Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« No Good News | The Morning News »

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dispatch from Denver

posted by on December 17 at 22:16 PM

While Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire was punting the Alaskan Way Viaduct question to voters (and proposing that the City Council artificially limit the choices to the two that involve building huge new freeways) I’ve been in a city that has actually managed to improve its transportation situation by taking cars off the road: Denver. Here, in a city pretty much no one would regard as cutting-edge (the girls are still wearing tube-tops; the guys still favor large wire-framed Dick Cheney glasses), light rail has managed to take thousands of cars off the road. Surveys found that nearly 50% of light rail riders switched to transit from cars, and that more than 25% of commuters to the city center get there by transit. Light rail ridership here has been 60 percent higher than projections.

Yesterday I took a jaunt on the six-year-old southwest light rail extension to the suburb of Englewood, which planners here hold up as an example of transit-oriented development—the kind of stuff Sound Transit is planning for the area around its own light rail stations. Here, much unlike Seattle, the process of planning and building light rail has been quick and relatively painless—three years from groundbreaking to ribbon-cutting for a 19-mile segment from downtown to Denver’s southeastern suburbs (which opened on time and under budget one month ago), three and a half years for an older segment to Englewood and other suburbs to the southwest. Compare that to our regional system, Link light rail, for which crews broke ground three years ago. It will be three more years before the first segment from the airport to downtown is complete, and a decade before rail opens from downtown to Husky Stadium. A still-unfunded extension to Northgate, meanwhile, will take even longer.

Denver has several advantages Seattle doesn’t. It’s flat, so trains don’t have to burrow through any hills (they do go up in the air, though, to avoid railroad right-of-way). It’s big and sprawling, and land is relatively cheap, so stations don’t cost as much to build. And it’s a major rail depot, so many of the lines run along (or sometimes over) existing tracks.

Still, I can’t help thinking Denver’s success at building light rail where Seattle has faltered (five light rail lines have been built so far, and voters recently approved 119 new miles of rail that will be built simultaneously in the next 12 years) has something to do with our cities’ respective cultures. Seattle, for all its pretenses of being a “green,” “progressive” city, is really overwhelmingly conservative. Change never comes without a huge cost: in time, money, and pointless deliberation. In Denver (like, I might add, New York, where the subway system is stillbeing expanded), density isn’t up for debate—officials and citizens I’ve talked to seemed surprised by Seattle’s irrational opposition to any project that removes even one precious single-family home. In contrast, the debate here has largely been over which communities get light rail first: Every single suburban mayor in the Denver region supported expanding the system, and the latest expansion passed 58 to 42 percent.

Light rail’s popularity here could be the product of frustration: Denver’s traffic is head-splittingly bad—not “bad” like Seattle (where you sometimes have to slow down to 10 miles an hour) but bad like Houston, where getting from downtown to the airport can be a three-hour process. People here seem to recognize that doing things the same way (endless sprawl, endless freeway expansion) is never going to lead to a different result. For example, when Denver officials proposed closing off a mile-long stretch of road through downtown in 1982, there was virtually no organized opposition: People saw how bad the congestion was, and turning it into a pedestrian mall seemed like a better idea than just leaving things the way they were. (Imagine if Seattle City Council members proposed shutting down First Avenue from Yesler to Bell Street). Now you can ride light rail to the station on the east end of downtown, hop on one of the free shuttles that run every couple of minutes, and ride down the center of a bustling, congestion-free pedestrian mall to your destination—or catch another rail line at the west end of downtown. Urban renewal, in the form of loft conversions a la Portland’s Pearl District and high-rise residential towers, has also started springing up in and around downtown, drawing suburbanites back to the city. How logical. How civilized. How urban. We don’t plan things that way here because we’re addicted to process, afraid of change, and convinced that Seattle is so exceptional that doing things differently is simply impossible. Additionally, it may be that things in Seattle just aren’t bad enough yet to get us to change our anti-urban, car-loving ways: I get the impression that light rail happened when people just got fed up with sitting in traffic.

Denver’s not a paradise, of course. As mentioned earlier, it’s a big, sprawling mess of a city, with suburbs stretching out from the freeways as far as the eye can see. Their light rail plan also includes more than 20,000 new parking spaces for long-distance commuters, more or less wiping out the environmental benefits of choosing rail instead of driving a car. (Most emissions happen when you start your car.) The “transit-oriented development” at Englewood had a distinctly suburban feel—identical taupe stucco and brick apartments perched on top of liquor stores, nail salons and chain restaurants, and right around the corner was a massive, ugly Wal-Mart/Petco retail complex. Still, change takes decades, not years. At least Denver is getting started.

