by BRAD MEACHAM

Brad Meacham

Editor’s Note: Mr. Meacham is a candidate for Seattle City Council who approached us about submitting a piece. All serious candidates for relevant office are welcome to submit statements to STB about transit, other alternatives to cars, and/or land use.

[UPDATE: I’ve received credible evidence that the assertion that Mr. Harrell has attended only three transportation committee meetings is incorrect. – MHD]

Just about every candidate in Seattle talks about transit. But for me it’s a personal commitment.

I grew up riding Metro buses like the 174, 132 and 130. I took the Coast Starlight solo for the first time in sixth grade and have made several cross-country trips on Amtrak since. When I lived in New York, Osaka and Tokyo I used transit daily and saw how it contributes to an urban environment. In Seattle, my wife and I chose to live in Columbia City partly because the new light rail line is helping make the neighborhood more walkable.

Safe, reliable and easy transit options would give more Seattleites the choice to get out of their cars and would make it possible to have urban neighborhoods with more residential density and thriving businesses. Owning a car adds about $8,000 in expenses to a family’s annual budget, and being able to live car-free would make Seattle much more affordable.

A signature issue of my campaign is better land use strategy – and the transportation system to make it work. I would like us to implement best practices from great cities around the world and act with a sense of urgency. Once I am elected for the Seattle City Council, I will do the following:

  • Implement a strategy for more reliable and frequent transit on major corridors to provide car alternatives for more people. We should move as quickly as possible with the Transit Master Plan. This may include adding transit lanes and giving buses priority at traffic signals.
  • Work with King County Metro to make bus routes more logical, reliable and easy. Buses should be easy to use even for the occasional rider. Let’s streamline “milk run” routes into more direct service that, in turn, will attract more riders. The current budget crisis is an opportunity to do this. As a regular reader of Seattle Transit Blog, I know there’s no shortage of great ideas to improve efficiency of the bus system.
  • Accelerate Westside rail (West Seattle and Ballard to downtown) and complete the Seattle Streetcar network. Investment in rail is about providing infrastructure where people will be in the future, and rail goes hand-in-glove with additional density. Electric bus rapid transit (BRT) may make sense for existing corridors, but rail stimulates investment and encourages people who otherwise wouldn’t use transit to get out of their cars.
  • Work with Sound Transit on regional solutions. I’d like to serve on the Sound Transit board in order to help create smart solutions that work for Seattle residents. As a frequent light rail rider, I’d like to see announcements of service problems, real-time arrival information and faster trains. Every station should be fed with buses, taxis and clearly marked areas for car pick-up and drop-off.
  • Prioritize existing master plans for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in order to complement transit. Add taxis and taxi stands to encourage transit use rather than single-occupant cars.
  • Lead on transportation funding. The proposed license fee increase will only go so far. I support additional gas taxes to fund better mobility and congestion pricing as a way to manage scarce road resources and fund transit. We should also adopt a carbon tax to replace more regressive taxes. I intend to lead on these issues and build relationships in Olympia to help build momentum for change.

This election provides a clear choice between the agenda I’ve outlined and the status quo. My opponent, incumbent Councilman Bruce Harrell, voted against the streetcar network and has attended only three meetings of the transportation committee [See update above — Ed.] (where he’s an alternate member). He supports the tunnel, which has no transit component at all, and voted to prevent people from having a say on the issue.

Transit is a top priority for me and for most Seattleites. When I’m elected, it will be a top priority of the City Council too.

89 Replies to “Making Transit a Top Priority”

  1. The Westside Light Rail project doesn’t seem very likely considering the economic climate. I’d love to see it go, but from what I gather here and elsewhere it’s unlikely.

    1. If the city has money burning a hole in its pockets (which it doesn’t), I’d rather see the city make a loan to ST to expedite North Link.

    2. The economic climate will change for the positive again, just like it always does. We want to be ready to pull the trigger on a line the moment people are willing to fund it.

      1. That’s going to be a long time, Ben. I’ve seen western West Seattle coddled in so many ways with extra transit service, only to watch people continue to drive in droves. There are other parts of town that would be a better investment for the next light rail line.

      2. Brent – it was a long time between Sound Move and ST2. I’ll be here for ST3 and ST4. Saying “that’s a long time” and failing to set up for something is exactly why it tends to take an even LONGER time to get these things done.

        And honestly, no, West Seattle and Ballard are the highest demand corridors next. Ballard first if you have to pick one.

