Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drunks

Thursday, February 13, 2014

If We Traded Bertha in for Public Transit, How Much Transit Could We Buy?

Posted by on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Pretend that Seattle didn't have to spend $800 million on the tunnel project. Pretend that we instead devoted that money to public transit. How much public transportation do you think we could buy? Ben Schiendelman at Seattle Transit Blog figured out the answer, and you'll be shocked at what nearly a billion dollars could do for Seattle. I want to live in that city.


Comments (13) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
keshmeshi 1
I'm not seeing grade-separated transit, which is what we would really need to replace the viaduct, especially if you're not out to fuck over West Seattle. And reconnecting the South Lake Union street grid? Aren't they doing that right now? Mercer used to be an annoying but functional way to get onto 99 and I5, now it's a goddamn nightmare, even in the middle of the day.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 13, 2014 at 2:55 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 2
Also, anyone who proposes spending a good chunk of $800 million to "fix" the fundamentally broken Rapid Ride doesn't deserve to be taken seriously on transit issues.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 13, 2014 at 2:56 PM · Report this
William of Seattle 3
That would be awesome, but we have the reality of busted Bertha, and the wonderous glories of the "properly" developed waterfront and market of the very expensive future world for the ultra rich,,,,or a massive earthquake, whichever comes first. Alas, it's like "when you're in high school and arguing about imaginary lemonade stands..."
Posted by William of Seattle on February 13, 2014 at 3:04 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 4

Average cost per mile of light rail anywhere in the world except Seattle.

$30 million per mile.

$800 million / $30 million = 26 miles

That's 26 miles with between 5 and 10 stations that could provide TID apartment complexes and townhouses to relieve the housing crisis.

In Seattle, however, that amount would buy us about 2 miles of light rail.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on February 13, 2014 at 3:05 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 5
I, too, want to live in a city with enough clout/goodwill built up to get a stateful of legislators with disparate voting bases to vote us a local allocation of that much statewide gas-tax revenue to spend as we please on transportation.

I would also definitely want to live in a city whose gutsy and savvy politicos can convince locals to cough up their own revenue to fund their own mobility needs.

More than either imaginary city, though, I still want to live in Seattle.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on February 13, 2014 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Ben is actually really knowledgeable on transit issues. If you want to work for grade-separated transit, Ben is your guy. He started Seattle Subway with some friends. Working with them has been a pleasure for me.
That said, $1B wont get you a grade separated system, only part of one, so it isnt a particularly good example to use when trying to contextualize how much money is getting pissed away right now. My favorite example is a FULL build out of the bike master plan($200M). We could have that and more.
Posted by JonCracolici on February 13, 2014 at 3:15 PM · Report this
bitchslap 7
Feel free to move Paul. Do us all a favor!
Posted by bitchslap on February 13, 2014 at 3:25 PM · Report this
@7 fuck you. Thanks for the link, Paul. This is exactly what I've wanted to know.
Posted by deign_to_say on February 13, 2014 at 3:30 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 9

Whatever replaces the viaduct needs to be able to actually handle that traffic. I'm not seeing evidence that $800 million is remotely enough. So, if we can't get the state to hand over its share of what's currently slated to be wasted on the tunnel, then this is a pointless thought experiment.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 13, 2014 at 3:39 PM · Report this

Freeway removal has a long history. Take a look at this report. It turns out that you often don't need to replace a freeway with anything. Here's why:

- People no longer drive far out of their way to access limited-access freeways, or to access the few streets that cross those freeways. Instead, they use the city grid the way that it's meant to be used. Think about someone trying to get from 5th and Harrison to Westlake and Harrison. Right now, they need to take 5th to Denny/Mercer to Westlake. But with the grid fully reconnected, they could take Harrison the whole way, which would eliminate traffic on *three* congested arterials, while adding traffic to a street that is currently *way* underutilized. This is how cities worked before we screwed them up by building freeways.

- Right now, walking or biking from Uptown to South Lake Union is much harder than it should be, for the same reason. Taking the bus is also harder, since buses get caught in the traffic jams from cars that are heading to and from the freeway. Without the freeway, and the accompanying traffic impacts, a lot of people will switch from driving to these other transportation modes.

- Travel patterns are not set in stone. In the short term, people will change their discretionary travel: people who live in SLU will go to fewer restaurants in North Seattle and more restaurants in Queen Anne, and vice versa. Over time, people will change where they live and work, too.

- It's rare that freeway removal projects completely delete an arterial corridor. Replacing a freeway with one or two at-grade boulevards -- think Westlake Ave in SLU -- preserves a lot of capacity.

I encourage you to read the report I linked you to. Many other cities have removed freeways without replacing them, and the effort has been very successful, even without adding any transit service.
Posted by aleks on February 13, 2014 at 4:18 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 11
but does 800 million on public transpo do anything for the port commissioners? no? then KEEP DIGGIN!
Posted by Max Solomon on February 13, 2014 at 7:25 PM · Report this
Thought experiment? Yes. Pointless? I dont think so.
Its really just meant to be a conversation starter piece. Getting people talking about Oly's transportation funding priorities, and how far out of sync they are with Seattle values.
Posted by JonCracolici on February 13, 2014 at 8:01 PM · Report this
the comparison should be for the ENTIRE tunnel cost not just seattle share, ie $4.2 BILLION which gets you roughly we need way more light rail elevated or other whatever r monorail or skytrain, enough to build a second hugeass north south line from southcenter to SeaTac to west seattle to downtown to ballard to northgate maybe spur out to shoreline up aurora, something like that, creating two huge ass loops a giant figure eight system that would really move like 350K rides a day. most "real" bid cities have a large, effective, fast rail system. it's been tried about 200 times all over the world, and basically, three's not on that was built then regretted (name one, naysayers). you need this kind of interconnected loop system for it to be a system. throw in the light rail to Bellevue and now we're talking, training it from del ridge to Nseattle CC then out to bellevue for the job then back home in reasonable times? that's real mobility. mobility is the thing we want. trains give it if in a system. (and not at grade or in the street, duh!). this mobility advantage puts TONS of more affordable neighborhoods in access to jobs ALL OVER. it's way better than teeny incentive add a floor programs creating just 100 more "affordable" housing units. you want to connect like 900,000 affordable housing units we already hve in the region to all the jobs we already have in the region.
Posted by rail better obviously on February 14, 2014 at 1:45 AM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy