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Monday, April 30, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

posted by on April 30 at 17:53 PM



On Sunday a gas tanker crashed in Oakland—under an elevated highway interchange, melting supports and rivets, ultimately causing the interchange to collapse. (Cool video here.) Chaos was predicted for today’s commute in SF; the governor of California declared the Bay Area a motherfucking disaster area.

Gee, how did that commute go today anyway?

A day after a fiery tanker crash melted and collapsed a critical highway interchange near the Bay Bridge, rush hour commuters in the Bay Area enjoyed a relatively painless morning, as drivers avoided the roads and the expected nightmare largely failed to materialize.

How was the disaster averted? Mass transit got a boost—more trains were running, more ferries crisscrossed San Francisco Bay, and some folks opted to telecommute. Now the same people that predicted disaster today are warning us that the disaster—the chaos! oh, the humanity!—will surely come tomorrow. Or Wednesday. Or Thursday. It’s likelier, however, that disaster won’t come because drivers will do what drivers do only when they must: adjust. Find other ways around, switch to mass transit, telecommute, ride a ferry.

But once again freeway addicts deprived of a freeway predicted disaster and disaster failed to materialize.

Tear down the viaduct now.

RSS icon Comments


And when we get an 80 MPH wind storm and the 520 bridge closes, the whole region is paralyzed.

Posted by Tiffany | April 30, 2007 6:17 PM

You're correct that drivers either found other routes, cut out unnecessary trips, took mass transit (good call on making BART free Gov., should do it all week, get people in the habit.) or just simply stayed home.

But I'm guessing this is a jab a the viaduct supporters - which I don't think should be rebuit either - but it's not a very similiar comparison. I actually really feel for drivers affected by the 580 collapse. This would be like tearing out I-5 where it connects to I-90. It's pretty catastrophic.

The viaduct, on the other hand...

Posted by Dougsf | April 30, 2007 6:21 PM

If memory serves, the commute was similar after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. (BART was relatively unscathed, and their tunnel did fine.)

Posted by Ebenezer | April 30, 2007 6:25 PM

You also were just as steadfast a supporter of moving the Gay Pride Parade downtown last year.

How'd that work out Dan?

Posted by If memory serves me | April 30, 2007 6:30 PM

Not a freeway addict. I am a reality for transit addict tho... so keep what we have until we have some real transit. Like BART. Or CalTrain. Or streetcars like MUNI. Like a new mosquito fleet.

Once that's in place where it's reasonable for people to use transit to get into and around the city, then pop a nice, fat congestion charge on those driving into the inner core.

Posted by Dave Coffman | April 30, 2007 6:32 PM

They have BART and 14 other transit systems, Dan.

Posted by Gomez | April 30, 2007 6:32 PM

Let me get this straight - a tanker truck filled with gasoline takes out a huge section of heavily trafficked highway?

Listen up, people, God is trying to tell us something about our transportation habits.

Posted by Sean | April 30, 2007 6:38 PM

Do we have to tear it down right this minute? I just got done with dinner. It's been a long day, and I'd like to relax.

Why don't we start bright and early in the morning? I'll bring donuts and some juice boxes.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | April 30, 2007 6:41 PM


OK, this accident was definately the drivers fault (unlike the crane operator in the PI story), but still, even after the CHP declared him sober at the time of the accident, and the dude is recovering from intense burns covering his body, The SF Chronical can't help but drag out the man's drug posession conviction 13 years ago.

Cold blooded.

Posted by Dougsf | April 30, 2007 7:02 PM

aaaarrgh god why do I start reading comments on YouTube videos? Why dammit? Why?

Posted by Jordyn | April 30, 2007 7:19 PM

catalina vel-duray:

I'll be there at 6:00am. Please bring trans-fat free donuts.

Posted by Hammering Man | April 30, 2007 7:25 PM

Yeah...A Big Fat Fuck You, Dan. Tell you what, You buy me a house in the city closer to where I work, and I'll help tear the viaduct down myself. Until then, YOU try commuting from the affordable south end to the north end for work every day WITHOUT going on the viaduct. Good luck with your four hour commute. I'm sick and god damn tired of people wanting to tear the viaduct down without taking into account West Seattle and the south end. UNTIL you can suggest a viable solution that doesn't entail a four hour commute, SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY.

Posted by South Ender | April 30, 2007 7:26 PM

This is a really dumb analogy - an approach to the Bay Bridge was taken out of commission - not the bridge itself (this is rather like saying that since people avoided a blocking accident on 4th Ave S at Holgate and got on the Viaduct another way, you can go ahead and just tear the AWV down.)

When are we getting that mature mass transit system to West and Northwest Seattle again? Like, 40 years from now if we're lucky?

As a transporation planner, Savage does a great job giving out lousy sex advice.

Posted by Westsider | April 30, 2007 7:29 PM

@8: Don't worry - I'll bring a fuel tanker, a flame retardant suit and a match, and it'll all be finished in no time.

Posted by tsm | April 30, 2007 7:37 PM

We're you for the Monorail?

Posted by M129V | April 30, 2007 7:37 PM

South ender, as a west seattlite who commutes to the far north end for work, I feel your pain intensely.

I also don't like the tear down of the viaduct w/ the surface transit option being some sort of cure all for transportation in the city. Take away a main north south highway and the cars will disappear?????? Gimme a break or a funnier joke.

As Gomez said, SF has many public transportation options that we don't have; so of course they were able to adapt. Seattle doesn't have the transit options to adapt to such a disaster, and a damn surface option w/ less capacity and an absence of radically greater public transportation is a recipe for chaos.

