Repeat after me: Federal Way is NOT rural.

Erica C. Barnett was a guest on The Stranger’s “Dear Science” podcast, which is hosted by Jonathan Golob, who was himself a guest on “The David Goldstein Show” just recently.

Here’s my transcript of the clip.


But the downside of [light rail developement from Seattle to Tacoma] is that in Tacoma, the rail line they were takiing about building was going out to relatively undeveloped area. And so, then you’re kind of spuring sprawl. Is it a good thing that your spuring sprawl that’s served by rail? Or would it be better to go to somewhere that’s marginally developed and build that up? Which is what’s happening in the rest of Seattle. Tacoma is south of Seattle, and that’s the part of the project was controversial.

Erica did get one thing right. Tacoma is south of Seattle.

Jonathan Golob continues:

Yeah, it was a long extension through semi-rural areas.

Do these people even live in Washington state? Do they read maps? Do they get out of town much?

SW King County is inside the Urban Growth Boundary, which means that it isn’t- by definition- rural. Carnation is rural. Eatonville is rural. Federal Way is fuck-all else, but it ain’t rural.

Listen to the podcast. Besides this, Golob does a good show and it’s worth listening to.

Even if he’s never been to Federal Way.


  1. 2

    please pay attention spews:

    Since Erica and Josh are too lazy to actually go to Federal Way and see what it is like–perhaps they could try this little exercise. Go to Google Maps or Google Earth, put in Federal Way, look at the satellite photos. Tell me if it is in any way rural. Or anyplace close to the urban growth boundary.

    If they can’t see it from Capitol Hill, it simply doesn’t exist…

  2. 3

    Ryan spews:

    You’re right, Federal Way isn’t rural.

    It’s hell and everyone knows hell is a poorly planned suburb lined with miles and miles and miles of strip malls.

  3. 5


    Yeah, no kidding. You could look it up! People per square mile of various locales:

    Seattle: 6717
    Federal Way: 3959
    Tacoma: 3864
    Bellevue: 3563
    Redmond: 2848
    Tukwila: 1927
    Kirkland: 4220
    Kent: 2836
    Des Moines: 4616
    Renton: 2939
    Maple Valley: 2617 (!!)

    … And just for fun:
    Atlanta, GA: 3161

    That’s right, a number of Seattle suburbs are as dense or more dense than a major US city. Data here.

  4. 6


    Actually, Wikipedia has different numbers than the first place I looked, so it’s about even.

    Population densities along the main corridors
    Everett – 3,106.7/sq mi
    Lynnwood – 4,430.2/sq mi
    Seattle – 6,901/sq mi
    Des Moines – 4,616.5/sq mi
    Federal Way – 3,959.4/sq mi
    Tacoma – 3,984.2/sq mi
    Bellevue – 3,807.3/sq mi
    Redmond – 1,274.3/sq mi

    Bothell – 2,502.2/sq mi
    Issaquah – 1,330.9/sq mi
    Carnation – 1,728.4/sq mi
    Eatonville – 1,176.4/sq mi

  5. 7

    please pay attention spews:

    The population estimates for 2005 are 85,800 making it Washington’s 7th largest city.

    Population, 2003 estimate 81,711
    Population, percent change, April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2003 -1.9%
    Population, 2000 83,259 5,894,121
    Population, percent change, 1990 to 2000 X 21.1%

    Persons per square mile, 2000 3,959. Hardly rural.

  6. 9


    Um, hey nerds, thanks for all the trivia. But you’re missing the point, as summed by please pay attention: “if you can’t see it from Capital Hill, it simply doesn’t exist”. Hmmmm… based on the other posts about the Stranger, anyone else see a pattern here?

  7. 10



    What’s wrong with Bothell?

    In the nature of “repeat after me’s?”

    Repeat after me: Light rail isn’t worth it! Too much dough for not enough go…$2 in taxes for $1 in benefits…

    The Piper

  8. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Erica seems clueless. What was controversial was (1) light rail’s cost, and (2) who would pay for it. The discussion of the projected low ridership and high cost-per-ride of the Tacoma segment was merely a subset of the controversy over the entire project’s cost-inefficiency.

  9. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    To put things in perspective, building 4 new ferries for the Port Townsend – Keystone run, which serves 370,000 cars and 778,000 passengers a year, costs less than 1% of Phase 2.

  10. 13


    @ 9

    Good luck with starting a new weekly.

    Even though I like to poke the Stranger kids, I still appreciate their work.

    @ 10

    Other than the fact that it is both “Bot” and “Hell”? Nothing. It’s a joke, but you took it seriously.

  11. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Of course, that doesn’t make the ferries cheap, by any stretch of the imagination. The cost of a ferry ride on that route is probably $15 to $20 when you factor in operating and maintenance costs, and if you assume a 50-year service life for the vessels. If Prop. 1 had passed, a light rail ride would have cost $25 to $30, exclusive of operations and maintenance. But another important difference is that 75% of the ferry system’s costs are paid for directly by those who ride the ferries, whereas light rail riders would have been very heavily subsidized through regressive general taxes.

