I was a strong supporter of the monorail, but it had its problems
, that extended beyond financing. If they had estimated the tax revenue correctly, it still probably wouldn't have been built (the same way that Bertha isn't likely to be built without additional money from the state).
As for elevated light rail, it is a good idea. It tends to be cheaper than tunneling. But for downtown, it would have its problems. First, there isn't a lot of room for the structure. You end up spending a bunch of money on moving utilities. Second, transfers become a real pain. Transfers are a huge part of any subway system (I use the term subway loosely -- New York has elevated sections of rail, but the whole thing is called the New York Subway). A Ballard to West Seattle line would depend quite a bit on transfers (to get to popular places like the UW and Capitol Hill). In general, if you don't have transfers, chances are you are wasting your money. But transferring from an elevated station to an underground one would be a real pain. Keep in mind, our stations aren't cut and cover shallow stations like New York or Toronto -- these stations are deep bore, with the emphasis on deep. You would spend an extra five minutes just making a simple transfer, thus negating the main value of your new line.
But the biggest problem with the West Seattle to Ballard plan is that it is inappropriate for the area. It is a stretch for Ballard, but ridiculous for West Seattle. West Seattle is spread out. Just look at a census map
, and you can see that there aren't any big concentrations of people. Nor are there any major destinations. My guess is the two most popular spots are South Seattle College and Alki (neither of which would have a stop). This basically means that are asking almost everyone in West Seattle to make a transfer before going to where they want to go. That isn't the end of the world, but in this case, it isn't necessary.
Just build a bus tunnel
. This isn't cheap, but it is a lot cheaper than West Seattle rail, because you only have one tunnel (in downtown) not two (in downtown and West Seattle). Make improvements on the freeway, which are certainly cheaper than light rail. Look at that map and imagine every trip being grade separated (not hindered by traffic) and it is simply better for the average West Seattle resident or visitor. Going to places like Belltown or lower Queen Anne are much better, because more buses means more frequency, which means less waiting.
Meanwhile, the Ballard to UW light rail line is simply better for greater Ballard. There is only a minor time penalty for going that way (two minutes
). This is why a lot of people have rallied around a better set of projects for the area, nicknamed the peanut butter plan
(something for everyone). This would save more time for more trips for more people than the Sound Transit set of projects. It would also be cheaper, which means it could be built a lot sooner. Parts of it (such as the WSTT) could certainly be built sooner. It isn't the construction or planning costs that cause these projects to take so long, but the cost. With a cheaper, more effective set of projects, we could see major transit improvements in the area much sooner.