This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Different problems generally require different solutions. So why does King County only use busses?
At some level of ridership, busses are less efficient than rail. This can be seen by imagining the extremes – say Auburn with it’s own light rail system or New York with only a bus system. The first case is far from affordable and the second far from useful.
Our region has decided that long-distance commuting has passed this point – hence the creation of Sound Transit and thereafter Link. This system won’t replace busses – just compliment them by providing a traffic-free trunk that will lead to density.
But what about short-distance travel? We can again imagine Manhattan with only busses – the streets would be packed with the things to the point of not being useful. Such a city would quickly break down and lose its density. There must come a point where busses need to be complimented by faster, higher capacity transit.
Back to King County Transit. They do busses – and that’s it. That’s ok. As I’ve stated, busses are useful. Just because New York has a subway system doesn’t mean they don’t need their busses. But I’d argue busses aren’t enough.
I think we’re well past the point of bus transit limiting our city’s density. Watch the crowds at 3rd and Pine at 5pm for some evidence of this. We need a rapid way to get between neighborhoods.
Maybe the solution is to convince King County Metro to try something new and fix Seattle. But it seems out of their scope of interest or charter – after all they get their funding from the whole county, and why would a Kentian want to spend a large sum of money getting Seattlites from Fremont to Capital Hill?
I think the reason we don’t have an in-city rapid transit system is because we don’t have an in-city transit agency – something that can act on our behalf and let us tax ourselves for our own benefit. I know the Monorail fiasco is still a fresh open wound, and our city failed in its attempt. But just because we’ve failed to build an in-city rapid transit system (or an effective transit agency) doesn’t mean we don’t want or need one.