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Publicola reports that Seattle mayor Greg Nickels has conceded in the primary election, with a generous and humble concession speech. Great City Initiative founder Mike McGinn and T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan will advance to the general in November.

Nickels leaves behind a very strong legacy on transit, and particularly rail. He worked hard to get our light rail built. Last year, against headwinds, he secured a spot for ST2 on the ballot. Without support from his Department of Transportation, a First Hill streetcar may not have been part of those plans. He built the South Lake Union streetcar, a starter line showing that the city can build its own transit infrastructure quickly and on budget. South Lake Union itself is a neighborhood that over the coming decades will see density and strong growth, largely thanks to Nickels. We honor his service to this city.

Mallahan has not offered great encouragement regarding his views on transit. His answers, so far, have been vague and not meaningful. We need to hear why he’s good on transit and land use. Without specificity, we can only assume the worst.

Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn. Photo by flickr user justsmartdesign.
Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn. Photo by flickr user justsmartdesign.

McGinn is an environmentalist through and through. We have no doubt in his commitment to bike improvements, pedestrian investments, and bus amenities. He opposes the SR-99 tunnel, saying we don’t need it. But he’s soft on additional rail expansion until Metro fixes its problems and the state offers new funding. Neither will happen soon, while a near-term investment in rail is a catalyst for the dense land use he recognizes is necessary.

We need to hear from McGinn that he won’t oppose the First Hill streetcar funded by Sound Transit, and that he will support the acceleration of construction proposed by Seattle’s Department of Transportation. We want a re-evaluation — or change of heart — and the 1st Ave streetcar. Streetcars are not for every location, and one can argue that the SLUT wasn’t an appropriate first line, but these two lines are smart investments. The city can’t wait for Metro to fix its house and we certainly cannot wait for the state to move away from highway funding before investing in more-efficient, higher-capacity, and greener rail transit. We are impressed by McGinn’s commitment to buses, bikes, and feet, but we want to see something on rail.

We should make one thing clear: this isn’t about a mode fetish or being rail fans just to be rail fans. There are real, demonstrable reasons to favor an investment in rail over other new transit spending. We haven’t been in campaign mode for rail recently — hey, we won ST2 and we had a mayor who supported a series of streetcar lines, so why bother?  But things have changed, and we’re going to have to prove to our readers and the incoming establishment that streetcars and light rail are a smart use of taxpayer dollars. We’re going to spend some time in the coming months reaching out to both mayoral candidates as well as the city council candidates, and hopefully we’ll give their supporters and all other voters the facts necessary to get commitments on rail.

184 Replies to “Nickels Concedes Primary; McGinn and Mallahan Advance”

    1. lol It’s NEVER going to get built. EIS is not even started, and there’s no damn money for it. Plus, no contractor – never mind Governor – is going to risk starting this thing if neither the state nor the city will commit to the inevitable cost overruns.

      Read The Seattle Times endorsement of Mallahan. Go ahead. It’s the sorriest endorsement ever. It actually contains these words:

      “Joe Mallahan, a T-mobile executive yet to demonstrate why he should hold the city’s top job.”

    2. Actually according to SEPA and NEPA it would be illegal for WSDOT to claim to have a prefered alternative.

      1. Until the EIS is complete, “all” options are supposed to be investigated thoroughly. Whether you can have a preference or not is probably a matter of semantics. But it would be illegal to not investigate surface/transit, for example.

      2. In NEPA,the action agency most certainly can designate a “preferred alternative.” It’s not a matter of semantics. That said, the action agency is still responsible for analyzing a “reasonable range” of alternatives. What “reasonable range” means is one of the most-litigated aspects of NEPA.

        AFAIK, SEPA is the same.

      3. Which makes me wonder if the 6th Street tunnel alternative which never seemed to get a fair bake off with the other deep bore alignment should still be looked at in a DEIS. One of it’s claimed features is a real connection to Ballard businesses. The other is more known/stable soil conditions.

      4. 6th *Avenue*, please, not “6th Street”. And I really don’t see the “Ballard benefit” they’re touting – the current tunnel proposal ends in the same place on the north end.

      5. Sorry, 6th AVE. As for Ballard I think they are talking about this:

        repurposing the Battery Street Tunnel as an egress to Seattle’s downtown West Edge neighborhood at Western Avenue.

        I really don’t know much about this idea. It came public at the same time as the other alignment but it seems the decision was already made before the public knew much about either proposal. It would seem the right way to do this would be to advance all viable alternatives though the DEIS process. Most are engineered to this level already. What it gives you is a public forum but with a deadline and preliminary schedules.

    3. For a project entirely in the city limits, if the city says no, the city gets to say no. We’ve done it before, too.

      1. And if we do, we lose all state funding and have to pay for the couple billion dollar surface-transit option all by ourselves.

  1. “Last year, against headwinds, he secured a spot for ST2 on the ballot.”

    I’m willing to give Nickels credit on this if you are willing to give McGinn and O’Brien credit for defeating the RTID the previous year. Please, tell the whole story.

    “But he’s against on additional rail expansion until Metro fixes its problems and the state offers new funding.”

    lol You guys make me laugh. In-city rail expansion is set to continue until 2020 with the Northgate line. Even if he was completely and totally against light rail (which he isn’t, even though you paint him that way), his first term ain’t gonna matter at all when it comes to light rail expansion. Besides, Sound Transit is a REGIONAL entity. If you’re concerned about the I-90 fight or East Rail, sure they Mayor can probably help, but it’s not really his fight.

    1. He’s talking about the streetcars, which were set to go forward with Nickels here, but are less likely with McGinn.

      1. Ah, in that case he does have a point. Sorry, my mind doesn’t really associate “Streetcar” with “Rail” when we have something called “Light Rail”.

      2. I have no idea why folks on the Seattle Transit Blog would support building new streetcar lines while bus service is being cut…

      3. Because on high-ridership corridors once you get over the up-front capital costs you save operating and bus replacement costs in the long run.

        I mean I suppose the city could hand a wad of cash to Metro to keep bus service from being cut, but once that money is spent it is gone as opposed to building a streetcar where you have something to show for it when you are done.

      4. Buses don’t evaporate – spend money on buses and you’d have – buses. “Replacement cost” is a canard because replacement doesn’t have to occur as often as it has. The additional cost of rail, the fixed structure of rail and the overall impact of rail doesn’t justify it’s massively increased cost over bus service.

        Sorry – I disagree with the article hear. A lot of this IS about supporting rail because folks are railfans, and railfans pointing at the tunnel as too costly doesn’t pass the laugh test when looking at the cost of rail, even the short SLUT line.

        Streetcars and light rail are – well – NEATO! I think so too. But they aren’t made of magic. They have substantial limitations that buses do not, and always will.

      5. Jeff, so we’re not being promised more Metro service — we’re being promised more buses? Like, buses that will sit on a lot and not be driven?

        Buying service hours, as my understanding of the proposals are, simply means that money disappears into service. To keep the service alive, you need an on-going commitment to give money to the county.

        How much did the capital SLUT costs Seattle’s general fund? Not one dollar. It was paid for mostly by local businesses in South Lake Union. The rest came from grants. They voted on it.

        How much Seattle general fund money should go to Metro’s capital costs? To their operating costs? All the while Seattle gets put aside with a loony 40/40/20 allocation? No wonder I’m such a blind railfan!

        Let’s say we can have a LID in Belltown and Federal funds to pay for a streetcar; or we can spend general fund money in an on-going way to fund bus service we should already be receiving from the county. What’s the better deal? The streetcar. Yes, it’s less service hours in a similar timeframe, but — again — it’s not an on-going commitment.

        Again, I’m a huge fan of buses and our system in particular. Just like streetcars don’t beat buses in every case, neither do buses beat streetcars in every case.

        Do you support buses because you’re a blind bus fan, or what? Probably not. Please don’t fill in my motives, it is incredibly condescending.

      6. John,

        The argument was that streetcar lines make more sense because streetcars don’t have to be replaced as often. My argument is that money spent on bus lines and busses makes more sense – not that we buy buses without funding the route for them to run. Not sure why you would suggest that I was implying otherwise.

        I support buses more than I support rail (and again – I’m in general agreement that trains and trolleys are NEATO!) because I’m still unconvinced that rail – be it streetcar, light or heavy rail – does a better job for the largest number of travellers, the broadest types of comunities, or for the economoy than rail of any kind.

        I don’t recall “filling in” your motives or addressing you directly at all, and as for being condescending – I recommend you examine your own expressed views before casting aspersions. Either that, or I’m happy to accept that you may find my continued (and I think healthy) skepticism about the arguments of those who emphasize rail development over other tyupes of transit as “condescending” along with the following: tough noogies.

      7. The argument was that streetcar lines make more sense because streetcars don’t have to be replaced as often.

        Jeff, you’re misunderstanding my argument. I’ve made this argument more clearly with Bernie. But, basically, say you have $135mn to fund a streetcar or a year of bus service. Obviously, that year of bus service is many times more service hours. But the service only lasts for a year. It’s an on-going cost, where as the capital cost for streetcar construction is not on-going. To so freely compare them misses an important point.

        If you don’t believe light rail or heavy rail is more effective than buses in certain corridors, your beliefs aren’t really aligned with much of the first-hand experience that most major metros in the world have gone through. :/ I mean, yeah, if you don’t think the NY subway is cost-effective then you’re not going to think streetcars are worth anything. With that paragraph, you effectively draw a line between rail and buses. I don’t believe in that. I think we can have both strong rail connections and a great bus network. (Never would capital costs for a streetcar come from Metro’s budget, and no one’s suggesting that.)

