by GREG NICKELS, Mayor of Seattle and Chair of Sound Transit Board


There are those who say the debate over light rail in Seattle began in November of 1851, with the landing of the Denny party at Alki. Most, however, point to the defeat of the 1968 and 1970 Forward Thrust mass transit bond issues (did you know Seattle’s federal match went to Atlanta to build MARTA?) as the time when political courage failed and mass transit first became political road-kill for a generation.

My involvement began in 1988, when two young County Councilmembers (Cynthia Sullivan and me) sponsored an advisory ballot asking King County voters whether we should plan for, finance and build a light rail system with construction to start in 1995 and the first stations to open in 2000. That November nearly 70% of the voters said yes and broke the political logjam created with the defeat of Forward Thrust in 1968 & 1970.

Following the 1988 election the Times ran a Brian Bassett cartoon showing a forlorn figure on a hand pump rail car with the name “Light Rail Planning”. The forlorn figure is saying “Well…It’s a start” – I purchased the original from Brian and have posted it here.

The long awaited (!!!) line that began with the 1988 Advisory Ballot opens this summer. Sound Transit opens Tukwila, Rainier Beach, New Holly, Columbia City, Mount Baker, Beacon Hill, SODO, Stadium District, ID, Pioneer Square and 2 Downtown Stations in fewer than 100 days!

To celebrate this history making milestone I will be posting frequently with facts, figures, a little history and a few photos (maybe even a map or two) as we count down to opening day.

155 Replies to “Guest Post Series: Counting Down to Link”

  1. Mayor Nickels has a mixed record on transit. He was an early supporter of Sound Transit and the monorail, but his monorail support evaporated when it was needed. He has allowed the waterfront streetcar to disappear, probably forever. And the usefulness of the South Lake Union streetcar is yet to be proven.

    I hope Mayor Nickels and other elected officials will use the opportunity of the next few months to create a transit plan that supports all of the neighborhoods, the city, and the region.

    1. The monorail had retracted its $11B financing plan and had just come back with their final, $7.5B financing plan when the Mayor retracted his support. There’s no way the city can get behind junk bonds.

    2. While I have some differences with the Mayor regarding transportation and land use, I can’t think of any elected official in the region who has been a bigger transit booster than Mayor Nickels.

      The Monorail killed itself with a poor financing plan. The blame for the demise of the Waterfront Streetcar is spread among a number of entities but lands more on the County than the City.

      (as an aside the streetcar may live again once the viaduct mess is finally solved)

      1. Actually… the $11B financing plan for the Monorail was never officially released to the public, was never intended to be the financing plan, and was a worst-case scenario plan put together specifically at the request of the Mayor’s office.

        He could have done nothing more than help to point that out to the press, and things might have gone differently.

    3. Putting the first streetcar in SLU was a boneheaded decision. True or not, it looks like an expensive, wasteful giveaway to Paul Allen. Any politician worth his or her salt should know enough to expect that in Seattle. We definitely need a streetcar network, but making SLU the first one undercut support for the effort for that reason and because it’s a low-ridership, infrequent headway corridor. The SLUT should’ve come later. The first streetcar should’ve replaced a busy bus line or served an otherwise useful route like First Hill or First Ave. will. If people saw full trains coming every 5 minutes to and from places they needed to go, we’d probably be rid of the bus v. streetcar debate by now.

      Nickels exaggerating SLUT’s ridership by almost 100% at a TCC event last summer didn’t help either. Did he really think a room full of transit junkies wouldn’t notice?

      1. The SLUT had much higher ridership than anticipated, and it is doing a great job spurring development in SLU, and attracting people to condos built there. It was a smart thing to build it there, both because of those benefits, and because he knew that Paul Allen and the other property owners in the area would pick up a large part of the tab in LID. And once one line is built, people want more to get built, as the most common comment I’ve heard on the SLUT is “Wow, this is really cool, I just wish it came to my neighborhood.”

      2. That’s just the problem–only those who have a use for the SLUT have even ridden it. I hardly ever run into anyone who’s used it. I’d venture the vast majority of Seattleites have never taken the streetcar.

        I do vaguely recall that the SLUT’s ridership was above projections, not sure about much higher. What was the projected ridership before it opened? (which is usually underestimated anyway to lower expectations and magnify the real numbers once they come in)

      3. When you say “only those who have a use for the SLUT have even ridden it” – you can say the same thing for any piece of infrastructure anywhere. The difference is that the SLUT is creating new uses, and buses don’t. In the long run, the SLUT will be cheaper per passenger, just as the streetcars we used to have were cheaper than the buses that replaced them.

      4. In the short run, SLUT is slower than walking…if you add in the wait time and are healthy. The second bad thing about SLUT is that it’s tracks are dangerous for bicycles. The third thing is that it makes the Mercer mess worse for cars, without helping the underlying cause of the problem, no other reasonable way to get from the North/South or Eastside to the center at the hours of when you’d want to be there…

        SLUT was Paul Allen’s project. You don’t p*ss off the local billionaires. If we wanted a PRT we’d have built that, if he’d wanted an extension of the Monorail, we’d have built that. But his Rose Properties in Portland seemed to benefit from a street car, so asked for and got one here…oh yeah, he asked for permission to have a local taxing district of which he owned most of the land and then voted for it. Plus gave the city money up front to do the other half. Only a few other property owners got stuck with any bills and the city just has to handle the operating costs. It’s a sweet deal for the city…. sort of.

      5. I use the SLUT regularly when I’m at UW SLU (815 Mercer) and it’s a little faster than walking all the way to the Westlake Center. If it’s a nice day I’ll just walk, or if it’s not too bad I’ll see how soon the streetcar is coming. If it’s really wet I’ll wait for the streetcar.

      6. Gary’s comments are ridiculous. Paul Allen did want the monorail extended. He paid for a large portion of the campaign. Yet the city didn’t do “his bidding” and turned against the project.

        Where’s your conspiracy theory now, Gary?

      7. I agree that electric bus lines should be upgraded to streetcars and the electric buses freed up by doing this used to establish new electric bus service.

        However, the criticism here of the SLU streetcar is misplaced. Property owners in the area were willing to form an LID to pick up their share of the costs. Find other property owners in a different area who are willing to do that and they will get a streetcar too. What exactly is so unfair about that?

        And what is this, some kind of children’s game? On the even-numbered days we’re told transit advocate over-estimate the projected ridership to fool the voters and on the odd-numbered days we’re told they under-estimate the ridership so the success will seem greater than expected. Sorry, can’t believe both of those at the same time.

        Critics of the streetcar universally fail to see that two of Seattle’s real gems, the park and the Center for Wood Boats at the south end of the lake, are almost impossible to reach by anything other than bicycle or streetcar. I’m thinking these critics don’t know as much about Seattle as they pretend to.

      8. Waste or not, SLUT is doing what it was designed for which is spurring redevelopment in SLU. It also got a number of local people thinking “I want one of those in my neighborhood”.

