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Friday, March 16, 2007

Connelly’s Latest Blather

posted by on March 16 at 11:13 AM

Joel Connelly—that two-house-owning, Whidbey-Island-dwelling man of the peoplesure does love callin’ stuff “highfalutin.”

With his favorite target—proposals to build anything other than a massive new elevated freeway on Seattle’s waterfront—gaining traction (voters rejected the rebuild 44 to 56 percent), he’s turned his sights on another one of those wacky effete Seattle ideas: Mass transit. In today’s column, Connelly comes out in favor of legislation that would consolidate all the regional transportation agencies into a single uber-agency, on the grounds that it would allow someone other than us effete Seattle liberals to make “politically incorrect” decisions—like building roads instead of light rail. Or—even better—taking money away from light rail and putting it into buses.*

Above all, proposed transit systems would have to be justified as the best way for getting people from place to place.

Backers of light rail would have to give proof of benefits to match its sky-high cost. They’d have to show suitability to the Eastside. A Ron Sims vision speech won’t cut it.

The commission could consider fast, predictable bus service as an alternative. It could ask salient, politically incorrect questions: What about diverting transit dollars to the vitally necessary upgrade of state Route 520?

Predictable bus service? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Joel Connelly hasn’t been near a bus since Emmett Watson was a lad. Bus service isn’t predictable—it’s slow and unreliable and has to share roads with all the other traffic, which is why people don’t like using it. Predictability is precisely light rail’s advantage. And handing over authority over Seattle’s transit system to road-crazy Eastside Republicans may be Connelly’s wet dream, but it would be a disaster for Seattle. If this week’s election told us anything, it was that voters are sick of doing things the same old way. Building more roads, which get congested—then putting buses on those congested roads—doesn’t work. Perhaps if Connelly took the time to ride Seattle’s transit system, the way the “ordinary folks” he claims to speak for do, he would have come to a different conclusion.

*On the other hand, at least he’s not insulting the intelligence of Seattle voters and calling for an elevated viaduct rebuild.

RSS icon Comments


Light rail construction is well under way. By 2009 we'll have service to SeaTac - just like the voters were promised. The taxes have not increased. Projects for the most part are coming in on time, and under budget. The problems of the old days are a distant memory, and the new administration is recognized for excellence. The elected leaders on the board are charting a prudent and effective course. We need real mass transit in this region. We can build on all these successes with ST2!

Posted by we_need_real_transit | March 16, 2007 11:19 AM

Erica, you applied at the P-I and got turned down.

Posted by Guns of El Chupacabra | March 16, 2007 11:38 AM

I'm not sure who Joel thinks rides the bus. Hippies? Latte-sipping, laptop-toting New Seattlites? Please. Poor people ride the bus. Workers, hospital staff, students, people who can't afford cars, moms, lots and lots of people who use wheelchairs or canes. Basically regular people trying to get to where they're going. You don't see a lot ties or high heels.

People ride the bus because they have to. It can be much cheaper and more convenient than driving and on some small occasions, faster.

I think Joel should get off his high horse and get on a bus and see how the "little people" get around. Or is he too good for that? Join us, Joel!

Posted by please joel | March 16, 2007 11:40 AM

I have never applied for a job at the P-I.

Posted by ECB | March 16, 2007 11:42 AM

Why not just build Vancouver's SkyTrain light rail (there are two versions they use, with different tracks)? Cheaper, it works, we know how much it costs.

Then we can actually build a surface boulevard with special Truck/Bus-only lanes each way along the waterfront that actually isn't too crowded - heck, make it all HOV or Hybrid-only for the rest of the lanes (plus taxis).

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 16, 2007 11:46 AM

To #1 and everyone:

Just. Stop. The.Ceerleading. B.S.

Google sound move and you get this:
From a Seattle Times article:". A commitment to have all the projects built by 2006 "clearly was unrealistic and should not have been made," it says." (referring to an advisory opinion by the citizen review panel.

In addition, ST is not on budget but is over a billion dollars over budget if by budget you mean figures quoted to voters an not later "revised" budgets adopted by ST.

Could everybody stop the stupid blatant CHEERLEADING -- whether for or against light rail, Sounder, BNSF acquisition, monorail, buses, roads, the mayor's big tunnel, the mayor's smaller tunnel, the elevated rebuild, the smaller rebuild sure to be proposed now, or the surface/transit proposal?

At a certain point we do have to mature as a community and make hard decisions about real transportation issues and that means being upfront and honest about the pros and the cons of whatever it is you favor -- not wishing away the negatives.

In fact, going before voters, the surest way to lose is to start spinning like crazy.