Posted by neo-realist | April 30, 2007 7:41 PM

Dan doesn't know the geography of the highway system he's talking about. The article he linked to says that there wasn't major problems this morning. That's because the traffic that uses this overpass that collapsed is largely in the afternoon, going out of San Francisco towards the east bay. San Francisco news sites say that the afternoon commute today was okay, but the real test will be over the next few weeks, not just one day.

Besides, if Dan wants to use one day as an example, why doesn't he then point to when the Viaduct was closed after the earthquake, and traffic was gridlocked coming into downtown from the south? I'm thinking "Tear down the viaduct -- two hours from West Seattle to Downtown" probably doesn't have as good a ring to it. Facts are unfortunate things.

Of course, the bay area is instructive, but not in a way the teardown advocates would like. The Bay Bridge failed in the '89 earthquake. Did they tear it down? Nope -- they rebuilt it. Because they knew that even though they've got 1000x better mass transit than we do, they still need that road corridor. Just like we do.

Posted by Bax | April 30, 2007 7:47 PM

All this talk of commuting options, and not a single mention of bicycles!

May is National Bike To Work Month. Check out the calendar of local events.

Stressed out? Out of shape? Feel guilty about polluting? Here's your chance to help yourself and help the region.

Ride a bike!

(I'll be showing some coworkers the route from downtown Seattle to Kent in the morning).

Posted by Denny | April 30, 2007 8:18 PM

#8 and hammering man, I can be there too! i can jog over to my friend's house tonight and borrow her ice climbing pick (it's a gamble, this 120lb, Mt Baker ascending woman can be 'picky'). Maybe we can meet in krispy kreme's parking lot and have the trans fat-free juice breakfast.

the artist at name's link apparently did a 30 foot concrete seamonster for a school public art comission.

Posted by Garrett | April 30, 2007 8:47 PM

Dan should really stick to sucking cock, whenever he waddles out to check on other topics of interest, he sure does sound like a lisping, prancing nelly with very little real world knowledge.

Posted by rufus | April 30, 2007 9:02 PM

Imagine there's no viaduct
It's easy if you try
No tunnel below us
And gas at 4 or five
Imagine all the people
On buses or on bikes


Posted by kinaidos | April 30, 2007 9:16 PM

@4 The downtown parade brought out 200,000 people in contrast to the few thousand on Broadway. It was a far greater number than had ever shown up on Broadway. I'd argue that the downtown parade worked out pretty goddamn well.

Posted by Gitai | April 30, 2007 9:24 PM

Mmm... cock. Gonna go suck me some in a second.

I didn't compare Seattle's precious viaduct to the Oakland's late, great interchange. I was addressing the whining -- the whining is the same. Whatever awful urban freeway needs to be removed, the whiners scream "chaos! gridlock!" when removal is discussed. But magically when a freeway is removed -- or taken out of service temporarily -- chaos and gridlock are nowhere to be seen.

And that's what I was trying to show you about.

Now, cock.

Posted by Dan Savage | April 30, 2007 9:42 PM

It wasn't whining, it was worry--and bear in mind that worry, and the loud publication of that worry, alerted commuters to alter course, take public transportation, whatever. Would you have preferred they said nothing?

And don't be disengenious; you were making a point about Seattle's crappy viaduct. But the analogy, as pointed out above, doesn't hold: San Francisco, being an actual city, has actual public transportation.

Posted by boomer in nyc | April 30, 2007 9:53 PM

All you people praising the bay area's "14 transit systems" clearly never spent any time there using transit. AC Transit and Muni are bigger systems than Metro but they're basically comparable considering the size of the regions they serve. Caltrain is irrelevant to this discussion, as it runs from SF near the stadium south to San Jose.

BART is a barely adequate subway system, though frequently necessary considering the terrain it tunnels through. Its maintenance issues are endemic (you can't go fifteen minutes waiting for a train without hearing a recorded announcement advising you about which stations' elevators are currently broken), and like the bus systems, it doesn't have a significant amount of spare capacity.

As a Berkeley resident for eight years not so long ago, I'm surprised the Bay Area was able to cope as well as it was today. I hope they can maintain it, as the region did after the '89 quake. If they do, there's not much about their example that wouldn't apply as well to Seattle and its viaduct paralysis.

And #16, for fuck's sake, the whole point of surface/transit is to increase capacity, just not car capacity.

Posted by Nat | April 30, 2007 10:06 PM

Did it occur to anyone else that the lack of transit problems in the aftermath might be the result of a conspiracy?

Demand the truth.

Posted by RL | April 30, 2007 10:08 PM


It was a complete financial fiasco. Stop playing make believe.

With all of Dans prancing and cheerelading how much did he donate last year?

Well from the $200 collected, I'd say a bit less than $200.

Of course the Stranger ran a special Gay pride Issue, which more than likeley was one of the bigger Issues that year.

So unlike the parade, they profited off of last years parade. Of course Dan wants you to have another parade.

So how does The Stranger back the parade this year with all the financial dufficulties? have the ponied up to help get out of debt? Has Dan been accountable for ruinning his fucking mouth yet again and personally cut a check?

I kinda fucking doubt it.

Posted by If memory serves me | April 30, 2007 10:12 PM

Come on Dan, your comments are just as disingenuous as pointing out a single example of child abuse by a gay person to prohibit adoption.

Whenever a piece of highway collapses on a weekend, people eliminate 'optional' trips. Think of what happened when the 520 bridge was closed for a week several years ago.

