DEAR EDITOR: Congratulations on a great series of articles thus far ["Build It," July 13]. Those of us directly involved in the monorail effort really appreciate the comprehensive and balanced coverage you have provided. Only a couple omissions I'd like to address:
1. There were actually three people who got Initiative 41 passed in 1997, of which I am the third. I now serve as president of Friends of the Monorail. I also served on the enabling committee created by the city council shortly after the '97 election to help describe and define the ETC's [Elevated Transportation Company's] mission.
2. In terms of "allies" of the ETC, Friends of the Monorail has been the largest and strongest since the ETC's creation, and deserves a prominent mention as such. With a 500-plus membership, we have been supporting them since the ETC was created in early 1998.
3. Right now, the most important thing for people to do is to help Initiative 53 get signatures/the word out. Contact the I-53 office directly via the following website: www.riseaboveitall.org. E-mail: email@example.com. Office: 2108 N 55th St, just southeast of Green Lake. Open seven days a week, 10 am-7 pm. Phone: 632-8140.
Kevin Orme, Friends of the Monorail
DEAR EDITOR: I've always believed that monorail systems can and do work well as part of more comprehensive transit systems ["Build It," July 13]. The author of the monorail initiative, Dick Falkenbury, agrees, and emphasized it by quoting me in the 1997 initiative campaign brochure, stating that a monorail line would be compatible with Sound Transit's Link light-rail system. It's too bad that in promoting the idea of a monorail, The Stranger (and other boosters) seems to believe that the debate has to pit monorail against light rail instead of looking at how the two systems could work together.
Monorail advocates often mention monorail lines operating in places like Osaka and Tokyo, but rarely mention that those monorails are only a small part of extensive transit systems that also include light rail, subways, and longer-distance commuter trains and buses. Even if all of the money and necessary political support to build the monorail fell into place tomorrow, it would still be years before construction could begin. Identifying funding, doing the complex design and engineering, gathering public comment on routes, station locations, and neighborhood impacts, and producing the legally required environmental analyses and mitigation plans would still have to be done. Construction of light rail gets underway within months. At last, our region will be acting rather than talking about providing transportation alternatives. Remember that old saying about a bird in the hand.
Denny Fleenor, Sound Transit spokesman
TO THE EDITOR: Thanks for your continuing coverage of the monorail ["Build It," July 13]. Please keep it up. Why don't you look into the business and personal relationships between the city council members, Mayor Schell, the Blethens [co-owners of The Seattle Times], and the various promoters/designers/ contractors for the light-rail system? Somebody must be in bed with some of the companies that hope to make big money from light-rail construction. Why else, other than kickbacks and ill-gotten gains, would so many politicians risk their futures by so insultingly ignoring the desires of the majority of voters?
Anonymous, via e-mail
DEAR EDITOR: The mantle of investigative journalism in Seattle has clearly passed to the weekly free paper The Stranger ["Build It," July 13]. The Times and P-I's coverage of the monorail issue and the city council's machinations have been as sterling as their coverage of the "Norman Rice Memorial Parking Garage Scandal." We voted for the monorail; the monorail can be constructed off-site; the monorail does not rob the streets of space; the monorail does not require expensive tunneling. The monorail is a solution that will increase the tourist draw of Seattle through its utility and uniqueness.
Bart Swanke, Seattle
DEAR JOSH FEIT: Light rail is long overdue for Seattle, and does not necessarily preclude monorail construction. Not only is slamming Sound Transit an unproductive means of monorail boosterism, but several of the points made in your July 13 article are false ["Light Rail Is a Bad Idea"].
Claim: Light rail will rip a minority neighborhood (Rainier Valley) in two. Reality: Have you ever walked along a stretch of MLK Jr. Way? I have, and I've noticed how the speeding, noisy, polluting car and truck traffic has already ripped that neighborhood in two. Light rail, along with the accompanying new sidewalks, repaved streets, and quiet rail cars (powered by electricity), will make this part of the Valley the envy of pedestrians and Metro bus riders all over town.
Claim: Light rail will be slowed by auto traffic due to on-street operation. Reality: Light-rail cars will not share lanes with cars. Light-rail cars will be confined to the two inside lanes, similar to the configuration used by many other light-rail systems around the world. Cars and trucks will not be allowed in the light-rail lanes. Light-rail trains will not have to stop at red lights, because red lights will turn green when trains approach.
Claim: Trains will be limited to four rail cars, rather than the standard six. This will limit capacity. Reality: Few light-rail systems anywhere in the world use trains longer than four cars. Most use between one and four cars per train. This allows more frequent service and more manageable train lengths.
Claim: Light rail is an awkward way to move people. Reality: Light rail is a very sleek, efficient way to move people. It is far less awkward than the private automobile or the city bus. Sound Transit, like many typical light-rail lines, will very easily be able to move 100,000 people per day, while Seattle's busiest bus route carries about 15,000.
Bill Bryant, Seattle
JOSH FEIT RESPONDS: The "standard six" (cars) refers to other forms of smart, efficient mass transit like subways. You say, "Few light-rail systems anywhere in the world use trains longer than four cars." Exactly my point.
DEAR EDITORS: Having just moved from Baltimore, which is rated the worst in providing public transit, I think I can help [shed some light] on the subject of light rail ["Light Rail Is a Bad Idea," Josh Feit, July 13]. Baltimore has buses, a subway (which no one knows about), and light rail (which sucks). Here are some of the reasons light rail sucks: (1) Like a bus, light rail travels at street level and therefore will not relieve any of the congestion. (2) Unlike a bus, light rail has dedicated lanes that can no longer be used by automobiles. Gee, that will certainly improve congestion. (3) Like a bus, it has to stop at red lights. Riding from northern Baltimore to Camden Yards takes a lifetime because of stoplights--and Baltimore's lights are synchronized! (4) Light rail cannot be put on the 520 bridge because it will sink it. So what do you get? An overpriced, slightly quieter, longer bus that causes more congestion.
Russell Alden, Seattle
DEAR EDITOR: Thank you for continuing to provide the citizens' viewpoint on the monorail issue, and debunking the shortsighted politicos and their "spin." I have been reading your online articles for the past few months and feel that yesterday's ["Build It," July 13] was the best yet. One of the [positive aspects of the monorail] I expected in your article was public safety. How many people have been killed by modern monorail compared to modern light or commuter rail?
"In the last nine years of operation, the Blue Line has had 486 accidents and 53 fatalities, according to an article in the L.A. Times that ran December 23, 1999."
"A story in The Salt Lake Tribune on March 30, 2000, 'First Fatality,' [reported that] in the first 101 days, 11 accidents, two derailments, and one pedestrian [were] killed."
Obviously there is more to be written toward getting people motivated, and I thought this would be one more issue in the monorail's favor. Keep up the great work.
Mike Brown, Atlanta
FIRST-RATE JOURNALISM SHOCKS LONGTIME READER
DEAR EDITOR: I find myself reading The Stranger more and more. Your journalism seems first-rate. There was a time (not so long ago) that I didn't think you offered anything but shock journalism. Congratulations on being a great paper and digging deep. I loved your series on the monorail ["Build It," July 13]. You guys are the smart alternative.
John Spear, Seattle