    3. I actually don’t think West Seattle has the ridership potential to justify light rail. West Seattle is quite low-density and its location on a peninsula pretty much guarantees high car ownership. Bus Rapid Transit makes more sense for West Seattle. The cost of a new water crossing or trying to put light rail on the existing bridge means it would be extremely expensive for not enough ridership.

      Ballard is another story. It is becoming very dense, it is very possible to live there without a car (especially with rail to downtown), and the cost would be much less. Other than the short water crossing, the rest of it would not be too expensive. It could be at grade or elevated through Interbay (elevated would work better there than on MLK since views are not an issue and the right of way is very big). I’m not sure how it would best terminate downtown, but it seems like a tunnel would not be needed if it was done right.

      1. Sending light rail to West Seattle does get us service to White Center and Burien, though. Then we can reorganize bus service to serve the westside trunk line. (“Can,” not “will.” I won’t hold my breath.)

        I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my preferred route for West Link starts in Lake City, has a transfer at Northgate, serves Crown Hill, Downtown Ballard, and the west side of the city at Interbay, Seattle Center, Bell Street, Pike Place, Coleman Dock, and the stadiums. Then it takes the West Seattle Bridge to serve West Seattle, White Center, and Burien, and follows 518 to TIBS, and then east to Renton via Southcenter.

        A wye allows the north platform at TIBS to serve eastbound trains to Renton and southbound trains to SeaTac, while the south platform serves trains to Seattle in both directions. This makes serving the commute crowd particularly easy.

  2. Mostly in total agreement — you’ve got my vote.

    I do, however, have a major problem with the idea of light rail to West Seattle in the near future: it would be horrifyingly cost-ineffective. The route to West Seattle faces just about every challenge you can imagine for a new light rail alignment: steep grades, very little ROW, a major water crossing through a Superfund site and huge seismic risk. For all that the ridership through Alaska Junction to Faluntleroy (the RapidRide C alignment) currently has daily ridership well below 10k. There’s much more ridership down to Burien, but to get those riders you have to build miles and miles of rail down to Burien TC — completely unaffordable for the city.

    Light rail to Ballard isn’t much better. There’s more ridership, but you have to build another mile of tunnel through the north end of the city and then tunnel under the canal — again, extremely expensive. Of course, you could just build these routes to streetcar standards, at grade, using existing lanes on roads, but that’s not worth getting out of bed for. A streetcar in traffic is just a very expensive bus in traffic.

    Due to these constrains, the right mode choice for the growing areas of West Seattle and Ballard is BRT. If the city wants to put some smart money there, the best thing they could do would be to buy TVMs/ORCA readers and provide more bus lanes and signal priority for RapidRide. This would cost a miniscule fraction of the price of rail while giving the chance for those RapidRide lines to live up to their billing as BRT.

    Rail has many advantages over BRT, but it is completely unaffordable on the Westside. We should spend our money smartly in the right places, not just because some parts of the city are still whining about the Monorail they didn’t get.

    1. I agree about West Seattle, but you exaggerate the issues for Ballard. There is a middle path between streetcar and fully-grade-separated light rail. They could run the light rail at grade right down the middle of Elliott/15th, just like on MLK. Only the water crossing would have to be a tunnel. That said, it does make sense to see how RapidRide goes before moving towards light rail. The proper way to do BRT, though, is to make it as much like light rail as possible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like RapidRide will have much in the way of exclusive lanes.

      1. Yeah, the cars parking in the bus/bike lanes on 15th really screw up the bus service when there’s a lot of traffic. Get rid of those, and 15th would be about as suitable as Aurora for BRT. Still, I’d prefer to see light rail or a rapid streetcar.

  3. Anyone who spent years riding the 132 or 174 is clearly committed to transit.

    Given your history with the Muni League, though, I’m sure there are more than a few people who want to be reassured about your commitment to social justice. Council Member Harrell won a lot of fans voting against the crackdown on downtown solicitation. I’d like to know that you would similarly not turn a blind eye to our most vulnerable populations, and vote against any Sidranesque “civility” proposals that come to the dais.

    1. And please tell me you weren’t involved in the Muni League’s rating of former County Council Member Brian Derdowski as “not qualified” to run for his former position.

    2. Conversely, please *do* vote against downtown solicitation. Downtown Seattle has become a haven for homeless predators and annoying charity solicitors. Harrell’s cop out on this issue was pathetic.

      The people this crackdown were aimed at are hardly ‘vulnerable’. It’s the 70 year old lady getting harassed by the crack addict that needs protecting.

      1. Isn’t the most annoying downtown solicitation city council fundraisers? The effect of these is far more destructive than giving someone a quarter “for the bus”.

        I don’t believe the proposed ordinance would have done away with organized canvassing. Too many fundraising non-profits were for it. They just wanted to get rid of some of the competition.