Posted by not a cheerleader | March 16, 2007 11:54 AM

Joel is such a wanker. My critique: You young punks get that transit off my lawn!!!

Posted by Some Jerk | March 16, 2007 11:54 AM

Here's the line I "love" from Connelly's column. Instead of light rail, "The commission could consider fast, predictable bus service as an alternative."

It should be no wonder that the enemies of mass transit have embraced so-called "bus rapid transit." BRT is the always favorite transit mode of people who fight transit.

This is why I get such a sick feeling when this otherwise-decent new group Friends of Seattle is so quick to embrace BRT as the transit component in the surface+transit viaduct alternative. Why not aim a little higher or at least be a little more nuanced in allowing yourselves the option of aiming a little higher? I mean, maybe they can't do light rail across the West Seattle Bridge and maybe monorail has been politically demonized. Heck, I'd even be willing to hear somebody talk about goddamned streetcars. At least don't turn into BRT cheerleaders, especially when what that usually ends up producing is something resembling conventional bus service more than real BRT.

As far as I know, these FoS folks don't have much of a background in urban planning and transit. (I could be wrong.) So I can only hope that they will be open to learning on the job, so to speak.

For that matter, I hope that The Stranger's crack news staff could be a little more aggressive in demanding details about what the transit in surface+transit should be -- especially now that we're coming out of an election that struck a severe blow to the rebuild. (Hey, I know Dan Savage is on my side here.)

Posted by cressona | March 16, 2007 11:58 AM

From the Connelly column: “As Sound Transit runs big ads and holds public workshops on its light rail plans . . . .”

I’ve seen a bunch of Sound Transit ads in The Stranger recently. Banner ads on SLOG, print ads, etc. And then there was the January 25, 2007 cover – the photo of bulging biceps marked up with ST logos:

There was some text on that cover as well:


and also

“COVER ART Sound Transit,”

So, ST made that contribution, and got space on your cover to advertise for the ST2 ballot proposition. Fine, I guess. Looks like public money being spent in favor of a ballot measure, but oh well, whatever. Plus there is all the direct payments to The Stranger for the banner ads and the print ads.

Sound Transit paying some healthy amounts to you guys, and a lot has come in recently to you. Problem is, these payments to The Stranger are not shown on the ST expenditure spreadsheet here:

There is no payment to The Stranger listed in 2006 or 2007. There’s no “$2,647.62” payment to anybody in that time frame. Probably the deal is that ST keeps several sets of books that show who they pay, and how much.

Hell, I don’t begrudge the fine folks at The Stranger’s parent company however much money they can get from advertisers. I’m not even curious about how much ST pays for its ads.

But could you at least disclose if these payments really are coming from ST? If so, they damn well should be disclosed on ST’s “Contracts Awarded” spreadsheet. And if some other entity is paying, you shouldn’t say (like you did on the cover) that ST bought the space. Maybe some consulting firm ST hired is making the payments to your publication?

Posted by Mr. Sunshine | March 16, 2007 11:59 AM

uh, Erica: "Seattle's transit system"???

Metro's already in the hands of a county-level agency, serving both Seattle and the Eastside (unless you're talking about the classic monorail), and ST is even larger. And to perpetuate a myth of a "Seattle transit system" serves only to polarize Seattle users from non-Seattle users of the county transit service.

Posted by a different Joel (the busriding kind) | March 16, 2007 12:06 PM

joel connelly is almost enought to make me switch back to the Times.

then i remember Krauthammer & Goldberg mondays.

Posted by Max Solomon | March 16, 2007 12:06 PM

Did someone say streetcar? Please enjoy this rendition of a Green Line Streetcar, courtesy of, my new favorite Web 2.0 app.

Posted by Some Jerk | March 16, 2007 12:10 PM

This antequated city will not move forward until it can realize the HUGE difference between MASS TRANSIT and RAPID TRANSIT. We already have a(CRAPPY)MASS TRANSIT system. When are we going to grow up and build a RAPID TRANSIT system!!!??
I'm going on 17 years here, never owned a car the entire time, and I'm sorry folks, but our transit system of buses SUCKS!

Posted by Matthew | March 16, 2007 12:13 PM

Seattle turned over "authority over Seattle’s transit system to road-crazy Eastside Republicans" decades ago. It's called Metro.

As the transit agency was originally set up, Seattle had more power in the agency because it had more bus riders, but a law-suit forced a merger between Metro and King County, giving the eastside a 1-person-1-vote say in transit decisions by the agency.

Sound Transit is a regional agency that includes most of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties that is required to split its funding among its various areas. Even though much of the current light-rail is in Seattle, it's expressly designed to be a regional service.