        As it stands the First Hill streetcar is almost certain to happen and the chances for First Avenue look pretty good. I predict once either of these lines open a lot of the anti-streetcar noise will go away. Not all of it to be sure because there are those who are anti-rail or anti-transit no matter what. Not to mention those who push some pie-in-the-sky technology like PRT.

      9. Thing about the SLUSc, durring planning a major consideration was to be able to extend up Westlake and across the University Bridge. As the cartoon says, at least its a start.

    4. The monorail plan was an absolute disaster and the mayor showed real political courage by eventually coming out and saying so. The mayor was right to come out against it and I support him for doing so.

      But in any case, the monorail killed itself by sheer incompetence – the mayor had little to do with it. It was effectively dead already.

      Thankfully we have ST – on to Light Rail.

    5. Nickels ended his support for monorail when the monorail board proved itself to be incompetent, and totally unable to acknowledge reality. The monorail people set very high standards for themselves to distinguish the project from ST’s light rail – including a provision requiring a re-vote should the project fall short of their promises. Well, that happened – and the first thing the SPMA did was stick is head in the sand.

      It wasn’t the city that killed the monorail. It was the insular cult-like leadership and devout followers who killed the monorail.

      Monorail board members and followers began pointing fingers the second things began to go wrong – and accepted ZERO responsibility for their own failures. The mythology of “Mayor Gridlock” quickly spread via hardcore adherents.

      1. So, if the Mayor had called for replacing the incompetent Monorail Board leadership (no arguments from me on that one), like was done when Sound Transit went through its own budget problems, we might have TWO great transit lines opening this year to serve the entire city instead of just one.

      2. “if the Mayor had called for replacing the incompetent Monorail Board leadership”

        Had that happened, the howl of monorail supporters would have been deafening. As in “don’t interfere with the peoples’ train!”

        Another example of how monorail adherents dug their own hole. They wanted to separate themselves from The Man, but then immediately blamed The Man for failing to fix their mistakes. Sorry, guys. You didn’t get to have it both ways.

  2. I’m not blaming the mayor for killing the monorail (I could name names…), but he could have done more to prevent the project from killing itself. And yeah, I agree that it’s too late to rehash all of that mess again.

    1. I don’t think so. He wasn’t in charge – he didn’t have any part in that agency.

      Sound Transit warned them not to assume MVET collections outside the city. They didn’t heed the warning. Hence, two more votes.

  3. Still, I can’t accept “mixed record on transit”.
    1) He was the driving force behind getting Prop. 1 on the ballot last year
    2) He fought for the monorail when it seemed like it might work, and only withdrew support when it was obvious it couldn’t.
    3) got metro service expansions for Seattle during 20/40/40
    4) got the SLU streetcar which at very least proved that streetcars can be built pretty cheaply and do get riders, and likely has even driven development in SLU.

    That’s just in the last few years, he’s got a long record on this, and I don’t think it’s mixed.

    1. Hear, hear. I don’t know how involved he was with the bicycle master plan, but I liked that as well.

      1. Don’t forget the Pedestrian Master Plan. It’s been in the works for a couple years and comes out this spring/summer. Walking is the most universal form of transportation, yet over 1/4 of Seattle’s streets have no sidewalks. Bridging the Gap was an important step forward, but at our current pace, it will take us 817 years to build sidewalks throughout the city. Nickels made great statements last spring about the importance of walking and how the city was committed to supporting it, but when most people weren’t looking, he proposed deep cuts to (cheap and cost-effective) investments in pedestrian amenities. It took SPAB and Jan Drago to get much of that funding restored. That seems to be a common m.o. for Nickels, unfortunately. He says the right things in public, but doesn’t necessarily follow it through with action behind the scenes. When he makes public statements, they seem to come with margins of error.

      2. “but at our current pace, it will take us 817 years to build sidewalks throughout the city”

        If you observe many of the north end neighborhoods lacking sidewalks, you will see a lot more people out on walks than the neighborhoods with sidewalks. While some streets lacking sidewalks are dangerous for pedestrians, it’s not useful to say each and every street throughout the city needs them.

    2. “do get riders”?? It was 1100 a day as of last summer. That’s a pittance compared to what any of the new streetcar lines proposed would get. I love the streetcar and much prefer riding it to Metro buses, but I have to admit the streetcar usually has fewer than 10 riders on it.

      1. It got over 500,000 riders in 2008, or about 1400 per day, although weekdays were probably higher and weekends lower. And that’s before Amazon, PATH, and a few other places open their new offices in SLU. It could get quite a few more riders this year.

      2. The First Ave. line is projected to have 2,000,000 or more riders per year, with 5 minute headways. 1400 a day is pretty underwhelming. Especially to the majority of Seattleites who aren’t transit junkies and just see mostly empty streetcars going by.

      3. Say, excuse me for pointing this out, but you wouldn’t even be talking about a First Avenue trolley line if you didn’t have a mayor who told the city DOT to get with the program and come up with some possible streetcar lines. You didn’t see this with any other Seattle mayor since 1940.

        I lived in Seattle so long I was sure the city DOT would do the usual- draw up some fake “proposals” secure in the knowledge they’d go straight to the memory hole. Instead, they did real studies and now you have a line on top of Capitol Hill funded and a First Avenue line looking certain to be built.

        And pulleeze– we’re not children. We know that at some times of the day a bus or trolley will not be full.

      4. I have to agree with serial catowner here. The SLUT was really the only place where things could have started – with the LID – and for the headways, it’s getting fantastic ridership that’s only going up. If it ran 5 minute headways, I think by 2011 we’d be looking at 2,000,000 riders a day there as well.

        This all sounds like the criticism of the Portland Streetcar when it opened. Yeah, so, it doesn’t get too many riders today? Okay, let’s see what happens when Enso fills up, Rollin Street is open, Amazon and Gates Foundation move in, and the half dozen other smaller residential projects finish. It’s ridiculous to criticize a 100+ year system in its second year.

        And then we’ll extend it to the U-district and Fremont, and suddenly it’ll be the most packed service in the city. We had to start somewhere.

      5. Also remember that ridership is climbing. 1400/day is only the average of last year, not the ending daily ridership.

      6. But, Ben, the reason I’m glad folks brought up the failed Monorail project is that streetcars aren’t the answer to the question.

        I don’t have any problems with the technology. And I think the one in Portland’s Pearl District and the one here in South Lake Union are great for what they accomplish: encouraging development and helping to move some local residents and workers around the neighborhood.

        The problem is that they are NOT rapid transit, which is what Seattleites have repeatedly called for.

      7. “The problem is that they are NOT rapid transit, which is what Seattleites have repeatedly called for.”

        Streetcars aren’t rapid transit the same way rapid transit isn’t designed to accommodate short trips, with short distances between stops. Streetcars are meant to feed rapid transit lines, and serve trips which might otherwise be made by cars.

