Susan Hutchison, candidate for King County Executive, has offered a pointed critique of the Central Link light rail line that opened earlier this summer. Publicola reports:

Pressed for specific examples of “political solutions,” Hutchison pointed to light rail, which “takes longer to get to the airport than a cab” and, in her view, should have connected the Eastside and Seattle first, not Seattle and the airport, and said traffic congestion was the biggest issue for most voters in King County.

It’s hard to take the line about cabs at face value. Publicola’s comment of the day says it best: “Does SH really think us common folk make the decision to take public transportation because its quicker than a $50 cab ride?” And while the cross-lake commute is indeed brutal, so is I-5 between Seattle and SeaTac.

Light rail to the Eastside will be built over the coming decade, but should we have built it first? If we’re going based solely on ridership, a Northgate to Downtown line via UW and Capitol Hill would have been the highest priority. If the implication is that politics designed the initial line, it should be noted that Hutchison may be attempting the pursue the relatively-conservative Eastside vote with her comment. (Hutchison has contributed to Republicans in the past but maintains that she is offering a non-partisan alternative.)

Regardless of motive, Hutchison’s comments are troubling: Leaders shouldn’t treat our light rail as a punching bag, but as a point of pride, a sign of progress, and a system that should grow. It’s true that light rail needs to reach more places, but Hutchison didn’t offer a solution but a backward-looking jab made literally decades after the decisions in question were finalized.

Her opponent, Dow Constantine, has long supported light rail.

76 Replies to “Hutchison on Light Rail: Cabs Are Faster”

  1. She doesn’t know much about the issues. I’m almost positive the reason she’s on the ballot is because people say “Hey, I remember that lady from the news!” (scribble, scribble, scribble).

    And a $47.50 difference to save maybe 5 minutes? Remember, this thing ain’t just for people that live here–tourists and businessey people use it too.
    It’d also be hard to define which is “worst”–520, 90, or 5. Personally I’d say 5 because I never use 90 and rarely use 520.

    And go Dow!

    1. She doesn’t know much about the issues. I’m almost positive the reason she’s on the ballot is because people say “Hey, I remember that lady from the news!” (scribble, scribble, scribble).

      More to the point she’s on the ballot because her financial and political backers think enough voters will say “Hey, she’s that nice lady who read the news!”.

      As they say in politics, follow the money. Among Susan’s donors as well as those prepared to make substantial independent expenditures on her behalf you will find a list of names who are the usual suspects when you look for who is promoting Eyman initiatives, road projects, or opposing transit (particularly rail).

      Don’t forget Susan was also on the board of the conservative Discovery Institute. While their views on evolution and science education aren’t really relevant to the KCE race, the views of their offspring the Cascadia Institute are rather relevant. In case you forget Cascadia pushes BRT over rail, keeps going on about “governance reform”, kept pushing Eastside Rail, and were where the deep-bore tunnel sprung from suddenly.

      In any case we really don’t want her on the board of Sound Transit or with the ability to appoint more than half of the board members. Furthermore I don’t want her running Metro or hiring its director.

  2. wow. there are some legitimate arguments against light rail, and legitimate arguments against the current implementation .. but “Cabs are faster” is such a ridiculously ignorant, dumb thing to say that i think even most anti-rail voters will recognize its complete and utter irrelevance to the debate.

      1. and of course, buses NEVER block a lane of traffic because they can’t seem to pull over far enough. Buses never park illegally (in a No Parking Anytime zone) so they can go into McDonalds and have breakfast. Buses never drive down the middle of a two lane road because the driver is not skilled enough to stay in just one lane. Buses never do these things. Cabs on the other hand…

      2. And bus drivers don’t get into tug-o-war fights using small children in place of the rope over who will take us to the airport.

      3. Nador,

        Buses are 8 1/2 feet wide mirror to mirror. If they can’t get over far enough – it’s hardly the fault of the driver. Any driver stopping in a non-authorized layover area or comfort-station accessible stop (some McDonald’s and other businesses are the only places on a route that a driver can use the bathroom and the businesses receive a stipend from the County for the use of their restrooms). If you are camped out watching a driver illegally parked and going in to breakfast, – call Metro Customer Service (206) 553-3050 and give them the bus number and time of day. The driver will either get written up or if – as is more likely the case – they were using the bathroom because of limited opportunities to do so during an 8-hour shift stuck in a vehicle, the complaint will be dismissed as the unfounded rant of one of the many, many customers out there who start seething over a variety of issues anytime they see a transit bus.

