Yesterday, we covered a letter that the Seattle City Council sent to the state on SR 520 that included some reasonable recommendations, and echoed some of the arguments we’ve made recently. It points out that pontoons for light rail could be added later and aren’t an immediate concern, as I argued last week. It says that bus service is probably a more “flexible and effective form” of transit than light rail for this corridor, as Ben made the case. And the letter softly supported the concerns of McGinn’s report regarding a gap in the eastbound and westbound spans through the arboretum, which might be necessary to build light rail in the future; Martin would support that if the cost were right.

But the letter is clearly a rebuke of the Mayor’s light rail report and McGinn’s lobbying to delay construction of the bridge until a transit plan, including rail, is fully complete. McGinn hasn’t just failed to get his city’s council on board, though, he has also failed to convince many strong transit advocates of his case. Case in point: not a single blogger from this site is in agreement with the mayor, even though the phrase “seattle transit” is literally our name.

One can’t help but wonder what this use of political capital is getting McGinn (besides possibly a gap in the Foster bridge). Just as Mayor Nickels developed a reputation of not being able to work with the state and present a unified Seattle coalition, McGinn is falling into the same trap. On the other hand, McGinn has made the council’s position seem moderate and the state may be willing to cut them a better deal. And McGinn’s incredible and authentic zeal for transit is exactly what we need next year, when he plans present a ballot measure expanding rail in the city.

A word of caution for the town’s mayor, though: when you’re coming late to a battle, like the deep-bore tunnel and the 520 project, we can’t totally blame you for lacking a built-in constituency and nibbling at the edges of a project to destruct it. But for a rail plan that will be your own doing, it’d be smart to put the lie to the perception of “six-shooter McGinn” and get something solid in front of people, long before election day.

74 Replies to “Nearly all Rebuff McGinn on 520”

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing how much “BRT” we get across 520 when diesel is $10 a gallon. This bridge is going to be an albatross before it’s even a decade old. Tolls and increased gas prices will very shortly lead to an increased demand for transit, and everyone will be standing around scratching their heads wondering why we did nothing more to provide improved transit than paint diamonds on a couple of lanes.

    1. The ‘power of the paint’ is a very cost effective measure.
      How about 4+ on SR520 under your scenerio of $10 fuel? 2,000 HOV’s plus 100 BRT’s an hour would yeild about 12,000 riders per hour, each direction.
      You’d need 4 car LRT trainsets, running on 3 minute headways to replace that capacity, which is 4 times more service than is currently offered on Central Link in the peak periods.
      Operating costs for BRT/STEX are currently far below Link rail costs per rider (ST 2010 budget).
      Until rail starts to show it can be operated cheaper than bus in practice, not theory, then buses on SR520 is a better deal for all taxpayers.

      1. I’m so sick of these [comment edited] that think buses are so much more effective that rail… such as Mike Skehan (above).

        I applaud the mayor… but the rest of the state and the city council are ingorant baffoons who reject every single effort to bring rail into this car-addicted metropolis.

        I’ve lost hope for Seattle… I can’t wait until I move to Europe where I can enjoy vast subway systems and extensive high-speed rail. Seattle tries and tries… but politics get in their way only worrying about the nect election.

      2. “but the rest of the state and the city council are ingorant baffoons”

        If that’s how you think you build a coalition, you won’t get very far. It doesn’t seem to have worked very well for the mayor on this issue.

        We all want more rail, but we recognize how fragile it is to bring together a region-wide package that’s buildable, affordable, and able to attract voter support.

        As this blog has noted many times, jamming light rail on a corridor that doesn’t really need it might not be the best use of light rail-related capital, nor is it the best use of McGinn’s political capital this far.

        Rallying the base only gets you so far. If it’s 2013 and the city has accomplished exactly nothing because of McGinn’s scorched earth politics, what then?