        Sorry if my use of the word condescending was a little too harsh. If it wasn’t clear from the context of questioning whether you were a “bus fan” — simply saying the reason we believe in this stuff is because we’re just rail fans is “filling in” motives in my eyes. You were responding to the sentence I wrote in the OP and also replying to me personally which is why I referred to myself. I’m not offended or anything, I just don’t think it’s a totally appropriate thing to simply reverse an assertion I made about myself (or, us). :) This debate will go downhill if it’s simply “blind bus nuts” vs. “blind rail nuts.” The reasons we disagree is more complex than liking the chime that a train makes. :)

      8. John you continue to try and compare apples with oranges with operations vs. capital. Operational costs for bus service vs. a street car have to be compared on a like service scenario. If you build a streetcar line for $135M it’s operational cost is roughly the same as providing the same amount of bus service; not bus service equal to the capital cost of the streetcar. When you figure in the cost of servicing the debt (something you don’t have with the bus) you don’t even break even for decades. If you take $135M and put it toward way more operating hours you’ve just bought service, presumably service that was needed. So that’s either a cost you have anyway or service hours you’ve stolen from the present to fund your streetcar. You keep making it sound like Uncle Allen or the Federal Government is going to just give us a streetcar because it’s neato and there’s no grant money for buses because nobody likes buses. It’s just not in the cards. If you want to talk about something that’s real, like First Hill, that’s great. But believing there should be a crusade for expanding the Seattle Streetcar network without anything better than “in drives TOD” isn’t responsible to the present day needs of the region.

      9. yeah, if you don’t think the NY subway is cost-effective then you’re not going to think streetcars are worth anything. With that paragraph, you effectively draw a line between rail and buses.

        There is no comparison between a subway and a streetcar. NY doesn’t run streetcars because they would be a disaster in traffic. The fixed guideway is a big drawback to running in traffic. Frequency of stops are the other big difference between light rail and streetcars. When you’re constantly starting and stopping both because of short distances between stations and dealing with traffic you lose much of the advantage of rails ability to operate efficiently at constant speed.

      10. Bernie, I’m tired of arguing the exact same points over and over. I’ll be brief because we’re just going to come back to this same point again.

        You continue to say that buses and streetcars provide the same service. They don’t. Streetcars have more capacity.

        Are you ever going to recognize that bus is an on-going expense whereas the capital costs of a streetcar are a one-time expense? Yes, it is easier to get grants for rail capital investments. Yes, it is easier to raise taxes for a handful of years to fund a local improvement than to fund a transit commitment forever. If you take that $135mn and put it toward service, you have an on-going obligation to pay for that service that never ends.

        It is dishonest to say that funding a streetcar is “stealing” bus service hours. McGinn’s plan literally shifts money earmarked for a streetcar into the bus category. It’s a bad presumption that leads this argument. No, there is not a “need” for bus service expansion at that level any more there is a “need” for streetcar expansion. To simply presume we need bus service at $135mn above the $350 already allocated under the state’s surface/transit isn’t exactly on the level. McGinn simply shifted the amount of money to buses. He decided, in the midst of the campaign, that this bus service is “needed” and we have to follow that assumption until the end? Come on.

        The 1st Ave streetcar is “real.” This $135mn we’re talking about is from the tunnel viaduct plan, marked specifically for the streetcar. Its revenue source is unknown to me, but I doubt it’s just a pool of money that can immediately be moved into buses. I bet that $135 mn is from a potential LID on Belltown. McGinn’s not going to levy a LID on Belltown for citywide bus service, so where’s that money going to come from now? And where will it come from for the next few decades?

        Subways and streetcars are different. I was responding to someone who said that he didn’t see the benefits of light rail or heavy rail compared to buses.

      11. John you keep trying to equate $135M in capital to $135M in one year of operating expense and the two are different as night and day.

        the capital costs of a streetcar are a one-time expense

        No, that’s not true. You still have to replace streetcars (not as often but they’re much more expensive) and you have to replace lines, replace track, etc. Plus you’ve got the on going debt to service from a large capital expenditure.

        Streetcars running in traffic don’t have a significant capacity advantage. A double decker bus would actually be a better choice on a crowded corridor like 1st. The bigger the footprint the more it’s stuck in traffic and the more congestion it causes. Being on a fixed guideway makes it worse. Adding buses decreases headways (better service)and it’s much easier to add/subtract a bus or tailor the size to the time of day (less cost and less congestion). A streetcar in traffic has little of the advantage of a real train.

        If you take that $135mn and put it toward service, you have an on-going obligation to pay for that service that never ends.

        Why do you keep trying to say the $135 is a one year cost for the bus service? To compare it to an investment in streetcars you need to look at the cost of bus service that provides the same yearly capacity as what that streetcar line would be able to carry (and not it’s ultimate capacity, the amount that it will move when built). That’s what, about 40,000 service hours? That’s only $4.5 million a year. That’s the real trade off here; spend $135M and have neato service in a few years that cost about the same to maintain or have the service much quicker and be able to vary it to meet demand during a period when we really don’t know what the viaduct situation will produce. Now if you want to push for more dedicated ROW and the line is so successful that it warrants conversion to rail I’m all in.

        Yes, it is easier to get grants for rail capital investments.

        You’re lumping streetcars in with light rail again. I’m not convinced it really any easier to get grants for a streetcar than a comparable bus line. You’re grant amount may be larger because it’s a percentage of total cost but that still leaves you with a much larger local contribution. In the end you have a system with a smoother ride, perhaps greater peak capacity and maybe slightly lower operating costs. I say maybe because you have to figure in rail overhead, line maintenance, debt repayment, and lack of flexible capacity. Not only are you running oversize vehicles during times they’re not needed you end up with a much larger amount of cash tied up in unused spares. $3 million, of the cost for SLUT was for an extra streetcar that just sits there in case of a breakdown. Inventory and repair costs are much higher when you’ve got a limited amount of special purpose equipment. And since you’re counting on keeping this for much longer you have to believe maintenance costs are going to be much higher toward end of life when compared to the much more frequently replaced buses.

      12. John,

        say you have $135mn to fund a streetcar or a year of bus service. Obviously, that year of bus service is many times more service hours. But the service only lasts for a year

        John – there’s a missing piece here – and I apologize if I haven’t followed the argument that you made elsewhere – but aren’t you ignoring ongoing operational costs?

        I’ve been given some references to comparison studies on rail vs. wheels (usually doesn’t take into account the possibility of ETB’s), and at best the numbers crunched seem to place both options neck and neck in terms of pure dollars.

        If one accepts that ultimate reality – that both wheels and rails cost about the same to initiate and operate long-term, then it really comes down to arguments over esthetics, preferences and “vision”, doesn’t it?

        By way of a disclaimer here for those who may see my questions as “anti-rail”, my motivations are purely logistical. I’m a driver for Metro 16 months now. My Grandfather was a bus driver with Metro for 43 years, and operated the Waterfront Streetcar and the Monorail as well as ETB’s and other bus routes. I had great uncles who worked Seattle Transit during the interurban days as trolley operators and one great-great uncle who lost his life in the switching yard at Jefferson Base. My Grandfather has a basement full of model trains that include Z-Guage (TEENY-TINY!), N-Guage (Just Teeny), H0, G, O, and a wonderful collection of American Flyer S-Guage.

        I LIKE trains. I like rail. I love the history. I like the clicketey-clack and the ding-ding, and the history they represent.

        I’m just having a hard time understanding why a return to rail makes sense NOW. Seattle is not an East Coast city or a European city with decades of infrastructure or geography that economically accomodates rail as well as other types of wheel-based transit.

        I’m open to being convinced otherwise – and again, I LIKE rail. As a bus driver, expansion of rail increases my career path alternatives and I can’t help but get misty-eyed as anyone else when the big quiet cars go by. Still just not seeing it though, and I see many pro-rail arguments being put forth (like “buses don’t run on weekends but trolleys do”) that flat-out don’t make sense to me.

      13. Are you ever going to recognize that bus is an on-going expense whereas the capital costs of a streetcar are a one-time expense?

        How can that even be TRUE?

        Streetcars don’t have ongoing expenses? Don’t require power, maintenance, repairs, replacement – or drivers?

        Bernie’s arguments are worth consideration, and I’m not sure that the “capacity” issue isn’t addressed by the ability to run more buses (i.e. more capacity) at lower cost.

      14. I mean I suppose the city could hand a wad of cash to Metro to keep bus service from being cut, but once that money is spent it is gone as opposed to building a streetcar where you have something to show for it when you are done.

        It’s this comment that I was responding to – and the kind of thing that leads me to ask questions.

        The implication here is that if you add bus service, it costs you money forever, but if you add streetcars, they run forever for free once you’ve built ’em.

        If you believe that hogwash, I’ve got a waterfront streetcar and about 1,000 miles of residual interurban track both above ground and buried in concrete I’d like to sell you.

        What is with this idea that once streetcars are built – they run for free forever, and that’s why they’re a good idea?

      15. The limiting factor is the traffic. They could make buses 8′ wide and longer than the current articulateds but then it’s like trying to move a mobile home during rush hour. The other consideration is the cost of buying an extra bus is far less than adding a streetcar and you don’t have the stacking issue that you do with vehicles that can’t overtake. The ETBs show us this is a real issue when trying to operate in traffic.

        If you can establish a good percentage of the route in dedicated ROW then I think you’ve got something with rail. But if you want something neato that makes sense I’d be looking at the double talls for this route and any in city route where higher capacity in a smaller footprint is what’s needed. If people see that working you’re more likely to get the dedicated ROW and from there looking at rail would be the next logical step.

        FWIW I’ve got a huge HO collection and think trains are really great too. Admittedly more of a freight guy but I see both playing a role in a future that’s more energy efficient and makes travel more enjoyable and safer for everyone. I just don’t see streetcars as the best investment in rail right now and I don’t see rail as being the answer to downtown transit; at least not until we have a better handle on how it’s going to be built out.

      16. Bernie,

        I think you’ve articulated some of my own concerns – and vision that does include rail and streetcars as part of transit solutions – better than I have.