Then it all goes back to SNAFU. Think of what happened when, uh, the Viaduct was closed for a while several years ago.

Posted by l'etranger | April 30, 2007 10:18 PM

Hey whiners,

I live on E. CapHill, pay $500 a month to rent a very nice studio Apt. with a nice yard, on a nice street, with nice neighbors, and with a 15 minute commute, which I do 5 days a week on a scooter that gets roughly 85 mpg. Even if I was married with a kid, I could probably do it for not much more (I know folks who do).

If I can do it, ANYONE can, if they have their priorities straight.

Posted by COMTE | April 30, 2007 10:32 PM

Hey Comte ---

Good for you. Talk to me when one of your priorities involves BUYING your home and not renting it.

Posted by South Ender | April 30, 2007 10:42 PM

I can have sympathy for those who live outside of the city and need to use the viaduct to get to work in a convienient way. However, it is your choice to live outside the city and it is your choice to drive your car to work. Hell it is your choice to work in the city.Yes, it is expensive to live in the city and your can purchase a house in the 'burbs. Rent is also cheaper. Maybe you cannot afford to work in the city.
I am tired of listen to other people complain about their problems like they have no other choice. You have a choose to be part of the traffic problem.

Posted by Ugh | April 30, 2007 10:48 PM

In the 1970s, a tanker truck filled with 3700 gallons of gasoline exploded on the lower deck of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. That inferno melted through power lines and cut electricity to several major downtown buildings, yet did NOT collapse the viaduct as happened to the poorly built elevated highway in Oakland.

Go to http// and search for viaduct fire.

Posted by Slip Mahoney | April 30, 2007 10:48 PM

Dont tear it down, just dont let cars on it, cover it all in dirt, grass, rocks, trees and plants and let nature have its course...It could be the coolest longest park in the world.

Posted by slick Watts | May 1, 2007 2:35 AM

In October 1983 a similar accident (caused by an axle rupture) crippled auto-commuting in the Philadelphia area for about a year. I lived there at the time, it was a horrible mess. What I could find from that pre-internet era:

Philadelphia firemen hose down the doming wreckage of a tank truck loaded with gas which overturned Friday afternoon on the SCHUYLKILL EXPRESSWAY. At least two people were killed in the four-vehicle accident. EXPRESSWAY TANKER crash Firefighters extinguish reopen east lane PHILADELPHIA Firefighters extinguished a smoldering blaze under the state's busiest highway Saturday more than 24 hours after a GASOLINE TANKER truck crashed and killing two severely injuring ano...

Posted by Goes around comes around | May 1, 2007 4:12 AM


I'm sorry but an Adult Male (about the age of 22)living in a studio & driving a scooter does not haver his priorities straight.

If anything yours is a caitionary tale.

On to the actual Issue, Yes Dan, there are communities other than Capital Hill in Seattle. West Seattle, South Seattle and sections up North are going to be heavily effected by the Viaduct decision.

Before you start bleating on about tearing down the viaduct, lets get an idea of what will replace it and how things are improved.

Posted by Get Real | May 1, 2007 5:33 AM

@35, About should read above...

Posted by Get Real | May 1, 2007 5:34 AM

#25, you don't increase capacity with a surface option that provides less car capacity and a lack of radically improved public transporation options.

I'm no car addict freak, but my present job which is 1.5 miles from the nearest community transit stop leaves me no choice but to use a car. Hypothetically, If I did use transit to get to my job, it would take about 2 hours to get to work. Not all of us have the convenience of being able to telecommute or bike.

Posted by neo-realist | May 1, 2007 6:20 AM

I have an analogy too. Tearing down the viaduct could be modeled by what happened a few weekends ago when they, y'know, closed the viaduct on a weekend. On a Saturday with no major events, I-5 was backed up to the West Seattle Bridge and all of downtown bypass routes were congested; I know because I kept trying different ways to get through.

A few years ago with the viaduct down and a Husky football game, I-5 was backed up to the airport and it took well over an hour to get from the airport to the U District, again trying to use back roads.

Posted by zzyzx | May 1, 2007 6:27 AM

Hey Ugh --- Go Fuck yourself. I can (and have for the last 10 years) lived in the city just fine. (I have a Seattle address.) I CAN afford to live in the city, and guess what? I could even afford to buy a house in it. However, where I bought is at the opposite end of town from where I work. My choice to drive a car to work? Hey asshole, gas is 3.something a gallon. Do you seriously think that I would pass up taking the bus if it didn't involve a 4 hour roundtrip? Not to mention that maybe I have a job that requires me to have a car. Maybe during the course of my day I am required to leave my primary place of work and need to visit clients. Maybe my wife has to do so in the course of her work as well. Besides, what are cities anyway? They are where the jobs are. And, btw, sorry, I know more then a few people who live "in the city" who pay more for rent then we do for our mortgage. And, FYI, I have voted for more mass transit every time it has been on the ballot. Blame Tim Eyman and the other anti-monorail, anti-light rail assholes for the fucked state of traffic in this city, because I've voted against THEM every chance I've had.


Posted by South Ender | May 1, 2007 7:30 AM

I remember hearing on NPR this morning that one of the reasons the commute was no big deal was because thousands of people stayed home yesterday. Today might be more telling.

Still, makes tele-commuting a sexier option.

Posted by Sasha | May 1, 2007 7:36 AM

What we need is an intra-seattle mass transit system. Say on a route from west Seattle to Ballard... oh wait.