RSS icon Comments


Great post, and I find myself in agreement. Hell, even LA of all places has been able to make substantial progress on mass transit and improving density, in *the* place where the detached single-family home was held up as the pinnacle of human civilization.

I think The Stranger needs to hit this theme hard and repeatedly: Seattle is a conservative city. It truly is. Expose these false claims to liberalism for what they are. Truly progressive thinking sees a need to plan - intelligently - to go up, up, up. Build high, build dense, and build transit to serve those who live here, whether they've been here 30 years, 5 years, or 5 days.

Posted by eugene | December 17, 2006 9:59 PM

It should be noted that the 19 miles of new light rail was paired with 17 miles of highway widening.

The Washington legislature grabbed the bundling concept with the RTID/ST2 shotgun marriage, but failed to ensure the two proposals actually coordinate.

The perfect is the enemy of the good, but Seattle process is a close second.

Posted by Some Jerk | December 17, 2006 10:05 PM

"We're addicted to process" mean like bitching for yet another study (on the surface+transit option) after the Gov makes a decision on how to replace the Viaduct? Sure, you don't like the decision Gregoire made, but she effectively decided for a rebuild. That is action, not process. You and Josh are still yearning for more process, in desperate hope your favored plan might prevail. Erica... the surface/transit plan lost. Get over it, so we can actually get to the people's business of replacing the viaduct. Additional studies will only delay the inevitable, we are going to rebuild the viaduct so we may as well get started ASAP.

Posted by D-Willy | December 17, 2006 10:13 PM

Ugh jesus christ. D-Willy and everyone saying things like what you're saying:

1) you wouldn't hold your opinion if you didn't agree with the governor, so you're being a snot. "people's business"? Go fuck yourself. People with a car maybe. Ain't none of MY business. And actually the people I know that live in West Seattle would prefer a solid transit option to a viaduct any day.
2) Gregoire was being a dirty communist whore by making a decision in the form of a rigged vote. If that's not perversion of democracy, I don't know what is. Maybe she should choose the ballot for the governor's election. "It will be me vs. Tim Eyman's pet ferret. The governor has spoken." Very strong leadership indeed.

Posted by John | December 17, 2006 10:30 PM

What's ironic about people like you bitching about how long ST has taken to build Link is that the reason they keep getting held up and delayed is because of meddling in due process from people like you and influence by you, who don't like ST and don't want them to succeed.

Posted by Gomez | December 17, 2006 10:42 PM

John -

I don't care for the rebuild. I've always preferred the tunnel option myself, but I recognize the tunnel is DOA. My 2nd choice would be just to retrofit the viaduct as a short/mid term solution and start investing in transit & other options before making a final decision. However, I believe we've delayed this long enough - it is time to get the job started, even if it isn't what I would prefer.

As for W. Seattle, I agree we need better transit & road options. However, I believe that should be addressed seperately from the viaduct. I think an extension of light rail into West Seattle would be great. But, we're not there yet on that.

And, yes, it is the people's business. I guarantee far more people would prefer a rebuild to the surface option, even if you're not one of them. It isn't a rigged vote, we can't possibly be expected to vote on every single possible alternative.

Posted by D-Willy | December 17, 2006 10:45 PM

Whine whine whine. Neither Denver, nor Los Angeles are good examples to compare Seattle to. Both are flat, sprawling cities with spread-out political boundaries with very recent suburban communities. The Bay Area is much more like Seattle than Denver, and if you compare Seattle's transit experience to that here, it doesn't look as bad as all of that.

It took more than twenty-five years to design/plan/build BART in the bay area. Construction itself started in 1964 but the first rider didn't step foot on a train until 1972! And the trans-bay tube wasn't ready until two years after that.

As for serious density, BART did little to effect density in many of the places served by it. Dense places (SF, Berkeley) stayed dense and not-so-dense places didn't change. For example, if the city of Oakland hadn't expanded its boundaries, it would have actually lost people since 1972. Most of the densist Residential Neighborhoods in San Francisco (Nob Hill, North Beach, Marina, Chinatown) have neither muni (intra-SF subway/street cars) nor BART access.

