Some of the crowd watches candidates speak.
Some of the crowd watches candidates speak.

If you didn’t happen to make it to our blog meet-up last night at the Columbia City Alehouse, you missed out. First of all, going to a bar in Columbia City is a great excuse to ride our light rail line. Second, you missed great presentations from various politicos.

First up was Dow Constantine’s chief of staff, Chris Arkills. Dow’s running for Executive of King County and had planned to attend our meet-up, but the League of Women Voters failed to consult us when scheduling their candidate forum… So, instead, Dow sent a trusted adviser (and a fan of the blog) our way to talk about the West Seattle Water Taxi, Metro’s funding gap, and light rail. We’ll be endorsing for the executive race tomorrow.

Next up is Mike O’Brien, who’s running for Seattle city council, position 8. Just yesterday, we endorsed O’Brien and it was great to hear him speak. He is a very charismatic vote for land use, density, and transit. He speaks in depth about improving bus service in particular but within the confines of the abilities of the council job. Our one reservation was his hesitance to support streetcar expansion — he said he’d generally err on the side of more bus hours. For a corridor like 1st Ave in Seattle, this blog has maintained that a streetcar simply provides more efficient and better service than a bus where the density supports it. 1st Ave has that density, and we hope O’Brien comes around at least on this proposed line. O’Brien passion against the tunnel is unparalleled — well, except for one other guy…

Mike O'Brien and Mike McGinn
Mike O'Brien and Mike McGinn

Last up was Mike McGinn, candidate for Mayor of Seattle. He spoke defiantly and eloquently against the SR-99 tunnel and pledged to prevent the tunnel from being built in this city. Obviously a proponent of the surface/transit option, McGinn used various questions to draw attention back to the tunnel and the resources it’ll require to build. Within a few minutes, the tunnel was compared to the monorail, Hillary Clinton, and RTID. Like O’Brien, McGinn has qualms about streetcar expansion and particularly finding a funding source for it. However, on most issues and especially land use, McGinn was convincing and earnest. We’ll be endorsing a candidate for Mayor on Monday.

After a lengthy Q&A, the Transportation Choice Coalition pub crawl met up with us and brought Jesse Israel along. We endorsed Israel for Seattle city council as well, and go to hear more of her thoughts. (She’s definitely a streetcar supporter!)

For a bit more depth, you can follow our Twittering of the meet-up. Thanks to all of you who showed up, especially the politicos who gave us their time.

87 Replies to “STB Meet-Up Features McGinn, O’Brien, Beer”

  1. I can’t believe the editors of this blog would even consider endorsing any candidate for mayor other than Nickels. Who pushed light rail when it was politically unpopular? Nickels. Who gave us SLUT despite strong criticism that it was a waste of taxpayers money? Nickels. Who is a strong advocate of an expanded streetcar network? Nickels.
    And that surface option for replacing the Viaduct McGinn and you are so fond of? The Western/Alaska couplet approved by WSDOT before being nixed would have dumped 55,000 northbound vehicles per day onto Western Avenue right throught the heart of the Pike Place Market. You think that’s going down without a major fight? Wrong. If McGinn is elected, the viaduct stays because of political gridlock.

    1. They have not yet endorsed McGinn. He said they’ll be endorsing a candidate for mayor on Monday.

      I thought an endorsement for Nickels was obvious, considering he did some guest posts but now I guess we don’t know!

    2. Seth, our endorsement for Mayor isn’t until Monday.

      And as for the surface option? It’s by far the best solution. Those cars won’t be passing Pike Place at 55, there will be crosswalks and stoplights, just like any other city street. And if we don’t get those things right away, we’ll fight for them! The tunnel subsidizes cars for another century, which is exactly the LAST thing we need.

      And no, it wouldn’t be 55,000 northbound vehicles. You can’t take the existing structure’s traffic and simply divide by two. Some 30% of the trips on the Viaduct won’t exist with a surface option, another double digit percentage will use transit, more will go to I-5, and many more weren’t going through the city anyway – they’ll go onto other city streets far away from that road.

      We don’t talk about highway expansion here enough. When you add lanes to a highway, people take choice trips, adding traffic. When you REMOVE lanes from a highway, or remove capacity in general, people choose NOT to take trips they otherwise would have.

      There are a number of fantastic examples of highway removal throughout the world now – including one with very similar traffic to ours, the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It was removed and not replaced, and the city has seen lower traffic volumes for it, more transit use, and a healthier waterfront.

      1. Ben, my plea was for you not to forget who has been a steadfast friend of transit, particularly rail transit . That person has been Nickels.
        And just so you know, I too WAS a strong advocate of the surface option. But realistically it won’t happen. There are too many opponents, the Port and Ballard industrial interests chief among them. And you sadly cannot compare San Francisco’s experience to ours. First, the embarcadero was not a major freight arterial as there was, unfortunately, no real shipping left on the San Francisco waterfront. Second, San Francisco had in place an enviable transit system (BART and Muni Metro) already in place. Bart easily accomodated an increase in commuter volumes once the embarcadero was gone because Bart services commuter East Bay areas. Link unfortunately will pick up very little of the commuter slack if the viaduct is torn down.
        And I 5 is already over capacity. For consistent argument, if you are against highway expansion, then you should be against I 5 expansion as well.
        Finally, whether it is 55,000 northbound vehicles or a minimumu of 30,000 (60%) that is still an incredible increase in the number of vehicles using Western and other downtown streets. That is just northbound traffic. And they will only clog up my only transit option, a bus.

      2. Freight hasn’t used the Viaduct in years. We’ve had weight restrictions on it since Nisqually, and our freight system has done fine. We could spend on our freight rail and do more good with less money.

        So, this sounds like an argument for West Seattle to Ballard light rail. Let I-5 continue to be over capacity – that’s how you change people’s commute patterns. The ONLY way to stop suburban sprawl is to make it harder to live in the suburbs, and the Viaduct tunnel helps that instead of hindering it.

      3. Ben, you’ve got to stand and watch the viaduct for a few minutes. I do, every time I get on or off the ferry, mainly because I like big trucks, and the viaduct’s got ’em.

        There should be a lot less containers ever touching a truck chassis in Seattle, and this would have an immense impact on air quality. But claiming that freight does not use the viaduct is a true statement that is still misleading.

