For the last eight months, Seattle Subway has been working on several paths to build public support for accelerating and expanding transit in Seattle.
For those that don’t know much about us, we’re not specifically advocating for any particular technology, and we don’t necessarily advocate for everything being underground. We just want to ensure that Seattle’s neighborhoods are connected with fast, reliable transit, and that generally means separated right of way. We call ourselves “Seattle Subway” because that evokes, for many people, the kind of speed and reliability that they want in their transportation system. Dominic Holden’s article is a good primer – if you haven’t read it, you should.
This week we broke 2500 followers on Facebook. We have our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and we’ve been giving presentations and doing direct outreach for months, refining our message and learning from everyone. A lot of our work is basically just boosting Sound Transit – many people, especially in places like Ballard and West Seattle, don’t know that Link is being expanded at all, much less that tunneling to the U-district is already complete. We’re also building a volunteer organization – we’ve had a dozen people helping already at farmers markets and other events.
At the same time, separately from the education side of things, a group of us have been slowly meeting with organizational and business leaders, elected officials, and smart, involved people in general, to discuss how acceleration can best happen. It’s a very, very long list, so if you’re reading this and thinking “why haven’t they met with me about my organization or constituents yet?” – don’t fret, and definitely email us so we know you want to be involved! We’re going to keep doing that for several months – and we’re building strong support from many leaders, triangulating on a particular course of action.
The next part Seattle Subway as an organization can’t do – being a (c)(3) nonprofit, we’re all about education, and can’t campaign (and “Seattle Subway” isn’t a great name for a campaign anyway). But we, the same people, will be soon starting a ballot measure, aiming a year out at the 2013 primary election, to give transit investment a kick in the pants. We know Sound Transit is the right agency to build high capacity transit, and we know the voters trust them – in Seattle, over 65% voted in favor of 2008’s Proposition 1 (aka Mass Transit Now or Sound Transit 2).
It seems unlikely we’d succeed in an ask for funding to construct serious transit, like University Link or Lynnwood Link, in an off-year primary election. But we don’t need to fund construction of new lines today – we just need to fund the next several years of work, so that when Sound Transit goes to ballot again, in 2016 or 2020, we’ve taken years off their schedule – so that there isn’t idle time in between.
So our plan is to make Sound Transit shovel ready with the three lines that are present in both the city’s Transit Master Plan and Sound Transit’s planning: UW to Ballard, Ballard to Downtown, and Downtown to West Seattle. This is something in the range of 5-8 years of work, and would include all the design and engineering, selecting technology, and even property acquisition. This is more like a couple hundred million rather than several billion, and it keeps the ball rolling at the same rate as funding everything at once. It ensures that Seattle is still reliant on Sound Transit for construction, which would keep regional interests happy, and because it would offer a faster timeline to Seattle voters, it would help ensure a strong win for the next regional package.
This plan isn’t set in stone, of course. It’ll take work with more local leaders to figure out the specifics it could include. We don’t want to be too specific – that’s part of what led the monorail to failure – but we do want to use the idea of local funding to ensure we build for the long term, not just for the next few decades. If Vancouver can build fast, grade separated transit that pays for its own operating costs, we should be aiming for the same thing!
Today there are several things you can do to help. First, please consider donating $100, or even $10! We’ve finally got our basic needs covered, and we’re trying to raise money so we can have a button maker at our table at markets, and make banners and signs for some direct outreach that will get us real media coverage. Second, sign up, and if you want to volunteer, check that box. And third (and really most importantly), give us feedback! We’d love ideas and opinions about how we can be most successful.