While it's sad that it takes 15 years to connect the airport to the university district, its not that long compared to the 25 years it took to build bart. I don't know what you're hoping to get out of those trains, but they won't turn Seattle into New York or even San Francisco which are both shitty towns in their own ways. If you want to live in a dense, vibrant cosmopolitan city, you should move out of podunk Seattle.

Posted by Andrew | December 17, 2006 10:54 PM

"Most emissions happen when you start your car"

WTF? Only if you drive a diesel around the block! Where the hell did you get that stat from? The average car-commute in the Seattle area is still 14 miles as of the last DOT survey, and I am sure the vast majority of the emissions come from the 13 or so of those miles stuck in gridlock.

Posted by Andrew | December 17, 2006 10:59 PM

I think Erica is right when she says this region is conservative. But I believe that the energy here is already shifting as our first rail line comes on line. Already folks are clamoring to see where rail will go next.

But The Stranger has played a role in the transit deadlock of the last ten years. First, they hated on Sound Transit far in excess of its sins. Then they uncritically boosted the monorail, in large part because it wasn't Sound Transit. After the monorail collapsed, you tried to blame the mayor for not saving it rather than blaming the SMP's arrogance and poor planning.

Perhaps you should actually go to Sound Transit meetings and see how they work now, rather than flying to Denver

Posted by light at the end of the rail tunnel | December 17, 2006 11:18 PM

so you went all the way to denver just to toss the same insults at the same people in the same way that you were doing before you left?

Posted by wf | December 17, 2006 11:27 PM


What "people like you" are you talking about? If by people like me you mean ME, I'm a light rail supporter, and I don't know what work I did to stop Sound Transit you could possibly be referring to.

Posted by ECB | December 17, 2006 11:53 PM

I grew up in Colorado, watched Colorado politics for years (and still do). I'm actually impressed that Denver has moved along as it has. That being said-

1) Erica, the 16th Street Mall was not done without opposition. Downtown Denver was dead cept from 8-5 M-F, and even then it wasn't "vibrant". Most of the large department stores- Joslins, Denver Dry Goods, etc as well as many businesses went the way of the Dodo and a lot of that was blamed on the 16th Street Mall. As recently as the mid 90's much of downtown was still a ghost town. That being said, extensive redevelopment in LoDo around Coors Field and so on have really perked up downtown. I remember being down there in my teens (mid 80's) being threatened by thugs.. today it's a much happier place, in part because of the transit they've put in there. However, you should recognize it's taken over 20 years to get there. There was a lot of pain along the way- it wasn't just all happy go lucky, believe me. One other factor about a boost to urbanization and downtown: One of the country's largest urban college campuses is right on the other side of Speer Blvd.

2) The entire metropolitan area's transit is controlled by one agency- RTD. Unlike in Seattle, there is comprehensive regional planning going on with one agency. In fact, that agency has elected members (imagine that!) and the board has had its ups and downs. However, the RTD board has more political power in Colorado than about any political subdivision I can think of in Washington, maybe bar the City. Moreover, RTD and the Colorado DOT have had a working relationship that has enhanced transit opportunities. RTD has picked up their game over the past couple of decades- back in the 80's the running joke was the RTD stood for "Run them down" cause the bus service was so poor.

3) Despite rapid transit, Denver's had to build roads. They've even built toll roads, and have express lanes downtown. But Denver as you say is wide, flat and the thoroughfares go for miles. I once heard Colfax Ave is the longest "main street" in the country... don't know whether that's still true. But even when the freeways running one direction are clogged, there are almost always multiple optional routes. That's something we don't have on a N-S axis within the City of Seattle.

Park and Ride is a good thing. We want people to drive short distances if they need to get to transit instead of driving the whole way in. Sometimes I think you forget that. Park and Ride needs to be encouraged, not mocked.

They'll keep going with sprawl in Denver. People in Denver aren't any different from people in Seattle- they generally want their own home, with a little yard. Years ago there wasn't much between Denver and Fort Collins, or Denver and Colorado Springs. Douglas County (just south of Denver) was the fastest growing county in the US in the 90's. It'll sock in for a 100+ mile stretch eventually. But at least there will be an alternative in real off road rapid transit, and to that I give them kudos.

