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Another monorail proposal. Yes, seriously.

The monorail hath risen again on this fall's ballot. Why Seattle can't get past its elevated rail obsession.
Seattle monorail

Seattle monorail Chuck Wolfe

Mention monorail in Seattle and eyeballs either roll, or light up. For some it's the ultimate transportation flimflam, the technology that has never — and will never — catch on. For others it's a perpetual dream of seamless, smooth mass transit. Either way, the November ballot will carry yet another monorail initiative. 
The plan behind Proposition 2, pushed by Magnolia activist Elizabeth Campbell, ultimately, is to build a $2.36 billion monorail line from Ballard to West Seattle. Does that sound vaguely familiar? It should. Seattle voted multiple times between 1997 and 2005 on another proposed monorail system that would have done just that. The Green Line was ultimately rejected by voters in 2005, when the price tag was deemed much too high, and the whole process is widely regarded as a classic Seattle fiasco.
The new proposal, which would create something called the Century Transportation Authority (CenTran), goes beyond mere monorail. There is also the possibility of integrating gondolas, trams and other people-moving technologies to feed the system. In other words, it opens its arms to a plethora of transit "solutions" with Seattle-style inclusiveness.

It's an idea has burbled up in at least three stages over the last century.

The first time, in 1910, a man named William Boyes proposed a monorail line connecting Tacoma and Seattle, and, apparently, a later line between Seattle and Edmonds. He even built a futuristic mock-up of the monorail on the Tacoma tide flats, according to historian Murray Morgan. In the end though, he left behind only some disappointed investors and a fabulous photograph of what the system might have looked like.

