Letters to the Editor
KEMPER FREEMAN JR.
Developer looks out for his own interests - Seattle P-I, April 11, 2005
Kemper Freeman Jr. doesn't want mass transit because he makes money every time someone on the Eastside says, "Traffic is too bad to drive to downtown Seattle and shop. I'll just head to Bellevue Square" (Thursday's front page).
The more gridlocked the Evergreen Point and Interstate 90 bridges become, the more likely people will stay on the Eastside and shop. He has fought against light rail on Interstate 520 from Seattle to Redmond because it would encourage people to shop at the Redmond Town Center.
More roads won't help the traffic problems in our region; mass transit will. Freeman is a developer, not a transit expert. He's looking out only for his own interests.
No need to head south to see Southern California - Seattle P-I, April 11, 2005
I've lived in Seattle for 16 years and I avoid Bellevue as much as possible.
With its strip malls and horrible traffic, it seems like a bad, sanitized version of Southern California. But, hey, even Southern California has light rail now.
Kemper Freeman is clearly a dinosaur waiting to go extinct -- at least all sane Bellevueites, and anyone traveling there, should hope so.
Where's the room for more cars and more roads? I understand that Freeman, with some well-placed, well-timed advertising dollars, was able to sway Eastside voters away from approving light rail. Shame on him.
Scrap monorail and use $$$ to replace viaduct - Seattle PI, Feb 13, 2005
The Alaskan Way Viaduct carries 100,000 vehicles every day.
If it collapses during rush hour due to an earthquake, how many people will be killed? A thousand? Two thousand? Experts say there is a reasonable chance we will have an earthquake in the next five years.
The problem is that there is not enough money to replace the viaduct. We can't do without it. Its absence will gridlock Interstate 5 and all the surface streets. I know, because it happened the last time they shut down the viaduct after the Nisqually Quake.
At the same time, we are spending $2 billion on the monorail. Nobody is going to die if it does not get built. But people will die if we don't do something about the viaduct.
Where are our priorities?
Scrap the monorail and use that money for the viaduct.
This is an emergency.
Trying to fix a non-existent problem - Seattle PI, Oct 5, 2004
Seattle Monorail Project board chairman Tom Weeks states that the public in Seattle wants rapid transit. He doesn't state that the monorail will be that rapid transit system. In fact, SMP officials have never stated that they are building a rapid transit system, only that they are building a monorail. The Green Line is not rapid transit and it doesn't live up to its hype. According to the ridership forecast documentation, the average speed of the monorail will be about 21 mph -- slower than light rail.
It tries to solve a problem that doesn't exist by building a fixed guideway transit line in a low ridership corridor. The projected volume of riders is so low that the agency has proposed many single-beam sections that trains in both directions will take turns using. No real urban transit system would propose such detrimental cost savings that kill the prospect of ever expanding it. It makes as much sense as a single-tracked bus tunnel or a one-lane road. If Sound Transit were building a single-tracked light rail line, it would be justifiably crucified. In the end, quality is remembered long after price is forgotten. Overbudget rail systems like Portland and Vancouver's Skytrain are now the jewel of mass transit systems on the West Coast. They're spacious, safe, expandable and reliable.
If built, the monorail may well become the Kingdome of transportation systems. A system that doesn't live up to its hype and will serve as a concrete reminder of how not to do a project.
People for Modern Transit
Don't automatically greenlight Green Line - Seattle Sun, June 10, 2004
The monorail is the most expensive project in Seattle's history. We cannot afford to build it twice. If the Green Line ends in failure, the rest of the system will never be built. For this reason, if the project is to succeed, it absolutely has to be done right the first time.
Despite a 30 percent budget shortfall, the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) is rushing ahead. Rather than admit to significant financial problems, they are changing the product that was promised to voters and wasting literally millions of taxpayer dollars on a slick ad campaign to try to convince us that we aren't being duped.
