This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
This one comes from Ted Van Dyk, a former P-I columnist. Here Van Dyk rehashes anti-rail arguments he’s been making for years. The thrust of his column is one we’ve heard before: rail just won’t work here.
Moreover, light rail is a technology appropriate to flat areas where commuters move from high-density residential areas to workplaces concentrated along the rail line. Commuting patterns here are far more diffuse. The southern leg of the approved line did not have stations at the airport, The Boeing Co. or Southcenter.
One can always come up with reasons why Seattle is uniquely unsuited for this or that solution. As Dan Savage is fond of saying, “just like rapid transit can’t work here and taking out an elevated freeway can’t work here and bike commuting can’t work here and urban density can’t work here. Seattle is exceptional in each and every respect.”
But Seattle’s geography is as much asset as liability. “Flat areas” also lend themselves to sprawl, whereas Seattle’s hilly, water-logged geography makes it naturally more dense and transit-friendly. Rail systems have been built in far less hostpitible environments.
Van Dyk concludes with a facile comparison to the Big Dig, giving us pause by insulting our intelligence relative to our friends on the opposite side of I-90:
Light rail’s projected costs dwarf the Big Dig’s. It is not too late to change the regional package in favor of valid transportation investments. There is one important difference between the Big Dig in Boston and Sound Transit light rail here. In street-smart Boston, folks recognize more quickly when they’ve been had.
Sorry Mr. Van Dyk — buses ain’t gonna cut it. Rail’s going to be messy and expensive, but we don’t have a choice. In 50 years, when we’re looking at a post-carbon economy, our kids will thank us for the investment. It’s time to stop taling and start building.