After World War II, the monorail returned to Seattle as an idea with legs (or pylons). Texas, Miami, San Francisco and the province of British Columbia were all considering it as a way to augment expanding highway systems and, in BC's case, to open up the interior to development. Even then, problems with mobility (congestion, pollution) were evident and planners warned that cities would need to move large numbers of people around with grade-separated transportation to avoid gridlock and urban decay.
At the same time, Seattle's post-war push to build a civic center in lower Queen Anne (first outlined around the time Boyes' monorail was first proposed in 1910) was finally gaining momentum. A monorail was proposed that would link what is now Seattle Center to downtown and the waterfront. The catalyst for all this would be the world's fair. The Seattle Times laid out a vision of the monorail as a kind of glorified Duck system for tourists and conventioneers, complete with projected "tours of Seattle's waterways for visitors."
Others took the potential of a monorail much more seriously. In early 1957, John Spaeth, Jr., head of Seattle's planning commission, expressed his concerns about how Seattle would accommodate urban growth. He recommended the building of a "backbone" route to move people north and south. That route consisted of a major freeway (today's I-5) with a rail or monorail line running along it. He also wanted to get cars off the streets of downtown in order to create a more pedestrian-friendly city center.
"Motorized transportation is threatening to destroy cities with rivers of congestion," he said. The increase in car ownership was a big part of the problem.
While Spaeth was right about the problems the city would face, Seattle has always been better at pinpointing a problem than implementing solutions. The more civic leaders looked at the future, the more concerned they became with the lack of mass transit components. The monorail project, they decided, would act as a demonstration of urban mass transit's future at the World's Fair. Later, the route from Westlake to the fairgrounds could be expanded — perhaps to Sea-Tac. At the Washington State Pavilion, fairgoers were treated to a vision of Puget Sound's future that showed monorails circling and crossing Puget Sound. In other words, monorail could be the transportation tissue that connected all of Space Age Pugetopolis.
As a mass transit project, the fair monorail — then often called the Alweg after its German-based manufacturer — worked like a charm. It carried some eight million people during the fair, including Elvis. So many fairgoers took transit to Seattle Center that heavy city investments in parking lots, like a massive one at Interbay, were wasted. But after the fair, the project lost momentum to Seattle's ambivalence about mass transit. Even more traditional rail proposals were voted down in the 1960s and '70s — despite a promise that the feds would pick up most of the tab. The Alweg was privatized, proving itself to be merely a tourist attraction and the downtown connector first envisioned in the '50s. And while monorail systems cropped up in some cities in Asia, they became a kind of joke in the U.S. — a Jetson's era relic.
The monorail's third wave, the Green Line plan, emerged in the late 1990s and steamed into the early ‘00s as a populist movement — Seattleites coming up with their own solution to their own problems. Its early and most fervent advocate wasn’t a planner, but a local cab driver. Dick Falkenbury's back-of-the-envelop dream turned into a kind of runaway train that went off the track with the public when its costs ballooned. Falkenbury blames its failure on the project’s enemies, establishment figures like Ron Sims and Greg Nickels, and on the Monorail Authority’s over-reaching leadership, Joel Horn and Tom Weeks.
But the appeal remains. Largely because the technology offers solutions to persistent problems of Seattle geography — that is, the contracted isthmus on which the city is built and the various barriers thrown up in the paths of drivers: a lousy grid, multiple draw bridges and waterways, hills, and other choke points. Seattle finally came around on rail and approved the Sound Transit Link Light Rail system, but construction has been slow and expensive. Monorail holds the potential of being quicker and cheaper to build, and, as the slogan for the Green Line had it, gives people a chance to "rise above it all," speeding us along and giving riders a great view.
In a way, it's like the mass transit version of the Viaduct and, unlike streetcars and buses, it won’t be slowed by all the gridlock on the ground. It's for commuters and tourists alike.
Seattleites pondering their ballots this fall will undoubtedly be spurred to review the reasons for the Green Line's failure. Some view it as a lost opportunity, like the failed Commons proposals for South Lake Union. There, the idea of a "central park" was seen as a way to both attract and mitigate urban growth, but was turned down twice by the voters. The growth happened anyway, and the chance for a major urban park was lost. The Green Line was seen as a populist urban solution that would have done more good than harm.
Others will see it as yet another chance to shoot ourselves in the foot with a massive boondoggle that will not deliver as promised. What's so important about connecting Ballard and West Seattle? Why are we tearing down a Viaduct and redoing the central waterfront only to put a new raised monorail down the middle? Don't we have enough expensive projects going — the Highway 520 widening and a new bridge, the downtown tunnel with its Bertha woes, streetcar expansion, the Mercer fix, Link Light rail expansion, etc? When we can't even get the bus or ferry service we need, is a new monorail really a solution to anything, or just more flailing?
In Seattle, monorail is an idea that just doesn't go away. It's a something in the toolbox, or toy box, that we pull out from time to time to see how the mood strikes us. One reason it remains compelling: The problems it purports to solve haven't gone away. And, if you've been stuck in traffic lately, it doesn't seem like they will anytime soon.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.

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Posted Fri, Aug 8, 7:18 a.m. Inappropriate

The ring came off my pudding can.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 7:29 a.m. Inappropriate

This new monorail effort is a red herring. It is designed to deflect Seattle voters' attention away from the proposed sales tax and car tab tax hike measure the city council is floating (the city council would tax, and turn that revenue over to Metro managers so they can do whatever with it). The tax pimps don't want that tax-revenue-transfer scheme to be the controversial measure this fall, so they are running this monorail proposal as a decoy.

From this piece:

[T]he Green Line plan, emerged in the late 1990s and steamed into the early ‘00s as a populist movement — Seattleites coming up with their own solution to their own problems.

Complete garbage. Seattle's government heads and the bond lawyers at private firms designed it and brought it forth for their own selfish reasons.

The draft state enabling legislation for the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority was prepared early 2002 and hand delivered to the legislative leadership that year by the city's muni bond counsel Hugh Spitzer (a Foster Pepper lawyer). Led by Frank Chopp, the legislature rubberstamped it that session.

The board was comprised of political appointees, Goldman Sachs designed the aborted financing plan, and the new taxing authority was regressive (car tab taxes).

All the usual Seattle tax-measure pushers were firmly behind it. Here's what the 2002 voters guide said about the ballot proposition:

“Broad support. Monorail supporters include League of Women Voters, Washington Conservation Voters, King County Labor Council, King County Democratic Party, Sierra Club, Speaker Frank Chopp, environmentalist Denis Hayes, Dick Falkenbury, Peter Sherwin, Judy Runstad and many more.”