      4. The Viaduct has empty trucks. There have been weight restrictions in place since the Nisqually quake.

      5. And please quit with the making up of street traffic numbers. 30,000 is what most downtown streets handle during the day.

      6. Freight is a red herring. There just aren’t all that many freight trips using the viaduct to begin with (especially with the weight restrictions since the earthquake). For the freight trips on the viaduct most are doing the same thing as the rest of the traffic and using 99 as an on and off ramp downtown. For the most important freight trips to/from Ballard and Interbay the tunnel isn’t a solution. I believe freight mobility can be addressed separately without building a new highway through downtown.

        BART and Muni didn’t really serve the same trips as the Embarcadero. Yet the traffic volumes in San Francisco dropped anyway. Nobody here is advocating I-5 expansion and even the state paving department doesn’t believe widening I-5 would be cost effective.

        The new tunnel is only going to serve 10-20% of the current trips between Royal Brougham and Mercer so even with a tunnel the surface streets will have to handle more traffic. This is without factoring in new trips the tunnel might induce.

        Frankly, lets tear down this eyesore and structural hazard, not build a tunnel, build a wonderful pedestrian friendly waterfront, figure out solutions specifically for moving transit and freight, and let the SOV drivers just suck it up.

      7. “Ben, my plea was for you not to forget who has been a steadfast friend of transit, particularly rail transit . That person has been Nickels.”

        You mean the dude who hung the SMP out to dry after we voted for it and fought for funding for Link after we voted against it? Yeah, he’s a friend of the kind of transit *he* wants. (Yes, yes, I know this blog hated the Monorail and no I’m not really complaining that we have Link.)

        Also, your argument is completely disingenuous if your assertion is that *only* Nickels has been a friend of transit. McGinn and O’Brien were instrumental in defeating that nasty road+transit package in 2007 (that Nickels was totally all about) and correctly predicted that a transit-only package would return in 2008. And the complete streets measure that ensures our streets will finally meet the needs of *all* modes of transit? We owe that one to Great Cities, which is the brainchild of McGinn.

        Now don’t get me wrong, I do give Nickels a lot of credit for his transit advocacy, but there’s more credit to be spread around.

      8. Zelbinian,

        I know this blog hated the Monorail

        This blog didn’t exist when the Monorail was a live issue. Ben was highly critical of the monorail, and Andrew has also said some fairly hostile things. The rest of us aren’t really spending energy thinking about something that’s long dead and that we don’t have much of anything intelligent to say about it.

      9. And, FWIW, the one time I got to vote on the Monorail I voted YES. That’s the last one that passed.

      10. Also, the Surface/Transit plan was completely and exhaustively studied by the Alaskan Way Viaduct Stakeholder Advisory Committee. They studied 11 different options, shot down 9 of them as being utter failures, and this is the one that they most support (if I remember correctly). I suggest you read that report.

        And no, I don’t have a link. If anyone finds it, let me know, because it seems to have disappeared.

      11. As I recall the Stakeholder Advisory Committee had narrowed the options to surface/transit and a replacement elevated highway in early December 2008. The deep bore only came about because the Downtown Seattle Association brought it up in their objections to the two alternatives then on the table.

        What it comes down to is there is a large group who is fearful of reducing highway capacity through downtown. There is another group who doesn’t want to see a new elevated highway on the waterfront. A tunnel solution is the only one that keeps both of these groups happy. What kept a tunnel from being advanced before were the high cost estimates compared to the other options. This plan appears at first blush to more closely meet the available budget. However I seriously doubt the thing can be built for the numbers currently being thrown around and I don’t believe those who are worried about the loss in capacity. A new $2.8 billion dollar highway is a waste of money.

      12. Ben,

        I’m sorry, but there are no “city streets far from that road”. It doesn’t matter that oil is going to run out, it’s been shown around the world that the first thing people buy as they move into the middle class after a washing machine is a car.

        In twenty years that car may run on electricity and have only a 60 mile range, but it will still exist. And people will still drive it to work. There is a large element of the population which is simply unwilling to participate in shared transit.

        You may be right, they may be crazy, but they still might be the lunatic Rush’s looking for.

        This is not to say that the deep bored tunnel should be built. Since a significant volume of the traffic on the viaduct is to and from Elliott West and Ballard, linking Aurora and the Marginal Way freeway may not be much of a solution. But downtown Seattle is right at the “waist” of the city. It plus First Hill are wider than half of the distance from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington at the foot of Yesler. Lots of people want to travel through the waist and there are basically three though arterials now: I-5 (the Big Kahuna), the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 23rd Avenue. I-5 carries far more than 50% of the total trips passing through Yesler, but if you remove the viaduct where are they going to go?

        It is simply crazy to suggest that they will be able to pass through downtown to link between the semi-freeways to the north (Elliott and Aurora) and the Marginal freeway. Seattle needs fewer cars downtown, not more.

        There really isn’t any room to increase capacity on I-5 and 23rd is an urban arterial that grew into a regional thoroughfare because there’s no alternative east of I-5.

        There must be some replacement for the Viaduct that has approximately its capacity or hideous gridlock will result. The tunnel idea may not be “it” because it ignores the Elliott corridor. But something must be provided.

      13. Maybe there will always be lots of people who refuse to go on a bus, but I believe a much larger segment of the population will be willing to go by train, especially when costs to own a car, even an electric one, are too high. I think that 50 years into the future we could be almost completely transit-dependent, except for maybe that last mile.

      14. I’m sorry, but there are no “city streets far from that road”. It doesn’t matter that oil is going to run out, it’s been shown around the world that the first thing people buy as they move into the middle class after a washing machine is a car.

        In twenty years that car may run on electricity and have only a 60 mile range, but it will still exist. And people will still drive it to work. There is a large element of the population which is simply unwilling to participate in shared transit.

        Funny thing that. It seems transit systems all over the country saw a huge surge in ridership last year with the big run up in gas prices. Studies have shown that increasing the cost of driving is one of the quickest ways to get more people to choose transit. In a world running out of oil driving is only going to get more expensive and electric cars aren’t going to be a silver bullet, if anything they will get more expensive too as oil becomes more scarce.

        Traffic will go down as oil prices go up, at some point we will likely see road capacity actually exceed demand. Since this is more of a question of when not if why spend limited capital dollars on a highway that likely soon won’t be needed.

