In the previous post we addressed the Eastside projects. This post we’ll give a few reasons why the regional package is not worthwhile.
The main argument for building trains seems to be that we can’t do buses right. We need to do buses right. If we can’t, we’ve already failed, because the train is only walking distance for a few people. In the suburbs, the train is walking distance for even fewer people. Doing buses right doesn’t even mean Bus Rapid Transit vs. Light Rail – it also means getting the feeder buses right. Buses get caught in traffic accessing the South Kirkland Park & Ride. The 245 regularly gets stuck in a sea of cars on 148th Ave, and the B on 40th St. We need to find a way to get buses out of traffic so that they become a reasonable option. If we don’t solve local trips like going to the store, then using transit remains a special case for the commute or an event in Seattle and not the default (or even a considered) choice for arbitrary trips.
Commute times on I-5 from Everett to Seattle regularly get to two hours. Link from Everett to Seattle is planned to take 60 minutes. Great, right? Save an hour even when traffic is terrible? But by building the train to Everett, we are encouraging more building of housing in Everett, and more families to live in Everett, shackling them to a soul-sucking 90-minute commute (because you’d need to get to the train, and then from the train, either or both of which may require a bus transfer, a bike ride, or a lengthy walk), and an otherwise car-centric lifestyle. We need to build housing targeting 30-minute commutes, not 90. Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond: you all need to buck up and build the housing the region desperately needs. We don’t have space for more cars. Build housing where people don’t need cars. The suburbs want to grow because growth, but that’s stupid and unsustainable. Every unit of housing we decline to build in our close-in walkable neighborhoods is one more family stuck in the suburbs, driving thorough the close-in walkable neighborhood.
The stronger way of saying this is that high-capacity regional transit (ST’s charter) is the wrong problem to solve. Sure, there will still be people who choose to live in the hinterlands and commute to the city, but lets make that an actual choice, and not force people out there because there is no suitable housing in the city.
The new Angle Lake station actively makes the current system worse than before. It doesn’t serve anything but a park & ride garage, and now the system has less flexibility because it needs an additional train on the tracks. The reasons to take the train to Angle Lake are not compelling reasons to build a rail line there. ST3 is more of the same – many more miles of the same.
Here are more arguments in note form because I’m tired of writing:
Capacity of train vs capacity of parking lot. If there is no car-first future, don’t build more parking lots. Eastgate shows us what a “high-capacity” park & ride is, and it’s terrible.
“serving” Issaquah with one stop on the SW corner. “serving” Kirkland with one stop on the far south. “serving” West Seattle with one stop, granted in the densest part.
Renton is actively getting worse replacing their downtown transit center with a parking lot on the edge of town.
The spine is not an outcome.
Arguments for the pro side:
“transit!” – We oppose this exactly because it blocks good transit.
We can’t do buses. – We need to do buses or it doesn’t matter.
Politics – This isn’t an excuse for actively continuing down the car path and making the region worse.
Arguments for the con side:
“no transit!” – Sorry, geometry.
“cars!” – Sorry, geometry.
“taxes!” – Yes, stuff costs money, but overstating the costs isn’t helpful. And if you insist on low-density, car-centric development, this isn’t even close to covering the costs you’re putting on the region.
And that’s that. We’re sad for the lost opportunity to do something great.