completion data of December 2010 is later than initial forecasts, but at this point, I’d like to see some construction in order to know that all parties are serious about building this thing.