Finally, I don't think this region is conservative at all-at least in the city. We don't know when to stop listening to every single opinion or are afraid of hurting's someone's feelings/house/etc. It's being overly inclusive of everything for too long a period of time. We just haven't learned to say no. Our politicians are too afraid to make plans and follow through because they 1)actually love process (Hello Richard Conlin as lead Process Maven for the City) 2) are beholden to special interests (Hello Mayor!) or 3) have decided to turn anything that is in the too hard basket politically over to someone else (Hello Guvn'r). In all three cases, until we as citizens decide to do something about THAT we'll get more of the same.

I'm hoping someone will come along with a grand plan for transit- something very pricey that gets people's attention. Trains that go a lot of places. A Grand Central Station for the City. Inter-regional transit that bypasses the city. That will really take cars off roads. We don't have that now and ST doesn't offer that for the future. Nor does the state DOT or any politician I've seen. That's why they wring their hands about whether things will pass voter scrutiny. If people KNOW there will be follow through and relief, they'll bite off on it. If not, then you'll see more of the same old crap.

Posted by Dave Coffman | December 18, 2006 1:17 AM

Maybe I missed this, but by how much did traffic decrease in Denver after light rail was put in?

Also, I am wondering as a non-transportation junkie, what is the solution to the building of parking spaces near stations? Are park-and-rides considered ineffectual in decreasing emisions? I can't imagine many people in the suburbs, e.g., Bellevue, doing anything but driving to and parking at the rail station along 520 to commute to Seattle (whenever in the far future that comes to pass). Same with West Seattle - how would people get to the line?

Posted by Jude Fawley | December 18, 2006 6:11 AM

Very interesting post, Erica. My only problem with it is that I can never be sure whether your statements are happy-talk shaped to persuade us to your point of view or are fair-handed observation albeit written from a POV (one I often agree with btw.) There is a difference.

I am not suggesting bloodless "reporting" but only some recognition of facts and citcumstances which might cut against your hopes.

Posted by David Sucher | December 18, 2006 7:02 AM

It's happy talk. She's touting pedestrian malls, a failed idea that cities all over the country are abandoning after watching them kill their downtowns. And she's being extremely selective about what she chooses to see. She's excited about the urban development in Denver and other places, but she's blind to similar development here. I know the Stranger has institutional blindness about Sound Transit, but how can she have missed the condo towers in Belltown and the five-story mixed-use buildings sprouting like mushrooms all over the city?

I think she's too naive to really see how other cities work, or even this one. She's done this before, visited some city and brought back the Sunset Magazine version of their "new", "vibrant" downtown. She doesn't know about their roads, because she's not interested, so her report makes it sound like they don't have them. She does sense that places like Englewood have a "suburban feel", but refuses to examine the implications of that feeling: the fact that the developments she admires are in fact representative of everything she hates, transit or no.

Erica, have you been to Northwest Landing down in Dupont? If you were visiting from Denver, you'd probably think it was paradise, instead of the planning atrocity it actually is.

This is why I don't trust a lot of The Stranger's writing on urbanism; they don't seem to know what it really is, or how you get more of it. They're very susceptible to the marketing blandishments of the planning community.

Posted by Fnarf | December 18, 2006 8:06 AM

As a Denver native (and current resident) who lived in Seattle for 8 years I can attest that Denver's traffic was never as bad as Seattle's - in Denver I never suddenly hit a traffic jam on the weekend, except maybe when a Broncos game was letting out. Erica, who told you it ever took 3 hours to get from downtown to the airport? There must have been a major accident that day.

Posted by Matt from Denver | December 18, 2006 8:14 AM

Jude @ 13 - I don't know if traffic has decreased, but that could be because the Denver area has been growing and growing and growing for 20 years. I can tell you that traffic really would suck if it weren't for light rail.

Posted by Matt from Denver | December 18, 2006 8:20 AM

And she's being extremely selective about what she chooses to see.

Um, that's what she ALWAYS does.

Posted by Gomez | December 18, 2006 8:49 AM


maybe I exaggerate a bit, but no one told me! I got stuck in it (actually heading the opposite direction, from the airport to downtown)! that said, there was a big accident that day...

Posted by ECB | December 18, 2006 8:55 AM

You had mentioned something the other night but I missed its significance...

Posted by Matt from Denver | December 18, 2006 9:01 AM

@19. wow.

Posted by charles | December 18, 2006 9:04 AM

Let me get this straight. For a viaduct replacement that the whole region will use, and the whole state will pay for, only Seattle will vote.