Much of Sound Transit's money has gone to highway projects that help cars nearly as much as they help buses.

Posted by Robinev | March 16, 2007 12:17 PM

ECB - I've asked all of the S&T supporters to back real transit not this faux BRT - I've suggested that we use as much of the monorail work as possible - you know - route, eis, public meetings, ridership numbers - use Skytrain, LRT, whatever - even let the monorail teams come back if they can be induced to give a another guaranteed price contract. Let it be run by a utility like City Light with the SCC as the board - or your current fave KCMetro.

But so far the only transit for the west side of the city is bus.

If the S&T people don't grasp that real transit needs to serve the whole city and that taking away road capacity while adding buses just won't sell.

And while you are cheering the Gov. is starting the rebuild - she's getting the tunnel ready and the section of the viaduct that they announced would be kept with a rebuild is on the list - they are spending $900M with no seawall work.

And check out her polling numbers - she has a 50 statewide approval with only 52% in Seattle SurveyUSA (2/20) - think her strategy is working?

Posted by Sherwin | March 16, 2007 12:45 PM


As a dues-payin' member of FoS:

Deciding on exactly what kind of transit is a devisive issue. Some folks like me were monorail people, and some FoS people were not for the monorail.

I think Sound Transit should be directed to once again address the Ballard-West Seattle corridor. Initially, Sound Transit had left to the SMP to plan an execute transit on the west side. We should look at light-rail and streetcars FOR SURE. While I don't like BRT very much and have seen it as a anti-transit ploy, it may actually work in some places in this city.

As a FoS member, I plan on being actively involved in making sure any plan for the surface plus transit INCLUDES honest to God transit.

Posted by Will | March 16, 2007 12:52 PM

Will: Terms in ST2 allow sufficient flexibility for transit alternatives to be implemented for both Ballard and West Seattle.

Posted by Paul Rogness | March 16, 2007 1:01 PM

Will @16, thanks for the response. The fact that transit mode is such a divisive issue is just one reason Friends of Seattle shouldn't be so quick to hitch itself to "bus rapid transit" as the transit mode. I'd rather see the likes of FoS see the transit mode as just a means toward an end. And the end should be transit that is:

  • Fast and reliable and pleasant enough to, on some level, provide a worthy alternative to the freeway option being taken away.
  • Permanent enough to promote dense, pedestrian-friendly development.

Criteria like those leave you open to many transit modes: light rail, monorail, SkyTrain, streetcar, even BRT. But it would have to be BRT done as real BRT. And once you do real BRT rather than just stick a catchy name on conventional bus service, you get to see that the "BRT" being bandied about now is just a panacea.

None of these choices is easy, and the more concrete you get, the harder they get. As an advocacy group (especially now that we're no longer in the midst of an election), FoS should be pushing for tough choices. We have enough politicians who are in self-preservation mode by trying to make things as vague and easy as possible.

Posted by cressona | March 16, 2007 1:08 PM

Silly Seattle, doing anything that doesn't involve making it easier for Eastsiders to drive their cars into the city for entertainment occasionally. Clearly the answer is to let the grownups on the Eastside instruct the city on proper transportation, those grownups who are grown up enough to know that cars are what's really important, who know not to take into account all the goddamned problems with expecting everyone in a growing city to drive a car everywhere all the time, who know that one must take that attitude that anyone who doesn't have their life together enough to own a car (which is of course the only REAL reason someone wouldn't take on the goddamned pain in the ass that is car ownership), and is of course not as worthwhile as a person as the grownups on the Eastside, just has to deal with the goddamned bus. Trying to appease all the little carless adult children in Seattle by building their little rapid transit systems is just something that grownups know not to do. Like the grownups on the Eastside. Who know what's best for Seattle.

Also, given just how many times the "state money spent on Seattle projects! Wahhhh!" argument comes up, I REALLY want to see figures for how much state money flows out of Seattle versus how much flows in. Given the unarguably higher efficiency of cities in terms of resource utilization, and higher concentration of wealth, I have a really hard time believing this argument (which comes up in every single goddamn policy issue) has any merit.

Posted by Noink | March 16, 2007 1:16 PM

Noink, a huge portion of those "Eastsiders" are city residents who work on the eastside, or vice versa. Entertainment is a trivial percentage of the traffic. We are all linked together economically, and in fact economically there are no demarcation lines at all.