        The big mistake many PRT and BRT supporters make is related to this misunderstanding. They think their pet technologies can accomplish both long-haul and short trip goals. Which is pure fantasy.

        For instance, eddiew opposed the SLUT because he felt the #70 could do the job just as well. But the #70 trolleybus runs on a long route, and is frequently subjected to conditions on the freeway which affect Eastlake and surrounding streets. Also problematic is the fact casual transit users are much more likely to hop on a rail car than they are a bus. Which is why streetcars have been so popular as of late.

      8. At this point I really don’t care if the in-city network is a streetcar or light rail. Either is better than what we have. Ideally much of the streetcar network would have exclusive travel lanes and would be designed so large LRV’s like the Link cars could be used (IOW Link turn radii and structure gauge). Especially in areas like Ballard that aren’t due to have Link service any time soon.

        I think Seattle could very much afford to build in-city light-rail or a streetcar network. LIDs can fund some of the proposed routes and voters are almost certain to approve any new taxes the City is authorized to collect.

      9. How is it we can very much afford in-city light rail or streetcar network? 43 million dollar hole this year in Seattle, 5.1 billion hole in the state, 341 billion hole in the US.

        We just committed ourselves to 22 billion expansion of an existing light rail system that’s projected to decrease vehicle miles traveled by 2.1%, and we should just throw in some more streetcars? I’d rather keep my tenths of a penny until we see how light rail works here in Seattle

      10. We can “afford” it in two senses. First lawmakers with the City, State, and County seem to be willing to find money for the $5 billion dollar tunnel for 99. If the will is there the money will be found. Second we can “afford” it because Seattle voters have repeatedly shown a willingness to raise their taxes to pay for transit.

      11. Seattle voters have repeatedly shown a willingness to raise their taxes to pay for transit.

        I don’t often agree with Seattle City politics but I have to admire the fact that the voters are consistently willing to approve taxes to pay for what they want. My saying is Seattle voters never met a tax they didn’t like. OK, I’m not in tune with Seattle politics and I don’t have to pay the taxes so if that’s what Seattle wants then that’s their prerogative.

        One thing to keep in mind is the incentive structure. I might not be in the market to swap out a perfectly good electric water heater for a “high efficiency” gas water heater but if the federal incentives make it such that a new water heater is “free” then as they say “don’t fight City Hall/the Fed/etc.” Right now the State really has to look at how much of our federal income tax we can return to Washington State. Getting the income tax reduced is a battle for the future. In a sense the more we can pull in for Washington the better the argument for not sending the money to “the other Washington” in the first place.

      12. That is pretty much exactly what it was predicted to get! That means it is successful and is doing what it was predicted to do – expand it and ridership will increase even further.

        So far it must be counted as at least a qualified success – and it’s only been in service a little over a year.

      13. Actually, it was predicted to get 1000 riders per day, so it’s doing even better than expected, and that’s number will go up, even without expansion.

    3. Thanks Andrew. I agree. And I’ll say that a lot of times it’s hard to figure out exactly where some politicians stand on rail, but Mayor Nickels never left any doubt in my mind.

      Thanks Mayor!

    1. Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ve seen it labeled as Othello / New Holly. If you google New Holly, you find a bit about it being Seattle’s ‘first new neighborhood in 50 years’ – it replaces an old development called Holly Park.

  4. Someone recently on my blog offered to trade Mayor Nickels for Gavin Newsom here in SF. That’s a trade I would gladly take. Lucky folks up there in Seattle.

      1. Leave it to Bernie. One of the most tolerable trolls around. I don’t always agree your politics bud, but I know I can count on you for some true color, insight, and entertainment!


  5. BTW to the people behind Seattle Transit Blog, great job getting Mayor Nickels as a guest poster.

    1. Don’t tell Deb Eddy, but the whole show is run by Larry Phillips. Ssshhhhh… :)

      1. Actually, I think a guest post series by Rep. Eddy could be interesting.

        Also guest posts from the various County Executive candidates might give us a better idea what their thinking on transit, transportation, and land use is.

      2. Agree with you on both sentiments. The guest column is a master stroke; good on you for kicking it off with Mayor Nickels. Time to try and pull in the County Exec candidates, some state leg types, and how about our favorite senator in tennis shoes?

      3. Except, Rep Eddy would never tell us what she’s actually FOR. Like most light rail critics, Deb Eddy relies on the amorphous “other alternatives” option to shape her “vision” of the transportation future. The closest Eddy has ever come to being honest with us was a letter she distributed in ’08 (or ’07) which called for BRT on both floating bridges. Details on how such a program would work were left to her imagination. And to Intelligent Design.

        We should call any and all Discovery Institute inspired transportation policy “walking with dinosaurs.”

      4. To be fair, Rep. Eddy did eventually comment on this blog that she favored a rail line around the South end of Lake Washington.

        It’s not worth it to go through all the problems with that approach, but she did come out in favor of something.

    2. Yes, good to have the Mayor contributing – hopefully the other candidates will also contribute (what DID the distinguished editor of The Stranger decide to do?).

      1. He got out of the race because the city was threatening to fine him unless he paid the filing fee.

      2. Savage backed out after the elections and ethics (that he consider fascists) people told him he needed to file his intent. As The Stranger is a print media, using it to promote a campaign, whether a joke or not, is crossing some lines.

      3. I have to admit I was kind of hoping he’d run for real.

        I wouldn’t mind seeing what James Donaldson or Michael McGinn have to say about transit. Peter Steinbrueck too, even if he doesn’t drop the Hamlet act and throw his hat in the race.

      4. Did my 1st two years at WSU. James Donaldson was in my dorm my freshman year. Seems like a really nice guy but I think he needs to prove himself at a little lower level of public executive experience before he’s ready to be mayor of a major city.

      5. I’ve no dog in the fight yet. I’m willing to give the challengers a chance to convince me they deserve the job more than the current Mayor though.

        I like some things Nickels does, others not so much. A serious challenge might help fix some of the “not so much” either by replacing him or giving him a scare.

      6. Some folks on Facebook have been going after Nickels on my wall, and a lot of the attacks are for things he couldn’t even control. I think job one may just be education…

      7. I’ve seen some of that. Like him or not, he has absolutely nothing to do with the Seattle Schools for instance.

        On the other hand I think there are some issues where he rightfully deserves to have his feet held to the fire. At the same time I have no evidence any of his current opponents are capable of doing a better job.

        There is one potential candidate who I suspect will be better on at least a few issues, and who has relevant experience, but he hasn’t decided if he’s going to run yet.

      8. Oh, I meant educating the public on who does what, not Seattle Schools. :)

        I seriously had attacks on Seahawks Stadium (which we voted for…) and KCLS (which doesn’t collect taxes in the city).

      9. I only mention the School District because one of Nickels opponents is attacking the mayor on the state of the school system. I think said opponent may be confused about which office he is running for.

