Mike Schuh's YES on I-83 page
I urged a YES vote on Seattle
Municipal League of King County
Poor Technology, Not A Solution
The current "Green Line" proposal,
Seattle Monorail Project
(SMP) is a poor idea and will NOT solve Seattle's traffic problems.
for my dissection of some of the monorail's technical shortcomings.
An older essay of mine,
which addresses many of these same issues,
Among the many inadequacies:
according to the July 2002
"SEATTLE POPULAR TRANSIT PLAN RIDERSHIP FORECAST DOCUMENTATION",
"At the system level for all transit
users, savings per board is estimated to be 1.85 minutes..."
(page ES-2, the 7th page of the PDF document).
Is this really worth $1.75 billion?
Saving the average rider less than 2 minutes per trip?
Metro routes 54 and 55 take just 10-12 minutes to travel between downtown
(First Avenue) and the Alaska Junction;
the Green Line is projected to take over 17 minutes.
No, the Green Line is not worth building.
The same page in the above study includes predicts that
"One important aspect of monorails in particular and enhancing transit service in general, is the
potential for attracting new transit riders. These riders, who are primarily auto users, are
estimated to be about 18 percent of the users of the monorail system. The majority of monorail
riders, 82 percent, are diverted trips from the existing transit trips in the system."
So why are we building this?
Monorail Proposal Has Changed
The current proposal is very different than what was presented just two (2)
Consider the following changes:
(See this 2002
for some of the things that were presented then that since have been changed.)
Monorail supporters point out that Sound Transit changed a lot of details
in the LINK light rail from what was presented to the voters.
Certainly this is true, and was even the subject of a lawsuit that reached
the Washington State Supreme Court.
I have my criticisms of LINK,
but at least it is a technology that is amenable to modification.
If we so desire, we can change LINK.
On the other hand, monorails,
literally as well as figuratively,
tend to be cast in concrete.
- Approximately 40% of the line will be single track,
instead of double track.
This will result in longer travel times and reduced capacity.
- Thick columns (very much like the current Seattle Center Monorail)
instead of the 3 foot columns promised.
The laws of physics haven't changed since 1962,
nor is today's concrete significantly stronger!
SMP sold us
with the reality of the Las Vegas
- The Green Line is planned to go through the Seattle Center,
instead of around it.
I think that at least 439 of those voters who voted FOR Propostion 1
in 2002 would have voted AGAINST it if they had known that the Green
Line was going to go through the Seattle Center.
This would have defeated the proposal.
- No escalators.
Supposedly eliminated at the request of citizens to make the stations
smaller (why? do the stations have a negative impact?), but actually to
- Shorter passenger platforms.
Same story as the escalators. However, shorter platforms means
smaller trains which means reduced system capacity.
http://www.farmdale.com/transit/monorail.shtml for a longer discussion
of platform lengths and system capacity.
- Only one bidder
Not so much a change from what was promised as an unfortunate turn
of events. SMP lost a lot of leverage when it lost the other bidder.
- Not enough money
The revenue from the MVET is less than originally predicted. This
means that there is less money to build and operate the system, and
that the tax will need to be collected over a longer period of time.
- Opening date delayed
From the get-go, the opening date was loudly advertised as
December 19, 2007. What a fantasy! Who, when building a house,
sets the completion date, and then finds an architect to
design it, followed by a contractor to build it? Sure, many projects
have a desired completion date up front, but so precise as to specify the
exact day 5 years in advance?
This preposterous date has been dropped, officially to avoid closing the
system when the final segment is undergoing tests.
Personally, I think the bidders (back when there were two) told SMP
that three years to build even an initial segment was totally unrealistic.
Two! Yes, Two! Rail Transit Agencies
If SMP continues, we will have two (2) publicly funded agencies,
SMP and Sound Transit,
competing to build rail systems in Seattle.
They will compete for geographic territory (who gets to build where)
and political power,
as well as for our tax dollars to fund this competition.
To think otherwise is decidedly naive,
and ignores the behavior of public agencies in America
(and just about everywhere else, I suspect).
While many cities around the world are served by multiple agencies,
these different agencies typically serve different customers.
New York City is served by Metro North,
which runs long distance commuter trains up the Hudson and into Connecticut;
LIRR, the Long Island Railroad commuter trains;
PATH, which runs trains across the Hudson to New Jersey;
and the subway system, which is inside the city.
Given our geography, Sound Transit's LINK light rail will serve
much of the same area that the duplicating SMP phase two plans to serve.
