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Tuesday, April 18, 2006  
A new place for recluse/lymphoma reflections

Blogs are odd things, I've discovered. I never quite found the "voice" for this one. Frankly, I didn't have enough reflections to fill a blog, so it's mostly gone fallow since I started.

I recently had cause to reflect more frequently and, perhaps, more deeply. (Although I'm not exactly sure of that last part.) I was diagnosed with non-Hodkins lymphoma, a cancer. Once I'd finally gotten over the initial shock, etc., I thought I might record something about the experiences and emotions of all that on a blog -- mostly for family members and maybe a few friends, since I can't imagine that most of it would be of much interest to anyone else.

I thought about putting it here, but finally decided to start fresh for those particular and personal reflections on lymphoma. Unlike this one, that blog has started off on a tear, with no lack of things to blog about. But, then again, it's just personal stuff. I'm no expert. I can't offer medical advice

But just in case someone else might be interested, there it is. (And in case someone googles my name and comes here looking for that instead.)

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Friday, November 18, 2005  
Sound Transit is just so "monoraillike"

Meanwhile, over at that rapid transit system that's actually being built...

PI reporter Jane Hadley uses a wonderful adjective to describe the financing that has been proposed to the Sound Transit board for the agency's tunnel and one station under Capitol Hill. She calls the financing scheme "monoraillike". The word may not roll off the tongue or the keyboard, but it should become a permanent part of the Seattle political lexicon.

It will mean different things to different folks. Some might adopt the adjective as a badge of honor. Others might consider it a warning.

But whatever it comes to mean for others, Sound Transit's board members should react in horror if they're called "monoraillike". And the North Link project is starting to look monoraillike in more than just its financing scheme.

The ST board was monoraillike when they dropped the First Hill station from the North Link route. That cost-cutting decision was eerily similar to the cost-cutting decision that SMP made when they reduced some sections of their elevated trackage to one-way guideways.

In both cases, the cost cuts severely impacted service on the respective lines. In both cases, the boards insisted that they could manage things by tweaking just a few things here and there.

That long expensive tunnel under Capitol Hill is enough like SMP's stretches of one-way tracks that it deserves the epithet "monoraillike".

When it was originally proposed, the North Link tunnel had three stations south of the U District, as I recall. ST dropped the north Broadway station early on and then dropped First Hill this summer. That leaves the one station near Broadway and John. It could serve a small segment of the dense residential population of Capitol Hill, but it does nothing for Seattle's third largest employment base on First Hill (It has somewhere around 22,000 jobs compared to just over 7,000 for Capitol Hill [see this .pdf city estimate]).

To serve those employers and employees ST is now studying some kind of circulator system -- maybe a trolley, maybe buses, maybe pedicabs. What the current ST2 project list says about it is this:
First Hill Connector
Enhance service connecting First Hill to Central Link (mode and route TBD), to mitigate potential loss of a planned light rail station.

But whatever the TBD is eventually determined to be for First Hill, it won't happen until after a second vote. And that vote might just become all-too-monoraillike if the ST Board isn't careful with what's left of their expensive tunnel under the hills.

After dropping First Hill and the second Broadway station, the ST Board has become monoraillike in its insistence that this route which is drawn on these CAD files and on this paper and on that environmental impact study is the only route that should be considered.

Like the Seattle Monorail Project that stuck tenatiously to its original 13-mile route on the CAD despite ever bleaker financial projections, the ST Board has stuck with most of that original line through the hills despite ever escalating costs.

The ST Board is monoraillike in its refusal to reconsider some of its initial assumptions. They're being monoraillike in ceaselessly quoting out a good grade assigned by federal transit bureaucrats for the North Link segment. "See... These experts like us," they say. Just like the monorail board.

The ST Board should stop to reconsider the alternative routes that they rejected for the North Link segment from downtown to the U District. They should take another look at ridership in the rapidly populating South Lake Union area that might be served by one of the Eastlake alignments that were rejected in favor of the long tunnel.