        I’d be impressed if Brad were to call for restoration of the $400 cap on individual contributions to city council candidates. Bruce already had his chance, and did nothing.

  4. What are your thoughts on creating a gondola transit system? Or at least the start of one – say from SLU to Capital Hill Link station and/or from W. Seattle to either downtown or to the Sodo Link station? We’re talking on the order of $10M each, for a system that can run the equivilent of 40 buses each way with less than a minute wait between cars. We can pay for such a system ourselves (with federal matching funds of course).

    1. I’d like a gondola to go from West Seattle to places afar as Queen Anne and the University District:) It seems that a gondola only going as far as SODO may be redundant with the Bus Service that passes through there on the local routes to and from West Seattle.

      The bigger problem for us in West Seattle as far as Public Transportation goes is that its paradigm is primarily geared for commuting to work downtown rather than all over the city. It is practically useless to commute to far reaching parts of the city in a timely fashion.

      1. This is exactly my vision for gondolas – a way to connect neighborhoods. They wouldn’t take you to Sodo just to take you to Sodo – you’d then have a direct link to everywhere that light rail goes – the Rainier Valley, downtown, the airport, the U district, and eventually Northgate and even Bellevue. If we connect the Cap Hill station with SLU via gondolla you’d get a connection there too. And if we connect QA to SLU you can get all the way to QA.

        I think the long term plan should be light rail through our neighborhoods. But that’s just not going to happen in the next few decades. We can have gondolas running in two years. And it’s not an either/or – we should do both. Then W. Seattle ends up with a quick link to everywhere our current light rail goes and downtown/QA/Ballard/(wherever else we take a future light rail line).

      2. Oh, and regarding taking a bus to Link. If I leave from around Hiawatha Park at 7am, Google says I’ll arrive at the Sodo station at 7:36, which includes .6 miles of walking. If I miss that bus or if it’s delayed, I’ll get there at 7:50. From there I get on Link (which I’ve probably just missed a train), and we tack on even more time. Add in the WS bridge traffic, and who knows when I’ll reach my destination. A gonola would move us between two points without waiting and the trip will take about 10 minutes. Yes, we still have to get to the WS gondola, but if we’re smart about where we locate this we can leverage our existing bus system.

    2. I would love to live in a city with gondolas! Is this at all considered feasible or possible to do? Or is this just a complete pipedream?

      1. This is not only feasible, it’s being done in cities throughout South America. It turns out it’s the cheapest and fastest way to build a grade seperated transit system in a built-up city.

        It’s most appropriate in built-up cities that have geographic obstacles like water and hills – therefore it’s perfect for Seattle. Portland beat us to it, but they did theirs wrong (in my opinion) and went for an areal tramway – something with only 2 (large) cars that takes something like 15 minutes between loadings. This removes the “no waiting” benefit and makes everything from your stations to your equipment larger and more expensive.

        I’m personally creating a campaign to build a gondolla system in Seattle. I’m still at the early stages, but all this takes is a political leader (or a council candidate!) to make this happen. In a world of multi-billion dollar tunnels, around $10M for a starter gondola is nothing.

      2. I would love to live in a city with gondolas!

        Yeah, Venice is pretty cool. I can see it working between SLU and the UW. Depending on time of day it might be faster than the 71 and service hours are paid for with King County Ferry District money. :=

      3. The Roosevelt Island Tram was never intended to be a public fixture; it was a stopgap built until the Roosevelt Island F station could get built. That provides far more convenient access to the rest of the city.

      4. Considering the hills of Seattle, a gondola would make more sense for a lot of intra-city, inter-neighborhood trips than light rail or BRT.

    3. Gondolas that can carry bicycles would be particularly helpful in promoting bicycling in the city, since they could carry people from low points in the city to high ones. For example: UW to the top of Capitol Hill (15th and John, or thereabouts), perhaps Ballard to Fremont/Wallingford at 45th, Downtown to the top of Queen Anne, etc. The topography of this city is a huge deterrent to bicycle commuting in the city (for me and many people I know anyway), and having options to use our bikes as much as possible but avoid the most daunting climbs would be really incredible.

      1. Do you have more information on the actual costs of construction, equipment, operation and maintenance? You keep using the 10M figure, but what does that include? The poles or whatever suspends the wire plus one gondola, or more than that? Also, how many people can they carry (or, if there are a lot of options, what do you think is ideal?) If you’ve answered these elsewhere or know of somewhere I could read more than just general newspaper-style articles on the subject that’d be great.

