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Voters aside, Seattle is full speed ahead on rail

While the city's residents just rejected a tax that included $18 million for streetcar planning, Seattle's Transit Master Plan envisions devoting most of a 20-year effort to streetcar lines.

The South Lake Union Trolley: expansion of streetcars is under consideration in Seattle.

The South Lake Union Trolley: expansion of streetcars is under consideration in Seattle. Steve Morgan/Wikimedia Commons

Seattle’s decision-makers will soon be considering a $1 billion proposal to improve the city’s transit service. Due to be delivered to the City Council next March, the 20-year Transit Master Plan (TMP) reflects Mayor Mike McGinn’s vision of extending rail transit to city neighborhoods.

For a better part of a year the Seattle Department of Transportation, with the help of its consultant Nelson-Nygaard, has been developing the TMP.  A first draft, presented to a City Council committee on Sept. 27, is available for public review until the end of the year when a revised plan will be prepared.

A serious effort was made to get citizen input through community forums, focus groups, interviews, and online surveys. But the resulting TMP takes a problematic approach to improving transit in the city.

By embracing rail as the chief answer to our mobility and accessibility problems, and by allocating the lion’s share of the budget — $750 million — to rail, the TMP either glosses over or misses entirely some important options and issues.  The current draft:

  • Makes no attempt to analyze, test, and compare with rail, less costly alternatives such as measures that manage travel demand.
  • Ignores the city’s large backlog of transportation and other capital projects.
  • Lacks a realistic assessment of available funding, whether local, state, or federal.
  • Doesn’t acknowledge changes in personal vehicle technology that are already occurring and will grow considerably in the next two decades.
  • Assumes, incorrectly, that the performance of new transit can be predicted with certainty.

The plan proposes development of two new rail transit (rapid streetcar) corridors. One rail line would start in North Ballard and pass through Fremont on its way to Downtown. It would initially use the Fremont Bridge, but at some later time a new high-level bridge crossing the Ship Canal may be needed to avoid delays from bridge openings. Planning and design of the 7-mile line would begin in 2013, and construction would commence in 2017.

Construction of a second 6-mile rail line would follow in 2024, connecting the Roosevelt and University Districts to Downtown. Both lines would essentially be designed to fill a niche between the South Lake Union Streetcar and Link Light Rail in terms of speed and passenger capacity.

The phasing schedule for the plan suggests an early order of business is completion of a center city streetcar network that would connect the South Lake Union and First Hill streetcars (being developed by Sound Transit) and link Downtown with adjacent neighborhoods, including construction of a 2-mile branch to Lower Queen Anne starting in 2015. But defeat of Proposition 1, the car-tab measure, may push back that date since it contained $18 million for planning and design of the connector.

Sixteen corridors have been identified for enhanced (priority) bus service. Frequency and capacity would be increased, and rider information and bus stop access would be improved. One corridor would have bus rapid transit (BRT) service, which has the operating characteristics of the rapid streetcar but is rubber-tired. The BRT line would originate on Capital Hill and run 2 miles down Madison Street to Coleman Dock on the waterfront. It was chosen since the steep grade effectively precludes rail.

The TMP includes measures that would enhance both the existing city’s bus-trolley system operated by Metro and service provided by other transit operators in the city: Community Transit, Pierce Transit, and Sound Transit.

A number of incentive and regulatory methods are mentioned that could be employed to encourage more transit usage and less auto usage. These incentives, that have proven to be effective in other cities, fall into the general category of Transportation Demand Management (TDM). Examples include employer-assisted measures: bus pass and vanpool subsidies, private shuttles, a guaranteed ride home for people working late hours, and parking cash-out. Cash-out involves a payment equivalent to the cost of employer-subsidized parking. The money can be used by the employee for transit and other non-SOV modes.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 5:48 a.m. Inappropriate

This plan exemplifies what I think of the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland school of public decisionmaking----quite popular here.