They should ask themselves if they would have chosen this tunnel if they had known that it would have just one station. They should ask themselves if the TBD-circulator for First Hill might not also serve an even larger part of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

That's what they should do. But that kind of reconsideration would not be monoraillike. And that, unfortunately, makes it unlikely.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005  
Stranger summarizes monorail boosterism

In the cover story for this week's issue, The Stranger attempts, in its usual misleading way on this subject, to extract some lessons from the failure of the monorail project.

Most of the articles in the feature rehash the half-truths and misrepresentations that have characterized monorail boosterism throughout this long, sad episode. But an article titled "What went wrong" by Erica C. Barnett manages to shed some light on the failure. Unlike the other writers, Barnett found that blame for the failure lies not just with elected officials, but largely with the boosters, staff, and board that tried to build the thing.

The mistake that led to all the monorail's later troubles occurred in late summer 2002, months before the third monorail measure would pass by a razor-thin 877-vote margin, when a financial consultant to the monorail estimated the monorail's tax base at about $4.5 billion.
The monorail's consultant was wrong -- way wrong. But monorail boosters had built the mistake into their initiative and had tied the agency's hands.

"I think a different approach when the revenue shortfall came up could have had a significant effect," says Peter Sherwin, coauthor of the 2000 monorail initiative and campaign manager for this year's pro-monorail campaign. "At the time, they thought they could cut costs [instead of finding new revenues] and get the price of the project way lower." But because the monorail agency didn't want to publicly acknowledge that its error posed a long-term financial problem, it didn't start looking for solutions -- or reach out for help to other government agencies, which were, at that point, relatively sympathetic -- until it was far too late.

Secrecy and an unwillingness to listen to critics became endemic to the agency's board and staff.

Patrick Kylen, a longtime monorail supporter who worked for the Cascadia Monorail Company, the team of companies under contract to build the project, says he understands "why the mayor and council lost confidence: They didn't want to take a risk" on an agency so focused on succeeding that it defended a plan that was politically indefensible.
...
Some say, with the benefit of hindsight, that had the monorail agency reached out to that political establishment, things might have turned out differently. If the agency had approached the city or state as soon as the 30 percent shortfall came to light, it might have had enough money to move forward without resorting to a financial proposal that relied on junk bonds. "They never really had a good relationship with city hall -- that's something they should have worked on," Kylen says.

Barnett managed to find monorail proponents who recognize that the agency's own mistakes contributed to the plan's downfall, but she could do so only by looking outside the Stranger's editorial offices. Stranger editors Dan Savage and Josh Feit continue to wear their booster blinders and lay the plan's failure at any doorstep outside the SMP's Third Avenue offices.

Savage titles his contribution "Failure of Leadership", but unlike the proponents quoted by Barnett, he's unwilling to admit that the failure lies even partly with SMP and his fellow boosters.

Seattle voters attempted to vote for that solution -- four times -- but Seattle's political class failed to seize the opportunity and political cover that voters offered them.
Except, of course, Seattle's "political class" mostly accepted the deeply flawed and inherently unworkable plan forced upon them by we, the voters. They shut up about it or gave it lip service while the SMP dug itself into deeper holes for its unbuildable elevated train.

In an interview, board member Cleve Stockmeyer offered one of he more ironic lessons:

The monorail was the best thing for light rail. We should have been having joint press conferences announcing that each system enhances the ridership of the other system. There was such synergy here that was never explored.
The articles by boosters Savage and Feit demonstrate the main reason that the potential synergy was never explored.

Even though Sound Transit is building a rapid transit line right now, Savage insists
So, no rapid transit for us. Just slow-moving cars, stuck in traffic. Slow-moving buses, stuck in traffic. Slow-moving light rail, stuck in traffic. Maybe a trolley, also stuck in traffic.

Feit chimes in

Why all the Sound Transit double standards? Where was the finance plan for Nickels's viaduct project? And most important, what was Nickels's mass transit alternative?
That's why there was never "synergy" between the two projects. The monorail's boosters and the dysfunctional agency they created saw themselves as the anti-Sound Transit. Many of the monorail boosters worked to derail Sound Transit's trains through lawsuits and appeals to the legislature.