      17. I love streetcars and have been to many cities where they work really well, but most of those cities also have some form of high capacity rapid transit that supports the streetcar system. Since money is finite, I would rather see the streetcar money go towards a Ballard to West Seattle light rail line with stops in Queen Anne and Belltown. That would really transform the way people travel in the city more than a streetcar would. I do agree with John’s point though, that McGinn’s plan of throwing more money at Metro and telling them to run more buses isn’t really much of a plan and doesn’t leave us with much after the money runs out. I would rather see that money going towards infrastructure projects that will improve transit in the city for the long run, like new light rail lines linking the city’s urban villages. I don’t think Seattle should have to wait the decades until ST3 or ST4 to build new light rail lines within the city.

      18. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is the huge ridership advantage that streetcars have. They practically always get at least 50% higher ridership than buses along the same route. Sometimes they get even higher than that (Tacoma Link got a few hundred percent higher ridership.) So therefore streetcars get more people out of their cars and are better for the environment than a bus is ever going to be. Also, they have a much better farebox recovery rate than buses with the same service.
        Secondly, streetcars have a very easy time getting sponsorship. Almost every one of the SLUT’s stops and cars is sponsored. Meanwhile, buses have a tough time getting ads. This document predicts that through a combination of eliminating duplicate service, farebox revenue, and sponsorship, the First Ave/Jackson street line would cost just $200,000 per year to operate, the Ballard-Fremont line would actually earn $1.1m per year, the First Hill Line would earn $2.5m per year, and the U-Line would earn $2m per year.
        So streetcars are not only “neato,” they pay off after a few decades, and most certainly pay off versus buses.

      19. There are no double-tall ETBs in operation or manufacture in the world. However, double-tall trams still run in Hong Kong. It’s just wishful thinking since Metro probably can’t afford to buy such expensive buses or raise those wires (which have clearance issues in some places like on the 44 route) when they can’t even keep existing buses on the road.

      20. This document predicts that through a combination of eliminating duplicate service, farebox revenue, and sponsorship, the First Ave/Jackson street line would cost just $200,000 per year to operate,

        So, it would cost $200,000 per year more than the duplicate bus service it could eliminate. How does this ever pay off?

        Doesn’t Metro prohibit advertising on bus shelters? If you’re going to ad that to the economics for a streetcar then you have to allow for it with buses. There’s no shortage of companies that want to advertise on buses. The number of full bus wraps was reduced by the county coucil. Metro had more sales on the books and could have sold even more.

        As far as getting people out of cars; not so much. The Waterfront Streetcar atracted a lot of toursits. SLUT is an alternative that’s sometimes faster than walking. If you run a streetcar where you have a choice between it and a less frequent bus for the same fare then sure people will ride it. Increasing the capacity from P&R lots (more parking and better connections) gets people out of their cars. Of course fare recovery isn’t great on these long haul routes but they score high on reduced vehicle miles traveled. That’s something streetcars aren’t really designed to do. The money is much better spend on expanding regional rail.

        “This 1.3 mile initial segment is demonstrating that the advantages that streetcars have brought to other cities is transferable to Seattle,”

        OK, I can see where anybody starting with the premise that the SLUT is a successful demonstration is going to believe streetcars are the only way to fly. This document isn’t a vision, it’s a pipe dream. The city council approve a streetcar network and then directed SDOT to come up with a report propping it up.

        The only route I can see that makes any sense right now is the Central Line. Except we don’t need the part from the Sculpture Park to the Center because we already have the Monorail that gets you from the Center to Westlake. So, what you have is the map of how to replace the Waterfront Streetcar. Connect it to the new First Hill line, brilliant! And why the worry about the Viaduct destruction? If WSDOT has to destroy part of it while working on State Route 99 then they can foot the bill to replace it.

      21. the First Hill Line would earn $2.5m per year,

        Gotta love it. ST2 funding pays to install the line and covers the operating expenses so the fare box recovery and advertising revenue is “pure profit”. Anybody that reads this report and still thinks building out the Seattle Streetcar network is an immediate priority really is blinded by the neato factor. All you have to do is look at the estimated operating cost and service hours to see the cost is about 50% higher than buses. Even if they do manage 50% farebox recovery (doubtful and very hard to calculate because so many trips would be short transfers, U-Pass, etc.) it’s still just a break even proposition with 30% fare box recovery from buses.

        and the U-Line would earn $2m per year.

        This entire fanciful earnings is from $2.1M increased fare collection from SLUT (footnote they’d already applied this “savings” to the Ballard/Fremont line).

        Let’s see, UW to Downtown in 7 minutes on Link or 30 minutes on the streetcar (assuming the University Bridge isn’t open). But for $8M in operating cost we can replace $4.2M in bus service. That’s a winner?

      22. And it’s a darn good thing it is less likely. Street cars in mixed traffic are an abomination!”. With the exception of about three miles of historic lines in north Philadelphia’s tony Chestnut Hill neighborhood the only pre-war car lines which survived into the modern era have long dedicated rights of way or CBD tunnels. Those dedicated rights of way range from median running in boulevards in Boston, and Cleveland to converted rail rights of way in Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Philadelphia, Boston, and Pittsburgh have CBD trolley tunnels which are too cramped for heavy rail and lack ventilation for bus operation. It’s trolleys or abandon them.

        I live in Vancouver, USA, and let me tell you, the Portland Streetcar is fun and a decent development tool, but it is NOT FAST. One can just about keep up with it through downtown at a brisk walk. Cars stop in front of it for people to load and unload, or to make right turns. Trucks block the tracks. Where there is a long corridor with medium density within an eight of a mile to either side but not much car traffic like Irving/Judah in San Francisco streetcars in mixed traffic can be very useful if they have a CBD tunnel. But in the CBD like Seattle wants to do it — on FIRST AVENUE which is already a ten hour traffic jam for God’s sake — they’re insane.

        Portland doesn’t even give the Streetcar signal priority and it has STOP SIGNS!!!! Not to mention but the traction motors are pretty noisy, much more so than the Max LRV’s.

      23. Streetcars are not meant to be faster than traffic; they offer an alternative to SOVs that move at about the same speed but are more likely to get people out of their cars. For a positive example, look to Toronto. When we were getting rid of our streetcars in the 50’s and 60’s, they made the decision to keep theirs. They run in mixed traffic and people cross to the center lane to board. Putting in modern streetcars here is a little different, as we need accessible platform stops, but streetcars are very viable in mixed traffic.

    2. “his first term ain’t gonna matter at all when it comes to light rail expansion.”

      McGinn’s first term? LOL! It will be a miracle if he wins in November (the one trick AWV pony of the will wear thin) – and even if McGinn does win, there is NO WAY the guy will get a second term.

      McGinn simply doesn’t have what takes to be Mayor.

      Mayor of Kent, maybe….

      1. Okay, so McGinn is a one-trick pony. I guess that makes Mallahan an no-trick pony since he has not taken a firm stance on any issue whatsoever. McGinn’s courageous stance on the tunnel has gotten headlines, but there is a whole lot more behind McGinn’s campaign than the Seattle Times has been willing to report. Now that McGinn is a serious contender, perhaps the media will start reporting his actual stances on actual issues. Of course they cannot do the same for Mallahan because he has not positions. His campaign is based on one thing: I’m not greg nickels. That may have carried him through had he been running against Nickels, but now he has to face a man with actual ideas, actual positions and zero Nickels baggage. This race is far from over.

      2. Thus the problem with this election. Two men went through, neither of them mayoral caliber to me, because of “issues” people had with Nickels. A one trick pony versus a corpora-linguigal stick. Publicola published a purported McGinn poster urging Seattlites not to “fuck this one up.” As far as I can tell, Seattlites already have.

      3. “McGinn simply doesn’t have what takes to be Mayor.”

        What exactly are the qualifications? Does Obama (or Lincoln or JFK for that matter) “have what it takes” to run a country? After all, he’d never run the largest government on earth before. At this point the experience argument is just silly. Nickels clearly had the experience but he’s out. Neither McGinn nor Mallahan have experience as a mayor of a major city, but I think they equally have the capacity to make a go at the job.

        (That made me think: has a city ever elected a mayor who’d previously run a different similar size city? It’s not like hiring a CEO, there are a lot of local issues…)

    3. Zelbinian,

      “Willing to risk not getting light rail at all in order to kill a road deal,” which was McGinn’s position in 2007, is not necessarily a selling point for us.

      Still, he’s a strong candidate who ran a good campaign, and we’re strongly inclined to support him. What John’s doing here is laying out the concerns that kept us from endorsing him in the first place.

      1. cheers – what Mickymse said. Sure we needed the rail – and we’re building it – but a lot of folks were willing to take a huge roads hit in order to build the rail, and the numbers didn’t support that as a smart move. I understand the politics that made folks nervous about following Mike’s lead, but he was right then, and I sure hope he’ll get more chances to show his stuff as our next Mayor.

      2. Martin, I think this point exemplifies the blind pro-rail bias of this blog perfectly. Let there be no doubt that I am a huge fan of rail transit and generally agree with your arguments vis-a-vis rail vs bus, but building rail alone is not enough. We need a fundamental transformation of land use and we need to stop building highways. As cool as Rail is, it cannot compete with a car on an uncongested freeway, and if there is no pedestrian connections and no feeder buses no one can get the light rail line. Rail must be a part of an integrated system. We need a commitment to creating a mode shift and a culture shift at every level and your insistence than a single piece of the puzzle (rail) is the whole puzzle is not helping.

        We must both say yes to rail AND say no to more freeways. Otherwise, you’re just burning money on a pretty train that nobody is going to ride.

        One last point: money is money. Say what you want about the artificial pots that exist in state law. The fact is that every dollar spent on transportation, whether rail, bus or highway comes from the same source: the taxpayers. If RTID had passed, the taxpayers would have been so strapped paying for all those highways that they would never have supported ST3 when it came back. Right now, the tax payers still have that would-be highway money in their pockets, and are thus more likely to vote to spend it on rails. Making a deal with the devil was short sighted and foolish. McGinn had the courage to say no and we’re all better off for it. Get off your single issue and realize that all the pieces have to work together to bring about the kind of change we all want.

