Mike McGinn (photo by Martin)
Mike McGinn (photo by Martin)

After the primary, we expected to write a tepid endorsement for Mayor.  Mike McGinn’s philosophy seemed to err toward buses far more than our usual preference of a mixed investment that includes rail. But as we grew to understand McGinn more, we realized that his positions were more influenced by right-of-way than by mode. He wants bus lanes so buses don’t get stuck in traffic.  He wants light rail through the west side of the city, instead of a streetcar that would travel in the same lanes as cars.

Although this emphasis on right-of-way should not obscure the other differences between buses and trains, there is no doubt that high-quality transit investment is a major stated priority of Mike McGinn.  Indeed, the major deficiency in Metro’s RapidRide is a shortage of dedicated bus lanes, and McGinn envisions the capital investment necessary to take this important step.

McGinn’s highly visible promise to put another light rail line on the ballot raises many questions.  His plan would, at a minimum, complete a study — conducted by Sound Transit — to answer these questions sooner rather than later.  It is the first step toward getting more light rail faster, which is the always the first priority of this blog.  With luck, McGinn’s plans could yield us much, much more.

Joe Mallahan, his opponent, only offered the ridiculous assertion that voting on light rail would put an education bond measure at risk.   He is apparently a blank slate on transit; his statements have been either entirely banal boilerplate about fighting for more bus service or unwarranted attacks on streetcars.  Furthermore, he has accepted contributions from anti-transit sources like John Stanton.  It’s especially difficult to tell how a Mallahan administration would turn out, but the signs are worrying, and the chances of further progress are slim.

McGinn’s campaign has focused heavily on the SR-99 tunnel.  The editorial board believes that the tunnel is poor policy and a terrible investment, although we disagree on just how bad.  Regardless, the State has already reneged on several key elements of the original tunnel deal, such as expanded transit funding and the notorious cost overrun provision.  The City should not accept these unilateral changes without a fight.

McGinn has committed to finishing the First Hill Streetcar that is in planning stages. Mallahan can’t seem to make up his mind — implying that a cost over-run of even a dollar justifies canceling the project (he doesn’t apply that fiscal logic to the SR-99 tunnel).

McGinn believes in a serious investment in light rail and in intelligent improvements in bus service.   Nickels’s commitment to transit is a tough act to follow, but McGinn is the best candidate to try just that.

Vote Mike McGinn for Mayor.

Our editorial board is Martin H. Duke, Ben Schiendelman, and John Jensen, with valued input from the rest of the staff. Read our Seattle City Council and King County Executive endorsements.

97 Replies to “McGinn for Mayor”

  1. Also remember Judy Clibborn is one of Mallahan’s advisors on transportation issues. Sure on the one hand making friends with the chair of the house transportation committee is a good thing, on the other hand Clibborn is anti-rail especially when it comes to East Link.

    1. Unfortunately I can’t vote for either McGinn or Mallahan. I don’t believe either one is suitable to run a large American city, for a huge number of reasons.

      McGinn’s inability to flesh out his transit campaign promises only highlights his lack of competence. He’s making the promises his target market wants to hear, but don’t look too closely. The sole campaign promise that made up his entire platform for the primary proved to be a fraud, and people are still looking past that.

      I WISH he could do what he wants to accomplish with transit, but I don’t vote for people just because they say they’ll do things I like. Competence counts.

      My mayoral vote will be a write-in for Greg Nickels.

      If write-ins aren’t allowed, I will abstain.

      1. Huh? McGinn said he’d have a study done and identify funding sources, why should he have to get detailed and specific? That is why you have experts look at corridors, alignments, and financing in a study. After that it is up to the voters.

        Either Mallahan or McGinn is going to be the next mayor. You have a chance to have a say in the decision, but if you want to opt-out of participating because proposals aren’t fleshed out to an EIS level of detail then fine, but I’m surprised you’ve been able to vote for any candidate in any race in that case.

      2. I am with you on this one, Michael. I too would abstain on the mayoral election if I was a Seattle voter but I am out in Issaquah. I probably would write in Greg Nickles too if I lived in Seattle. I don’t have confidence in either mayoral candidate.

    2. Does any one in this indolent city remember the Nisqually earthquake, “The Rattle in Seattle” that shut down the viaduct for a week. Does any one remember the 24/7 grid lock through the downtown corridor? The tunnels a done deal! Don’t waste our time trying to undo something that the viscous citizens of this city are too stupid to realize is a good thing. Big picture people. Big picture! Both candidates are idiots which is exactly what this city deserves!

      1. I don’t remember the 24/7 gridlock in the weeks after the Nisqually quake because there was no 24/7 gridlock. It’s hard to remember something that didn’t happen. Rush hour was slightly worse and lasted a little longer, but other than taking a little longer to get out of downtown it wasn’t that bad. The city was hardly strangled.