    3. While I don’t know who STB is going to endorse, nor do I know who the current editorial team is supporting I do believe the top two choices among everyone at the meetup were McGinn and Nickels. If McGinn doesn’t make it into the general I believe he would encourage his supporters to vote for Nickels since Malahan, Drago, and Donaldson are such poor choices in comparison.

      Similarly no matter who you might support in the King County Executive race right now, clearly any of the Democrats running (even Ross Hunter) are better choices for transit and land use than Hutchison.

    4. I’m not sure I’d say that Western Ave cuts through the heart of the Market, for starters…

      I also might point out that, despite protestations from folks that the Embarcadero wasn’t a real freeway, etc., it actually carried a similar amount of traffic to our Viaduct.

      And, while Ben seems fixated on the amount of freight that no longer travels on the Viaduct, I think the better point is that a majority of the freight currently traveling in the corridor cannot go through the Tunnel. It would either be banned as hazardous cargo or it is bound to/from places not served by the proposed Tunnel.

      In a similar fashion, most of the current traffic from the SW is currently exiting at either Seneca or Western Streets, so those folks aren’t going to use the new tunnel either.

      So, tunnel planners are basically planning to either eliminate or divert at LEAST 40% of the existing traffic in the corridor, and yet they want us to spend billions of dollars on a tunnel BEFORE they make any of the “promised” improvements to the Waterfront.

      I don’t think so.

  2. It looks like you didn’t have a private room!

    So… did they bike to Columbia City? I see McMike was wearing his “Mike Bikes!” sticker. Speaking of bikes, it would be nice to see more about bike transit on the blog.

      1. McGinn, I was told, had been spotted in a light rail car just before the meetup began. O’Brien showed up, bike helmet in hand, although I’m not sure where he was coming from and if it required a Link or bus trip.

        And the room was semi-private: it wasn’t an enclosed space, but it was secluded in the back despite being sandwiched between the main part of the bar and the kitchen in the back. It was well-attended, which made it slightly difficult to hear the (great) speakers over the din of the place.

      2. Both McGinn and O’Brien used bikes and transit to get to the meetup. From talking to them both at the meetup they both “walk the walk” on transit use so to speak as much as possible.

      3. And both have been biking or using transit to get around to most of the campaign forums and endorsement meetings the last few months, as well…

  3. Ben, I am sorry to respectfully disagree about freight, but your statement is simply incorrect. I can see the viaduct from my office. In the last minute alone I counted 3 tractor trailers and 2 cement trucks headed north. I’ll invite you up to count for yourself if you like. Just because there are weight restrictions does not mean freight does not use the viaduct. And I did not mean to offend about numbers. I thought I was using published and accepted numbers. (And I promise not to post here anymore if that is a relief)

    1. My problem with the tunnel is while freight will be impacted, the tunnel itself is in soft soil well below sea level. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s that it’s a difficult tunneling job, ie likely to have large cost overruns. And that the purpose was for Ballard Oil to truck oil to Harbor Island. And that the tunnel as currently designed doesn’t have the correct on-ramps on the North end for that trip.

      In addition to all the comments about how it doesn’t fit in with the Mass transit plans of the city.

      For my money we could do a lot better with a surface option for cars and freight and another transit tunnel which we will also need.

      1. There’s something a lot of people just don’t understand about this. Look at the viaduct. You will see cars and trucks. The people in the cars can get on buses, or the cars can move interchangeably, if somewhat slower, on surface streets. The people in the cars can even sometimes simply decide not to make the trip.

        Now look at the trucks. They’re expensive to run, nobody is just out for a drive in a ten-ton truck. They have a starting point and a destination, and if either of those were easy to change, that change would have been made. A lot of the trucks are large, which means they won’t fit well on the surface streets, and will, in fact, pound those streets to rubble, causing more congestion while the streets are repaired.

        Now, I personally don’t believe there should even be a Ballard Oil. But that would still leave an awful lot of truck traffic trying to get past downtown. And if you’re not willing to bite the bullet on this one, and call for the big changes that need to be made to reduce that truck traffic…at least admit the reality that those of us who look can see.

    2. You should feel free to post here! Just keep in mind we haven’t endorsed anyone for Mayor yet.

  4. The big-bore tunnel carries only through traffic, SODO to Aurora Ave. Nearly all of the Ballard to SODO freight traffic will be on surface Alaskan Way, same as if the Cary Moon proposal had been adopted. (For Ballard traffic to use the tunnel, they’d have to use local streets, such as N. 39th in Fremont, or even worse, Mercer Street along the north edge of the Seattle Center. Ain’t gonna happen, in any significant number.)

    So out of that 110,000 vehicles on the Viaduct each day, only about half will be in the tunnel. The rest will be on surface streets because they are destined to Ballard or downtown, and the tunnel doesn’t get them there.

    BTW has anybody identified where the $930,000,000 City of Seattle contribution to the tunnel project is going to come from? How many streets will go unrepaired, how much will our utility bills go up, what city services will go unprovided in order to divert that much money from a city that’s going broke?

    1. That’d be US$930M PLUS a 30% overrun on the entire project – say US$2B+? Or more?
      Simply unaffordably irresponsible – worse than what Reagan and the Bushees did on a national scale.
      There are all kinds of reasons to say NO to this tunnel, but the City’s taxpayers out of pocket is the most compelling.

  5. I don’t believe that the tunnel is going to be built, and I support the principle of it because it keeps a lot of parties quiet and out of the political circuit. It just won’t happen, though.

    McGinn or Nickels have my vote. If it’s either of them in the general election, I’ll go purely off of how well-tuned their campaign message is. Mallahan, though, that’s setting the tone for years of shrill “oh my god, subsidy for developers!!” bleating from the usual suspects.

  6. Well, it’s obvious that tunnel-hating has become the blood sport that hating the Seattle Commons was in the 90s. And boy, that was a close call. If Seattle hadn’t kept the Commons from being built, there’s no telling how much “gentrification” and improvement might have gone on in that neighborhood.

    Now McGinn is going to see if he can surf a wave of tunnel-hating right into the Mayor’s office. Maybe a good time to look around and see how John Fox turned out.

    It is, after all, a pretty clear choice, between a Mayor who can get the SeattleDOT to cough up potential streetcar routes, and then supports them and wants to build them. A Mayor who pretty much singlehandedly put the kibosh on the Viaduct rebuild by telling the state they wouldn’t get any permits.