Posted by Fnarf | March 16, 2007 1:59 PM

Geez, what is it with the Stranger . . . Can't you take a punch, or endure another point of view without embarking on a hundreds-of-words screech.
O.K., so I've strayed from the party line again, and made your armpit hair stand on end.
What's wrong with evaluating options, costs and financing plans? We might still have a Monorail if the Stranger had asked intelligent questions about its financing rather than forming an amen corner.
I've enjoyed three downtown bus rides this week.ride ri
. Apparently I've been making your armpit hair stand on end.

Posted by hearstscribe | March 16, 2007 2:16 PM

I'll second Fnarf @ 20
Worth remembering:

"The major Eastside cities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and Issaquah also have endorsed light rail. Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger said it appears rail 'will carry more passengers at greater speed and convenience' than buses." (From the Seattle-PI)

Even the Eastside civic leadership -- unlike some leadership on this side of the lake -- is behind expanding light rail service. They're on "our" side.

Posted by golob | March 16, 2007 2:25 PM

This may have been asked elsewhere, but with regards to this supposed victory for S/T option: Anyone have a sense of how many retrofit or scaled down rebuild folks voted against the rebuild on the ballot because it was simply too massive? The S/T folks seem to be assuming that this doesn't matter.

Also if that was really Joel Connelly talking about Erica's "armpit hair", that's really creepy.

Posted by Trevor | March 16, 2007 2:36 PM

Cressona, Golob—over the long haul you’re right: rail is needed. However, a functioning rail *system* is a decade or so off, at least. The immediate practical question is what to do while the Viaduct is down. Unless we institute some short-term version of BRT downtown when the Viaduct is down, we’re screwed.

It need not be complicated, or permanent. How hard would it be to make 3rd Avenue and one lane of Elliott bus only 24/7?

Posted by Sey | March 16, 2007 2:43 PM


Ron Sims is way ahead of you.

Here's the list of transit improvements downtown, which includes turning 3rd Ave into a transit mall, and adding bus-only lanes on 2nd, 4th, Aurora, 15th NW & other main streets.

The "49 points" plan also involves consolidating bus routes onto 10 'paths', which moves Metro closer to the BRT ideal of trunk and branch service.

Posted by Some Jerk | March 16, 2007 2:53 PM

To Sey@24

I agree it's important to consider both the long and short term. I agree with converting part of 3rd and Elliott to bus-only, at least in the short term. I also love the idea of expanding the water taxi's to year round and with increased frequency.

As far as the pace of rail, after this first segment opens in 2009, I think things will happen much more quickly. Some of the opposition will melt away after people realize what an advantage rapid mass transit affords.

One thing ST did wisely was get through the toughest stretches first. After boring through Beacon Hill, downtown, First and Capitol Hill, and the Montlake cut, the other extensions are comparatively simple.

Posted by golob | March 16, 2007 2:54 PM

I think a single regional agency is a great idea. But to be effective, that agency has to have full decision-making power. The state would have to give up its control over anything but supplemental funding of regional projects. Metro would have to be merged into Sound Transit. There might even be Port functions that would make more sense in a regional transporation agency.

Most importantly, a regional agency would have to control all transportation funding in the region. That means ending the practice of exporting metro-area tax revenue to WSDOT, and keeping it here instead. It would also have to be able to impose tolls and other user fees to finance projects without having to rely upon referendums.

Finally, the transit agency would be required to create an integrated system for moving people and freight, and only incidentally moving cars. Any decisions made by this standard would clearly favor mass transit over new highways.

Joel Connelly wants to hold mass transit to a standard he doesn't require for highways. He also seems to think--like many here--that Eastsiders are against transit. The reality is that the prevailing opinion throughout the metro area (Sound Transit's taxing district) is overwhelmingly in favor of massively expanded rail and the taxes to pay for it. A regional agency's decisions would basically look like Sound Transit's--not ideal, but with a much greater emphasis on transit than with other agencies. The only way that wouldn't be the case is if a new agency was deliberately structured to fail.

Ask Connelly if he would support granting Sound Transit full authority over all highways and mass transit within the taxing district, and support a change to state law to fund Sound Transit with the taxes from the metro area that now fund WSDOT. That would demonstrate that he doesn't actually want real regional transit but just wants to kill mass transit and build more roads.

Posted by Cascadian | March 16, 2007 2:55 PM

does anyone think it is strange that the only Democrat that John Stanton has given money to happens to be a one Edward B Murray?

Ed thanks for selling away mass transit for two $700 checks.

Posted by Steve | March 16, 2007 3:20 PM

Ed Murrary keeps telling people that Sound Transit can't prioritize its projects and spreads everything too thin.

Take a look at his two major road packages he passed in 2003 and 2005.