Posted by Giffy | May 1, 2007 7:45 AM

Well, thanks for the pleasantries South Ender. You proved my point. That is great that you can afford to purchase a house in the South End of Seattle. Did you not know that your commuting options are limited there (which is probably why it is so cheap to live there.) It is your choice to live there. It is your choice to drive. You are part of the problem. Tim Eyman is an asshole,yes, but at least he works from home.
Oh, and BTW. I own a home in Seattle and do not own a car. I made sure my house was on a busline before I bought it. I could have a much nicer house if I chose to live outside the city. Again, we all make choices.
Why would you want to drive on the viaduct anyway. The thing could flatten you like a pancake in the next big earthquake. If I was a bitch I would wish that for you... but I'm not.

Posted by Ugh | May 1, 2007 8:16 AM

Another stellar post from Dan Savage. Man of the people. Get a clue guy. I'm still not sure why you think your opinion matters on anything.

Posted by K | May 1, 2007 8:37 AM

Maybe all these years of being paid to share his opinions lead Dan to believe that his opinions have value? Maybe it was that.

Posted by EXTC | May 1, 2007 9:13 AM

@42: I completely agree.

When you choose to make transit options a low priority in your home buying decision, don't whine that your commute is too long. Poor judgement on your part doesn't make a crisis for me.

Also, @35, cautionary tale? Come now, surely having 3.5 more hours in the day to enjoy, well, anything but sitting in the car is a sign of having your priorities in order.

Posted by CRo | May 1, 2007 9:54 AM

Saying that people choose to live out of Seattle is like saying that people choose to work at fastfood. Yes at the individual level there is some choice. However from a broader perspective some people have to live out there just like some people have to work for minimum wage.

Would it be nice if everyone could live a block from work... sure. Just as it would be nice if everyone could make 100k a year.

Since we live in the real world, we should stop berating people for such things and instead work toward solutions that work in the real world. Effective transit probably being the most important. This includes both regional transit that moves people to population and job centers as well as local transit that moves people around once they get there.

Posted by Giffy | May 1, 2007 10:16 AM

Firstly: Cool video link.

Secondly: We now know what it will take to quickly bring down the viaduct (for those inclined to take matters into their own hands and expedite the process): one really fat person, lit on fire, could melt the steel and concrete in a matter of hours. The fire department would be helpless to extinguish such a raging, greasy inferno, assuring the timely (or untimely, Southender) demise of the viaduct.

Burners, you can come, too, and take drugs and trade your fartsy crap if you like.

Posted by jackie treehorn | May 1, 2007 10:27 AM

Why would I want to buy a home South Ender? For the equity? Meanwhile I go into debt up to my eyeballs for the next 30 years? And for what? Just to have a larger place to store more crap I never use, or to have someplace to park my gas-guzzling Ford Behemoth, in order to show the neighbors driving their Chevy Leviathans and Dodge Corpulants that I'm doing my part to keep up? Screw that.

We make choices. You choose to buy a home, but you can't afford one within 20 miles of where you work, so you spend your savings, pay the mortgage (which hopefully isn't one of those insane "no-interest ARM" scams), buy the fuel-sucking vehicle that you have to drive 200 miles per week just to go back-and-forth to your job. And in order to do so, you put up with the stress, and the resentment that forces you to compete in the never-ending race to try to maintain your standard of living, and try to convince yourself that somehow you're the one who's living the dream.

Sounds more like a frickin' nightmare to me.

Meanwhile, I choose to rent a completely adequate-for-my-needs 400 square-foot studio apartment within walking distance to downtown, which allows me to enjoy a 15 minute, five mile round-trip commute to my job, using a vehicle that costs me roughly 1/10th the amount of yours to maintain and keep fueled up, and which furthermore allows me the freedom to invest the money I'd otherwise be pouring into paying off mortgage interest, or a car payment, or gas even, into a healthy retirement fund.

In addition, I can pretty much guarantee I have a lot less stress in my life, not to mention lots and lots of leisure time I'd otherwise be wasting sitting in traffic jams, thus allowing me to enjoy the many artistic, recreational, social and cultural activities available to me within easy reach of where I live right now.

So, you can gloat, if that makes you feel better. But, really, when you finally arrive home at oh, say 7:00 p.m., after another in an endless string of mind-numbing commutes, and you're so tired and stressed out from the day that all you can do is plotz on the sofa with your Stouffer's entree, looking forward to an exciting evening of televised mayhem that you'll probably fall asleep in front of anyway, try not to smirk too much at the thought of me luxuriating in my yard, enjoying a cocktail at around 5:30 p.m., while the pungeunt aroma of lamb shank in a basalmic reduction wafts through my open kitchen door, anticipating my plans for the evening: seeing the latest theatre piece, or film, or meeting up with friends at one of my neighborhood's many fine dining/drinking establishments for an evening of camaraderie, and still being able to get to bed by 11:30 p.m.

Choices, you see. It's all about the choices.

Posted by COMTE | May 1, 2007 10:35 AM

COMTE, if everyone choose to live as you do that studio would cost $2000 a month.

Posted by Giffy | May 1, 2007 10:45 AM

Hey Comte, have you ever even left Captitol Hill? Perhaps you should spare us the elitism and take a little trip outside your comfort zone. Turns out, even in the south end, there are people who care about the city and their community and who drive efficient cars (my 38 mpg Honda Civic may not be as zippy or super-cute as your scooter, but I'm pretty sure the cops would frown on putting the baby seat on the back of a vespa). Furthermore, and prepare yourself, as this may come as a great shock, there are also bars, restaurants, theaters, and intelligent neighbors throughout the entire southend. We're not the slack-jawed yokels you're portraying. And, seems like you maybe slept through econ 101, but a house is an investment, just like a 401K (which I also have) and in 15 years, my investment in real estate will pay for my kid's college. Those are the important choices I've made, and it has NOTHING to do with keeping up with the Joneses. I also manage to make it home by 5:30 every day, even with driving on the viaduct, and I'm pretty sure my lamb chops would blow yours right out of the water.