      3. Tony,

        We have a pro-rail bias, but I resent the implication that it’s “blind”. We make a really serious effort to keep ourselves well-informed, and as a regular reader you should recognize that.

        I agree that the 2008 package was better than the 2007 package, but it was a big gamble that paid off, mainly because of the leadership of Greg Nickels. If someone makes big money at the roulette wheel, that decision may work out well but it doesn’t make it a good decision.

        The corridors where RTID was building roads were not ones where rail would compete with it in the foreseeable future. I’m glad those roads aren’t being built, but the important thing is that the initial rail buildout gets done. Once that happens we won’t have all the doubters that even exist in the putative pro-transit community, and I’m confident the future of transit will be secure.

      4. With McGinn, we’d be more likely to spend that highway money on buses than rail.

        And as Martin said, there is a huge difference between a BLIND pro-rail bias and an INFORMED pro-rail position.

        I’m sorry if my post glossed over some points about highways and buses. I hope you re-read it and see that we offer McGinn praise on these points. I think it goes without saying that buses are critical to Seattle. Is a huge, $500mn local investment in new buses and new service critical? I don’t think so. I’d rather see SOME of that money go toward rail.

  2. Definitely concerning. On one hand the business exec buying his way onto the political stage, the other is the activist who advances by opposing a boondoggle but supports his own ( Interwebs for all and school reform ) projects over which the office has not direct control…

    Either candidate is going to be facing a dire budget situation moving forward…

    1. The city does have control over the broadband municipality. Hell, it was actually Nickels’s idea to start the Task Force on it in 2004. Read the report (or at least the executive summary) here (PDF) .

      1. And for some of us in some parts of the city, internet access is actually a very important issue right now. Some neighborhoods are not at all well-served.

    2. And how the 2Ms respond on the budget situation (and city finance in general) must be the overarching issue of the campaign. Their individual ideas and their responses to each other’s plans, proposals and ideology must be listened to intently.

    3. Interwebs for all is something I definitely support – it should be a public utility. But that’s not a McGinn idea anyway, it’s an idea that’s been on the books with the city for years.

      1. Exactly. But, strangely, even though it was actually Nickels’s idea originally, McGinn is the only one talking about it.

  3. Thank you for supporting streetcars, and especially the First Avenue streetcar. Our downtown neighborhoods have a lot at stake in this and will have to start adding more to the discussions now, I think.

    1. Oh don’t worry about that. We believe that streetcars will foster the type of development and enable the type of lifestyle that will be attractive in the future.

  4. This will be a tough call indeed. Probably will lean Mallahan and push on him to take a more transit oriented approach. Something about McGinn just really scares me off.

    1. Well, I just expect a weak Mayor scenario with McGinn , or a reversion to the Seattle Nice ( a la Rice/Schell) I foresee Licata having a bigger voice on the Council with Drago gone and perhaps in the direction of the city.

    2. Mallahan is far scarier as far as I’m concerned. We have no idea where he stands. McGinn would fund bicycle and pedestrian improvements we desperately need.

      1. Well, you don’t have to wonder where Mallahan stands with this on his website.

        http://www.joemallahan.com/Issues/Transportation

        “For the past several years, Mayor Nickels has allowed King County to funnel 80% of incremental bus hours to East and South King County, while Seattle receives only 20% of such hours, even though Seattle riders account for 71% of all bus trips.”

        “Streetcars slow vehicle traffic, are terrible for bike commuters, and can’t swing to avoid stalled or emergency vehicles like buses can. The mayor even proposes running streetcars down 1st Avenue, which is already congested, and which is just two blocks from the parallel bus-only 3rd Avenue corridor.”

        And my favorite: “Redouble efforts to obtain stimulus funding”

      2. Mallahan’s opposition seems stronger than McGinn’s. McGinn just seems concerned about not having the money to pay for them right now as opposed to Mallahan being opposed to streetcars in principle.

        Also Mallahan seems to be completely ignorant of the fact that fighting the County Council on 40/40/20 would have caused more problems than it would have solved.

        In fact he seems rather ignorant on a number of issues. He really hasn’t been engaged in civic life in the past and it shows. McGinn at least knows what the issues are and who the players are. He also has a track record of civic involvement going back a number of years.

      3. “Streetcars slow vehicle traffic, are terrible for bike commuters, and can’t swing to avoid stalled or emergency vehicles like buses can. The mayor even proposes running streetcars down 1st Avenue, which is already congested, and which is just two blocks from the parallel bus-only 3rd Avenue corridor.”

        No vote for Mallahan from me, then. Sorry, Joe.

      4. Mallahan should have said “*can be* terrible for bike commuters” if they’re not built properly and bike folks aren’t taken into the loop early on. One of the reasons why some of us have been talking and riding the ST streetcar line options and figuring out what options make most sense for cyclists.

      5. LitlNemo,

        He’s right on all counts. Streetcars are much narrower than LRV’s so there ‘s no room for dedicated bike storage. They slow vehicle traffic, but even more, vehicle traffic slows them! First Avenue is a ten hour parking lot around the Pike Market right now, and you want to run a streetcar through it? Crazy is too weak a word.

        I get that you want to do something to link the great new development in Belltown and just to the north to downtown, but a streetcar on First is not the way to do it.

      6. I’m actually not a fan of the *First Avenue* streetcar. But Mallahan’s statement seems anti-streetcar in general, which is what I was responding to.

        I think streetcars need as much of their own ROW as possible, and I honestly don’t know where you’d put them on First without making it more of a mess than it is already. Now, if you made Third Avenue into a buses/streetcars-only thoroughfare, that could work. It’s been a busway before and it worked relatively well. But in general, the streetcar needs to not be competing with already-congested traffic if at all possible. The Waterfront Streetcar was good that way. (Even when it ran on the street, after turning, it was not in a lane shared with cars, was it? Wasn’t it in the middle? Hmm, I usually didn’t ride it up to the ID, just along Alaskan Way, so I’m not sure about that.)

        What is this thing you call Pike Market? We locals call it Pike Place Market. ;)

  5. If Dow Constantine wins in the general (which he almost definitely will), his council seat will be open, and Nickels is in that district… Anyone know how they fill vacancies?

    1. Regardless of how vacancies are filled, it truly is time form Our Current Mayor to take some time off, and get out of politics for a spell – a sabbatical and some work doing anything else would be good for him and us.

    2. Nickels is not going to return to being a Co. Councilmember. That’s a step backwards.

      Now that the county positions are “nonpartisan,” I assume the Council will appoint an interim person and schedule a special election (for February?).

      1. Plenty of people go a step lower after being in power. Off the top of my head I can think of John Quincy Adams and former (crack-smoking) DC Mayor Marion Barry, who’s now a DC councilmember (but he was just arrested for stalking).

      2. The council will appoint whom it pleases, and with a 4/4 split, Democrat and Republican, they will pick a centrist, probably a Democrat given the politics of Dow’s district.

        County Council has no authority to call a special election to fill a vacancy. State law is quite specific, calling for an election for the unexpired term at the next November election. So the replacement would be up in November 2010 for the one-year unexpired term

    3. Here’s hoping you’re right about Constatine (although my own choice was Phillips). Don’t underestimate the Palin factor when it comes to Hutchison, though. Here’s hoping that Constantine does a good job calling her on her political history and preventing her from obtaining public office.

  6. I’m in on this and I want to help. I will continue to volunteer for McGinn and I am a strong supporter of rail. I look forward to hearing your ideas on ways that we can push this agenda. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

      1. Living on first ave I share your concern and have already brought the subject up with him. I am for sure going to be pushing harder! Power to the people.

  7. I’m sad to see Nickels go – he had a good vision for this city and although it didn’t always play out perfectly, he was willing to put his neck on the line and make things happen, in a city where it is nearly impossible to makes things happen. I think the city is better off because of Nickels’ work.

    That said, McGinn is a complete loon who has no business running this city. It’s almost scary to think that this guy could be mayor. Kind of like Sarah-Palin-becoming-VP scary. This guy has no ideas outside of his extremely narrow agenda, and frankly I think we need more balance than someone with a one-track agenda.

    Mallahan seems the only option, unless he screws something up big time. Perhaps it’s time for a back-to-basics approach where we have someone with business sense rather than another activist or “dreamer” for our mayor. The city is in a tough budget spot, and I would think that solving the crisis is priority #1. McGinn’s priority #1 seems to be re-igniting fires at the state level, and frankly, we don’t need distractions like that any more given the tough spot that Seattle is in.

    Thanks again, Greg, we appreciate all you’ve accomplished.

    1. “This guy has no ideas outside of his extremely narrow agenda, and frankly I think we need more balance than someone with a one-track agenda.”

      Respectfully, you have no idea what you are talking about.

      1. McGinn has no one but himself to blame if people do not have a clear idea as to where he stands on issues other than the tunnel. He’s made his opposition to the tunnel the centerpiece (if not the entirety) of his campaign.

        Even the “Issues” page of his Web site is sorely lacking in any relevant content. (Unless you feel that internet infrastructure is one of the biggest concerns facing our city.)

        To me it feels like McGinn never expected to be in this position, and thus never developed or articulated positions on issues outside his personal areas of interest. He’d better start now.

      2. Yes, his central issue is the tunnel because of what a giant, colossal mistake it is, but it’s not like he hasn’t suggested alternative ways to use that money or its priorities. Also, with 70% people against any sort of highway on the waterfront, it’s not a bad tactical strategy.

        That said, have you been to one of his question and answer sessions? Or seen his comments on The Stranger’s Electionland? He has a lot more to talk about than the tunnel, and it’s not his fault that the media don’t report on it.

    2. Hold your fire against McGinn. He may turn out to be better on Mallahan.

      Note that this post was sort of critical of McGinn. That’s because he’s offered substantive positions on transit. Mallahan has not done so.