That “Statement For” in the 2002 voters guide was signed by Greg Nickels, Dan Evans, and Jim McDermott.

The city council enabled that monorail authority debacle for years – loaning this authority money, handing it the transitway agreement, failing to look out for the public's financial interests, etc.

NONE of that is “populist” – it instead is the democrats and the bond lawyers doing what they do for profit. If it looks familiar it should – it was meant to be a junior clone of Sound Transit. The same players designed it.

Want a decent overview of what really happened? Rick Anderson's October, 2006 piece about some of the key players in the monorail authority debacle is pretty accurate, as far as it goes:


Anyone holding their breath for reporting here on the mechanics and (purported) merits of that sales tax and car tab tax hike proposal from the city? Might as well exhale – no way will Crosscut address whether Metro needs that additional revenue, how Seattle's taxpayers' interests would be protected, why raising those regressive revenue sources AGAIN for transit might be necessary, how the peers finance transit in better ways, etc.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 12:28 p.m. Inappropriate

You've been commenting on monorail issues since the SMP was active, and you're still generally wrong about these things. The SMP was originally killed by Establishment folks, and certainly by those who feared for the survival of Sound Transit. And this particular idea is being pushed by Elizabeth Campbell andn others who are NOT insiders, and not at all concerned with whether or not the Mayor's transit proposal passes. In fact, I'd bet several of them would prefer that the Mayor's proposal FAIL.


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 6:58 a.m. Inappropriate

If I'm "wrong" everyone can count on you to provide detailed explanations and links to the true facts. The reason you haven't done that here is . . . wait for it . . . nothing I posted is incorrect.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 1:48 p.m. Inappropriate

"failing to lookout for the public's interest"

Got that right. Especially not putting a closer eye on that weasle Joel Horn. (Leader of the Commons vote as well....the Pacific Tower which Wright Rundstand walked away from after Amazon left the building ... wherever he went projects died)

In the end Greg Nickels put the nail in the coffin by demanding that a up/down vote be held rather than putting Joel and Weeks to pasture and installing someone with Civil Project Management experience in charge. (as was done for Sound Transit, with the exit of Mr. White.)


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 7:05 a.m. Inappropriate

You've forgotten -- the SPMA was a separate taxing district. Seattle's city councilmembers had no more right than you or I to "put[ ] a closer eye on that weasel". Moreover, Greg Nickels had absolutely no authority or right to replace Horn or Weeks.

It's the same problem with Sound Transit. You've got a board of political appointees who are not accountable to anyone and Goldman Sachs and its local enablers (Maud Daudon's old firm of financiers and the bond lawyers here in town) are whispering in the ears of those appointees about what they should do. That's why the abusive financing plans suddenly emerge, after the votes.


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 3:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Jesus H. Christ, man. The "political appointees" on the ST board are all elected politicians with the exception of Lynn Peterson who serves as the Governor's representative. YOU may not get to elect all of them, but except for Ms. Peterson, they're all elected by some group of voters.

When will you stop lying to the public?


Posted Sun, Aug 10, 7:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Only the three county executives are elected to Sound Transit's board. The rest are political appointees. None of the other policy-makers on that municipality's board were elected by people to serve on it.

The three county executives select who fills 14 of the 18 seats. That means that municipality is an oligarchy. It is not a representative democracy.

People can't control who sets and amends the legal policies of that municipality by any political means. Conlin was a boardmember, he was voted off the city council, but the person who won that election was not appointed by Constantine to Sound Transit's board. That's an example of how and why a supermajority of the policy-makers on that board always will be political appointees.

The enabling legislation for Sound Transit was adopted in 1992. It was intended from the beginning to be an oligarchy that always would remain impervious to attempts by the public to control who establishes its legal policies.

The fact that the individuals appointed to its board by the oligarchs were elected to other executive or local legislative positions does not change what they are: political appointees.

