Sierra Club Against Parks?

So it seems the Sierra Club has found something new it hates about Prop. 1: the Medina lid over 520. Trying to appeal to the socialists amongst us, Mike “Hey, I’ve got a SUV, but seriously global warming is a problem” O’Brien says:

Millions of dollars are earmarked to build a landscaped lid for Medina, Washington’s wealthiest neighborhood, while acres of the Arboretum are paved.

Acres? That is flat wrong. None of the proposed plans for 520 call for acres to be paved, and the one diagram for the Medina lid (3-7 in that link) looks like a park on top of 520. How is that a bad thing?

And there are lids in Kirkland, two in Montlake, one in Bellevue, etc. Why no mention of those? The all look like open green space over highways. Why is Mike “Do as I say not as I do” O’Brien and his cronies so against parks on top of freeways?

This is what the vote is about:

Not lids in Medina that are part of 520 and paid for by Eastsiders (subarea equity).

Seattle Hits Kyoto Goals

Seattle (the city, not the region) has hit its Kyoto Protocol goal of reducing global warming emissions to 8% less than 1990. All of the gains came from land use, heating and electricity, while transportation emissions have actually increased by 3% over the period. The times article I have linked explicitly calls out that “the city’s achievement could be short lived, unless it can do more to reduce driving”.

On that front, Seattle is thinking of changing its multi-family zoning plans to increase density while lowering requirements for parking. This document (PDF) from one of their open houses a few weeks ago shows some of the plans in detail. I appreciate the city’s attempt to lower the cost of housing by increasing development, and making development cheaper. Having a mix of different incomes makes the city a better place to live, and I for one appreciate what the mayor and the council are doing on this front.

Carless in Seattle has pointed to another article, this one from the New York Times, about “Seattle and Other Cities’ Mantra: Improve Transit, Reduce Traffic”. It’s a great summary and a nice chance to read the perspective of someone from outside Seattle. Nothing new in there really, but this part I like very much:

This November, residents of Seattle and other Puget Sound communities will vote on whether to raise the sales and vehicle excise taxes to generate $7.8 billion for road construction and $10 billion to build 50 more miles of light-rail lines and other transit projects. A broad alliance of business, civic and labor groups and regional governments support the measure.

Public opinion polls indicate that voters are also in favor.

Let’s hope so.

With the Streetcar getting going and Central Link opening in 2009, we’re moving in the right direction on global warming here in Seattle.

Has it ever taken that long?

Stefan Sharkansky thinks the fact that the 194 is just as fast a Portland’s Max is some proof that buses are better than Light Rail. I just took the 194: I waited 15 minutes for the bus, which took 30 minutes to get Downtown, then waited 10 minutes for the 14, which took 15 minutes to get here. When University Link is finished, it’ll be a straight shot from the airport to the Broadway station where I’ll walk to my house.

The 14 does get me closer, about one block instead of five, but if the bus takes an hour and five minutes on a Sunday night, I’d happily walk.

ST2 Travel Times

Some commenters have asked for an estimate of light rail travel times with Sound Transit 2, compared to other possibilities. It’s all in Appendix C of the plan, along with tons of other information about ridership, capacity, and such.

For easy reference, here’s the key table:
Sorry for the fine print, but Blogger is giving me problems. Click the link and go to Page C-7.

Streetcar Testing to Begin!

There was a press release sent to us in our mailboxes, I haven’t been able to relocate it anywhere else, but basically it said that over the next 8 weeks the South Lake Union Streetcar will be going through testing. First they will do a walk through test to ensure that the streetcars are able to clear branches, traffic signals, and other erroneous things that may disrupt the streetcar along the whole route. Once that is done they will do speed tests on Valley between Mercer and Westlake to see that the streetcar can achieve and maintain speed. Oh and stopping will also be checked as well. I guess that is important too! After that initial testing, then operators will undergo testing as well. So, literally it will not be long before we see them on the street. I am very excited for this to happen. Again to not have to walk to downtown during the rainy season is going to be wonderful. One thing I have noticed however, the ST Tacoma Link, and Portland Streetcar have electronic signs that alert people at the intersection that the streetcar or LRV is coming. I didn’t see these added to any of the intersections here in SLU. I wonder if they are going to omit these? Seems to be a bad idea if so. I did notice they have “Streetcar Zone” signs telling people not to park to close to the tracks. Should be a very interesting next couple of weeks.