And, the most popular option in Seattle (because it's pro-transit) and outside the region (because it's cheapest) isn't even one of the choices.

And, after continual hand-wringing by "leaders" that the most important thing is to get started RIGHT AWAY, our fearless leader has decided to delay things by a year so that we can have an advisory vote.

In what reality does this make sense?

Posted by mhd | December 18, 2006 9:07 AM


I think your opposition to Park & Rides is an example of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

A large portion of Americans are always going to choose to live in dispersed single-family housing, which means they won't be able to walk to a rail station.

Although in a perfect world, they'd take the bus to the station, in reality the additional transfer (and the stigma attached to buses) means that if they can't park at the station, they'll simply drive to work.

We see the same thing going on with the Sounder here; there are a lot of complaints like "I don't use the Sounder because I can't find a place to park at the station."

It's not a perfect solution, but it's the most realistic way to reduce fuel consumption beyond taxing gas at $2/gallon.

Posted by mhd | December 18, 2006 9:11 AM


This assault on tube tops will not stand.

Posted by paralogist | December 18, 2006 9:25 AM

ECB: "If by people like me you mean ME, I'm a light rail supporter, and I don't know what work I did to stop Sound Transit..."

Perhaps Gomez is referring to Josh Feit's article entitled "Light Rail is a Bad Idea":

No, you didn't write this one, but I think it's accurate to say that "people like you" did.

Erica, your writing is invariably divisive, snarky, contrarian, and unburdened with facts or logic. You attack people (e.g., Nickels, Conelly, men, the English) rather than address points. You may as well be the poster child for Seattle Personality Disorder, a condition that makes the city's occupants incapable of joining together and investing in their city.

Posted by Sean | December 18, 2006 9:29 AM

Sounds like transit nirvana there on the high plains.

So how did this regional authority sell the voters on it? How much total taxes had to be taken in? What groups of people (and businesses?) got taxed, and how much? Were bonds issued, and assuming so, what was used to pay them off (revenues or taxes or both)? Given what happened with monorail here, what are the laws like in the Denver metro area that would have prevented the kind of skyrocketing costs (caused by bad revenue forcasting by Joel Horn and Dan Malarkey) that eventually were the downfall of SMP?

See, Erica, you tout the benefits but don't explain in any way the financing framework that supports this impressive-looking train system. Help us out here . . . enough of the benefits, how were the costs allocated?

Posted by nuts and bolts | December 18, 2006 9:38 AM


I have mixed feelings about park and rides. In places with major sprawl (Denver, or Houston, where I'm from) I think they make a lot of sense. In Seattle, where land is more precious (and expensive) I'm not so sure they're the best use of our tax dollars. On the Eastside I think it's a different matter - if it gets people out of their cars, great. But we shouldn't fool ourselves about the environmental benefits of transit that is still (because of our lack of good transit connections) very car-dependent.

Posted by ECB | December 18, 2006 10:21 AM

Opposition to Sound Transit AT THE TIME made sense; I still believe firmly that it's a much inferior system to monorail. But unlike a lot of monorail supporters, I have accepted the reality that monorail was ultimately defeated, and Sound Transit is the only game in town now.

So the thing is to see that Sound Transit is as good as we can make it, since for better or worse it is the foundation of a regional system now.

The Stranger, however, continues to pretend that it doesn't exist. There's always something going on somewhere else that's more exciting, which, if looked at superficially, is always going to be more in accord with the post-car fantasy dream world, because you haven't lived with it and don't know how it works or came to be.

Posted by Fnarf | December 18, 2006 10:27 AM

Erica, I often agree with you, but a little more empirical evidence would be nice. You talk of how Denver's traffic is so much worse than Seattle's, but as recently as 2002 (this produced from a cursory google search), Seattle's traffic was worse. In 2003, Seattle's traffic was slightly better. Perhaps this is representative of a trend, or perhaps just ordinary statistical variation, or perhaps a change in the study's methodology (I doubt Seattle's traffic actually improved from 02 to 03) but if you're going to assert that one city's traffic is so much worse than another's, you should probably cite to some actual studies, rather than some anecdote about bad trips to the airport.

Posted by ron | December 18, 2006 10:32 AM

Park and rides are almost never interesting destinations, so they make sense as source nodes in commuter-oriented networks. They don't make sense near areas that are or could be places people want to get to.