    And in the other corner, McGinn, who hates the tunnel and….?

    Oh well, hating the tunnel will be enough for some voters. In the immortal words of George Bush, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones we need to focus on.”

    Strict disclaimer: I’m sure everyone is right. I’m just looking at the process.

      1. Oh pull-eeze. I checked out that website, and, among other things, found McGinn saying the tunnel “will cost $4.2 billion, requiring the largest tax increase in Seattle history”, but failing to inform the reader that over $2 billion of that is state funding, the amount required, in fact, to actually build the tunnel. You may say that is technically not a lie, but to me it looks like a conscious effort to mislead.

        A little further on we read that “seventy percent of Seattle voted against that tunnel”. That actually is a lie, as the vote concerned an entirely different tunnel.

        As for his transportation policy, it’s pretty clear he doesn’t have one, and in fact, has almost no understanding at all of the issues involved.

        That leaves his education policy, a sort of Joe-the-plumber approach of promising to change things, and, if that doesn’t work, take over himself and change things. Yup, the solution is simple- if what he does doesn’t work, give him more power! Yeah, that’ll work.

        People who believe in the Arne Duncan approach to education should get a reality check from some people who have actually experienced the changes in Chicago.

        The more I learn about McGinn the less impressed I am.

      2. Actually, I went back and read the original Tunnel referendum language, the one we voted down, and it was quite general. It did not specify or limit to a cut-and-cover tunnel.

        Yep, the tunnel itself is “only” $2b paid by the state, and the other $2.4b (gee, isn’t that the cost of Link light rail from Westlake to the Airport…?) is to be picked up by…whom exactly? Oh right, those local government agencies and taxpayers. Out of what available funds? By raising whose taxes and utility rates?

        Pul-eeze indeed. This turkey don’t fly.

      3. This is exactly what I don’t like about McGinn. Transit Guy here is blaming the tunnel for “the other $2.4b”, but, of course, the tunnel could be built without any of that other $2.4b. The other $2.4b is for repair of the seawall, road improvements, and transit improvements. You don’t actually need to do any of this if you’re willing to face the problems when the Viaduct is removed.

        And the beauty of McGinn’s con game here is that he promises some people he will keep taxes low by “saving” $2.4b, while he promises other people he will improve things by spending $2.4b that he gets by not building the tunnel. Of course, this only works if you don’t understand that the $2.4b will be raised locally in any case.

        Throw in the slippery language about the referendum vote, which actually involved definite proposals that had been discussed and visualized for a year or two before the vote, and you have exactly what I don’t like to see coming from a candidate or his supporters.

      4. So, your assumption is that Seattle is going to have to pony up $2.4B regardless of whether we go for tunnel or surface/transit? Again, I find your argument specious.

      5. I missed this the first time I read through here…

        You’re wrong on that point, serial catowner. We cannot build this proposed tunnel without most of that “other” $2.4b.

        Much of that money goes to creating the surface streets and transit solutions which are required to make a tunnel with 40% less capacity work. Without them, traffic will grind to a halt, and there will be no open waterfront — which is what everyone is supposed to want the tunnel for in the first place!

      6. “That actually is a lie, as the vote concerned an entirely different tunnel.”

        And that argument is intellectually dishonest. Who really believes that the vast majority of people in Seattle (read: everyone who doesn’t read this blog) has any idea about the difference between a cut-and-cover tunnel and a deep-bored tunnel? To the uninformed or the uninterested, all they hear is “tunnel” . The rest sounds like jargon.

  7. I have ton confess to being unimpressed with either Mike O’Brien or Mike McGinn last night. It didn’t help that the ambient noise was very loud, and with regard to the mayoral race at least, I just don’t think that Mr. Nickels has been so bad that he needs to lose his job. He has always been very impressive on transportation in Seattle and I have always appreciated his personal courtesy whenever I have spoken to him at STB meetings or during his appearances at Seattle Green and Clean events. It seems to me, that Mr. McGinn just wants Mr. Nickels’ job without any real plan as to what to do with it, other than to withdraw the City’s support from the tunnel as a replacement for the viaduct.

    As a strong supporter of the tunnel along with the current City, County and State chief executives, I feel that to oppose this decision now, places the whole wretched debate back to the table and provides a chance for further delay before yet another decision makes it. Costs go up along with the potential human and financial costs of leaving the viaduct still standing.

    I do believe that monies will come for the tunnel once all the decisions are set in place. Let us see how the geological and EIS studies play out before deciding if it is feasible to continue with it or not.

    I also am not as obsessed with buses as both Mikes seemed to be yesterday. They do not serve the interests of every corridor in the City as exemplified by how many of us arrived yesterday – via Link.

    I didn’t get a satisfactory answer to my question on King Street Station yesterday. Mr. O’Brien didn’t seem to be aware that there was any restoration work going on there which if true I would find amazing in a candidate running for the City Council and Mr. McGinn didn’t seem to think there would be any money for anything else if the tunnel was approved and built which again, I find hard to believe.

    Both candidates it struck me seemed to be more maverick than politician, so I would personally stick with Mr. Nickels at least for City Mayor.

    If these opinions seem a little strong, some of it could be that it was very difficult to hear very well last night due to the noise, just that what I did hear didn’t impress me very much.

    1. Tim,

      I’m sorry to hear you had trouble hearing. Was it because of all the side conversations on your end of the room, or was it the ambient noise from the get-go?

      1. I think more the latter – certainly wasn’t as comfortable an experience as in the I-District, although I otherwise liked the venue and it was great getting there by Link.

      2. Ambient noise was quite high, due to all the hard surfaces in the room reflecting every sound. Some venues like this ambience and are designed to have it. Others like a more conversational atmosphere and install some curtains and carpeting, and/or acoustical ceiling, to temper the noise.

        Since the great majority of this group are 20- and 30-somethings, it’s probably an OK place to meet. For the very few of us over-50-somethings, a more tempered acoustical atmosphere would be appreciated (our hearing probably got damaged by all that loud music back in the 60s and 70s…)

      3. Thanks for the comment. We’re always trying to learn which venues work for this kind of event.

        I was a little surprised they were so packed on a Thursday.

      4. It may be best to have two kinds of meetup. A less frequent more formal one in a quieter space where there are guest speakers. The other would be a more frequent informal gathering.