The SMP is proposing many unsatisfactory designs, such as:
Furthermore, it would eliminate the need for huge overhead concrete switches, the smallest of which are 30-foot by 90-foot concrete slabs. This is twice as large as the footprint of an average house!
The City Council has a duty and obligation to ensure that the monorail will work effectively and integrate well with existing public transportation systems. The City Council should demand that the SMP slow down, think, and provide workable solutions to the problems it faces. The City Council has the power to make these demands because it is authorized to grant the building permits that the SMP needs to continue the project.
PLEASE urge your City Council members to demand solutions BEFORE granting building permits to the SMP!
JEFF BELL, Ballard
MONEY-SAVING MONORAIL - Seattle Weekly, July 30, 2003
It seems that the story on "brainstorming" moneymaking ideas for the monorail missed the all-time best idea for making money on the monorail ["I Know! Let's . . . ," July 23]. Don't build it! Take the bucks that have already been drained out of the public coffers, have a big handshake all around the board table, and go home, while we count our blessings that we won't be held up at the turnstile or by the tax bill when the real costs start flowing in.
Here's another one: How about not having competing, equally overconfident, and almost equally flawed public transportation systems in a single, small city? (Almost equally, because nothing the light-rail folks have done so far to mislead the public—and they have done a lot— is as outrageous as the book cooking and smoke blowing that the monorail clan has done on ridership projections, construction costs, environmental impact, contracting method, and schedule.)
Implementing either of these ideas will avoid constructing a massive blight on our landscape, avoid creating traffic and parking snarls in our neighborhoods, and refocus our energies on proven transit systems that work.
The DBOM (design, build, operate, and maintain) contractor is the only one likely to make any money on the monorail (actually they're guaranteed to make money), and you can imagine their enthusiasm for getting a pot of unbaked ideas from a citizens' group.
Monorail may not be worth the cost - Seattle Sun, June 10, 2004
On June 15, proposals are due from the two teams competing to build the Green Line Monorail. We will then learn what kind of transit project is affordable given lower revenues and higher costs. As the monorail project heads for its date with fiscal reality an even more important question has dropped out of sight: what will the monorail actually do to improve traffic and mobility in the city?
The monorail's performance should be measured by more than simply how many people it can carry per hour if designed with single-beam sections that slow travel times. The key question is whether the monorail will cause enough SOV drivers to switch to this new/old form of transit technology to reduce congestion and increase mobility. And, of course, performance needs to be measured in terms of cost-effectiveness: are the benefits equal to or greater than the construction costs that will run to more than $3 billion (including interest on bonds) over 30 or 40 years? The benchmark alternative for cost-effectiveness is the existing bus transit system that could be improved to decrease travel time and increase on-time reliability.
The answer, unfortunately, is that the monorail will have only a marginal effect on the city's traffic environment. This is not personal speculation, but a conclusion supported by official documents produced by the Seattle Monorail Project. Take the projected daily ridership of 69,000. According to the STP's ridership consultant, 82 percent of the monorail's riders will be bus riders. In other words, new transit riders will be just 12,500. This compares to approximately 165,000 cars that now cross the Ballard and West Seattle bridges combined each day. So at the most, traffic volumes in the Green Line corridor will be reduced by 7 percent.
Although small, this would be a welcome outcome if the world would just hold still. But the city's population is expected to continue to grow and by 2020, according to the STP's Environmental Impact Statement, traffic in the area affected by the Green Line will increase by 16 percent if the Green Line is built, and 17 percent if it's not built.
Another performance measure is suggested by the recent STP advertising blitz that featured the catchy phrase: "Imagine 5 million fewer car trips a year." This also seems like a large number until one asks how many car trips do Seattle residents make in one year? The answer, from regional planning studies, is that we make about 600 million, at the average rate of five per household per day. This ignores trips in and through the city by non-residents. Again, the impact of the Green Line on travel is quite small, less than 1 percent.