The 2003 gas tax package had 37 projects in King County alone. The 2005 gas tax package had 158 projects in King County alone.

Who spreads the peanut butter Ed?

And Ed, I would rather have my peanut butter spread on transit than roads.

Posted by william | March 16, 2007 3:23 PM

As someone who knows and likes both Joel and Erica, it is kind of fun to watch the two of them go at each other.

I must, however, challenge Erica's condemnation of our bus service. I ride the bus to and from work every day. Contrary to her experience, I find it very predictable and it generally does not get stuck in traffic. The only time it seems to be unpredictable or gets stuck in traffic is occasionally downtown, which I fear will become a more chronic problem if Erica's surface+transit option is implemented.


Posted by Paul Elliott | March 16, 2007 3:40 PM

All I know is that while we talk talk talk, Toronto is announcing it is DOUBLING it's light rail and transit systems.

We talk. They do.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 16, 2007 4:18 PM

Paul (30): yes, it is fun. Note that Erica probably riders Capitol Hill routes that travel about 6 mph and have been slowed by Seattle's restriping of critical arterials such as Madison Street and Broadway and the ST Pine Street stub tunnel work, while you ride the U District express service. Joel does not ride.

All: we should not hug all transit modes, but instead evaluate them objectively with budget and available rights-of-way in mind. Though arterial BRT may not be as ideal as grade-separated rail (LRT or monorail or SkyTrain), it may be all our budget and right-of-way can afford and, for any fixed amount of funding, could serve more corridors. It has been very successful in LA and Vancouver. ST already has its slow sights on the best HCT corridor: Northgate to downtown Seattle via the U District and Capitol Hill. They are just taking decades to do it. A clearly inappropriate mode to hug is the Portland and SLU streetcar that has both slow speed and high cost.

Vancouver's SkyTrain is great. But they inherited abandoned freight rail lines in which to build transit. Seattle does not have any and ST is attempting to tunnel, the most costly way to get rights-of-way. It seems appropriate for the north line. The remaining freight line in King County that should become part of ST2 is the Woodinville subdivision between Renton and Woodinville. King County is trying to acquire it with the help of the Port.

Regarding future transportation governance, we should consider the outcome we desire in designing the governance. Senators McDonald, Finkbiner, and Horn designed the RTID to expand I-405; is that what we want? Representative Fisher designed the RTA, now ST, to build a unaffordable long-distance BART-type system, as she needed yes votes from Seattle to improve transit in Pierce County. The multicounty governments set up by the Legislature seem like failures. The functions that cross the county lines are tolling and commuter rail and the PSRC population forecast work. The new government could absorb the four ports and the airports. Systemwide dynamic tolling would be great for freight and transit flow. The RTID and ST functions could be devolved to the three counties that are each huge and regional in scope. The new regional government could use some of its toll revenue to buy long-distance bus service. King County could build Link LRT between Northgate and SeaTac. Snohomish County could build surface LRT between Everett and Lynnwood. Pierce County could build surface LRT between TCC and PLU via downtown Tacoma. Commuter rail and fast buses would connect the three.

Posted by eddiew | March 16, 2007 4:27 PM

I agree with "need real transit at 1," but the forced marriage with the bloated, sprawl inducing, greenhouse gas spewing RTID project list is going to keep ST2 from getting voter approval in November. The legislature is unlikely to let ST2 go out to voters by itself in 2008 or 2009, so what do we do next? That's where Ed Murray's RTC (SB 5803) comes in to play.

The bill has a lot of flaws and in its current form I cannot support it. But if the RTC boundaries can be reduced to match up witht the ST district, some mobility and environmental criteria added, the consensus requirement removed and a few other fixes made, the bill will actually do a lot to put transit funding in a stronger position than it is now.

First, the bill kills RTID once and for all. Second, it requires all planning and corridor analysis to be multimodal. Third, it takes control of transportation spending and planning decisions away from Olympia and places them with Puget Sound based decision-makers. And, finally, it makes both the decisionmakers and the plan accountable to Puge Sound voters who, for the most part, much more favorable to transit rather than roads.

I just don't believe that Puget Sound voters are going to elect a bunch of pro-highway commissioners to a regional transportation board and then pass a big tax package to implement a big road building plan. Transit will compete much better for transportation dollars at the regional level than in Olympia.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | March 16, 2007 4:34 PM

I am no Joel Connelly fan.

There must be a transit plan implemented before tearing out one of two major through routes. Barnett may be the carless hipster walking to work, but that's not reality for most of us. I don't care if its surface, viaduct or tunnel as long as it connects directly into the Battery Street Tunnel.