The boosters didn't' just try to build a transit system for a few Seattle neighborhoods, but they also tried to dismantle a regional transit system that had a better chance from the start of actually being built.

The reason for the "double standard" that Feit complains about lies with the agencies created to run the two systems. Sound Transit recognized that they needed a variety of funding sources and would have to use a variety of different solutions to solve different problems.

Most of the ST system is based on buses which do, indeed, get "stuck in traffic", but they get stuck less often and for less time because of the kinds of relatively cheap solutions like bus-centric freeway changes embraced by Sound Transit.

The light-rail line that they're currently building to connect downtown Seattle with the airport is, for most of its route, the very kind of grade-separated rapid transit celebrated by monorail boosters. Some of it is elevated. Some of it is in tunnels. But a five- or six-mile section in South Seattle is being built in a dedicated roadway at grade. Because it's at grade, trains on that section will, indeed, interact somewhat with traffic at cross streets where signals will be managed to favor the trains over the traffic.

Even though the trains in their dedicated roadway are unlikely to get "stuck in traffic" even in that segment of the line, the at-grade section with its three street-level stations makes the entire Sound Transit line unacceptable to the monorail's idealistic boosters.

But the long process of arriving at the section of at-grade track demonstrates why a "double standard" developed between the two agencies.

Instead of insisting on a single way of building its line in all areas, Sound Transit developed a kind of drawn-out Seattle-process negotiation. The initial plans for a light-rail line released over a decade ago by Sound Transit's predecessor agency (RTA) showed elevated tracks through South Seattle. Neighborhood groups howled in protest, complaining that elevated transit facilities create a blight on the neighborhoods through which they run. RTA went back to the drawing boards and suggested the at-grade line in those neighborhoods.

Different neighborhood groups would later complain again (with help from monorail boosters)about the new at-grade plans. Sound Transit and the City responded to those late complaints with changes to the second set of plans, including an expensive package of neighborhood amenities and mitigation payments.

Monorail boosters insisted on what they regarded as an ideal system. By their own definition, that "ideal" system would have to be built on a network of massive view-blocking and neighborhood-blighting viaducts. From the start, monorail boosters have insisted that a single elevated solution is required to solve all transit problems.

Because they were so focused on a single type of solution and a single transit technology, the monorail agencies never managed to develop the kinds of negotiating skills that Sound Transit relied on to work through problems to find solutions that might not be ideal but were usually good enough to get something built.

Sound Transit's rapid-transit solution is far from ideal. But it is a rapid-transit line that serves many of the region's densest neighborhoods (with the notable exception of First Hill) and is designed in a way that will allow it to serve more in the future.

Politics is the art of compromise which seems to be a skill foreign to monorail boosters.

But even when it did start to make compromises on its ideals, the monorail agency failed to develop the political skills to sell its compromises. The short, stark, open-air, concrete stations that they eventually proposed are an example. Early on, SMP seemed to work with neighborhood groups on initial planning for the monorail stations. But SMP eventually insisted on putting in cheap stations that mostly ignored the plans negotiated with neighborhood groups.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005  
Learning lessons from the monorail mess

In this week's issue, Seattle Weekly's Rick Anderson takes his second post-election look at the monorail vote:

The sad exodus at SMP headquarters on Third Avenue has already begun. Only four of eight voting members bothered to show up for the board's meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 9. They huddled at one end of their big U-shaped executive table and decided the agency would begin handing out pink slips and cease to exist by, perhaps, as soon as New Year's.
He notes that board members and what's left of the staff are still blaming everyone else for the failure of the plan.
Alas, the monorail dream had come so close to birth, Hill says. "We were within two months of being able to build a monorail," she insisted, referring to the shortened, less expensive plan turned down by voters that might have broken ground in January. She concedes that project directors made mistakes but is "dumbfounded" by the lack of support from City Hall. In particular, she says, Mayor Greg Nickels had begun to "bully people as if he was after your milk money."
All of those rosy predictions from Hill about what won't happen are as unlikely as most of what has been coming from board members for years, but Anderson mostly lets that slide.

