In wake of tough news for Metro, ‘Gentrification Stops Here’ activists target E Madison Microsoft shuttle

As early returns show King County voters rejecting a sales tax and car tab increase to fund Metro buses, the group targeting one of the area’s largest employers’ fleet of private shuttles struck again Wednesday morning blocking a Microsoft bus on E Madison just past 23rd.

The Stranger’s Ansel Herz  has details:

At 8:15 this morning, four masked activists blocked a Microsoft Connector shuttle bus at the intersection of 23rd and Madison for forty minutes, stretching “Gentrification Stops Here” banners across the front and back of the vehicle. The driver nudged forward, bumping one of them once, then killed the engine and got on the phone. After a few minutes, several passengers—apparently tired of waiting—got off the bus and hurried off. I caught up with one, a Microsoft employee who didn’t want to give his name, and asked him what he thought. “I see both sides of the issue,” he said, still walking away. “I don’t hate them.” When a police car approached, the activists walked off and the shuttle vehicle pulled away.

According to East Precinct radio dispatches, the protesters blocking the corporate shuttle fled as soon as police arrived just after 8:30 AM.

In February, protesters blocked a Microsoft bus on Bellevue near Pine with the “Gentrification Stops Here” banner. Another incident targeted Amazon workers the next day.

While the activists might have a difficult time making the case for true displacement and gentrification in neighborhoods like Pike/Pine and South Lake Union, the changes in the Central District might make for a better case — especially as new development in the area begins moving forward. Madison Valley? Not so much.

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43 thoughts on “In wake of tough news for Metro, ‘Gentrification Stops Here’ activists target E Madison Microsoft shuttle

  1. Serious question: What can middle class folk in Seattle that support equality in housing and want to live in the same neighborhoods at the same time do to prevent displacement and encourage community? I live in the neighborhood and would like to help out, although not in the form of physical protest.

    • I forget. Are we supposed to be for or against “apodments”? It seems like those should provide affordable housing, so I guess supporting them is good? It does seem like to get diversity in neighborhood occupancy, you want diversity in size/level of housing options (so more people can have available something that meets their price point).

  2. The article says they blocked the shuttle for 40 minutes starting at 8:15. And the article also says they fled when the police arrived at 8:30. So 15 minutes is now 40 minutes?

  3. I am so confused. It seems we are always asking corporations to “pay their fair share” in terms of wages, etc. so that their employees aren’t burdens on public systems (think Walmart employees on Medicaid or Food Stamps). And yet, here, Microsoft is literally taking cars off the road, or at a minimum freeing up spots on our strained bus system through a shuttle bus for employees, and this is a bad thing? Seattle is really losing me, and I consider myself a very progressive liberal advocate. Seems we like to cut off our nose to spite our face. Ugh.

    • I agree. Is the implication that Microsoft should have offices in Seattle? If so, wouldn’t that come at the expense of existing properties, most likely those already housing small businesses or low-income occupants?

      • 320 Westlake Ave. N?

        I can only imagine what would happen to the rents in CH, SLU and Belltown if Microsoft were to hire and relocate 20,000 in Seattle.

    • I’d rather see companies stop dodging their tax obligations and pay into public infrastructure. Simply getting your employees to work isn’t exactly model corporate citizenship.

      • Sure, of course. But even if the shuttle is purely for PR, which i don’t think it is, many big companies and hospitals take trip reduction very seriously, and should not be criticized for it. Microsofties gentrifying the CD through their personal home purchases is such a different issue that the company essentially creating their own transit system, which should be applauded not derided. Seriously ridiculous.

      • Yeah but is microsoft really responsible for our backwards tax structure? Even if every employee voted in the most regressive way possible, it wouldn’t explain our (as a county/state) desire to become a libertarian hellscape

      • “No Confusion”? I’d say you’re plenty confused. For every 1 MS employee riding The Connector, there are 10 or 20 others riding Metro paid for entirely by Microsoft. Plus most Connector riders also ride Metro sometimes. And who the hell do you think paid the overwhelming % of the cost to build the Overlake Transit Ctr? Try getting off CapHill once in awhile, pop on over to the MS campus and see just how many Microsoft workers are riding Metro paid entirely by MS (including contractors). Then maybe you’ll know a bit about what you’re taking about.

