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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Re: Transportation Standards

Posted by on August 24 at 17:33 PM

As one of the below-mentioned transit purists, I find plenty not to like about Transportation Choices’ standards for supporting the roads-heavy Regional Transportation Investment District. First, the list is a line in the sand, not written in stone. As such, it’s a pretty weak starting place for a group that’s dedicated to promoting transportation alternatives. Here’s why.

1) Mitigation. TCC says any RTID ballot measure must include “significant” investments in transit along any corridor where road capacity is expanded. In theory, adding transit serves as mitigation for expanding car capacity. In practice, unless TCC defines what those transit investments should be and what percentage of road money should be devoted to them, this provision is toothless. It also gives road proponents tacit permission to expand freeways like 520 and 405—something TCC itself opposed without reservation in the not-so-distant past.

2) “Fix-it First”. TCC says maintenance and repairs must come before roads expansion, which is actually a great idea, as long as the “maintenance” isn’t actually deferred construction (i.e. road expansion).

3) No Cuts to Sound Transit Phase 2. I’m 100 percent in favor of keeping Sound Transit’s (still-unreleased) proposal intact. This needs to be an absolute, however, not a starting point. If TCC sticks to this one, great. But why not fight instead to de-link RTID and Sound Transit in the next legislative session, so that transit proponents aren’t forced to bite the bullet and vote for a massive road-building measure that will only lead to more pollution and suburban sprawl?

4) All Capacity Expansion Must Be HOV, HOT or tolled. This is where TCC’s proposal goes off the rails for me. A group that says it’s for “transportation choices” should be opposing all road expansion,* not capitulating to road developers as long as any new lanes of pavement come with toll booths. (HOT lanes allow solo drivers to buy their way onto high-occupancy vehicle lanes). Whether drivers pay for access or not, more lanes and more cars mean more greenhouse-gas emissions, more traffic, more freeway runoff and more sprawl. TCC should be advocating for real solutions to the region’s environmental and transportation problems, not compromising on environmental disasters in the making, like 405 expansion. (In fairness, TCC does a great job on other fronts, and is no different than other mainstream environmental groups in its “greater-good” position on road expansion. Overall, I think TCC is a great group that’s doing good work. Hell, I’m a member. But still.)

Instead of tacitly endorsing roads expansion, transit proponents ought to be opposing RTID and campaigning like hell for Sound Transit. True: Even if Sound Transit wins decisively, RTID must pass too for it to take effect. Nonetheless, a decisive win by Sound Transit, coupled with a decisive defeat for RTID, would create momentum for Sound Transit to go back to the ballot in 2008. Currently, Ron Sims’s “Transit Now” bus proposal is reportedly polling at 70%. So people like transit. They shouldn’t have to accept road expansion in order to get it.

* Then again, I think cars should be banned from cities. So, grain of salt.

CommentsRSS icon

no way man, cars are useful. I mean like, what if you need to go out to Oso? Not served by Community Transit, Greyhound, or Amtrak. Or when you're moving, clearly you need a car or truck to haul your furniture and sculpture garden to a new location.

The thing is that here they go maassively overboard and build multiple freeway exits downtown encouraging avalanches of cars to be poured into the city daily. I mean, is everybody always moving/getting back from Oso? Qu'est-ce que fuck?

Cars yes. Freeways and their exits? no.

You can get to Oso on the bus, if you want to go in the evening rush hour, and you don't want to come back until the next bus, and you don't want to go or return on a weekend, and you don't mind setting aside your whole goddamn day doing it. Community Transit route 230, Smokey Point to Darrington.

I can't believe there's another slogger who needs to go to Oso on any kind of a basis.

I have lived here all my life and have never, ever heard of Oso. Is this place real?

My journalism teacher from high school was a mad sustainibility type and grew about half her own food (including cows, pigs, and chickens) out on a very small farm on the highway past oso. I've thought that's awesome enough to keep up a relationship.

The commuter bus has always been pretty worthless to me though, for the times I've wanted to be there, because it's designed just for commuters only on weekdays who are presumably commuting from Oso rather than to it. I think it's an appropriate trip for a car. It's not like I do it every day, anyway.

Sadly, Erica's comments here really capture what's so exasperating and demoralizing about the attitudes of so many Seattle environmentalists.

It's an understatement to say that Erica and her ilk are out of touch with reality. She faults TCC for drawing a line in the sand that is so far from a weak compromise, she reminds me of Israel's Orthodox Jewish community insisting that they'll settle for nothing less than all of the territory captured in the '67 war. What's so delusional about this "We will not compromise on anything short of revolutionary change" stance is that it flies in the face of today's political realities and public opinion.

