Doug MacDonald’s most recent piece in Crosscut really just confuses me. It’s in human nature to find arguments that support our existing biases, but does he really see how little sense his argument makes?
The numbers speak and they must be listened to. Once again they raise big doubts about whether Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2040 strategic plan for plotting regional growth in King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap counties is uncoupled from what’s actually happening in the real world.
OK, Mr. MacDonald, I’ll take your word for it that we’re falling short on density, since you didn’t bother to link to the report. He writes several hundred words about numbers that hint at the problem, rather than the numbers that would show there is a problem. Rather than citing individual cities, why not just say “here’s how much the urban centers are supposed to take, and here’s how many they’ve taken?” But let’s take it as a given that we’re not doing well.
So, our bus- and highway-centric transportation system has failed to produce the density we need. So what’s the solution? Perhaps a new transportation mode? This is Crosscut: of course not!
So far all we know about the full expanse of the Sound Transit plans is that their (unfunded) cost would be on the order of $25 billion, before taking account of cost growth from inflation. If they were all carried out, their contribution to benefit by 2040 would be about 60,000 new boardings a day on rail transit systems on top of the 150,000 the rail systems would then carry in any case. In the picture of all transit that’s rail carrying about 20 percent out of almost 1 million daily transit boardings predicted for 2040 — including riders on new buses that we also don’t know how to pay for. That 1 million on transit compares to an expected total of about 19 million trips people would take every day on transportation facilities of all kinds, including streets and highways, that we also don’t have many good, or at least popular, ideas about how to pay for. That will be up from about 14 million daily trips now, according to PSRC.
So we have three basic transportation modes here to solve the puzzle of limiting sprawl. Buses are cheap (in capital costs), but apparently are limited in encouraging compact living. Trains are expensive, but have a great track record in doing the same. Highways are also enormously expensive, and encourage sprawl. So which is the problem here? In former State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald’s world, it’s obviously the trains.