More BRT

We’ve already been over the unnecessary duplication of effort between Sound Transit 2 and the “RapidRide” Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) portion of last year’s “Transit Now” package. To be clear, I blame Metro for this more than Sound Transit; Ron Sims knew ST was going to propose something along the SR 99 corridor in South King County, and proposed this anyway.

I would much prefer that this corridor go somewhere else, perhaps along the West Valley Highway to take pressure of SR 167. It would have made a ton of sense for Metro to release the information about one of the other RapidRide lines now, and wait for the outcome of Prop. 1 before committing to a redundant system.

My disappointment with Metro is because of the clear inferiority of this brand of transit with Light Rail. Let’s break down the features of RapidRide, because this is the alternative that Ron Sims and Kemper Freeman have in store for you if you reject expansion of light rail next month.

From the Metro website:

After RapidRide service begins, Metro’s plan is for buses to arrive every 10 minutes during the busiest morning and evening travel hours. At other times between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., buses will come every 15 minutes. Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., service will be similar to what it is today.

Great, this is long overdue, and a real improvement over existing service. However, light rail promises 6 minute intervals during rush hour, and each 4-car train carries up to 800 passengers! That’s 8,000 people per hour, the equivalent of almost four freeway lanes. It’s clear that the capacity of this line is much smaller, which makes it much harder to spur dense development.

Also, cutting off service at 10pm makes RapidRide useless for people who might want to use it to attend a Mariners game, or go out on a Friday night. One advantage of the huge capital investment of light rail is that it encourages authorities to run it a lot, thus amortizing that cost.

RapidRide buses will have low floors and three doors, so people can get on and off quickly. A new, trial fare payment system will allow riders with passes to pay as they enter any door. The inside of the buses will be designed to make it easier for passengers to move to seats and exits.

Emphasis mine. Riders with passes aren’t the problem. The problem is idiots fumbling for change and arguing with the driver over the fare. This is dramatically inferior to the LINK or Sounder approach of buying a ticket from the machine while you’re waiting at the station.

Buses will use the new HOV lanes on Pacific Highway S/International Boulevard. As buses approach intersections, they will send signals to traffic lights, requesting that green lights stay green longer or red lights switch to green faster.

The magic words I was hoping to see here are “bus lane”. Anyone who’s ever taken the 545 from Overlake or the 532 towards Lynnwood knows that HOV lanes are a poor substitute for a dedicated right-of-way.

Still, I’m ecstatic to see they won’t be running in SOV traffic, and will get signal priority. Hopefully, these innovations are to be repeated along Aurora, 15th, NE 8th, and to West Seattle.

The shelters and signs will look different from those you see at regular Metro stops—they will have a special RapidRide style and color scheme. Waiting areas will be well-lit, increasing security. Electronic real-time signs will tell people the actual number of minutes before the next bus will arrive.

I’m not sure if the branding will overcome the “rail bias”, or if it’ll just confuse people already struggling to grasp three or four overlapping transit systems. Either way, the electronic signs are a big deal.

BRT is cheaper than rail, undoubtedly, and it’s a heck of a lot better than vanilla bus service. But it’s also probably not the ultra-reliable, high-capacity, dedicated-right-of-way transit that will drive lure tons of new riders and drive development.

I eagerly await Daimajin’s report from Los Angeles on the BRT there, and how it’s doing in terms of ridership and spurring transit-oriented development.