Sound Transit's board is the democrats' crowning achievement. It imposes excessive regressive taxes, pays off favored entities, and people can not control it.

Big fan of Sound Transit, "Anandakos"? Try arguing it complies with what the Fourteenth Amendment requires in terms of Americans' rights to vote for and against local legislators. Here's a hint for you: it doesn't. That's why no other municipality in the history of this country has an appointive board and unchecked governmental powers like those delegated via RCW Ch. 81.112.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 8:54 a.m. Inappropriate

. . . You are afraid to discuss Sound Transit's governance structure because it is unconstitutional.

It is a statutory oligarchy. The reason there are no other statutory oligarchy's in this country is because of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Go ahead . . . explain why our state's legislature established a statutory oligarchy even though the other 49 states' legislatures heeded that federal constitutional limit. This is a very public forum -- everyone wants to know what you have to say on that issue.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 9:20 a.m. Inappropriate

Greg Nickels had no right to force a 5th vote either, yet he pulled that off.

It would have been possible, but it appears to me that Sound Transit didn't to want to have any competition for taxes.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 9:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Greg Nickels had no right to force a 5th vote either, yet he pulled that off.

The city council told the SPMA board it would revoke the transitway agreement if that vote wasn't held. That's why the vote happened.

It would have been possible, but it appears to me that Sound Transit didn't to want to have any competition for taxes.

Sound Transit has infinite taxing powers and the appointive board of that statutory oligarchy faces NO "competition" for them. That was the case when the SPMA existed as well.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 10:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Crossrip, could not the Seattle city council used the same lever to force Weeks and Horn off the board?


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Weeks and Horn both resigned their positions in early July of 2005. The city council didn't threaten to revoke the transitway agreement until September.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 8:06 a.m. Inappropriate

This isn't a serious transit proposal. Even the train-loving transit enthusiast types aren't behind it. Just some lady from Magnolia.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 9:23 a.m. Inappropriate

They lost me when they planned to tear down the original Monorail.

The monorail is dead! Long live the Monorail!

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 9:31 a.m. Inappropriate

This proposal is further support for the theory that you can't kill a bad idea. Funding and building public works and capital projects via citizen initiative is a bad idea. Transpo projects take years (more like decades) to fund, plan, build, and run. All of those things require sustained and knowledgeable leadership. This Mickey and Judy "let's build us a Monorail!" proposal only shows the proponents' inability to grasp what it takes to actually get a transpo initiative off the ground (pun intended).12512


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

Why don't they just add a Ballard stop to the Sounder? It runs right through the west end of Ballard, and people get from Edmonds to downtown in 1/3 to 1/2 the time Ballardites can make it downtown on any of the stop-and-go buses. All they have to do is turn one of those giant weed and blackberry infested lots alongside the tracks a parking lot-Sounder stop, and probably increase the frequency of Sounder runs by 30% or more. Because it will be very full of elated Ballard commuters. They could even do a little tweaking to a few of the Ballard bus routes to swing around past the stop, for example, the 44 route which already ends just a couple blocks from said weed-blackberry patch. And they could reduce the traffic caused by Ballard-to-downtown buses incessantly blocking 2 lanes of busy traffic pulling in and out every block or two.

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 9:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Sound Transit had considered a Ballard stop - near Golden Gardens - in ST2 but their research showed that it wouldn't have enough demand to cover the cost of adding it.


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 9:24 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you talisker, that is the first I've heard of that. I have commuted between Ballard and Sodo since 2005, and the buses have become more and more packed, and slower and slower. I wonder when they did this research, if they considered a better location to the majority of riders along the tracks near 37th Pl NW, and how they quantified what would constitute enough ridership compared to what alternatives. Did they consider the reduced need for buses between Ballard and downtown, the improvement in landslide recovery measures by busing riders only to the Ballard stop instead of all the way south, vastly improved service level to Ballard taxpaying commuters, and improved utilization of the Sounder, etc? Having ridden the bus and the Sounder I find it hard to believe a fair and objective study could come to such a conclusion, but spending $2B on a brand new rail solution that also reduces automobile capacity across the existing auto bridges is an option.