      3. The 520 corridor, being high capacity, is suitable for light rail. Rail spurs on each side of the lake further its conclusion as suitable and logical. Seattle transit activists are pampered to remain clueless. Grace Crunican was good at pulling the wool over the eyes of sincere environmentalists when she touted the Wide Plaza notion with the streetcar line straight through the middle. And that’s the least among her sins against Seattlers. Mercer West is an atrocity. The danger of DB Tunnel collapse is terrifying so close to downtown tower foundations. ZERO confidence in WSDOT LIARS!!

      4. A cut/cover seawall combo project uses half the cement. There goes your sidewalk material into a hole. Mercer Mess West II will ruin Lower Queen Anne, friends, adding 20,000+ vehicles from Day 1. Alaskan Way will get that much new traffic, and more, and worse accidents. Are you people thinking at all ???

        Tunnelite builds the best seawall, best utility relocation, best emision reduction, best sidewalk way, best transit way with trolley however it’s reinstalled, if.

        I’m tired of all you transit morons NOT using critical analysis to reject the frank truth that Tunnelite is the BETTER choice. I swear, some of you clowns must know this and cower before you bosses. Greg was Right. Tunnelite!

      5. Wells, the post that begins with “the 520 corridor, being high capacity, is suitable for light rail…” offers absolutely no compelling facts that support your supposed conclusion about 520 rail. Where does rail go to on the Eastside? Where in Seattle?

      6. So you think it’s reasonable to run 100 buses per hour across 520, and have 8000 people organize themselves into 4 person carpools, but running 20 trains per hour is a completely unreasonable situation?

      7. Will Metro and ST Express be running at all at $10/gallon? In that case, the only choice may be a train on I-90, and people might find that better than nothing. I doubt if the 520 rail would be built by then, but a N-S line on the Eastside might be.

      8. Fuel prices are a very minor component of the cost of running buses. As we saw when gas bubbled up over $5 transit ridership skyrocketed. I’m pretty sure that rising fuel prices actually make transit (buses) cheaper to operate when you factor in the increased fare revenue (and as others have pointed out, it’s easier to raise fares).

      9. Fuel prices were very minor until the spikes in 2008. Then suddenly Metro had to have two fare increases. We have a bit of a reprieve now until gas reaches $4/gallon again, but I saw $3.15 for regular this week. When gas sails to $5 and above, I expect it will all be paid by fare increases, and base fares will rise toward $3 and $4. That means a larger percentage of people will find it difficult to afford bus fare.

      10. If you look at the 2008 operating expenses fuel was $38 million out of a total $645M transit operations budget (7% of the total). Passenger boardings were up 8 million over 2007 )largely due to the spike in gas prices) while operating hours were almost flat. I come up with about 78 cents per boarding on average so 8 million new riders would be $6 million in revenue. I’ll bet the actual revenue increase is far above average since gas prices don’t drive the same level of increase in special fare riders. Revenue from fares and passes increased from $78 million in ’07 to $99 million in ’08. Fuel costs were $27M in ’07 so I think the budget shortfall had much more to do with loss of renvue from sales tax than the cost of fuel. Notice nobody has been suggesting lowering fares now that oil is relatively cheap again. In fact it could be argued that the spike in fuel costs provided a windfall in fare collection.

      11. First you only need 15 trains per hour (every 4 minutes) to equal 12000 people per hour per direction.

        Second I suspect 100 buses per hour is much more expensive than LRT. The operating costs of Link are going to look bad right now due to all of the fixed costs being spread over a fairly small number of riders. The costs will get better as the ridership increases and the system expands. True there are costs that scale with the ridership, the station count, track mileage, and number of vehicles but the experience of most systems around the country is the cost per rider drops as both the ridership increases and the system expands.

      12. If the cost of operating the buses is too high with $10/gallon fuel, maybe it’s time to raise fares since the costs of operating cars will also go up.

        Maybe there could be differential fares; lower for light rail and ETB routes, higher for diesel buses. It might also be time to look for CNG fueled buses.

      13. Bus technology is rapidly evolving. There are already hybrids coming on the market and hydrogen and other technologies will likely be the choice for buses in ten years.