Two Pro-Prop 1 Articles, One Anti-Prop 1 post

There are two new interesting Pro-Prop 1 pieces out. The first one is a rather more enthusiastic piece from Hubert G. Locke, an elderly man who is actually for prop. 1, he calls voters to bring pragmatism and live ideology at home. The second is a less enthusiastic, but self-possessed pragmatic endorsement from Crosscut’s publisher, David Brewster.

First Locke:

A decade ago, Sound Transit was considered a disaster. Currently, it is hailed as a public enterprise that gets things done. Much of the credit, even Sound Transit critics acknowledge, goes to Joni Earl, Sound Transit’s CEO, who took over an agency with “a lousy reputation” and is credited with its near complete turnaround. Earl happens to be a public servant who turned down a raise five years ago based on her exceptional performance because Sound Transit had not achieved two major milestones it had set for itself. That kind of integrity, combined with the fact that she lives with public transportation issues every working day, makes Earl a voice I take seriously. So I asked her what advice she has for voters on Nov. 6.

True to her reputation for integrity, she was careful not to indicate how she thinks voters should cast their ballots. She points out, however, the two unarguable facts in all of this: Droves of people continue to move into our midst every year and we’ve delayed coming to grips with our transportation needs for far too long. No plan is perfect but now is the time, she says, to get on with it; “It’s only going to get more expensive if we delay.”

That’s sage counsel about a problem that won’t go away.

He knows what he is talking about. The transportation problem here just keeps coming up again and again, and as people keep moving here it gets worse and worse. This ballot measure seems to cover many of the points we care about: solutions to choke points that are broken only for lack of better infrastructure and a transit system to finally give people an alternative to driving.

On to Brewster. I was surprised he endorsed Prop 1, since he has written a number of pieces about how expensive light rail is on his site. His position is basically:

  • This ballot isn’t perfect, but it is good enough to deserve support.
  • The local elected officials who put the measure together will likely be the same ones who will draft the next ballot if we do make one. So defeat is not very likely to bring us something better. It’s a compromise now or a compromise later.
  • Passing the ballot will lift a huge burden off the voters and the politicians, where they will be allowed to work toward the more simple and small-scale solutions that will serve their consistencies. Basically, we only need one large scale ballot measure like this over the long time.

I agree with Mr Brewser, on the last two points, but I actually think Prop. 1 is pretty good. I love any and all transit and think that many of the roads portions of RTID are actually very good, that only the 405 and “Cross-Base” parts of the roads parts are bad roads.

Mr Brewster makes some other interesting points:

It’s hard to imagine that our politics, after such a monumental defeat, would move to the sunny uplands. One reason is that the same folks who brought us Proposition 1, with all its lumps and compromises, will be the folks who would fashion Proposition 2. The political realities won’t change (except for the worse). The highways folks, steaming in traffic jams, still have a veto over the transit folks, dueling over their technologies — and vice versa. The Legislature still has the last say over authorizing taxes, and they still are as gunshy as ever about tax-revolt figures such as Tim Eyman (doubtless more so after the taxpayers say no). So these are the folks who will suddenly have the courage and statesmanship to start imposing tolls, slicing off service to Pierce and Snohomish counties, and gambling on a surface solution for the Viaduct?

Well said. This idea is also very valuable:

Fixing the choke points on our highways and bridges may seem immoral because it lets drivers keep driving their evil cars. But it also helps fight sprawl, by keeping major employers closer inside the urban boundaries rather than throwing up their hands and moving to Moses Lake or Spanaway. A basic cause of sprawl is companies moving far out, to avoid congestion and to get cheaper land and the ability to move their trucks.

If you keep making congestion worse, you get a few people who move close to a job or switch to transit but a lot more people who vote with their feet. The way to get people to use transit is not to torture them, but to build good transit that is safe, frequent, fairly fast, and cheap. And you can’t build transit by not building transit.

Emphasis added. A lot of greens think that we can simply do nothing and people will pick up transit because they love it or will have little choice. As long as there are places like Spanaway, Duvall and Moses Lake, people will move there to avoid congestion. That’s sprawl, and that’s all that we’ll get if we don’t fix the obvious choke points, such as the 405/520 interchange and the so-called “Mercer Mess” and build transit.