      2. Crystal Mountain’s recently installed gondola cost $8 million, if you believe their website. However that gondola isn’t 100% comparable to an urban setup (mountain environment, lower capacity). More interesting is this report from the Sun Valley area about a gondola through town. This report contains some more useful information and comparisons to other (ski resort town) systems.

        I think $10 million is underestimating a bit, but even still we’re probably talking about the low double-digit millions to get this started.

      3. There’s a website I found as a great resource: The Gondola Project. The guy running it is trying to help build these systems in Canada and the US, and has built up quite a bit of knowledge. Here are his primers about the different systems out there and their costs and capacities.

        For us I’d propose a Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG), which moves about 3,000 people per hour per direction, travels a bit under 14mph, holds between 4-15 people per car, and costs between $5M and $20M per kilometer. Of course costs are hard to determine, especially “per kilometer”.

        I’ve been using $10M as a very rough base number – we could spend as much as much as we wanted on a system depending on how fancy we want our stations and how custom we want our cars. Caracas built full public buildings like libraries as stations – that adds serious money. I would argue for an off-the-shelf solution for cars and stations, taken from the ski lift industry. A reasonable comparison for a basic system cost would be Crystal Mountain’s new MDG gondola, which cost $8M. Sure building in an urban setting is more tricky, but you also don’t have to helicopter all of your equipment in.

      4. From this point forward, every transportation feasibility study/alternatives analysis needs to include gondolas as an option. Lets do the cost/beneift analysis; maybe it will pencil out in some corridors versus streetcars, light rail or bus improvements.

    4. Matt,

      Was just in Portland last Saturday, and made a point to ride the gondola cableway between the waterfront and the hospital south of Downtown. Awesome ride- though suspect there’s a design problem.

      When the car goes over the single tower lifting the cables above the freeway, sudden change of angle causes the gondola to swing on its pivot- fun for a thrill-ride, but a little unsettling for regular passenger service.

      Might be good idea to see what-all applications we could find around Seattle. Harborview to Courthouse Park is one thought. Another one is Seattle Center to Myrtle Edwards Park- especially if Sculpture Park footbridge makes extension of Waterfront Streetcar- as George Benson intended- impossible.

      A lot probably depends on geology- footing for towers could be problem here.

      Mark Dublin

  5. Brad,

    Voluntary ridership on 174 and AMTRAK qualifies you for the Congressional. That much time on Greyhound and medal would have had to be posthumous.

    Will check out your website, but might be good idea to let Transit Blog readers know: what’s your technical background and experience? Bravery and integrity are important, but Council needs someone with enough street rail experience to tell above commenters why they’re wrong about light rail to Ballard and West Seattle.

    Good luck.

    Mark Dublin

  6. “Let’s streamline “milk run” routes into more direct service that, in turn, will attract more riders.”

    That’s what I said about Central Link.

    1. Central Link isn’t a milk run. It’s just not an express train to the airport. That’s not what it was supposed to be.

    2. Central Link is direct service to SE Seattle – just as an urban rail route should be. It just happens to keep going. :)

  7. Brad,

    You have interesting ideas, but I believe you are a little naive and too simplistic in your campaign promises. I know the Council has spoken quite a bit about their desires to move the Transit Master Plan forward, but have been limited by funding sources. An increase in the gas tax seems unlikely in this economic climate, and revenue from tolls/congestion pricing have already been factored into Seattle’s existing growth plan.

    It also doesn’t seem like you are aware that the councilmembers who voted against the streetcar network in 2008 did so because they were concerned that the plan extended service north, but not south. They voted against the plan because it wasn’t agressive enough in meeting constituents needs to the south (including your neighborhood in Columbia City). Would you take these equity issues into account once in office? Again, good ideas but maybe just not all that realistic right now.

    1. John, if City Council members were concerned about north vs south – where’s their plan that extends the streetcar network south?

      Remember, the classic anti-transit argument is that it’s not the “right” transit, followed by no alternatives. Don’t get sucked in.

      1. Other than Rainier down to Columbia City it is hard to see many areas in the south that would benefit from streetcar service. Beacon Hill is out because of steep hills and Georgetown is too isolated. I think the streetcar planners saw that Rainier Valley was getting light rail and figured the need was greater in the north areas of the city. I agree with Ben, this was just a case of winning political points by bringing up equity but not really proposing alternatives or looking at the real issues.

    2. Brent’s comments also make me want to ask the question: if Land Use and Transportation are your top priorities, why did you choose to run against a councilmember who is more commonly known for his work with social justice? A more natural target would seem to have been someone working on the land use and/or transportation committees. Leaving the social justice work open seems like a big space to fill.