        Columbia City Alehouse seems more suited to the second type of gathering. All-ages venues with private rooms are more suited to the first type.

        The Second type of gathering is easier to move around and is the sort of thing where you could have an occasional one in Pierce County, Snohomish County, South King County, and East King County.

  8. My prediction is Nickels and Mallahan in the general election, if such predictions are at all appropriate. As far as transportation and transit go, I would lean toward the tunnel issue as farther down the line than other transit, or something like a tiebreaker when all else is equal (not that all else would be). 99 tunnel or none, I want more and/or maintained bus hours for Seattle (i.e., get a mayor who can work the system to get more for the city), and building more light rail and streetcars. If someone is anti-streetcar, their position on the 99 tunnel is immaterial to me personally.

    1. My crystal ball is a bit cloudy other than to say Nickles, Mallahan, and McGinn are the only ones with a prayer of advancing to the general election.

      Of the three I’d be least inclined to vote for Mallahan and I favor McGinn over Nickles.

    2. Sorry Matt, but Nickels CAN’T “work the system to get more for the city”. He has repeatedly failed to do so and his attempts (failed attempts) have only created animosity and resentment in the suburbs and in Olympia, and that resentment has hurt our ability to get anything done. Nickels’ bull-in-a-china-shop style has hurt Seattle far more than it has helped. Only a new mayor with a new approach can bring about the change we all want to see in Seattle.

      1. I don’t know if he “worked the system,” but he got Seattle plenty of bus hours through bridging the gap.

      2. I believe that the Mayor worked the system quite well. He didn’t want this bored tunnel, but, being a good politician, he made a compromise. I’m sure that if he hadn’t been at the table, transit improvements wouldn’t be part of the whole deal. And people always characterize Nickels as being very aggressive, but I don’t think these people have seen him in person. I have always found him to be a very frank, honest, and good-natured person.

      3. Greg Nickels is all politician. To him, everyone is a tool. He knows how to be polite to those he wants to use. He’ll dump anyone who doesn’t see things his way. He’s about as personal as a programmed answering machine. He’s divisive, unapproachable, unaccountable and attuned to powerful interests. Too many things have gone wrong during his tenure.

        Link light rail is the nation’s worst new start in terms of ridership. The airport extension won’t change that bottom line much, nor will the tunnel to UW or even as far as Northgate. The extension south to Federal Way, a spur through Southcenter and the line east through Bellevue have more potential to guide growth and development and begin to resolve regional traffic congestion than the tunnel north at half the price.

        The SLU Streetcar has similarly low ridership. It should extend in a simple low-cost loop up to Pike Market. This is the least expensive, most productive streetcar expansion. It would triple ridership overnight, but was left off the list for years for political reasons. It’s on the list now, but dead last and ignored. The people Nickels actually serves have a feud with Pike Place Market. They still want to demolish it.

        A streetcar line on 1st Ave would have operational conflict with buses and traffic. The Waterfront Streetcar could be reinstalled, but SDOT is headed by a person with a complete disregard for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit. Grace Crunican was fired from her position as chief of ODOT Oregon for a terribly handled rebuild of an inner-city highway bridge over the Willamette River that completely neglected accommodation for pedestrians – a beautiful crossing between two fully developed neighborhoods that was rebuilt to be less safe for all users. It’s too bad Seattlers didn’t see her coming and send her packing. She was probably hand picked by Seattle’s elite to demonstrate the law to the low brow.

      4. Link light rail is the nation’s worst new start in terms of ridership. The airport extension won’t change that bottom line much, nor will the tunnel to UW or even as far as Northgate. The extension south to Federal Way, a spur through Southcenter and the line east through Bellevue have more potential to guide growth and development and begin to resolve regional traffic congestion than the tunnel north at half the price.

        Huh? What are you talking about? Link has been open less than a month and you’re ready to declare it a failure? Even though ridership is currently higher than Charlotte? With the addition of the Airport and the Metro and ST bus service revisions in September and February I have no doubt Sound Transit will meet or exceed their 2010 ridership goals. Which I will point out are about the same as the current ridership of Minneapolis’ Hiawatha line. Heck I’ll even be so bold as to predict Link ridership will match Houston’s MetroRail before U-link opens.

        With U-Link, light rail ridership nearly triples. It is very likely our then 17.3 mile system will match or exceed Portland and San Diego’s ridership by then beating a lot of larger and older systems. How is this not a good extension? Even many light rail foes (including Ron Sims in later years) acknowledged light rail between downtown and Northgate serving the U District and Capitol Hill made sense. Just extending link to Northgate alone will very likely bring Link ridership to #4 for all light rail systems nationwide. Going North from Northgate to Lynnwood and even Everett has a much higher potential ridership than East Link to Redmond and South Link to Federal Way and is relatively cheap to construct.

        Mind you I’m not saying taking Link to Overlake or to Federal Way doesn’t make sense, but there is a reason U-Link and North Link are the two highest priority extensions. If you think taking Link North won’t relieve traffic congestion (or at least provide a grade-separated alternative to I-5 and SR-99) then you haven’t tried to drive or take a bus to downtown during the AM rush hour from the North, or to drive or take a bus from Downtown to the North during the PM rush hour. I-5 between Downtown and Northgate has some of the worst traffic congestion in the state.

        Oh and as an aside, with the full Link system as funded in ST2 built out (East to Overlake, North to Lynnwood, South to Star Lake) total light rail ridership will very likely be #1 or #2 in the country (yes beating both Boston’s Green Line and SF Muni), mostly depending on how much LA expands their system and how much the ridership there increases. Total rail transit ridership (Sounder, Link, streetcar) will likely be about #8 which is pretty impressive for the 15th largest metro area in the country.

        The SLU Streetcar has similarly low ridership. It should extend in a simple low-cost loop up to Pike Market. This is the least expensive, most productive streetcar expansion. It would triple ridership overnight, but was left off the list for years for political reasons. It’s on the list now, but dead last and ignored. The people Nickels actually serves have a feud with Pike Place Market. They still want to demolish it.

        I won’t disagree that the SLUT ridership would be better if the South end of the line went further into the downtown core. At the very least to 5th & Pine. However I fail to see the same conspiracies you do. For instance if the Mayor hated the Pike Place Market so much why was a recent levy allowed on the ballot? Anyone who thinks there is any way the Pike Place Market could be demolished at this point is simply delusional. It is a National Historic District with a huge amount of popular support and one of the top tourist attractions in the city. You’d have better luck trying to replace the Space Needle with a condo tower.