      14. Another problem with 100 buses per hour is paying all those drivers! Payrolls are a major component of transit operations and trains can achieve a much higher rider/driver ratio than buses ever could hope to.

      15. Wow, what a back-lash for just proposing a paint job on 520 might actually pencil out cheaper than throwing some rails on the ground with not a clue about how to connect them on either side, much less how many riders would use them.
        The “rail at any price” crowd sure has their panties in a bunch today.
        Just a few observations, then I’ll shut up.
        1. 100 buses an hour on an HOV lane is not unreasonable, given the bus tunnel carries about 60 an hour mixed with trains, and the Lincoln tunnel carries up to 1,700 buses on one lane in a 4 hour peak.
        2. 4 person car pools are quite reasonable, if fuel prices sky rocket in the near term, especially if tolls are being charged on 520. Some good rideshare matching could probably accomplish this. 2,000 cars and 100 buses, or 2,050 cars and 50 buses is still 4 times the capacity of the current Central Link system.
        3. About 2 minutes of digging into the ST 2010 budget will reveal the current cost of bus/STEX of $7.14 per boarding, compared to $14.64 per boarding for LRT. Like I said, until LRT(Seattle style) can move bodies from A to B cheaper than buses, then the taxpayers are getting a better deal with buses on 520.
        It’s not a war of bus v. rail. It’s deciding how to allocate precious transit operating funds to do the most good, so get off your high horses, and figure out how to make LRT pay its way.

      16. Mike,
        Be careful of using the Lincoln Tunnel comparison, since, in order to handle all those buses effectively on the Manhatten side of the tunnel, you need a facility like the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which spans the area between 8th and 9th Avenues and 40th and 42nd Street.

        The DSTT is merely a gnat on an elephant in comparison, and the PABT has multiple parallel bus bays, while the DSTT is linear.

        Whether BRT is more efficient takes in a lot of factors, including the initial capitol investment, which I think is at the heart of the discussion.

        Heck, putting myself in the view of a devout SOV’r, the plan for SR520, is woefully inadequate, in comparsion to the congestion relief provided by what the I-405 Corridor program concluded.

        In essence, if SR520 is to provide the same improvement for as long as the analysis showed for I-405, then SR520 should be 10 lanes wide! The 2 existing lanes in each direction, plus 2 more (for congestion relief 20-30yrs in the future), plus putting in the HOV lane which should have been there in the first place.

        Now that would be some ballot measure for the voters!

      17. Oh, and by the way…

        ” …make LRT pay its way”

        I can’t believe you said that ;-)

      18. Your right Jim, I said that wrong. I meant in relation to other modes of transit. Public Transit will never make a profit, nor should it. My only point today was suppposed to be about considering the current HCT solution proposed for the 520 corridor could actually be the right one.
        BYW, Mary seems like a really neat person :)

      19. I’m not sure which 2010 budget you were doing your 2 minutes of digging in Mike, but in Sound Transit’s 2010 budget they have the estimated cost per boarding for ST Express at $7.30 and for Central Link at $5.63.

        I’m not for “rail at any price” any more than I’m for building $5 billion bridges that fail to address the real needs of the city. It just makes sense to me that in a region that only has 2 major east-west corridors that we’d be planning for rail on both of them. Our leaders in 1976 realized that, why don’t we? Apparently the last 34 years has taught us nothing about how to plan ahead. McGinn keeps being chastised on this blog because we “don’t have a plan” for rail in the 520 corridor, when it’s not really his fault that we don’t have a plan and he’s just pointing out the obvious.

      20. Zed, you failed to include debt service and depreciation. Isn’t paying the bond holders back and following FTA rules of depreciation to account for vehicle and track replacement important, and at the crux of the debate over spending more money to have rail on 520?
        Capital isn’t free. Somebody always pays, so I include those costs = you don’t.

      21. You didn’t say in your original post that you included capital cost as an operational expense, and you obviously didn’t included them for ST Express. Just adding in the fleet replacement costs over the next 4 years for ST Express would add over $2 per boarding to your numbers. I wouldn’t have expected you to fudge your numbers to make a point.