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 8:24 a.m. Inappropriate

The tracks run past Golden Gardens and Salmon Bay - they don't run down Market or 15th. The only places to put a train station are along the stretch next to Shilshole, the south side of the Locks, or somewhere near the BNSF yard or Interbay. If they don't build a parking garage there just won't be enough people boarding at any of those places to make it worthwhile.


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

If the tracks actually ran through Ballard proper, but they're about 15 blocks too far west. W. Ballard/Sunset Hill just don't have the density to support ridership. Why take a bus going the wrong way to catch an infrequently running train, when you can just hop on the #40 or D-Line and be downtown in less than half-an-hour.

What's really needed is light rail between Ballard and downtown, with a tunnel under Salmon Bay, Queen Anne, and Belltown.

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle is a city of spectacular viewage: mountains, water, drawbridges and teeming streets. Municipal mass transit works best with a strong non-rush hour customer base. Streetcars are a proven joke. A Monorail system is natural for urban Seattle. Lite Rail and the Sounder can shoulder the suburban commuter, airport and stadium crowds. Monorail will serve me showing the family around town, having dinner on Alki, getting to Greenlake and the Capitol Hill Block Party. I'm likely voting YES! on Prop #2.

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 10:39 a.m. Inappropriate

If the proposed route follows the same route as the originally proposed Green Line did, then it will involve tearing down the original Alweg monorail from1962 that we've got running today and replacing it with a new monorail that will no doubt look and feel differently. I hope those voters who are inclined to support this measure for nostalgic reasons based on their love for the original monorail are aware of this when they mark their ballots in November.

As we can now see for ourselves, light rail can also "rise above it all" (as well as go underground), so the idea that only a monorail has this advantage is utterly specious.

If the main argument left for building a monorail system, then, is that it's cheaper than light rail, then please show us some examples of other frugally-minded cities in North America which have adopted monorail as a major part of their public transit systems (and not just as short-distance tourist toys). The fact is: There aren't any. (And, no, the SkyTrain in Vancouver is not a monorail--it's a light rail system.) And if you look around the rest of the world, the picture doesn't get much better. So if we were to adopt this proposal and seriously attempt to build a far-reaching monorail system (like we tried a few years ago, at a cost of some $125 million wasted dollars), we will again run into the fact that there are only a couple of companies that will bid on it (thereby driving up the cost), and--once it's built--obtaining spare parts will be both difficult and expensive.

So please, folks, don't make the same mistake twice: VOTE NO on this in November!

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

If the main argument left for building a monorail system, then, is that it's cheaper than light rail, then please show us some examples of other frugally-minded cities in North America which have adopted monorail [ ].

Ah, yes. Let's look at the peers. I couldn't agree more.

Light rail is dirt cheap for people in most places that build it. There is no new taxing targeting individuals and families for the extensive bus, light rail, and streetcar system the three-county region around Portland is building out. That's one example where light rail is financed the right way.

It only is HERE that light rail is staggeringly expensive for households: a .9% sales tax, a car tab tax, and higher property taxes because Sound Transit has condemned over 2,000 full and partial parcels, causing taxes to increase on other property owners. The stiff regressive taxes it imposes are confiscated for decades, merely as security for the mountain of long-term bonds Sound Transit sells.

Want to see a "best practices" light rail financing plan? Here you go:


What's that got in common with the financing plan Sound Transit's board began setting in to place several years back? Absolutely nothing. That's another example where light rail is dirt cheap for the people living in communities served by that kind of transit.

Hey “cocktails” – tell everyone who designed Sound Transit's excessive-regressive-taxing financing plan, the unique, uniquely-abusive scheme that is designed to hit the households with the least the heaviest FOR DECADES. Then explain to everyone why best practices weren't employed here.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 12:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh come on, "cocktails" -- tell everybody who designed Sound Transit's abusive financing plan.

If you follow that link I gave you to the "best practices" light rail financing plan website you can see how light rail SHOULD be financed: some state grants, federal "new starts" money, and bonds secured by future fares. Did Sound Transit's unaccountable board follow that model, to make light rail dirt cheap for people here? For sure not!

