Above It All
Corrects Opposition's Misinformation
Lie #1: Monorail opponents claim that
the new monorail authority is being given a blank
Reality: The new monorail authority
has a $1.5 billion (2002 dollars) cap on the amount
of bonds that can be sold. Voter approval would be
required to exceed the cap. In addition, no tax proceeds
may be used for operating and maintenance after 2020.
This is an unprecedented step forward in public accountability
that will build the confidence necessary to complete
the entire citywide monorail system.
Lie #2: Monorail opponents claim that
Seattle households will pay a monorail tax of $280
Reality: Seattle households will pay
$116 per year.
If you want to see the math here it
is. The average Seattle household has 1.23 cars according
to the latest records at the Washington State Department
of Licensing. The typical value of a car in Seattle
(typical defined as the dollar amount at which 50%
of Seattle cars are worth more and 50% of cars are
worth less) is $6,700. Therefore the typical Seattle
car owner will pay $94 per year and the average Seattle
household will pay $116 per year. Every car owner
can determine her car tax by multiplying her car value
by 1.4% (with itemized deductions, the after tax cost
falls to approximately $84 per household).
Lie #3: Monorail opponents claim that
there will be no parking at monorail stations.
Reality: The monorail budget has $25
million for parking at stations. In addition, almost
half of the station locations already have parking
available within close walking distance.
Lie #4: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail’s projected ridership is not possible
if compared to Vancouver’s elevated SkyTrain.
Reality: Vancouver's SkyTrain does seem
like a useful comparison. It's an above-grade technology
in a city with nearly identical population--half a
million. Monorail opponents argue that the SkyTrain
is "twice the length of Seattle's proposed monorail,"
but "has about 65,000 riders a day--4,000 fewer
than the ETC is predicting." But according to
Larry Ward, a spokesperson for the SkyTrain (which
has been up and running for about 16 years), the Vancouver
system has 140,000 to 150,000 riders a day, not 65,000.
That's twice as many riders as the ETC projects for
the monorail. So, the monorail--a system half as long
as the SkyTrain--will, according to ETC projections,
attract half as many riders as the SkyTrain by 2020.
Lie #5: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail will not have enough capacity to meet
ridership projections and will need to run standing
Reality: To reach this conclusion, the
opponents intentionally cut the numbers of passengers
each train can carry by over 50% and they assume that
everyone who rides the monorail would ride the whole
14 miles on every trip. After correcting for these
faulty assumptions, it is apparent that the monorail
has more than enough capacity to carry 69,000 rides
per day, running every 4-6 minutes at rush hour and
every 8-10 minutes the rest of the day.
Lie #6: Monorail opponents imply that
the monorail just takes people from Ballard to West
Reality: The proposed monorail has stations
in Ballard and West Seattle but it also has proposed
stations at Interbay, Magnolia, Queen Anne, Seattle
Center, Belltown, Downtown, Pike Place Market, Pioneer
Square, King Street Center, the new Seattle public
school headquarters, SODO, Delridge, Safeco Field,
Key Arena, or Seahawks Stadium. The monorail will
dramatically increase mobility around Seattle neighborhoods
and in and out of downtown.
The monorail connects people to buses,
light rail, commuter rail and ferries. People in southeast
Seattle, for example, will conveniently take the light
rail downtown and transfer to the monorail to get
to events at the Seattle Center.
Lie #7: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail authority will not build the whole 14
Reality: The ETC plan guarantees that
the new authority will build the full 14 miles. If
the authority cannot build the full 14-mile Green
Line, then it can not proceed with the construction
without voter approval of this change.
Lie #8: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail Green Line won’t solve any problems.
Reality: The monorail solves the most
basic underlying transportation problem facing Seattle
residents, being stuck in traffic. The monorail will
give people an alternative to traffic congestion.
The monorail will guarantee that people can move around
the city regardless of the traffic mess below. The
monorail is the only plan on the table that will clearly
add capacity through Downtown.
Seattle’s most pressing transportation
problem is lack of north-south capacity. The Green
Line adds 20 million north-south trips per year without
reducing any current traffic lanes. The monorail Green
Line will create new capacity above the traffic in
one of the most congested parts of the region.
The Green Line is the first phase of
an exciting citywide system. We have to start with
the first line before we can build the second and
Lie #9: Monorail opponents claim that
building the monorail is like moving the viaduct to
Reality: The viaduct is a double-decker,
multi-lane concrete highway over 35 feet wide. The
monorail in comparison is comprised of two beams each
less than 3 feet wide.
As compared to the existing Seattle
Center monorail, the new system will have columns
that are smaller around and are farther apart, and
beams that are higher in the air. This will have more
street appeal than today's monorail. There will be
many opportunities for stations to be incorporated
into new buildings. This will be good for riders and
good for the streetscape.
Lie #10: Monorail opponents claim that
“5th Avenue looks like Beirut.”