Posted by southern not stupid | May 1, 2007 10:59 AM

This whole subject of the viaduct would be moot if Seattle had a functional transportation system. It's absurd that I-5 narrows down to one lane as you head through downtown, it's absurd that Marginal doesn't connect up w/ I-5, it's absurd that Aurora doesn't connect up w/ I-5, it's absurd that there are so many different government agencies involved in deciding our mass transit options (King Co vs Sound Transit, hello?), 520 is one giant absurdity, it's absurd that we don't have congestion pricing on our freeways... the list goes on and on.

I like the idea of using the viaduct to rethink how we can provide people with more mass transit, but until the county and state retool how they make transportation decisions, I have ZERO confidence that tearing down a major thoroughfare will automatically cause more transit to fall out fo the sky.

Posted by Big Sven | May 1, 2007 11:01 AM

Witness the brilliance of Eli Sanders:

I was completely full up on the hectoring tone of Seattle’s gripers, finger-waggers, and utopia-demanders.

and consider a New rule: no Stranger staffer is allowed to say we should tear down the Viaduct because X City can get by without their bridge/freeway/interchange if X City has more than a dozen rail lines.

So, shut up already about San Francisco. And don’t even get started about London and Paris.

Posted by Sid Vicious | May 1, 2007 11:03 AM

Giffy - I've lived in Seattle most of my life and I've never made more than $31k/year. My wife and I (she makes about the same I do) own our apartment on Capitol Hill. I've never owned a car. I didn't even learn to drive until I was 26. I've biked or bused or walked to every job I've ever had and I'm doing just fine financially.

I strongly agree that we need transit options in Seattle, but listening to people say the have no choice about using their car to commute to work doesn't impress me. Some people do need to use cars-- contractors and so on. But most people are just making investment choices (homes outside the center of the city) that earn them a profit while part of the cost of their investments are passed on to the rest of us through externalities; a portion of the cost of your long car commute is paid by, among others, the citizens of New Orleans. If those costs were levied directly against you instead of being disbursed across the globe, your choices wouldn't be economical. Meanwhile, the return on your investments in outlying real estate are basically paid for by the rest of us when we suffer from respiratory problems, higher food costs, etc, caused by pollution from your car-- and, of course, our tax dollars that go to the cops, roads, and other infrastructure that you don't pay for directly with user fees.

Everyone does shit like this. I eat the occasional hamburger, in spite of the fact that I know the price I paid for the burger doesn't reflect its cost. Sometimes I buy things that're made in China. But those are choices, and I know that. So this line about how you or southern-not-stupid or whoever are somehow being forced to do what you're doing-- it's just bullshit.

Posted by Judah | May 1, 2007 11:26 AM

I never said that living in the south end and driving on the viaduct was not a choice. However, if I'm willing to pay for your busses (which I am), then others have to be willing to pay for things they don't use, like regionally important roads. That's what taxes are for. Also, I'm pretty sure that the crumbling viaduct and the use of cars are not to blame for the high food costs in Seattle. That, my friend, is bullshit.

Posted by southern not stupid | May 1, 2007 11:38 AM


However, if I'm willing to pay for your busses (which I am), then others have to be willing to pay for things they don't use, like regionally important roads

It doesn't work like that. For one thing, Metro buses actually operate in the black; user fees exceed operations costs. For another thing, the road that's important to you might be a liability to the city/county as a whole. The fact that you benefit from it doesn't mean the net benefit to the community makes the road worth maintaining.

I'm pretty sure that the crumbling viaduct and the use of cars are not to blame for the high food costs in Seattle. That, my friend, is bullshit.

Global warming, for which cars are inordinately responsible, is directly responsible for the rising cost of groceries. Look it up.

Posted by Judah | May 1, 2007 11:54 AM

I would hope that the one thing most of us can agree on is that the Greater Seattle Area, not just Seattle, needs a transportation plan. Pitting one neighborhood, Capital Hill or Downtown, against another, Ballard or West Seattle, is as stupid as the potshots Seattlites hurl at Eastsiders.

We are all one community and the great thing is that there is room for single studio dwellers AND families. City lovers and suburbanites both add to the fabric of this area. Insults and arrogance from any side will not solve the basic problem.

In my almost 40 years of living in this area, both inside and outside Seattle, I can't think of one major transportation success other than I-90. And that took 30 years to complete when legal wrangling is considered. Please don't jump on me for considering I-90 a success. When 520 sinks into the lake I-90 might be a parking lot but it will be a necessary one.

As a community we need to take all this pent up energy, and that is what simmering anger is, and funnel it towards making something happen. Push the politicians to stop grandstanding and start working with honest integrity to get a unified transportation policy.

I'm not going to claim to know what the solution is. But, to tear down the viaduct without a functioning multi-modal solution would be stupid. I don't want a new viaduct built. BUT lets figure out a solution to the problem of north-south movement of people and freight BEFORE we tear down one of only two relatively efficient routes to get through the city. Does anyone really want thousands of trucks idling on city streets?