  2. Sorry, I normally agree with the views expressed on STB, but on this one I disagree.

    I think McGinn picking a fight with the State over the tunnel will be disastrous for this city. We can’t build LR without State permission, and McGinn blowing up the tunnel agreement isn’t likely to garner any favors from a State government that is already generally anti-Seattle and fully committed to the tunnel.

    Besides, most of the Nickels machine that brought us the first phase of LR and now ST2 is lining up behind Mallahan. You can give a lot of the credit for LR to Nickels, but a lot of credit goes elsewhere too. With a big chunk of the Nickels machine backing Mallahan, it’s hard to see how a vote for McGinn would be much more than a vote for stalemate.

    But hey, we will see. Personally I think that no matter who wins the mayorship we aren’t going to see much progress in the next 4 years, but at least with Mallahan we won’t go backwards a decade and revisit the tunnel agreement – that at least is a small measure of progress.

    1. What agreement? There’s no SEPA-mandated EIS, there’s no stakeholder consensus and less than 6 weeks prior to her decision, Governor Gregoire laughed at Dino Rossi for suggesting a double-deck deep bore tunnel under Second. And a year before her decision, she said she’d tear down the viaduct in 2012 with or without Seattle’s permission.

      1. There’s no SEPA-mandated EIS

        Indeed, WSDOT may be breaking the law by taking actions that assume their preferred alternative is the final one selected.

      2. I do think it’s both sad and amusing that the EIS is used as a tool of battle by opponents of anything.

        The EIS is a step in the process of getting something done, not a weak point to place a wedge.

    2. lazarus, if the tunnel is progress, transit is backwards.

      We didn’t lose our streetcars because of a problem with them or with transit. We lost them because we subsidized highways so much they couldn’t compete.

      If we want to get back to an efficient transportation system, we have to stop building things like this.

      We have a chance to stop it. Why would we do anything but jump at that chance?

      1. Ben,

        Transportation is not a stark choice between roads or transit, or forward or backward, or good or evil, or however you want to phrase it. Investing in the tunnel isn’t going to kill transit, nor is it “backwards”.

        This region needs a multi-modal approach to mobility (including freight mobility), and we simply aren’t going to solve our transportation problems by focusing on only one element to the exclusion of all others. I personally believe that we should shift the balance towards transit and away from roads, but note that I said “balance”.

        We have an opportunity to solve the viaduct problem by having the State pay for a tunnel. Why would we do anything but jump at that chance?

        As a side note: It wasn’t the road subsidy that killed transit, but rather the subsidy existed because the culture of the time was that roads were preferable, more modern, and represented “progress”. I think we know better now, but that doesn’t mean that selected roads projects still shouldn’t go forward.

      2. “going to solve our transportation problems by focusing on only one element to the exclusion of all others”

        Which is why it’s absolutely insane that the State is whittling down its contribution, placing a cap on its own liability and has decided that the long stakeholder process is meaningless and that they’re doing a tunnel anyway. They effectively focused on only one element to the exclusion of others.

      3. Mallahan has pledged to work with the state to remove the stipulation that Seattle pay for the cost overruns on a State managed project. This is a very good thing, but ultimately that clause might not be enforceable anyhow.

        We’re not going to get anywhere by picking a big fight with the State over something that has already been settled. I think Mallahan understands that.

      4. Ben, our city has had the philosophy of increasing pain to drivers for decades now. You can’t get around the city, you can’t park. That pain extends to many bus riders, I might add.

        The philosophy of “increase the pain” has by now been proven not to work. Proven. Making our commutes longer and more difficult helps neither the citizens nor the environment.

        Right now we’re suffering for the sins of our fathers (transit voted down for decades). Only relieving THAT pain will help. Our one little Link line is a tiny baby step. Now build something that will help our neighborhoods to get around, THEN start thinking about reducing through roads.

        And you might want to research the demise of the streetcars a little more fully.

      5. The “city share” is roughly the same regardless of whether or not the state builds the DBT. You don’t save anything by telling the state “no”.

      6. Again, Mallahan has pledged to work with the state to remove the stipulation that Seattle pay for the cost overruns on a State managed project. This is a very good thing, but ultimately that clause might not be enforceable anyhow.

        Mallahan is the only candidate to have made this pledge.

      7. Then it won’t be built. The State has a very strict cap on its contribution, and you won’t see it rise, especially if I-1033 passes.