      1. I don’t think Harrell’s social justice work is that impressive, to be honest. He hasn’t done much in years.

      2. Interesting. I honestly didn’t know we had matched sets of council members. Which one gets to care about education?

      3. Ben, I’m willing to bet Harrell’s social justice work is impressive to the people he has been helping. But there are quite a few who are always in the majority and don’t realize the importance, impact or value of that work because it isn’t personally relevant to them. It may not directly benefit me, but I’m glad that we have someone committed to that represented on our current council.

        Matt, the council has a number of different committees that each council member is in charge of. I don’t know the whole list, but do know that there are land use and also transportation committees. It doesn’t make sense to have the entire council focused on every issue, “jack of all trades, master of none”.

      4. Nick Licata is by far the strongest on social justice issues. Harrell has been the least active councilmember and that’s why he has the least name recognition.

      5. I look forward to Brad listing his social justice credentials, without which he has no chance of building a winning coalition in this town.

        It will also help if he reassures social justice advocates that he will say No to any proposals aimed at further criminalizing the homeless (such as last year’s anti-solication proposal), and defuse one of Bruce’s biggest strengths.

    3. Wait… Didn’t the South get Link first? I think that trumps a Streetcar.

  8. These statements by Mr. Meacham ring hollow to me. For one, the city coumcil has been working hard on building the city’s multimodal transportation infrastructure. Bus rapid transit is coming, more streetcar service is coming, road diets to accomodate more bike and peds are happening all over the place. It is nice to make proposals when you are not the one who has to answer to the public. Funding for the things he proposes is clearly an issue. Additional gas tax? Right now? I don’t think voters would let that happen.

    1. A gas tax would be in everyone’s interest, and if it’s going to happen somewhere why not our region. But not at the city level, unless you’re limiting it to a few cents. It’s just too easy to drive outside the city for gas.

      1. In this current economy the time is not right for a gas tax. Seattle voters have been very generous over the years but now is not the time. The economic well being of residents and businesses need to be considered before such things are imposed.

      2. “The economic well being of residents and businesses need to be considered before such things are imposed.” So you propose waiting until fuel prices go higher? Obama just tapped into our reserves, which should drop prices for about a year. Prices will likely go much higher than they are right now, and drag our economy down. It’s best to start influencing behavior by getting people used to higher fuel prices now.

        It would probably be easiest to add a fuel sales tax at the city or county level, but done at the state level you can be really creative. You can, for instance, set a fixed price of $5 a gallon for gas, adjusted quarterly. If the current fuel sales tax is $1 and the average price goes to $5.25, drop the tax by a quarter. This creates a very stable gas price that people can plan for – by buying more efficient cars, adjusting their commute, etc. When (not if) the actual price of gas goes higher than this then we’ll be much better prepared than other states. Of course, part of this would have to either be to convert to a sales tax on gas or remove the constitutional requirement that fuel taxes all go to road building.

    2. More streetcar service is coming? You mean the service that the businesses in SLU are paying for on the SLUT? Is there more of which I am unaware?

      At the current rate of expenditure, as pointed out by pedestrian and cycling advocates time and again, neither Seattle’s Pedestrian nor Bicycle Master Plans will be finished for decades (for the Ped Plan, we’re talking in centuries). BRT is coming, in the form of RapidRide, but as folks here have said repeatedly, RapidRide is not exactly BRT, and will require continued support from Seattle to make it work well (bus-only lanes, traffic signal prioritization, and so on).

      1. JohnS, The First Hill streetcar is coming, and momentum is building quickly to connect it with the SLUS in the very near future.

      2. Jason, you’re missing my point. I’m well aware that the First Hill streetcar is coming, and I’ve heard chatter about connecting it to the SLUT; doing so seems like an expensive proposition, but that’s another conversation. The original post seemed to imply that we’ll have 4 new streetcar lines in the next 2 years, which is clearly not the case.

        Brad’s right on that we need to figure out how we’re going to pay for $5/gallon+ gas and a transportation system that’s still far too oriented around the SOV.

      3. I’ve heard chatter about connecting it to the SLUT; doing so seems like an expensive proposition

        Maybe not if you look at the savings of only having to keep one maintenance facility and possibly being able to make do with one less streetcar since “spares” could be directed to either line. Other savings may come from being able to reduce bus service hours. It’s only about a mile of extra track but yeah, that would likely cost $40 million so not likely in the immediate future.