And lets make telecommuting and flex-schedules part of the discussion. How about a review of the housing and land use policies of all Seattle area cities? This is not an insurmountable problem if we put all of our minds to it. But we must first stop with the name-calling and the "my way of life is better than yours" arguments. That gets ALL of us NOWHERE.


Posted by Cameron | May 1, 2007 11:59 AM

Tell you what.

You build me a monorail or light rail along the Green Line route, or at least 99, and one from Ballard to the U Dist thru Fremont.

Then you can take away my Viaduct.

Until then, promises mean nothing.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 1, 2007 12:04 PM

i live in sf and work in berkeley and i had the BEST COMMUTE OF MY LIFE yesterday. i wish the freeway would collapse more often.

Posted by Bubba BaBoom | May 1, 2007 12:23 PM

Judah-Last I checked, 99 was a state route, not a city or county one. It's easy for us to make this a Seattle-only issue, but we're not the only ones who benefit from it, and we're not the only ones who pay for it. It's part of a REGIONAL transportation system. That system may not be perfect, but destroying it without having established alternatives in place is extremely short-sighted.

Also, look this up, I'd be willing to bet that increased food costs in Seattle have a lot less to do with cars on the viaduct than with steadily increasing population, job growth, housing prices, and the relatively high salaries that Seattle offers.

Posted by southern not stupid | May 1, 2007 12:29 PM


Sure, but were would they all live. Just how many people do you think we can squeeze on to capital hill. 22k people live in downtown right now and 120k work there. Thats 100k people(and there families) who could just choose to move downtown right.

Posted by giffy | May 1, 2007 1:05 PM

I'm starting to realize that if the surface option were to be put in place, people in Seattle would intentionally cause gridlock just to prove a point.

Posted by Dougsf | May 1, 2007 1:07 PM

Metro buses operate at about 20% recovery from farebox revenue the rest from taxes, mostly sales tax.

Posted by kush | May 1, 2007 1:33 PM
Metro buses operate at about 20% recovery from farebox revenue the rest from taxes, mostly sales tax.


When I worked for Metro Environmental in the '90s we had to give a certain share of our DI water to the bus program-- something to do with their batteries. When I asked about why we had to maintain a DI supply for the buses I was told that the lab actually got revenue from the bus program, that user fees covered the operating budget of the buses themselves, and that we were supplying the water partly to balance the budget for the funds we were drawing off the bus program to float the lab. I haven't really researched it since.

Posted by Judah | May 1, 2007 1:50 PM

south ender said:

Hey Ugh --- Go Fuck yourself. I can (and have for the last 10 years)

Before I realized that was just a sentence fragment, I thought, "hey, that is amazing, I'll bet he never goes anywhere."

Posted by tiptoe tommy | May 1, 2007 2:02 PM

Metro hasn't been close to breakeven for decades if ever. The link will give you data back to 2003.

Posted by kush | May 1, 2007 2:14 PM


If everyone chose to live as I do, developers would be building apartment units faster than you can say "supply-and-demand", and at some point the market would stablize. In the process my 400 ft sq unit might end up going for $600 or even $700 per month, but that would still be a bargain when weighed against the cost savings of not paying for mortgage interest, property taxes, maintenance and repairs on both my home and my vehicle, not to mention the massive savings for not having to fill up a 15 gallon tank once or twice a week, plus all that extra time I'm not spending trapped on the freeways. It's a better deal for me personally, and better deal for the environment overall.


That's great, and probably puts you far beyond roughly 90% of your neighbors in terms of reducing your negative environmental impact, but it's still a pretty marginal contribution considering, so don't go patting yourself on the back too much.

At least here I have options in terms of how I get around: I can walk, bike, bus, or drive if I absolutely have to; but in every case, I can make a conscious choice based on what's best for me, and what's best for the environment. Even if I lived in the south end, going to Renton Civic Theatre, or some place like Moonraker (see, I do get off the hill on occasion!) is almost always going to involve only one option; driving.

So, if'n you-all want get into some sort of pissing match over whose lifestyle does the least environmental damage in exchange for the most economic benefit, well then whiz away. But, while you're writing your name in the snow or whatever, keep in mind, even with your conscious reductions, you're probably still using roughly four times more energy, and spewing about three times more carbon emissions into the atmosphere than the average human being. I figure I'm down to about twice as much as average, so even I've got a long ways to go in terms of reducing my impact.

Posted by COMTE | May 1, 2007 3:21 PM

COMTE, you really think we can increase housing 5 fold in downtown in any reasonable time frame. Hell we can't even get people to accept the idea of buildings higher then 4 stories on Broadway.

If we really want to house even a majority of the people who work downtown we would need to essentially triple the average hight of buildings in Seattle. Not to mention sizable increases in the utility infrastructure. All the while population keeps growing.

There will always be people who either by choice or economic necessity have to live far from were they work. Sure there are people who move out to Sammammish so they can have a big old house, but many move out because that is the only place they can afford to rent or buy a 2 or three bedroom house or apartment.

That 600 you spend can get a one or two bedroom in federal way. I am sure the minimum wage family out there would love to be a rich as you and not have to sit on the bus for 2 hours just to get to work, but they just can't afford the luxury of living downtown. The solution is not to berate them but to figure out how we can move people with minimum impact on the environment.

That being said, we are increasing downtown housing pretty quickly, but most of the units are the more profitable high end sort not the low end kind. Land prices and construction costs make it very very difficult to build the kind of units that rent for under a thousand a month, or sell for less the 20 or 3 hundred thousand. Thats why most affordable units are in existing buildings. Increasing density often requires knocking them down, but that raiser the ire of affordable housing advocates.

