7:55 PM yesterday d.p. commented on A Tale of Two New Link Stations.
In what universe is UW station "compact" or convenient? Much less a paragon of form gracefully following function?

I suppose it's compact compared to this, if your sole source of comparison is "broadly-mocked architectural boondoggles culled from the internet." But even then it's hard to find a standalone in-city subway stop quite as preposterously sited and insulting to pedestrians trying to reach it as is the current northern Link terminus.

Has Charles traveled the urbanized world at all? Or has his career been a 20-year hoax orchestrated by an armchair traveler from deep within his Columbia City bungalow?
Sep 23 d.p. commented on Guest Editorial: Voting Yes On Prop 1 Is the Only Way to Get Light Rail Faster.
Firstly: I am not a natural public speaker. I was, nevertheless, the only person who gave public comment when Sound Transit formalized its plan to build a half-billion-dollar Bellevue tunnel and then place the station pointlessly east of it.

That was, by the way, before the agency decided to use an accounting trick to effectively charge Seattle for Bellevue-bound track in the same amount as said useless tunnel, paving the way for all future monetary-math games and ethically suspect cost:benefit assignments.

Balducci, one of the only board members with a brain, told me afterward that she entirely agreed, but that she could do little from inside a process that charges headfirst into expensive mediocrity and hasn't been designed to privilege outcomes.

It seems that, 5 years later, that process has snowballed into the irredeemable. How anyone can claim that a single stop in NW Seattle, 20 years away, solves problems, much less equivocate that "the spine" matches real-world movement patterns or that Issaquah has the slightest fucking need for a train -- and keep a straight face -- is beyond me.

Secondly, as has been pointed out to you repeatedly, your "now or never" framing for this election cycle is unsupportable. 2007's electoral rejection paved the way for an on-the-balance more logical 2008 referendum. KC Metro's county-wide cash-infusion failure led directly to an in-city vote, which not only achieved structural improvements more quickly, but also handed the apportionment reigns for the first time to a handler within SDOT who actually gave a shit about urban service principles.

Ross is correct: this $54 billion boondoggle with mediocre and severely delayed outcomes is not, and should not be, a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.

A skinnier, more incisive, and therefore cheaper package could be voted next year and implemented significant sooner. (As ST has repeatedly confessed, the ST3 timeline is all about funding capacity, and not about planning work. So yes, cheaper means faster.)

If your goal is mobility, urban and regional, you owe it to yourself to be honest about future possibilities that don't require setting this $54 billion pathway in stone. If your goal is "holy shit, trains everywhere!!!", then please just admit as much.
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Sep 23 d.p. commented on Guest Editorial: Voting Yes On Prop 1 Is the Only Way to Get Light Rail Faster.
"Listen, do you want a subway or not!!?"

- petulant kids, finally admitting they have no interest in distinguishing mass transit as a means ("Oh, cool, I get get where I need to go easily!") from mass transit as an end unto itself ("Oh, cool, we have lots of shiny trains!")

Voters should find it beyond appalling that "advocates" seem unable to make any affirmative argument for why this particular zillion-mile rail network, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to successful mass transit elsewhere, will miraculously transport hundreds of thousands and solve all our future problems. I can only hope that Seattleites are finally tired of having their collective intelligence insulted by the equivocation-filled boomtown-snowflakedom and divisive identity-baiting that passes for argument above.

Multi-modal mass transportation that enables genuine mobility freedom is crucial. Money does not grow on trees. ST3 is unprecedented in scope and cost, and largely pursues a geometry and system design without (successful) existing precedents.

These are facts. They can't be overcome with storm, drang, und insults. Do you want to wake up November 9th needing to return to the drawing board with sounder geometric principles and little less mega-infrastructural hubris? Or do you want to wake up in 2040, $54 billion poorer and with permanent maintenance needs on a system that still can't fucking get you where you need to go?

That is the only choice being made here.
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Sep 22 d.p. commented on Guest Editorial: Voting Yes On Prop 1 Is the Only Way to Get Light Rail Faster.
@8: Don't forget the use of nonsense statistics like "84% of you will be connected to light rail!"

Because apparently, as long as there's a stop anywhere in your municipality or vaguely-defined quadrant, you are "connected". Doesn't matter if that stop is 7 miles away and in the wrong direction and the train doesn't go anywhere you need to go and every other stop is just a parking lot next to a Safeway!

Because that's totally how mass transportation works in the real world! Donchaknow!