    3. Err, at least Sarah Palin had some experience running Alaska. Sort of.

      McGinn is an activist and an agitator. Exactly the OPPOSITE of what it takes to be mayor of a large city.

      Seriously – we could not have two worse choices.

      1. I don’t know I think knocking off an incumbent mayor with 1/7th the campaign budget and managing a large army of volunteers counts for something.

        Besides it isn’t so much if McGinn has experience running things so much as who he hires to run things and how he manages them.

      2. Was it really that shocking that the incumbent mayor was knocked off? With the exception of Light Rail, this last year has been a PR disaster for Nickels. Sonics, snow and the tunnel…people had plenty of reasons to want him out of office and they spoke with their votes.

        Nickels got Bilandicked…and in a big way. To only get 25% of the vote after being a two term mayor…well, you’ve got to really tick some people off.

        McGinn and Mallahan advancing to the general eleciton says more about Nickels than it does about either of those two.

      3. I am pretty tired of “activists” running agendas in this city. As a member of the 36th district, “activists” drove me out of participating in meetings of the 36th district Democrats where people who voiced views not supported by the “activist” leadership and their supporters were shouted down, and “activists” helped rob the people of Seattle of millions in money WASTED on an IDIOTIC monorail campaign.

        McGinn is an ACTIVIST – more interested in pushing an agenda from a blue-tower high-horse of “this is for your own good” than the true interests of the community and the best economic approach.

        Mallahan for Mayor.

      4. Sorry Jeff, don’t agree with your dismissal of McGinn, in favor of Mallahan. McGinn got started as an activist but he’s smart, he’s engaged, and he’s a quick study.

        Mallahan…when I hear him respond to a question of public policy, he sounds like a male Susan Hutchison — all slogans and platitudes, and no beef. He may be smart, he hasn’t been engaged (rarely even bothers to vote) and no evidence of being a quick study.

        Let’s schedule some joint appearances with these two (but don’t call them debates unless they are really allowed to debate)

      5. he sounds like a male Susan Hutchison

        Oh, give me a break. Susan Hutchison supported Mike Huckabee in the last Presidential election for heaven’s sake – a Republican too radical and right-wing even for the Republicans. Comparing Mallahan to Hutchison doesn’t even pass the laugh test – nor is it relevant here.

        I’m all for hearing from the two together however, and feel a debate would be more than healthy to clear the air on a numbe of issues.

  8. We may have two names on the ballot, but no real choice, here.

    Both Mallahan and McGinn are unprepared for the job.

    McGinn doesn’t have the organizational skills or leadership abilities.

    Mallahan lacks basic temperment, and is actually quite a jerk.

    I predict that within a month, people are going to be clamoring for Nickels, and a write-in campaign will begin.

    1. “I predict that within a month, people are going to be clamoring for Nickels, and a write-in campaign will begin.”

      That would be interesting.

      1. Quite honestly, I’d probably laugh my guts out before they were puked out.

        Agreeably, I find both McGinn and Mallahan ambiguous and generic candidates. But clamoring for Nickels? People who aren’t transit wonks don’t normally see past rhetoric and press. I think we’re going to have to look toward 2013.

    2. I would contend that McGinn has lots of organizational skills and leadership abilities. His primary campaign is a great testament to that as well as the Great City Initiative.

  9. For the record, at the meetup McGinn specifically said that the First Hill Streetcar should be built since the funding was approved. But he seemed to oppose the First Ave streetcar and any other expansions.

    Mallahan’s “transportation” section of “issues” on his website is primarily devoted to bashing the South Lake Union Streetcar and proposed First Ave Streetcar. He also promises to scrap the Mercer Project (which I think is desperately needed to fix the street grid uptown, and which McGinn supports). I can’t find any reference to density issues by Mallahan, which is surprising given how big of an issue it is these days, and quite concerning.

    I’m really afraid of what a Mallahan mayorship would be. It’s gotta be McGinn. His view on the streetcars is disappointing, but he did say he wanted a denser Link network (and responded positively to Ben’s suggestion of a new transit tunnel), so there is at least that.

    1. Yep, Mallahan doesn’t understand how cities work, and McGinn does, essentially.

      McGinn knows we need more rail – he doesn’t know how to fund it, though, so his default is buses, and we’ll work with him on that.

      1. His surface/transit option funds buses literally at the expense of the 1st ave streetcar. A streetcar lasts. Bus service funding would be temporary.

      2. Multimodal Man, but the fact the streetcar exists would almost force service to exist. It would be dumb to make a capital investment and not use it. This is exactly why rail lines have a stronger sense of permanence and actually influence development patterns.

        (Also the O&M of a streetcar line build with $135mn, and the O&M of on-going bus service that was funded initially with $135mn is incomparable. The bus service is vastly more expensive.)

      3. fact the streetcar exists would almost force service to exist. It would be dumb to make a capital investment and not use it.

        Like the Waterfront Streetcar?

        Also the O&M of a streetcar line build with $135mn, and the O&M of on-going bus service that was funded initially with $135mn is incomparable.

        That’s true because the same level of capital investment provides for way more operating hours than the same investment in a streetcar. But if you want to talk cost per hour I’m not convinced. The SLUT provides service 12 hours a day and there’s two streetcars in operation. That works out to 8760 hours per year. It’s really hard to find the figures for operating cost since it hasn’t been operational for long and the funding has shifted from public/private to city to city/county but the last time I dug through the proposed 2008 County budget I believe I came up with $1.2M. That works out to $137 per hour. Metro buses are something like $114/hr? And we’re way above national averages.

        Unlike light rail where you have cost savings by being able to run 400 or 800 person trains you’re stuck with a streetcar running in traffic to about the same capacity as a bus. If Metro had to maintain the roads or didn’t have to maintain tracks and overhead there might be a cost savings but that’s not the case. I just don’t see how operating rail without dedicated ROW is a winner. Neato, yes. But cost effective?

      4. That’s true because the same level of capital investment provides for way more operating hours than the same investment in a streetcar.

        That’s exactly my point. It’s an on-going, expensive commitment. It is not an investment like a streetcar.

        The SLUT provides service 12 hours a day and there’s two streetcars in operation. That works out to 8760 hours per year. It’s really hard to find the figures for operating cost since it hasn’t been operational for long and the funding has shifted from public/private to city to city/county but the last time I dug through the proposed 2008 County budget I believe I came up with $1.2M. That works out to $137 per hour. Metro buses are something like $114/hr? And we’re way above national averages.

        Thanks for providing some numbers, but you got the service hours wrong. 15 hours M-Th, 17 hours F & Sa, and 9 hours on Sunday. (That’s 14.7 hours on the average day, compared to your 12.) See: http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/about/

        So it’s (15*4+17*2+9)*2*52 = 10712 service hours per year. Give or take with special events and holidays.

        With these numbers, we get an operating cost around $112 per hour. I do not think it makes sense to compare that with the “typical” Metro route. We need better numbers to flesh this out. Unfortunately, the SLUT is a poor example — even though I’m glad we built it, it simply will take longer to be very cost-efficient. The Portland streetcar could be a useful example here.

        Streetcars do have a higher capacity than buses, and standing-room only is much more comfortable in a wide streetcar than a narrower bus. Off-board TVMs, level boarding, wider doors, signal priority, and a more stable ride can make a streetcar move quicker than your typical bus. It’s a long-held rumor that we can make buses have these improvements, unfortunately even when we try to get it right (RapidRide) we come up short. It’s harder to come up short on a streetcar.

        A clear sense of direction, permanence, and a well-documented rail bias will lead to increased ridership — effectively more capacity further for the corridor. You call these amenities and perceptions “neato.” You know, I don’t mind paying for neato things because I care about my city and want it to be a good place to live. But “neato” drives ridership and makes for a more pleasant commuter experience.

        If you want to talk cost-effective, we’re going to need smarter cost estimates and also total lifetime costs.

      5. That’s exactly my point. It’s an on-going, expensive commitment. It is not an investment like a streetcar.

        The point being that a streetcar can’t come close on a per dollar basis in providing capacity and service area. Lifetime costs are what need to be looked at and to do that we need to know what maintenance costs are going to be when the equipment gets old and the tracks are worn. You also have to factor in interest on the debt.

        In this region we also need to think about earthquakes, sink holes, and other things that lead to street closures. If downtown is dependent on streetcars what happens when a line is down because the street needs to be repaired or there’s an accident? You can’t just reroute them like you can buses. They also quit running when there’s a major power outage. Are they better or worse in a snow storm?

        I do believe that they can have a place and that we need a lot more information before we commit huge sunk costs when there are so many other obvious needs to be filled (feeder service to Link, Viaduct mitigation, service reductions because of budget shortfall). The First Hill Streetcar will give us some real operational sense on a route that seems to be much better than South Lake Union (I think the Waterfront is a better route than South Lake Union but that’s a different type of demand all together). And I still think that for any rail service to be effective most if not all needs to be dedicated ROW.

      6. How many times have the BNSF rails (including a century-old tunnel under downtown) been shut down due to earthquakes, sink holes, and other things? How many sinkholes have closed any kind of roads in Seattle in the last century? I’m thinking it’s not a common occurrence. Oh, and it would take down all our trolley bus routes too.

        The Portland Streetcar outperformed buses in the snowpocalypse, by the way (and they don’t even have many articulated buses). MAX wouldn’t have shut down at all except for some frozen switches.

        By the way, similar discussion over at Portland Transport:
        http://portlandtransport.com/archives/2009/02/bus_trolley_bus.html

      7. The point being that a streetcar can’t come close on a per dollar basis in providing capacity and service area.

        $135 mn for a streetcar is a one-time investment, with about $2 mn in o&m costs per year.

        $135 mn in annual bus service is an on-going cost, except for the very small portion that goes to capital. In other words, almost all of those costs are o&m — disappearing into the ether and needing to be replenished by taxpayer funds. Every year.