Posted by Giffy | May 1, 2007 3:53 PM


Given what you say your rent is - you probably live in an older building. I'd say a likelier scenario - especially if your property is upzoned - or other land use changes are granted giving exemptions from setback/open space/and other development requirements - is that your currently affordable apartment building with your $500/month studio will be torn down to make room for a new building where studios rent for double or triple that. I'm guessing that your landlord has owned the property awhile, and only has to pay taxes/repairs and other overhead. I

Even if your building just changes hands, I would expect your rent to go up significantly - and not just because the new owner would have a higher monthly nut, but because they would have no compunctions on turning the screws on current tenants to try and get an inflated "market rate" rent. I know an apartment manager who has worked at a building for quite some time whose new owners did just that.

And you'd better hope you don't lose your job, or get offered a better one somewhere else, because then you'll be in the same boat as hundreds of thousands of other people throughout this region who don't want to pull up stakes every time their employment situation changes - which is one hell of a lot easier for you to say than it is for people with families/connections to their community/homes to do.

Posted by Mr. X | May 1, 2007 3:58 PM

i spew about three times more carbon emissions into your momma than the average human being

Posted by yo mamma | May 1, 2007 4:06 PM

The tenor of the majority of comments to this post make it is so clear why nothing ever gets done in this region. We get the government that reflects ourselves: more interested in bickering and making points than addressing the real issues at hand.

Sad, but I love it here anyway.

Even the Bay Area with all of its transit has problems with efficiency and cleanliness. Its not an eden down there.

Posted by Cameron | May 1, 2007 5:11 PM


Who said anything about limiting development to just downtown (where I don't happen to live BTW, unless by "downtown" you mean, "all of central metropolitan Seattle"). That doesn't really make any sense at all, given current property values in the core, which is why developers have to upsell to people who can afford to pay half a mil for 600 ft sq condos, because that's what they have to charge there to get any decent ROI.

No, if demand for apartments increased that dramatically, the real development would occur in the outlying neighborhoods: Queen Anne, First Hill, CapHill, Squire Park, Madrona, Madison Park, Fremont, Ballard, Magnolia, Judkins Park, et al, where there's more room for large, multi-unit apartment buildings, and where property values would be more at-scale for the types of development people could actually afford to create and live in, and where people can still get to jobs - even, *gasp!* by bus - with relative ease.

The main reason people live so far from where they work in this country (which isn't the norm in most of the rest of the world) has, for the most part, little to do with economic necessity. In fact, studies on the matter actually correlate distance of commute as being a function of economic advantage, that is, people who earn higher wages tend to live farther from their work sites than people who earn respectively less. That's because up until fairly recently, land has been relatively cheap in this country, as have fossil fuels. In some cases, people DO indeed live far away from their jobs, because they simply have no choice. But, it's a much smaller number than most people think.

The simple truth is that many people don't HAVE to live in suburban developments, but they CHOOSE to live in them, for all sorts of reasons that have little to do with whether they can afford to live elsewhere, or whether it would be economically or environmentally beneficial for them to do so.

But ultimately, you're going to have to face the question of how far are YOU willing to go to keep that house in the 'burbs? Would a 50 mile round-trip that takes an hour each way sway you? How about 75 miles and 90 minutes? 100 miles and two hours each way? And at what cost? When gas hits $5 a gallon, which should be in approximately 2 years at current rates, at what point does the economic benefit of home ownership become completely negated by the cost of travelling to and from it?

And FWIW Mr. X, I was laid off back in November of 2004, and was un- or severely underemployed for about 10 months, but I was able to stay right where I am today, due in large part to the fact that I'd been able to rack up a healthy savings account balance, because I wasn't spending large sums of money on mortgages or commuting costs. Chances are probably very good that if I'd been a homeowner, I would have had to either sell or would have been foreclosed, which would have put me pretty much right where I am now, but with a huge debt-load and nothing to show for it.

Posted by COMTE | May 1, 2007 5:15 PM


I'm glad that worked out for you (really!), but you ought to have more sympathy for the plight of all of those working stiffs (even the middle class ones) who have families to support and don't have the luxury of making the choices you were able to.

I'd love to see the vague studies you cite in your third paragraph - because I don't think they'd hold up under even cursory scrutiny when one looks at residential and employment patterns in the greater Puget Sound region.

Posted by Mr. X | May 1, 2007 5:24 PM

COMTE, I actually live quite close to Seattle and often walk to my job downtown. In fact it is one of the areas you mentioned. I could go out to the suburbs and have a big house but I choose not to. I may move out at some point, but it will be because that is were I can start my own practice, and I enjoy living near were I work.

I think we can agree that increasing density in the areas immediately surrounding downtown is a great idea. The SFH only folks need to be overridden. However, the areas you talk about combined represent maybe 5 or 6 sq/miles. In order to get everybody in that area we would need over 20,000 people per square mile (NY is 26k). We have a long, long way to go to get to that.

Not to mention that it seems awfully wasteful to simply abandon all that housing out in the suburbs. The environmental impact from that would far out way the impact of effective clean mass transit. Concrete, wood, plastic, etc, etc ,etc are all quite damaging to acquire or produce. Plus if we were to simply wave a magic wand and create 100k additional units close to downtown the increased supply would cause prices to plummet in the suburbs dramatically increasing their desirability.

The better solution is to continue to increase desirability and density closer to work centers and help provide incentives for people to live close to their jobs were ever they maybe (many work in the outlying areas). This requires smart planning that maintains livability (parks, schools, grocery stores, etc), while increasing density. But we have to recognize the reality we have created and work to make improvements in transportation efficiency.