That's why our recent subway extension vaulted our ridership from 20,000 round trips to 34,000 round trips, representing a depressingly tiny fraction of the people who move about between southeastern, east-central, and northeastern Seattle on a daily basis!

Nope... Let's all hold hands and pretend that it doesn't matter where or how you design and place the transit. Because evidence-based analysis is for pussies and subways are one-size-fits-all MAGIC!

Now can we pleae have $54 billion for more of our fact-free nonsense? Trust us: We don't know what the hell we're talking about but we're pretty sure we're your only hope!
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Sep 15 d.p. commented on Dow Constantine and Dennis Hayes: Self-Driving Cars Are a Distraction.
Also, debating whether the trains will go anywhere useful, versus merely checking boxes off an arbitrary list while being difficult to access and contributing embarrassingly little to mobility, is "a distraction".

Also, questioning whether Sound Transit's modeling can be trusted when it pursues objective worst design practices, yet pledges Seattle will have the 5th-highest rail ridership in the U.S. (ahead of Philly and the entire Bay Area, some of whose trains actually, like, go places), is "a distraction".

Also, discussing whether 54 billion dollars are being well spent is "a distraction".

(The personal attacks that will now come my way for daring to question Dow's facile political framings will not, of course, count as "a distraction".)
Sep 8 d.p. commented on The Morning News: Seattle Needs to Spend Even More on Light Rail, Everett Puts Pressure on Its Poorest Drunks.
Charles is clearly dead set on becoming my personal troll on matters of transit planning versus transit ideologizing -- an arch example of Seattle's boundless ability to misinterpret example in its mindless pursuit of symbolist badge-fashioning rather than useful outcomes.

Vancouver -- a city and region less populous than Seattle -- has managed to construct itself a transit system that attracts and handles over 1 million trips per day. On virtually every metric (city proper and region-wide, commute-share and non-commute usage, non-punitive low-car-lifestyle enablement), Vancouver ranks better than almost any other North American city.

Growing pains may abound in that city (especially in housing), but transportation planning is one of its great successes. And as Charles' own linked article makes clear, most of Vancouver's daily imperfections boil down to money issues on the operational side (including vehicle purchases) rather than to any grand errors of conception or system scope.

There are a few potential narratives that a thinking columnist might glean from Vancouver's current situation:

- One could explore the unsexy geometric details behind Vancouver's successes-thus-far. The conspicuously urban-scaled trains symbiotically routed through genuinely (rather than imaginarily) densifying places within relatively close orbit of the regional core. The careful integration of trains and bus grid that enables truly painless anywhere-to-anywhere trips in the city, and logical commuter connections from further afield. One might even point out that Skytrain's 43 miles of trackage, carrying 400,000 daily rides, amounts to significantly less mileage than Sound Transit is already building in ST2 , which no one expects to prove nearly so useful.

- Or one could focus on those aforementioned growing pains, and point to Vancouver's most notable cautionary example of political meddling that has overrode clear needs. Politics being the only reason that Vancouver's east-west Broadway corridor subway remains unfunded (e.g. "SORRY BUS FULL"), while Coquitlam gets a Skytrain branch of questionable urgency or utility. (First Hill or Central District residents should be able to identify with this, as they scratch their heads over the baffling focus on building trains to Seattle's by-far least dense quadrant, not to mention trains through 30 miles worth of sprawl, boonies, and malt-liquor drinkers in every direction).

- One could even discuss the risks of excessive deference to "private partners" in transit planning, since as the only "capacity problems" on the Canada Line are the direct result of having purchased insufficient train cars, which the private contractor who built and now runs the line has zero incentive to ameliorate. You would think that Charles' political leanings would lead him to pursue this line of questioning, especially since Sound Transit expansion is so inextricable from the design-build work of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the perpetual-conflict-of-interest megacorporation whose every design recommendation (unsurprisingly) involves palatial megastations spread over long distances, with skyrocketing costs that invariably prove less convenient for pedestrian access and bus transfers alike.

- One could even note that, in the broadest sense, Vancouver reminds us that even rich cities have finite funds to allocate to myriad needs, and that even successful transit systems have imperfections.

But no. What narrative does Charles contort himself to wring from Vancouver's example? "More miles of tracks! Infinite miles of tracks! More than the 55 miles under construction for ST2! More than the 110 miles and $54 billion supposed for ST3! Tracks to anywhere and everywhere! Cost is no object!!"

