For my thoughts on the Seattle monorail "Green Line" project,
April 14, 2003
Some comments on transportation futures...
1) The Mercer Mess: This needs to be cleaned up,
but I think a seven lane monstosity cutting
through the neighborhood is the wrong
idea. I favor a variant of the "Broad Street
Thruway" concept from several years ago. Starting
with the Mercer St. ramps from/to I-5, continue
descending to the west until below the level of
Lake Union (why will be apparent shortly). After
passing under the current location of Westlake
Ave., climb up to meet Broad St. near 8th Ave.
(perhaps swinging a bit north to do so). Join
the current underpass under Aurora Ave. However,
stay below grade from about Taylor Ave. to at least
southwest of Denny Way. This would create a
completely grade separated path from I-5 to the
northwest corner of Belltown (and optionally all
the way to the waterfront). Travel on this new
"thruway" could be very smooth if (after leaving
I-5) there were no westbound on ramps nor any
eastbound off ramps (however, there should be a
full interchange with Aurora Ave.).
Why so deep under Westlake Ave.? We can build a
narrow park running north from Denny Way to Lake
Union, bordering a stream. With careful design,
this could be a salmon bearing stream - decidedly
unusual for a major metropolitan area. Valley St.
could cross over this on a nice 4 lane bridge. A
few pedestrian bridges could also cross the stream
but there should be no other roads between Denny
and the lake. Source of water? Surface runoff,
filtered by a marsh of cattails (and, most likely,
some "augmented" filtering), supplmented by water
pumped up from the lake. With a reliable minimum
stream flow, not only would salmon spawning be
enhanced, but so would the general stream related
ambience. Imagine being able to paddle a canoe or
kayak from Lake Union upstream, perhaps with a
portage or two, and stopping at a stream side cafe
for lunch... Note that the park will not need to
be very wide to accomplish this - less than a block.
While I am digressing from strictly transportation
issues, submerging Broad St. between, say First Ave.
and Aurora Ave. would allow Seattle Center to expand
to the southeast. If the two triangles bounded by
Broad/4th/Denny and Broad/5th/John were acquired for
open space and most of the Broad St. right of way
were converted to grass, then this would create a
very nice transition from Bell Town to the Center.
2) How to figure out how much the voters are willing
to pay: In the past, we (the voters) have been
presented with a single, LARGE dollar amount to either
approve or (more likely) reject. Usually, they get
rejected because they have
included projects that were objectionable to somebody.
That is, everybody can find at least one project that
they don't like. So, two parts to this idea:
First, give the voters a range of dollar amounts, ranging
from zero to the upper limit. I would have no more than
ten choices, but at least five choices (including zero,
which is "do nothing"). Each voter selects one amount,
the amount that they are willing to spend. When the votes
are tallied, start with the highest amount, and count down
until a majority is reached. The last dollar amount that
had to be included to create a majority is then the approved
amount - the majority of the voters were willing to pay that
much or more.
Example: dollar amounts of zero, $1 billion, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
These get, respectively, 5% of the vote, 10%, 15%, 25%, 35%,
and 10%. The winning amount is 4# billion - 70% voted that
amount or more. Not a perfect system, to be sure, but I
think that it will allow at least something to be done,
and with funding that is approved by a majority of the voters.
Next, in the spirit of this current project by The Times,
PUT ALL OF THE PROPOSED PROJECTS ON THE BALLOT. I just
simply HATE the huge, take-it-or-leave jumbled up package!
Instead, break them up into smaller chunks (the smaller,
the better, as far as I'm concerned). Then, when the
amount of money to spend has been determined (from the
above process), rank the projects based on the percentage
of favorable votes that each one got (and perhaps tossing out
those that did not get more than 50% approval). Starting
with the project that got the most approval (from those
voting on it), proceed down the list until all of the
approved money has been allocated.
Simple democracy at work...
3) The RTID proposal(s) should not include ANY money for
Sound Transit. Sound Transit has its own taxing authority
(and district) and if it wants more money, then it should
come and ask on its own. Including Sound Transit funding
in something that is supposed to focus on state highways
risks sinking the whole deal. Don't do it.
4) Your article mentioned a couple of small projects that
were not included because they fell below your $50 million
threshold - the Lake Union street car and the Southeast
Bypass in Issaquah. I oppose both.
The street car is cute, but it won't do anything for transportation
or congestion (except get in the way), and creates yet
another incompatible and disconnected mode of transit in the
city (I mean, two different street cars, two different
monorails, light rail, commuter rail, buses, and
trolleys, each with their own maintenance facilties - what a mess!).
The Southeast Bypass will cut off the city of Issaquah from
the Tiger Mtn. area, severing a special feature of the city.
It will foster commuting from the Plateau to the Kent/Auburn
valley without creating any direct benefit for Issaquah. Of
course, based on the overpass being built there now, one gets
the impression that this bypass is a foregone conclusion...
5) Missing from the list (most likely because they will be
so cheap to do) are improvements to our network of bicycle
paths and trails. We already have a large bicycle commuting
population, despite the rain, hills, and weak accomodations
for bicycles. Although not much can be done for the first
two (R. H. Thompson notwithstanding), we can create more
trails that are better and safer than what we have now. Let's
do it - it's (comparatively) inexpensive and a Good Thing.
Thank you for putting this project together. I look
forward to reading the results soon.
-- Mike Schuh