We don't need two rail agencies.
But we need to do something!
I have heard two assertions,
we need to do something about
our terrible traffic.
I agree, but the Green Line isn't a solution.
Most of Seattle's traffic problems are well outside of the Green Line
corridor, and most of them (I-5, I-90, SR-520) are caused by commuters from
Between 1970 and 2000, the population of Seattle grew by 6%.
During this same 30 year period, the population of King County
outside of Seattle grew by 87%.
We need a regional system,
not a Seattle centric one.
Furthermore, of all the traffic that crosses the Ship Canal,
only 10% uses Ballard Bridge.
I-5 and the University Bridge handle 57%, and that's where our
scarce transportation dollars should be spent.
The West Seattle Bridge carried about 107,000 vehicles a day in 2003,
down from the 111,000 it carried in 1996.
This is less than the combined traffic on the Aurora and Fremont
This suggests that it would make more sense for the Green Line to follow
the Aurora Avenue corridor, not 15th Ave. NW
(when was the last time traffic on 15th made the news?).
The other assertion is that, when gas prices double,
we might wish that we had a rail system in place.
Again, I agree - and
is already under construction, and we have a functional bus system.
We do need to something, however - we need to stop the monorail.
Letting it proceed will allow it to dominate Seattle's transportation
planning for decades to come, and suck up a lot of tax money in the process.
Another Monorail Vote?
It is true that I-83 won't dismantle SMP nor stop the MVET tax,
but passage will signal voters' disenchantment with the proposal.
The state law that enabled the creation of SMP,
does include a provision for
"Dissolution of authority",
but the requirements are really tough to meet
(depending how they are read,
either 15 or 30 times more difficult than those required to create SMP).
How, then, can we stop the monorail?
The current City Of Seattle Initiative 83 is pretty much the only way.
Numerous criticisms of this choice (to file I-83) have been raised:
Hopefully a strong yes vote on I-83 (my fantasy is >55%)
will lead to SMP's eventual dissolution
(which, yes, most likely would involve another vote).
- We already voted three times for the monorail.
- Actually, the story is very different. The 1997 vote on
Dick Falkenbury's feel good proposal,
required private funding and such things as a station within 1,000 yards
of the Fremont Troll's nose.
After two year's of trying to find private investors
(and trimming the proposal to a downtown circulator to make it more
attractive), the original ETC had nothing to show.
The city was wise to junk this turkey - please read the
resolution repealing it for an explanation why.
(I encourage you to read the initiative for yourself; another on line copy is
The 2000 vote (I-53) authorized funding
to study and propose a monorail - which is not
the same as voting for a monorail. The 2002 vote (Proposition 1),
which squeaked by with the slimmest majority seen around here in a
long time, was for
either a "concept" or an actual plan (I've heard both assertions from
monorail supporters). Whichever,
the current proposal is not what we voted on.
Please see http://www.monorail.org/History.htm for a brief history of Seattle monorail initiatives.
Among other things, there were two failures (??? and I-39)
before the 1997 vote.
(It is important to note that in each of these, the technology -
monorail - was chosen before the route was. In other words, "we want
to build a monorail, now where should we put it?" Usually, projects
like this proceed with "we need better transportation capacity in
this corridor, how shall we provide that?")
- The initiative is costing money that could go to other things.
- It is costing the City Of Seattle $890,000 to place the initiative on
the ballot - this is the fee charged by King County,
who runs the elections. This is a chunk of change, no two ways about it.
I note, however, that it is significantly less than $1.75 billion,
and is less than the $20 million that the City loaned SMP in "start up
funding". Besides, who said democracy was efficient and inexpensive?
(Side note: Friends Of
The Monorail claim "The monorail wasn't even taking any money from
the City until we won the 3rd election..." which is simply false.
The ETC had a budget, drawing on the City's general fund.)
- We will never be able to build public projects if the voters can
- I partially agree,
and I submit that if a public project is disliked by a majority
of the voters, then it probably shouldn't be built ("consent of the
governed" and related principles come to mind).
Years ago, voters approved a major expansion of freeways in the region.
A few years later, voters decided to not build them.
If the current argument "once voted on, we shouldn't vote again"
had prevailed 30 years ago, today there would be a freeway through the
Please vote YES on Seattle
Thank you, and thank you for taking the time to read this.
for a list of relevant web sites.
Last update: July 6, 2005 14:19:57 PDT
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