Burke-Gilman Trail (wikimedia)

A lot has happened between Sen. Ed Murray and cycling advocates since Ben reported on his fundraiser with bicycle infrastructure opponents:

  • In an interview with the Times ($), he revealed that after looking into the subject he supports the Westlake cycletrack.
  • In the same interview, Murray also questioned the safety of the Burke-Gilman Trail “Missing Link” solution, favoring more study with emphasis on a cycle track on Leary and Market instead.
  • Seattle Bike Blog absolutely eviscerated his apparent position on the BGT.
  • Sen. Murray released a “clarification” (Times ($), PubliCola, SBB) poking holes in the Leary/Market idea, calling the BGT a “treasure,” and saying that the ongoing EIS is the “second look” he meant.

Whether this is a case of verbal clumsiness, a legislator’s lack of depth on city-level issues, or pandering run amok is something only Ed Murray knows. In any case it’s nice to have both Mayoral candidates now firmly on the record in support of these projects.

29 Replies to “Murray’s Spin Around the Cycletrack”

  1. Whether this is a case of verbal clumsiness, a legislator’s lack of depth on city-level issues, or pandering run amok is something only Ed Murray knows.

    I really think it’s the lack of depth on city-level issues. On the Westlake project, he said “I’m not familiar with the project”, and on the BGT, “It looks dangerous”, both really weak answers devoid of any studied content. A mayoral candidate should be up to speed on proposed city-level projects, especially those with a decade of litigation under their belt and/or those already funded by PSRC.

    On transit, I really feel like he doesn’t understand the Mayor’s office and SDOT’s role. Yes, the Mayor has a seat on the Sound Transit board, but I’ve not heard him talk about about the areas where the Mayor makes a real difference: TSP, bus bulbs, road diets, bike lanes, purchasing service hours from Metro for select corridors, and other city means of speeding up transit. His continued championing of “regional solutions” doesn’t seem to take into account that our regional transit future is mostly assured and has never been better. We’re building BART-like rail deep into Snohomish County, we pour tons of money into commuter rail that exclusively serves suburban residents, we already have greater off-peak frequency between Seattle/Bellevue and Seattle/Everett than we do between city neighborhoods, every single North subarea Sound Transit route leaves Seattle at some point, and it’s already faster in many cases to commute outside the city than within it.

    The silver lining is that lack of depth is educable, and transit advocates will need to cozy up to Murray in a hurry if/when he wins.

    1. “every single North subarea Sound Transit route leaves Seattle at some point”

      There are no North King subarea ST express routes. Every route that enters Seattle is funded by some other subarea.

    2. “it’s already faster in many cases to commute outside the city than within it. ”

      Even though I live in Seattle, it often takes less time by bus to get to my office in Redmond than it would take to get to parts of downtown Seattle.

    1. Our job is to make it not convenient for him to do so. If Murray ends up being a decent transit mayor, it’ll be because of a lot of vigilance and work on the part of people here, SBB, and elsewhere.

  2. I am glad for the clarification, and I hope that he sticks with the right position on this.

    I would like some further detail on his transit plans next. “Handing things regionally” sounds a bit too much like “Seattle doesn’t need any more transit” (which I do hear from people who live outside Seattle from time to time). I would like some clarification there so I can know for sure if Murray wants to be mayor of Seattle or if he’s trying to be mayor of the “region”…

    To be clear I do want regional solutions, but not at the expense of Seattle solutions. The reason the interurban was successful in its day was because it hooked into the extensive Seattle transit system. We will need a better Seattle transit system (with more frequent local access) to make a regional spine worth anything.

  3. It’s too bad McGinn has so little charisma, it should be pretty easy to beat such a crappy politician.

  4. The pattern here is clear… he thinks he can wing it, and then embarrasses himself because he’s talking to people who know the details. That shows a lack of interest in getting into the weeds on issues. While executives can’t get too far into the weeds, they do need to understand issues at a high enough level of detail to make informed decisions. It’s not clear that Murray is inclined to go into any detail at all unless forced.

    The good and bad news about that sort of approach is that he will be heavily reliant on staff if he becomes mayor. In areas where city staff have shown that they want to do the right thing (as with the TMP, their recent work on TSP, and some of their work on bike infrastructure) he won’t get in their way. But in areas where the current mayor has had to push staff against their instincts (I’m particularly thinking of reallocating roadway space, anywhere, from cars to ped/bike or transit uses) we won’t get any help from a Mayor Murray.