Mickey: Hey, I've got an idea; let's put on a show!

Judy: Yeh, we could use the old barn down by the crossroads!

Next scene: Mickey, Judy, and all their friends are shown singing and dancing together, leaving the barn and walking down the road, joined happily by people running out of their homes.

The streetcar solution is the most cost-ineffective we could choose among many transportation options. It would have high capital costs and would carry fewer people to fewer destinations than ordinary bus service.
It also would divert badly needed money from repair of the city's basic transportation infrastructure. The Council should have laughed it out of the chamber.

Former WDOT director Doug MacDonald characterizes light rail in the same terms in which the streetcar net should be characterized: "This is not a transportation project; it is a construction project."

Costs? Benefits? Priorities? There is no way such a proposal should get serious consideration.

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 7:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Who are Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland?

Just KIDDING! (?)

Anyway. I voted against the car tab measure, too, and $18 to study street cars is not money well spent in this economy when sidewalks are seldom and pot holes proliferating. However, it's not like street cars are all bunk. There are some really good reasons to use them, particularly in places where the street car infrastructure is fleshed out enough to compete with or complement buses. Yes, that is expensive to do.

But we do know from international experience that committed car drivers are less likely to use public transit if it means taking a bus and way more likely to use it if it means taking a street car: it's just "nicer," more comfortable, etc. People tolerate street cars for longer trips, too, whereas longer trips dissuade bus use. And, although it sounds silly, and it is, this effect still has a huge impact on traffic and pollution when you account for urban scales.

Also, overall operating costs over the lifespan of a line are almost always lower with street cars than with buses, and there are some serious environmental arguments in favor of street cars as well (though in Seattle this is less compelling with our many electrified buses). Street cars are more easily expansible, as well: if you have heavy ridership on a certain day or certain period, you have to deploy more buses and drivers, but with street cars you just add more cars to an existing train with an existing driver.

Despite street cars' occasional high-pitched rail sounds, which we've struggled with in some areas in Seattle, they really do make less noise overall than buses, and they are part of the urban landscape and integrated into street design. From international experience, we know that street car lines tend to increase the desirability of both residential and especially commercial properties along the route and particularly at stops; bus lines and stops do exactly, and dramatically, the opposite.

So there are huge disadvantages to street cars, too, not the least of which is their high up-front installation cost, but street cars have a lower total cost of operation and maintenance than buses over their lifespan than do buses (and the trains usually last twice as long as buses). Why else would frugal Germans and Japanese put them in everywhere? These are not cultures that typically throw good money after bad. They see the wisdom in high up-front costs and lower lifespan costs, combined with environmental benefits.

To my mind, the one consistent way in which Seattle short-changes itself on infrastructure projects again and again and again is to be miserly when starting a project but then happily spend way more money on maintenance, repair, etc., over the lifetime of the facility. This applies to our shoddy road construction, shoddy fake sidewalk construction, shoddy school infrastructure, aerial and not buried power lines, shoddy (and myopic) highway planning, and apparently also to shoddy long-term transit planning.

smacgry

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 8:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Spot on Mr. Nelson. Here's a comment I made over the weekend on STB's blog.
"Well, as long as we’re strolling down memory lane, what happened to riders since 1983. We doubled our numbers, so that’s good, right? But our fares went up a hell of a lot more than inflation.
Base fare of 60 and 90 cents for Peak 1 or 2 zone is now $2.50 or $3.00 If it kept up with inflation it should only have risen to $1.36 or $2.05.
An annual 2 zone peak pass was $313.50. Inflation should have jumped it to $712.68, but now it’s a whooping $1,296 (108/mo)
How have the non-rider tax payers been doing? (There the ones that pay most of the bills around here)
In 1972 transit got 3/10% of sales tax. That doubled in 1980 to 6/10ths. Now we’re up to 9/10ths on not one, but two transit agencies stumbling over one another to drum up business. So in just a generation, transit extracts six times the tax revenue from everyone, and just 50% over inflation on riders.
IS SEATTLE SPENDING IT ALL WISELY?"
Transit taxes on all residents of Seattle are six times what they were just 30 years ago and twice that of our nearest neighbor - Portland.
Just wait until Seattle chokes on the subsidies required of our shiny new rail systems which are running double and triple the cost of the bus lines they replaced or will shortly, not even counting debt and depreciation. These are costs that go on forever, year after year, grinding down a struggling economy. To all that misery and pain, add the insult to our grandchildren who will be on the hook to pay for all the madness.
Cart before the horse? You betcha, actually I'd say we're torching the cart before we even hitch the horse to it.