        So which $135 mn provides more service? It’s a not a valid question. The bus service doesn’t cost $135mn — it costs $135 mn per year.

        (And this is all pretending that this $135mn is all local money. It isn’t: a new streetcar line is going to get federal and state grants, while bus service increases will get no support. Even the SLUT got federal and state money, and it didn’t do a rigorous application like a 1st Ave line was planned to do.)

        So what needs to be done here is a more sane analysis. We have to look at how much bus service we’d actually fund a year, and at what level — and compare that to the task of getting a bunch of capital money together to fund a streetcar once. But re-allocating $135mn from the streetcar to bus service, as McGinn does, is too vague for a deep understanding from either of us how that bus money would be spent and over what time frame. But we should both understand that it’s an on-going cost and that money will necessarily run out at some point. Then what happens?

      8. John you are continually mixing operating and capital costs. I’ve seen nothing that shows operating a streetcar is significantly cheaper than operating a bus. Labor is about the same. Fuel is about the same if you compare it to an electric trolley bus but even if you compare it to diesel the cost of maintaining the track and overhead puts you back around even (the study on the new hybrids peg the fuel and maintenance at only a dollar a mile which is going to be hard for a streetcar to match). The difference in capital costs are huge. Buses aren’t free and they may not last as long a streetcar but they cost about a third and last about ten years instead of thirty so it’s still not a clear advantage. When you factor it the cost of putting in the track it’s hard to see where you’re finding this big savings. Especially when you’re now burden with maintaining those tracks and lines.

        When I look at the neato streetcars in Europe I’m seeing a lot of dedicated ROW or streets with very little traffic. Probably why you don’t see streetcars in London and New York! Fixed guideway vehicles and traffic are a bad mix. The streetcars are worse than just stuck in traffic. Since they can’t go around anything they make traffic worse. I just don’t see 1st Ave, at least not now as being a good candidate for a streetcar. I think Mallahan and McGinn are both right in that it’s not the time right now for Seattle to be looking at expanding the streetcar lines (other than First Hill. I’m not clear on where Mallahan stands on this but it’s not really his call since it’s a ST project).

        As far as grants that’s one of the reasons the First Hill line makes sense now. But grants for buses, especially Rapid Ride or anything that’s labeled BRT or uses alternate fuels gets grants too. And it’s much easier to slap together a proposal for more buses than to prepare the study for a streetcar. Sure you have on going operational expenses with the buses. The more people you serve and the greater the area you cover you’d expect the expenses to be higher. If it’s only a few miles and a half dozen vehicles like you’d get with a streetcar the operational costs for buses wouldn’t be that high either and you wouldn’t be repaying a large capital expenditure and maintaining ROW.

      9. The operating costs of a streetcar are cheaper than a bus for the same reasons the operating costs of light rail or rapid transit are cheaper. More people can be moved per vehicle. Now you do have to put the streetcar somewhere there is the ridership to take advantage of this effect, but it is there.

        Then there are all of the things that make a streetcar more “neato” than a bus like the rail preference that has been repeatedly shown, the smoother ride, the ease in boarding for disabled passengers (or strollers), plus the ability to drive TOD.

        Also you have the revenue question, you can do a LID for a streetcar, it is unlikely you can get it for BRT or improved bus service. The amount of grants availible for rail projects is generally higher than it is for buses as well, even BRT or alternate fuels.

        I seriously doubt hybrids are going to stay competitive with anything running on electricity from an overhead contact system if the price of diesel doubles again. Any fuel that comes from dead dinosaurs is almost certain to increase in cost as the world economy recovers.

      10. A streetcar lacks much of what gives light rail an advantage. First the low rolling resistance but high mass is efficient for large numbers and longer distances. Constant start stop, make worse when put into traffic negates this. Regenerative braking can be achieved with an ETB or hybrid. The big advantage of light rail is dedicated ROW; you lose that when you run a streetcar in traffic. Low floor boarding and size can all be matched by a bus when the limiting factor is traffic. Most buses aren’t built this way because they are designed to handle a much wider range of conditions. But if you wanted to limit the route to that of a streetcar you can match the ease of boarding.

        you do have to put the streetcar somewhere there is the ridership to take advantage of this effect, but it is there.

        Then there are all of the things that make a streetcar more “neato” than a bus like the rail preference that has been repeatedly shown, the smoother ride, the ease in boarding for disabled passengers (or strollers), plus the ability to drive TOD.

        And the ridership has to be high and fairly consistent throughout the day because unlike buses it’s not easy to add coaches during peak hours and scale back to smaller buses off peak and nights. First Hill may well be an ideal route since it serves the hospitals (fairly consistent demand, disabled passengers, often new transit riders, it connects with light rail at both ends and has a relatively long run up the hill). The more dedicated ROW it can secure the better and I think one of the loop options that only puts one set of tracks on a street makes this more likely.

        I don’t think Mallahan will argue with you about the TOD potential. I think he will argue that the developers need to be willing to extend the Lid to help with expansion and continued operational and maintenance cost of this premium service. McGinn seems a little more entralled with the romance of rails but he too wants to see the numbers pencil out.

      11. John Jensen,

        All of your statements about rail (permanence, visibility, comfort, quiet) and true in spades for streetcars….in dedicated ROW. First Avenue is going to be so far from “dedicated right of way” that you will scream. What about all the jaywalkers at Stewart, Pine and Pike? How about at the top of the steps at University? Then of course there are the stumbling drunks in Pioneer Square.

        And that’s not even considering the cars and trucks crammed into a 3.5 lane street striped for four lanes. Putting a streetcar into that fetid stew is a clusterf*#@ waiting to happen.

        Bernie is pretty right on about most of his points, except one. The First Hill Streetcar won’t serve the hospitals except Swedish because it’s routed on Broadway. The other hospitals are all at least a block west of it and if we’re talking disabled passengers, that block is a problem.

    2. One of the great things about McGinn is that he believes in all these things, they just come into conflict with his belief that government should not be spending more than it has. Sure it would be fabulous to just put all of this stuff in, but we really do have to manage the finances too. The way he spoke to me about the tax situation that Olympia has dictated to each municipality was very impressive. He has a great understanding of this subject.

      1. There are several potential funding scenarios for streetcars, some with as little as $10million of city dollars towards capital costs. What we need is a commitment to streetcars, so that the funding will continue to be explored. There are ways to make it happen without breaking the coffers. It may not work out the first time (as in a first funding plan) but we need a commitment to keep trying. It could take time; all the more reason to start now.

      2. So what your saying is that we need a mayor that is willing to commit to this issue so that it can be shown that we are serious? Is this because you are thinking that there is a potential for private investment? I am intrigued. I love the thought of Seattle having a streetcar network again.

  10. I look forward to STB’s rationale behind streetcars, particularly on First Ave. As someone who rides the 15/18 regularly (downtown to lower Queen Anne), these buses are full to the bursting point (both peak and off-peak) and extremely slow through downtown. I will support a streetcar on 1st Ave if I conclude that a given amount of money (for capital & operating costs) will bring us faster & more convenient transit via streetcar vs a similar dollar investment in bus improvements.

    I’m concerned that the capital dollars spent on a streetcar is money that will not go to operations. However, if the streetcar will be significantly more efficient through boarding, fare collection, size, etc. than a bus (which could have similar improvements) then it might make sense.

    Also, drivers making left-turns and the parked cars on 1st Ave are a major problem that should be dealt with – these two issues often mean traffic barely inches along.

    1. There’s no “might” about it making sense. In the long run, a streetcar costs less per passenger mile to operate and maintain than a bus. Bus costs to operate tend to go up over time, and rail cost increases tend to be matched (or overmatched) by ridership.

      1. Absolutely true, Ben, but Melanie’s point is well taken that left turns and parking must be abolished on First from Mercer St to Spokane St as part of the process (Mercer to Royal Brought for streetcar reasons, RB to Spokane for bus lanes for when the viaduct collapses after the earthquake.

      2. Parking on First Avenue WILL go away, anyway, if the McGinn AWV plan is enacted.

        That is pretty well known…

      3. This is the sort of comment that got the Belltown Business Association up in arms. Parking will not be abolished on First. Each streetcar stop will remove 15 spaces. There will be fewer stops than there are bus stops now, which also take spaces, so the difference will not be much.

      4. “Each streetcar stop will remove 15 spaces.”

        Is this true if the streetcar runs down the center as it probably would/should?

    2. I think it will be interesting to see how this one is planned out. Living on first ave I see the mess of traffic and it makes me think that the SLU model would not be the wisest way to do the first ave streetcar. This street car is so necessary and critical to first ave. I’m not sure what the best way to do it would be. So many things to consider.

  11. Now that we will either have one of the “M’s” and there are volunteers for both men on this blog, can one of them talk to your boss about the Waterfront Streetcar. Here we have a line that is in place, stations in place and streetcars being held at Metro. It’s ready to roll again, but there’s no streetcar barn to hold and maintain them.

    As I stated in a previous blog…the First Hill Streetcar has been funded by ST2 and it currently under development. Why can’t this barn be built in an area of relatively cheap and available land (Little Saigon), put some low-income and senior housing above it (a la Greg Smith’s dormant design in Pioneer Square), allow the new FH streetcars and the WF trollys to be housed mutually there) and tie the two lines together along Jackson and 5th Ave.

    What a waste to have the rails in place, stations in place and trollys just sitting there.

    1. I would love to bring this up with McGinn. I agree with you that it is a waste not to use this line that already exists, but how would you respond to the major criticism that whatever work is done in regards to the viaduct will put the streetcar out of commission again?

    2. Friends, the Waterfront Streetcar is not coming back anytime soon; certainly not until the whole issue of the viaduct is decided, either by the citizens of by the earthquake. Spending money on planning and re-introduction is pointless when there is no money to spend and no reason at this time to be spending it on this “project”

      1. Actually there would be little, if any, money used to get the WF line running again. Look, the city IS going to build a large streetcar barn for the FH Streetcar line. This is completely funded by ST2. There will be plently of space for 5 antique trollys. Look at the Tacoma and SLU streetcar barns. There is room for many more cars as they thought ahead. The tracks are there, the stations are there and we have the vehicles.

