10 lame reasons to delay mass transit | Greg Nickels
As Sound Transit prepares to move forward with a proposal for the November ballot, there are those who favor more investments in mass transit...
Special to The Times
Sound Transit's pitch
A ballot measure the agency is considering would ask voters to raise sales taxes, by a nickel per $10 purchase, for projects in urban King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Highlights of the 15-year, $17.6 billion package:
Light rail: 34 miles of track to reach Lynnwood, Overlake and north Federal Way
Sounder trains: Six more round-trip trains between Pierce County and Seattle, and station expansions
Express buses: New Highway 520 service and more-frequent Snohomish County trips
As Sound Transit prepares to move forward with a proposal for the November ballot, there are those who favor more investments in mass transit, just not this year. We have helpfully compiled a "top 10" list of the reasons to wait:
10) Everything has been said, but not everyone has said it. A two-year delay will enable us to hear from those who are still mustering up the courage to make up their minds.
9) True, the 15-year Sound Transit plan would add light rail, commuter rail and regional buses. If we wait two years, though, it might include hydrogen-powered, personal hovercrafts. That'd be cool.
8) Local media need an infusion of advertising cash from a certain Eastside shopping center developer who wants another two years to tell you that freeways are still the best transportation for the region. No matter what.
7) More debate will give us more information. There's so much more to discuss, it just seems premature to have a vibrant light-rail system after only 40 years of talking about it.
6) There is so much room for new highways, it just makes sense to build new lanes. Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle seems like it is ripe for a little widening. And the Eastside and Montlake are united in wanting a bigger Highway 520, right? Right? Oh, wrong.
5) Mass transit is popular. So popular, you may not have a seat on the bus. But standing all the way home improves your calf muscles and physical stamina. This strength-building exercise works even better in high heels.
4) You can worry more about climate change. Need an extra two years to get your head around species collapse and widespread global drought? Waiting for mass transit will give you time to bone up on the latest news about how our indecision and bad habits are torching the planet. Books on tape are great for the car!
3) By waiting two years, we can do the same project but spend about $1 billion more. With the price of everything going up — steel, concrete, gas — a delay will cost big bucks. But indecision is worth it. Isn't it?
2) Congestion will only get worse. That leaves more time in the car to listen to talk-radio hosts jawbone about the lack of transportation alternatives.
And the No. 1 reason why we should wait for mass transit ...
1) Pumping the car with $70 of gasoline feels more special when there isn't an alternative. Let's face it — gas prices aren't coming down. Why ruin gas-station heartburn by giving people a way out of their cars and into light rail?
(If you have your own reasons, share them at seattletransitblog.com.)
In all seriousness, Sound Transit has a plan. It is reasonable, well-conceived and has regional support. When it comes to adding more mass transit, the people are way ahead of the politicians and pundits. Folks are tired of paying $4.30 for a gallon of gas and seeing no relief at the pump. This 15-year mass transit package would extend light rail to Northgate, Shoreline and Lynnwood. On the Eastside, light rail would run across Mercer Island to Bellevue and Redmond. To the south, it would reach Federal Way.
The investment would also expand and improve regional buses, increasing service in key corridors by about 12 percent overall, and up to 30 percent in some areas. New daily trips would be added to the Tacoma-Seatttle Sounder commuter-rail service. The cost: $69 a year for an adult, about the cost of a single tank of gas (see No. 1 above).
We can't continue to build more freeways to solve our transportation mess. We need options: bus, commuter rail, light rail. This plan is faster, cheaper and smarter than previous measures. It is our best shot at relieving the gridlock that continues to sap our economy and burden our lives.
The debate before us this November is simple: inaction versus action, stalemate versus solutions. We have the backing of business, the environmental community and, according to polls, the majority of residents. Let us no longer delay, but roll up our sleeves and start building the best regional transit network in the nation.Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is chair of the Sound Transit Board.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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