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September 23, 2005

Loco-motive

UPDATE 9/26/05: Pretty good blow-by-blow coverage of the monorail's unraveling in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Saturday.

We're not dead yet, proclaims the monorail board.

Just minutes ago, the board unanimously agreed to send the monorail back to the voters this November. This is apparently a last ditch effort to resuscitate the project in the face of stern opposition from the mayor and city council. The new plan may actually be financially viable because it will truncate the full Green Line route: the line would now run from the West Seattle Junction to downtown to Dravus Street in Interbay (between Magnolia and Queen Anne), a rather obvious solution that I've suggested before. (This slightly shortens the West Seattle route and lops off Ballard with the expensive bridge across the ship canal.)

What the heck is going on?

To my list of criticisms of the monorail board, let me now add: politically clueless and frenetic. It didn't exactly take a rocket scientist (or even a monorail planner) to see that city officials were serious about holding the project accountable to a financing plan that could pass a straight-face test. Why the monorail waited until the 13th hour to offer voters a new plan is utterly beyond me.

There is one possible silver lining, however. A shortened monorail line could conceivably be affordable. And the shortened line would still bridge the critical link between West Seattle and downtown. That could help replace lost capacity in the Alaska Way Viaduct, which is looking ever more likely to come down and be replaced by, well, nothing.

Perhaps instead of funneling billions into substitute road capacity, the city-county-state-feds should consider funding the monorail. If government chips in some money, they could--and should--attach some meaningful strings: namely, better leadership and public oversight. But I suppose I'm just being Pollyanna.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink

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Comments

I wish I better understood what happened. The one monorail meeting I went to in Ballard, the monorail board seemed overwhelmingly competent; did I just fall for polish with no substance? Or was it just the stark contrast with the haphazard organization of the monorail contrarians?

Seattle's vigorous debate with itself over the monorail was one of the main reasons I talked myself into moving to San Francisco when the opportunity arised--the only thing that beats my mystification over Seattle attitudes over the monorail is the fact that the Bay Area has been able to overcome *regional* conflicts on multiple occasions, as evinced by Caltrain and BART. The Seattle monorail might still happen, but what's the likelihood of seeing non-surface transit around Lake Washington within the next 30 years?

I do miss the clouds, though.

Posted by: Eric | Sep 24, 2005 8:31:29 AM

This process is broken. There is no leadership.

Taking something back to the voters is a cop-out, and IMHO this process should be taken out and shot to put it out of its misery. Stop the madness and move forward, fer chrissake.

Posted by: Dan Staley | Sep 26, 2005 8:19:13 AM

Agreed. Hopefully the voters will tell the politicians in this town that they did in fact really really mean it. Anyone in the pro camp can head over to 2045Seattle.org for resources.

Posted by: Christian Gloddy | Sep 26, 2005 5:24:16 PM

-Perhaps instead of funneling billions into substitute road capacity, the city-county-state-feds should consider funding the monorail.-

Mr. de Place: there are no short or long-term plans to widen 15th Ave. NW to Ballard, nor are there any plans to increase road capacity on the re-built viaduct, nor are there any plans to increase road capacity across the West Seattle Bridge.

Need I mention there are no plans to "increase road capacity" in West Seattle?

Given this simple fact, what on EARTH were you talking about?

And the fact you still think the monorail is a cost-effective option (proprietary single-bid projects rarely are) indicates you might be out in la-la land a bit when it comes to your knowledge about transportation issues.

Posted by: TransitEnthusiast | Oct 1, 2005 1:26:14 PM

TE,
The billions spent on substitute road capacity (obviously) refers to the Alaska Viaduct replacement, which may include a tunnel along the waterfront among other features. That's why in the previous sentence I wrote, "That could help replace lost capacity in the Alaska Way Viaduct..."

Posted by: Eric de Place | Oct 1, 2005 10:08:46 PM

TE,
To elaborate on my earlier comment...

Maybe you should re-read my post. I never mentioned "increased" road capacity and certainly never in reference to Ballard or within West Seattle. I only suggest that the monorail "could help replace lost capacity in the Alaska Way Viaduct." That's a pretty non-controversial statement.

Also, you shouldn't assume that I think the monorail is a cost-effective option. I said it could "conceivably be affordable" (i.e. be paid for by the assessed fees on vehicles) which is much different than being cost-effective. But since various govts are seriously proposing throwing around several billion dollars, I don't see why we shouldn't at least crunch the numbers for a shortened monorail line.

Posted by: Eric de Place | Oct 1, 2005 10:20:06 PM