Friday Roundup: Tech and NY real estate, public records in Olympia, tolling for infrastructure and congestion relief

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

New Geography: New York’s Tech Sector Gobbling Up Real Estate 

Google, which already owns a gigantic building in Manhattan, is buying Chelsea Market for $2.4 billion

But it is only the latest example of an internet behemoth, and even smaller tech companies, expanding rapidly in New York City.

Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce, a cloud computing company, and Spotify, a music streaming service, are all enlarging their footprints here by hundreds of thousands of square feet. Employment at technology firms has grown three times faster in New York City than in the rest of the private sector, adding more than 50,000 jobs since the end of the recession in 2010, according to a report by the state comptroller.

Seattle Times: Insistence on public-records secrecy for lawmakers is slap in the face to the public they serve

A judge told state legislators a month ago that they were breaking the law by refusing to release their emails, calendars and other working documents to the public.

Now, rather than comply with the court’s order and disclose the information they illegally withheld, your elected lawmakers are trying to cram through a bill to remove themselves from the state’s Public Records Act — a blatant attempt to circumvent the court ruling and keep their past communications and other records private.

E21: Tolls Can Fund Infrastructure and Reduce Congestion

A major objective of tolls is to let paying drivers travel more quickly. If some vehicles, say, high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs), are to be exempt from payment, tolls would have to be higher than otherwise for nonexempt vehicles to achieve the speed objective. But since HOVs impose the same costs as single-occupancy vehicles, exempting HOVs makes little economic sense. (Hotels do not offer free rooms to people willing to share them.) Tolls themselves already encourage car sharing, and counting the people in vehicles has always been difficult. The claim that the HOV exemption significantly increases car sharing is not borne out by evidence. Many HOVs carry family members who would travel together even without a toll exemption.

The Lens: Is your county “rural” enough?

State lawmakers behind a bipartisan proposal to reduce the business and occupation (B&O) tax rate for manufacturers say they want to help rural Washington catch up with the rest of the state and boost the state’s struggling manufacturing sector. But some legislators say the legislation’s definition doesn’t match what one would normally consider “rural.”

The dispute led several Republicans on the House Finance Committee to vote against HB 2992Feb. 19, just days after its introduction.

“Being on one side or the other of the White River, or the crest of the Cascades does not define rural,” Rep. Drew Stokesbary (R-31) remarked. “I would challenge any of you to come back to my district and tell me that I do not represent rural areas.”

Seattle Times: Seattle plan for free transit for students among most generous in nation, mayor says

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal to make buses and light rail free for public high-school students would make Seattle the largest city in the country to offer free transit service to students, the mayor’s office said.

Fewer than half of bus agencies across the country even offer a discounted (half price or better) fare for high-school students, according to the American Public Transportation Association.