      8. Ben,

        There is nothing intrinsically wrong with building tunnels. Even Sound Transit has or is building the odd one or two. The question before us as always is what is the function of everything? The function of the tunnel in this instance is to clear the waterfront of noise and one of the ugliest road/concrete structures it has been my misfortune to see. The viaduct is ugly, nosiy, old, a mecca for crime and damaged beyond repair and I think we can all here agree on this at least. The viaduct needs to go and so then the question becomes, what do we replace it with and why? A surface street option in my opinion strips that transit corridor completely of its orginal function – to move freight away from the port and to function as a north-south pressure valve for traffic on the I-5 which created that purpose for the viaduct as the I-5 came later. OK, so if we concede that the viaduct is about moving traffic from south of Seattle to north of Seattle, then clearly converting the existing viaduct into an at-grade street throughway, isn’t going to achieve too much. It also doesn’t do much for reclaiming the waterfront or for environmental noise. So, let’s give the road interests their tunnel and free up some space on this blog to discuss what should go in other city corridors that do not function as throughways to get people into and out of Seattle as fast as they can. At this point, we can discuss our beloved rail and streetcars. They work beautifully over the short and regional distances that we discuss on this blog. We do not need to serve the interests of the car community in getting people to and from work in these corridors. Light Rail, buses and streetcars with all their attendant transit-oriented-development peform their functions in these respects admirably and beautifully and most of us here hail their success. The SR99 corridor is not the same – it is a through city corridor for car and freight travel and neither rail nor a surface option is going to help them very much.

        All these arguments are aside from the relevance or otherwise of reopening a discussion on how best to replace the viaduct. The sooner that thing comes down the better and reopening a discussion of replacement options just prolongs the pain.

      9. Tim,

        This is a very cogent comment, but it has something that just hideously grates on the Northwest ear: “the I-5″. It’s not “the I-5”; it’s “I-5”. The “the” form arose in LA; please let it die there.

      10. But what if we DON’T “concede that the viaduct is about moving traffic from south of Seattle to north of Seattle,” Tim?

        1/5 of the traffic alone is going to/from Downtown and SW Seattle. That traffic is currently helped by a viaduct, but not a tunnel.

        What about traffic to/from Downtown and NW Seattle, which is also not served by the tunnel?

        How about the study which shows that adding tolls to the tunnel to help pay for it dramatically reduces the number of vehicles traveling on it?

        Despite the blatant lies from some elected officials, WSDOT’s own studies showed that the Surface/Transit/I-5 option was extremely viable, and should be studied as part of the EIS.

    3. What other elected official has said that they will study a west side Seattle LRT line if elected? None that I know of. Feasible or not McGinn has put a Ballard to West Seattle rail line back on the table. All Mallahan can do is talk about how he will make the city better for business and safer for suburbanites that are scared of walking downtown. Give me a break. This is Seattle. I want a mayor that cares about Seattleites.

      1. All Mallahan can do is talk about how he will make the city better for business and safer for suburbanites that are scared of walking downtown.

        Don’t forget he thinks it should be easier and cheaper for people from Redmond to drive into town and park.

      2. Constantine has also said he will work towards Ballard-WS light rail. Hasn’t gotten the press that McGinn did though, maybe because Dow never promised the expedited schedule that McGinn (wrongly, but well-meaningly) suggests is possible.

        I find myself again thinking that for all the attention being given to McGinn and Mallahan, the cause of transit would be far better served by paying attention to the considerably more consequential race on the ballot: King County Executive.

      3. I agree with Adam on his characterization of Mallahan has someone who would focus on making the city better for suburbanites, but I wonder about his business commitments. As Publicola pointed out yesterday, Seattle has long been losing competitiveness in job creation to the suburbs.

        What good is having a safer city if all the jobs are in the suburbs? Las Vegas is full of nightlife, entertainment and its own sort of arts and culture, but it’s not a great place to start a new business. We need a city that’s teeming with jobs as well as cultural events and entertainment. Focusing on making the city safer for those who want to come here to party or see a sports game isn’t the right goal.

        So I want a mayor who can focus on making the city better for Seattle residents, those who work in the city, and those who want to work in the city but have fewer opportunities than they do in the suburbs. I don’t know whether McGinn or Mallahan is the better candidate conceptually on this last point, but I know that transportation options like more light rail will help with job creation.

        In the long run we won’t know who would do better on job creation since we can only pick one, but I think more light rail would greatly help.

      4. I hate following up one comment with another, but I think Mallahan’s work as a VP at T-Mobile in Factoria are a red flag as someone who thinks the city should be where jobs growth is. To many, Seattle’s play town, show town and party town, but Bellevue’s work town. I get the feeling Mallahan is one of those.

    4. If the Nickels’ machine is really lining up with Mallahan, then it’s because of the AWV tunnel project, NOT because they think he will become a convert on light rail transit.

  3. Well said. McGinn wants to spend money on transit, Mallahan wants to spend money we don’t have on the tunnel. The contrast doesn’t really get any starker than that.

  4. Lazarus, why do you think we need state permission to build more light rail?

    McGinn’s announcement was to use existing taxing authorities for the city, including general revenue (property taxes, business taxes, etc.) and transportation benefit district (car tabs, sales tax, etc). It likely would require more of a Portland-style line than what we have with ST, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

    1. Because any realistic calculation of the revenue available from those sources doesn’t give you a total that is sufficient to pay for Ballard-West Seattle line. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea, but the city (and ST) just don’t have the financial resources to do it without more revenue options from the state.

