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Friday, March 24, 2006

Al Gore Has a Point. Too Bad Greg Nickels Doesn’t Get It.

Posted by on March 24 at 13:16 PM

“We need to change our habits,” former U.S. VP Al Gore said this morning at Seattle City Hall, hyping Mayor Greg Nickels’s Green Ribbon Commission recommendations—which aim to bring Seattle in line w/ Kyoto standards. (Nickels has gotten 212 other U.S. cities to sign onto his homegrown Kyoto pledge to meet the Kyoto mandate of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels—a treaty the Bush administration flipped off.)

“It is not necessary for us to take 3,000 pounds of metal with us everywhere we go,” Gore advised. Gore’s quip resonated with Nickels’s Green Ribbon Commission’s first recommendation: “Reduce Seattle’s Dependence on Cars.”

The elephant in the living room, however, was Team Nickels’s other big initiative, building a superhighway through downtown Seattle to accommodate 110,000 cars and trucks per day.

Indeed, when Team Nickels is confronted with the smart alternative to make simple traffic fixes to the downtown grid and replace the aging Viaduct with a regular boulevard—an option that would de-emphasize hauling 3,000 pounds of metal around with us everywhere we go—Nickels whines about the 110,000 vehicles that we need to accommodate everyday.

Instead of being an accommodationist to our bad habits, Nickels should follow Gore’s advice and push for urban planning options that don’t perpetuate downtown Seattle as a drive-through greenhouse gas factory.

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Josh- What the no-builders never answer is what happens to the Port of Seattle.

So, what happens to the Port of Seattle? Is it bye-bye jobs? I hope The Stranger's converage will illuminate the darker places of this issue, perhaps with less "gotcha" stuff about "Hoss" Nickels.

The no-build alternative does include dedicated freight lanes on I-5, which combined with the onramps by the stadia could possibly make frieght traffic from the port move faster than it would via the SR 99 -- I'm not sure. Nobody seems willing to comission a real study, so it's hard to tell.

Tear down the viaduct, plan surface streets intelligently in the area, replace the seawall, and let that be that.

The no-rebuild option is the best.

Shore it up so it doesn't fall over (per the suggestion of noted engineers Victor Gray and Neil Twelker), and then tear it down in 30 years after our next regularly scheduled quake.

In the meantime, get cracking on hybrid cars and more efficient electric batteries.

You think it's hard to get though downtown now, wait till you add 100,000+ trips a day to streets and I-5.

According to the Puget Sound Biz Journal, the freight industry is fighting the tunnel option because they, in fact, will not be allowed to use it (depending on the size of their rig, what they're hauling).

It's long past time to pretend that any one solution is going to meet the needs of the three major constituencies involved: freight/Port traffic, car traffic bypassing I-5, and waterfront visitors.

yes, reducing everyone's dependence on cars is an admirable goal. that said, this city only currently has two N-S arteries for large amounts of traffic. it seems the height of folly to effectively eliminate one without viable alternatives.

i've yet to see one credible idea put forth by the no-build people on what people will do once the viaduct is gone. there is no monorail, light year is years away & won't do much for intra-city traffic anyway, and our bus system is already one of the best in the country. people will sit for hours in traffic in their cars if that's the only option available. a "boulevard" is only a smart alternative when they think about the logical outcome. this isn't the embarcadero.

oh, and josh - this isn't a proposal to build a superhighway through the city. either proposal (tunnel or new viaduct) is fixing the one that already exists. your hyperbole (BOLD, scary) is laughable and neuters any other point you try to make.

Just ask, we're not hiding anything! The Port doesn't use the viaduct. 70% of the containers come and go by rail, 20% are on trucks that use I-5 and I-90, and most of the last 10% are headed to SODO and south of the city. Very few containers are going north.
The number of trucks on the viaduct is about 4000 a day, 4%, which is no higher than on any freight arterial. These trips are important. But they can be accommodated on surface streets by giving trucks priority use of important freight routes. Other cities with bigger economies, more complex distibution challenges, and fewer highways have figured this out. There are lots of tools in the toolbox -- you don't have to spend billions on a 2 mile bypass to serve these trips.
The 100 trucks / day that move fuel from Harbor Island to Interbay won't be able to use the tunnel. No trucks will be able to use the viaduct during 3 years of closure. So they're figuring out a solution using surface streets anyway, which could be adapted to a permanent solution.

(I moved this post over from the other conversation)
I was there too this morning, and some cool points were raised. Like the fact that the 219 US cities that signed represent 85 million people. Which is a larger population than live in 90% of the nations that signed globally. Especially significant because we're part of the something like 4% of the world's population that make 45% of the emissions.

But I thought the best part was Denis Hayes from the Bullitt Foundation, the chair of the commission. He kicked ass, saying our drive everywhere culture is OVER, and everything is about to be very different around here. (He's also mighty fine looking, in that Paul Newman kind of way.) He opened the door wide open for everyone with a brain to point out that our City should be investing its money toward this future vision, not in the opposite direction. (Ahem, tunnel.)
So yes, there was a white elephant in the room. But they know they need to get tens of thousands of cars off the road to achieve their goal, and they're just begging to be called on it.