        Attacking the Mayor on the stadium and KCLS? Seriously? Wow, talk about clueless. At least if you attack him on snow removal, land use, building code, sidewalks, or fixing potholes you are going after something the City is responsible for.

  6. The funny thing about our money going to MARTA is that everyone’s always complaining about how much transit in Atlanta sucks… We could’ve used that money much better. Has anyone actually ever seen a map of Forward Thrust? I would like to get ahold of one sometime. I’m curious to know what they planned to do downtown and if there were places with tunnels, or if they just had it all along I-5, or what.

      1. That’s amazing. I had never seen that. It’s actually fairly close to the routes I was proposing ten years ago, to anybody who would listen. The only major difference is that I wouldn’t have gone through Capitol Hill to get to UW and points NE, but would have had that line branch off from Aurora, run past Gas Works, the medical buildings, & on up around the north side of Lake Washington (from campus-north it would be very similar to what the map shows).

        1967. I think that’s the same year they desegregated housing, the first city of its size in America to do so.

      2. Yeah that is awesome. The University and east lines look a lot like what’s currently being built, and the Ballard one looks a lot like the monorail. And would this have all been grade-separated heavy rail? As cool as light rail is, sometimes I wish we had gone for the cool grittiness of a third-rail subway… oh well.

      3. No question heavy rail is far superior. Problem is it costs much more, and no one’s willing or able to pony up the money anymore. After being away from DC for 3+ years, I was back for the inauguration and couldn’t believe how much I’d missed my beloved Metro.

      4. I think after a decade or two of light rail, we’ll be willing to do heavy. That’s what happened a century ago. :)

      5. This is undoubtedly off-topic, but I often wonder about the impact Forward Thrust would have had on Seattle’s urban form.

        On the one hand, subway-quality rail is great — it puts a lump in my throat just to imagine the multi-line, high-quality rail system we could have had. On the other hand, I’m not sure the 70’s and 80’s were the best time to finish building out a rail system: the pro-density culture was very much in decline in that timeframe, and we probably would have ended up with a system full of parking lots and not much urban development.

        Look at what happened in the cities that did build rail systems when we might have been able to: DC’s subway is a pretty big success, but Atlanta and the Bay Area have both sprawled massively. The Forward Thrust system was looking to be more like MARTA or BART (a mostly suburban-oriented commuter system) that DC’s metro (a dense overlapping mesh inside a suburban-oriented system). Even now, there are still plenty of single-family houses a block away from stations in Oakland.

        Seattle may have been different: we’ve always had a green view on sustainability, our relative homogeneity protected our urban core in more racist times, and our geography makes sprawl more difficult than, say, Atlanta. That said, as weird as this seems now, I think the culture that said no to Forward Thrust is the same culture that said no to the building more highways, and that lack of road-building has also kept us more compact through the big sprawl-building era.

      6. We actually had a late-80s boom cut off by CAP – that’s where we got several of our downtown skyscrapers. With the transit system, I suspect downtown would be significantly larger today, and I also suspect Bellevue wouldn’t have anything over ten stories.

      7. The Paccar building was there in the 70’s. A smattering of other mid-rise buildings went in during the 80’s. With Kemper Freeman and the rise of Microsoft I doubt light rail would have had much impact on the development in Bellevue.

      8. Excuse me *thirteen* floors.

        To get a good picture of what happened, you have to look at the timing of CAP and the buildings that were built in Bellevue just after it. In 89, we had an initiative to block new skyscraper construction, but the region still needed more development. The Bellevue building boom happened just after that.

        I don’t think CAP would have happened at all if we’d had rail service in the city already – I don’t solidly understand the driving force behind the initiative yet, but I think it was dependent on the neighborhood balkanization we still see in the city, which disappears with good transportation. Bellevue likely would have no reason to look any different than Hillsboro.

      9. I also suspect Bellevue wouldn’t have anything over ten stories.

        Yes, 13 is more than 10.

        I think CAP had more to do with sight lines and the desire to prevent something resembling the concrete canyons of Manhattan. Your 50th floor penthouse suite with it’s panoramic view sort of loses it’s appeal when someone builds a 70 story building in front of you. A city that never sees the sun because of a canopy of glass and steel isn’t most peoples ideal of walkable. Now that it’s back to the wild wild west it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Will the Space Needle be lost in the backdrop as the Smith Tower has?

        Actually the more building that occurs in Seattle the more business and development it will bring to Bellevue. The region grows as a whole more than as a competition between one downtown vs the other.

      10. The impact of the Forward Thrust rail plan would have depended on where the stations were and which were designed as park & rides.

        I heard from a number of sources that some of the opposition to the Forward Thrust rail plan was tied to the local freeway revolt.

        Remember that a number of the other Forward Thrust measures did pass including the stadium and parks. In the 1968 vote the rail measure got more than 50% but didn’t make the 60% threshold required. In the second vote it didn’t break 50%, but that may have had as much to do with the Boeing slowdown as anything else.

      11. As I recall CAP was mostly a reaction to the construction of the Columbia Center. At the time it was built the CC stood out rather starkly on the skyline. From what I understand Selig wanted to build Columbia Center higher, but the FAA nixed that, at the very least they nixed the planned TV antennas on top.

        As it stood CAP didn’t really have all that much of an effect, with bonuses and whatnot buildings like 1201 Third (WaMu Tower), US Bank Center, Municipal Tower and Two Union Square could still be built.

        In the early 90’s there was a huge glut of downtown office space due to all of the new buildings opening up, the slowing economy, and newly vacant space due to all of the bank mergers. Because of the economy and S&L crisis financing was harder to get. There also just aren’t that many full blocks left downtown that are suitable for large signature type buildings.

        Even with CAP repealed I don’t think we’ll see much in the way of large office building construction in downtown for a while. During the boom most of the new large towers downtown were residential or hotels. Now with the recession demand for office space is down and there is all of the former WaMu space that needs to be absorbed. Then there is the further problem of few lots suitable for large towers.

        Even if the Forward Thrust system had been built and CAP never passed I suspect there would still have been the growth in suburban office space we’ve seen over the past 20 years. Maybe not quite so much but downtown Bellevue would still have skyscrapers.

        Construction of tall buildings in Downtown Bellevue slowed around the same time as Downtown Seattle and didn’t really pick up again until 2000. As with Seattle a large amount of the new construction has been residential or hotel buildings.

      12. Two Union Square was approved long before CAP. It was built in 1981, and CAP passed in 1989. It literally could not be built under cap. It was

        1) Over 450′ tall. (No office buildings taller than 450′)
        2) Over 500,000 sq ft of office space. (At most 500,000 sq ft of new office space in the city per year).

        US Bank Centre was also built before CAP (1989) as was the WAMU tower (1986). The Municipal Tower began construction in 1989, just before CAP came into effect so it was grandfathered in.

        CAP is a major reason that downtown Bellevue exists in its current form. This has much less to do with the height limits than with the office space limits.