This should lead us to ask whether these outcomes, or perhaps better outcomes, could be achieved at less cost? The answer can be found in a study of alternative transit improvements that the city completed in 2001. Called the Intermediate Capacity Transit Study, it found that bus travel times in the Ballard and West Seattle corridors could be improved with modest expenditures. These improvements include better signal timing and giving buses priority of movement at signals. Also possible, and one of the changes that has been discussed for the monorail, is to realign more local bus routes to feed express buses at transfer points.
That the Green Line is not a transportation solution is obvious. That transit improvements that are equivalent or better can be achieved at much less cost, is also apparent. But the Green Line will have one attribute that for some has value. It will be a civic icon that will serve to identify and distinguish the city, just as the old and much shorter monorail does now. The question for citizens, and perhaps for voters should the monorail again be subject to ballot approval, is whether we need a new icon. And if we do, is there perhaps one that is less expensive, leaving money on the table for high priority transportation projects? Several come to mind: the Viaduct/Seawall, the Magnolia Bridge, and long-postponed street repair across the city.
DICK NELSON, Fremont
(Editor's note: Dick Nelson is a Seattle native and a former state legislator who served a district that included the Ballard area. He is a technical consultant specializing in transportation and land use policy
Early promises being broken one by one - Seattle P-I, June 2, 2004
Larry Lange's Monday article regarding the lawsuit filed by the Seattle Monorail Project to stop the recall effort leaves the impression that Transportation Choices Coalition speaks for all environmental groups in the city. The reality is that it is one of the few environmental groups left supporting the monorail dream.
The reality is we voted for the monorail three times and each time we got less and paid more. The Elevated Transportation Co. (now the Seattle Monorail Project) had $6 million and two years to perform outreach and preliminary engineering but it failed to do so. Companies such as Berger/ABAM, consulting engineers for the ETC, are now bidding on the project, a clear conflict of interest. The drawings and designs are merely advisory to the bidder, rather than binding.
While the state Department of Transportation and Sound Transit contend with a huge spike in steel prices, the monorail agency acts as if it is unaffected.
When the City Council asked for a delay in considering the transit-way agreement, the agency upper management was quick to strike back with the obstructionist label. However, when the bidding companies wanted a delay of two months, they received it in short order. When a respected professional engineer speaks out publicly about his concerns, agency board members called him a liar.
The biggest obstructionists to the construction of the monorail are the agency's upper management, who steadfastly refuse to answer the most basic questions raised by the City Council.
What Seattle was promised was a mass transit system that would rise above traffic and would be profitable. What it looks like it is promising now is massive transit that will gridlock the traffic below.
President, People for Modern Transit
Ex-mayors need to get out of the way of progress - Seattle P-I, June 2, 2004
I read your Sunday editorial "City Council must review monorail," rolled my eyes and laughed out loud. Former Mayors Norm Rice, Paul Schell, Charles Royer and Wes Uhlman all presided, as most major city mayors do, over the continuing worsening of an already miserable traffic situation in and around Seattle. All four presided over large projects that were not completed within fixed budgets, did not keep their promises to taxpayers and that were burdened with cost overruns. Now this foursome wants to delay the process, yet again, for a project that has been studied to death, has been scrutinized by numerous oversight committees and has been voted in favor of by the public (irrespective of how slim a margin). Meanwhile, nothing gets done, traffic worsens and the costs continue to go up.
The public voted in favor of a monorail. It has been studied 16 ways from Sunday. Get on with the project. This city is suffocating in bad traffic conditions. Former mayors and others of their ilk need to shut up and get out of the way of progress and this city needs to do something about a horrific traffic problem that continues to get worse.
Monday's fire spells danger for Center route - Seattle P-I, June 2, 2004
From our home in Belltown, on the 27th floor, my wife and I watched, with breathtaking fear, the fire, smoke, rescue and overall impact that Monday's monorail mishap had on our immediate community. We saw the arrival of all the rescue equipment, personnel and their deployment.
