by BRAD MEACHAM
Editor’s Note: Mr. Meacham is a candidate for Seattle City Council who approached us about submitting a piece. All serious candidates for relevant office are welcome to submit statements to STB about transit, other alternatives to cars, and/or land use.
[UPDATE: I've received credible evidence that the assertion that Mr. Harrell has attended only three transportation committee meetings is incorrect. - MHD]
Just about every candidate in Seattle talks about transit. But for me it’s a personal commitment.
I grew up riding Metro buses like the 174, 132 and 130. I took the Coast Starlight solo for the first time in sixth grade and have made several cross-country trips on Amtrak since. When I lived in New York, Osaka and Tokyo I used transit daily and saw how it contributes to an urban environment. In Seattle, my wife and I chose to live in Columbia City partly because the new light rail line is helping make the neighborhood more walkable.
Safe, reliable and easy transit options would give more Seattleites the choice to get out of their cars and would make it possible to have urban neighborhoods with more residential density and thriving businesses. Owning a car adds about $8,000 in expenses to a family’s annual budget, and being able to live car-free would make Seattle much more affordable.
A signature issue of my campaign is better land use strategy – and the transportation system to make it work. I would like us to implement best practices from great cities around the world and act with a sense of urgency. Once I am elected for the Seattle City Council, I will do the following:
- Implement a strategy for more reliable and frequent transit on major corridors to provide car alternatives for more people. We should move as quickly as possible with the Transit Master Plan. This may include adding transit lanes and giving buses priority at traffic signals.
- Work with King County Metro to make bus routes more logical, reliable and easy. Buses should be easy to use even for the occasional rider. Let’s streamline “milk run” routes into more direct service that, in turn, will attract more riders. The current budget crisis is an opportunity to do this. As a regular reader of Seattle Transit Blog, I know there’s no shortage of great ideas to improve efficiency of the bus system.
- Accelerate Westside rail (West Seattle and Ballard to downtown) and complete the Seattle Streetcar network. Investment in rail is about providing infrastructure where people will be in the future, and rail goes hand-in-glove with additional density. Electric bus rapid transit (BRT) may make sense for existing corridors, but rail stimulates investment and encourages people who otherwise wouldn’t use transit to get out of their cars.
- Work with Sound Transit on regional solutions. I’d like to serve on the Sound Transit board in order to help create smart solutions that work for Seattle residents. As a frequent light rail rider, I’d like to see announcements of service problems, real-time arrival information and faster trains. Every station should be fed with buses, taxis and clearly marked areas for car pick-up and drop-off.
- Prioritize existing master plans for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in order to complement transit. Add taxis and taxi stands to encourage transit use rather than single-occupant cars.
- Lead on transportation funding. The proposed license fee increase will only go so far. I support additional gas taxes to fund better mobility and congestion pricing as a way to manage scarce road resources and fund transit. We should also adopt a carbon tax to replace more regressive taxes. I intend to lead on these issues and build relationships in Olympia to help build momentum for change.
This election provides a clear choice between the agenda I’ve outlined and the status quo. My opponent, incumbent Councilman Bruce Harrell, voted against the streetcar network and has attended only three meetings of the transportation committee [See update above -- Ed.] (where he’s an alternate member). He supports the tunnel, which has no transit component at all, and voted to prevent people from having a say on the issue.
Transit is a top priority for me and for most Seattleites. When I’m elected, it will be a top priority of the City Council too.