    1. All the more reason I really want Conlin to win. I think he knows “the weeds” better than any other city councilmember. At least, with regards to density and transit. He should be able to help the mayor figure it out. If he loses, I think the city could hurt quite a bit, while new folks figure out how things work in this town.

  5. It’s the same thing we’ve seen in other cities, including New York. A candidate scrabbling for a hold onto his opponent bumps into a group of malcontents who hate the current administration’s support for bikes and transit, whining about a “war on cars”. Candidate hears the volume of this complaint but doesn’t see how thin it is, and figures, mistakenly, that he’s got ahold of something. He makes some stupid statements about things he doesn’t understand (“another look” at completing the BGT would be, what, the seventh look at this topic?) Candidate gets blowback from people attuned to the issue, finds out that despite the bleating of the “war on cars” crowd bikes and transit have wide popular support. Candidate scrambles to change his position while making it look like he’s been with us all along.

    Murray’ll be photographed biking in the city before the week is out.

  6. The city’s problem is that the current Mayor is great on policy and extremely weak at politics, while his challenger is woefully ignorant on policy but much better at politics.

    Either one without the other is bad. I prefer good policy from a poor politician, because at least nothing will get worse (except through the neglect of nothing getting done). Someone who is good enough at politics to pander to the wrong people can really enact bad policy, though.

    Murray is worse on policy than McGinn is on politicking, yet it’s the latter trait that is likely to be decisive.

    Just once I’d like to see a Mayor who could succeed at both parts of the job. In retrospect, Greg Nickels is looking like the best we can expect (still pretty good on policy, but able to win over the political insiders). It’s sad.

    1. Quite right. Murray keeps talking about how we can “bring people together” and “build coalitions”…to do what, exactly?

    2. It’s not the job of the mayor to be the policy expert but to hire the right people who can advise him or her on these sorts of things while also holding the bigger picture. I think part of McGinn’s challenges have related to getting to far into the weeds on policy stuff and losing focus on stuff that would up biting him in the ass during the campaign (aggressive panhandling Downtown, etc.). I think another big mistake McGinn made was hiring his campaign team to run his administration – they didn’t have sufficient experience trying to get the City bureaucracy moving in the direction they wanted.

      1. If you look at the statement from Murray, posted on Seattle Bike Blog, he talks about the Lake Union businesses in Ballard. My first thought was “wow, that really proves he doesn’t know much about Seattle.” Then I thought it was probably his staff’s fault and doesn’t really reflect his knowledge. But if his strength is that he can hire and manage people who know what they’re doing, it does reflect really poorly on him that his staff don’t know (or bother to check) basic Seattle geography.

  7. There really ought to be cycle track on both Shilshole and Leary. It’s not like we only pave one street for cars per neighborhood. Leary has way too much car capacity as it is anyway.

    1. I agree. That and/or a road diet would make it far safer for pedestrians as well. It’s a really uncomfortable street to cross – even at the crosswalk.

      1. Second the motion. I was crossing it as a pedestrian a few weeks ago and even with the light the right turns onto 14th (which isn’t that busy of a street and is really wide) were ignoring the possibility someone would be walking there.

    2. I totally agree about Leary and Shilshole — both scary places to be unless you’re in a car.

      10th Ave E, heading to and from the forthcoming cycle track on Broadway, might also benefit from cycle improvements and maybe a lane-diet. I understand that it’s a substantial arterial, but it’s both a dangerous and common bike route, not to mention a pedestrian-crossing nightmare.

      Also: are there good reasons not to rearrange parking and bike lanes so that the parked cars provide a barrier between cyclists and moving cars?

      1. You would need to make sure there would be enough space for cyclists to pass each other. Also, you would need to make sure that the parked cars don’t block turning drivers’ view of oncoming bikes at intersections.

      2. The standard reasons have always been about visibility. With cross-traffic, overtaking right turns, and oncoming lefts. It’s pretty rare, anywhere, to see parking-separated bike lanes on major streets with lots of uncontrolled turns.

  8. I think Murray is an opportunist and will say what he needs to say to be elected. McGinn may have his problems, but we know where he stands as far as bicycle infrastructure.

  9. Do we know who Murray’s transportation expert(s) is(are)? Or the transit people/experts Murray who are on his campaign? Won’t they give us hints as to whether we get more Rapid ride, rapid streetcar from Ballard to downtown, etc.?

    1. He has the Senate Democratic Caucus staff at his command. To his credit, he hasn’t had to issue any no-contact orders against harassing senators. That counts as a staff management skill.

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