For my thoughts on the Seattle monorail "Green Line" project, please see http://www.farmdale.com/transit/monorail.shtml

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