I want transit. I'll ride transit if done so it doesn't extend my commute x3 or more. I've lived in several cities without a car and with proper transit for several years at a time. Seattle is not at the point where it can do that yet. People can not rely on transit in this city to get there where they need to go, nor will they until transit is built on its own separate right of ways. Maybe in 30 years, but not now. Now is the time to do the planning and build proper transit so that future generations don't have to live like this.

As for a regional body, Barnett's memory is short. Remember this article Erica:

The one where you luvvvvvved Denver's transit plans? The one where there is a unified RTD board? While I despise Joel Connelly, I agree with Murray. It needs to happen.

Posted by Dave Coffman | March 16, 2007 4:47 PM

Couple of points...

Erica refers to reliable and time-independent light rail and specifically Central Link. This is from the Times article today:

"28 vehicle and pedestrian crossings along the valley trackway, there are many spots where a mistake could cause a crash."

I'm contending that Link will be reliable only insofar as there are no mistakes, casualties or collisions along the MLK corridor. Link has been designed, unfortunately, with many automatic system-halting components. They've cross-tracked in strategic areas to basically "cut off" the Beacon south area if required and double back any trains within the north section. That's a recognition of the expectation of system-halting failure on a regular basis.

It remains to be seen next year when ST begins testing their cars on that stretch how many such events will occur. ST is relying on an educated public. I guess with the pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities what they are, we should fully expect and be prepared for such events with ST's Link. Educated public or not, the MLK stretch of Link is more than two miles of bad design and future-service-limiting track.

Here's another point:

Today I had to be downtown at 7:30 at a particular place. I used the 21 bus, which comes regularly and pretty much on-time every morning for an hour's worth of "regular" or "X" bus rides. I got to Pioneer Square in 30 minutes, mostly because the first bus to come along was the regular 21 and it stopped at every stop on 35th till it was full and by then it hit the WS Bridge and did the same thing along First Avenue.

But, I did get to where I was going in a reliable 30 minutes so it was worth taking twice the time it would if I had driven and taken the same route myself.

Later today I had to be near Green Lake and then get to another section of the city and back to Green Lake. I got from Morgan Junction area in West Seattle to Green Lake in 15 (yes) minutes using the WS Bridge-Viaduct-Aurora-Winona Ave. route. A bus would have taken over an hour. That's four times the cost in time.

So, not only is surface transit useful, of course in this instance the surface went through a section of elevated viaduct as well as going over several mega-bridges, but it served a purpose which a bus would not have. I could spend very little time "getting there" and therefore more time doing what brought me there to begin with.

In your surface plus transit plans, you need to consider everyone who uses a car at a period which IS NOT morning or evening rush hour. Why, because it's those trips which would be impacted the most by removing a vehicular through route.

Point number 3:

We need some serious information about where these trips start from and where they go to. If we knew, for instance, that a goodly number of Shoreline folks used the Viaduct to get to Seatac, we'd know we needed equally fast and equally through transit to entice them out of their car - but it would have to be all-day long or they would use their car.

Right now no one has any clue who uses the buses in the middle of the day and where anyone is coming from or going to using the Viaduct.

How can we even consider a reasonable set of options if none of us has any real data about who's using the roads and transit system we have. For all I know, maybe a skyway (suspended cable car) between Alaska Junction and Beacon Hill (entirely doable, by the way) would produce two or three thousand trips a day. I wouldn't have to go downtown to transfer or get myself to White Center to take a meandering bus to the same place.
Now, I, of course, use my car. Why? Fifteen minutes - 35th to WS Bridge to Columbian Way and voila! Even that route is rarely impacted during morning rush except for the cars which are trying to cheat.

Anyway, I suggest the Stranger begin a real investigative approach to this whole transportation issue including the politics, economics, technologies, capitalization, management, the whole enchilada, if you will. Why not? The P-I and Times can't seem to do it.

Take up the challenge - give us a couple of issues where we actually learn enough to vote responsibly.

Posted by chas Redmond | March 16, 2007 6:15 PM


You are behind the times about 10 years on buses. They can have dedicated lanes, have signal precidence, and be rocket fast. What a bus can do that light rail can't is get deployed quickly and then slowly improved and upgraded.

Find me a train that can be re-routed for construction or debris on the track.

Come down to LA and see what's been done with buses in the last few years. Go to SF and see that light rail can, in fact, be slow and overpriced if designed by the wrong bunch of people.

Posted by Eclexia | March 16, 2007 8:59 PM

"Probably the deal is that ST keeps several sets of books that show who they pay, and how much."