007

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 8:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Another transit expenditure for the UW? This is a good article and points out many of the flaws in transit planning. It's just not reality based and will require another study on top of this one. Then another. It seems the real goal is employment of planners and their office staff with the resulting political indebtedness. The expensive underlying planning problem is the hills and the water barriers. To often civic projects forget about things like rain, water, hills, or soil conditions while throwing money at these problems rather than devising solutions that are peculiar to Seattle.

chapala21

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 8:59 a.m. Inappropriate

The notion that voters rejected rail by defeating Prop 1 is absurd. Seattle voters have always shown strong support for rail every time it has been put before them. The problem was with the mix of projects and the method of funding.

Dick Nelson is also wrong to argue that we have an either/or choice between repairing roads and building rail. How do you get more life out of existing pavement? Use it less. One way you do that is by providing people with more options that don't require them to drive. We need to invest in repairing roads, yes, but those repairs will last longer if more people are riding the rails rather than hammering our pavement.

Finally, rail usually carries a lot more people than even bus rapid transit. I haven't seen this Transit Master Plan but I would assume it shows the same data.

junipero

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 9:08 a.m. Inappropriate

So where are the alternate plans of Prop 1 and rail opponents? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

And no, "build the Bay and RH Thomson" is not an answer.

alexjon

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

After frittering away 3-5 billion tax dollars on enormously expensive, congestion producing schemes for the viaduct replacement and the I-520 bridge termination to benefit a few special interests rather than commuters, our legislators and their pocket-experts are now pressing ahead with another most expensive, least efficient scheme for adopting rail.

However, based on our most recent election the voters must love it.

jmrolls

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 9:23 a.m. Inappropriate

I'd like street cars a lot better if the city would a) keep the one they had, ie the Waterfront Street car. But no, they only needed to build a maintenance shed and they couldn't manage that. and b) give them signal priority. I can walk faster than the SLUT if you factor in the average wait for a car to arrive. (7 1/2 minutes)

As a bicyclist though I hate the SLUT tracks. Street car tracks are a menace and the SLUT tracks in particular are worse than most being in the wrong lane.

Transit needs dedicated right of way to be better than anything else. It's because of station dwell time that most other modes are faster. If you give them a dedicated right of way then they can make up for the lost time stopping every time someone gets on or off.

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 9:43 a.m. Inappropriate

A new high-level bridge crossing the Ship Canal in the vicinity of the Fremont Bridge? Where's the right-of-way, unless it closely, and I mean very closely, parallels the Aurora Bridge?

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Sounds like bureaucrats trying to guarantee their jobs.

fgruben

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

"high-level bridge crossing the Ship Canal"

Where have I heard about that before for transit? Oh right, the monorail project which owned the land but died from lack of a tax base to build it. And what has changed since that project failed? Not the tax base, that got worse with the economic recession that continues. Cheaper construction? Well maybe labor is cheaper but fuel, concrete and steel aren't.

Thing is an elevated transit system is faster than a surface based one because of it's dedicated right-of-way. It's cheaper than tunneling by far.

Whether a large cars system like Monorail or sky train system is better than a small car system like PRT like Heathrow has yet to be penciled out.

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 10:47 a.m. Inappropriate

Here's a Heathrow video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SIvJN8jSBE

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 10:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Why not Gondolas? Smaller footprint, exponentially cheaper (millions for a build out, not billions), non congestive to other traffic and entertaining besides.