        Your right, capital isn’t free, but I think its been shown time after time that it’s easier for our government to raise capital than it is to pay operating expenses. All it takes is one ballot measure to pay for 20 years of construction, but our transit agencies’ operating budgets are under attack every year. Just look at what’s happened with Metro.

  2. McGinn has “authentic zeal” for transit? Where is the proof? Yes, he gives plenty of lip service to LR, but is he actually pro-LR? Or is he using LR as a way to derail SR520 and the tunnel? Who really knows?

    Case in point: Why is the Mayor so quiet on the Aloha Extension? Here is an easy no-brainer that has a lot of local support and would give him an easy political win that he could build on. But he is totally silent.

    It makes you wonder if he is really pro-transit or just anti-car? And it makes you wonder if he really knows what he is doing.

    We might be looking at the worst Seattle Mayor since Ole Hanson.

    1. I’m pretty sure he’s very pro-transit. It is hard to talk to him about transportation for long without getting his real zeal for transit. On the other hand he’s pretty lukewarm about streetcars.

      I suspect his silence on Aloha is due to him not being a huge streetcar fan combined with other things taking more of his attention. Frankly the City Council and the neighborhoods have been leading on that project. Given the Mayor’s political capital or rather the lack thereof, it might be better if he stays out of that particular issue.

    1. I do think some ire should be saved both for the city council members over the past 15 years and for mayors Rice, Schell, and Nickels for not really getting involved in the 520 planning at all. The eastside cities and legislators have been working on 520 for a long time so I can understand them feeling the Mayor, the Council, and the Seattle legislators are all a bit late to the party.

      To be fair representatives of the Montlake neighborhood have been working on 520 for a long time as well, and pretty much had all of their recommendations and concerns walked all over by the choice of option A+. I suspect that would have been a bit less likely to happen had there been some Seattle politicians who’d been involved with the process from early on. At the very least the collective “wait a minute, WTF?” reaction Seattle is having to the choice of A+ wouldn’t look so 11th hour.

      1. To be fair representatives of the Montlake neighborhood have been working on 520 for a long time as well

        They were of course investing most of their energy in the hopeless cut-crossing options, for SOVs, that were about removing traffic from Montlake, not improving transit access, and busted the project budget.

  3. I’ve been reviewing the various sources I’ve had for information on this project, and I can’t find where McGinn has lobbied to “delay construction of the bridge until a transit plan, including rail, is fully complete”. Maybe you could provide a link for that.

    My current understanding is that construction on the east end has started and can go forward while the plans for the west end are finalized.

    I, of course, have posted at Orphan Road in favor of McGinn’s position in this matter. I only wish we called ourselves a ‘transit blog’ so we could be experts too!

  4. I once thought that Seattle could make up for it decades and decades of refusing rail construction. I once thought Seattle was a “green” city that tried to improve the nature and environment surrounding them… but I was wrong. Seattle is still refusing rail, is still pro-auto that has no knowledge about the world around them.

    …I’ve only been living in Seattle for three years, and now I want to leave. I wish Seattle could build itself a rail network and redeem itself… but this city will continue to choke in its own gasoline fumes.

    1. Amen, Andrew!

      This city needs to stop sitting around talking politics… there is no flipping way the city can please EVERY single individual. It’s time to bite the bullet and grow our rail network (LRV, Streetcar, etc) ASAP… it’s ridiculous!

    2. So, we are building a rail network. Unfortunately we’re not going to build light rail on 520 right now (I think we should definitely go through with the improvements to make light rail possible on it) and we’re probably not going to get westside light rail for a while, but we’re building light rail right now to the University District and gearing up to build to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Bellevue/Microsoft. We’re also about to start building the First Hill Streetcar and it’s looking very likely that the Aloha extension of that could be built at around the same time. There’s planning going on for Westside light rail, and extensions to Everett, Tacoma, Downtown Redmond, Issaquah, and a few other places, along with planning for an extensive streetcar network all around Seattle.
      So my point is, we forget sometimes that it’s not as bad as it seems.