        As far as the Viaduct is concerned, if a deep bore tunnel is indeed undertaken, I understand that the Viaduct will be able to stand for a longer period of time. In fact, I thought it was going to stand until after the tunnel is complete? At the time the Viaduct will be torn down, then the line will have to either stop for the year or two or be truncated at the Pioneer Square station.

        If Mike has his way and the surface option is completed instead of a tunnel, the Viaduct can be torn down earlier (2014) and work should be completed by 2016. Regardless of option, this streetcar should be a part of either option. I’m not sure if I am an absolute supporter of the 1St Ave Streetcar. THAT will cost money, the WF line is ALREADY there.

        It’s a waste of our money that this line isn’t running. The stations were just revamped a year before the line was stopped. My friends who own businesses in Pioneer Square say the lack of the line hurt businesses starting in 2005 and they still feel the affect, as does the Waterfront businesses. This to me was the Mayor’s biggest failure. We had something that worked, had a purpose and we mothballed it. Talk about going backwards. Whoever says they will bring this back will get my vote.

      2. “It’s a waste of our money that this line isn’t running. The stations were just revamped a year before the line was stopped. My friends who own businesses in Pioneer Square say the lack of the line hurt businesses starting in 2005 and they still feel the affect, as does the Waterfront businesses. This to me was the Mayor’s biggest failure. We had something that worked, had a purpose and we mothballed it. Talk about going backwards. Whoever says they will bring this back will get my vote.”

        What he said.

        The line is there and (mostly) intact (who let them pave over that small section of track in the middle?). It is important to the businesses in that area, and it was a money-making tourist attraction as well. It needs to be running.

      3. When they knock down the viaduct and reconstruct Alaskan Way, how exactly could they leave the tracks there? I’m sure they’ll need to be ripped out as part of the process. Also, it would cost money to get the WF streetcars in the barn too because they run on different voltage so they couldn’t use the same tracks or overhead wires. I really would like to see the Waterfront Streetcar come back, or at least for them to put space for future tracks in the reconstruction of Alaskan Way, but it will, unfortunately, cost money.

  12. I can’t believe this blog questions Mike McGinn’s transit credentials against a bipolar nutbar who just decided one day he felt like being mayor!

    I’m no worshiper of McGinn, but he clearly is interested in making the city a pedestrian-friendly place. I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m in Seattle and want to get around, I ride the bus. McGinn is dedicated to making sure that what little public transit we have stays operational. Transit is in a crisis and you guys want expensive populist toys running up and down broadway?

    I know the Mallahans. Most of them are great people, Mike’s sister-in-law taught me English in 8th Grade. They have made it pretty clear to me that Mallahan is sort of a nut, and although they wish him well, they don’t understand his decision to run for mayor, but say he’s made many rash decisions in the past, so his running for mayor for no reason wouldn’t be out of character. He’s the kind of guy that might like a big splashy project but have little interest in something boring like keeping the buses running.

    I hope Mallahan wins just so you guys will understand your short-sightedness when you have a streetcar on First Hill and half hour bus schedules everywhere else.

    1. John,

      The First Hill streetcar is funded by ST, not Metro; it will have little to no effect on buses in the city regardless.

    2. “I’m no worshiper of McGinn, but he clearly is interested in making the city a pedestrian-friendly place. I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m in Seattle and want to get around, I ride the bus. McGinn is dedicated to making sure that what little public transit we have stays operational”

      Um, none of us question whether McGinn is “dedicated” to buses and bikes for all the good citizens, john.

      The question remains, does he have the political and managerial skills to make that happen? And the answer happens to be “no.” Being “interested in something” is a heckuva a lot different than “making it happen.”

      Besides, Seattle doesn’t run the bus system. It doesn’t even have a seat at the table. If Mallahan wins, it won’t be because of the lack of support for McGinn…it will be because McGinn isn’t fit to be mayor. If you talk to many of his friends privately, they will confirm that fact.

      And, let’s be honest: McGinn is just as much of an opportunist as Mallahan. Both are terrible candidates, and both will fail miserably at being mayor…for different reasons.

      1. Different John…of course Seattle has a seat at the table. The City pays Metro money for running additional service on some routes, has direct responsibility for most of the streets and avenues on which Metro runs, and the sidewalks to/from which its passengers disembark. And a good portion of the County Council members who pass Metro’s budget have constituents in Seattle. I’m really unclear on the logic of “no seat at the table” thinking.

    3. What’s one difference between $100 mn for a streetcar and $100 mn for bus service? After a few years, that $100 mn for buses goes away entirely. You have nothing to show for it. If you want to keep that service, it’s an on-going commitment to spend city money on bus transit or face severe cuts. A streetcar can move more people, cheaper, and doesn’t just disappear. One is an investment and another is simply an expenditure.

      Also it’s a lot more likely you can get $100 mn for something tangible like a capital investment, than simply pumping city money to fix Metro’s shortfall and not get much to show for it.

      1. Ummmmm… I know what you’re trying to say, John… but what you wrote makes it sound like there are no ongoing costs for running a streetcar, and no buses to own.

      2. There are costs for a streetcar, but they are much less than for buses. Buses have to be replaced much more often than streetcars, and they have much less capacity. Also, streetcars in almost every single instance get at least 50% more riders than buses that they replace.

      3. O&M is cheaper for a single streetcar than a slew of new bus service. Yes, everyone wants new bus service — but it’s too great of an ongoing expense to be sustainable. That isn’t smart. Let’s put people on higher capacity transit that can move more people for less. Streetcars are significant less of an ongoing expense. Even with less additional service hours compared to spending all your money on temporary bus service, you can move more people with a streetcar if it’s built in the right corridors.

        You note correctly that buses have significant capital costs as well. So it’s not just “extra free service yay!” vs. a big capital investment in streetcars. Both have capital costs that eat into service money. Over the long-term, streetcars win. We’re seeing why investing solely in buses isn’t smart: we’ve tapped out Metro’s taxing authority and the state doesn’t want to go above.

        Look, I do not like arguing against buses. That’s not why I got into this. I’m not saying that $0 should go to buses. I’m saying that instead of $500 million for buses, we spend $365 million on buses and $135 million on a streetcar. We should balance our transit investments. It is a given that buses have political support, but it is not a given that streetcars do. The city says it can operate the First Ave line for just $200k more than we pay right now.

        Since any streetcar would certainly get federal funding, we’re talking about a discounted capital cost.

        Don’t all of these capital vs. ops arguments work against the monorail too?

      4. We’ve also tapped out Sound Transit’s taxing authority as well. Even when all the rail investments are in place the local transits will still be providing more rides than Sound Transit.

      5. ST would provide O&M at a tax rate of 0.5% once the debts are retired, Mutlimodal Man. How much of Metro’s tax authority is eaten up by O&M? Even before that point you can use extended (in duration) taxing authority to create bonds for further expansion. Link is expected to have a much more sustainable farebox recovery ratio as well.

        It’s true that ST has maxed out its taxing authority, but it also isn’t facing the dramatic cuts in service or even capital investment that Metro is seeing. In other words, there’s no evidence that ST needs additional tax authority. Metro clearly does, which is why the legislature acted. Even with that action we’re facing service cuts of course. So the solution is to put the city on the hook for on-going operating costs? Let’s double-down on an expensive-to-operate mode?

        The operations costs of buses are very high. If we foresee a future where fuel is more expensive, then those costs can be expected to go even higher. Electric rail is simply more efficient. There is a higher up-front cost, but these are investments that will span generations if done right. We’re not talking about some streetcar line in Bothell or light rail to Kent: the rail investments I’m talking about are specifically for the densest areas in the state where those investments make the most sense, have the strongest support, and are cost-effective.

        Martin: Federal funding would make a big difference to the schedule, but it’s basically already planned under Nickels which I think is why the tunnel option funds the streetcar at half the rate of the surface/transit option.

      6. “Even when all the rail investments are in place the local transits will still be providing more rides than Sound Transit”

        Actually close to 50% will be provided by Sound Transit when the light rail expansions are in place and the estimated operating expense per passenger is $1.61, compared to the current $4.10 per rider for Metro.

      7. Multimodal Man, that is academic. We have no idea how long light rail will be around. How longer will we use the tunnel in Beacon Hill? Who knows. What will the ridership be in 60 years? Who knows.

        And is it really a valid cost comparison if Metro would never get another 0.9%? And its service for the same level of money would probably be even less efficient than current service (since we provide service to most areas as it is).

        Let’s try this analogy: if you drink a class of milk (Metro) and and eat a cookie (ST), it’s not really a useful comparison to make when we can’t turn a cookie into milk. And even if you could (voters approved it), the second glass of milk definitely doesn’t taste as good as the first. I’d kind of rather of both.

        (Sorry for that.)

  13. It’s worth noting that the new Mayor won’t necessarily be on the ST board. We’ll have a pro-rail Executive in Dow Constantine and he presumably will be only appointing ST board members who are pro-rail. If either McGinn or Mallahan don’t make their case for it, it could be that you’d see them frozen out from Sound Transit. Another reason it’s disappointing to see Nickels lose…less City of Seattle leadership at ST.

    1. Well it will be loss of City of Seattle leadership on several levels, with a choice of two newbies to the “Mover and Shaker” level of politics.

      First order of business of both candidates is to articulate what they can do with the City’s ACTUAL authority and not focusing on issues outside of its sphere ( schools, buses, etc). How about addressing public safety issues in the neighborhoods, funding cuts in libraries, etc…

      Will McGinn refuse permits on the state tunnel project?

      Will Mallahan sue to stop additional streetcar projects under ST2?

