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.

5 Replies to “Westneat: ST2 better deal than I-405 widening”

  1. That is beautifully simplistic.

    I feel like printing this out and posting it everywhere (that is likely to vote no)

  2. I wondering why the http://www.notoprop1.org/ have a “Special Report” which is a link to a Houston ABC affiliate’s website which shows a YouTube video of cars crashing into light-rails….

    The entire article is about how horrible drivers in Houston are, not how dangerous LRTs are.

    I lived in PDX and I’ve seen shitty drivers drive the WRONG WAY down a LIGHTRAIL LANE. And they didn’t get hurt.

  3. I would call it beautifully simple, myself. ;)

    There’s more, too: The 405 expansion won’t keep carrying more and more people with the same trip times, year after year – it’ll require yet another massive investment in the same corridor. The light rail will keep carrying more and more people every year as it matures, with no additional capital cost (except more trains) – and the more trains you add, the more convenient the service becomes. I-405 projects don’t provide the parking necessary for all those new cars – but most light rail trips in that corridor don’t require parking, meaning you get more usable office and residential space.

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