You young punks get that transit off my lawn!!!

Reading Joel Connelly makes me ill these days. His lastest screed is a pure blast of the kind of thinking so typical among the reactionary old hippy crowd in Seattle.

I agree with Joel that Mayor Nickels richly deserves scorn. If only he could have scrounged up cash for a down payment on the monorail with the same fervor he found for keeping a tunnel on life support. Gregoire did not come off so well either, caught between the city and its legislators with dueling visions of new freeways. However, the results are hardly a disaster, giving momentum to studying a surface boulevard with reasonable traffic capacity.

Joel goes off the tracks from there, presaging doom for Sound Transit 2 and the RTID roads package the legislature has seen fit to stitch to it. He scoffs at John Ladenberg for claiming interagency coordination is good. What of the viaduct, he asks? Where is the harmony on 520, 405, and Eastside light rail?

Well, Joel, let me answer those rhetorical questions. Light rail has been a part of the I-90 plan since that center roadway was built. The I-405 plan is complete, and awaits only money to deliver more lanes, HOV access ramps and BRT service. The Pacific Interchange has gained the City of Seattle’s blessing, so the 520 plan is similarly waiting mainly for cash.

Joel’s analysis of a solution isn’t any better than his read on the problem. Creating a regional board wouldn’t reduce complexity, since it won’t actually replace RTID,ST,KCM,PT,CT,ET,PSRC or any other acronym. It would just add another layer of political gamesmanship. With as-yet undefined boundaries and districts, the likelyhood is a suburban domination of the process. The suburbs are already getting more than their fair share with Metro’s funding formula.

Joel’s true problem with the existing setup comes out at the end. It isn’t doing enough to stop Ron Sims and Erica Barnett from oppressing the masses with light rail social engineering. Buses are cheaper, m’kay? He praises San Diego’s regional bond measure, which is 2/3 road projects, with buses making up most of the transit component.

Tellingly, he also praises the TransLink “reform” in British Columbia, which is largely designed to dilute the influence of Vancouver and the other municipalities and move decision making to the provincial level. This is to grease the skids for the unpopular “Gateway” freeway building projects and other asphalt being pushed by the Minister of Transportation.

Does Connelly have something similar in mind? I can only imagine the I-605 and 8-lane 520 ideas which will have to be “given a fair hearing” at his new commission. It certainly won’t be listening to any wild ideas about rapid streetcars or induced demand. That’s social engineering, doncha know. In fact, I’m sure if I was patient enough to pull out some microfilm, I could find a column just like this denouncing Forward Thrust in 1968. Wrong then, wrong now.

7 responses to “You young punks get that transit off my lawn!!!

  1. FlyintheOintment

    I like the site. You have some intelligent and reasonable thoughts on Puget Sound transportation issues. It just too bad intelligent and reasonable ideas weren’t being implemented 15 or 20 years ago.

    Transportation planning based on increasing consumption of a finite resource (fossil fuels) will make the Puget Sound Region uninhabitable. Those selling the notion that we can grow the fuel necessary to maintain the current level of motoring are only selling false hopes. The luxury of driving can not compete with the necessity of eating. But, I guess we’ll being learning the hard way.

    We can generate electricity though, and electric mass transit will be vital to the continue existence of dense cities. Seattle missed its chance; it’s too late and too expensive.

  2. Hey, great site! I have been very frustrated that in the whole viaduct mess there seems to be a bit of a blind spot for a mass transit solution.

    I like your ideas about reviving the green line. Traditional RBT will not work for the reasons you have stated but I would like to see a system similar to that in Curibita, Brazil where they run in the center of the road. The set up would be similar to the monorail but cheaper and less imposing.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. “Seattle missed its chance; it’s too late and too expensive.”

    Nice to see defeatism is still alive and well. If we could just get more diesel buses on the road!

  4. “I would like to see a system similar to that in Curibita, Brazil where they run in the center of the road.”

    All we need is for Seattle to wipe out a couple thousand houses along arterials, destroy houses around any major intersection, eliminate 1/5th of the high rises downtown, and there will be plenty of big, grand Curitiba-style Boulevards to run bus rapid transit!

    Bravo, Franks!

    Ain’t couch transit planning fun?

  5. Well, we do have several bus rapid transit projects in the works, but all of the Business Access Transit curb lane type. This is perfectly suitable for proper BRT, the main issues are how close the stops are going to be and whether the bus has authority to override signals.

  6. Nice strawman William, do you have an actual point?

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that for any mass transit system to work, it needs to be a system that can move people from where they are to where they are going efficiently. Downtown there will be more stops and curb stops would make sense but dedicated transit streets would be better (see William, no skycrapers need be harmed). For the system to actually work it would need to override the signals. Outside downtown center lanes or elevated ramps could be used (like in Miami) and the system could be improved as funds become available. Overall it seems like it could be less expensive and could be at least partially implemented right away. I am just afraid something will be done only half-way and be totally lame, ridership will never catch on and the local leaders will sit back with their arms crossed and go “see, we told you it would not work”. The current bus system seems to almost run a hub and spoke set up where you have to go downtown to catch a bus to where you are going. With stops every other block and traffic, it can take 2.5 hours to get from Crown Hill to Nickerson. A rapid transit line that connected to light rail in Northgate and Downtown hubs would allow a lot more flexibility and avoiding traffic make it a lot faster and an actual alternative to driving.

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