Both writers make the point that this is a lot of non-Seattle politicians making decisions for their own voters, as they should. Locke writes:

Prop. 1 is a regional transportation issue on which the good people of Pierce and Snohomish counties, as well as King, get a chance to be heard. Their votes will serve, it is hoped, as a counterbalance to those local voices that pontificate about transportation as if only Seattle has a stake in its outcome. They might serve also as a corrective to the cycling enthusiasts in our midst who often sound as though our transportation problems could be solved if we just all took to two-wheelers. Prop. 1 is challenging us to think like the region that we are, rather than trying to behave as if Mill Creek and Federal Way didn’t exist.

Sounds almost like he’s writing against the Sierra Club and the Stranger. Erica Barnett and Josh Feit at the Stranger both complained about the idea of running transit through now low-dense South King County, as did the Sierra Club’s Mike O’Brien. They even said that it could cause sprawl, how transit causes sprawl in places people already live, I don’t know. But the only way to turn Federal Way into something like Fremont, California or Mill Creek into something like San Bruno, is to build light rail there. ECB or Feit could never understand that, probably because neither has ever been to any of the four places I mentioned. And Brewster writes:

It’s been interesting to watch a new generation of political leadership emerge, figures like Julia Patterson of the King County Council, a resident of SeaTac who was raised on a small farm in South King County; Pierce County Council member Shawn Bunney, chair of the Regional Transportation Investment District; and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, chair of the Sound Transit board.

None is from Seattle, you notice. In fact, the one clear Seattle leader, King County Executive Ron Sims, having led the effort on Sound Transit and perhaps sensing how un-Seattlecentric it was becoming, jumped ship. At any rate, we’re way past due for some effective regional politics to come to maturity and not just defer to Seattle’s wishes, and this is Act I. Nor can Seattle expect, in the wake of a defeat of Proposition 1, to have any more clout, as its percentage of the regional population shrinks each year and its clout in Olympia keeps diminishing.

I don’t actually think that Sims jumped ship because it’s non-Seattle centric, and I don’t think that think that this ballot measure is overly anti-Seattle. But the fact is that it is a region plan, and it has a region purpose, and it serves the whole region reasonably well. Seattle gets a pretty good deal out of it too.

So we should vote for it.

Oh and the anti-Prop. 1 post? Ms Barnett of the Stranger in her usual form. Not much analysis there other than assuming it will fail without much evidence, and calling anyone who endorses Prop. 1 a “defeatist”. Nice. I wonder which of the three here actually thought this issue through more seriously?


Chi Dooh Li said:

The vocal anti-rail crowd owes us all a public apology, because the biggest boondoggle over the past four decades is the many tens of billions we have poured into transportation solutions that have failed to handle the traffic growth in this region.

Yet opponents of light rail want us to continue believing that “bus rapid transit” is the answer to congestion. I bet they have some snake oil to sell us too.

So what’s the vision of BRT locally? As Martin points out, Ron Sims’ fancy new Rapid Ride plan is available now. Here’s Martin:

It seems awful repetitive to run BRT down the exact route that light rail is planning to use. It leaves us with several awful or doubtful alternatives:
- light rail is permanently trashed in favor of inferior BRT technology that also forces a transfer at SeaTac to connect with the rest of the system.
- the BRT is constructed to be rail convertible. I’m doubtful this is happening, and at any rate would create a big fight if it involved suspending existing BRT to lay track.
- The Rapid Ride investments will be abandoned when light rail arrives, or they will run simultaneously. That would get us one transit corridor for the price of two! Nice job Metro!


Martin again:

Is it an accident that the portion of Transit Now that most duplicates ST2 is the first to be released, just before the ballot!

No I don’t think it is an accident. Ron Sims wants transit dollars spent on his bus system, and he knows he’s more likely to get that FTA position in a democratic cabinet if he pushes his BRT down our throats.