  12. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    It won’t surprise me if light rail proponents learn nothing from Prop. 1’s defeat, and believing it was defeated because of roads, come back with a stand-alone light rail proposal that is just as grandiose, every bit as costly, and relies on the same taxes.

  13. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Perhaps that should be reworded slightly:

    It won’t surprise me if light rail proponents learn nothing from Prop. 1’s defeat, and (wrongly) believing it was defeated because of roads, come back with a stand-alone light rail proposal that is just as grandiose, every bit as costly, and relies on the same taxes.

  14. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Last time I was in Federal Way I saw lots of stores and traffics, but no cows or pastures.

  15. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 You actually expect a newspaper to get anything right? Newspapers publish “news,” not facts.

  16. 20

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    >Erica did get one thing right. Tacoma is south of Seattle.
    Nice one… Will must be taking a shot at olbermann for saying denver was west of the rockies. Classic oblermann, clueless.

  17. 21



    Rural – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “In the Rural Information Center’s publication, What is Rural? “many people have definitions for the term rural, but seldom are these rural definitions in agreement. For some, rural is a subjective state of mind. For others, rural is an objective quantitative measure. Metropolitan/urban areas can be defined using several criteria. Once this is done, nonmetropolitan/rural is then defined by exclusion — any area that is not metropolitan/urban is nonmetropolitan/rural. Determining the criteria used has a great impact on the resulting classification of areas as metro/ nonmetropolitan or urban/rural.” The US Census Bureau and the United States Department of Argiculture’s Economic Research Service have come together to help define rural areas.”

    Actually, Will recently posted a cliam that only the high density, family impaired areas of Seattle are truly urban .. thus making my side (where the Catholics live) of Capital Hill “rural.”

    Of course, if the denizenhs of a “rural” area are rubes, then classically it seems to me that Kent is full of Rubes.

    Then we have wine country, aka Woodenville, where the vineyards presence to be at, doesn’t the prescience of psuedo French Chateaus and a few grape arbors, make a place “rural?’

    Howsa about Whisby Islamd with all of the gentle folks who live there ,, they ain’t rubes but they think they live in a rural paradise (I agree).

    As for the fallacy of “density” .. does this correct for physical featuures like mountains or lakes? What county is Mt. Si?

    Actually, I’ll betcha the lowest population density for some distance is the K.C. Airport … an unincorporated part of Seattle with, at last count 13 homeless people living in carcboard boxes. Does that count as a rural too?

    All fun aside, I know Jonathon Golub rather well, we works one lab from me. Nice guy! W?O giving more away, JG lives in an apartment on the very non-rural side of Cap Hill, overlooking (assuming he is on the view side) the beautiful ne Allantown development sporting alongst the SLU tracks.

    Like Will, however, JG doesn;t have a car so his chance to experience the glories of Northwest rural life are .. well limited.

  18. 22


    Actually, Will recently posted a cliam that only the high density, family impaired areas of Seattle are truly urban

    Show me the post where I said that.

  19. 23



    With the HA Happy Hooligans, one can never tell…

    But beware! People in Bothell have been sensitive about that for years. There used to be a sign at the edge of town just as 522 morphs from highway to Bothell Way that said, “Welcome to Bothell…For a day, or a lifetime.”

    Vandals routinely spraypainted over the “Bot” such that it became necessary to eventually remove the sign. So, it’s no wonder that those who call Bothell home – or at least who call Bothell the home of their business – seek to clarify such references.

    As for Federal Way? Go to the Weyerhaeuser Co. corporate headquarters and wander their gardens…you’ll think you were in a forest.

    The Piper

  20. 25



    Maybe I was wrong but I remember is a thread where you were talking abut the new Seattle-ites. I will look, if I ma wrong, I owe you a beer.

  21. 26

    Blake R spews:

    “You’re right, Federal Way isn’t rural. It’s hell and everyone knows hell is a poorly planned suburb lined with miles and miles and miles of strip malls. ”

    Ryan typifies the Ron Sims / Sierra Club proud-of-their-dumbshit-status camp.

    South King strip malls mean large parking lots, crap structures and large parcels.

    Large parking lots, crap structures and large parcels mean easily convertible to density, with little or no Seattle-style NIMBY whining.

    Ryan, pull your head out of your ass, and rub some brain cells together before you post next time.

    We can always count on Piper Scott and Roger Rabbit to corner the market on ignorant comments.

  22. 27



    I found what I remembered and the post was not by you .. so I do owe you a beer.

    here is the post:

    “Guest from Dalllas says:

    Jew person from Seattle – you are stuck in the past. A romantic version of the past and a crop of old dead buildings.

    The drawing of the new building is quite attractive. Are you expecting les Palais de Rue Pine – dream on. C. Hill has always been working class, bedrooms for downtown, walking distance, easy bus, 8.00 cabs….

    As to the birth rate – have you ever paid attention to the number of gays and lesbians in Seattle. Lots. I am one. We do not have large families, despite a lot of sex. Duh.

    Our function in nature is to brake population explosion, as well as cutting hair, and selling fashion and waiting tables, and running most cities. ”

    Obvioulsy this not only does not say what I thought it daid, it is not even by you.

