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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Oxy Moron

posted by on December 27 at 14:10 PM

Today’s PI has an article about the potential that newly-empowered Democratic Congress members, like Sen. Patty Murray, have for bringing more money to Seattle and Washington state.

Mr. $3.6 billion to $5.5 billion tunnel, Mayor Nickels, is on that train. The PI writes:

Nickels didn’t waste time. He came to Washington, D.C., soon after the election to talk to lawmakers and administration officials about replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, climate change and broader use of pollution credits.

So, Nickels wants to build a freeway through downtown to accomodate 140,000 vehicles a day (currently the the viaduct serves about 110,000 vehicles a day) rather than pushing for the estimated $2 billion to $2.7 billion boulevard/transit option. (The bolevard/transit option would bring auto traffic down to about 80,000 vehicles—while creating a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood downtown.)

Well then, I guess it’s a good thing that the second two items on Mayor Freeway Through Downtown’s agenda were climate change and pollution credits!

Blah. What a hypocrite.

RSS icon Comments


Ain't that the truth. Mayor McCheese strikes again...

Posted by Emerson | December 27, 2006 2:16 PM

How can anyone say the boulevard will "create a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood downtown" with a straight face? What is pedestrian-oriented about a state highway at grade level? Have you tried out your pedestrian orientation on some of the other neighborhoods where Aurora runs at grade, like, say, lower Queen Anne at Roy or Valley street?

Posted by Fnarf | December 27, 2006 2:29 PM

Fnarf, you're trying to argue rationally with Josh Feit about the viaduct. Atttempting to introduce facts, such as the fact that an at grade viaduct replacement is going to benefit no one but downtown property owners (who will promptly plant 40 story condos on all of the lots directly east of the current viaduct) or the fact that a six to eight lane state highway with mass quantities of heavy truck traffic is not what any rational person considers to be "pedestrian friendly", into an argument with the People's Waterfront Revolutionary Brigade or their apparatchiks such as Feit is like trying to introduce facts about the war in Iraq with die hard Bush supporters or into a debate about inheritance taxes with any member of the Blethen family. Give it up, it's futile.

Posted by Jamie | December 27, 2006 2:50 PM

look, money is going to have to be spent no matter what we do. go to washington, mr. mayor, and get us some money because quite frankly after the monorail tax that I paid for three years I'm not exactly excited about paying for any transportation projects through some harebrained tax/ponzi scheme.

plus, you can be pro cutting emissions without banning cement trucks and jackhammers outright.

Posted by charles | December 27, 2006 2:53 PM

While I basically support the street option, I have to agree with Fnarf that I just don't see six-lane surface road as pedestrian-friendly or particularly pleasant (unless I'm missing something, Josh?). The tunnel, on the other hand, really would create new open space which could be put to use in a very positive way and truly would be pedestrian- friendly.
Am I reading you wrong, or are you suggesting that the mayor is a hypocrite for wanting to fight climate change/pollution while supporting a tunnel? I guess I don't see how a surface option is going to create less pollution than a tunnel? It's still full of cars, and I imagine they'd be idling more on a surface road than a tunnel.

Posted by cite | December 27, 2006 2:54 PM

Jamie - I am pretty certain that this assumption many people hold that if we get a surface option or tunnel, it's going to be developed into condo towers, is completely false. It would be public land. Personally though, I think density is great for a city so condo towers don't sound bad to me.

Posted by cite | December 27, 2006 2:58 PM

I agree with everything being said here to this point. The street option seems like the most progressive idea on the surface (so to speak), but as I've heard it described it's just another giant, car-oriented, pollution-producing thoroughfare. At this point, if it's going to be a giant road, shouldn't we at least try and hide it via the tunnel? Can someone provide an alternate description that might convince me otherwise?

Posted by Matthew | December 27, 2006 3:02 PM

I think the idea is that the surface/transit option has a demand management effect on single-occupancy vehicle traffic by limiting supply. People know there will be traffic, so they opt to combine trips, take transit, or conduct their activity closer to home. The "free flowing traffic is less polluting" argument is a nonstarter because car traffic will tend to increase to fill available road space.