Reality: The current Seattle Center
monorail carries 2.5 million rides per year. The stations
are vibrant. The manager of the Westlake Station has
endorsed the new monorail proposal. Between the stations,
there are new office buildings where people work and
live. There are several successful restaurants. The
owners of the Palace Kitchen, Icon Grill, and Nara
Grill, and 15 other businesses all located under the
existing monorail endorse the new monorail proposal.
Clearly they would not support the project if their
businesses were "blighted" by the monorail.
According to Tom Douglas, owner of the Palace Kitchen,
"Our patrons love the monorail. In fact on nice
days we open the restaurant windows so diners can
hear the trains glide by." The monorail stations
will add vitality to neighborhoods, bringing more
pedestrians and retail to city streets.
Lie #11: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail hurts property values.
Reality: There are many studies from
Vancouver, Portland, San Francisco and other cities
that show that transit systems increase property values
along the route. Here in Seattle, the manager of the
Westlake Center has been supportive of the monorail
and has spoken out about the positive impact the monorail
has on his building.
Lie #12: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail construction budget only has $4 million
Reality: The monorail plan clearly states
that there is $135 million for stations. Dividing
this by the 19 proposed stations allows for more than
$7 million per station.
Lie #13: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail will be a mugger mover.
Reality: This is an appeal to people’s
baser instincts – a fear tactic used by people
trying to block projects by suggesting that people
from poorer parts of town will use public transportation
to travel to more affluent parts to commit crimes.
This was used to keep Metro, the Washington D.C. subway,
from going to the tony neighborhood of Georgetown,
- a loss that Georgetown residents have since regretted.
In fact, the Monorail will be very safe.
There will be full time station attendants, security
guards and closed circuit cameras at all stations.
Lie #14: Monorail opponents claim that
only 18% of projected monorail riders will be new
Reality: Actually, 25% of monorail riders are new
to transit. This translates to over 5,000,000 new
transit trips per year on the monorail.
The monorail will get people out of
their cars and above the traffic. It will remove buses
from downtown streets. Monorail’s pollution-free
electric engines will reduce smog in our city.
Lie #15: Monorail opponents claim that
there is only a 50% chance of completing the project.
Reality: The City of Seattle hired an
independent consulting team to conduct a review of
the monorail plan and to assess the risk of completing
the project. That risk analysis showed that there
is a 90% chance that the proposed monorail plan will
be delivered as promised without the need for additional
funds. This study looked at dozens of things that
could go wrong, normal things like delayed permits
but also things like a terrorist attack or a severe
earthquake during construction.
Lie #16: Monorail opponents claim that
no transit system runs without an ongoing operating
Reality: The current Seattle Center
monorail carries 2.5 million rides per year and is
profitable. Vancouver’s SkyTrain required start-up
subsidies but became profitable last year. Monorails
in Japan are profitable. The new monorail system in
Las Vegas is projected to have a substantial operating
Lie #17: Monorail opponents claim that
there is no mitigation budget in the monorail plan.
Reality: The monorail plan has $86 million
budgeted for project specific mitigation in the capital
cost budget. It is included under specific categories:
Stations (intermodal improvements for bike, bus, pedestrians),
Guideway (night time premium to reduce impacts, special
structures, aesthetic improvements, street repaving,
sidewalk repaving, landscaping, maintenance of traffic,
and traffic improvements), and Parking. In addition,
the monorail cost estimate includes $76 million for
agency reserves for non-designated construction cost
Lie #18: Monorail opponents claim that
this is the most expensive project in Seattle’s
Reality: The $1.7 billion monorail project
is much smaller that most other major transportation
projects currently under consideration, such as the
Viaduct, 405 expansion, or Sound Transit. The monorail
may be one of the least expensive transportation projects
being discussed but it has very significant value.
Lie #19: Monorail opponents claim that
the monorail will be run by a private club.
Reality: The Monorail Board will be
a blended board, which includes 2 people elected by
Seattle voters, 2 people selected by the City Council,
2 people selected by the Mayor, and 3 people selected
by the Monorail Board. This will give an excellent
balance to the Monorail Board so that no single group
can “take over” the Board.
By the way if you want to know why
we are so excited about the monorail check out our
website at www.riseaboveitall.org or check out the
ETC website at www.elevated.org or call us at 323-5655.
Our top reasons for supporting the monorail
1) Monorails never get stuck in traffic.
2) Good for the environment. With its
electric motors and rubber tires, the monorail will
be quiet and non-polluting.
3) Good connections to other types of
transportation including ferries, buses, light rail
and commuter rail.
4) Cost effective transportation. Monorails
are relatively inexpensive to construct and can operate
without ongoing operating subsidies. According to
a recent Downtown Seattle Association study, the proposed
Seattle monorail has the same cost per trip as a bus,
and is much lower cost per trip than the other rail