      4. No offense, John, but if that was your point I didn’t miss it—you didn’t make it.

      5. No offense taken, Jason. You’re right, I wasn’t as clear as I should have been.

        Bernie, yes, except that you’ve already got a maintenance facility in the FH streetcar budget. Perhaps you gain some savings from through-routing? My point was I don’t see the $ for that, even if we pass the $80 VLF, in the short term.

    3. Remember that he is running against Bruce Harrell, who has not shown any interest in transportation or land use. So what if the city as a whole has been engaged? He is running for one specific position.

      Gas tax would be difficult, but the city could certainly push for ending the stupid sales tax exemption on gasoline. That would boost the funding to Metro and Sound Transit significantly, plus more money to the state.

    4. Brad – I support all of your proposals, but to make it real we need to discuss funding sources available to the City. How would the streetcar network be funded? How are we going to accelerate the pedestrian and bicycle master plans? Relying on action in Olympia is a recipe for delay and probably inaction.

  9. I’m insanely excited about the prospect of light rail to Ballard and West Seattle. But it has to be done right. We need either a tunnel or a cohesive way of using a downtown avenue for both rail and buses, possibly akin to how the tunnel is currently used, but without the asinine physical separations.

    That means we need some initial feasibility analysis to come up with options we can intelligently debate, including BRT, another tunnel, surface rail, etc. And none of this BS about leaving rail short of the CBD unless that’s (a) very temporary and (b) is next to existing rail.

    PS, being as a militant pedestrian/transit/bike guy with no license, I’m a 99 tunnel supporter, to keep Downtown from being overrun by cars and trucks. No way in hell I’d vote for an opponent, who I see as well meaning but basically trying to destroy Downtown.

    1. Your last paragraph makes no sense. Have you not read any of the reports on the matter?

      1. You mean the reports that treat a “trip” equally whether it’s the downtown commuter driving two blocks or the truck headed all the way through going to Aurora?

      2. How does a commuter get downtown to make a 2 block trip? Do they keep the car there at all times?

      3. Pick one. They all say pretty much the same thing, the tunnel is worse than I5/Transit in almost every possible measure.

    2. Convert 3rd to transit only, install tracks for light rail in the left lane with stopping tracks in the right (3rd doesn’t seem wide enough to have stations in the middle of the road), unfortunately keeping trolleybuses and streetcars off of third, and primarily run the buses in the right lane and only use the left for passing. Also, a TON of signal priority.

      1. So you’re going to push the busiest bus routes in the city off the busway and lay tracks that will require you to go to Ballard via Denny.

        ♫ Reeeeaaallllll meeeen of geeeeenyus ♫

      2. Light rail would be better suited as a couplet on 2nd and 4th with a side-running alignment similar to Portland. There would still be space for 2 lanes of car traffic. 3rd should be a bus only corridor.

      3. Or just keep the light rail on Elliott and Alaskan Way all the way to the ferry docks.

      4. Street level rail can only work if the lanes can be used for buses too. Or, alternatively, we could put multiple rail lines on Third, which, along with the additions to Link, might reduce the number of buses needed. For example if the SLUT were extended through the CBD, another route was added to Fremont, etc.

      5. Um, 3rd is the trolley spine for the entire ETB network. “keeping trolleybuses…off of Third” would be insanely expensive.

  10. I’m in the burbs, but I want to thank Brad for spelling out his positions on rail, transit, and transportation in general. It’s actually very rare for a candidate to actually list out their positions, and champion them in their campaign. Instead, they often base their entire campaign on sparking fear about the other guy/ginning up animosity towards his supporters.

    So Brad I certainly respect you for taking a clear stand.

  11. I just noticed the correction at the top that Brad was untruthful about Harrell’s attendance at transportation meetings. I wonder what else he lies about to get ahead?

    1. If you are trying to get votes for Mr. Harrell, there are better ways to do it than to make his supporters look like mudslingers. Bruce is charismatic, after all. That Brad apparently got caught misrepresenting Bruce’s attendance record (if we can see the evidence) stands on its own.

      I’m sure there will be plenty of strechings of the truth, with or without the candidates’ approval, between now and November. I appreciate that this blog is sticking to its journalistic ethics.

      1. Check out the June 29th Publicola in which a commentator to a piece there noted that Meacham incorrectly cited the date of Harrell’introduction of body cameras while implying that wrong date was for politcal purposes.

  12. If you want to know more about Meacham’s transit plans go to the Dec 10, 2008 PI guest editorial he wrote and in which he lavished praise on the process that Gregoire, Simms and Nickels setup to find a viaduct replacement.

  13. What, no comments from Brad? This is a blog, not a newspaper. Talk to us.

  14. Thanks for all the constructive comments. I love this blog because it’s a place to go for informed conversation about transit policy.