In the still too brief article, he offers this bit of perspective after quoting interim SMP executive director John Haley :

But then, he wasn't around for the whole torturous, secretive, dead-end ride since 2002, the often questionable spending of $185 million in taxpayer money, and what was an unofficial monorail policy of trivializing critics. A bunker mentality had set in, as well, after overblown revenue projections went south, and prying reporters were patted on the head and told they just didn't understand the process. When Seattle Weekly reported in February, for example, that construction and financing charges could soar as high as $6 billion, SMP officials tut-tutted and called it a worst-case scenario—even as some of them were covertly preparing a plan that would cost twice as much. It was a pared-down version of that plan—at $7 billion—that was rejected by voters this month.
Anderson's brief article is a start, but I hope that at least one of the dailies is working on a more comprehensive review of the whole affair. I think there are still questions remaining about how it all went so very wrong. It might still be too soon after the campaign and the vote to get a non-emotional look at the affair, but it's something that should be considered before it all gets stuck into that vault with dozens of other grand, but failed civic plans.

KUOW host John Moe tried find some lessons from the experience this week on his program The Power of Voice.
After 200 million dollars and years of study, effort, and elections, the monorail is dead without a single thing being built. And nobody's happy: not the supporters of the project, not the opponents, and not the people stuck in traffic in their cars wondering if anything will ever help ease the worsening congestion. But if we don't learn from history, how can we avoid repeating it? Tonight John Moe has a simple question: The Monorail's dead; what's the lesson?
Before taking calls, Moe said

We have to get something out of this whole monorail thing we've been through as a city, as a community.

We can't merely accept that $200 million is down the drain without a single thing being built. We can't just say "OK, there was discussion, agonizing, argument, discussion, planning, controversy, five elections and nothing to show for it. We've got to have something to show for it.

One thing everyone can agree on is that this result -- big bill, no train -- was not the most desirable outcome.

If nothing else, let's take a lesson from all this. As the long tale of the monorail closes, we are looking for a moral to this story.

His callers seemed to split pretty much as the vote did, with the majority opposed to the plan. I can't transcribe quickly enough to get more than a few highlights which I won't claim as a representative sample.

Several callers questioned the process that began without the usual "professional" studies.

"Voters are not civil engineers and should not decide important urban planning projects."
"We shouldn't trust the public to make really big decisions."
"Let the transportation professionals do their job since that's what we're paying them for."
"Infrastructure is too important to go to a vote."

The most forceful caller who rode this train of thought said, "Naive non-governmental boosters who hire incompetent amatuers should never be put in charge of multi-billion-dollar public works."

The caller cited faulty income projections that he said doomed the project from the start. "I'm glad the City didn't get involved," he said. "This was a bad idea, and it was never going to work. They gave them enough rope to hang themselves which was inevitable."

There were, of course, also several callers who blamed the mayor and city council for the plan's failure. "We have in our city a lack of leadership [in city government] and we've been paying the price for over 30 years," said a caller who sounded frustrated by the vote.

And there were, as one might expect, a couple of calls that decried the system that Sound Transit is actually building.

The program was at least a valiant attempt at extracting expensive lessons from the mess. Maybe these are lessons that can't be learned for several years.

I guess I might have offered something like this if I'd heard the program as it was airing:

We shouldn't try to spend billions on a transit project that is intended as a protest to another transit project.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005  
SMP board was, well..., peeved

I just watched the SMP Board meeting webcast. And, well... whoa.

I guess it's not surprising that most of the four board members who showed up were a bit angry. After moving out of executive session for their public meeting, they avoided most venting, but one of the citizen commentary at the end of the meeting noted "the tone of bitterness that I'm hearing here." The board moved quickly and decisively to adopt a broad-ranging resolution to layoff staff, cancel outstanding contracts, and to sell the property that's been acquired.

Clearly, we'll be hearing more in the coming weeks about the whole mess because of that last item. A board that has previously been inclined to generously interpret voter intent and the meaning of their enabling legislation, has now become stingy in their interpretations.