Damn that’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Mr BRT in charge of the FTA?


I’m heading down to LA this weekend. I’ll be checking out their Orange Line BRT, and their rail systems. Should be fun!

Republicans for Rail!

Chi-Dooh Li had an op-ed piece in today’s PI. It’s really well written and pretty funny, and he has a really great point on the extra time saved by rail that most people never even thought of:

According to the Sound Transit Web site, taking light rail in the future from the U District to Sea-Tac would cut my travel time in half. I think I will save even more time.

But one great benefit light rail will bring to all of us, for which detractors have no answer, is the certainty of travel time. Trains will — count on it — get you to your destination in a reliably predictable amount of time.

The same can never be said for any form of transportation that uses rubber tires on asphalt roads. Cars, buses, shuttle buses, vans, taxis — you name it — there is no way time of arrival can be accurately predicted.

Buses, the adored form of public transit among the anti-rail crowd, cannot even give you a fixed departure time. How often do we rush to the bus stop before the scheduled time, only to wait and wait for a bus that has been delayed by congestion?

That’s huge if you think about it, wasted “uncertain time”. The time waiting for a late bus. The earlier you need to leave because you’re not exactly sure what time you have to get in your car to make that 8:30 am meeting at work. If you show up at 8:20, that’s an extra ten minutes eaten.

Traffic congestion not only requires more actual driving or riding time but forces us to leave much earlier than we might need to in order to have some assurance of getting to our destination on time.

When we must be punctual for work, a doctor’s appointment, a job interview, a business meeting or a kid’s soccer game, how much extra time do we build in so we are not late? Even then, no “cushion” will guard against the gridlock created by the occasional perfect storm of traffic congestion: the rush hour multiple car accident under the Convention Center or at Southcenter, or a visiting dignitary motorcade.

Take light rail, and buffer time will be a thing of the past.

It’s a great piece go read the whole thing.

Tunnel for 520?

The PI floats the idea today. My two cents: sound expensive.

At least the tunnel could support light rail easily, as long as they are digging down there at the bottom of the lake, might as well lay some tracks.

Sound Transit 2′s vast capacity increase

You have to build rail to get this kind of new capacity. That 14,000 people per hour is eight northbound lanes (four general, four express) of traffic. Link will move more than half again that many. What would it cost to put four or five more lanes each way on I-5 in Seattle? Where would those cars go once they got into the city?

And remember, all these new light rail trips have no congestion. Those I-5 trips are often at a dead stop – but those light rail trips are cruising along between stations at 55mph.

Common Sense

When I write about rail, I’m often addressing an audience that has some root assumptions in common with me. I consider many of these assumptions to be common sense, but without having addressed them, I suppose it’s not reasonable to base arguments on them. With that in mind, what is it, what are the fundamentals upon which I base my interest in building rail mass transit – and my assertion that it should be your interest too?

First, a little about cities. Reading Jane Jacobs made me rethink the hazy mental distinction I had between towns and cities – and all the other forms and structures of urban settlement. She hits the root of the problem by addressing what causes cities to form: work. The jobs that create value and growth in our society are mostly those that take several types of simpler work, like making fasteners, and combine them into larger, more complex, as Jacobs says “new” work – like making a bicycle from parts. That bicycle is not only a new industry in itself, but it forces the evolution of all the simpler “old” work it’s based upon – as the final product is refined, its components are altered. Jacobs talks about cities as centers of new work – and towns and suburbs as places old work is pushed out to, effectively the support structures for new work.

Density, in cities, is how that old work is pushed outward. Innovation is generated by high density, as people are exposed to a high number and variety of new ideas. This innovation is what brings us higher quality of life. As new ideas become new businesses and create demand for space, the supporting work that is established but no longer growing so quickly ends up moving out of the core. This work moves to areas where real estate is cheaper, and fresh ideas are no longer needed for competitive innovation. These are the suburbs, and even rural towns.