    Regarding the tunnel, my position is very clear. The current tunnel project was announced in Jan. 2009. Here’s my stance: http://www.electbradmeacham.com/2011/06/a-point-of-clarification/

    Regarding charges of mudslinging, I’m happy to have the correct number of Bruce’s appearances at the transportation committee. Thank you, Martin, for the correction. This means that he appeared at at least 6 of the 65 meetings between 1/1/08 and 4/26/11, not 3. He may have peeked in at another one or two, bringing his attendance to roughly 10%.

    1. I have followed city politics for a long time and I know that Councilmembers attend the committee meetings that they are members of. They generally do not attend committee meetings that they are not members of unless a big issue is being discussed. If Harrell was not a member of the transportation committee I would not expect him to be there for meetings where routine issues are on the agenda. Look at any committee though, unless it is a big issue you get the three members at the table or less than that.

    2. Brad,

      Thanks for offering your views in SeattleTransitBlog. I understand now that you oppose the tunnel, and want to demolish the viaduct sooner. This means you want to permanently reduce the number of high-speed car and transit lanes through Seattle. Even when we take out the voluntary trips that would go away, the new congestion without a tunnel or viaduct would be paralyzing.

      So I think not building the tunnel would be a terrible mistake. Plus the state will do it anyway. Though I ride Link, Metro, AmtrakCascades, and my bicycle, I also want to make sure cars, buses, and truck freight can move effectively through Seattle.

      The tunnel plan does not dismantle the viaduct before its replacement is built. Instead, it avoids years of congestion before transferring 99 traffic to a safer and more efficient through route, while replacing the seawall and freeing up the waterfront.

      I respect your viewpoint, but know it’s supported by barely a quarter of the city’s voters. So I expect Bruce will win re-election. He certainly has my vote because he supports the tunnel.

      1. Tom,

        Can you please provide evidence for this claim?

        Even when we take out the voluntary trips that would go away, the new congestion without a tunnel or viaduct would be paralyzing.

        A number of sources, including the state’s own EIS, suggest that what you claim is untrue.

        Here’s Dominic Holden’s latest analysis of the numbers (from a draft, but a recent one). To quote:

        Daily vehicle counts are nearly identical—only a few hundred vehicles a day difference—on the central leg of the waterfront if we choose to dig a $3.1 billion tunnel or close the viaduct and do nothing.

        In other words, all the evidence suggests that the tunnel will not, in fact, have any effect on surface street congestion. Its only mobility improvement is to add a bypass for 38,000 vehicles daily, so long as they can afford the toll. And those vehicles will be exclusively cars (since trucks can’t use the tunnel and buses won’t), and primarily SOV, as all cars are. So transit and freight mobility is not improved at all by this plan.

        Is this really an effective use of our money?

  15. I think it’s an effective use of our money, Dominic. You have to amortize how it’s spent, and not zero-sum it against, say, K-12 or social services, as the Mayor likes to do.

    I’m talking about high-speed lanes; they go away forever with the surface option. Then we’re left with just I-5 for high-speed lanes. For solo-occupant drivers, that leaves TWO mainline high-speed lanes each way through Seattle downtown. I think that’s not a viable option, and most of the city, certainly WashDOT and the governor, and anyone traveling through Seattle, sees it similarly.

    1. Tom,

      First, assuming you’re responding to my comment, I’m Aleks; Dominic Holden is an editor of the Stranger, and one of the leading journalists opposing the tunnel.

      I repeat my first claim: can you please provide evidence that the no-build option will produce meaningfully more congestion than the tunnel? The state’s own EIS says that it won’t, so I’m not sure what your source is.

      Mere speculation just isn’t good enough. Are two lanes enough? Are twenty? I don’t know, but I trust the auditors who prepared the EIS, and other people who’ve done a thorough analysis of the data, much more than I trust an undocumented assertion by an anonymous commenter.

      Finally, I have to quibble with your line about amortization vs. zero-sum. It’s simply not true that those two strategies are mutually exclusive. The first is about short-term versus long-term thinking; the second is about spending money effectively. If I truly thought the best use of a portion of our region’s 100-year budget was to build the tunnel, then I would be all for it. But, no matter how far into the future you look, I maintain that there are far more effective ways to spend the money.

  16. Forgive me, Aleks. I didn’t mean to get you confused with Dominic.

    I don’t have a source for my “claim.” It is a fact and not a claim that non-HOV traffic would be reduced to two mainline high-speed lanes (at about Yesler) from four (when you no longer have 99’s Battery Street Tunnel). I *am* claiming that we need more than two high-speed lanes. I guess I have to read the EIS. We know most voters won’t do that.