      1. I agree. I just moved to Sydney a few months ago for school. Before leaving I thought Seattle wasn’t doing a very good job but compared to here Seattle really has it together. They have had about 7 different transit expansion plans over the last 15 years and they just decided to go back to the one they started with. If they had stuck with it it’d be done by now. On top of that the one they just canceled had already gone out to bid and they spent hundreds of millions on it and didn’t get anything for it. So while our overly long planning process may be frustrating we are not really that bad.

  5. “McGinn’s incredible and authentic zeal for transit is exactly what we need”

    Yes. Sometimes I think he goes a bit far, but he’s giving Seattle and the region the kick in the butt it needs. It doesn’t bother me if a man with a good vision fails; what bothers me is if a man with a bad vision succeeds.

  6. I can’t believe we are even debating this. Of coarse we need light rail on 520! Have none of you who appose it ever traveled? Have you never seen other cities around the world? Why do we insist on being retarded? I support the mayor on this 100%. Maybe if more of you actually stood up for what you believe in, we could really progress as a city.

    1. Thank you… I completely agree. It’s embarassing. I wish I could have friends of mine in Europe and Japan come to Seattle saying: “Wow, what a great subway system” in stead of “Where is the subway?” My answer: “Oh, Seattle doesn’t have any rail… your only choice is car or a long inconvenienct bus ride.”

      1. Ironically, they would’ve already rode a subway from the South Satellite to the Main Terminal at Sea-Tac Airport, one that also speaks Japanese and then they ride Link downtown on Japanese trains.

    2. What part of “520 may be the wrong place for rail” don’t you understand? I’m not saying it is the wrong place, just that many people have doubts about its priority compared to other routes. The money (and political capital) we spend on rail on 520 we can’t spend on N-S rail in Lake City, Kirkland, Ballard/West Seattle, Aurora, or E-W rail on 45th or Issaquah. What’s important is a comprehensive rail system covering the entire county. 520 may end up being a gap in the system, but it’s surely not the most significant gap, particularly if there’s nearby service on I-90 and 522. And there will be BRT as a stopgap anyway.

  7. I agree that the Mayor’s political capital is being wasted on this effort. And, in all honesty, I am suspicious of his pro-transit stance in relationship to these issues. Instead, it appears as though he is using these as a tool to derail projects he and a vocal constituency disagree with.

    And while I agree that we should expanding rail transit in major corridors, I don’t think this route would qualify as a good addition to that network. There are no connections (right now) and none planned in the recent funding passage. Will we even want to use this route in the future? While the I-90 corridor provides access to Bellevue, it also provides service to Mercer Island along the way. SR 520 does none of that. It is simply a point to point service. As others have noted, a SR 520 route would not serve other major destinations such as Childrens’ Hospital. And, while we sometimes complain heavily about the process in this city, we should at least have some plan on how this route would fit into the overall system. As of now, there is no plan. Nor is there any attempt at such. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.

    1. In the face of peak oil, global warming, worsening traffic congestion, and a growing region it seems the height of insanity to build a 70+ year piece of infrastructure without trying to future proof it a bit.

      Imagine if the builders of I-90 hadn’t shown the foresight they did 35 years ago. What if they had said “there is no plan for regional rail transit, we’re building I-90 for cars”? We should show at least as much foresight today with 520. Just because there are no plans for a line now doesn’t mean we won’t want to build something in the corridor in the next 80 years.

      1. Turning the region around is a huge job. ST2 Link is a major, major contribution. These replacements are the last gasps of the highway lobby. And they’re replacements: the highway lobby knows that new freeways won’t fly. It’s sad that we may have to pay $6 billion on these overbuilt roads, but that’s less bad than if we spent $20 billion continuing full steam into more highways and sprawl. At least it’s turning around in a significant way. And this is a democracy, we have to make some concessions to what the driving voters want.

