My Car2go rental today wouldn’t end properly, so they want to charge me for a 40 minute rental instead of the 10 minutes I used. Grr.
They asked if they could help with anything else, so I noted their recent addition of bigger, more polluting, more expensive cars to the fleet. Instead, I requested smaller, less polluting electric or hybrid cars that would cost less to borrow (Zipcar charges about 30% less to use hybrids). They said users asked for bigger cars in the fleet. I noted the existence of bigger cars like the Prius that use less gas and emit fewer greenhouse emissions. They said they’re owned by Mercedes and suggested they can’t (won’t) use cars made by anyone else. I think that’s a really lame, shortsighted excuse. I like the small size of Smart cars, but they’re gas-only and get 39 mpg. The first generation Honda Insight around 2000 got 70 mpg. That would be cheaper to borrow and save me money.
Seattle Times article
How telling that ST3 would build as many miles of rail as DC to serve 50% fewer daily riders. The article doesn’t mention this, but the proposal would extend Sounder (commuter rail) service in the south from Lakewood to Dupont, and it would lengthen platforms to accommodate longer trains. But it wouldn’t go to Olympia, it wouldn’t try sending any trains *through* downtown Seattle, and it adds no trips to move toward all-day Sounder service.
Everett light rail makes no sense. Tacoma light rail makes no sense. The $5 billion Ballard tunnel is a ludicrous boondoggle that bypasses Fremont and Seattle Pacific University. The Ballard Spur is missing even though it’s cheaper, faster, and would carry more riders. I don’t know why West Seattle’s line would end at Alaska Junction, though I predicted it wouldn’t serve White Center or Burien. More car-based park and ride stations, no Burien-Renton crosstown line, no Kirkland (though I know local officials and ST are fighting there), no Denny Way subway to unclog that mess. I can support the short extension of East Link to downtown Redmond.
This is the wrong modes the wrong way in the wrong places. It’s a ridiculous amount of money ($50 billion!!!) that takes 25 years–if their predictions hold (they’ve had 2 big failures here)–to deliver what it promises. I would be 65 when it’s complete. It wastes precious infrastructure investment to serve far-flung areas where people will drive to stations and leave trains empty half the time–it won’t increase walkability or improve bike conditions, it won’t increase transit use much for the cost, and it won’t reduce car dependence. It doesn’t create a comprehensive urban rail network at all.
An MVET (motor vehicle excise tax) increase is fine, but further sales tax increases just pour salt in the wound of our most–regressive–in–America tax system. Sales tax in Seattle would be 10.1%. The poorest 20% of us are already paying 17% of our incomes in sales tax (higher than federal income tax), while the rich pay 4%. Seniors are fed up with high property taxes forcing them out of their homes. It’s not as bad as sales tax, but it’s not progressive. And they have authorization for other funding sources that would be more progressive and better for the environment like an employee hours tax (which Seattle repealed in 2009 as Tim Burgess pandered to Joe Mallahan).
There’s almost nothing to like here. It’s better than a stick in the eye, though that would be a comparative bargain. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
UPDATE: The Ballard extension would NOT serve Belltown, where we’ve built a massive amount of tall, dense development. And the package would build the horrible new “transit center” Renton wants at a highway interchange (I-405 & SR-167) instead of breathing life back into their downtown.
Alignment (and Philosophical) Battle at Sound Transit Board Meeting (Publicola)
Futurewise and Mike O’Brien (Seattle’s best City Council member) are right. Sound Transit is poised to make yet another penny-wise, pound-foolish decision. If we want to create walkable communities where lots of people can live without cars (reducing their housing costs), we need TOD. If we want to run trains that are used heavily all day–not just at rush hour–we need TOD. If we want to conserve land and minimize air and water pollution, we need TOD. If we want transit to be cost-effective, so it needs smaller subsidies, lower taxes and fares, and/or expands the system more rapidly; we need TOD. If we get this wrong now, just to pander to suburban politicians and save $300 million (the 2008 Mass Transit Now package is $18 billion), it will be nearly impossible to fix for generations, and our capital AND operating investments will be mostly wasted. Just look at DC’s Orange Line in Fairfax County, Virginia (it runs in the median of I-66), among myriad other places that have made the same error.
Will we do what’s easy, or what’s right? I’m not holding my breath.
Like Futurewise, Seattle City Council and Sound Transit Board member Mike O’Brien looks at the issue in the long term. “We want to think holistically here. It would be shame to save a few dollars today at the cost of huge benefits decades from now,” said O’Brien. “What I see from public comment and places like community-based organizations and the Highline Community College is that they would all like to see it on SR-99. So there’s a disconnect between what I’m hearing from the constituents in the community and what I’m hearing from the elected officials who represent those constituents,” O’Brien added.
Why Toronto Should Tear Down Its Urban Expressway (Citylab)
Tearing down the Gardiner Highway in Toronto is even more of a slam dunk decision than tearing down the Viaduct in Seattle. They don’t have a major port like we do, they have one citywide grid instead of two competing ones, their downtown isn’t tightly hemmed in by another highway on its exterior like I-5 did to us, and they only have water on one side instead of two so they lack our very constricted geographic “waist”. But in 1995 the Conservative Ontario government forced Toronto and its suburbs to “amalgamate” into one huge municipality, so city decisions are now dominated by what are really suburbs. Thus we lost this vote 24-21. Suburbs don’t make good urban policy. We see this with Sound Transit as well (good transit decisions require transit users to be making them. The silver lining is that these merged cities tend to get more urban and progressive over time. See Indianapolis, which has been building great bike infrastructure and whose Republican mayor spoke out recently for marriage equality.
In 1971, then-Mayor Richard Lugar (R) spearheaded Unigov, which merged the old City of Indianapolis with Marion County and most other municipalities in the county. For 30 years, it always had GOP mayors and council majorities, but now it’s more competitive and has had both a Democratic mayor, Bart Peterson, and Democratic majorities on the City-County Council on and off. Similarly, my other hometown of Columbus, Ohio has shifted from red to blue (at all levels, really), though both very sadly continue to be among the nation’s biggest metro areas (by 2020, Franklin County will be Ohio’s biggest–surpassing Cleveland and Cincinnati) without heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit (BRT), or even streetcars. Both redeveloped their old Union Station sites with no transit and in ways that make it very hard to return them to rail uses. Even worse for the environment, both rely heavily on coal for their electricity. (Former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, now running for US Senate, always promoted coal; he represented the Appalachian coal region of Ohio in his 12 years as a congressman) Ironically, both cities grew up largely as major rail hubs. Statewide, Ohio ranks 7th in population but 4th in miles of railroad. Columbus, and probably Indy too, have a lot of unused or underused rail right of way that could pretty easily and cheaply be modernized for use as 21st century urban transit. Some mid-sized Midwest cities like St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul have built decent light rail networks (even Detroit is finally building its first line, while Kansas City tries a dubious streetcar), but the political will just still doesn’t seem to exist in Indy or Cbus. It makes me sad. There are a few reasons why I couldn’t live in my hometown(s) anymore, but the first is that you really can’t do so without a car, and I refuse to own one.