    Can I say whyt this matters to me? When I first met you and
    others at DL I was really taken aback. I have lived as a sometimes activist in Seattle for nigh on to 40 years, In that time the activists have never been condo living, down towners. Who did live down town? Some alkies and a few affected very rich folks.

    I was aware of the growth of condoes along the water front and in the Regrade but sorta kind didn’t think poeple lived tghere … I guess I thought of all that stuff as being more like long stay hotellery than people’s homes.

    Spme of what I hear from people living in rge Rgrade is radically different from my “stuck in the past” ideas of Seattle and why it is or was a special place. To tak eone example, one night at DL I was involved with a conversation about the SAAM (Seattle Ain’t Art Museum). What you may not know is that SAAM’s downtown establishment was despised by most of the radical art community, or at least the coterie I hung around with, for three reasons:

    WARNING: The following contains SUBJECTIVE JUDGMENTS that may offend some people.

    1. most of the collection was third-rate versions of whatever was big in NH, while superb NW art was not recognized.

    2. The building by Venturi was a poor imitation of a shopping center with no originality.

    3. The choice of “hammering man” was an insult to a number of NW sculptors .. esp folks from the coastal tradition.

    So …. I was astonished that night to find that folks ,living downtown actually liked the Hammering man . De gustibus non esse disputandum aside, this made me begin t realize that Seattle id fragmenting. There is anew and failry large community of folks who do not see Seattle in its traditional light as a worklace locates near to the mountains, lakes, and sound.

    To quote a famus Jewish prophet of the early 21st century .. “Who woulda thunk?”

    Anyhoo …

    I owes you a beer.

  23. 29

    thor spews:

    In addition to actually understanding what is on the ground now, it is also important to focus on what densities places can make work 30 years from now.

    Federal Way and other points south, north, east and west of Seattle are going to need to support a ton more people within the same places than they have now, 30 or so years from now. And most are getting ready for it, including Federal Way. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to anybody posing as a journalist around here and gabbing on talk radio.

    This region accepts a lot of sloppy reporting and commentary by people who actually few clues about what they are talking about. Why is that?

    These reporters from the Stranger can be excused (until they get pushed up as some sort of experts to fill time on a talk show.) They are green and paid to be that way. Cute but ultimately dumb.

    The really stupid problem is going on at Seattle’s major dailies – where the reporting on transportation and growth has been seriously misinformed and where there is little evidence of interest in correcting things. The editors and editorial staffs at both Seattle dailies seem more interested in gotcha stories than much real. This is a serious problem.

    The editorial pages of both newspapers are even worse. This is a long term problem. You can’t exactly clean the slate and expect what’s required: which is serious journalism based on sound reporting by people experienced within the place where we live.

    It is missing around here in major ways. Major serious ways.

    And it it isn’t fixed someone better come up with an alternative that can hold things together.

  24. 30

    me spews:

    “Will, 11/27/2007, 12:01 PM
    Federal Way is fuck-all else, but it ain’t rural”

    Will, you sir are an A*se!! Your ignorance and idiocy are so very apparent by your post. Please retract! You might as well be a racist by your post as we have many many different people living in Federal Way that would extremely upset by your comments. What city do you live in and lets examine the facts about that and post equally ‘stupid’ comments?

  25. 31

    Mr. Yuck spews:

    Whether or not Federal Way is rural is not the point. The point is that is ridiculous to run light rail 30 miles out form Seattle (and that’s only one direction). We have Sounder — beef up that service so that people can use it more than just in commuting hours and add more reverse commute service. We have the stations — adding capacity to that corridor has to be cheaper than trying to punch through a whole new line — run a fucking bus to FW from Tacoma. Why anyone would want to go to FW in the first place is a separate question that has no answer…

    And yes, ECB is a twit.

  26. 32

    fuck federal way spews:

    Federal Way, Tukwila, White Center, Burien, Kent, Renton, Bothell, and Woodinville are all individual sebaceous glands in the armpit of the universe.

    If you just bought a home in anyplace other than Bellevue, Kirkland (Juanita does NOT count), or Civilized Seattle (established neighborhoods a la Laurelhurst, Capitol Hill, Fremont, Wallingford, Green Lake, etc) I truly pity you. You were horribly ripped off. Enjoy being upside down on that fat mortgage and your 3 hour commute!

    Now please, get the fuck out of my region. I can’t wait for all of you to go horribly bankrupt and move back to whatever shithole you came from.

  27. 33

    michael spews:

    Thanks for reminding me why I never read The Stranger. Btw, 80% of the people who live in Pierce County work in Pierce County. I’m not sure what the big push to serve the 20% who work outside the county is all about.

  28. 34


    @ 33

    First of all, prove it. Second, what does ALL of Pierce County have to do with it? I’m talking about the I-5 corridor.

  29. 36

    Don Ward spews:

    This is late as I haven’t had time to come over here lately so…
    Thanks for the Eatonville loving Will. And you are so right here.
    Now, back to our regularly scheduled feuding…