      1. It would have to be something like 10 times the cost of the Housing Levy. Plus, a property tax levy is not one of the revenue sources that McGinn emphasized in the rollout of his light rail plan–he focused on license fees and LIDs, which are more fair than a property tax but really wouldn’t raise the amount of money necessary.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think we desperately need a westside rail line, but I don’t think they city has the statutory revenue capacity to pay for it right now, especially once they pay for things like Alaskan Way seawall replacement and utility relocation.

      2. As far as I know, he talked about (“emphasized”) the transportation benefit district which includes property taxes.

        I don’t know whether we’ll be able to fund things locally. Studying the issue 7 years ahead of schedule is a big deal, though, and could create momentum for ST3 even in the worst case. We might come out of it building another bus tunnel or something, sure. But getting the ball rolling is a larger step than doing nothing. Especially if that ball has electoral consequences as it would with McGinn.

      3. lorax, a transportation benefit district alone would give us enough for ballard-west seattle if we did it with the same level of service as Portland.

      4. Exactly. There really needs to be some realism in these projections, and so far there hasn’t been any. So far all we have is the “opportunity” to dumb down the Central Link standards so we can build this line more cheaply.

        This is the same approach the SMP took when they got into budget problems and it resulted in such design features as single tracking. Lets not repeat the mistakes of the SMP.

      5. McGinn explicitly mentioned the big money saver: take existing public street ROW. Maybe it’s a “dumb” idea, but it’s been successful in downtown Portland, Denver, Dallas, etc. If McGinn and ST bring such a design to the public, I expect Seattle voters to pass it.

      6. Kind of depends on the alignment doesn’t it? However there are a number of streets where dropping the two way left turn lane and parking on one side gets you more than enough room for two Link tracks.

        In downtown Seattle you could take the far left lane of either 2nd/4th or 4th/5th for rail for example.

  5. I agree with your endorsement. For any voters who support transit, it’s a no brainer.

    I prefer voting for someone with a track record of community organizing and activism versus someone who could not fulfill the minimum requirement of citizen participation – voting. Seriously, how can any Mallahan supporter justify his horrible voting history?

  6. Whew! I was surprised when you endorsed Nickels, but understood your logic. McGinn is the best all around choice, but definitely the best for those who hold transit as a priority. He’s a smart guy, willing to listen, and sincerely interested in making the right decision. Mallahan is slick and polished…not a lot of substance and definitely no real intent to advance Seattle’s transit.

  7. anti-transit sources like John Stanton

    What is being used to justify the accusation that John Stanton is “anti-transit”?

    I find this rhetoric – that an activist, politician, or voter who doesn’t support Rail Above All is somehow “anti-transit” akin to accusations by the right over the last 8 years that anyone not supporting the Iraq war is “anti-American”.

    It’s ridiculous.

    1. What is being used to justify the accusation that John Stanton is “anti-transit”?

      Perhaps the large sums of money he’s spent to defeat every transit measure that has been on the ballot in King County in the last 15 years.

      1. That’s hardly a non-sequitur, sure transit uses roads, but to take money from a transit agency so billions can be spent either widening freeways or building new ones hardly is a pro-transit position even if you believe all transit should be bus based.

        I simply fail to see how building nonsense like “I-605” or the cross-base highway helps transit any.

      2. If they took the money and built grade-separated busways, then OK, but for adding general purpose lanes and highways that transit will not use, NO thanks.

        Who’s going to spend billions of dollars on bus service?

    2. Jeff,

      There are anti-rail people who are serious about better bus transit, including many people affiliated with Metro. I think Doug McDonald, for instance, is seriously interested in more funding for BRT.

      But Stanton is nowhere to be found when things like TransitNow go to the ballot. He’s only interested in BRT when he can use it to sow FUD about light rail.

  8. Thanks for posting this. I had been wondering why you hadn’t just supported McGinn all along, and I appreciate now being able to follow the thought process.

  9. Well you won’t be surprised to read that I disagree with the STB for the first time on this one. Having gone to the recent debate between Mallahan and McGinn, I can safely say that neither candidate appeared to me to be up to the task of running a major city. Under Mayor Nickels, Seattle had aspirations to be a great and engaging world city, dynamic on mass transit and environmentally strong. To those of us fed up with the constant dithering and talking endlessly about the whats, wherefores and whens of just about everything, Greg Nickles tried to look beyond this to achieving something. He didn’t do it all and he wasn’t perfect in all areas, but I shared his vision for where Seattle needs to go and how to get there. It strikes me with both Mallahan and McGinn that we are going to have to reinvent some of the wheel with a new philosophy and a new vision for governance of a great city. Neither of them has much experience of governing and if McGinn gets in, he will immediately start a fire fight on the tunnel with both the County and the State and make few friends in the process. If Mallahan gets in, it doesn’t sound as if he likes much in the way of mass transit beyond the tunnel. Neither candidate has said much if anything about the Mercer Street mess and I don’t know where either of them stand on continuing funding for King Street Station restoration. With such a poor choice of folks for November, the STB Board would have been better off stepping aside on their mayoral endorsement and seeing how this one plays out. Its all well and good for McGinn to talk about light rail for the west side of the city, but this has not been on anyone’s agenda, would be light years away because someone has to first think about it, then someone has to oppose it, then we have to discuss the merits and demerits, vote, establish who if anyone wants to build and run the thing. It is not as if planning is as advanced as ST2 and East Link won’t be up and running until the early 2020s at the earliest and later if revenues don’t rebound.