That project in New Jersey proudly announces who the consultants that helped design that appropriate transit financing plan were: Parsons Brinckerhoff, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, LLP.

So go ahead, "cocktails" -- disclose the identities of the individuals who designed Sound Transit's unique, and uniquely-abusive, financing plan based on decades of excessive sales tax and car tab tax confiscations.


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 6:54 a.m. Inappropriate

What's your problem, "cocktails" -- are you just like the government heads around here, and you don't like discussing how light rail is dirt cheap for the people in most of the communities it serves in this country?

Here's another example that should have been a model for how light rail is financed here. In the early 2000's the Twin Cities built out a light rail line 16 miles from downtown to the airport (with a tunnel) during the period Sound Transit was trying to build Central Link. NO new taxes were used for that, yet Sound Transit's unaccountable board sold new long term bonds requiring it to confiscate decades of heavy regressive taxes for a shorter light rail line. The tax costs of those bonds will be tens of billions of dollars.


Posted Wed, Aug 13, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Voting "yes" on this monorail redux proposal will do nothing to address the problems with Sound Transit's light rail project that you like to harp on so much. Whether or not your many critiques of Sound Transit hold much water (and I suspect that they do), they have little bearing on the subject at hand.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 10:43 a.m. Inappropriate

The monorail authority enabling legislation essentially is a clone of Sound Transit's. They are sibling taxing districts. The big problems with the initial monorail efforts and this latest version also are the big flaws intrinsic to Sound Transit's structure and how its unaccountable board has been wielding its powers.

The failings of Sound Transit and the abuses by its agents foreshadow those who would use the monorail authority's enabling statutes, including the puppetmasters behind this woman now being named as the driving force. Dick Falkenbury was the frontman for some self-interested entities that stood tor profit from the SPMA, and this woman is filling the same role now.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, "no one" is building monorails anywhere... and they don't work at all: http://www.monorails.org/tMspages/Where.html


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 6:24 p.m. Inappropriate

But you can still dream:


Thin rails that don't use massive amounts of concrete nor blot out the sun.

And they don't work at all? Seattle's monorail is one of the few public transportation systems anywhere that has consistently made money. So there is at least one that works.

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 7:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle's monorail makes money, as do the Ride-the-Ducks, but no one is considering the Ducks as a transit alternative.
How many commuting Seattleites use the monorail to get to or from work?


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 3:43 p.m. Inappropriate

You're advocating a Vehicle Excise Tax, which Washington once had. But Tim Eyman got that outlawed a decade ago; since then we've had a flat tax per vehicle.

Sure, more wealthy families often have multiple cars, but that's not very progressive.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 9:09 a.m. Inappropriate

No but wealthy families often own more expensive vehicles than poor ones. For instance an $80K Tesla vs a $20K Honda. Plus if you have looked at the roads around Bellevue recently you'd see that the Lexus, BMW and Mercedes dealerships are doing really really well selling high end cars. If you can afford to give your kid a $60K SUV from BMW you can afford a higher tax on that car.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 7:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Q: Why are "car tab taxes" considered 'regressive'? They aren't 'income taxes'...which would be the LEAST regressive tax. But they DO reflect "purchasing power", at least... which is based more upon the apparent relative wealth of the purchaser, and so at least is keyed to a tax based upon 'who can afford to pay'. If it reflected both "purchase price" and size/weight, and went to some basic figure for "vehicles 10 years and older", eventually, it would be a pretty fair tax, to my mind.
A monorail, done in the late '60/early'70s that ran all the way to Boeing field could have been a Boeing worker's shuttle... and taken a lot of pressure off the viaduct. Of course it'd be OUR luck that, by the time it's built out that far, E Marginal way will be a 'brownfield' wilderness, waiting for an industrial rescuer who doesn't fear the Unions... (maybe "Airbus/USA"?)
As far as Baalard.W. Seattle goes, get a spur for the water taxi, with a pier below the locks... and maybe a ride to Eagle Harbor as well. There's easy bus service on both landward sides... ^..^


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 6:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Car tab taxes are regressive because they are general taxes, and the poorer you are the larger percentage of your money they confiscate.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 10:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, at least the "progressives" won'r be able to raise income taxes, at least until the Washington State Supreme Court decides to amend the state constitution. Give it some time. It'll happen.