  8. I tend to agree with those that suggest this sudden “pro rail” stance by the mayor is political posturing. As I’ve said before, McGinn is crazy, crazy like a fox. What I find annoying is this Sierra Club greenie hasn’t said squat about stopping the ramps through the arboretum. I guess Seattle isn’t as progressive as it was back in 1960.

  9. I already issued my challenge.

    McGinn could prove his point for 520 transit with a simple experience.

    Make the 520 Bridge bus only for 1 month.

    Show how exclusive BRT over the bridge would benefit all.


    1. It’s a good idea theoretically, but McGinn doesn’t have the authority to close a state highway. And getting the state legislature to do it is about as easy as getting bats to fly in the daytime.

      1. He doesn’t have the authority or pull to manipulate a key state highway.

        Yet, somehow he has authority to rebuild bridges and tunnels that are federally funded and cost billions.

        This would suggest one of two things:

        1) That his magical powers are affected by any road that has an “SR” in it.

        2) That he can only seem powerful when he does the will of his puppetmasters, taking on the cause as if it were his own….

      2. Building a highway requires the joint approval and support of several state and local governments.

        Closing a highway is a decision of the operator of the highway.

    2. I’d assume McGinn does have authority over non-highway arterial streets though. Making a few key ones (23rd Ave E, 25th Ave NE, Pacific St) bus and HOV only would probably do wonders for eastbound SR-520 immediately, not to mention the non-520 buses that cross the Montlake Bridge (25,43,48). The problem is, traffic coming from I-5 would get a free ride. It’s a systemic problem.

  10. I think you’ve got it backward: McGinn is building capital. It’s a completely populist position. Seattle voters see that despite any details about 520 specifically, in general if you’re spending hundreds of millions on a replacing a major bridge that it should include light rail.

  11. It is unwise to take what is essentially a 2d problem (taking people from various points on the Eastside to other points in Seattle) and projecting it onto a 1d solution (the bridge). While 520 has a lot of traffic, and transit users, there is no one particular destination on the Eastside or in Seattle that would be prime for light rail. The best one could do is Ballard-UW-Kirkland, but then you have light rail that isn’t connected to the biggest job centers on the Eastside: Overlake and Bellevue. Building light rail to those destinations would be redundant with East Link with just some time savings, and would be an unwise use of taxpayer dollars.

    So when you don’t pretend there’s a 1d solution to a 2d problem, I think buses and an HOV or transit-lane network is probably the best possible transit solution for SR-520. It’s incredulous to describe those who feel this way as “ignorant buffoons,” because it is only actually after sitting down and identifying the problem domain can one recognize what a possible solution is. It is not appropriate to point to light rail for every transportation problem.

    Now, if there wasn’t a 405 and development on the Eastside were more centralized, we’d be having an entirely different conversation. And perhaps one could argue that a new 520 bridge continues these distortions, but that’s not an interesting argument to me.

    1. Exellent points John,

      including the last comment: “And perhaps one could argue that a new 520 bridge continues these distortions, but that’s not an interesting argument to me.”

      However, it’s how this is going to be paid for that is of real interest.

      Decisions about driving would be made quite different if people had to pay for a facility what they would if the ‘owner’ had to make it “pay its way”.

    2. Yep I agree completely. The problem is geographical. I would rather the mayor focus on getting toll revenue for transit or ensuring that *high quality* BRT gets added to 520.

      CBD to Kirkland
      UW to Kirkland
      UW to Bellevue
      UW to Overlake

    3. This is just silly. 50,000 people a day go to the U of W campus. Nor is it likely that much of the 520 traffic into Seattle fans out like the perfect garden sprinkler to retail jobs in Seattle’s neighborhoods. Probably most of them are going downtown and could transfer at University to Link.

      At the other end you have Overlake Transit Center where people can transfer for Overlake Hospital and Bellevue.

      The arguments you’ve used against rail in the 520 corridor apply even more harshly to the current ST2 planning. Even going directly into Bellevue, ST2 gathers so few riders that the viability of the route, as seen in posts and comments here, depends entirely on park ‘n rides.