So, theoretically, the tunnel could stimulate more vehicle traffic via its larger capacity, thus undermining our carbon goals. But that should be weighed against the increased livability of downtown, which would attract more residents who would live within walking distance of almost all their daily needs.

Posted by green street | December 27, 2006 3:07 PM

If Nickels is a hypocrite for advocating climate change and a tunnel, than The Stranger is hypocritical for advocating density and "the preservation of Pike/Pine".

Green Street--the world is real, not a theorectical construct. Cite's theory that idling cars might increase emissions is just as valid as your theory that people without a tunnel might change their behaviors.

Posted by takes one to know one | December 27, 2006 3:14 PM

Green Street - Thanks, yes I can appreciate that argument, and it probably make sense. However, in terms of taking transit, I don't think a lot of people want to sit in traffic on bus, they might as well just sit in traffic in their own car. Now, if we had some form of rapid transit, or that was included in a surface road plan, that would be a different story.

Posted by cite | December 27, 2006 3:15 PM

Takes One to Know One @ 9,


I'm for dense neighborhoods. But the Pike/Pine business strip is an amenity and function of a dense neighborhood that already exists. One point of density is to create neighborhood retail and entertainment districts like the one on Pike/Pine that serves the nearby neighborhood. Tearing it down ruins the density equation.

My point is: Let's get density and development going where it doesn't already exist. That's been the Stranger's position all along. We've criticized neigbhorhoods that resist density to preserve vacant lots and single family housing. And, in fact, we even slammed Capitol Hill NIMBYs when they opposed increasing height limits on our beloved Broadway.

So, swing and a miss there, TOTKO.

Posted by Josh Feit | December 27, 2006 3:42 PM

My point is that you parse things as well as the mayor, Josh.

Pike/Pine is within six blocks of the Capitol Hill light rail station being planned. Density must happen there.

What are you proposing, some kind of historic Stranger bar district? Who decides what is an "amenity"? Apparently, you do...which makes your opposition to other folks NIMBYism laughable.

Posted by takes one to know one | December 27, 2006 3:54 PM


Your post @11 is self-serving BS. You're welcome to keep trying to have it both ways all you want, but the rationale gets more tortured the more you try and cobble it together on the fly. There is NO difference between residents of older mixed-use neighborhoods (or, for that matter, single-family neighborhoods) trying to preserve the character of those communities by controlling new density and the position the Stranger has taken vis a vis Pike/Pine except that you like your neighborhood and you don't like theirs.

Posted by Hypocrisy - thy name is Stranger | December 27, 2006 3:58 PM

The Mayor's hypocricy merely mirrors that of his constituants.

Seattlites want to feel good about themselves by funding ridiculously inefficient transit projects while contining to drive everywhere. They want to feel good about themselves by throwing ever more money at a failing public education system while sending their children to private schools. And they want to feel good about themselves by buying CO2 offset credits that result in no real CO2 reduction while continuing to jet 1st class to distant eco-tourist spots.

Posted by David Wright | December 27, 2006 4:06 PM

Takes One to Know One @ 12,
It's easy to qualify the Pike/Pine strip as part of dense neighborhood, not by my subjective standards, but by basics: Bus stops, foot traffic, number of businesses, lack of vacant store fronts. So, clearly, that strip is part of a functioning desne neighborhood that already exists. The kind we've advocated for in other neighborhoods. That makes the Stranger's position consistent.

Having said that: Change is afoot on Pike/Pine, and you don't see me whining or making a federal case about it. I thought Erica's story was smart and consistent with our POV. But, yes, that block will change. A new strip somewhere else in the city will spring up. And that's life in the city. Cool with me.

Posted by Josh Feit | December 27, 2006 4:06 PM

@ 13,

You're exactly right. I like my neighborhood (a desne neighborhood of mixed zoning with busy commercial drags) better than other neigbhorhoods around the city. And that's the whole point.