Posted Fri, Aug 8, 11:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Monorail - ugh, not again

This is like another stick in the eye.


Posted Sat, Aug 9, 10:15 a.m. Inappropriate

The one positive to this proposal is that it could help spur getting light rail to Ballard and W. Seattle sooner. That needs to be the key piece of ST3.

Posted Sat, Aug 9, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

There is an overwhelming problem with straddle-beam monorails: the switches are excruciatingly slow. If all that is ever planned is the single line between Ballard and West Seattle it might be technologically feasible, although problems with breakdowns are very difficult to route around. As soon as a network with junctions is proposed those slow switches become a stumbling block.


Posted Sun, Aug 10, 9:38 p.m. Inappropriate

Great article Knute. Now you have plenty of material for the next 4 months and possibly more if this monorail vote passes!!

I take issue with this passaage:
"Monorail holds the potential of being quicker and cheaper to build..."

No, it doesn't. There is nothing faster or cheaper about monorail when compared to trains of equal carrying capacity. Comparisons of monorail to light rail omit the fact that the monorail cars hold 1/2 to 1/3 of what the light rail cars hold.

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 9:12 a.m. Inappropriate

Richard you are missing one point, and that is if you have to elevate Light Rail you might as well elevate a "lighter" train on a single track. As you well know Light Rail which runs on the surface streets has to be able to withstand a side impact from a car. A monorail does not. The heavier trains mean more supports cloeser together which means more concrete and higher construction costs.

It's just physics, not rocket science.


Posted Sun, Aug 10, 9:43 p.m. Inappropriate


Your quote, "Seattle's monorail is one of the few public transportation systems anywhere that has consistently made money" is deceptive at best.

The Seattle monorail isn't a public transportation system. It's a overhead shuttle with 1 stop that goes 1 mile. So if you would extrapolate the monorail price of $2.50/mile to LINK, a 14 mile light rail ride to the airport would be $35. How much money would a 14 mile monorail to the airport make at $35/person??

Posted Tue, Aug 12, 7:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Why do you assume that all of the costs associated with running a monorail are variable? Except for maintenance on the track (which is minimal) and electricity, most of the costs are fixed. A driver makes just as much per hour when he's going one mile as he does when he's going 14. Same for wear and tear on the vehicles, etc.


Posted Tue, Aug 12, 5:29 p.m. Inappropriate

It was an oversimplified example. My point is that for $2.50 the monorail goes 1 mile. That same price gets you to the airport on light rail. Needless to say, the people who ride the monorail are paying a HUGE premium.

Posted Sun, Aug 10, 11:58 p.m. Inappropriate

I think it makes as much sense as the rest of the crap people vote for here.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 6:40 a.m. Inappropriate

It's not what people vote for that is the problem. The problems are due to how the government heads behave after the votes.

Take the monorail authority. The voters were told the board would make up the financing plan later. After the vote the financing plan Maud Daudon and Foster Pepper designed was a multi-billion dollar fiasco. Can't blame voters for that!

Take Sound Transit -- it's another example. The ballot measures said that the board will decide after the vote how to finance the megaprojects they design, how much bonds will be issued, how many decades of taxes will be imposed and at what rates, which taxes will be imposed, where the lines/maintenance yards/stations will be located, how the police force will be operated, etc. People weren't voting on any of those things, which are the areas where the unaccountable boardmembers make bad, self-interested decisions that harm the public's interests. NO other light rail system is managed that way.

Are you clear on this? What blows around here are the decisions made AFTER votes. What's more, Sound Transit's board is completely unaccountable (it is an oligarchy) so people can't correct the abusive financing plan, guide who sets construction timetables, budgets or scopes, etc.

Let me guess . . . you are completely ignorant of best practices in public works financing and light rail implementation, right?


