This guest post is by Brad Meacham, who is running for Seattle City Council.
Yesterday members of the council's transportation committee decided—yet again—to delay starting planning improvements to high-demand corridors throughout the city. The stated reason: They want more time to read SDOT’s market analysis and methodology—data they’ve had in hand for weeks. From the meeting:
TRANSPORTATION CHAIR TOM RASMUSSEN: "It's like as thick as a phonebook, good luck getting through it in a couple of days."
RASMUSSEN: "What we want is a data-driven, mode-neutral, cost-effective system of evaluating what might work best for the short and long term with a variety of alternatives. And we could have an array of modes. And we would know how well they would serve the need as well as what the costs would be, and we would know how to invest in the short term and in the long term. So again, data-driven, mode-neutral and objective."
Now, I’m all for making smart, data-based decisions. But the reality is they lack a sense of urgency and don’t seem to get it. Leaders would offer a vision for transit instead of waiting for data to magically find a solution for them. Yesterday’s meeting included Council Members Rasmussen, Jean Godden and Nick Licata, with Mike O’Brien making a guest appearance. (My opponent Bruce Harrell didn’t show. He’s AWOL on transit issues.)
In the end they decided to delay even starting planning until sometime in the future—after they get around to looking at the data.
Here's another quote from the meeting:
GODDEN: "I think that would really suit my comfort level a whole lot more. I mean, we go down to Portland and discover that it took them only 30 years to get where they are and it takes a long time to make these decisions so I want to make sure we do it carefully."
Careful is good. But where’s the caution when it comes to the tunnel or building a bigger, more-invasive 520? The council can’t find time to address the problems the tunnel would create north and south of downtown, to Pioneer Square, etc. Why is prudence required for transit but not for massive highway projects that are clearly based on dubious reasoning?
Here’s what any Seattle bus rider—and most residents—could tell the council: We need better transit now. More delay before even starting to plan better transit is another example of how Seattle is falling behind due to poor leadership. Vancouver and Portland are already way ahead of us when it comes to implementing transit to better connect neighborhoods.
Here’s a recap of what’s happened so far:
Last June the council slowed development of a Transit Master Plan, which is supposed to guide long-term investment, because some members were afraid the plan might recommend light rail. SDOT spent nine months generating data and doing analysis. They published the results last month.
Now we’re waiting for phase two: identifying about 15 heavily traveled corridors in the city where transit could be improved. Most corridors would get things like curb bulbs to make boarding buses faster. A few routes eventually would get bus-rapid-transit or light rail.
Unfortunately the council is stacking the deck against light rail anywhere. (Or, in Harrell’s case, sitting out the issue altogether.) And they’re willing to hold us all hostage while they waste more time talking instead of even starting on a plan to move the city forward.
Improving transit corridors to connect neighborhoods ought to be an urgent priority. (I talked about it here.) On the council, I would lead development of a strategy to create a system that connects neighborhoods and gives residents more travel options. We’ve waited long enough.