Such a quantity-over-quality obsession should confuse the hell out of anyone who has studied the example of Dallas, a massive metropolis whose 90 miles of sprawling light rail carried barely 2/3 as many passengers in 2015 as the 12-mile Canada Line. And it would certainly conflict with the experience of 104-mile BART, on which the overwhelming majority of trips take place on a mere ~20% of its trackage. In fact, BART's total usage numbers sit within the margin of error of Skytrain's, despite reaching its tentacles across a metropolitan area thrice as populous and with significantly worse traffic, and despite those extra 61 miles worth of tracks that Charles insists must be the key to success.

If ever there were an example of why quality should be privileged over quantity -- and "quality" here means usefulness of access, not "grade separation in highway medians and giant infrastructure for the fuck of it" -- Vancouver is that example. There will be tradeoffs and drawbacks. There always are. But at the least the tradeoff won't be "spending $54 billion and still not being able to go anywhere".
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Sep 6 d.p. commented on The Cost of Light Rail Will Be Cheap in the Long Run.
Actually, @2 et al, the Second Avenue Subway is a fantastic comparison, both because:

A) you could build the entire thing, East Harlem to Lower Manhattan, 3 times over for what Sound Transit intends to blow on trains that mostly go absofuckinglutely nowhere; and

B) no one has any idea how or when Phases 2 and 3 of that NYC project will get funded, because billions worth of general maintenance backlogs have accrued over the decades, and because there are other infrastructural priorities demanding attention, and because it turns out that, regardless of the math games that the VC-inflected bubble-mavens like to play in defense of their baffling 130-mile foamer maps, money doesn't actually grow on trees and eventually the cumulative costs of financing and maintenance and the unavoidable efficiency-imperfections of (even infinitely less boondoggly) large public transit systems will eventually come due.

When you go to fill out your November ballot, you can either accept the fatuous premise that rail is somehow an inherent good (no matter how poorly planned) and that identity politics demand you to vote uncritically for any zillion-dollar transit levy; or, you can observe the lived experiences of every place in the world that has an actual functioning transit network, with its concomitant triumphs and imperfections and inevitably accrued auxiliary costs, and wonder who the fuck is going to take a train from Fife to some strip mall in West Issaquah, and then consider -- just consider -- the possibility that Sound Transit's ridiculously ambitious ridership estimates don't hold water and that substandard transit design doesn't become "cheap in the long run" simply because a Parsons Brinckerhoff-funded marketing campaign and a desperate-to-live-in-New York hack at The Stranger tell you so.

And then activate your critical faculties, vote no, and send Sound Transit back to drawing board for transit that might actually be useful for getting places! Which is literally the least that you should be demanding for any dollar figure beginning with a "b".
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Aug 17 d.p. commented on Guest Editorial: What Reuven Carlyle Got Wrong in His Critique of ST3.
Oh, please.

Carlyle's expression of frustration is muddled, but the source of his gut hesitation is clear: $54 billion is a gargantuan fuckload of money, and any expenditure so whopping should be properly vetted for efficacy, in light of the fact that money does not grow on trees.

The pro-ST3 camp's facile insistence that trains are an inherent good, no matter where they go, does not remotely qualify as an argument, much less a vetted one.
Aug 12 d.p. commented on The Morning News: University of Washington Station Is The Epicenter of Seattle's Transportation Future, Turbulence on a Motherfucking Plane.
Heaven forbid, @10!

You might wind up with a little more "Amsterdam" and a little less "General Motors Pavilion at the World's Fair".

After years and years and years of Seattle living, I still cannot understand the blind boosterism that insists incredible mediocrity (a poorly-designed subway carrying only 30,000 trips per day on its "most important segment that will ever be built") or outright badness (the Montlake overpass) becomes an epicenter of awesome simply by being in Seattle.

Do some damned research. Advocate with a healthy incredulity. Do better.
Aug 12 d.p. commented on The Morning News: University of Washington Station Is The Epicenter of Seattle's Transportation Future, Turbulence on a Motherfucking Plane.
No, @8, the "best" solution would have been a more sensibly-located station.

The second-best solution would have been a primary underground egress that emerged on the west side of Montlake, which for a station at such depth would have been easily doable without adding to (and possibly reducing) both access time and construction cost.

The third-best solution would have been a goddamned crosswalk.

In fact, cities with far less egregiously located and exponentially better-patronized transit infrastructure have been replacing hare-brained mid-century skybridges with improved street-level access for years now.

But no one in Seattle seems to have gotten the memo.