Instead of killing a popular plan to extend high-capacity transit from downtown to the University District along the Eastlake Avenue corridor, three city council members are delaying the plans for a year to fund other transit projects.
Seattle Transit Blog has an excellent piece today explaining exactly why the Eastlake planning should move forward, the sooner the better. Meanwhile, yesterday the council's transportation chair, Tom Rasmussen, joined council members Sally Bagshaw and Sally Clark in proposing reducing Mayor Mike McGinn's 2013-2014 transit budget plan by $1.35 million by:
· Deferring the start of the Eastlake High Capacity Transit (HCT) corridor planning until 2014.
· Delaying a study of HCT over the Ship Canal, as part of the Ballard HCT corridor.
In exchange, the council members propose shuffling transit money around:
· Adding $150,000 to speed up planning for HCT on Madison Street.
· Putting $2 million in 2013 towards improving various bus corridors identified in the Transit Master Plan.
The council will formally vote on their budget changes after next week's general election. Although the mayor's plan to study and build an HCT line along Eastlake Avenue has the popular support of South Lake Union businesses, various neighborhood chambers of commerce, and the University of Washington, "there isn't the council support for doing it sooner," says Bill LaBorde, a transportation expert working in Rasmussen's office. Part of this foot-dragging is insider politics—council members can't kill the funding as planned, due to its popularity with a wide swath of Seattleites. Still, those who have their eye on the mayoral throne aren't going to give McGinn any more victories than they absolutely have to before next year.
But it won't keep the mayor's office from gloating a little: "The council is going to delay rail along Eastlake but at the end of the day, they are affirming the mayor's efforts to expand rail in the city and invest in the Transit Master Plan," says Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for the mayor.