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Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives

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Samples of Letters We've Sent

Letter to King, Snohomish and Pierce county councils

June 6, 2002

How could any person who desires a balanced and coordinated regional transportation plan object to an outside, independent cost/benefit analysis of a proposed plan, comparing the plan to alternatives? How could anyone object to that?

I suppose the primary objection is the certain knowledge that Light Rail would be the least benefit for the most cost when compared to more and better buses, more vanpool and any above-grade fixed-route mass transportation system (most likely monorail). And certainly no reconstruction and sharing of Seattle's downtown tunnel! An effective regional transportation system will not include the expensive, congestion-causing rail system built at-grade!

Such public exposure (by an independent cost/benefit analysis) would surely cause the voters to ask, "Why would ANYONE support Light Rail?" And the answer is emotion, not logic. It is vested interest, not a genuine caring for the regional transportation system. It is a (flawed) vision that a Light Rail plan will make Seattle and environs a "world class area". (By using a modernized 19th Century system?)

If you have supported Light Rail in the past, please reconsider that support. And if you have opposed Light Rail, history will categorize you as one of the brave heroes!

Dick Fike
Seattle

Reply from King County Councilmember Cynthia Sullivan

June 6, 2002

I have gone through that analysis many times. The issue remains mobility, not congestion. If a system, regardless of technology, is going to be efficient and provide a mobility alternative it must have its own right of way. Therein lies the cost. There exists an enormous pent up demand for trips. (ie, trips we don't take because traffic is too bad). So as soon as the concrete is hard the freeways are full. You are right about one thing there are cheaper alternatives like buses and vanpools. But in order to get more people to ride them they will need their exclusive right of way, they cannot remain stuck in the same traffic we all sit in. We provide as many vanpools as the public wants. Some would argue that we ought to force people into buses at times when they don't need or want to ride, or force them into vanpools. I think we lose our democracy when we attempt that. The solution is and always has been an exclusive right of way system, monorail or tunnel makes little difference in cost. The issue is mobility not congestion.

I would be happy to discuss this with you further.

Sincerely,

Cynthia Sullivan

Reply to King County Councilmember Cynthia Sullivan

June 6, 2002

I thank you for your reasoned response and for taking the time to respond. So far as "...monorail or tunnel makes little difference in cost" I would like to rebut. Gaining right of way (which I agree is essential) for an on-grade system (Light Rail) displaces many houses, businesses and people. While there may be some displacement with a monorail system, the footprint will be greatly smaller and a monorail system can use existing rights of way. Additionally, cost can be measured in ways other than dollars. There will be huge amounts of dollars for LR and enormous costs in personal terms. For the monorail the costs in both measurements will be less.

Mobility is an interesting term. Who could argue its importance? But take a close look at who depends on public transportation. With LR some will be forced (in more than a few cases) to take a bus, transfer to LR, then get back on a bus. More time and higher cost. The existing system serves them better. On a related comparison, assume (by some financial magic) 100% of the LR system could be built. Then assume 100% of the monorail system could be built. When I look at such a comparison I find (a) more terrain covered and potentially more people served with monorail, (b) minimal subsidy to maintain monorail [vs. at least 5X ticket cost in subsidy for LR], and that adds up to more mobility. And (c) transportation not affected by weather or traffic conditions. (Congestion impairs mobility when, for example, there are 31 rail cars traveling back and forth over 14 miles and passing through 18 at-grade crossings.)

Thank you for giving consideration to these ideas.

Dick Fike,
Seattle


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