Consider viaduct replacement. In February, the House Transportation Committee voted 26-2 to force the city to come up with the funding for a new tunnel by April 1 or else the state would have had to go forward with a new viaduct. Thankfully, that ultimatum ended up getting stripped from the final bill that made it through. But it illustrates the reality in Olympia that Transportation Choices Coalition has to deal with. If there is anything that should be anathema to the transit/density/environmentalist crowd, it is building an elevated highway along a scenic downtown waterfront. And yet that plan had overwhelming support in the state house.

Obviously, this isn't suburban and rural legislators ganging up on Seattle. Mary Lou Dickerson and Helen Sommers are Seattle legislators who are leading the new viaduct charge. Apparently they think they're still living in the 1950s, but they keep getting elected, and Seattleites keep trembling at anything that may upset the status quo.

I agree, John, that a car is the only appropriate way to get to Oso; just disagreeing that there is no bus. There's a bus, but it's stupid.

Oso is a real place, halfway up highway 530 from Arlington to Darrington. There's nothing there but a historical schoolhouse, a few houses, and a closed-down gas station and store. It's on the way to nowhere, which means that the hideous clearcuts for clusters of nasty new houses is all the more shocking when you see it. The newest and worst is at the turn for the French Creek Campground, which is ironically part of the Boulder River Wilderness Area, which means this is the precise opposite of the Mountains to Sound Greenway -- it's a scar of clearcut along the highway between it and a wilderness. Ugly, ugly sprawl.

It used to be possible to get there on the train. I know an old woman up there who starting back in the forties would take the old timber railway up from Arlington, all the way from Seattle, back when the road was almost impassable that far, which had a single passenger car, and get off at a whistlestop along the way. You'd flag it down right on the tracks when you wanted to return. The tracks were torn out a decade ago; it's scheduled to be a bike/hike trail eventually.

Well, at least you gave the disclaimer.

Viable, affordable transit technology needs to be developed further before one can expect its use to widen and DOTs to focus their expenditures upon it.

Gomez: Viable, affordable transit technology needs to be developed further...

Viable. Affordable. Care to provide some definitions, criteria? Besides just anything but what's currently being offered?

Hey, with $2.5 billion or so to build another viaduct, do we also need to come up with some "viable, affordable" highway technology while we're at it?

I am not 100 percent in favor of keeping Sound Transit's proposal intact. Sound Transit Phase 2 includes a fixed track atop a flexible floating bridge. That's brilliant. Are we going to build a stairway to heaven next?

Well, I'm a TCC member, and I think it's a viable position. But anything less is a non-starter.

Transportation Choices is dominated by sanctimonious gits, many of of whom own cars themselves and live in areas especially well served by transit or within level walking distance of downtown. Screw them.

I am a nondriver who lives in a Seattle neighborhood on a hill with a small business district. reasonable rents, and exactly one bus line. On summer weekends, the whole neighborhood is inundated by Transportation Choices types who bypassed the hillclimb by "riding" here with their shiny bikes in the trunk of a well-used car or SUV.

Alvis: Transportation Choices is dominated by sanctimonious gits, many of of whom own cars themselves and live in areas especially well served by transit or within level walking distance of downtown. Screw them.

Hey, Alvis. So it's not enough that someone decides to earn a living working for a non-profit for a good cause, but on top of that they have to -- let me see if I have this straight -- vow to fill their own personal transportation experience with as much suffering as possible. Did I get that straight?

I guess by this logic we should require that all school board members have school-age children and send them to the worst schools in the district. Otherwise, they're just "sanctimonious gits."

Anyway, I'm sure the TCC staff is happy to hear that you know the personal details of their lives so intimately.

Hey y'all:

I said "in cities," not on the way to Oso, wherever that is. You know, like London.

Yo, Alvis, we're actually trying to get King County to double bus service in Seattle, give us a frickin break.

Cressona -

I stand by my comments. They refer to the loudest mouthed TT advocates who preach to the choir and fully expect a medal for their supposedly courageous and radical lecturing of others who already know and agree that American society should be less dependent on cars.

The smug philosophy of the TT fundamentalists is that you're either with them or you're with terrorists. I don't buy that self-delusional declaration of moral superiority.

Viable. Affordable. Care to provide some definitions, criteria? Besides just anything but what's currently being offered?

Those ARE the criteria, sadly. It's not a black and white solution. Some invention, development and proliferation is required.

Going with the mass transit status quo and indebting the city in many ways for the next few decades isn't necessarily the best solution.

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