        As to straddling 2 lanes – called “splitting the lanes” in driverspeack – it’s not only authorized but both safer and necessary especially when approaching tighter 45-degree turns so you don’ take out a light pole or parked car.

        Don’t let your own inability to walk in the shoes of a transit driver stop you from incessantly complaining about things you don’t understand, though. We drivers and our supervisors need things to laugh and and shake our heads over from time to time.

      4. Jeff,

        There is zero excuse for a bus to be “splitting the lanes” on Rainier Avenue South on an almost perfectly straight segment of the road. The lanes are plenty wide enough, even where there is parking on the right shoulder, for the bus to stay in its own lane of travel and have room to spare. I’ve traveled to many big cities of the world and rode their buses, somehow, perhaps with some magic, they drive on more narrow roads and don’s seem to have a problem. Maybe our Metro drivers need to do mandatory driver training for 6 months in cities like Napoli, Rome, San Francisco, Atlanta, Toronto, Vancouver, Paris, Bangkok, etc.

        As far as using the bathroom at a business, sure, that’s understandable. However, the buses park directly across from the McDonald’s at Rainier Beach. Not where there is sufficient space form them to do so without blocking a lane of traffic, but specifically in a No Parking At Any Time area in front of the Key Bank or the dry cleaners there. Why not park in the bus stop area? There is plenty of room – oh, but that would mean they have to walk a little further to get their Sausage McMuffin with Cheese. The drivers are sitting in there eating breakfast. I would imagine that there is a bathroom facility for them to use in the Sars Market since that is the turn around point for many of those buses.

        I just didn’t realize that the drivers were above the law and could park wherever they wanted and can drive down the middle of the road. I guess the next time I rent a big U-Haul I’ll just drive down the middle and tell the officer I was just “splitting the lanes”….

      5. Nador,

        Not sure how to reply except to say that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Maybe YOU need to spend 6 months driving a bus instead of shooting your mouth off.

        Rainier Avenue has a lot of obstacles off to the side – many/most of which are moving targets (they change from day to day). Often the “target” is a yahoo pedestrian straddling the curb, which is a great way to get beheaded. Personally I’d rather not have to write that one up.

        Reason not to park a bus in the zone at Rainier by McDonalds to use the restroom? OTHER BUSES NEED TO USE THAT ZONE TO PICK UP AND DROP OFF PASSENGERS. Sheesh. And not all buses that travel Rainier go to or by Rainier and Henderson – or have layover time there.

        Yes, drivers CAN split the lanes (i.e. “drive down the middle of the road”) as can drivers of other large vehicles – in fact in many places it’s friggin’ REQUIRED. Your ignorance about the realities of operating a vehicle the size of a city bus and the laws involving such operation is no excuse for being such a jerk. Your lack of knowledge is ASTOUNDING. Kindly either drive a mile in my shoes or shut the hell up.

      6. wow Jeff, bitter much? Reading many of your prolific posts, it’s interesting how you attack, criticize and condemn the majority of posters. Hope your online “road rage” doesn’t carry over when you are behind the wheel and officially representing Metro. Because if it did, well, that would be unprofessional whereas here you can be as unprofessional as you like.

        Addressing some of your comments above: I never said that the bus should park in the ‘bus zone’ when they go on potty break, but rather why park and block a lane of travel when they could move the bus about 15 yards south where the road widens? Sure it’s still a no-parking-anytime zone, but at least it isn’t blocking a friggin lane of travel. It creates a serious safety issue for us bicyclists.

        And Jeff, I have driven a bus in the past, albeit nearly 20 years ago. While not as prestigious as a Metro bus (it was a school bus) I got paid squat, put up with snot nosed monsters and drove an in city route.

        I hope you find peace somewhere and fast otherwise your blood pressure is going to make your head explode to a size even greater than it is now, or at least knock that chip off your shoulder.

  3. Susan Hutchison is a radical right-wing Republican and as such is unfit to hold any public office anywhere in this country. She has the same level of credibility (and all of the integrity and intelligence) of Sarah Palin. Her comments aren’t “troubling” – they’re typical of the type of political bent (and I do mean “bent”) that she subscribes to.

    Let her get laughed out of this election and wither (back) into obscurity where she belongs.

    1. I so hope you are right… it’s such an incredibly dumb and out-of-touch comment, but I fear it might strike a chord with critics of light rail and its implementation. Unfortunately, I still encounter some pretty desperate arguments about why light rail should not have been built–I’m assuming this is her base.

      1. True enough – and her comments aren’t so nutty that someone didn’t make a similar argument right here on STB regarding in-city bus trips between Beacon Hill and the CBD. One wonders if Hutchison either made those postings herself – or read them.