Posted by recog | March 16, 2007 9:55 PM

I worked with a bunch of Eastsiders who are pretty true to the stereotype: Youngish, familied, Republican, overpaid, land Rover drivers.

What suprised me about them was this;

1.) They think a rebuilt 520 should be toll instead of tax-based.

2.) They are extremely pro-transit. Their idea was to have a simple light rail (and it had to be rail. They don't like bus) loop. It would go in one direction through the bus tunnel, across 520, down 405 and across I-90.

The key to them was frequency (every ten minutes) and bus connections (evidentially, buses were fine if on the eastside, which is probably a nice way of saying they are classist, but I already knew that ;-)

They were even fine with the idea of taking it the long way: i.e. one couple who live in Clyde Hill would gladly take it to work in downtown Seattle even though they'd have to go through Bellevue, because there would be much less hassle, and they could drop their kid off at daycare on the way. Conversely, on the way home, it would be a short ride.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | March 17, 2007 8:18 AM

We know John Stanton (who's behind this governance thing) doesn't like the idea of light rail crossing I-90, and we know Joel Connelly hates light rail and Sound Transit.

But why is Ed Murray carrying their torch? Well, Google reminded me of Murray's lingering anger over the removal of Ed's First Hill link station (which allowed them to get to the UW with existing funds) So, I guess this governance thing is "payback time."

Legislators should not try to play transportation planners or engineers, no matter how big their egos are. When it comes to failure in leadership, I've come to believe it's the LEGISLATORS who should stop trying to re-visit decisions made years ago, stop playing these petty political games, and stop trying to second guess local officials and engineers.

This point was made clear to me by another article in the paper yesterday:

East Pierce highway fight continues

East Pierce County mayors and businesses have reason to rejoice now that a state senator has lost his effort to remove Highway 162 from a multibillion-dollar roads package.
Mayors of Bonney Lake, Sumner and Orting jointly sent a letter to state Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, saying they were “very surprised and disappointed” by his proposal and urged him to reconsider it.

Kastama didn’t reconsider because he thinks it’s more important to fund two other major road projects in East Pierce County.

But Senate Bill 6031 bill never made it out of the Senate Transportation Committee, and with Wednesday’s deadline for bills to pass out of one chamber, he acknowledged it’s dead.

However, Kastama said he will press board members of the Regional Transportation Investment District to re-prioritize Pierce and King county road projects before the RTID measure goes to the ballot as expected in November.

“They still have time to change the project list, definitely,” he said Wednesday.

Several East Pierce leaders had fought the senator’s plan to strip money from a major north-south route.

“Right now, Highway 162 is virtually a gridlock,” said Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow.

The Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce urged its members to oppose Kastama’s proposal, as well.

“You don’t come to the party late and expect people to rally for you,” said Dave Morell, chairman of the chamber’s government affairs committee.

Posted by Buzz | March 17, 2007 1:04 PM

I also just realized another thing - no matter what governance structure Ed Murray and his anti-rail cohorts dream up behind closed doors this session, the legislature will STILL be able to meddle in this new Regional Transportation Commission's affairs. After all, like Sound Transit, the Commission will be a creature of the legislature, and people like Kastama and Murray will forever be trying to second-guess decisions made at the local level.

Posted by Buzz | March 17, 2007 1:08 PM

"You are behind the times about 10 years on buses. They can have dedicated lanes, have signal precidence, and be rocket fast."

Rocket Fast? You obviously haven't ridden BRT in Los Angeles, Eclexia. If you did, you would also notice the riders are overwhelmingly transit dependent, not the kinds of commuters transit needs to reach to get people out of their cars. Contrast that with the diverse mix of riders on the LA subway, or NY for that matter.

Also, it's common knowledge the modern American concept of Bus Rapid Transit was dreamt up by none other than Tom Delay, who was trying to kill a light rail project in his district.

Bus Rapid Transit can be anything you want it to be, but in our city and region (and in San Fran), you simply don't have the required right of way to make large, long buses work. LA has wide boulevards, and large radius intersections. Contrast that with North Seattle, which has the heaviest transit use, where buses are as fast as slugs, as their rear wheels run up on the sidewalk to get around corners. Rocket fast my ass. Heck, we can't even get bus only lanes on I-5 north (HOV lanes don't even exist southbound) and the business community is dead-set against removing any more parking downtown to free-up more lane space. Buses don't attract density and private capital, because a bus route can always be changed, and developers know that.

BRT looks good on paper, works well in third world countries where riders don't own cars and don't mind daily crush loads - but it just won't work here. Not without major infrastructure improvements (new bus-only lanes, dedicated ramps everywhere, etc) which end up costing just as much as light rail.