        It’s also 99% of the reason I could never support a Peter Steinbrueck mayorship: he co-wrote the bill. The man is an unabashed slow-growther, which is the last thing we need.

      13. Two Union Square opened in 1989. One Union Square (next door) opened in 1981.

        In any case it would appear I confused CAP with the 1984 Downtown Seattle Land Use Plan (which is what the “Citizens Alternative Plan” was an alternative to)

        The CAP initiative had been whittled away by revisions to be almost meaningless by the time it was repealed entirely in 2006. See the 512 ft. IDX tower or the 598 ft WaMu Center. I wouldn’t bash on Peter Steinbrueck too much. In the end he acknowledged CAP was a bad idea and drafted the legislation to repeal it.

        In any case take a look at building opening dates in both Bellevue and Seattle. Few large new buildings opened in either city between 1989 and 2001. Even since 2001 residential and hotel uses have tended to dominate new high-rise construction in both cities.

        There was a huge glut of office space locally for most of the early-mid 90’s. This is how BofA ended up owning Columbia Center and the City ended up with Municipal Tower. The dotcom bust cut short the last office space building boomlet. We’ll probably have a glut again for the next few years.

        I just don’t see that CAP resulted in any development being pushed to the suburbs. That development was driven by other factors. Hard to tell what the effect would have been had CAP been around in its strongest form during the middle of a boom rather than a bust. By the time construction picked up in the past decade most of the more obnoxious parts of CAP had done away with.

      14. A change of heart doesn’t matter! He screwed things up, the fact that he did it with good intentions or realised later doesn’t mean he didn’t screw things up. Everyone but Knute Berger realises that CAP was a bad idea. Just like Greenspan realised late last year that financial deregulation was a bad idea, too little, too late, damage done!

        Don’t apologize for Steinbrueck. Leaders need understand what the consequences of their actions are before they do them, not later in hindsight.

      15. A ton of office space was built on the Eastside in the 1990s (uh, microsoft). Not tall buildings, but tons of large buildings. CAP limited both the height of buildings and the amount of office space that could be built.

        Even if Microsoft had wanted to build large offices in Seattle in the 1990s, they couldn’t have. Nearly single other company that built office space in the 1990s had to do it out in the burbs. Even King County had to built office space in the suburbs because of CAP. Office leases were in the hundreds of thousands of square feet on the Eastside in 1992, by 2002 it was tens of millions. That wasn’t all “other factors”.

        That’s CAP’s legacy.

      16. Microsoft had a vision of a corporate campus. Not going to happen downtown. Bellevue has (still has) the 450′ limit. Land in Bellevue is/was available and is far cheaper than downtown.

        The Microsoft Campus is more like the UW campus than Downtown Seattle. That’s by design. You can walk outside on both the UW and Microsoft and engage other people on grass in the sun. The downtown towers (Bellevue or Seattle) are better suited for the suits.

      17. I seriously doubt Microsoft would have moved downtown without CAP.

        There were millions of excess square feet of class A high-rise office space the market needed to absorb before any developer was going to be interested in building a large project in Seattle. The market simply wasn’t there for a number of years.

        There were some rather prominent space conversions (Pac Med, Sodo center, Real HQ, Zymogenetics) that happened in the late 90’s. There were also a number of low-rise and mid-rise spaces built in Seattle during the 90’s such as the Visio building, Union Station complex, Immunex, Adobe, FHCRC, UW, and a number of other buildings outside the downtown core. With the exception of the Immunex, FHCRC, and Union Station station projects none of these were particularly large. Seattle doesn’t have the large parcels and cheap land preferred for large-scale low-rise office developments.

        There were almost no high-rise office buildings built in Bellevue during the same period there were almost no high-rise office buildings built in Seattle. Even though There were a number of low and mid rise buildings built throughout the region once the recession ended. This indicates to me there wasn’t enough demand in the region for new class A high rise office space to justify the large investment these sorts of buildings require.

        Mind you I’m not saying CAP was a good idea or that it had no effect at all. Just that it had far less effect than it might have otherwise had due to the recession that immediately followed its passage and the general surplus of class-A high-rise office space in the region.

        One interesting note is a number of new buildings in Bellevue have hit the city’s height limit (450ft). While Downtown Bellevue still has a fair number of parcels suitable for new high-rise development I wonder how long it will be before there is either pressure to expand the downtown core or remove the height limits.

        Along similar lines there just aren’t many parcels left in the Downtown Seattle Core where you could build a Columbia Center or Two Union Square. The downtown core where high-rise office development is allowed needs to expand to the North, South, and East.

      18. I see Peter Steinbrueck’s change of heart as a willingness to admit he was wrong and change his mind. This is a mark of maturity. Anyone who actually tries to do anything is going to make a bad decision from time to time. The key is being able to admit you were wrong and change your mind. Sure he could be like Bush and never admit he was wrong, like Knute Berger and become even more set in his ways, or like any number of politicians and never try to lead and any blame is so diffuse it can’t be pinned on you. I think we’ve had more than enough of such approaches.

      19. I don’t agree. There was a glut of office space in the city in 1992 but there wasn’t in 1999. And you’re still confusing high-rise offices with office space in general, which is the main mistake people make when they say “CAP had little or no effect”. No high-rises were built anywhere in the 1990s because financing was hard to come buy. But few mid-rise offices were built in Seattle either, while they were built in the suburbs, and that was because of CAP.

        Think about this for a second, under CAP, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation would have had to been built outside of the city. Its campus will be 900,000 sq ft, and the law only allowed for 500,000 per year. Amazon’s 1.6 million sq ft campus probably would have been built in the burbs as well. These are low-rise/mid rise developments. And a ton more low-rise developments were planned the last few years that wouldn’t have been allowed. Look here for Selig’s low rises in Interbay, this scrapped project in lower Queen Anne/West Lake, etc.

        All those converted office-space projects were forced because of CAP. There was no way to build enough office space, so businesses had to convert buildings from other uses. You say the projects that were built weren’t large. Of course they couldn’t have been under the law! You’ve actually illustrated this better than I did.

        After the CAP laws were lifted and new office development finally picked up, Microsoft moved some employees to Seattle finally. There are microsoft employees in SLU, and Microsoft employees in the ID. In fact, a few businesses have moved downtown from the Eastside in the last couple of years as the real estate market in the city finally eased up after years of low-vacancies. If it weren’t for the dramatic recession we’re in, Microsoft would have leased another 300,000 sq ft in SLU (the Enzo building).

        I’m not say Microsoft would have moved wholesale into Seattle, but they would have more than a few hundred employees if they had the chance to build.

      20. Microsoft is by far the largest office space renter in downtown bellevue. And a ton of the office space it has is not on its main campus. You can have a main campus and satellite buildings, as they do today. Some of those satellites are in seattle today, and more would have been if there had been any chance of it.

      21. Microsoft is the largest renter for the whole eastside. There’s good reasons to have some office space in downtown Bellevue and Seattle and around the world but the primary reason for the spread was they couldn’t build fast enough at their central campus. As they pull back expect a glut on the eastside that’s likely to last for years.