This link shows an illustration

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=177094

ruffner

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 11:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Completely tone deaf. How much did we pay for this study/waste of paper? As the article points out, most trips from home are not straight downtown and then straight back again. This plan appears to assume that they will be, on no evidence apparently. We need our streets fixed, we need the least expensive solutions, not rail lines here and rail lines there. Cars will not be able to travel (which some, I know, would be delighted about, but which is not realistic), and more neighborhoods would have to learn to live with the noise and the visual clutter of rail lines. I've driven through the Rainier valley several times since that line went in, and it is UGLY! All those black and blue needle/claw things. Who wants that in their neighborhood? I don't. Aren't we sick YET of subsidizing these fantasies? I think I read somewhere that the average bus ride costs quite a bit more than the fares charged, with guess who picking up the difference. It's time to do something realistic and reasonable. The person who suggested getting cars off the road would benefit street repairs is apparently living in an alternate universe. Trucks that deliver almost everything to everywhere we shop are the main cause of wear on the streets due to their heavy weight. Should we build freight lines along with the passenger ones? Please, let's have some sanity.

mspat

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 11:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Well Well, full on confusion once again...

Good idea? Bad idea? Some rail links save-able easy? But they're ignored?

Waterfront? No history to repeat there, obviously. Why even think of rail there? Impossible! Duuhh... Who'd want rail there? Today's leaders don't want it there even as their own fathers had two and grandfathers four there and those darn dockhands. Oh, Now I get it... Payback. Revenge? Puttin down the lower classes?

Washington State engineers are idiots or in least the whole cadre is infested with quite a few, plus their true believer hanger-ons. Both Mercer & the Waterfront Way street rearrangements are HORRIBLE. Don't make me repeat myself, you idiot hangers-on making a gooooooD paycheck.

And your good Mike is right & is NOT co-dough-co-operating with the establishment, and thank GOD for that. The cut-out for placing the giant 60' diameter bore machine also works for utilities and seawall reconstruction, and one more useful application I'll only leave the hint that it's abbreviation is CnC6La1M>LCMR.

The current streetcar study is mostly wasted space because the simplest rail extensions were rejected from the start; as usual from:
WashDOT-turrs who wut thinx they no's da rail wut way tah not do em after all dun spendin theirs munees.

Wells

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 2:49 p.m. Inappropriate

In regards to mspat's comment...... Sanity, in the Seattle City Hall. Please. Not a chance. Gordon Clinton ( may he rest in peace) was probably the last sane voice in that place.

fgruben

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 3:31 p.m. Inappropriate

I never cease to be amazed at the rail/bus fetishists' inability to grasp one simple concept: people place value on their time. It takes at least an hour to get just about anywhere, from anywhere, in Seattle; I could make those same trips in 20 minutes in my car, or on my scooter, far more cheaply than taking a bus.

In Portland, TriMet gets this, and is therefore a reasonable alternative. Seattle still seems to operate under the notion that public transportation is only for the underclass (except when it's a construction project [streetcar] or gentrification project [Link light rail]), so it simply isn't.

orino

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 3:32 p.m. Inappropriate

On a bus, that is. (Being able to edit your own comments would be a nice feature, Mr. or Ms. Crosscut webmaster... : D )

orino

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 3:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Today, environmentalists and corporatists are given to declarations of principles and intentions—manifesto. To make matters worse, governments are increasingly loth to clear up the distinction between manifesto, e.g. State Growth Management Act, and problem solving, e.g., State Environmental Policy Act.

At the least, this new Transit Manifesto "needs additional citations for verification" (Wikipedia's phrasing) and more to the point, needs to be treated to much more than the standard boilerplate for a Declaration of Non-Significance. The maintenance of deteriorating and missing infrastructure needs consideration front and center instead of dismissed as somebody else's problem.

