King Rat (gkr) wrote,
King Rat

Sound Transit's possible death

Yesterday, the City of Tukwila rejected a light rail agreement with Sound Transit. The Federal Transit Administration had made the (now rejected) agreement a condition for getting federal money for the Sound Transit light rail project.

I grew up in Seattle, and had to take Metro quite a bit, including to and from high school. I commute via bus to work now (well, except when I get lazy for a couple of weeks). Although a pretty decent system, the bus in King County leaves a lot to be desired. There are very few cross-town bus routes. Buses to anything north of the ship canal, or east of Lake Washington, run infrequently, especially when not during prime commute hours. Buses also have to fight traffic almost as much as other vehicles do. Sometimes more.

Seattle has needed a light-rail solution for a long time, but has balked at the cost. In the late 1990s, voters approved a light rail package that was supposed to be a line from Northgate to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. But since then, pretty much everything that Sound Transit has done to make this project happen has been wrong. They picked a horrible, high-cost route that requires expensive tunneling in some places and interferes with street level traffic in others. They hid costs and made low estimates. The cut the initial line to something that no one will use (it no longer goes to either the airport or Northgate). The Sound Transit board has been arrogant and unwilling to play well with others.

I say good riddance. I hope the project dies, and that Sound Transit itself is greatly scaled back, or eliminated altogether, with other agencies picking up the worthwhile projects that Sound Transit currently runs. The Seattle-Tacoma Sounder commuter rail is a successful idea. But perhaps it can be run by a joint King/Pierce county board that is overseen by Metro and Pierce transit, rather than the large and unwieldy bureaucracy that Sound Transit has become.

I still hold out high hopes that the Elevated Transportation Company, the group created to find a monorail solution within Seattle proper, will not repeat the mistakes that Sound Transit made. So far, I've seen where they've made only one: they picked a monorail route that will run down 5th Ave rather than down 2nd. I don't think the monorail will be as cheap as a lot of people expect, but I think the idea has a lot of other advantages. It's relatively quiet. Construction and operation will disrupt lives much less than light rail. It will be fast, compared to street level light rail. Overall, I believe they picked good neighborhoods to serve with the initial segments. The monorail is geared much more toward commuters rather than shoppers. Both Ballard and West Seattle are currently are not served with fast driving options making using the monorail much more attractive than driving from those areas. The Sound Transit light rail project would follow area where one can drive to quickly, lessening the chances that people will wait for the train (when they can just hop in a car and save much time).

We shall see what happens when the final proposal that is to be voted on in November is ready. I am hoping they don't screw this up.


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