This is where transportation comes into play. Since the late 1800s, we had street railways operating privately (and profitably). But starting in the beginning of this century, well before the federal fuel tax, the federal government started investing in roadways. As this was the largest part of the cost of using motor vehicles, the marginal cost for individual users dropped immensely when these new roadways opened – and when local and state governments started investing, individual vehicle ownership and maintenance became competitive with the cost of using the railways, simply because so much of the cost became tax-based. Governments could also use eminent domain to acquire property, so they weren’t paying the real estate costs of passenger rail companies. Combined with the 1887 Interstate Commerce Act’s strong regulation of railroads, the passenger railroads could no longer profit, and were easily competed into bankruptcy.

As we continued to build roads, we were no longer constrained by the profitability of transportation – arguably a good thing – but no balance was struck between cost and reduction of overcrowding, and the effects of enabling easy, cheap travel far from the city core were not understood. With major investment in interstate highways in 1956, the federal government’s investment policies created what we now call sprawl. Huge tracts of concrete were laid through city cores using eminent domain and without regard for social impact – because this work predated the Civil Rights Act, it largely impacted previously redlined minority areas.

These blanket investment policies resulted in only one transportation system surviving to serve most of the US – roads and highways, with the automobile upon them. Because competition was effectively eliminated – our roads and highways are now established and maintained to a basic level of service regardless of any market forces – the only places where the political will exists for mass transit are the very cores of cities. The false discussion frame that roads and highways “pay for themselves” has supplanted understanding: different amounts and locations of roadways have different costs, and would have to be priced differently from each other, and paid for at the time for any competition to exist – not to mention that the differing levels of infrastructure investment between roads and rails would have to be evened out first as well.

Wide roadways actually don’t compete well in the dense, innovative cores. Complete congestion occurs at a relatively low vehicle density – something that happens quickly in the cities with such high levels of US automobile ownership, a result of our nearly monomodal transportation system. While city centers can still grow, the curve of density from the center to the edge of an urban area becomes very flat – the overall effectiveness of the region drops as traffic comes to a standstill. We’re seeing this in Seattle today – we’ve really been seeing it for decades, but it’s finally beginning to threaten our prosperity. City streets can’t easily get wider when there are tall buildings in the way.

Rail is much more efficient. We knew this a hundred years ago – it was profitable and functioning well after private automobile ownership became available. While some roads can be profitable, this is only in limited circumstance – a toll road fed by many public roads benefits from those public roads and would not be profitable without them. Rail uses less space per person moved, important because urban real estate is generally the largest cost in a system, and can scale to far greater capacity than a roadway because it never sees human-induced congestion: the stop and go “traffic waves” caused by our individual decision making on the roadway. It also doesn’t have the hidden space requirement of parking – with a car-only infrastructure, income separation occurs partly because the real estate-based cost of private parking has the effect of pricing poorer workers out of the core, or making them depend on unreliable bus transit that has to share congestion with cars.

When I talk about how rail is necessary, it’s coming from an understanding that the fact that we *don’t* have rail now is a usurpation of the natural economic forces in the city, and that it’s slowing our innovation and our prosperity by flattening the density curve that provides those things. It costs much more to provide capacity into the city on roadways, and it costs more to provide infrastructure to the lower density, larger area that results from our congestion. Consider the cost of adding four or five lanes each way to Interstate 5 all the way through Seattle to the cost of building light rail: the former would likely be $50 billion or more in pure construction and right of way acquisition costs through the city, plus more necessary space for parking, not to mention all the new off-highway capacity that would be needed to serve all those cars – and all the travel on it during the weekdays would be congested immediately. The rail, on the other hand, taken in the same corridor with similar capacity, no requirement for parking, and consistent travel times, will cost less than $10 billion in the same year’s dollars.

The rail is obviously the more cost-effective option. Arguments that we “don’t have” those densities are already wrong, and will only become more wrong as we grow – and as fuel prices continue to increase. Common sense tells us we need more efficient ways of moving people to continue to compete in a global economy – and that’s what we’re doing.