But why think about the particular geography or actually resolving peoples' problems when the 40% of Seattle that votes is likely to be satisfied with the rhetoric that trolleys on tracks are cute. Or as Wikipedia cryptically phrases it at "trams:" "Since 1980 trams have returned to favour in many places, partly because their tendency to dominate the roadway, formerly seen as a disadvantage, is now considered to be a merit."

For citizens willing to conduct their own research there is always the blogosphere:
http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/how-paris-is-like-los-angeles.html
http://blog.charleyferrari.com/2011/11/decentralization-disservice-to-poor-or.html
http://www.thenewcityjournal.net/ruining_our_cities_to_save_them.htm

afreeman

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 3:39 p.m. Inappropriate

orino, run your cursor over the line above your post that reads "Posted Mon...." at any time after you hit submit comment and your goof shines back at you.

afreeman

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Nice to read an intelligent piece on transit. Overall, this column by Dick Nelson is pretty good. Streetcars and light rail are just stupidly expensive, and a disastrous waste of tax dollars.

The Tacoma Streetcar has operating costs about 3 times as high as ST Express buses. The streetcar costs about $400 per hour to operate and the buses cost about $130 per hour to operate.

The survey of Seattle voters opinions on transportation, done earlier this year, showed that expanding the streetcar system in Seattle was the lowest priority for transportation spending that they had, and was the only choice which had more respondents opposed to spending tax money on it than in favor.

Seattle voters recognize streetcars as an incredibly stupid waste of money. They do not support more streetcars in our city. Why is the Seattle city government wasting time and money on this? The stupidity of doing so is just blatant.

Lincoln

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 6:28 p.m. Inappropriate

There are many aspects of the TMP that are questionable at best. But I can't see the value of a "master" transit plan that only considers travel within the Seattle City limits. This plan ignores that fact that many people travel across the city limits daily to get to jobs and schools. To develop a plan that ignores this is irresponsible and a waste of time and money.

jd8686

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 9:40 p.m. Inappropriate

Dick Nelson is correct to be skeptical and analytical. Please note the TMP is draft. Nelson over states its text as recommendations; it has few. It aims to chart a 30-year course for Seattle to improve transit with a focus on capital and the allocation of lane space, curb space, and signal timing, all of which it controls. The existing transit master is out dated, as it included the stillborn SMP (monorail).

SDOT and Nelson Nygaard have two sets of bosses: the mayor and the council. So, the plan is torn between the mayor’s interest in rapid streetcar and the council’s skepticism of it, or at least opposition to the mayor. The plan has a good explanation for the difference between the very local short and slow streetcars, such as the one in SLU, and rapid streetcar as implemented in Toronto and several European cities. But the council still seems to favor the Vulcan-Nickels-Drago formulation. First, the council, sitting as Transportation Benefit District Board of Directors, included $18 million in planning (only) for extensions to the streetcars. Second, during the 2012 budget deliberations, limited the rubble yard study funds to the First Hill streetcar extensions.

Nelson correctly identifies the first key issue: the fiscal constraint. But the TMP also includes a chapter on that issue. Seattle has few available funds. In the near term, Seattle must fund its share of the deep bore project at about $900 million (e.g., Mercer West, the seawall, utility relocation, and the Elliott connector). Seattle also needs pavement management, repair or replacement of several bridges, and about $1 billion in sidewalks on arterials that lack them. Show me the money! In the near term, Seattle would be better off making sure the ST2 funds targeted for the First Hill Streetcar and Link north of Northgate were well spent. They seem headed in poor directions today.

The SMP attempts to demonstrate that there are corridors with sufficient demand to justify rapid streetcar. That is what the mayor wanted. That demonstration is necessary but insufficient to conclude that building the rapid streetcars would be the best transit investment for Seattle. As Nelson implies, that partly depends on the budget available. The plan lacks a means to compare marginal returns from alternative investments. There are three types of projects: the major corridors, the other dozen, and the city center improvements. Some of the most cost-effective and productive Seattle investments are probably in the third set. Before the first set are elevated to rapid streetcar, limited Seattle funds would probably be better spent improving several other corridors.