        As Microsoft sheds jobs, it sheds office space

      22. The 500,000 sqft limit was only for the first few years of CAP the limit bumped to 1,000,000 sqft after that. I know the City made a number of modifications to CAP over the years as well as gave a number of waivers, otherwise the IDX tower and Wamu Center couldn’t have been built.

        There was mid-rise office space built during the CAP years. Just look at the Union Station development. I gave other examples I could remember of low-rise new-build in the city during the 1989-2006 (though most toward the latter portion of that period).

        As for the conversions of the Sears Building, PacMed, and the old warehouse Real is in, I believe those are less about available new construction and more about the sort of companies Starbuck’s, Amazon, and Real are. Even in cities without laws like CAP certain types of companies chose to locate in older buildings that had been renovated rather than new construction. The image of the dotcom company in the renovated warehouse with exposed rafters is practically a nationwide cliche.

        The only real way to settle this would be to look at the amount of office space issued permits in Seattle and in the rest of the county over say 1979 to today. We’d want to see first if Seattle exceeded the CAP limits for any of the years 1989-2006, second we’d want to see if the general trends of Seattle vs suburban office space pre-CAP and post-CAP held during the 1989-2006 period as well.

      23. I really enjoy how you all are holding someone accountable to a law passed in the late 1980s. Was it by initiative BTW? That was ‘the act’ that had the consequences.

        Bellevue, Everett and Tacoma should grow up, tall, and densely confined. We have got to stop this model of all economic development and diversity devolving to one place. That is how we created suburbs.

      24. If it was all about what sort of companies they are, then why when cap was finally lifted did Starbucks and Amazon both build new office buildings?

        You need to at least concede, without looking at any data that neither B&M gates foundation (900,000 sq ft) nor the WAMU tower (~1 mn sq ft) nor the Amazon campus (1.6 mn sq ft) could have been built under cap, as each came very close or exceeds the allowable space limit.

      25. Minor point, but I thought CAP was just downtown–of those only WaMu is downtown. I know UW added a lot of space in the mid 1990s (Physics, Chemisty, K-wing, Allen library).

      26. It was only downtown, but it had an extremely generous definition of what downtown was, including SLU, the Denny Regrade, Belltown, the ID, Pioneer Square, First Hill and what is now called “Uptown”.

        If you look back at the old stories, CAP definitely stopped growth:
        It effectively killed the Marathon tower. Gave Selig troubles back in 1991.

        And shrimpy buildings were built when larger ones could have been.

        I agree that CAP had limited effect from 1990~1995, but from 1995~2006 it made a big impact: Seattle’s downtown basically missed an entire commercial real estate cycle, and only came on the tail end of a second.

      27. A dark shame for me, the station next to the “l” in capitol hill is very, very near the house I grew up in. My grandpa was a leader on the “no” on forward thrust campaign because he didn’t want a train going anywhere near where he lived.

      28. The 2 transit votes and the 1969 Mayoral election were my first local elections as a newly minted voter. My parents and I voted yes in 1968, but my dad voted no in 1970 because he was pissed that we had to vote again on something we’d already approved – he was cranky that way. It would have been a terrific system and would have cost us pocket change locally. I’ll be one of the happy grey-hairs in the crowd that jumps on one of those trains come July!

      29. Is that correct: 80% of the cost would have been paid by the feds? That must have been a bargain, yet we turned it down.

    1. Also in the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” department I would have loved it if some of the old streetcar system had survived.

      1. And the Waterfront Streetcar too… I live in Ravenna and there’s a place at the top of the ravine in Ravenna Park where you can see the old streetcar platform. I always feel sad when I walk by it.

  7. The long awaited (!!!) line that began with the 1988 Advisory Ballot opens this summer.

    Hard to swallow that it began with the ’88 Ballot when the central feature of Link is the Bus Tunnel approved in ’83 and started in ’87. The problem with the initial proposals were an all or nothing approach instead of a conservatively funded approach to acquire the ROW and steer development in the path of a future HCT system.

    But then Al Gore did invent the internet ;-)

    1. Is there any transit system that has developed the way you suggest? Kind of hard to get money for buying ROW when you have no plans to do anything with it.

      The only real examples I can think of that come even close is when a public agency bought old rail ROW that later became a transit line or where the ROW was created as a part of freeway construction.

      1. The monorail was an example where they had already purchased some land. It was being leased for enough to make holding it a small cost to the city. A monorail may not have been the best choice as far as mode but the routes chosen had merit. Some of the property could have been redeveloped over time to bring in more money and serve as hubs for first buses and perhaps later a streetcar. Streetcars we’ve seen cost millions and can be partially funded by LIDs. Link on the other hand comes in multi billion dollar increments and takes decades to expand.

      2. The monorail didn’t go to ballot with a land purchase measure, they just failed to build on the land they bought.

        And using that land for another public purpose would have been unconstitutional. You can’t just gift land paid for with a specific tax voted on for a specific purpose.

        Streetcars cost tens of millions a mile and carry thousands a day. Link costs hundreds of millions a mile and carries tens or hundreds of thousands a day. They’re of similar cost effectiveness (Link’s better through the city, actually) for different purposes.

    2. That’a a fair point on the DSTT being useful, but there was no planning or funding for light rail until Nickels started getting interested.

      1. They laid track in the tunnel. It’s hard to call it “planning” as not only did they end up wasting the money on putting in the tracks it cost them more money to rip them back up. I guess the plan was on par with plans for rail on I-90.
        The intent was there but not much of a plan.

      2. If I recall correctly the tracks were slapped into the tunnel as a last minute thing. There was no effort to engineer them to be useful for a real rail line which is why they had to be pulled out when the tunnel was converted for Link.

      3. The funny thing is, the project manager worked on Washington DC’s Metro. He knew how to do it correctly.

        When they were building the tunnel, they cast the roadway with a 1 foot square trench. If there was no requirement for rail, they were going to insert concrete blocks in the trench. Then they could be extracted for future rail use.

        However, the vote was to put rail in the tunnel, purely political.

        He was up against the deadline, and had to bring it in under budget.

        I figure he had the politics figured out, and that nothing was going to be done in the near future, so it was safe to just do a ‘cosmetic’ installation.

        He was right.

        Besides, the original plans were that if LRT was going to be in the tunnel, it was assumed that they would be the high floor cars and that the platforms would have been reworked.

        As technology progressed and made low floor railcars practical they found they only had to lower the floor a few inches to achieve the height they needed.


      4. Plans for rail on I-90 actually existed. The new bridge was actually designed for it. Plans for rail in that tunnel didn’t exist.

  8. You would have to be deaf blind and dumb not recognize this as a pretty shameless stump speech – nonetheless, despite not doing as much as he could have to remould the monorail into a viable project, despite pushing the south lake union streetcar while ignoring more pressing needs, the man has been one of the few strong supporters of mass transit in the region and I would urge a bit of caution to those who are inclined to bite the hand that feeds them.