Several member of the City Council sent a letter to the board asking them, "Please do not auction off properties immediately."

But the half of the SMP Board members who showed up for the meeting stated their belief that it's now necessary to dump the property as quickly as possible to the highest bidder. After another member had characterized the Council's letter as "ironic", Board member Rick Sundberg said, "I feel it is our duty to maximize value" of the land holdings.

Board member Cleve Stockmeyer was the lone voice on the board who yearned for some other option, but even he said that he did not believe there was another way to proceed. "We are powerless," he insisted.

In the public comment period which came only after they had adopted the resolution, monorail activist Peter Sherwin urged the board to reconsider what he suggested was a precipitous action taken taken far too soon after the vote.

"I understand the anger," Sherwin said, "but it isn't productive." He asked them to hold off on land sales until after the new monorail board is seated in January.
-----

I don't think we've heard the end of this. Even though it's in the middle of its time-consuming budget process, the City Council may now be forced to do what little they can to force an alternative way of proceeding. "The ball's in their court," Stockmeyer said about the City Council.

I got the sense watching the meeting that the board members relished that kind of gamesmanship. Even though it's difficult to get the sense of these things from a webcast, watching the meeting felt like watching a group of angry kids. They still think it was unfair of the mayor and council to force their hands a few months ago, and they feel the need to give what they got.

Oddly enough (since it's not his usual stance), Stockmeyer seemed to be the lone voice of reason on the board tonight.

I doubt that there's a whole lot of value for other purposes in the land purchases that have been made by SMP. Selling off the land and paying off SMP's considerable debts seems like a reasonable way to proceed. But it seems irresponsible to start the process without considering more carefully what is best for taxpayers who, ultimately, own the land.

If there is a chance that city taxpayers could get greater value for the land if it were disposed of in some way other than an auction to the highest bidder, then I think the options should be considered. In its precipitous action this evening, SMP seems to have continued its pattern of irresponsible stewardship of its public trust.

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What's next for monorail route?

The question that monorail activists were asking last night after their pet project went down to a decisive defeat is, "What's next?" That's good. They've long insisted that they were interested mostly in finding good transportation solutions for at least a part of Seattle, so we should hope that some of them will redirect their energies to finding those solutions.

Not surprisingly, the fiery Cleve Stockmeyer, who also lost his reelection bid to stay on the SMP board, was most expressive:

Stockmeyer stood before the crowd of about 100 monorail supporters and tore up a map of Seattle, separating the west half from the east.

"The (city) leadership has decided (the west) half of Seattle doesn't count," Stockmeyer said. "There's no plan for that half of Seattle to get to the other half. This is a battle we're losing, but the big unanswered questions what is Plan B?"
Of course, the city leadership hasn't decided that the west half of Seattle "doesn't count". In its current round of budget discussions, the City Council has repeatedly mentioned the need to do something for West Seatttle if the monorail were to fail.

Neither has Sound Transit or King County Metro decided that the city's western half that would have been served by SMP's project "doesn't count".

But all of those agencies were blocked by SMP's own refusal to face the reality of its failed dream. While SMP continued to limp along on hopes and dreams, the areas that its mapped routes crossed were off limits to other plans.

It was SMP that ripped the map of Seattle apart with its irrational and, in the end, unbuildable plans. Now it's up to others to fix the problems that SMP and its proponents created.

Something else can now be done. It will require more studies, more planning, and more money. And, since hundreds of millions were wasted on a failed plan, neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle will now have to stand in a long line of neighborhood petitioners for transit solutions. They will no longer have a dedicated revenue stream from throughout the city to support their neighborhoods. But they will have something, and the studies (which is what they'll have to make do with for now) will probably start flowing off consultants workstations pretty quickly.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005  
Monorail: Will it pass?

I've never been able to predict what would happen with this project.

I figure that the proposition might pass yet again.

This project -- despite the Rove-like secrecy and misrepresentations of its advocates -- has always presented itself as a protest project. It doesn't do much for congestion in Seattle, except possibly for one neighborhood, but it seems like a way to vote to do something. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and producing reams of preliminary studies, the Seattle Monorail Project hasn't done a thing for real transportation solutions in Seattle.