    I urge the STB Board to reconsider their opposition to the tunnel and to consider whether yet more delay on this project is really in Seattle’s best interests. It is rare to have the City, the County and the State in almost agreement on anything and so let’s capitalize on this moment and make the most of it. To take any one of the core constituencies out of the synchronicity of this, propels us down the road of yet more pointless arguing and is an inefficient use of our democratic powers. To continually second guess elected leadership, risks getting elected leaders whose timidity secures neither leadership nor the right of elected representatives to use their delegated authority to govern. In my albeit limited experience of seeing our elected representatives at work, I can say that it is extremely hard to look forwards when you have to be looking over your shoulders. Unless funding completely collapses for the tunnel option, I would prefer that Olympia, King County and Seattle be allowed to proceed as planned since the beginning of the year. WSDOT has already begun some work, Seattle has some great plans for regaining the waterfront as a liveable part of the city and King County has done whatever it needs to be doing I guess as part of its enthusiasm for the project.

    Other than on the tunnel, I have strong reservations along with the STB Board on Joe Mallahan’s ideas and apart from his stance on the tunnel, I am sure that Mike McGinn will prove OK as a future mayor. Overall though, based on matters as they currently stand, I couldn’t really see either of them as mayor and feel especially happy. I would, however, be more than happy to be proven wrong. Seattle’s future is important to me, even though I am not a Seattle voter.

    1. The “agreement” on the tunnel is a sham. The Governor already stabbed King County in the back by vetoing the MVET that was to pay for the county portion of the project. The financing plan is a house of cards, none of the stakeholders has fully funded their portion. Even the state portion is well short as WSDOT’s own studies show there is no way for tolling to bring in the $400 million it is supposed to. Meanwhile we have no idea what is going to happen when the cost overruns hit (and there almost certainly will be cost overruns, this is a high-risk project without a lot of padding in the budget). Very likely the City will be placed in the position of either having to just fork the money over or filing a lawsuit against the state. There is also talk by certain state officials of using the Port’s taxing authority to put King County taxpayers on the hook through the backdoor.

      Furthermore WSDOT is almost certainly violating NEPA, SEPA, and the Shoreline Act by moving forward on certain project components prior to even issuing a DEIS. Soliciting bids now for the tunneling contractor means there won’t be any serious consideration of any other alternatives.

      Then we can go into how the tunnel “agreement” completely ignores the entire stakeholder process that was just finishing up prior to the big announcement early last year.

      All of the 5 final alternatives considered by the stakeholders were able to handle the projected traffic volumes in the corridor according to WSDOTs own studies, so the argument that a surface/transit solution won’t work is a load of BS.

      Oh and speaking of WSDOT studies, the traffic numbers from WSDOT are all over the place depending on which study you look at. That doesn’t give me a high level of confidence that the tunnel is actually the right solution to the needs of the corridor. At best the tunnel will only be taking 50% of the current AWV traffic and at worse 20%. It is quite likely building the tunnel will actually increase VMT and increase congestion by bringing more vehicles into the middle of the city. This is especially true if the low-end numbers are closer to the truth of how much of the current traffic the tunnel will really be handling.

      To loop this back to the mayor’s race, yes McGinn will almost certainly be picking a fight on day one with certain elements of state government. But this turkey of a highway deserves a much closer look at the details by people who don’t have a stake in seeing it built. The county isn’t likely to get to involved since without any funding from the state they aren’t going to be doing their portion of the project anyway.

      On the other hand I’m worried Mallahan might just try to hand over city money to the state to cover any budget shortfalls or cost overruns. True he won’t be able to get far without a majority on the council, but just the fact he might be willing to do so scares me.

    2. As to the Mercer mess, McGinn has said he supports moving the project forward as currently envisioned. Does he really need to say much more? Mallahan at first said he didn’t support the Mercer fix, then after talking to Vulcan said he supports doing something but wanted area property owners to contribute more of the project cost and that he didn’t support the current plans, I think he also said something vague about wanting the Mercer fix to handle more traffic (who knows? maybe he wants to bring back the Bay Freeway).

      King Street Station is a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things so I’m not surprised either candidate hasn’t had much to say about it. If I had to guess I’d say McGinn favors moving forward as planned, for that matter I don’t see any real reason for Mallahan to try to stop the renovations unless he’s looking for a cheap stunt to give him some “fiscal conservative” street cred.

