Nickels' staff, as we reported, had tried to doctor some key monorail polling questions so that respondents would be more inclined to say they were okay with a shorter "starter" monorail line--a starter line that Nickels himself had proposed as an alternative to the recommended 14-mile Ballard to Downtown to West Seattle route. As a Sound Transit die-hard, and with Sound Transit likely to ask voters for a billion dollars this November, Nickels has a keen interest in keeping the monorail at bay. (The 14-mile monorail plan is also supposed to go before voters this November.)
Well, the monorail folks didn't go for Nickels' push-polling, and on Monday, May 13 the results of their own poll came in. Bad news for Sound Transit: Support for the monorail is better than anyone had imagined. Pollster Don McDonough, who conducted the 600-person, 80-item poll from May 3 to May 7, says, "I've never seen support for a spending measure this high in my 14 years of polling."
Here are some of the findings:
After hearing positive spins on the monorail (it travels above-ground, out of traffic) and negative spins (it plants columns in neighborhoods and casts shadows), 80 percent of those polled supported the expanded monorail.
After being told the sticker price--$1.2 billion--support dropped slightly, to 72 percent.
Finally, after being told how the $1.2 billion price tag would affect voters individually, voters still stuck with the plan by a whopping 66 percent. (Typically, when voters are confronted with the individualized costs of public works, support takes a 25 percent dive, McDonough says. In this instance, there was just a 14 percent hit.)
Most important, and something Sound Transit and its incredibly shrinking light rail line ought to think about, is this little tidbit: The monorail poll found that voters (even knowing the cost) favored a longer monorail line over a shorter, cost-cutting monorail line. Monorail Now co-chair Cindi Laws says, "We're trying to complete a project that was started 40 years ago. Seattle residents have witnessed a starter monorail for 40 years." (Sound Transit promised voters a 21-mile line in 1996 and is currently crossing its fingers for federal backing of a 14-mile line that appears to be losing public support.)
With this type of gargantuan support for the monorail, look for Nickels, or any politician for that matter, to drop any attempts to undermine the monorail.
Indeed, Nickels, who pitched his "starter" monorail line just a month ago, and followed that up by signing a city ordinance on May 7 that makes it difficult for the monorail to tap city funds, had this to say about the monorail poll: "I remain committed to getting a solid proposal before voters this November. I look forward to campaigning for passage of the monorail. Let's build it."
Yes, Greg, let's build it--all of it.