And even if this short-line proposal passes, it's not at all certain that anything will ever be built. Even the ten miles mentioned in the proposition is highly unlikely since the SMP's risky finances are still being questioned by those who would have to give it permission even after a vote.

Beyond that, and even if city official cave in yet again to the ill-advised project, the group will have to deal with a flurry of lawsuits once they finally offer a finished construction plan. SMP no doubt expects to face suits from the downtown landowners and developers whose projects would be blighted by the proposed elevated guideways (with their huge piers on the street). At the very least, suits of that kind will probably increase the amounts they'll have to pay for long-term mitigation fees to the affected areas.

It happened to Sound Transit in south Seattle even after they'd spent years and hundreds of millions on their preliminary studies. They had significantly changed plans for that area after neighborhood activists objected to their initial plans to run an elevated train route through the neighborhood. The activists complained that elevated transit often becomes a blight to the neighborhoods over which the trains operate. Sound Transit responded by proposing a surface alignment along Martin Luther King Way. But once they'd released their first "final" construction plan for the area, a new group of opponents arose who objected to this must-studied alignment.

SMP can expect the same kind of fierce opposition from even richer and better financed groups who have, at least, telegraphed their opposition for years.

All of that means, that what we're most likely to see (if we see anything at all) is a four- or six-mile line from West Seattle to King Street Station. That wouldn't make much sense for the cost especially since every car owner in Seattle would be paying hundreds of dollars a year for the toy line.

But making sense has never particularly important to this transit project.

It's always been presented as a romantic Jetsons-esque way to travel even though few would find their tightly packed train cars all that romantic and even though the bulky viaduct that would cut through neighborhoods is mostly likely to become a blight.

It's also been presented as a way of "sticking it to the man" even though it's a grossly expensive way to send a message.

But, still, it might just pass. And we'll be able to suffer through another few years of preliminary plans and broken promises.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005  
"Ready to go"? What does that mean?

One of the phrases that seems to be a campaign talking point for monorail activists is that the system is "Ready to go."

SMP interim director used the phrase in this Seattle Times article yesterday:
The agency's new executive director, former Boston transit chief John Haley, calls the project "ready to go," with an environmental-impact statement completed and nearly all the station property purchased.
SMP Board member Cleve Stockmeyer, who is running for reelection, used it in a campaign appearance on Seattle Channel. (Video unavailable today because of technical difficulties.)

But what does the phrase "ready to go" mean in this context? Since SMP hasn't built anything, it's hardly "ready to go" in any traditional sense. They had a contract to design the system, but don't have a final design or construction plan.

In an indirect quote in an article in today's PI that details some of the uncertainties that would lie ahead if the monorail initiative passes, Haley elaborates a bit on the phrase. He "said the project had too much going for it to be abandoned: a route, a source of supportive tax revenue and a tentative design and construction contract."

So, "ready to go" when used by a monorail proponent seems to mean "ready to negotiate, design, negotiate again, and litigate and then maybe build a train system."

There would be a wealth of negotiations for years to come -- with the City, with the County for bus service fare issues, with their contractor, and with private interests who will be impacted.

If the monorail Prop. 1 were to pass, the agency would have to negotiate with the City for a new transitway agreement. Activists and SMP's disfunctional board would probably argue that passage of the measure should cause the City to give SMP whatever it wants. But it's unlikely that the City would agree since the ballot measure calls for negotiation and even gives SMP the authority to "further modify the Plan’s route if necessary to obtain City consent for construction permits following City review of SMP’s finance plan."

Some will no doubt argue that that clause in the ballot measure requires the City to review SMP's financing more agressively than what they've done in the past. It certainly seems to direct SMP to respond to City objections to their financing plan.

SMP has already spent a couple of hundred millions of dollars negotiating, planning, and litigating. A "Yes" vote on Monorail Prop. 1 will give the group permission to spend even more on the same kind of thing.