      The 520 corridor is not a distortion, it’s a development. There was no pre-existing state of grace where nuclear communities were served by rail transit. The question now is what happens in the next 20 years and your position appears to foreclose any possibility of rail. That’s the distortion.

      1. The light rail line that connects the University of Washington to Overlake Transit Center is called East Link.

        Your reply is exactly the type of projection I talked about in my comment. You’ve taken a dot called UW and connected it to a dot called the Eastside and called the job done.

  12. 520 does not make a lot of sense as a rail corridor. If we were to plan a rail corridor from scratch without considering existing corridors, a rail line in the vicinity of 520 would come up as a loser.

    There are three regional centers that are connected by 520: Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue. It is impossible to serve more than one of these cities on a single routing. For example, a line to Redmond along 520 would bypass Bellevue, unless a time-consuming jog down to Bellevue and then back north to Redmond were built. Same for Kirkland: no way to serve it and Redmond unless you use a lengthy snake-like routing. To realistically serve all three cities, you would need three trunk lines across 520, and honestly, I don’t know if one line alone would work as a standalone.

    Then consider integration with the existing link line – because of the grades in the area as well as potential capacity constraints (which I’m not fully convinced will exist), it’s not possible to spur the 520 line from the existing mainline. Thus, to serve Ballard, you’d likely need a second tunnel through the U-District (or into downtown if a separate downtown line is needed).

    Overall, I am of the opinion that McGinn is using Link as a tool to delay freeway projects. There’s no feasible routing for 520 light rail, and it should really be designed as part of a comprehensive plan. I think it’s clear that McGinn is willing to use light rail as a political tool, but I don’t think there’s a deep level of support. Look at the lukewarm reaction to the Aloha extension. I was strongly against McGinn during the election and I’m very disappointed with his lack of leadership so far. I know that many on this board supported him strictly due to his opposition to the tunnel – well be careful what you wish for!

    1. If a tunnel goes through Bellevue could a Ballard, UW, Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah line work?

    2. 520 does not make a lot of sense as a rail corridor- except for the fact that it has been a transportation corridor for 44 years, and a new bridge will be built.

      Nor does a rail line on 520 need to be part of a comprehensive plan. Spend some time at wikipedia looking at city transit systems, and you’ll find that almost none of them were built with a comprehensive plan. Or consider the BART, which actually is being built to a comprehensive plan, and is pretty much right on that 100 years schedule for completion they originally envisioned.

      Comprehensive plans are the “pie in the sky” that you’ll get, when you die.

      1. The NYC subway also took about 100 years go build. Heck, the Second Ave Subway has taken 70 on its own.

        These things take time. Plans need to adapt to external pressures that appear and disappear, including the feedback loops they create. If this area were more densely populated (on the order of New York or Tokyo) then it would be possible to decide on a master plan and implement it quickly without stopping. But Seattle is very sparse. We don’t need, and can’t support, the rapid development of the kind of system you find in Chicago or Manhattan. 100 years is actually a reasonable timeframe.

        Interestingly enough, there are large swaths of Queens that have no subway access at all. Their density is similar to that found north of the ship canal. Maybe that’s where we should be looking to for comparisons, rather than midtown Manhattan.

      2. Most of those large swaths of Queens have been complaining about lack of subways for generations (the exception is the cemeteries, which don’t really need transit).

        And the biggest — four-track — subway line through Queens is absolutely PACKED and badly needs relief — I believe it’s the most crowded route on the B division. (Despite having another, packed, three-track line a few blocks to the south). And the buses in Queens are absurdly slow.

        If you’re going to look to Queens for a comparison, it tells us “You need more rail transit”.

      3. Not having a comprehensive plan is a good thing? Piecemeal transit means fragmented transit, which means less useful transit.

      4. Since you bring up BART one should note that in a metropolitan area larger than Seattle’s BART works pretty well with only one transbay crossing.

        I support putting light rail on the 520 corridor eventually. However for political and practical reasons we’re probably at least 20 years away from doing such.