Consider the margin of global warming. Seattle could mitigate it by converting diesel transit to electric traction. But using a disproportionate amount of the city’s limited funds to shift one corridor to rapid streetcar has a high opportunity cost; it would mean that 10 other corridors would not be converted to BRT with electric trolleybus. The Eastlake line makes the strategic error of converting existing electric trolleybus to streetcar, or spending millions and making no progress on that margin. Before 1963, routes 7 and 8 ran every 2.5 minutes on Eastlake Avenue East; we can push the trolleybus mode to much higher service levels and capacity.

eddiew

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 9:54 p.m. Inappropriate

History and critical thinking are not dead after all. Thanks, eddiew.

afreeman

Posted Mon, Nov 21, 10:55 p.m. Inappropriate

Great article. I am always amazed when I see discussions about lane space, curb space, and signal timing as some kind of forward thinking, 21st century transportation vision. All of these things have been in application and refinement in most of the rest of the country since before there were even computers. Signal timing was accomplished with standard electro-mechanical traffic signals 60 years ago.

jmrolls

Posted Tue, Nov 22, 1:43 a.m. Inappropriate

@ Jmrolls: Right, but certain phrases just seem to roll of the tongue's of politicians easier than others. Sims like to throw out the 1000 signals of synchronization phrase to make the pitch for higher taxes. Not quite the same as 100,000 cops or teachers, but equally effective.
It's only a half a penny, or a latte a (fill in the blank) increase. Nice.
Signal timing is a great one, as it implies the signal will be green for YOU when you get there. That's a warm and cozy feeling.

007

Posted Tue, Nov 22, 10:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks, Dick, for the well-informed critique of the TMP.
The term "rail" should not even be used to dignify an utterly indefensible investment in streetcars, a 19th century, slow, awkward, inflexible technology that interferes with buses, pedestrians, bicycles, and seriously impedes normal car and truck flows. They are not romantic or even "cute". I'm almost 78, and grew up with streetcars, and I don't miss them.
Real rail works because and if it has its own right-of-way, serves a dense corridor, and can maintain higher speeds than cars and buses.
Rail is not more efficient, junipero, because a rail car can carry more people. Taking into account all costs and subsidies, buses and carpools are by far the most efficient modes. As Nelson notes, transportation demand management, that rewards bus use,ridesharing and carpooling is the most cost effective way to handle future growth in demand.

DMorrill

Posted Tue, Nov 22, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

I appreciated this article, but then I downloaded the TMP draft. Now I think that Dick grossly exaggerates the plan as recommending rail. First, it appears to me that the plan includes a broad set of recommendations to make all sorts of transit operate better, including some of the ones that Dick and other commenters argue for (e.g., TDM).

Part of the plan reports results from an effort to evaluate corridors for "High Capacity Transit" (HCT). While their numbers do show that rail is the cost-effective technology for two HCT corridors, they do not object to bus rapid transit as alternatives for the same service routes. I do not have a rail fetish, so it is good to see that they outline the detailed criteria for upgrading from bus service to rail (pages 3-10 through 3-13).

Finally, a word of appreciation for your wise mention of new mobility technology. This is a blind spot at WSDOT and among regional planning agencies. PSRC would be the proper place for such studies to be advanced, as local agencies must reference and rely on regional plans and projections in their plans. Nevertheless, much could be accomplished by actions such as shifting to small, hyper-mileage vehicles.

dddlev

Posted Wed, Nov 23, 1:47 p.m. Inappropriate

A bit off topic, but this is an interesting idea:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ballard-Spur-Light-Rail/235429863184758?sk=wall