    Were the 99 tunnel to be cancelled, I fear that lots of retail customers, often in single-occupancy vehicles, will just start shopping in Bellevue, or Southcenter, or Northgate, instead of downtown. I fear downtown executives will re-locate their firms to the suburbs or other states. I fear a permanent economic loss to downtown Seattle from removing but not replacing its first freeway. Please find me another North American city with so few through lanes for high-speed traffic. (If you argue for San Francisco, I commuted there for two years on BART, a system we will never have as part of our mix, and with freeway congestion on the Bay Bridge I hope we never have. DC and NY also have heavy rail to make up for their lanes.)

    I didn’t say the strategies were mutually exclusive. The costs for the tunnel are long-term capital investments, and not the same as annual expenses for government services. I don’t know how long I can keep buying Real Change newspapers with editorials that seem to think building a tunnel costs the homeless some shelter. Government budgets don’t work like that.

    Perhaps the more practical argument is a political one: whether anyone can stop the tunnel from being built. The election, held only in Seattle, to stop the replacement of a state freeway, can’t stop construction. So this Final Stand seems futile, even wasteful. (Plus it’s really brought forward by a Magnolia resident that wants to replace the viaduct with *another* viaduct, an even more unlikely scenario.) Governor Gregoire won’t stop the tunnel, and neither will McKenna nor Inslee when one of them replaces her. Certainly the legislature won’t stop it. I don’t see the 8-1 majority on the Council shifting much, Brad’s admirable campaign notwithstanding, so the Mayor has no Council support. Where is the political will to stop the tunnel?

    1. Tom R,

      Where’s the money to finish the tunnel? Is it coming from the Seattle area or from the state? Many in the legislature have taken that stand that not one more dime will be spent by the state than what is already budgeted.

      If it is coming from the Seattle area, then various groups have a good reason to expect that it will be at their expense. Transit supporters especially have reason to believe that hundreds of millions of dollars that could have been used for transit will get diverted to finishing the Tunnel/No-Transit Project.

      Given hoaxes for the media, like last week’s press conference by “environmentalists” (whom nobody had ever heard of) supporting the tunnel, we also have no reason to believe that what we hear from the Chamber of Commerce has any truth to it at all.

      Since you talk about lanes, let me ask you this Tom:

      1. Will you support turning 3rd Ave into a 24/7 busway with or without the tunnel?
      2. Do you agree that freight to/from Interbay will mostly use the rebuilt Alaskan Way?

      Thanks for engaging this blog.

      1. First, to Aleks, Dominic’s article in the Stranger didn’t offer evidence. It offered intrepretation and expectation, as so many Stranger articles do. He hadn’t read the EIS, either, because it’s just been released. For me, the Stranger will have to increase its journalistic standards a lot more before it gets a Pulitzer like the the Seattle Times has for its investigative work.

        Brent, I very much support a 24/7 bus lane on 3rd. Portland’s had something like this for years, and it works wonderfully. I would especially support this if through-buses were completely eliminated from 2nd and 4th, and focused on 3rd, the transit tunnel, and a few for 1st and Alaskan Way.

        I agree most freight will move on Alaskan Way. I think truck-freight should be given exclusive night time lanes on Alaskan Way to do this. In Tokyo the downtown viaducts are given over to trucks at night; it makes tons of sense, literally. I think we have to keep an industrial base in Ballard and Interbay, and good freight mobility supports this. We’re talking about thousands of working-class jobs in Ballard-Interbay, and opposing mobility to them seems economically destructive.

        I don’t share your cynicism about the environmentalists in last week’s conference. Am I not an environmentalist for advocating for the tunnel? This entire set of arguments is generally among liberals and environmentalists. Our Chamber is on the far left of the nation’s chambers, so I wouldn’t write them off too quickly.

        I think the money to finish the tunnel will come from a mix of tolls and finishing ahead of schedule and under budget, which has happened more and more frequently with state highway projects. But the dig itself is full of unknowns, so I am not sure there is complete money to cover this or not. I am not sure the tunnel, or 520, can sustain $4 tolls, either. That doesn’t mean we don’t proceed; it probably means we spread the cost elsewhere through tab fees, other tolled highways, or something else. Similarly, I don’t know how we keep more Metro routes running as more and more people take transit as gas prices rise. Policy makers will have to adjust budgets, fares, and taxes to pay for this. If Metro fares rise to $3 peak, maybe more people drive the tunnel. “I don’t know” is an honest answer and not a reason to stop the dig, which, again, won’t be stopped politically.

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