      For light rail, the key to doing anything else will be doing a study sufficient to possibly put together a ballot measure which is essentially what McGinn has proposed. Essentially this is simply providing funding to Sound Transit to speed up the Seattle portion of the studies they were going to do as part of the planning for ST3. McGinn certainly isn’t the first person to suggest this as I know several people who’ve discussed it with City staffers and Mayor Nickels. As for who would build it and run it, McGinn has already said he wants Sound Transit to do it. Why the hell should Seattle wait 20 years to expand light rail beyond what is in ST2 especially if the voters are willing to fund expansion sooner rather than later? Sound Transit is certainly capable of handling more than one complex project at a time. Hell depending on how exactly things work out a Seattle funded expansion of Link could easily open well before ST2 is finished.

      In conclusion I believe Mike McGinn shares the vision of Mayor Nickels for Seattle to be “a great and engaging world city, dynamic on mass transit and environmentally strong”. If you don’t believe me look at the work Great City (an organization McGinn founded) is doing. Heck if anything McGinn’s vision is made of even stronger stuff than Nickels.

  10. Unfortunately I can’t agree with the McGinn endorsement either, and my decision is strictly related to the tunnel. If he’d drop the anti-tunnel stance, I could probably get behind him, but it’s a deal-breaker for me.

    I am so tired of Seattle being a place where we debate to death. The earthquake which stressed the importance of replacing the viaduct was almost a decade ago. We finally have a decision after a decade of debate, and now, someone new wants to come in and add years to that process. We shouldn’t forget the reason there is this debate in the first place – this thing could fall at any time, killing potentially thousands of people in the process.

    As a Ballard resident, I use the 99 corridor on almost a daily basis. When my clients took me to the Eastside or South Seattle/Tacoma, I used the viaduct to get there (whether heading south, or connecting to I-90 near the stadiums). The viaduct provided an easy route to the airport. And, there was easy access to downtown via the exit at Denny Way. I don’t understand all the whining about loss of access for Ballard, because all of these options would still be there with the tunnel.

    McGinn’s plan to expand I-5 at the expense of reducing capacity on Hwy 99 is expensive and ignores the effect on regional transportation. From neighborhoods in the western parts of Seattle, the problem isn’t so much I-5, but getting to I-5. Mercer Street, 45th Street, 85th Street, Denny Way, and the West Seattle Bridge are all gridlocked today during the rush hours. You try and move this regional traffic to I-5, and you significantly increase congestion on all east-west arterials within the city limits. So McGinn’s proposal to block the tunnel not only would gridlock downtown, but also places like Wallingford and Northgate.

    So then you say, well the goal is to get people out of their cars. And this is a good goal. But there is no realistic plan to do so. McGinn might be talking about a potential vote to extend light rail to the westside, but a) it’s talk with no credible support from KC, ST, or the city of Seattle, and b) he’s talking about a system which is more streetcar than the light-metro we’re currently building. Places like Queen Anne and Belltown have congestion and density to support an underground line, not an at-grade couplet concept. As far as increased bus or bike commuting, he proposes nothing specific to build true bus lanes or additional bike paths. So in short, he’s throwing out a bunch of alternatives without any specifics, lukewarm support from the important players, and no identified funding source.

    McGinn will be dangerous for Seattle. I’m tempted to write-in Nickels, but I don’t want a lack of enthusiasm to help McGinn ride into office. So I have no choice but to hold my nose and vote for Mallahan.

    Constantine, on the other hand, is someone I can happily vote for.

    1. Ryan,

      Even if you don’t agree with McGinn on the tunnel it makes no sense to vote for Mallahan. That’s like saying you didn’t like Al Gore on labor issues (and I didn’t in 2000) so you voted for Bush. Huh? If you can’t vote for McGinn, write in a qualified person like Ed Murray as a protest vote. Nickels is apparently ineligible to win, but I suppose he works too as a protest vote.

      I don’t agree with your tunnel arguments but all I will say is that you should look at the “previously studied alternatives” section of the WSDOT SR-99 website. Don’t take my word for it or tunnelfacts.com, look at what the professional highway engineers say about the viability of the surface option.

      1. I should add that I chose a poor example–of course Mallahan is no Bush, but the point is that if you care about transit you should at least cast a protest vote for someone who is MORE transit friendly.

    2. Unfortunately I can’t agree with the McGinn endorsement either, and my decision is strictly related to the tunnel.

      It’s funny that Mallahan’s followers are so obsessed with the tunnel, even knowing full well that almost every previous study has shown that every option can handle the traffic and maintain optimal mobility. It’s just that the tunnel removes access to Downtown, Interbay, Ballard and the industrial waterfront.

    3. Ryan,
      note the current deep bore portal designs are different, north from south. look at the WSDOT visual simulation on their project web page. toay, you and I can drive from Ballard to I-90 via the AWV exiting via the 1st Avenue South. in the deep bore, it appears the tunnel lanes are in the center. what is the first interchange we could use going southbound? could we reach I-90 at Edgar Martinez Way?

      as other poster have stated, even if one supports the deep bore McGinn is the much better choice: he knows the city better, he has been a leader and organizer, he is better on transit and land use issues, has has voted. some deep bore supporters assert that it is done deal. then why not McGinn, if he cannot stop it?

