But less than a month after that victory, Cogswell--sitting at a table at La Puerta restaurant on East Pike Street-- pushes his glass of water to the side, spreads a map over the table, whips out a pen, and traces a broad oval in dark blue ink. Starting at the Seattle Green Line terminus in Ballard, Cogswell drags the pen northeast to Bothell and south through Bellevue; he follows I-405 through Renton, heading west to I-5 and then south past SeaTac to Federal Way. Cogswell draws a second line, too, starting at the Green Line's downtown Seattle location, shimmying north through Capitol Hill to 520, crossing Lake Washington, moving through Bellevue (where it intersects his first line), and heading northeast to the heart of Redmond. It's a $5 billion plan for a 60-mile monorail--with a promise to zip Seattle's Microsoft employees to Redmond in 23 minutes while decreasing Eastsiders' dependence on I-405. Cogswell wants to make this happen via countywide initiative. His group, Citizens for King County Monorail--which also stars Cleve Stockmeyer, the Seattle attorney who cowrote monorail initiative I-53 in 2000--registered as a political action committee on January 13.
Routes scrawled in ballpoint pen. Maps. Restaurant tables. Citizen initiatives. Big dreams. Pie-in-the-sky plans. Sweeping solutions dreamed up over Mexican food. It's classic Cogswell (who looks sort of like a Capitol Hill version of M*A*S*H's Radar O'Reilly, by the way).
But for fuck's sake, monorail fans haven't even put away the champagne yet--much less sold a bond, chosen a contractor, or mapped out how the yet-to-be-built Green Line will expand to serve the majority of Seattle. Why is Cogswell already talking about a countywide monorail initiative?
Even his natural allies over at the newly created Seattle Popular Monorail Authority are caught a little off guard at the idea of expanding the monorail beyond Seattle's borders. "From where we are right now," says the SPMA's board chair, Tom Weeks, "that's not anything this agency is going to be involved in. There are a lot of people who are skeptical that we can deliver the Seattle Green Line on time and under budget. We have a big job, and that's where our focus is." Weeks adds that the SPMA also promised voters a plan for a second Seattle line--so while the agency will share any expertise it can, the SPMA is Seattle-centric.
Cogswell, who also ran for Seattle City Council in 2001 on a zero-tolerance-for-pavement platform, isn't deterred by Seattleites' reluctance to think outside Seattle and the nascent Green Line. "We're up against people who are dead set on building more freeways," Cogswell says of the Eastside establishment. "Freeway construction is not waiting 10 years. We need to build this now." Cogswell, who grew up on the Eastside, firmly believes rapid public transit (i.e., a monorail) encircling Seattle and its first-tier suburbs will halt sprawl by literally and figuratively tightening a monorail belt around Lake Washington, turning the city and its immediate suburbs into one dense urban core.
Following the example set by Seattle's successful monorail effort, Cogswell is setting out to create a $20 million commission charged with eventually bringing the specifics of a countywide monorail plan to voters. (Cogswell, who wants the monorail commission initiative on the ballot this November, would need over 43,000 signatures.)
Cogswell and Stockmeyer already have some Eastside busybodies on board, including former King County Council Member Brian Derdowski, anti-R-51 Eastside soccer mom Karin Blakley, and Redmond Mayor Rosemarie Ives.
In fact, the monorail gang met over breakfast at Bellevue's DoubleTree Hotel on January 10 to pitch the plan to The Stranger and the Seattle Times. Blakley, who organized a crew of Eastside women last fall (Citizens for Sensible Eastside Transportation Solutions) against pavement-friendly R-51, says that despite the stereotype of Eastsiders as folks who won't get out of their SUVs, she's found consistent support for an alternative to freeways and buses. "When I mention monorails," she says, "eyes light up. You give people a fast mode of transportation--you better believe people will support this."
Well, maybe. (R-51 actually passed in Eastside bellwether cities like Redmond and Bellevue.) And from a technical (Lake Washington?), financial ($5 billion?), and political (Sound Transit?) perspective, there are a slew of questions about a new regional plan. For starters, despite Blakley's enthusiasm, are Eastsiders really going to raise their own taxes? (The idea is to extend the Seattle monorail's motor vehicle excise tax to the suburbs.) Heck, last year's monorail initiative didn't even get 51 percent of the votes in tax-happy Seattle.
"The Eastside is traditionally a lot more tax sensitive," says local pollster Don McDonough, who did the polling for last year's Seattle monorail campaign. "This idea is a little bit of a stretch as far as I'm concerned. If anti-monorail campaigners were able to drag the numbers down to just about 51 percent in tax-friendly Seattle last year, they could kill it on the Eastside."
Meanwhile, will King County's important bloc of liberal Seattle voters even sign off on the plan? The slim majority that passed the Seattle monorail last election was composed of people who lived near the proposed Green Line--plus Capitol Hill and U-District überliberals. Seattleites are surely a lot more interested in voting to extend the Green Line to the U-District, Northgate, and Rainier Valley than they are in extending the system to Renton, Bothell, and Kent.
Despite the skepticism, however, we're talking about Cogswell. This is a guy who has every right to scoff at conventional wisdom.