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 9:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Not only does Sound Transit blow for the voters, it blows for the cities it runs through.

- Tukwilla, "Please go to South center, that's where we have zone for industrial/office growth and have a high traffic Mall.".... where did it go? bypasses it. Why? Because South Center is not in Seattle, so additional shoppers would be spending their cash there rather than go to Northgate which is within Seattle's taxing district.

- Bellevue, "Build the next transit maintence center North of Northgate, Sound transit "OK"..." Then once the approval for the line running through Bellevue was granted, ST announces that they have bought the rail yard in Belleuve and will be using it for the Maintence center. Bellevue had zoned it for their next growth area.... Bellevue City council seeths!


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

What you're alluding to there are symptoms of a key problem. The unaccountable board of Sound Transit was handed vast governmental powers by the state legislature. One of those is unfettered power to trump and override local land use and zoning regulations.

In 2010 the state legislature amended RCW 36.70A.200. That statute lists the designated “essential public facilities”, and that year “regional transit authority facilities as defined in RCW 81.112.020” were added to that list. The significance of that 2010 statute amendment is that Sound Transit now is able to site and operate its light rail lines, transit stations, maintenance yards, etc. where it wants and how it wants no matter what any city and/or county land use laws and regulations say. See RCW 36.70A.200(5).

Tukwila officials don't like where a line and stations are situated? Too bad! The unaccountable appointees on Sound Transit's board get to do what they want in that regard no matter what local government heads or the public want.

Bellevue officials don't like where that maintenance yard might go? They can't do anything about it, the people of Bellevue can't do anything about it, etc. That's because Sound Transit isn't accountable to the public.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Transit expert: "Elevate or tunnel the entire line so that in the future you can have drvierless trains.." ST board... builds surface street line for miles on MLK to placate transit union and maintain jobs for drivers unlike Vancouver BC.

South Seattle Ministers: "Elevate or tunnel the line along MLK, as a surface line will block emergency vehicles, and hit cars turning, block pedestrains from crossing due to the frequent trains." ST board ignores poor Black and Latino leaders in MLK and sites rails on the surface. Pedestrains and riders watch trains arrive an leave before they can cross to the stations. Yet in North Seattle an expensive tunnel is being dug from downtown to Northgate.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 10:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Your and my favorite initiative runner Tim Eyman runs an initiative to repeal Sound Transit. Court rules that voters can't repeal by initiative the board even though these same voters could create same board.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 1:06 p.m. Inappropriate

"voters can't repeal by initiative the board even though these same voters could create same board."

Stop playing stupid.

The state legislature created Sound Transit's governance structure, not "voters". It was the state legislature in 1992 that gave birth to the statutory oligarchy that is Sound Transit.

Why are you playing stupid about that?


Posted Tue, Aug 12, 5:26 p.m. Inappropriate

GaryP. Tukwilla sued Sound Transit to stop light rail from being built at all. And with a massive parking lot, there wasn't much demand for light rail for shoppers. SouthCenter didn't want their mall parking lot being used for light rail commuters either. Plus, it would slowed the ride to the airport so then people would be complaining about THAT.

The reason it didn't go to Southcenter is because Tukwilla didn't want it. You can't take one line and make it go everywhere.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 8:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Richard, I was at the public meeting in Tukwilla where some city council members asked that the line be run to South Center, again, they cited the fact that they had zoned that area for growth.

And the time added if I recall correctly would have been about a minute and a half. Not exactly a deal breaker.


Posted Mon, Aug 11, 10:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Look, we know how they act. Yet the voters keep approving levies. We get what we deserve. If I were them, I'd be laughing too. Really, why in hell should the "progressives" who run Seattle and this state give a rat's ass about what the voters think? The voters in this state are too stupid to breathe.


Posted Tue, Aug 12, 4:57 p.m. Inappropriate

NotFan. You have to admit, the voters of Washington State are pretty stupid. They've been carping about voter ID when there is pretty much ZERO voter fraud. So yes, the voters out there are pretty ill-informed by the right wing think tanks and bloggers.

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