      5. “BART works pretty well with only one transbay crossing”

        That is interesting. I suppose the difference is that the Bay is much wider, so it’s more like a cross-Sound line. That means the exact position of it doesn’t contribute as much to the total travel time, it would be much more expensive to add a second line, and the demand for direct trips is less. For instance, I doubt that as many people commute from SF to Berkeley every day than from Kirkland to UW; they’d more likely move to Berkeley. Those that commute from SF are those that find the BART travel time tolerable (45 minutes I think). And if they do think about a direct line from SF to Berkeley, their next thought is that there’s no way in hell it will happen.

  13. I can’t resist jumping in on this one as this represents yet another failure for McGinn. He positions himself so badly in these debates. it would be far better for him just to lie low and wait for a new issue to come along that he can lead on before others can.

    Mayor Nickels did at least come together with Olympia on the tunnel so it is not totally fair that he dissed the State. Thus far, though, McGinn hasn’t even united the City he runs – he should work on doing that first.

  14. If this blog were democratic (which I’m glad it isn’t), I’d be voting for more of the just-the-facts posts over the opinion-piece posts. This post seems to have veered away from transit and into political analysis, and bad political analysis, IMHO. (Well, okay it gives insight into the talking going on between Ben, Martin, and John, but that is *political* analysis.)

    Yes, the mayor needs to have an actual plan, put together largely through the work of SDOT, to put on the ballot at some point in the distant future. No, he doesn’t need to understand the politics of the STB board. But he would be wise to follow the most important technical revelations that come out here.

    I think the title on this post would have been more useful to say “Nearly all Politicians Rebuff McGinn on 520”, or, better yet, “City council issues letter that generally does not support mayor’s call for light rail to be on 520.” And then focus on the public process, not the individual philosophical meanerings of Martin, Ben, and John.

    After all, the polls are going McGinn’s way on this issue. And much of what he is asking for will improve BRT on the corridor, even if rail never happens. Please don’t try to talk the public and politicians out of supporting the elements that would simultaneously improve the BRT and possible future light rail. If you think the mayor’s proposed elements won’t actually improve BRT on 520, then let us know why.

    This blog supported Mayor Nickels’ re-election. The voters went with the even more pro-transit Mike McGinn. There is a lesson there somewhere.

    1. It’s blatant that eventually a second rail crossing will be needed; the East Link route is quite indirect. Eventually the North-to-East line will be filled up with people heading for the center or changing for South Link. At that point a North-to-East Cutoff will be necessary, and it will logically go across the SR-520 bridge.

      It doesn’t make sense to build it now, but it is really sensible to make sure that you don’t have to knock anything down in order to build it later.

      If McGinn gets the gap in the bridges over the Arboretum, he *WINS*. And it will have been worth it.

    2. If you think the mayor’s proposed elements won’t actually improve BRT on 520, then let us know why.

      This blog supported Mayor Nickels’ re-election. The voters went with the even more pro-transit Mike McGinn. There is a lesson there somewhere.

      If the rail-related changes were free, I think it’s clear that we’d support them. But if the money comes out of accounts needed for higher transit priorities, we’re opposed. That seems clear enough.

      I think it’s also pretty clear that our primary concern in our initial endorsement was that McGinn might prove to be an ineffective mayor. We had few ideological concerns other than his oppposition to streetcars. It’s early days, but our hypothesis certainly hasn’t been disproved yet.

    3. Brent-

      We have worked to create a blog where our political voice is amplified by the fact we are credible. Others are, of course, free to create their own stages with their own sweat.

      Now, would you be sniping at us if we had posted an editorial favoring McGinn’s approach? I don’t think so. Let’s not pretend this it is wrong for us to deliver our opinions; rather, we disagree with you.

      Polls are irrelevant to everything I wrote.

  15. There is a candidate for state senator who agrees with Mayor McGinn on making 520 ready for light rail: David Frockt

    He is running against Seattle-bashing state senator Ken Jacobsen (who, you may recall, sponsored a bill to remove Seattle’s ability to impact freeway planning). Why do we have a Seattle-bashing state senator still representing north Seattle?

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