        Is Susan Hutchison ‘Sam’?

    2. But as we’ve seen with the “birthers” and with the health care proposal’s blithering opponents, the Rove.Norquist machine (and its ilk) never stop churning out lies, hatred of others, and always state their opinions as “truth”. We must not rest easy just because she’s a nutjob.

    3. Jeff

      should radical democratics be allowed to be in office?

      I would much prefer if posters on this blog would stick to the issues and not deomonize people,polticians or posters. Public transportation is not a partisan issue.

      1. I think it is pretty clear what SH represents and I also think it is pretty clear that having her as KC Exec would be a disaster. She is as unqualified to be KCE as Sarah Palin was to be VP.

      2. She would also be a disaster on the Sound Transit Board and I’m sure her picks for board would be horrible too. The only saving grace is the law limits the pool of possible board picks somewhat.

      3. rob,

        I’m not big on radicals of any kind. However if I had to choose between a tree-hugging, Birkenstock wearing, tax me to death radical liberal over a radical Republican – I’ll identify the lefty as the lesser of evils (though I wouldn’t vote for either).

        Sorry – but Hutchison and her ilk DESERVE to be demonized – they’re demons.

  4. I don’t live in Seattle, and therefore am unable to vote in this election. I can and will be contributing to Dow’s campaign. Sara, err, I mean Susan Hutchinson would be a disaster to the region, not just Seattle.

    1. Actually if you live anywhere in King County you can vote in this election. But even if you don’t your contribution is more than welcome. I’m sure you would be welcome as a volunteer as well if you have the time.

  5. I love light rail, but she does have some valid points in her statement. The thing that really erks me about Central link is INCONSISTENCY! Its a shame that MARTA, built 30yrs ago in Atlanta(btw, dare I say Seattle original system), is faster, cheaper and more reliable than what we have right now. Anyway it good to see progress, but I know we can do much better and will next go round.

    1. Please don’t compare a 30 year-old 48-mile subway system with a 2 month-old 14-mile light rail line. I don’t see any validities in her argument. For a $32 flat fee cab ride from Downtown to SeaTac, I could ride 12 one-way trips or 6 times there and back. Or hell, I could just buy a $5 day pass, ride as much as I want, and blow the remaining $27 on something else.

      1. Why not? It doesn’t matter if its 48, 16, or even 5 miles. You’re missing the point,Central Link, right now, is not really reliable.I ride form Tukwila International Station to downtown and back everyday, and I swear its like playing a guessing game. However, a system built over 30 years ago is way more reliable and faster than what we have now. That’s a problem, so you hath to understand why critics are so upset about Central Link.

      2. It’s pretty reliable. I take it every day, mainly between Beacon Hill and downtown. I generally don’t have to wait more than a few minutes for the next train. Last night, I arrived from a flight and there was a train scheduled to depart Tukwila at 12:09am. It departed exactly on time and I made it home exactly when expected.

      3. I like Link a lot, but the other morning a train didn’t come for 14 minutes so I missed my bus connection and had to go home and drive to work.

      4. Link’s unreliability is a known fact. I haven’t had the missing train problem, but I have had it stop on MLK for longer than normal. I understand there are temporary signaling issues and other issues to work out. We should compare Link’s reliability only to systems of the same age. Still, compared to the ideal of a train that always gets to the airport in 34 minutes or whatever it is so you don’t miss your flight or wish you’d taken the 194, it’s not there yet.

        How have other systems done in their first six months compared to Link?

  6. If getting there faster was the only consideration for me choosing one mode of transportation over another, I’d charter a helicopter to pick me up on the roof of my apartment building and then fly me to the airport.

    I couldn’t actually afford to charter a helicopter, but it would be a whole lot faster than a taxi.

      1. Yeah, he tries to “stop gridlock” by opening 10,000 free parking spots in his empire. And once he feels like his efforts aren’t enough, he shuffles himself around in his little chopper.

      2. I went to Bellevue Square this evening to check the Apple Store and found the mall pretty quiet compared to an evening a few months ago. I swear I saw more people around Westlake. Then I got a close look at the Bravern. Not only is it closer to the freeway and HOV ramp, it’s across the street from the transit center and future Link station.

  7. Well call me a transit rider for Susan Hutchinson. I am not a fan of light rail. It takes me longer to get home on light rail than the bus. Also, as a south end redident(Des Moines) I will get nothing from Dow. He only cares about Seattle.

    1. “I am not a fan of light rail. It takes me longer to get home on light rail than the bus.”