        A streetcar line on 1st Ave would have operational conflict with buses and traffic. The Waterfront Streetcar could be reinstalled, but SDOT is headed by a person with a complete disregard for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit. Grace Crunican was fired from her position as chief of ODOT Oregon for a terribly handled rebuild of an inner-city highway bridge over the Willamette River that completely neglected accommodation for pedestrians – a beautiful crossing between two fully developed neighborhoods that was rebuilt to be less safe for all users. It’s too bad Seattlers didn’t see her coming and send her packing. She was probably hand picked by Seattle’s elite to demonstrate the law to the low brow.

        Given the current traffic congestion on First I have to agree I’m not sure how well such a line would work out operationally.

        As to the waterfront streetcar, I’m still not really sure on the full story behind that. It is clear both the City and King County dropped the ball on getting a replacement barn for the Waterfront Streetcar. I think at least in part the Waterfront Streetcar has been a victim of the delay in what to do about the Alaskan Way Viaduct. At the time the Sculpture Park was planned I think everyone thought the viaduct would be coming down sooner than it has which is why a replacement for the trolley barn wasn’t built before the Sculpture Park started construction. King County also seems to have pinned it’s hopes on a public-private partnership for a new barn as part of a planned development East of Occidental Park which fell through when the developer backed out.

        I really have no idea how good or poor of a job Grace Crunican is doing as director of SDOT. The tools she has to work with and environment she operates in is largely under the Mayor’s control. She could be a great manager hamstrung by interference from the Mayor’s office or she could be a horrible manager who enjoys the protection of the Mayor. We’ll never really know until she or the mayor changes jobs. If she is being hamstrung she wisely isn’t complaining publicly since that obviously will get you fired by the Mayor more quickly than being seen by the public as incompetent.

      5. I believe Seattle is run by automobile-related business interests who dictate policy to City Hall that undermines all efforts to implement efficient transit. Link LRT, Streetcar, Sounder and bus systems perform poorly by design. The Greenline Monorail was an obviously poor design that could have gone back to the drawing board for a viable proposal, but by design any discussion of monorail is now taboo.

        Undermining transportatin plans further, the Deep-bore tunnel replacement for the AWV is NOT the best tunnel option, not even close. That honor goes to WsDOT’s “4-lane” Cut-n-Cover, produced after the March 2007 voter rejection of their “6-lane” version to reduce excessive construction impacts and disruption to normal AWV traffic. The “4-lane” Cut-n-Cover was my preference by the Summer of 2001, months after the Nisqually quake.

        Why did it take WsDOT 6 years to finally produce a least expensive and arguably best solution? Answer: WsDOT serves these automobile-related interests who wanted to replace the viaduct, period. Now these interests support the Deep-bore knowing it will produce horrendous gridlock on the new Alaskan Way. What fun! Seattler’s think City Hall serve their needs. Yeah right. City Hall needs a clean sweep. The Ranier Club should be abolished.

  9. Jeez, the blind pro-rail bias on this blog is really getting deafening…

    Can we stop branding any candidate who opposes some use of streetcars, as being anti-streetcar?

    We simply don’t need a streetcar network all over Seattle. It’s frankly not feasible from a transportation standpoint.

    We also need to listen to neighborhoods about transit and density. Just because they don’t want it where you want to put it doesn’t make them foolish. I still haven’t had anyone show me any 1st Ave businesses or residents who want a streetcar on 1st Avenue. I know Belltown didn’t want rail there a few years ago.

    And need I remind everyone that the SLUT is currently cannibalizing thousands of bus hours that we could really use right about now?

    I’d be all for some of the routes if they were about using streetcar as transit tools, and not as development tools.

    I think the #1 route on the table right now should actually be up Jackson to 23rd Ave. The neighborhood wants it. There’s already density in places, or perfect spots to build it. And it’s a historic route. But we can’t do it right now, because we let TPTB kill the popular Waterfront Streetcar and we built the SLUT first.

    1. So much wrong here. Nobody has proposed a “streetcar network all over Seattle”. SDOT has proposed five possible routes (not a network) but only two of those are proposed for building at this time- one, as an adjunct to the LINK extension to UW, and the other (First Avenue Line) to respond to transportation changes if the Viaduct is not replaced.

      As for what the people on First Avenue want, if you had asked 20 years ago,there would have been a unanimous thumbs down on the current residents moving in. We can be sure that the current super-affluent crowd will have their say- and say- and say. It’s the Seattle Process.

      As for your dream route on Jackson to 23rd, the reason it can’t be done right now is certainly not because local landowners in South Lake Union provided LID funding for the streetcar there. Why would they form a Local Improvement District for a streetcar in an entirely different part of town? Nor is the George Benson Streetcar, a heritage line with high platforms and cars that can’t be operated on hills, involved in any way.

      Certainly you have to wonder if McGinn understands the tunnel-viaduct situation at all, if he’s not supportive of streetcars to pick up the load when the viaduct is removed.

      1. Actually, the electeds I talk to all speak of a “network” and keep talking about linking the routes all together, as do the maps of proposed routes that I have seen.

        And I didn’t mean that SLU should pay for a streetcar on Jackson. I mean, that some folks say we can’t build on Jackson because it would be “orphaned” until we can connect it to a 1st Ave or First Hill line.

        And I have no idea why anyone thinks a 1st Ave Streetcar would pick up much of any load from the Viaduct. How many people do you think are using the Viaduct to go from one end of Downtown to the other?

    2. You think we believe that 1st Ave streetcar isn’t a transit tool? It’s about developing the very under-developed Belltown and Lower Queen Anne? Right. Belltown is one of the densest neighborhoods in the city and deserves rail service.

      The 1st Ave streetcar makes the most sense over every proposed route — fantasy or studied — because it has the highest ridership and is the most cost-effective. Streetcar investment is a major way Seattle can decide its own transportation future without county/state buy-in. Do we need to build support for the line from local businesses? Yes, but the way to do that is for the council and the mayor to reach out to them — not to abandon good transportation investments.