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Monday, October 31, 2005  
Monorail: No traffic relief for Queen Anne

We don't often expect the slogans or attack ads of political campaigns to be honest, even if they're required to to avoid outright lies. We're seeing one example of all-too-typical campaign misrepresentation in the efforts of a group now funded, in part, by a monorail contractor. "2045 Seattle" [Corrected name 11/1] offers do-it-yourself posters to monorail proponants that take aim at Mayor Greg Nickels with the slogan "Mayor Gridlock".

The slogan is kinda funny. And the posters help show that these folks are mad at the mayor for insisting that the monorail board should be financially responsible.

The slogan also contributes to a campaign of misdirection that has often been the primary tactic of monorail activists. It suggests, without actually saying it, that someone other than the SMP board and the staff that they (supposedly) oversee is responsible for the mess that's been made of these plans.

It also suggests that building the monorail short line that will be on next week's ballot is actually going to do something about traffic congestion.

A writer for the Queen Anne News, Greg Buck, finds those claims wanting for residents of Queen Anne. He points out that for most QA residents, traveling downtown on the monrail would actually increase the time, cost, and inconvenience of commuting.


So, using the monorail to get from the top of Queen Anne Hill to downtown would not only actually take a few minutes longer than just staying on the bus the entire way - it would be perceived as taking about 13 minutes longer, because you would have to transfer from the bus to the monorail, instead of enjoying a one-seat ride on the bus the entire trip.
What Buck doesn't mention is a factor that should cause concern for bus riders who don't live withing walking distance of one of SMP's handful of open-air stations: Because the monorail agency has not yet finalized an interagency agreement with Metro for bus service to their stations, we don't know if Metro will end up decreasing frequency or destinations on some of the routes near the guideways. If they did so, then building this short line could have a ripple effect on neighborhoods like First Hill and the Central Area that currently share the No. 2 route and other buses with Queen Anne Hill.

A transit system can't help with road congestion unless it somehow encourages people who would otherwise drive a car to instead use the transit system.

The monorail wouldn't do that for one of the neighborhoods that would be served if the line that will appear on next week's ballot were actually built.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005  
Last chance to enjoy Freeway Park as a park

And on other issues...

If you're downtown in the next few days, take the opportunity to drop by Freeway Park which straddles I-5 between Seneca Street and the Convention Center.

Right now the park is something of an urban oasis, despite frequent and distructive meddling with it by various folks. The Parks Department cut down nearly half of the park's trees a few years ago, citing weight issues at the time. Since then, they've removed most of the bushes that once deadened much of the freeway noise, making the place a very noisy spot. Despite that, it wasn't a complete clear-cut and dozens of mature trees remained on the upper section of the park. Those trees help create the impression that many downtown high-rise workers might have of the place as a forest over a ribbon of concrete.

That will end this week as the Parks Department finishes its clear-cutting agenda by removing the rest of the mature trees.

But the trees seem to be bothersome to a closed and close-knit group of folks who pretend to be "friends of Freeway Park". Through the years the group which doesn't really seem to like the park all that much has spearheaded a number of initiatives to make the park, with the cooperation of the Parks Department an increasingly less natural environment.

This week's clear-cutting process is, oddly enough, being presented as part of what they're calling an "Activiation Plan". These folks who hate the place so much in its current form seem to think that they'd actually use if it if only they could kick out the people who currently use the park and if the current sound-deadening tree conopy of shade were removed to let in the full roar of the freeway and remove all that nasty shade.

Here's a fascinating story about the clear-cutting activists who are trying so desperately to destroy the park.

In the story, a spokesperson for the clear-cutting group claims that "meeting notices were mailed to all residents in the zip code surrounding the park". Maybe. I've lived three blocks from the park for twenty years, and I don't recall seeing such a notice, but maybe I missed it in the usual flood of junk mail.

It's too late to do anything about their plans which were developed with minimal outreach to most of us who live in the neighborhood. The park will be turned into something that looks like what it really is: the roof of a parking garage. The brief notion of bringing nature in its sometimes tangled and dark profusion to downtown will be replaced by a new vision of having a highly manicured suburban-style lot, maybe even with a few commercial food venders.

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