  11. I’m very pleased to see the idea of just taking over road lanes for transit getting so much traction here. But I’m certainly surprised by the brisk turn-around in public opinion.

    You see, it was just last week that I suggested that very thing, and not one comment was made in support. And even that was a v.2.0 upgrade from the number of times commenters have explained to me that I must be a total looney to even think such thoughts.

    Sadly, if it is possible to use road lanes for transit, it becomes even more important to build the tunnel. I say ‘sadly’ because McGinn’s installed user-base of tunnel-haters won’t buy that, no matter how desirable it might be to use existing bridges and grade-separated ROW for rapid rail travel from West Seattle to Ballard and other points north. This kind of thing is called an “internal contradiction”. McGinn should be for a quick rail line, but if it involves letting the state build a tunnel, he has to be against it.

    As is usual in these matters, it seems to many in Seattle that vast issues will hang on the result at the polls. Having lived through many elections, I can assure you that if your candidate loses, you will feel for about five minutes that life also will end, and after that you probably won’t think that much about it. If your candidate wins, however, you may have a vastly extended period in which to regret what has happened.

    1. You do realize that your tunnel argument is predicated on the idea that the tunnel as envisioned is going to take the same number or more trips that the viaduct currently facilitates? However, that assertion (from what WSDOT tells us) is untrue and most likely this tunnel will result in more traffic on surface streets. The main problem with the tunnel is that it is an unfunded boondoggle being sold as something it is not.

      1. You do realize your comment is totally wrong and not supported by WSDOT? The conservative estimate of trips carried by the tunnel is about 50%, and those are trips that are taken off the streets, not put on the streets.

        And no, my tunnel ‘argument’ is not based on your wacky upside-down view of reality.

      2. It really depends on which set of WSDOT numbers you use, I’ve seen everything from the tunnel serving 20% of current viaduct trips to 60%. This is before any added induced demand is factored in or modeled. Also keep in mind that most of the models don’t factor in the effect of tolling.

        The problem is what happens to the other 40% to 80% of the trips? Do they disappear? Do they go to surface streets? Do they go to I-5?

      3. I see Chris beat me to it. I’m not sure why you assume that I want all the trips to hit surface streets. My point was that the tunnel will not serve all the trips (some estimates say not even a majority) current funneled off of surface streets by the viaduct. Yet the tunnel is being sold as a replacement not a modification that it is. So yes in a zero sum world you’re right that any, trips off the surface is good for at grade rail. However, my point is that taking today as a benchmark no plan currently leads to a reduction of surface trips. A smart replacement would handle as many trips as possible and the data don’t seem to suggest that most trips will remain off the surface. At best half the trips currently off the street will be dumped onto them. If worst estimates are assumed, and WSDOT has been all over the place, then the tunnel would barely serve most trips and cost a lot to do that.

      4. In the last three sentences it should read “surface and I-5” but more surface trips is I think the issue at hand in this conversation.

      5. The deep bore tunnel would increase use on Alaskan Way by 5x and almost all freight would be restricted from the tunnel, seeing a marked increase in travel times.

        So much for that, huh?

      6. This is a bunch of silliness about a very simple concept. Some AWV trips start or end downtown- call it 50%. Some trips don’t- they start further out, go past downtown, and end further out- call it 50%.

        If you take the 50% that doesn’t want to go downtown and put it in a tunnel, you have not changed anything about the 50% that does go downtown. If the tunnel induced new trips, those would be trips going past downtown. Meanwhile, the 50% that do want to go downtown will still want to go downtown. Guess what? If you don’t build the tunnel, they will still want to go downtown. Yes, over time fewer of them will want to go downtown, and if you think filling downtown with unbearable traffic jams is a good way to persuade them not to go downtown, maybe not building the tunnel is what you want to do. Don’t be too surprised if not everyone agrees with this approach.

        This really isn’t rocket science. If you’re having trouble understanding how this works, maybe you should get some little toy cars or matchsticks or something, and game it out on a table until you do understand.

      7. Sure, if you follow the “just build a tunnel already” mindset, yeah, you’ll have problems with congestion. Especially since the tunnel fanatics seem to have no solutions beyond “just build a tunnel already”, even with knowledge that the state and county have pulled funding for all the stuff that was supposed to prevent downtown from becoming total gridlock.

        And you have Mallahan, who is totally okay with not having any extra transit.

        Good job, guys.

      8. Sorry you don’t seem to follow. What you initially said was that one should support the tunnel if one wants to use existing ROW for rail. I tried to point out that the tunnel isn’t necessarily going to take trips off of the road in places where ROW and traffic will/are an issue. That was based on the fact that the tunnel will necessarily dump more cars on roads where the aren’t now, for far more money than dumping them onto surface streets and I-5 using other viaduct “replacements.” Which is to say supporting the tunnel as envisioned for ROW reasons isn’t as simple as you describe and I’d say dubious. Also, one can support rail ROW and reject the current tunnel as a solution to the AWV without some huge tragic “internal contradiction.” All of this is to say that the benefits of the current tunnel idea don’t necessarily match the costs, even when ROW is factored in.