      The SLUT is not “cannibalizing” thousands of hours and more than the Route #18 is cannibalizing thousands of hours. Its service hours were budgeted years ago. Seattle has lost no transit service hours at all. What matters for 1st Ave is how those quality of hours will be. Will the hours be more efficient, higher ridership, and more cost effective if they’re going to a streetcar rather than more buses? There’s no doubt. It’s a smarter use of our operations dollars.

      I’m frustrated with your accusation that we have a blind pro-rail bias. We support rail for a variety of reasons, but we support it in areas where it makes sense. That’s not blind — it’s smart. We don’t advocate for BNSF East. We are lukewarm on the monorail‘s political misfortunes. And we’re not against buses in the least: every single blogger here rides the bus frequently.

      We think that a 1st Ave streetcar makes sense, just like you think that a streetcar up Jackson makes sense. We think we have a vision for how to improve our city by investing in it. There is no reason to push nefarious motives onto us such as blind bias.

      1. Sorry, John, you’re wrong on the facts, re SLUT’s annual service hours. A large chunk of those were indeed displaced from SE Seattle.

        When Link began operating, KCMetro planned to alter its bus routes to take advantage of Link’s capacity in the MLK corridor. But there was to be no net reduction in service hours to SE Seattle; that was the promise back when the community agreed to the Link program.

        Instead, Metro did reduce service hours in SE SEattle, and those hours were re-assigned to the SLUT.

      2. Most egregiously, the streetcar — which will run only 1.3 miles each way — will take transit service hours away from the added transit hours promised by the Transit Now initiative. Over the next decade, the streetcar will extract 16,800 hours each year from King County bus service.Seattle P-I

        Or if you want an example of why I say Licata isn’t anti-rail, but pro-transit, click here.

      3. I wrote, The SLUT is not “cannibalizing” thousands of hours [any] more than the Route #18 is cannibalizing thousands of hours. Its service hours were budgeted years ago. Seattle has lost no transit service hours at all. I don’t think anything there is incorrect at all. If we’re going to view SE Seattle as some balkinized separate district from the rest of Seattle, sure. But Seattle as a city lost no transit hours at all.

        If you think transit hours to SLU are wasteful, that’s a separate argument and not worth wading into. Just as some empty route in Bellevue doesn’t provide for the downfall of buses, the SLUT illustrates little about the usefulness 1st Ave streetcar — except that building streetcar lines is pretty fast. Does the location of the line matter not at all?

        I don’t think one could construe service hours along 1st Ave as wasteful. It hits some of the densest development in the state and connects with with regional light rail, as well as many bus connections downtown. Even the visionary monorail plan ran through Lower Queen Anne, Belltown, and to Downtown.

      4. Mickymse, The Stranger says 9,300 hours and the P-I says 16,800 hours. Why is there a discrepancy? Is the P-I factoring SLU bus service or something?

      5. If SE Seattle lost some bus hours, it way more than gained them back by having very fast, frequent Link service in that area.
        In nearly every instance, streetcars have gotten 50% or more ridership than buses on that same route. They also always spur development. Belltown is one of the densest areas of the state, but there still are quite a few vacant lots around there that the neighborhood would be better off without, and I’m sure the streetcar would take care of those. And I don’t think this is an issue of whether the 1st Ave Streetcar or the Jackson Streetcar is better; I believe that every high ridership local bus route in Seattle should eventually be replaced with a streetcar, providing higher capacity, more pleasant, and more environmentally friendly transit to every one of the denser neighborhoods in the city. For more pro-streetcar points, see this list.

      6. SE Seattle lost bus hours that were going to go to provide improved feeder service to the Link light rail, so the transit system as a whole would grow in that quadrant of the city. That was part of the deal we made with the citizens there, to support their acceptance (well, some accepted it) of putting the trains on the surface of MLK.

        Instead, with many of those hours diverted to south Lake Union, a much richer neighborhood, the local connecting service is much less robust than it should be. John chooses to ignore differences among Seattle neighborhoods vis a vis transit service allocation. I do not. I think we should’ve kept our deal with the citizens of SE Seattle, and as a Transit Guy, I’m embarrassed.

      7. I’m generally a supporter of urban streetcars in the densest portions of the city (Uptown/Belltown, Capitol Hill, First Hill, the International District, Pioneer Square, the Waterfront, and of course points in between such as the Pike/Pine corridor.) Longer fingers that go wandering off through much less dense neighborhoods, like Westlake Ave to Fremont or Eastlake Ave. to the UW, I’m much less sure of.

        But streetcars need to stand on their own when it comes to finding service hours to make them work. In that greater downtown area, a streetcar network would reduce the traffic on a lot of the local bus routes, so wouldn’t it make sense to find those streetcar operating hours among those bus routes with decreased ridership? Rather than taking them from buses in Madrona or Wallingford or Ballard?

        In the case of the SLU streetcar, they should’ve found those service hours within the routes that were already serving that area — routes which I assume now have fewer riders because of people switching from the bus to the streetcar.

        Bottom line, don’t use streetcars to practice inter-neighborhood warfare.

      8. I have no idea what the Streetcar does for the city as a whole, since I don’t really care about it and haven’t studied it much.

        What I *do* know is how I’m personally affected by it since it makes biking to downtown from Greenlake or the UW a real b****. Navigating train tracks is, quite literally, the last thing I want to be doing while on my bicycle.

  10. I had a chance to ride the downtown streetcar loop in Portland last week. It was really done right. It is a loop that connects all of the downtown neighborhoods – NW portland, Pearl, Downtown Business Core, Portland State University and all the new development on the South end along the river. What I really liked was the looped concept. This intersects with the Max lines for easy connections to the entire system. I believe that this was funded by local businesses along the route with with some federal grants. If you get to Portland, be sure and take this streetcar loop. I would hope that all of our leaders here in Seattle (for and against streetcars) would go there and see what it could be like. A streetcar here could connect lower QA to SODO. It could include the Waterfront, which would be great for tourists and locals as well.

    I am curious. Have others been on the Portland streetcar? What did you think? I thought is was awesome!!

    1. I live in Vancouver, WA and have ridden the Portland Streetcar many times. It’s a very pleasant vehicle, but like all streetcars it’s subject to the hostility and sheer stupidity of rubber tired drivers. And stop signs. Oy-vey, the stop signs. How dumb can it be to put four way stops on streets with a streetcar? Pretty dumb.

