Oregonian columnist Steve Duin has fun feeling superior to Seattle, calling the Big Bad City to the North "a mass transit basket case." But he does find something to praise, even if he drips with condescension, and that's the Seattle Streetcar, fondly known as the SLUT. Duin likes the idea, a steal from Portland, of course, not because it's a serious transit solution but because the name is so funny.
Here's some of the flavor from the column, as Portland gets its own back:
The transportation yahoos in the Emerald City can't figure out how to get light rail across the 520 Bridge. They've been paralyzed for years over what to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The Seattle Monorail Project, designed to connect downtown with Ballard and West Seattle, imploded after its booster club spent millions of dollars and condemned dozens of properties.
And the city's international airport won't have light-rail service until late 2009, or eight years after the first MAX cars rolled into PDX.
But if Seattle can't get a grip when it comes to mass transit, it clearly has a sense of humor: May I present the South Lake Union Trolley, which connects Westlake Center's Fantasy Unlimited sex shop and the Hooters at Chandler's Cove, and — not surprisingly — goes by the charming acronym, "the S.L.U.T."
Seattle does so many things well — notably clam strips, ferry rides, tattoo expos and farming out first-ballot Hall-of-Famers to baseball towns with serious World Series' aspirations — that it's entertaining to find something that the city does so much worse than Portland.
Trying to be fair-minded, Duin rides the SLUT and actually finds people using it, and liking it. He admires the irreverent name and the Kapow! coffee shop that is selling SLUT T-shirts and protesting the way the neighborhood is getting slicked up. He thinks the streetcar should be called a yuppie lunch wagon, rather than the shape of transit systems to come. If we think it is the wave of transit's future, then "all meaningful converrsation about public transportation in Seattle will come with a laugh track."
Apparently imitation of Portland's popular streetcar is not flattery enough. And as for having the last laugh, here's this comment from Emory Bundy, one of our leading light-rail critics. Bundy notes that Metro's 194 express bus from downtown to the SeaTac Airport takes 33 minutes to go 15 miles, while Portland's MAX light rail takes 44 minutes for its six mile trip from downtown Portland to the PDX airport. Too, transit ridershare and patronage in benighted Seattle is better than in Portland, according to Bundy. Portland's transit system may be cute and European-looking and cherished by the natives, but it's all on street level and so is pokey and doesn't have a lot of capacity.
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