      9. Wow, it’s like the tunnel is some kind of Klein bottle or something. In reality, of course, there is no mysterious extra dimension opening into the center of the tunnel and disgorging extra cars at both ends.

        The roads that feed the Viaduct will dump X number of cars on the surface if the Viaduct is removed and not rebuilt. If a tunnel is built, the roads feeding the Viaduct will dump Xminus tunnel vehicles on the surface. X minus tunnel vehicles will be less than X. Because X minus tunnel vehicles is smaller, you will need to spend less on surface roads to achieve the same result if the tunnel is built.

        As for what I said, it was basically that if you can take traffic lanes for transit, we should let them build the tunnel, and take that. I’m beginning to understand that while the mighty McGinn can take traffic lanes for his transit, that could never happen with the tunnel.

        Did you know that the original tunnel under the Thames was used for something different about every thirty years, and that it’s still in use today, 150 years after it was built?

      10. You are totally overlooking induced demand and its reverse. If the tunnel is built people will make extra trips that don’t happen today, they may even make so many new trips that congestion is actually worse than prior to increasing capacity. The converse also happens where a capacity reduction results in reduced congestion because the number of trips is so greatly reduced.

        For that matter look at when they had to reduce capacity on I-5 for a week a couple of years ago. So many people avoided driving to work alone during rush hour that there was actually less congestion than during a normal week.

      11. I follow what serial is saying… BUT there’s one key point missing.

        The Surface/Transit/I-5 option increases the capacity of Downtown streets and I-5 to carry vehicles, and requires transit to increase throughout the corridor.

        The tunnel makes NO CHANGES to I-5, FEW changes to the Downtown street grid, and currently has inadequate funding for new transit.

        That’s why the tunnel could increase congestion more than the Surface option. It simply doesn’t prepare enough for the additional trips expected on the streets once the Viaduct is removed.

  12. In a morning story from the PostGlobe McGinn wins union endorsement:

    Mike McGinn scored a significant endorsement this morning, when he was endorsed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, local 21.

    More of a relief than a surprise McGinn finally has an official union endorsement. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been a strong backer of McGinn but the timing of the official endorsement should give him a bump in the polls.

    1. It will be interesting to see if any of the CWA locals endorse in the Mayors race. Given CWA’s history with T-Mobile I somehow doubt they will be endorsing Mallahan in any case.

      Hint to the McGinn campaign: start talking to people at CWA locals 7800, 7803, 37082, and 37083 about an endorsement if you haven’t been already.

  13. What does a “transit-convertible” tunnel mean? I assume it means that the tunnel or half of it could be converted to rail if all cars were removed. But that’s very far into the future. Even if car travel shrinks in 10-20 years, it will only mean less cars in the tunnel, not no cars in the tunnel. Closing the tunnel to cars would require proof that they could all be moved to I-5 without congestion, and traffic would have to reduce by half before that would happen, maybe in 40 years or more.

    1. I think Ben and others have pointed out a number of times that any notion of converting the 99 tunnel to rail is pure fantasy.

    2. Ha ha, in about 12 years you guys are going to be so amazed at what is happening to your world. I am beginning to agree with you that the region lacks the imagination for radical changes. And hey, genteel poverty turns out to be way better than expected.

      Well, like I said, taking some existing streets and using them for transit would be the cheap and quick way to do it- and even on the transit blog, public opinion is dead-set against it.

      1. I for one think you’re dead on. I’ve long been a fan of Portland’s Max. Nothing says changing transportation modes like taking streets away from cars.

      2. Catowner,

        If there is a serious proposal to convert existing lanes — any lanes, any road — to transit, you’ll find this blog leading the charge. In fact, when examining the McGinn light rail plan, which you crapped all over, I mentioned that as a cheap and effective way to achieve his objectives.

        Don’t confuse indifference to your comment as opposition to the idea.

        However, aside from the political obstacles, the technical obstacles to adding rail stations to the deep-bore tunnel are nearly insurmountable. This has been explained again and again. Supporting the deep-bore in the hope that it’ll be converted to transit is delusional.

        I think it’s likely that at some point we’ll become less car-centric. However, smug assertions about what gas prices are going to be in 12 years are tiresome. If you’re so sure, put your money where your mouth is and start trading oil futures — it’ll be a much more productive use of your time.

      3. Martin, I’m glad the STB community is focused on the practical, although I’ll admit I usually skip the blow-by-blow on bus service changes etc. I try to stay practical too- who wants to listen to an old fool thinking as far ahead as 10 years in the future? After all, they might discover more oil and the price of gas would start going down.

        But you’re right, of course- there are better ways I could spend my time.

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