That's exactly why I've advocated for more density all over the city to scale back the dominance of single family zoning and empty lots. This means: I'm for density and its accouterments in Capitol Hill & I'm for density and its accouterments in other neighborhoods. And so, my position is consistent. Yay density and its accouterments. Voila. (It's beyond me why this makes people so upset.)

Posted by Josh Feit | December 27, 2006 4:15 PM

Josh says,

It's easy to qualify the Pike/Pine strip as part of dense neighborhood, not by my subjective standards, but by basics: Bus stops, foot traffic, number of businesses, lack of vacant store fronts. So, clearly, that strip is part of a functioning desne neighborhood that already exists. The kind we've advocated for in other neighborhoods. That makes the Stranger's position consistent.

I understand that Pike/Pine is part of a dense neighborhood, but what you fail to explain is how you decide what is the "dense neighborhood" and what is the "museum district"

Posted by takes one to know one | December 27, 2006 4:22 PM

Takes one to one one:
In science, a "theory" is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. In this case, the theory of "induced demand" has been documented by numerous studies. Here are a couple:

Posted by green street | December 27, 2006 4:33 PM

It's much better to have those 140,000 cars doing a half hour commute than it is to have them sitting in downtown or I-5 traffic for 2 hours. That's the reality given that Seattle has no viable alternative transit. Blah.

Posted by Sean | December 27, 2006 4:46 PM

Going back to the allegedly hypocritical "green freeway" position held by Nickels. I have two questions that I would like answered.

Question: Is there a scientific answer to the question whether cars that quickly go where they want to go pollute more/less than cars that experience traffic slow-downs?

Question: Does the parking lot known as I-5 contradict the boulevard/transit option assumption that people will change their behavior (i.e. 30,000 vehicles a DAY will simply vanish) based on negative reactions to increased traffic density?

I'm not pro-tunnel but I'm not hysterically anti-car, either. It IS possible that Nickels isn't a hypocrite--and that easing traffic congestion is the most practical and immediate short-term step available to us to reduce emissions while longer range goals (effective and viable public transportation...and more environmentally friendly private transportation options) are developed.

Possible, I said. That's why I'm looking for more answers.

Posted by pgreyy | December 27, 2006 4:47 PM

"Change is afoot on Pike/Pine, and you don't see me whining or making a federal case about it. I thought Erica's story was smart and consistent with our POV. But, yes, that block will change."

Oh, puh-leeze, Josh....

Erica's story was a one-sided rant against Pike/Pine development. It may well have been "consistent" with the Stranger's traditional attitude toward urban development (namely: it's wonderful, so long as it doesn't affect the places we like), but it wasn't particularly smart or thoughtful.

Posted by A Nony Mouse | December 27, 2006 5:31 PM

Hey look! We're going to get *funded* Bus Rapid Transit from West Seattle to downtown soon! Woo!

10-minute intervals from West Seattle. Oh, yeah!

Oh, I'm going back to that surface/transit chat. Yeah, BRT is annoying, but it's an improvement in transit so goody.

Posted by hey` | December 27, 2006 5:47 PM

Green Street @ 18

In the dictionary, patronizing means:

'displaying or indicative of an offensively condescending manner: a patronizing greeting, accompanied by a gentle pat on the pack'

I have read the studies. I am involved in transportation. I even agree with you on most things regarding transit.

What pisses me off is people who fail to recognize that studies are only as good as their limits. Seattle has no mass transit. Even if you could wave a magic wand and create a network as fast as you could it would be fifteen years at best. So, the question for many, especially those of us with kids, etc--is what do we do now?

Posted by takes one to know one | December 27, 2006 7:09 PM

With no rapid transit option (bus rapid transit is not rapid transit, sorry), the Surface Option is a dumb idea. Derp-a-lerp dumb. Tunnel and pedestrian/bike friendly above, or Rebuild and pedestrian/bike friendly below.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | December 28, 2006 8:40 AM

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