    2. It is awesome, a lot like our streetcar, although its more a couplet than a loop. And the 1st Ave Streetcar will connect Lower Queen Anne and Seattle Center to King Street Station, and I suppose in the future it could be extended to Queen Anne (via a restored Counterbalance) and SODO. For the Waterfront, I think we should reinstate the heritage Waterfront Streetcar after the Viaduct is replaced. Anyone know if there’s a chance for them to even just put in space for future tracks in the Alaskan Way rebuild?

      1. I suspect if the waterfront gets a streetcar as part of the Alaska Way rebuild it will likely be a modern streetcar rather than the heritage Melbourne cars. As wonderful as they are I’m told the Melbourne cars are a maintenance nightmare and are very expensive to keep in operating condition. I suspect they may be sold soon either to San Francisco or Memphis as even wrapped in a warehouse storage isn’t improving their condition any.
        Too bad since I think the Waterfront is a great place for Seattle to have a heritage streetcar line.

  11. There has to be Rail based transportation to West Seattle and Ballard via Downtown. If this wont happen in the next 20 years then I cannot support the surface/transit option and will support the tunnel option. It will not work using just buses. A first avenue streetcar will do nothing for the residents of Ballard and West Seattle.

    1. The tunnel isn’t really going to do jack for residents of Ballard either. The only time it will benefit West Seattle residents is for trips to/from the Aurora corridor North of downtown. This is a very small percentage of all trips on the corridor.

    2. I hope that’ll be part of ST3, it probably will have to be because of sub-area equity. Maybe a 2028 opening?

    3. Why Link’s first route didn’t attempt to mirror the Monorail’s proposed alignment is beyond me. Would’ve relieved so much of that Viaduct pressure and the tunnel idea wouldn’t have even gotten out of the drawing room.

      Yes, yes, I know. I’m living in the past. Sometimes I like it here.

      1. Actually no. The Link route was planned long before Dick Falkenbury began discussing his notion of a city-wide monorail publicly. The Airport to Northgate via downtown has always been the phase 1 line dating back to the studies in the 80’s. Ballard to West Seattle was chosen by the Monorail because it was the best corridor that wasn’t already planned to be served by Link.

      2. Yeah, I know that. I was around for both the beginning of Sound Transit and SMP. I was just making the point that SMP was still alive when the route had been set and construction had started on Link, so there’d be no point in duplicating it.

      3. Well both the ’95 and ’96 Sound Move votes had Airport to Northgate via Rainier Valley and Downtown. I believe both were before SMP had decided on an initial alignment (and may have been before the first monorail petition started circulating). If the SMP had any effect on ST Link it was mostly in not choosing to spend money studying West Seattle or Ballard alignments until after it was clear the Monorail was dead and a slight difference in pre-2006 ridership numbers for some Link segments.

      4. The first alignment studied went through SoDo and the Duwamish to get to the airport. Several Valley community groups asked to have the alignment moved to the Valley, because that’s where people actually live and they needed better access to jobs. But then the Save our Valley jokers showed up and the rest is history.

  12. Nah, I didn’t miss out because why would I just sit there and watch the lecture, no point for a deaf person to go there. Im not really crazy about going to bars either.

  13. McGinn is correct in opposing the Deep-bore. The best tunnel option is WsDOT’s Scenario ‘G’, the 4-lane Cut-n-Cover, mainly because it maintains the Elliott/Western ramp access, and because it doesn’t have near as much construction disruption as the “6-lane” Cut-n-Cover that voters rejected in March 2007. The ramps at Spring and Columbia are best removed. Putting those ramps back (with an elevated replacement) does not make sense. East/west traffic on Seattle’s torturous hills must be discouraged. When McGinn mentioned reorganizing I-5 ramps, a lightbulb lit up in my head. Those ramps encourage the same east/west traffic on Seattle’s steep hills.

    The streetcar line on 1st Ave seems appropriate, but it would have an operational conflict with buses and traffic. It’s also duplicative transit there. A bus line on the same limited route would operate better. The SLU Streetcar should add one mile of single-track west on Stewart to 1st or 2nd Aves, south to Pike, east to 6th, then north and reconnect on Westlake Ave, with 3 or 4 stops. This would triple ridership overnight, but SDOT refused to consider the idea for years. It’s on the list now, dead last and ignored. Go figure.

    It’s possible to put the Waterfront Streetcar line back. The current proposals for the new Alaskan Way and wide plaza really aren’t very good. Grace Crunican doesn’t have a good record on inner-city highway projects. She doesn’t bring pedestrian, bicycling and transit into the process comprehensively. That was the one good thing that came out of the March 2007 vote. Both of WsDOT’s latest worst ideas for the AWV were rejected and “alternate” means of travel finally got a fraction of their due; not that SDOT and WsDOT have reformed their ways, far from it.

  14. I attend the SBAB (Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board) meetings on a regular basis and just want to jump in regarding some of the bicycle and truck comments. SDOT has been very open in communicating the plans for the viaduct replacement (the “Alaska Boulevard”) and the north/south approaches.
    – It’s clear at the meetings that freight is a concern. The #1 issue for SDOT is to get people through downtown, not to it. That’s a secondary concern which becomes a primary concern for those of us that live north/south of the proposed tunnel. Most frieght is expected to use the new Atlantic connection that links the Port to I-5 more directly than it does currently. Trucks heading north to Ballard or into the city are expected to access it via the new Boulevard.
    – A streetcar is pretty much decided on; it’ll travel down 1st Ave to the stadium area. No other information such as street location/ROW is planned.
    – Not much street parking for SOW will be removed, but there will be lots of the existing pay lots removed. This will start happening more frequently with the upswing in construction in 2010.
    – Bicycle lanes (next to parked cars) is planned for the Boulevard. There are MUPs (mulitple use paths) along the “frontage road” that Marginal will become. There may be Sharrows along the new Boulevard on the north end as it heads south downhill. The SBAB just learned of this plan and is reviewing it. There is also a proposal to create a bicycle boulevard (there’s plenty of public space to do so) in the area (instead of on-street lanes).
    – SDOT predicts about 25K+ vehicles will use the Boulevard daily (about the same as 1st Ave).
    – No dedicated bus lanes are planned from West Seattle to SODO. Once at SODO a bus lane at the exit ramp will be installed, but then it will re-join traffic. It’s about a 3-4 block long area. Buses heading from Burien and West Seattle will then head into the city via 1st Ave or Alaska (routes TBD).

Comments are closed.