So for Sound Transit, say, it makes sense to build park and rides in suburban highway medians and run peak-time commuter buses into downtowns. But it's probabably a bad idea to build park and rides in Ranier Valley along the all-day frequent-service light rail line.

BART missed this distinction in the Bay Area, which is one of several reasons it's never helped create good neighborhood density and feels more like a frequent commuter train than a subway.

Posted by Steve | December 18, 2006 10:56 AM

FNARF: "Opposition to Sound Transit AT THE TIME made sense."

Academically, perhaps. Practically and politically, it made no sense for supporters of alternative transit to divide themselves into factions over monorail vs light rail. Given the difficulty of getting anything built in this town, the smart move was to support both and pray that at least one of them would eventually become real. Miraculously, and no thanks to The Stranger, it appears one of them will.

Posted by Sean | December 18, 2006 11:39 AM

I didn't live here "at the time," so I can't take any responsibility for opposing Sound Transit.
And Ron: Your "cursory google search" uncovered research by the Texas Transportation Institute, which is widely publicized but rarely scrutinized. For a good overview of what's wrong with the TTI's methodology, check out this Seattle Times story (the Times has several others available onling too):

Posted by ECB | December 18, 2006 11:56 AM

So Ron tries to broach the subject politely, and erica returns the favor with the you're-a-stupid-moron double quote treatment. nice.

do you have so little self confidence that you can't discuss these issues without belittling everyone who doesn't 110% agree with you? I get the sense that you're the type of person who gains her self-worth at the expense of others. That by proving how stupid everyone else is your own value is somehow actualized.

Posted by charles | December 18, 2006 12:04 PM

MHD (#22), you are wildly off base to suggest the so-called surface option is the most popular option in Seattle. It polls around 10-15%. In Seattle. Perhaps a Capitol Hill poll would produce different results.

Sean (#25), I do not recall Barnett attacking the English. If she did, more power to her.

Posted by TT | December 18, 2006 12:10 PM

@28, @31 - blame me for the bus tunnel bus/lightrail hybrid idea - ST was down in the dumps and needed some way to get more transit into the city.

But, I agree, and this is one of the reasons why the underwater tunnel replacement for the Viaduct is a non-starter - no transit to speak of - whereas the Viaduct Rebuild and Surface Plus Transit all carry MORE transit.

It's all about connecting the dots - following the money - and a teensy bit of revenge is sweet.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 18, 2006 12:26 PM

Re # 33: I didn't mean to imply that anyone was a stupid moron. Double quotes are meant to indicate that I'm quoting what they said. And the TTI's studies are rarely scrutinized by the media. I wasn't referring to Ron.

Posted by ECB | December 18, 2006 12:34 PM

The very phrase "[X] has worse traffic than [Y]" is meaningless. It depends on who you are and where you go. My commute is eight minutes on a bad day. People who have to drive across the 520 bridge or up the Kent Valley Freeway at rush hour are screwed. Some cities with absolutely impossible traffic -- Midtown Manhattan -- rarely figure high on the lists because "no one goes there, it's too crowded", and there are other options.

The maximum amount of time that most people are willing to commute is surprisingly fixed. In places with worse traffic, people live closer in; in places with lighter traffic, they move farther out. There are just too many variables to make sweeping judgements about city's traffic. I can tell you that Seattle always ranks higher on those lists than cities I've been in that are choked with cars at all times; I think they look at specific freeway routes, and discount street options. Seattle has terrible street routing options, but they are relatively traffic-free most of the time.

Posted by Fnarf | December 18, 2006 1:18 PM

erica, beyond all of the other issues with your writing (which others have ably pointed out), i'd like to give a little love to the way you started this post - with a blatantly bad straw-man argument.

...proposing that the City Council artificially limit the choices to the two that involve building huge new freeways (emphasis yours)

now, an uninformed reader might take that to mean that there is a call to create a new highway where none existed before. that obviously would never have a chance of passing in this city & sounds ludicrous on its face. as long as you frame it this way, it leads people towards your own preference. correctly stating that the end result will likely be fixing/replacing a decrepit section of an already existing highway, though, wouldn't quite have the same punch.

Posted by jason | December 18, 2006 3:24 PM

"Here, in a city pretty much no one would regard as cutting-edge (the girls are still wearing tube-tops; the guys still favor large wire-framed Dick Cheney glasses)"

Perhaps they spend more time building transit than judging other people for their choice of clothing.