Perhaps more importantly, why was only ONE city council member in attendance at Gore's talk yesterday afternoon? Benaroya Hall was a veritable whos-who of local leaders yesterday. But apart from Richard Conlin, the city council apparently couldn't be bothered to put in an appearance for the kickoff to what is probably the most important environmental initiative that Seattle's ever fielded. What gives?

Nickels may be a hypocrite on the viaduct issue, but at least he's got the guts to make greenhouse gas emissions a visible and talked-about issue.

I think it's only 44 million Americans. Still a huge number though...

Eric, good points about Nickels. We here in Seattle, aware that our local bus service for the next 20 years was sold to give a SLU streetcar to Paul Allen, know that matters more, just like we know that either a Viaduct rebuild (with improved sound buffering) or a No build (with doubled local transit in the corridor and city) option would be far better than a Big Underwater Tunnel option.

On the other hand, given Safeco's moving downtown into one of the new highrises you'll be seeing (which I approve of, having been to the public meetings with Peter Steinbreuck and Greg Nickels), maybe it is working, as it's creating faster gridlock that makes non-auto solutions more palatable.

it's like how more has been done to cut emissions under the Bush regime, since the 20 Western (ok, some are Vermont and Maine) states which passed laws to require lower emissions and higher mpg, that force the market to do something, while under Clinton nothing happened since we all thought the feds might actually get their act together.

Sometimes, inaction forces greater action than slight action. Just think of how the UW went totally green power and how half of its buildings are now LEEDS Silver or above, cutting water usage, using renewable energy, using low energy lights. That was more than has been done in ten years by the entire City of Seattle. In one deal.

Trucks DO "use the Viaduct". They don't drive on top of it, but they make use of the space underneath it to get around those 110,000 cars. Putting those cars on a "boulevard" (yeah, right) means all those trucks are going to go somewhere else.

If I worked for the Port of Tacoma, or the Port of Oakland, I'd be pushing hard for no-build.

Also, the damage done by moving around 3,000 pounds of metal depends on how far you're moving it. People who commute 50 miles are a lot bigger problem than people who commute a mile. And, as many of you have pointed out, if there's no alternative to cars, like public transit, it doesn't matter how many times you meet Al Gore.

Cary, thanks for the info. My critique was more about how the Stranger is a booster for your plan without putting it under any basic scrutiny. Cary- if the port doesn't use it the Viaduct, why do they want a "rebuild" so badly? Josh Feit- why does Nickels say the port will die if we do the "no-build"? What's Greggers reasoning?

The no build option cannot work. The gridlock on I-5 would destroy the economy. To take away another lane for freight makes it even worse. I think the phrase that appropriate catches both Josh and Cary's ingnorance is, "Nothing is impossible for those that don't have to do it."

I thought the Port's position was that their money could only be used for the tunnel, and their not-quite-yet-solid contribution will be rescinded if the aerial is chosen. Confirmation, anyone?
Included in the plans for whatever option is chosen is an overpass that gives the Port better access to I-5 and I-90, which is what helps the container biz.

And the PWC has been pushing since we started for our broad-brush proposal to be fleshed out, costed, and included for consideration. This may finally happen: Council gets to decide if a third option gets studied and included on the November ballot. Citizens and decision makers both need direct comparisons in order to make an informed decision, which they haven't yet had.
Strangerdanger, you should check out real world evidence of what's happened in other cities that did something similar, before you repeat the highway planners threats of gridlock. It's never once proven true.

So Cary, I think your plan is decent, but I'm worried about the political ramifications. I mean, if I support your plan, and WADOT says "no way, it has to be a highway", what then? I want a rebeautified waterfront, which means tunnel or PWC plan, right? But if it's between the big ugly or a tunnel, I go tunnel every time. Building another viaduct is stupid stupid stupid.

And is Greg Nickels putting his rear end where his mouth is and giving up his chauffeur-driven limousine and riding the bus to work?

The thought that traffic will simply dispurse and people will use other transit options with the no-rebuild option is fantasy. We had a test run of what life would be like without the viaduct when the earthquake happened in 2001 and we had terrible backups on the west seattle bridge and I-5. The no-rebuild option would only work with numerous light rail or monorail options taking people all over the city.

CARY Wrote:
"This may finally happen: Council gets to decide if a third option gets studied and included on the November ballot."

Are you sure about this, Cary? Where did you confirm this? It was my understanding that Seattle city lawyers were determining if a vote on a third alternative could be allowed based on the legislature's decision to remand the vote to the city council for their vote or a city wide vote as determined by the city council. The state legislature only specified a rebuild or tunnel.