    1. I don’t think he could do anything about the monorail. He wasn’t in charge, and they refused to listen when they were warned about MVET.

      The SLU streetcar wouldn’t have been built without that LID. I suspect that’s the only place in the city where we could have gotten the LID, mostly because of Paul Allen. With its success, we can build elsewhere.

  9. Anyone who thinks Nickels has done good for Seattle area transit I have six words for you: Alaskan Way Viaduct Deep Bore Tunnel.

    1. I hate that tunnel, too. But it’s not a transit project, now, is it? What about it is bad for seattle area transit?

      1. What is bad about it for transit you ask? The US$4B it will cost that could have been used for transit and the fact that it encourages continued unfettered use of the private, primarily single occupant automobile. That there will be NO transit should make it an anathema to anyone thinking Seattle is a 21st Century city.

      2. Actually, the washington state constitution prohibits the gas tax funds being spent on the viaduct from being used for non-highway purposes.

      3. My bad – I KNEW that. However, some or all of those billions could have gone to building new ferries, no? We need about a dozen now ferries right away…

      4. Literally not one penny of the $2.8 billion state contribution could go to transit, and theoretically some of the city’s money could go to it, but how would we replace the sea-wall?

    2. The problem is the politics of the situation were such that the other alternative was a new elevated structure on the waterfront.

      As things stand it may prove to be a cagey move as all the funding for the tunnel isn’t there yet and there is no evidence it can be built for anywhere near the proposed budget.

    3. He originally wanted the tunnel, but after the voters said no, he heeded them and said he supported the surface-transit option. But a lot of people wouldn’t allow that, so he was forced to compromise, which is not necessarily a bad thing. My personal dream scenario is that the viaduct sinks too much and the inspectors say it has to be closed, and then everyone realizes we can live without it and we just knock it down and make some surface and transit improvements.

  10. Call me a dreamer, but I wish someday we’d get serious about a Seattle system. Untangling transit here would trickle out to the region, yanno?

      1. Here’s a start:

        A PROPOSITION, directing City of Seattle and SDOT to present the following results in advance of builing a full local transit system:
        1) Determination of corridors based on current service capacity and 50-year max capacity as function of potential population, both workforce and residential
        2) Comparison for the sake of priority of corridors based on origin/destination using a 50% transit demand and utilization as goal and 70% possible at peak hour using the 50-year max capacity as guidance
        3) Classification of corridors based on max capacity required utilizing a tiered system
        4) Identification of primary corridors for phased implementation of a HCT system

        The plan should implement a fixed guideway system using legacy equipment with a useful lifespan that exceeds 30 years. The plan would direct the city to utilize rail for the corridors with the highest potential capacity and buses for local corridors that are not anticipated to meet the baseline capacity requirements for rail but require service.

        The City of Seattle will present the results minus a funding plan to the voters for public comment before presenting the final high capacity transit plan after a period of public-directed refinement not to exceed 3 months. The City will then be directed to proceed with a funding and construction plan with engineering and construction to start within 7 years of the final approval of the final high capacity transit plan.

        Termination of this proposition would be subject to a vote, requiring a final tallied vote equal to the number of yes votes on this proposition, minus 1.


        Local: Within the city limits of Seattle with due consideration of annexation plans

        Corridor: Half-mile diameter from a fixed line for the purposes of routing and alignment

        High Capacity Transit: Transit with a capacity that exceeds conventional regular transit service
        Tells what, when and how. ;)

      2. Oy! We have ENOUGH plans and reports around here on where the transportation corridors are, what kinds of technology folks want in those corridors, what estimated ridership and development would be, etc.

        And, unfortunately, the Monorail project proved that we can’t fund these things on our own without the help of the region, no matter how hard we try. And regional compromise leads to stupid things like waterfront tunnels and Mercer Island lanes on freeways.

  11. I disagree that Mayor Nickels couldn’t have done anything to save the monorail; the land was bought–with some leadership from the Mayor’s office, we wouldn’t have had to lose it (probably forever).

    He chose to set an artificial deadline which essentially ensured the project’s demise, rather than focus the city on figuring out how the financing might have been reworked.

    I don’t believe he ever really wanted the monorail, and I believe it’s because certain of his major contributors didn’t like it, either. The monorail would have provided enormously more transit value than the streetcar (to which I do not object, as an intermediate step encouraging transit-oriented development). It would have been worth enormous political sacrifice which he was unwilling to make. He put his own interests before those of future generations.

    I’m just glad he sees light rail as in his own interests. Otherwise, I believe he’d sacrifice it, as well. Hoping for a truly environmental (read, transit advocate) candidate…

    1. The monorail *could not have been paid for with the funding available*.

      Furthermore, the monorail’s leadership refused to believe this.

      There wasn’t any way to rework financing. There just wasn’t enough money.

      1. The first and last statements are wrong about the Monorail Ben and you know it. The problem was the middle one…leadership. The mayor could have provided it. He had his man on the board. He could have hauled the children running the project in and forced them to hire decent engineering talent and stopped the ridiculous payouts. But as was said before, the Mayor’s backers, specifically Marty Selig and his developer buddies did not want this built. End of story.

      2. That’s completely false, and Gary you know that. The financing plan was totally bunk! Even without our current economic disaster, the monorail simply could not have been built with that MVET. Under their plan it was 40 year payment and the system would have had single-tracks in places.

        Imagine the messed they’d be in today, with fewer people buying cars.

      3. No, Andrew… I’m not suggesting it would have been easy, or a small chunk of money, but a couple hundred million dollars would have made the difference in producing a financing plan that folks could live with.

        Considering the Mayor and several others have no problem with finding an extra billion dollars for a tunnel on the waterfront, don’t tell people that it couldn’t have been done.

        As I have said many times before, the $11B financing plan was never supposed to be released to the public. It was a worst-case scenario plan that was put together specifically at the request of the Mayor’s office.

      4. Gary – you’re re-writing history using an eraser to get rid of some basic facts.

        First off: if it hadn’t been for the Mayor’s political operatives running the one monorail campaign which counted….the monorail would have died in it’s crib.

        Secondly, the monorail board and their backers specifically separated themselves from the Mayor, the city, and “the man.”. They went out of their way to cut Nickels and other light rail “hostiles” out of the deal. Yet, surprisingly, at the end of the game – when the wheels fell off “the people’s train” – all of a sudden it was Nickels’ responsibility to clean up the mess. Sorry, Gary: you can’t have it both ways.

        Find something real to argue about. You’re chasing ghosts which never existed with this critique.

      5. Unfortunately, I totally agree with JamesS on this issue. The grassroots, “from the people” nature of the monorail project was one of the best things about it, but it also one of the main things that killed it when problems occurred.

        No major electeds, developers, businessmen, etc. had any stake in the project and no reason to put themselves at risk to save it.