Posted by A Nony Mouse | December 18, 2006 5:38 PM

A nony mouse--tube tops are truly horrible. They are an outrage against all that is pure and beautiful in life.

And Dick Cheney large wire frames give one the appearance of a bug. Bad stuff.

Seattle is neither good at building transit or fashion, but these are serious faux pas.

Posted by stop already | December 18, 2006 8:02 PM

From the page, a lightrail touting group, the costs of LR in Denver was $21M per mile in 1995, 24M per mile in 1999 and $44M per mile in 2006 - let's say $50M per mile in 2006 dollars - compared to over $200M (2006 dollars) in Seattle for the cheap part and probably over 400M per mile for the next 5 miles.

Do you, ECB, think because ferries work in Seattle that they will work in Denver?

Posted by Kush | December 19, 2006 8:32 AM

"A nony mouse--tube tops are truly horrible. They are an outrage against all that is pure and beautiful in life."

Here, perhaps. But in Denver, there are women you'd actually want to look at in a tube top.

Posted by A Nony Mouse | December 19, 2006 9:29 AM

Women at whom you would want to look, rather. Women you'd want to see. Not women you would rather see while wearing a tube top. Certainly not.

(I should not post before having coffee.)

Posted by A Nony Mouse | December 19, 2006 9:34 AM


Light rail proponents play on the crassest, greediest tendencies of Seattlites. The subtext of the entire pro-light rail campaign is this: "Put it on the credit card NOW. The big bills will come due when you are dead (or have packed up and moved to Palm Springs). Get that "shopping mall rush;" buy an insanely expensive train set on credit (no money down!) and somebody else's children and grandchildren will have to pay it off."

It is exactly like what Bush & Co. do - issue long term debt for a project that enriches their political base. In this case it is the SEIU and the trade unions; in the case of the feds it is Halliburton and military suppliers. Absolutely no difference.

Posted by Maude | December 19, 2006 9:42 AM

@44: I don't see it that way at all. Infrastructure in my opinion should be borne by all- so I have no problems whatsoever issuing bonds or financing a project into the future. Someone's kids will hopefully use it- and they should participate in the cost of provision. I think that projects should have bonding that runs through the life of the project. For something like the viaduct, yep I think that should be required to be built to a 75-100 year standard, and financed for 75-100 years.

The maintenance is anothing thing. That should be borne all along the way by the people in place. If it's done along the way, it's not that expensive. But in this country we've held off on doing that (look at Seattle city streets- many of which haven't been maintained in 50 years). The NEGLECT we pass along to the kids in my opinion is what is wrong and we're doing it now.

In reality we're still paying for the interstate road system (look at the federal debt- it's part of that) and nearly every government project that has been built in the last 100 years. That hasn't gone away.

You're right @44 though about one thing. This is one Seattle resident that wants to make a HUGE investment in transit. Something grand. It's what we need to do (imagine the cost of BART back in the 70's or New York's subway back in the early 1900's). It's the only real solution given our geography and the longer we delay, the more expensive it is. I think that delay and the corresponding cost does even more of a disservice for future generations.

Posted by Dave Coffman | December 19, 2006 11:08 AM

Financing over 75-100 years? Get a grip. Monorail wanted to finance its bonds over 45 years, and that would have meant a 5:1 debt to principal ratio. Five dollars to the bondholders for every one borrowed. That was enough to kill the project - and you are talking about going out for 7 decades. Call it an 8:1 ratio: sell $8 billion in bonds, and incur a $68 billion debt FOR TRAIN LINES. Get real. The thing about these particular train lines is 1) most will never use them, 2) only the relatively very well off (daily commuters) will use them consistently, and 3) the regressive sales tax used to pay off that debt would adversely impact the poorest in our community by far the most. Not worth it.

Posted by banker | December 19, 2006 2:44 PM

The ratio of debt service to capital cost for Sound Transit's light rail line to the UW is 1.25.

Banker: let me guess, if you think rail "isn't worth it" once can assume you have an alternative idea to offer along the I-5 corridor? Been on the freeways lately?

Posted by TransitNut | December 19, 2006 6:09 PM

If you had any experience riding light rail in any city around the country or the world, you would see well-heeled commuters (who choose rail transit) sitting side by side with the working poor, who often don't own a car. This equalization of the classes is one of the reasons conservatives hate light rail so much.

Posted by TransitNut | December 19, 2006 6:14 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).