Council staff told me that their lawyers thought there was nothing preventing the inclusion of whatever they want on the ballot. Of course, if the Transit and Surface Streets First option were to win, then there will still likely be a battle with the state. It won't be fun, but many powerful people --politicians and otherwise-- have said "Over my dead body" to the aerial.

Despite Peter S. swaggering about what goes on the ballot - only two options.

Washington State is the big purse here, and they are defining what they wil spend on. Two options. DOT claims a great deal of early design and planning is already done. Money and time already spent.

Sometmes Seattle see itself as a city state.

The no rebuild is the most foolish idea I have ever heard.

During the past three years I have been in about ten other cities. Including SFO. It is a wonderful relief to drive with far LESS congestion.

Seattle folks have adapted, thinking that our traffid is notmal. Not so.

It is goeography, the economy and poor transit planning. I-5 alone would be a nighmare.

Actually, the law is as clear as mud. There may be an option to put a third alternative on the ballot.

Josh, Sometimes you are a fuckin' idiot! You need to learn the good news of the tunnel. The tunnel is the way and the truth!

Hypocrist alert: Josh, how did Al Gore get from the airport to City Hall? And back?


Maybe Gore should take his own advice before asking the Five Cent Piece to take it.

Oh, and Cary: apples, meet oranges.

PETER Wrote:
"The thought that traffic will simply dispurse and people will use other transit options with the no-rebuild option is fantasy. We had a test run of what life would be like without the viaduct when the earthquake..."

There is a fallacy in your reasoning here, Peter. You make an assumption that a third alternative option would mirror what essentially occurred after the Nisqually Quake. You and others who posted on this thread and support your thinking disregard that there will be engineered responses to the loss of the viaduct. This is a very broad and unsupported assumption. Assumptions do not make for good engineering or policy planning,Peter, and you and these others are completely wrong.

As a city and state we need to begin to learn how to do more with less. This is especially true with capital intensive projects such as represented by the viaduct. They use a tremendous amount of resources, and we should strongly consider alternatives that may a better use of these resources.

Don't get me wrong, a third alternative may be completely unfeasible and costly, however we can't make that determination without
formualting a plan and subjecting it to objective study. The fact our city and state governments have not considered this is, in my opinion, a cause for alarm.

Why? It is simply poor public policy, and it furthers the notion that perhaps a tunnel or direct replacement options are not necessarily being built with the best interests of the citizenry in mind. It begs the question which asks what group of city and state constituents who politically and financially support state and city learders benefit the most. Dare I ask it? The construction trade unions and construction companies? What is missing here, is that even in a third alternative option, these entites would continue to benefit.

I was struck by the irony of the Green
Ribbon Commission's recommendations and what has been our local government's longterm response. It is farcical at best, and one worthy of good Chinese opera, however Chinese opera doesn't have a place in public policy planning.


SURE - Seattle puppet show council can put anything it wants on any ballot.

BUT - this is a dedicated state hiway. The state can tell the city to get screwed and build as it wishes. Should they get ballsy about it --- and unless all the TV intervies were imposters, that is what they are doing.

I bet major STATE HIWAY projects don't even get city building permits.

Some of those Oly folks would love to shove something down our throats - to use the old metaphor.

Huff and puff Peter S. - DOT says 2 options only. I would take them at their word. Gregoire and Sommers have spoken. And they both look like they need stars on the collar......

it is my understanding that because the city owns the land, the state cannot force the city to do anything, despite the fact that it is a state highway. is that not right?

Gore and Hayes were excellent.

Josh is correct: Nickels could do better, but he is doing pretty well. Grace Crunican was an excellent appointment.

Please consider a fourth AWV option: less costly the four-lane bypass tunnel with dynamic tolling and ramps to Elliott and Western avenues added.

Add dynamic tolling to all the central Puget Sound limited access highways. Sprawal has been fueled by them and they were funded largely by the feds.

Put the mega projects on a diet to make them more affordable for the joint RTID and ST ballot measure in 2007.
1. select the four-lane option for the SR-520 bridge rather than the more more costly six-lane option. If dynamic tolling leads to free flow, why would HOV lanes be necessary?
2. instead of adding multiple lanes to SR-167, add reversible tolled lanes.
2. focus more of the RTID funds on arterial state routes within the urban growth line and add sidewalks to them.
3. do not build the SR-167 extension through the Puyallup Valley or the cross base highway in Pierce County.
4. spend RTID funds on resurfacing I-5 before it fails
5. add sidewalks to north Seattle and south King County arterials without them.

Change transportation financing to user fees proportional to use: tolls, tax on long-term parking, odometer fee, a larger gas tax...

Nickels should reconsider several of his pet projects.
1. the zoo garage is antithetical to the mission of the zoo. instead, use city funds to run Route 5 more frequently and impose a RPZ on surrounding residential streets.
2. kill the half-baked SLU Vulcan streetcar and use the capital funds for other transportation measures and use the operating funds to run Route 70 more frequently. Why have Paul Allen design our transit?

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