One more reason to support transit

If this story is true, we need to get some more trains here right away!

(Posted in humor).

Conveyor belts costs more than Light Rail station at Sea-tac

So George Bush put in some post-9/11 baggage conveyor requirements. Well Sea-Tac’s implementation is now more than $90 million over budget on what was supposed to be a $139 million dollar project.

The cost of the light rail station at Sea-Tac? $95 million. I know, apples and oranges but my point is just that transit is a lot cheaper than the rest of the crap the government spends money on.

New Streetcar Website

I have been away for a great deal of time, but I noticed upon my return that the South Lake Union Streetcar has a new website with new some helpful information. I see people are sponsoring stops. Great for revenue! My hopes are that they will put all Seattle streetcar information on that website ( I didn’t see anything regarding the Waterfront Streetcar or Capitol Hill streetcar. Check it out though it will be operating soon!

Prop. 1

Prop. 1 is a vote about a lot of different things. It’s a vote about 50 miles of rail, and $7 billion or so of new roads, replacements for existing roads, and improvements for existing roads. To me it’s more than that, it’s also a vote on the sort of city we want to live in, what life is going to be like in Seattle in 50 years, and whether Seattle can finally move out of the sort of transportation “Groundhog’s Day” (as the PI put it) and become a city that actually gets things done rather than just talking about the perfect plan for generations.

One thing it’s not, or shouldn’t be: It’s not a vote about global warming or about greenhouse gases. According to Sightline’s Clark Williams-Derry, the roads portion, RTID, could increase carbon emissions by as much as 15 million tons over 50 years. That’s an average of 300,000 tons per year. Currently, the US outputs 6394.5 million tons per year (a “metric” tonne is 110.25 English “tons”). Even if that were not to increase (it will), that means represents less than one half of one one hundredth of one percent of the US’s total greenhouse emissions. Or put another way, that means it’s less than four tenths of one percent of what our region does in greenhouse emissions (our region is about 1.25% of the nation’s population and pollutes slightly more than the average per person). For comparison, Sea-Tac airport is about 7% of our region’s greenhouse emissions, and adding a third runway ought to increase greenhouse emissions by about 50% there. That’d be about 3.5% of our region’s greenhouse gas emissions meaning the third runaway at Sea-Tac is an entire order of magnitude more greenhouse gas emissions than all the roads in RTID. According to David Suzuki, Erica Barnett’s trips to Texas at Atlanta by plane are as bad as driving a hummer there and back the whole distance. So we shouldn’t stop light-rail and all the good it will provide for a few tenth’s of a percent increase in greenhouse gases.

The arguments against ST2 have been made for generations. Look at the image to the left, it has the arguments against Forward Thrust 40 years ago. “Seattle doesn’t have the population density.” “It would be well to see how the controversial Bay Area Rapid Transit turns out” (Really well by the way with lots of expansion plans). “I feel the transit plan would saddle the people with an extremely high debt for 40 years” (the bonds would have been paid off this year) “His plea is for buses is dedicated highway lanes”. Isn’t that John Niles argument as well?

The fact is, that BRT has been tried here in the bus tunnel, at a cost the same as subway, but far worse for ridership. It has been tried in highway lanes in Los Angeles where there were huge cost overruns, making it almost as expensive as a subway line, and it even had collisions at the rate of one per week. So BRT is a red herring, and not a workable solution. We need to put it to bed.

Why are we still having this conversation after 40 years? Because Seattle is stuck in the ideas phase and can’t get past it, can’t put rubber to the road (or steel to the rails as it were) and get things done. Maybe our motto should be “don’t just do something, stand there!”

Chart Shows light rail times, not bus times

In his “Prop. 1 no cure for commute”, Gregory Roberts has a chart that shows the wrong times. The bottom bar is actually Light Rail times, not bus times.