Our immediate observations of the logistics and related timing in this tense event led us to a firm conclusion that the new monorail must not travel through the Seattle Center, leaving the public right-of-way. There is no way this kind of quick response and deployment of rescue teams could access the Center and perform in a similar manner to Monday's drama. It would be tragic if a similar event occurred along the proposed Center route.
As you review the circumstances of the incident, please keep this in mind: No matter what the technologists say about the new monorail and its higher standard of safety, it would be criminal to slight the possibility of a similar or worse accident away from the public streets that afford rescuers quick access to this kind of traumatic event.
OFF THE RAILS
Solving problems that don't exist and creating others, Seattle Times, May 31, 2004
In "Taxpayers well-served by Seattle Monorail Project" (Times guest commentary, May 24), Kristina Hill, one of a small group of monorail cheerleaders who are trying to shove this wasteful project down Seattle's throat, wrote that the monorail "... will provide travel options to Seattle residents and get them out of their cars."
There is a perfectly fine bus system between downtown and West Seattle or Ballard. The monorail would not get many people out of their cars - the vast majority of monorail riders would be people who now take the bus. The monorail would merely take the place of a few buses, at an exorbitant price.
Hill wrote, "Slowing down the monorail... is the way opponents add costs to taxpayers without solving our mobility problems." Even if there were a "mobility problem" between West Seattle and Ballard, which there is not, the monorail wouldn't solve it. It wouldn't take cars off the roads, but its columns in streets would eliminate traffic lanes along its
route, making it harder to drive.
The large number of monorail opponents are trying to completely stop the monorail, which would save Seattle taxpayers over $1.5 billion. It is the monorail supporters who have added costs to taxpayers: $280 per year on a $20,000 car, indefinitely.
Gregory Buck, Seattle
Leave in Las Vegas Seattle Times, May 31, 2004
Councilman Peter Steinbrueck liked what he saw in Nevada's monorail, but the imposing size of their support structures apparently led him to suggest that Seattle should give over a lane of our city streets for the big, clumsy columns to avoid this problem ("Las Vegas trip boosts support for monorail," Local News, May 24).
The concerns listed in editorial columnist Joni Balter's "Council should be ready to say 'whoops' on monorail" (May 27) are old news, and have already been answered time and time again.
The Seattle Monorail Project recently spent a huge chunk of money, our money, advertising their zippy train ("In switch, monorail group pulls back on ads," Local News, May 13). Well, I would like to advise Chairman Tom Weeks and everyone else at the SMP that their job is solely to build it - if we finally let them. There is no need for them to spend our dime on advertising, especially when we've already bought their "product."
There are much bigger fish to fry at this moment than fortifying public transportation. Let's take care of the big one, the Alaskan Way Viaduct problem, and yes, it is most indeed a problem. If it gets neglected until the earth moves again, we could be looking at, at the very least, some major loss of commerce for the entire waterfront, including Coleman
Isn't it ironic that a taxi-driver can create a project that will cost this city billions of dollars over several decades (the Seattle Monorail Project), yet the head of one of the most prominent engineering firms in this city has his credentials and motives viciously attacked when he raises legitimate criticisms of the project? If he can't, who can? ("Engineer harshly criticizes monorail plan," Local News, May 21.)
Ridership did indeed jump by about 35,000 a day, but mainly because CapMetro took over the University of Texas shuttle bus (express bus) system, with approximately 30,000 daily riders, at the same time. The ridership increase attributable to free fares was about 10 percent. But ridership also brought its own funding source - mandatory fees paid by students, helping finance the "free" service.
While our transit system was indeed swamped, surveys confirmed that almost all the additional ridership came from repeat trips by current riders, not new riders such as motorists attracted from cars. That, plus the overwhelming expenses of acquiring more buses and shouldering ballooning operating costs, was a decisive factor in persuading a majority of the CapMetro board to discontinue the free-fare experiment.
A free-fare system might work in Seattle, but only if the transit agency has a secure ongoing source to pay for it. As for Austin, CapMetro is pursuing light rail as an essential component in efforts to attract motorists to transit.