        Compare that to Nickels who worked hard (and successfully!) to save Link light rail because of how deeply invested he was/is personally in the project when Sound Transit hit similar kinds of problems.

      6. No kidding Nickles was invested. He was head of the treasury of Sound Transit when the wheels fell off the first time. He had been told that there wasn’t enough money to build all 21 miles in phase 1.

        So why did Mayor Nickles put himself out for ST and not the Monorail when basically the same thing happened? Sound Transit was given a second chance to pull it together and the Monorail was not.

        …oh and just to show my tin hat’ness.

        Where did the zip codes come from that gave the estimates for the MVET tax revenue come from? Sound Transit.

        What agency told the state that they had been collecting too much tax because the zip code tables were wrong?
        Sound Transit.

        When did ST tell the state? January… when did the Monorail find out that they had overestimated the tax base? July, from the state. When did they announce that they wouldn’t need the extra revenue of the full collections they were entitled to? May.

        The Monorail board got caught in a tax trap with this little underhanded maneuver. They could have figured it out for themselves, and I blame them for not doing their checking better but they were set up. They tried to save the tax payers some money by not doing their own tax investigation and paid big time.

      7. Sorry, I just have a hard time buying the idea that ST or local politicians put a knife in the SMP’s back.

        First the plan was flawed by being tied to a particular technology and one that hasn’t been terribly successful worldwide.

        Second there were people questioning the finance plan even before the SMP went to a vote. The problems were there for anyone who cared to look.

        Third the Monorail people failed to get much in the way of local political support. If there would have been someone like Nickels who’d been involved from early on the project might not have run into as much trouble in the first place and would have had people willing to stick their necks out to save it.

        In any case the SMP is quite dead. Instead of pushing conspiracy theories it is better to try to learn the lessons and move on. The corridors identified by the SMP still need better transit. It would be far more valuable to try to figure out how to do that than to rehash the past.

      8. “But as was said before, the Mayor’s backers, specifically Marty Selig and his developer buddies did not want this built. End of story.”

        End of story? God, that is a simplistic argument, Gary. Plenty of the Mayor’s supporters also WANTED monorail to happen.

      9. The monorail died because of Joel Horn. He was completely incompetent and instead of hiring competent people he hired a bunch of his buds. That’s what killed the monorail.

  12. The monorail is dead, and it’s not coming back. Forget about it already.

    Me, I’m excited about light rail. Can’t wait.

  13. catowner:
    one can reach the south lake union park on routes 17, 26-28, 70, and 30; routes 26-28 provide 15-minute headway service on Dexter Avenue North; Route 70 provides 15-minute headway service on Fairview Avenue North; routes 17, 26-28, and 70 serve the 3rd Avenue transit spine and extend to north Seattle activity centers (e.g., Fremont and U District). so, there are several ways of reaching the park.

    the chain understates the Nickels positive record on transit. consider the following:
    he appointed Grace Cruncican;
    Seattle improved Seattle surface streets for transit flow in 2005 and kept the improvements when the tunnel reopened in 2007; the capacity improvements were assumed very unlikely in the early 1990s during the regional transit project modeling;
    he proposed Bridging the Gap in 2006, included funds for transit service and transit priority measures;
    SDOT has added bus bulbs on Route 44 in Wallingford; and,
    he has shown stubborn determination on ST.

    his record is more mixed when actually designing transit:
    ST Route 574 was his baby and attracted little ridership, but did serve his West Seattle district with South King County subarea funds; a West Seattle tail remains on Route 560;
    The Seattle Streetcar SLU Line does not penetrate either the U District or downtown; it did not have its service subsidy lined up. It has served as a marketing tool for Vulcan. The Portland streetcar service is funded by parking revenmue and it reaches Portland State University and goes through downtown.

    Note that the Forward Thurst proposal was King County only and completely grade separated. It would have been great. Both the Atlanta region with MARTA and the Seattle region without it have sprawled along limited access highways. Seattle and Portland both have much higher transit JTW figures than Atlanta. There are several counties in the Atlanta region that have little local transit.

    1. Try taking someone in a wheelchair to that park. I think you’ll get my drift. Rails, buckled pavement, no sidewalks, heavy traffic- of course some of that’s been improved since they repaved while putting the trolley in. And of course, almost zero parking, disabled or otherwise, if there’s an event you want to attend.

      Trolley= cadillac in this situation. Straight to the door.

    2. Bad comparison, eddiew. Atlanta is surrounded by extremely conservative suburbs which would rather sit in traffic jams (isolated from “those people”) than be subjected to commie-influenced mass transit. Example: Dave Reichert is no Newt Gingrich.

    3. So there are basically 3 routes providing 15 minute headways and 2 routes at 30 minutes. So adding the SLUT (15 minute headways) resulted in a 25% increase in transit to South Lake Union without worrying about 20/40/40.

  14. Will the Mayor beat Ben’s article about the Bellevue routing for number of comments? Two more about the SLUT, the monorail, tall buildings and woo hoo!

      1. If we counted it up by on topic only, I bet Ben’s editorial wins. Engineering arguments are so preoccupying.

      2. hahaha yeah. I’m very compulsive, and it took all my will power to not respond to everyone of those comments.

      3. Chris,

        One danger in dismissing (Required) as a mere troll, is that his/her thinking, or shall I say his lack of thinking, concerning a roads based solution is ingrained in the general public’s mind.

        It seems that most everyone who advocates for more rail-based transportation solutions spends way too much time defending their numbers, and not enough time making road proponents defend their numbers.

        Did you notice that when I brough that up (Required) had no response, at least a response that addressed the actual numbers.

        Before I participated in the I-405 Corridor Program’s Citizens Committee, I pretty much had the same arguments and defenses of the people on this blog. When I was able to see how these mega-projects come up with these numbers, I realized that it’s not rail transit that has to defend itself, but road building that must defend itself… Not in a political, social, or environmental sense, but solely on the way it performs in a Cost/Benefit analysis.

        There are two problems with getting any serious analysis done on this.

        One is political, because we rely on the sales tax most municipalities won’t “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs”. Sales tax generated by the sale of automobiles is one of the largest revenue sources for any city in the state.

        The second is economic, the news media isn’t going to do any serious analysis, because the news media doesn’t make its money from news, it makes it from advertising. Who are the biggest advertisers for any media outlet? (Your first two guesses don’t count)

        Simply, when an argument is made that rail is expensive, then the immediate response should be “compared to what?”

        If the defense is concrete, then make them supply the numbers.

        Finally, I want to say I appreciate legislators such as Deb Eddy contributing to this blog, and to Mayor Nickels, and to John Niles for participating as civil as he does, even when he’s getting arrows shot at him. I

        I hesitate to put up the ‘road numbers’ that I challenged (Required) to do, because it keeps away the accusations of putting up a straw-man argument.

        The onus is up to people like him/her to defend such statements.

        Jim Cusick

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