      And the light rail gets me home much faster than the bus. So… your point? Surely we can make decisions based on which form of transportation is going to be better for our region in the long run, as opposed to what serves us specifically as individuals?

      The light rail doesn’t go to Des Moines, so I’d be surprised if taking it would get you home quickly. Works pretty damn well for those of us who live in the area it serves, though.

    2. If you don’t support light rail, you don’t support Sound Transit, and if you don’t support Sound Transit, you don’t support transit, period. It’s as simple as that.

      I live in Bellevue. I guess if I try to take light rail home from Seattle, it will also take longer than taking a bus. Should I slam Dow and vote for Susan because of my own stupidity?

      Somehow by voting for Susan Hutchison, you’ll get home faster. I’d like to believe people that naive won’t vote, but there are those who believe that if they can’t get home fast, then no one should.

      1. Sure. If you vote for SH you most certainly will get home faster — because cabs are faster. It will cost you $30 to $50 everytime you go somewhere, but it will be faster.

        SH doesn’t get it.

      2. Susan has an expense account and those cabbies, while being stinky and hard to understand, do offer receipts. Susan doesn’t do transit, and if she did, she would not know what to use as a receipt.

    3. You got it good Mathew, light rail will go to Des Moines in ST2, just not right now. I live in NE King County and light rail will probably never serve my area yet I am a huge fan of light rail. I know Dow is going to support light rail and transit expansion so he gets my support. Hutchinson, I’m not so sure what she stands for. I’m going to be the lone Dow supporter on my street that’s for sure.

      Be careful what you wish for, you might get more taxi cabs instead of buses!

      1. I said I am not a fan of light rain, not I am against it. My point on the issue has been that cutting bus services to move transit riders onto light rail is a mistake. Everytime I ride light rail I get home slower than if I just waited the 10 minutes for the 194. I support light rail because the people said they want it. The people approved the plan. All I am asking for is to continue routes like the 174 and the 194 at least until light rail makes it to the southend.

        However Dow does not care about the southend. He is just another Seattle eliest who thinks everyone outside Seattle is a second class person.

      2. You would be getting bus cuts with or without the rail. Be glad the rail was finished before the financial meltdown happened.

      3. What evidence do you have the Dow does not care about the south end? That is an outrageous claim for you to make with no backup, especially considering that he has represented both Seattle and South King County communities during the entire time that he has been in elected office.

      4. Ummmm… Dow’s district covers West Seattle, Burien, and unincorporated parts of King County like White Center and Highline. Now I know there’s some pretty tony sections of these neighborhoods, but exactly what is elitist about any of the people Dow represents? And I would bet at least half of his district isn’t even IN Seattle.

      5. “However Dow does not care about the southend. He is just another Seattle eliest who thinks everyone outside Seattle is a second class person.”

        How in the world do you come up with this stuff, Dawg? Dow’s West Seattle. As a Burien resident, I very much look forward to having him as the next King County Executive.

      6. I am a fan of light rain. It’s much better than heavy rain because when I get to school I’m not soaked.

        You know what else? I go to the UW and will be graduating this year, but I can’t wait for U-Link to open. Nor do I plan to be living in the U-District in 2016, but still, I can’t wait for it to open.

  8. I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t have the money to call a cab every time I have to get somewhere. I’m currently out of work, and even if I wasn’t, I couldn’t afford one to get everywhere. Not to mention most cab drivers in Seattle have such a bad attitude that taking the bus is a far FAR more pleasant experience.

    Also, by saying cabs are quicker, she fails to take into account wait time. It’s true there are lots of cabs at the airport, and you can usually find a vacant cab downtown within a couple minutes, but if you aren’t downtown? Chances are you have to call one. It can take FOREVER to get a taxi to show up. I’ve waited more than once for over TWO HOURS for a cab. Unlike cabs, Link runs on a schedule. You know approximately when it is going to show up. Stupidest statement I’ve ever read.

    I just moved to Lynnwood so sadly I won’t have the pleasure of voting for Dow in November (although I voted for him in the primary). I also don’t have the money to donate right now, but I can and will donate my time to fight the idiocy that is the Susan Hutchison campaign.

    For others that don’t live in King County; what happens in King County impacts our entire region. If Hutchison is elected you can guarantee things are going to be tougher for all of us.

  9. Under Susan Hutchinson only Seattle will find it tougher. Because they will no longer have an executive that only cares about Seattle.

    1. “Under Susan Hutchinson only Seattle will find it tougher.”