1. This plan combines two identified high capacity transit corridors into one short (about 3 miles)/fast connection to the regionwide system. 2. Sample Travel Times: West Ballard to Capital Hill: 10 Minutes. West Ballard to Downtown: 12 Minutes. 3. The initial idea is to use a combinatio of a deep bore tunnel (Wallingford/Fremont) and cut and cover (Ballard stops.) 4. Due to the shortness of the line, and to save money, it may be possible to use a single tunnel (instead of 2) with one train. This would still mean headways of less than 10 minutes. 5. This line would likely win a competition for federal matching funds (500M) further bringing the cost down for Seattleites. 6. The current light rail plan will likely not bring light rail to ballard for 30 years or more. This is unacceptable. 7. A trolley/street car would cost almost as much but be slow/only a little better than a bus.

andy

Posted Fri, Nov 25, 2:40 p.m. Inappropriate

LRT? receives an 'Editor's Pick' yet writes "Now we’re up to 9/10ths [local sales tax] on not one, but two transit agencies stumbling over one another to drum up business."

He forgot to double that figure, because KC Metro gets 9/10th for itself and then Sound Transit gets another 9/10ths. To my knowledge they don't fight over it.

Posted Sat, Nov 26, 5:50 p.m. Inappropriate

The Transportation Master Plan sounds nice but once it has been completed it'll be time to start over. The city might save some money by letting private business figure it out. After all private companies manage to distribute food and clothing fairly successfully.

The February 6th 1915 issue of the "Electric Railway Journal" reported that 518 Seattle jitney buses “are carrying 49,000 passengers daily…”

Opening Seattle’s transit market to private bus companies, jitneys, and ride sharing taxis regardless of whether they are corporations or mom and pop part-time businesses will provide other alternatives and help reduce consumption of fossil fuels resulting in cleaner air, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, reduce city street congestion, save tax dollars and most importantly improve the lives of low income people while reducing the social problems associated with poverty.

A study from the National Academy Press notes that “The lack of personal mobility has economic, social and human costs, such as higher unemployment, reduced tax revenue, greater welfare and medical costs, and limited social potential.”
“Almost half of those without an automobile are persons 65 years or older, and of these, 81% are women.”
“...23% of full-time working mothers and almost 60% of part-time working mothers have non-traditional work hours. This reduces women’s ability to join carpools or find appropriately-scheduled transit options.”
“...nearly 40% of central city African-American households were without access to an automobile, compared to fewer than one of out five white central city households.”

If opening the market is too big a hurdle then perhaps contracting out the services might prove to be beneficial. Denver contracts out 50% of the operation from what I understand and has enjoyed the benefits. Then there are a number of European cities such as Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki that have also contracted out their operations from what I read and have done so with positive results.

Posted Sun, Nov 27, 8:36 a.m. Inappropriate

@ Tom: No, I said we're collecting six times as much sales tax as we did in 1972. (3/10th a cent x 6 is 1.8) The turf wars between Sound Transit and Metro could fill a good non-fiction novel.

007

Posted Sun, Nov 27, 8:48 a.m. Inappropriate

It seems to me that everyone knows that streetcars are stupid. Even the people who support them must know that they are stupid.

The SLUT is an absurd waste of resources for the taxpayers, a danger for bicyclists, a nuisance for drivers, and both slow and expensive for the riders. When I worked in South Lake Union I would get off the light rail at Westlake and, unless the SLUT was there at the moment I arrived at the station, I wouldn't bother with it. I could walk the distance in the time it took to wait for it. When I did ride it, I was never such a fool as to pay the $2.50 fare. Not only doesn't it take ORCA, but that price, for a ten-block ride, is INSANE.

So let's be perfectly clear: everyone - even the people who support their construction - knows that streetcars are not intended as an effective element of a transportation plan. They are pets.

Streetcars should only be discussed as part of a tourism effort, not as part of a transportation plan. They are vanity projects, not transportation projects.

coolpapa

Posted Mon, Nov 28, 12:41 p.m. Inappropriate

So when do the Seattlites throw out the City Council?

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