      • JimS:

        THANK YOU and AMEN. I happen to be one of those evil MS employees who oppresses the poor by riding Metro every day (paid for by MS), and then come home and spend my money on local businesses on Cap Hill. Shame on me! Please vilify me, I deserve it! And I know I’m not the only evildoer who does this.

      • I am also one of those “evil” Microsoft people who takes Metro and Sound Transit paid for courtesy of Microsoft to support our transit systems in order to reduced trip congestion and keep another SOV off the road. I spend a majority of my money in the Central District and Capitol Hill neighborhoods supporting those communities. I live in the CD (did prior to working for Microsoft) and have not taken the Connector only because the stops are further from my house and less convenient than Metro. But of course with Prop 1 failing, I may have to reconsider that down the road if routes I use end up being cut (some are on the list) and/or the remaining routes become so overtaxed that the current benefit of Metro and Sound Transit that I take becomes too burdensome.

        I likewise do not understand this angst against a corporation trying to do a good thing by providing paid for Orca passes for public transit, plus their own fleet of busses and shuttles to help reduce congestion and impact. They even offer a number of paid for taxis rides per year from your office so that you have an option if you take either the public or private transit fleet to work, and then have to work late, or have an emergency and need to get back home outside of reasonable transit hours.

        Is the rule here that people who work for Microsoft (or other companies like Amazon) are not “allowed” to live in places like Capitol Hill, Central District, SLU, Ballard, etc? Do I get a “pass” if I lived on Capitol Hill or in the CD before I started working at one of those companies? How about if I am a lifelong native of those neighborhoods? Am I still evil then? Am I evil if I went to school to get an education that would open up the opportunity to work in this field because it is what I enjoy and do a good job at it?

      • No, you are not evil….far from it. You are a responsible, employed person who cares about your neighborhood, and you are most welcome!

      • Touchy touchy. All I said was that I’d prefer it if they paid their full tax burden, and that getting their employees to work is a pretty low bar for corporate citizenship. Sorry it annoys you, but Microsoft, just like every other company, does everything they can to skirt their tax obligation, and it’s at least part of the reason why this country has such shit infrastructure in the first place.

    • An excellent point, kgdlg. Microsoft’s Connector service and its support of LINK light rail is in stunning contrast to Boeing, which offers its workers very little support for leaving their cars at home. I don’t believe Boeing even runs shuttles between its major locations, much less to get employees to work from home. My only serious worry is that private services like Microsoft Connector can draw riders away from Metro. In practical terms, however, that doesn’t happen, because getting to Redmond from anywhere in Seattle other than downtown involves multiple transfers. So I think Microsoft is taking cars off the road (and giving their employees more residential choices in the process) rather than taking riders away from Metro.

      • I don’t know how the deal is structured but Microsoft provides its employees with unlimited ride ORCA cards. I would guess they’re paying Metro a flat or per-employee fee for that.

        That means they’re funding Metro even for riders who take their own Connector shuttles.

  4. Well, in a few years they will be living in Columbia City and Rainier Beach and I will cease to care.

    Seriously. When artists make a neighborhood nicer it is ‘rejuvenation’ and then when other people do so, it is ‘gentrification’, which people have tried to turn into a dirty word.

    • Yeah I am always confused by the whole anti-gentrification concept. I think gentrification means making the neighborhood nicer and reducing crime. I guess people are against boring apartment buildings, but I am not sure this kind of effort is a helpful way to combat that.

      • Making the neighborhood nicer and reducing crime only seems to happen when rich white people move in, and it only seems to happen with an increase in property value that puts a neighborhood increasingly beyond the reach of people who may have been there for years. Why do people have to get displaced to make a neighborhood nice? What kind of inhumane logic requires that poor people go find somewhere else to live because you want a good deal on your next step up the property ladder?

      • If they are there for years, why don’t they purchase a stake in the area?

        If it is a low income area, then surely there is something they can afford?

        I won’t cry any tears for renters who have to move. That is part of the renting game.

      • Let them eat cake?

        I imagine they don’t purchase a stake because they can’t afford to.