Posted by Buzz | March 17, 2007 1:48 PM

"As for a regional body, Barnett's memory is short. Remember this article Erica:
The one where you luvvvvvved Denver's transit plans? The one where there is a unified RTD board? While I despise Joel Connelly, I agree with Murray. It needs to happen."

Bad example, Dave Coffman. Denver's elected board flies totally under the radar, members are only challenged half the time - campaigns are funded totally by business and special interests - and for years the RTD had anti-rail Libertarians who set their light rail expansion plans back nearly a decade.

Also of note - Erica should look further in to this - the entire effort to make Denver's appointed board in to an elected one was based on an ANTI-RAIL political effort. A group called Citizens for An Accountable RTD put the amendment on the ballot, and the measure passed in the early 80's.

By the time 1997 rolled around, and Denver was ready to do a major expansion (like Sound Transit is doing now) the anti-transit Libertarian Chair of the Board, Jon Caldera, actively campaigned AGAINST his own agency's plans to extend light rail. Even though the anti-transit folks were outspent 15-1, the measure was defeated - thanks to inside Rob McKenna-like meddling. It wasn't until 2005, nearly 8 years later, that Denver's RTD board was rid of the Libertarians, and their Fastraks light rail expansion passed.

You still like John Stanton's, Ed Murray's Joel Connelly's idea, Dave Coffman? Think McKenna and his anti-rail cronies don't have the same plans for Seattle?

Visit for more

Posted by Buzz | March 17, 2007 2:34 PM

Dave Coffman: is it possible this previous December post of yours is what causes you to agree with Murray and Connelly:

"ST in my book won't be a real regional transit until they address those that live west of Highway 99. The minute the monorail went down in flames, they should have been on top of it. They haven't been, and I think it's intentional. "

Back to the old pet project thing. "If I don't get something, we need to re-think the whole thing."

Well, Ballard is an important transit market, but the city and regional planners have deemed it intermediate capacity. When you have limited resources (ST is maxed out on their state-mandated taxing authority, and Tim Eyman took away their MVET) you need to look at what corridors are most congested. 99 north and 15th Avenue NW simply don't compare to I-5 north, where light rail is planned for expansion.

Plus, light rail cannot and will not span - or tunnel under - the area near the 180-foot high Aurora bridge. Physics and topography is not your friend if you live west of 99-north, and I'm sad to inform you that isn't going to change. A streetcar or light rail line along 15th NW may be a possibility, but it just wouldn't be a regional line. I voted for Transit Now, even though it won't help me a bit - but I did so knowing it would benefit your neck of the woods, Dave. You should try thinking the same way. We are all in this together, in case you didn't notice.

One final note for Mr. Coffman: re-inventing the wheel isn't going to get light rail to your neighborhood - it will set the region back many years, as the food fight will just continue in a different suburban-dominated elected body.

Posted by Buzz | March 17, 2007 2:35 PM

ECB writes:

Bus service isn’t predictable—it’s slow and unreliable and has to share roads with all the other traffic, which is why people don’t like using it.

And they let those fucking handicapped people on too! Which makes Erica late for her appointment at the VD clinic, ooops, I mean, late for work.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | March 18, 2007 9:12 PM

Noink @ 19 writes:

Silly Seattle, doing anything that doesn't involve making it easier for Eastsiders to drive their cars into the city for entertainment occasionally.

Noink, you need to pull your head out of your ass, seriously, pull your head out of your ass because you're about 20 years behind the times. The fact is that if you look at cross lake commuting you start to see that a whole bunch of it is from Seattle residents commuting to work in Bellevue and other Eastside communities. The traffic flow across the lake, which in the 70s and 80s and early 90s was primarly flowing from homes on the Eastside to jobs in Seattle equalized years ago.

Oh, and the next time you write a shitty little anti-car screed you might also want to give a shout out to all of your Seattle homies in Madrona, Madison Park and Madison Valley who drive their SUVs through the Arboretum every day so they can get on 520 and go to work on the Eastside. That's a lot more traffic than Eastside residents coming to Seattle for entertainment.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | March 18, 2007 9:39 PM

As Joel C's agent, I'd like to once again thank Erica and her minions for promoting JC's column. His hits, readership and thus his salary rise commensurate with EB's promotional vitriol. Keep it up, Erica, so he can afford to get that Opec Towncar he's been eying!

Posted by Bill Bigguy | March 19, 2007 11:32 AM

I can't imagine a two-house-owning, island-dwelling man of the people working for the Stranger, can you? $622K and $450K - nothing to sneeze at.

Posted by Ask Your Savage | March 20, 2007 10:33 AM

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