      Uh yeah, because making Seattle worse is a great plan for the health of the county, right?

      1. Right now we have a county goverment that only cares about Seattle. Everywhere else is second rate. That will contue under Dow. With Susan the whole county will be equal.

        Still I think it is time that King county Be divided. We can make King County into 6 counties.

      2. Great idea. Then we can have 6 county executives, 6 county councils, 6 courthouses, 6 jails, 6 sheriffs, 6 election departments. WAY more cost effective than 1.

      3. Each county will be responsiable for paying for all those things. So how much is spent and how much of a burdon on indvidualls may go down.

      4. I think that separating Seattle from King County would be a great idea. Then, both the people in the city and in the suburbs can do its own thing without conflict. San Francisco I remember is its own city and county so why don’t we emulate that?

      5. The Bay Area definitely needs more separate transit systems. They only have like 11. We are way behind – let’s emulate it.

      6. Yay for Seattle County! Then we can create a whole new public transportation agency, since KCM serves King County (with a couple exceptions). And let’s see, KCM has the 00’s, 100’s, 200’s, 300’s, … wait, why am I wasting my time here?

      7. “Right now we have a county goverment that only cares about Seattle.”

        Right, it really shows in the 40/40/20 rule.

    2. You haven’t established this as fact, and I think that in reality everyone will find it tougher under SH. She’s much more of an elitist than Dow, and I really don’t think she cares much about those who struggle to make ends meet.

      1. The cab comment proves she doesn’t care about people living paycheck to paycheck.

        I’m not understanding how she will be better for the whole region. Everyone should be worried ESPECIALLY if you live in the southend. Her focus is clearly on the Eastside.

      1. Seattle still gets more out of Metro than it puts in, because 40/40/20 only applies to new service. (I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it’s the truth.)

  10. Good grief! She clearly hasn’t visited Vancouver, BC and seen the ease of the Canada Line or monitored the aid to frequency and service for most users of Portland’s Red-Blue line couplet.


    And yes, as Erica B. has stated on Publicola in her #7 editorial, I *could* afford a cab ride occasionally but I would a) rather ride a bus/light rail if practical and b) would rather use the cost savings for my enjoyment on whatever purpose I have for travelling on that corridor (ie. shopping, taking an airplane to a destination, etc.).

  11. I thought SH lived on Bainbridge Island and didn’t do the 11’o’clock news so she could make the ferry. Or was that Kathy?

  12. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Susan would possibly be the biggest disaster of a KCE that this county has ever seen.

    Always beware of TV personalities (Susan isn’t a journalist or reporter, she’s a personality) – they spend their careers talking to a piece of glass. That’s all they do, they sit at a desk and read off a teleprompter attached to a camera.

    Susan is not qualified to hold any political office.

  13. Cabs suck….you all know the answer. The only advantage to taxi is speed…but not much difference in time. There are way so many negatives about taxi.

  14. The one time I took a cab in Seattle, I was running way late to meet my sister at SPU (for her college visit) and missed the transfer to the second bus. I was waiting around, stressed, and a cab came by. (This was in Loyal Heights/Crown Hill, where there are not normally a lot of cabs). I saw this as serendipitous and flagged him down. Unfortunately, he didn’t actually know where SPU was, although he thought he did. We zig-zagged over Queen Anne for much longer than it would have taken to wait for the next bus. By the time we got there, he was so sorry, he didn’t charge me. I gave him $15 or something just to be nice and caught up to her tour.

    So at least the train operators can’t get lost. And I’ve only had two instances in three years riding the bus of a driver who made a wrong turn on the route; in both occasions they corrected it quickly and got back to the right street.

  15. For all those who are scoffing at SH for comparing rail with a cab, because cabs cost so much more:

    How much do you think rail actually costs?

    I think you are confusing cost and price. Of course, the rational person, thinking only of himself, would normally go with the option that has the lowest price (rail). But that’s not the cost. I hope you are aware that each ride on the region’s rail systems cost anywhere from $40-$140, and that the riders are being massively subsidized.

    It’s true that a good part of this cost is for build-out. It’s also true that even established rail systems routinely subsidize thre great majority of the cost of use through taxes, federal grants, and other indirect means, all of which are paid for ultimately by the general public, most of whom do not use the rail.

    I say again, riders are being massively subsidized, and the disconnect between what you are paying (price) and what rail actually costs leads to very distorted thinking. There are legitimate arguments about whether the huge per-ride costs of rail pay off in terms of other quality of life benefits, but SH’s comparison is a lot more accurate, in cost terms, than many of you superior-sounding folks realize.

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