    2. That is assuming that McGinn wouldn’t have this relationship. I would actually assume that he would have a great relationship with ST as mayor. He’s the kind of guy that like to work with everyone to get a maximum outcome.

    3. From the ST website: “By state law, appointments [to the ST board] must include an elected city official representing the largest city in the participating county and proportional representation from other cities and unincorporated areas.” So the Seattle Mayor is always on the board, at least until Kent overtakes us in population.

      1. Right, the Deputy Mayor of Tacoma sits on the ST Board. I’m not sure how Tacoma elects the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Bellevue doesn’t elect it’s mayor. We elect a City Council and they elect the Mayor and Deputy Mayor from amongst themselves; supposedly on a rotating basis. I say supposedly because although Conrad Lee has been on the council forever I don’t think he or Dr. Davidson are likely to be chosen any time soon.

  14. I’m a McGinn supporter, but a good number of transit and rail supporters should also be supporting Mallahan. He’s truly a blank slate, and if he wins, we will need people with entre to “write” on him.

    I’m sure the Establishment recognizes his greeness and will surround him with their people pushing their agendas. He may well get elected, and we can’t concede him to the Powers That Be.

  15. City of Seattle Mayor
    Mike McGinn 36909 27.60%
    Greg Nickels 33996 25.42%
    Joe Mallahan 36129 27.01%

    Today’s result’s just in. McGinn retakes the lead. Nickels falls to over 2000 votes behind now 2nd place Mallahan. This is looking like it will be a very close election. Both candidates seem pretty close in there views on transit. The big difference transportation wise is Mallahan’s support for a tunnel and rejection of the current Mercer Street plan with McGinn taking the opposite view on both of these issues.

    McGinn does reference the rapid electric trolley bus system on his website. Dedicated ROW seems more important than the type of wheels being used. In fact it’s even more critical to a streetcar because it completely lacks the ability to go around anything blocking the path which brings the entire system to a grinding halt. Link’s already given us a preview of what it’s like when you have a problem on a system with no redundancy. What’s more, if there is to be a workable surface alternative to the Viaduct it needs to be widely deployed in a short period of time. With limited funding available it doesn’t seem like rails are a logical first step. Ironic that those who bash the monorail as being more in love with mode than function dismiss anything that doesn’t immediately include streetcars.

    1. It’s crazy that Mallahan supports the tunnel but not the Mercer Project. The tunnel will simply not work without the Mercer Project.

      1. He doesn’t support the Mercer Project as it’s currently designed, phased and funded. It is crucial to making a tunnel work but the current design doesn’t really have the capacity to do it. It’s more a neighborhood beautification project sucking funds from all the other neighborhoods in the city. It’s the same issue that really set him off against the SLUT. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out between Paul Allen (aka Vulcan) and the two candidates who are opposed to different projects near and dear to him. I don’t think McGinn will flip flop on the tunnel but Mallahan has already said he could support the Mercer Street Project if there was more local funding.

    2. It would be interesting to consider what the definition of a “workable surface alternative” is. When the eight options (before the deep-bore) were being considered, every one of them failed on pedestrian/bike issues largely because they put more than 25,000 vehicles per day on too many downtown streets. The surface options were worse than the options with a bypass. For some of us a workable alternative would mean less traffic on city streets, not more. That could only happen if enough alternative transit options were already in place, which we know is not the case. Any candidate promoting a surface option should also be promoting every possible transit alternative.

      1. Doesn’t putting more vehicles on the downtown streets improve things for pedestrians and bikes, given that more traffic == slower traffic?

      2. Sure it’s good to slow traffic, but it comes back to the numbers and how they affect quality of life. Above a certain margin, traffic volume has a negative effect on pedestrian and cycling usage and safety, and on sidewalk and neighborhood life. Think sidewalk dining, seeing someone and stopping to talk, trying to have a conversation. Traffic volume can make these things difficult and unpleasant. For most of the affected downtown streets, that margin of acceptability stops at around 25,000 vehicles per day on any given street. The surface plans put the numbers far beyond that on too many streets. The traffic will still move, slower, yes. Quality of life is lost, people are discouraged from walking and cycling, and I believe that those things matter a great deal.

      3. Steve,

        You don’t want more traffic of any kind on the city’s streets if you’re a pedestrian. That means more turns across the cross walk, more drivers gunning it on the end of the yellow light and more staus where nothing moves.

        Slower traffic means lower capacity below about 42 miles per hour. Very few cars in downtown go faster than about 20 miles an hour, even if there is the opportunity, because the lights impede them.

        You don’t want a “surface option” in constricted downtown Seattle.

  16. Ben, could you explain your comment that the State couldn’t build a viaduct replacement through Seattle if the City refused to permit it. Isn’t there a state law that allows projects of regional or statewide importance to be built even over the objections of a local jurisdiction? I seem to remember that the Tukwila city counsel voted against a permit for Link back when the project was hanging by a thread, but they could not stop the project because of its regional importance. My fear is that the hard-won compromise for a deep bored tunnel will be replaced by a bigger elevated structure if the State faces opposition from a Mayor McGinn. Olympia is always looking for a reason to stick it to Seattle, and they might say “The hell with it” and build the ‘Great Wall of Chopp’ after all.

    1. It kind of depends on how hardball the two sides want to play. At first pass there is the whole SEPA and NEPA process where the city can object rather strongly to the alternatives it doesn’t like and question the assumptions behind the impact analysis. The city can refuse to issue permits or relocate utilities as well. Sure the state can try to build it anyway but they run the risk of lawsuits.

      In the particular case of the AWV there is also the law that makes the city responsible for any cost overruns. If the city objects there is almost certain to be a lawsuit. It would be interesting to see how the state trying to make the city pay for a tunnel it doesn’t want plays out.

  17. This thread has depressed me to no end about my choice in November. I was leaning to Mallahan as the inoffensive, “competent” business guy who’d preserve the tunnel agreement. But opposing the Mercer fix and rail based transit are non-starters for me.

    Worst of all, now we’ll have to come up with a new name for “Nickelsville.” “Mallahan Meadows?” “McGinn Place?” I’m going to miss the irony of the biggest advocate for subsidized housing this city has had having an illegal homeless encampment named after him.

    1. It must be frustrating to be a politician having to fight rhetoric when the results should be speaking for themselves.

  18. Including the previous quotes, there are so many 20th-century-mindset red flags in many of Mallahan’s written stances, I’m afraid a win by him would reverse or halt too many of the awesome, forward thinking stuff already taking place in this city. Having moved here in the middle of Nickels 8 years, I’ve always been impressed by Nickels ability to get such progressive stuff done. Seattle was truly lucky to have him.

    In regards to McGinn’s unknown managerial skills, at least I don’t disagree with him on many issues. I’d rather he have a hard time getting his stuff done than Mallahan getting stuff done that I disagree with.

  19. I would like to say that Tuesday’s election results were perhaps the most depressing since Bush got returned to office in 2004.

    I pay tribute to Mayor Nickels as he has done a fine job leading Seattle towards a progressive transportation program for the decade he was in charge and for the one to come. I think he should have been allowed to defend this record in November. In fact, I think incumbents always should be given this respect. Primaries are about egos and not about party affiliations so much and as someone said, it devolved into being a lets beat up on Nickels fest. The closest analogy I have to what I want to say, is that the host country of the World Cup is always given the respect of being in the final 32 regardless of how crap they may be as a team. At least they are given the chance of appearing in the first round. Mayor Nickels as an incumbent should have been allowed to defend his record in November. If one must have primary elections, they should be more about the challenger and not the incumbent. Fair point?

    I have no confidence in either McGinn (who is obsessed with hating the tunnel, loves buses and doesn’t seem to like rail or streetcars) or Mallahan (who likes the tunnel but doesn’t seem to like rail or repairing the Mercer Street mess). Some choice, right?

    I would like to know from McGinn and Mallahan where they stand on the following:

    The tunnel as a replacement for the viaduct (OK we know the answer to this one but I’ll sling it in there)
    Streetcar expansion beyond what we have already? First Avenue, Univ. of Wash. extension to existing line, Queen Anne to Seattle Center?
    Mercer Street repair and reconstruction?
    King Street Station Renovation Phase II (The City ownes it – note to Mike O’Brien too)
    Spokane Street reconstruction.
    Accelerating rejuvenation of South Lake Union and other city areas such as Yesler and Sodo?

    I fear that many of the projects we enjoy promoting are not going to get very far with either candidate.

    1. Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. It is hard enough to unseat an incumbent as it is. If an incumbent can’t survive a primary with all of the built-in advantages an incumbent has they don’t deserve to hold the office anymore.

      1. The last two incumbent mayors in this City have lost in the primary. I agree that incumbents have a built in advantage, but it’s not nearly as large for local elections as it is for House districts or statewide elections. In addition, 2003 saw 3 city council members booted. Incumbency isn’t nearly the advantage it was before the arrival of the Rage-o-sphere. Unless you believe that Nickels was “in the pocket of developers” or “killed the Monorail,” or used nerve gas against WTO protesters (opps, that was Schell). Yeah, the Seattle electorate is sophisticated.

  20. I find it interesting that there is no discussion about how a new mayor can take the lead and rejuvenate the Rainier Valley and other spots on the Light Rail. The money is spent, the service is great. All it takes is a bit of vision.

    Expansion of the system and other mass transit is great. But the least costly way to get our city moving is to take better advantage of what is already built.

      1. The city has to suck it up and upzone the 1/8 mile radius around all the stations. There should be rules that insist on mixed use development, but development there should be. And quickly.

  21. Well, one thing is for sure. With all the interest in transportation and all of us here on this blog…neither candidate can escape talking about every single mode of transportation. And let us all not forget that candidates say one thing and do another. So one day they may be opposed to something while the next day they are for it. Let’s keep talking about the issues and let them hear us!!

    1. And point out every single one of those inconsistencies, over and over. If they something in North Seattle, and the opposite South of Dearborn they need to be called on it.

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