The Little Streetcar That Could

The Little Streetcar That Could

As South Lake Union fills up, so does the streetcar. Speaking of ridership — ORCA’s now serving 200,000 riders a day. That’s half of Metro’s 400,000 daily boardings. Of course, not all ORCA holders use Metro, but it puts it in perspective. Not bad, considering institutions like UW still haven’t adopted it (but will soon).

NIMBYism in SE Seattle

This is an intersting article about NIMBYism in SE Seattle


Well, they’re still counting the final votes, but it looks like Prop. 1 is passing and I-985 is failing, both of which are promising developments. High Speed Rail in California also looks headed for a win.

This was probably our last shot at getting light rail passed. It looks like Seattlites, like millions of other Americans around the country, finally did the right thing last night, after, in Churchill’s words, exhausting every other alternative.

Fear not, there are plenty of arguments and discussions to be had in the days ahead (Bellevue tunnel, at grade or elevated? Viaduct? 520?), so I’ll still be here, though I acknowledge I’ve gotten slack in the past few months as other responsibilities have taken priority.

On that note, to all of you who knocked on doors and otherwise supported Prop. 1, I salute you. The city’s a better place for your work.



Nice piece on the Prop. 1 campaign’s efforts to ride the Obama wave in the Times, with shout-outs to the boys at STB. Also some national recognition from Matt Yglesias.

Not to be a pain in the ass, but the Times’ accompanying graph has a small error in it. Husky Stadium is part of the blue, University Link extension, not the red, Prop. 1 extension. The map has Brooklyn Station labeled as “Husky Stadium.”

Best comment, from Yglesias’ post:

Sandra Says:
September 22nd, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Re: prop1

Although I no longer live in Seattle I do remember a model very much like this at the Seattle World’s Fair 46 years ago.
The centerpiece was the monorail that was to be expanded to include all communities around Lake Washington.

When I go home to visit I always think of that grand plan while sitting in gridlocked traffice.

Hope they get to it this time around.

Me too, Sandra. Me too.

Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy

Sometimes it’s hard to be a supporter of “19th-century choo-choo trains.” You read enough goofy op-eds and nasty blog comments, and you start to wonder, “am I crazy to think that improving America’s rail infrastructure would be a smart way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and create more livable communities?” After all, in just the last few years, Seattle voted to kill both the Monorail Project and Sound Transit 2.

But slowly, finally, things seem to be looking up. Global warming, $4 gas, and increasing traffic and airport congestion have made our pundits and politicians slowly realize that something needs to change. Even better, they’re making the realization that solving these problems will require a holistic approach, involving not only new and improved transit systems, but better neighborhood planning as well.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it occured to me today that we may wake up on the morning of November 5 to a world in which:

All in all, not too shabby.

Good to be Back

Ok… this is weird. Before I left town, I wrote, quite sarcastically:

I expect that when I return, Sound Transit’s board will have come to their senses, a solution will be in place for the viaduct, and David Brewster will stop publishing juvenile anti-rail screeds in Crosscut.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad. Sound Transit’s trumpeting that the big dogs on the board of directors are endorsing the new 15-year hybrid plan for 2008. And Crosscut acutally published a sweet pro-rail piece from Big Media Ben. Nice!

Maybe I should skip town more often.

ST 2.1

Well, this is certainly disappointing. I sure wish we’d voted for Prop 1 last fall, but I’m willing to let bygones be bygones. If I can get over not having a monorail up and running by now, I can get over the fact that Sound Transit will have to significantly scale back its ambitions.

So we’re looking at either something like this (pdf) or this (also pdf).

Obviously getting to Overlake is critical. But we also have our own transit needs here inside the city of Seattle. Maybe it would be better focus attention on a system within the city, especially on the Ballard-West Seattle side. You know, like a streetcar. Except one that ran on its own right-of-way, not in the street.

Sound Transit Art

As frustrating as this region can be sometimes with its transportation sclerosis, our transit agencies still manage to put a smile on my face every once in a while.

Case in point: Sound Transit selected an artist to do the Capitol Hill station art whose recent work includes this beautiful piece at Burning Man.

Of Time and the River Flowing…..

On the river of time we sometimes paddle lustily, improving the speed with which we sweep forward, but more often- alas!- we’re a woodchip, bobbing now in the eddy and then sucked into the stream.

In such a wise, Seattle, having defeated mass transit in 1970, fell into a deep slumber, and now awakens, like Cinderella, or perhaps, like Rip Van Winkle, shaking aside cobwebbed dreams of Roger Rabbit and the 1956 Alweg monorail at Disneyland.

We have a new trolley, an old trolley struggling to be reborn, a light-rail system nearing an opening, and the chance to tear down the freeway the fifties laid across the Seattle waterfront. We can confidently predict fuel prices of $5 per gallon by the time Sound Transit cuts the ribbons.

In Denver and Salt Lake City, after seeing light-rail (LRT) in action, the voters approved additions of a hundred miles of system in each city. It is tempting to let time simply sweep us forward, borrowing from Denver a plan, and from Bonn (Germany) some modern technology.

This might suit the Seattle of today, but any long-time resident who saw Tex Johnson barrel-roll a 707 over a Gold Cup race totally owned by Slo-Mo-Shun IV wants more- we want to be Leaders!

And, given the state of transit in America today, that is not an impossibility. It’s time to re-think transit, not in terms of what was, but in terms of what can be. After all, it’s probably coming soon, to a neighborhood near you.