The houses in the suburbs exist and aren't going anywhere. We can steer growth toward population centers, but there is little we can do about the already established suburban areas.

Posted by Giffy | May 1, 2007 5:46 PM

I should add that mass transit increases the areas which can sustain density. For example when light rail goes operational the Rainier valley will be able to accommodate alot more housing. Since the land is reasonable cheap you can have nice low rent apartments within a 15-20 minute train ride from Seattle. Hell even from SeaTac you are not talking about that long a commute. If we achieve a goal of green power then the environmental impact form the electric trains will be negligible.

Posted by Giffy | May 1, 2007 5:53 PM

Dan Savage @ 23

Dan, have you been doing that auto-erotic asphyxiation thing again. I know it makes your dick hard, but it also kills your brain cells. You wrote, stupidly:

But magically when a freeway is removed -- or taken out of service temporarily -- chaos and gridlock are nowhere to be seen.

Where the fuck were you the day after the Nisqually quake? It took me four hours to get from West Seattle to downtown. Four hours using surface streets, which were fucking jammed. And last month, when the viaduct was closed on the weekend, Downtown Seattle was a complete and total fucking disaster. You know Dan, if I need to know how to suck a dick I'll ask you, but Dan, dick is about the limit of your expertise, and transit planning sorry, asking anyone at the Stranger about that is like asking George W. Bush to do your geography homework.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | May 1, 2007 6:38 PM

judah @ 55 writes

It doesn't work like that. For one thing, Metro buses actually operate in the black; user fees exceed operations costs.

Judah, did you vote last November, if so (and I'm kind of hoping that you didn't because you're pathetically ignorant) you might have noticed a little thing on the ballot called "Transit Now" which was raising sales taxes to pay for new Metro buses and bus routes. Did you notice that? Do you remember that? Did the thought ever occur in your sclerotic little brain just why, if Metro operated in the black, they needed to raise sales taxes to pay for more bus service? Just curious.

Of course when called on your contemptible and pathetic ignorance of how Metro is actually funded, you write, @ 63


When I worked for Metro Environmental in the '90s we had to give a certain share of our DI water to the bus program-- something to do with their batteries. When I asked about why we had to maintain a DI supply for the buses I was told that the lab actually got revenue from the bus program, that user fees covered the operating budget of the buses themselves, and that we were supplying the water partly to balance the budget for the funds we were drawing off the bus program to float the lab. I haven't really researched it since.

Dude, you're an ignorant fuck. Someone told you something that was obviously a complete and total fucking load of the most egregious bullshit and it has never occurred to you to do a little bit of research (not difficult in this era of the internet) to find out how the bus system in this area is paid for. Wow, and people like you are allowed to vote. Who said that all of the ignorant morons with heads full of crap lived in red states?

Posted by wile_e_quixote | May 1, 2007 6:48 PM

Oh, and have you ever noticed that whenever ECB publishes one of her stupid articles on the "surface + transit" option (you know, the option that doesn't actually exist because Cary Moon and the PWC aren't actually transit planners, they're just a bunch of jumped up art fags, ooops, excuse me, "design professionals" so they don't actually have a plan other than "hey, let's tear down the viaduct and hope for the best. Perhaps someone else who studied something hard, like civil engineering, will do the heavy lifting to develop the plan that we're advocating") for replacing the viaduct that the Stranger always uses a picture of the wonderful new waterfront that doesn't actually show any transit, that shows nothing but six, non-congested lanes of cars. Go look at Erica's latest propagandizing on how the state is setting surface + transit up for failure (which comes off like Republicans accusing the Democrats of setting us up for failure in Iraq) the story on the website. Not a bus, train or any other form of mass transit to be found in this illustration of the "surface + transit" option.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | May 1, 2007 7:04 PM
Dude, you're an ignorant fuck.

Ha! That's awesome.

Posted by Judah | May 1, 2007 11:08 PM

What about those of us who live in the city right on top of bus lines, but work in high tech and get most of our job offers out in Redmond? It's not as simple as move downtown and you won't need a car.

Posted by zzyzx | May 2, 2007 7:14 AM

Wile - you don't think the purdy pictures of the waterfront are accurately portraying the surface/surface future? What a jaded piece of something you are.

The funniest thing about the latest ECB "I don't write what is, but what I wished it would be" piece is that it took a month and a half for it to come out and she had to be told by PWC. I mean the day after the election the Gov. announced that work would begin on fixing the Battery St. Tunnel, the section just south of there (which WashDot had declared would be kept with a new viaduct), the utilities would be moved and the surface section south of the viaduct would be done. How clearly did she have to say "I'm buiding a new viaduct". She also made the statement that retrofit wasn't an option. What is left? S/T? Don't think so.

Judah, had a chance to check the metro stats? Think you owe Southern an apology.

Posted by Kush | May 2, 2007 7:46 AM
Judah, had a chance to check the metro stats? Think you owe Southern an apology.


Southern? Would you be so good as to post your home address so I can come over to your house, grovel around on my knees and beg your forgiveness? Evidently every tosser on the Slog feels strongly that not Googling one fucking statistic before I post a comment-- in which said statistic contributes one sentence --is the most egregious error of fact since the missing WMD factories.

Posted by Judah | May 2, 2007 4:35 PM

So, my friends in Oakland reported that today's commute was completely hellish:

In other words: the original premise is sorta shot. People played hooky on Monday.

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