        This whole protest is dumb. Tons of MS employees lived on Cap Hill before they started the shuttles, so it’s not like adding the shuttles has made more MS employees move to the neighborhood in sufficient numbers to drive rents up. The shuttles keep people from driving or even needing to own a car. And it’s not like MS didn’t try to work with KC Metro to improve bus service before they provided the shuttles.

      • I don’t know. I understand the concept of supply and demand, but I feel really bad for people whose rent just went up say 40%. Not to mention, moving costs money, as does a longer commute. I don’t rent, but I get tired of hearing the constant refrain of “if you can’t afford it, move, nobody has a right to live here”. There’s something very callous about that attitude.

  5. I agree with Paul on Bellevue. Also, you want to send all those who can’t afford to own or rent way out to the suburbs at the same time as you cut all the buses while increasing prices. Many of us can’t afford cars, either, so you’re basically saying we shouldn’t be allowed to access the city at all. Seriously? And then many of the same people wonder why the rest of us are feeling angry….

  6. The irony is that if Microsoft had started somewhere else, seattle would be far less visible, and most of us would have moved to another city. Cap hill could’ve been as exciting as Bremerton.
    Unless you’re a native here since birth we’re all part of this gentrification. All this finger pointing is childish.

  7. I’m frightened to see what this May Day brings. You can only push people so far until the dam breaks. These protests are nothing to whats to come in a few years. Mark my words. A city should be able to be a place for everyone to live not just a few. Oligarchy. Eat your artisan toast and live in your bubble as the pitchforks poke.

  8. So…Microsoft which pays for bus/transit passes and also has it’s own transportation is at fault here?

    It would clearly be better if Microsoft moved to Chicago also right?

    No and no, people with misguided anger, entitlement and guilt are the problem. I’m sure on May day a few Starbucks will be targeted because “it’s the man.

  9. They should be protesting new housing developments if they’re mad about gentrification. Blocking a bus from taking people to work is worse than pointless, it makes your entire group look ridiculous.

    It’s like when gas prices got really high and there was a Facebook movement telling people “don’t buy gas on Tuesdays. That’ll stick it to BP and Exxon.” Yea okay sure. Idiots.

  10. When I moved here 15 years ago I found it crazy that CD ramshackle homes sold for $450k. I mean that’s the kind of house payment a doctor in most communities would make. For a house that’s about to fall over! You not only need to work to initially obtain what you have but need to continue to work hard to maintain your place in the rat race. Rest on your laurels and the next ‘up and comer’ will take your place.

    Seattle needs all the alternatives to automobiles it can get. Corporate sponsored or on the backs of the car and home owners alternatives are good. These anarchists need to realize that much of the infrastructure they enjoy comes at a cost that others are paying. The recent bus vote should show them this. Fares only pay %20 of the cost to run the buses. Talk about subsidies!

  11. For all you confused about this I found the communique issued with this action. You can find it here . It’s worth the read. It seems like this action was done in part to tell a story that very few have heard or know about. This Weed and Seed program talked about in the communique is evil and seems to be the real force of gentrification in the C.D. and mircosoft and it empolyee capitalized on it….

  12. If your protest starts with the idea that Microsoft employees are conspiring to throw black people out of their homes, don’t be surprised if most people don’t take you seriously. People live where they want to live, and yes, neighborhoods change over time.

    Tides of Flame ran the story and is a pro-anarchy website. If you want to stop all gentrification then government needs to step in and zone streets and neighborhoods by household income. That seems opposite to the whole idea of anarchy.

    If the group’s main concern is with Weed and Seed, they should take their protests to the DoJ, FBI, and ATF. Blocking people from getting to work just makes you look stupid.

    Can’t wait to see what they’ll protest on May Day. Maybe there are some tourists downtown who need a reminder that Seattle hosts some crazy.

    • Well, I CAN wait to see what will happen on May Day. I wish the holiday would be eliminated, because it has become an open invitation for mayhem and violence by the anarchist types, at least in certain cities like Seattle. Hopefully, the SPD will squelch such activities this year and make some arrests if necessary. But better than that would be if we had a peaceful May Day for a change.

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