The article is mildly well reasoned for a local paper piece on Prop. 1 with sections like this:

Light rail’s biggest payoff will come at rush hour, Patrick said. Sound Transit projects that in 2030, its light rail trains will carry 8,800 people per hour across the Ship Canal during peak commuting times, compared to the 14,000 now crossing the canal on Interstate 5. It would be nearly impossible, Patrick said, to match light rail’s added capacity in that corridor by other means.

It does still quote Nutty John Niles, who is the world’s largest blowhard. And the piece still has a bunch of misleading numbers (in addition to the crap chart already mentioned).

The region’s drivers collectively lose about 260,000 hours per workday to traffic delays, compared with travel at the speed limit, according to a recent state transportation audit. If the Nov. 6 ballot proposal fails, that is expected to increase to more than 600,000 hours per day over 20 years. But even if Proposition 1 passes, the total is still expected to nearly double, to more than 500,000 hours.

Uh, we are expecting a huge increase in population over the time period. So how much of that above figure is simply caused by increased population? What is the per capita number hours lost number? I am sure it’ll be a lot less than doubled, probably an increase of barely over 10~15%. The per person number is what people care about. I don’t care how long other people sit in traffic, I want my commute shorter.

I guess they have removed the chart from the online edition, though you can still see it in the morning edition.

Seattle is a great place to own commercial real estate, except it lacks transit

According to a recent report by the Urban Land Institute, Seattle is one of the nations best five markets for commercial real-estate. Basically, more real estate professionals nation wide rank Seattle as a “buy” than any other markets. Must be why I can see 12 cranes from Melrose street looking over South Lake Union (and that’s just SLU, there’s more in downtown, Belltown, First Hill and even Queen Anne). The report did mention transportation as a major problem for , the DJC explicitly mentions transit, but the P-I version only mentions “transportation”.

We can only continue growing this way if we improve our infrastructure. Thanks to Ryan for the link!

More good news for Sound Transit

Sound Transit has enjoyed a AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s for some time, but Moody’s just announced that they’ve uprated the agency from AA3 to AA2. All the As mean “good”.

This really just means that their bonds are considered more reliable by investors – something that’s going to matter a lot as the credit crunch continues!

Westneat: ST2 better deal than I-405 widening

Of course, I could have told you that. Highways are bad for communities, bad for the environment, destroy sensible urban planning, dangerous, and create a bizarre and cold culture (I’ve never met a friend or a date on a highway, while I have met many on buses and trains). But Westneat puts it into a different perspective:

Here is a tale of two local megaprojects.

Both cost $11 billion. Both take 20 years to build. Both will help people move around the region. The first I’ll call Project A. It is widely praised, considered a no-brainer. Now and then an environmentalist squawks about it, but nobody listens.

Project B is the object of much ridicule. It is called a waste, a boondoggle. A P-I columnist dubbed it an “8-foot-tall steaming pile of elephant dung.” Another P-I column said the pile is 10 feet high.

So what would Project A and Project B actually do? Both would transport people along a corridor. So how many people would each move?

Project A, the no-brainer, will carry an additional 110,000 people daily over its 30 miles by the year 2030, according to its planners.

Project B, the wasteful one, will carry an additional 180,000 people per day over its 50 miles by the year 2030.

So … the boondoggle will transport more people? For the same construction cost?

So it goes in the upside-down world of our transportation debate, circa 2007.

Project A is the widening of the Eastside’s Interstate 405. The plan is to spend $10.9 billion (in 2002 dollars) laying four new freeway lanes and a bus rapid-transit route.

When done, the road will be 67 percent wider and carry 110,000 more trips than now. In some parts it will flow more freely. In others — such as the evening rush hour between Bellevue and Renton — it will be as jammed as it is today. (All this is from the state’s studies.)

Project B is Sound Transit’s light-rail plan. For $10.2 billion (in 2006 dollars), it would extend rail north to Lynnwood, east to Bellevue and south to Tacoma. The whole system, including the line being built now, is projected to carry 300,000 riders daily by 2030.

Yet this is the plan that people are saying is ludicrous.