Let's not build any more transit systems to nowhere
Editor, The Times:
Whoa! Folks, let's pull the brakes on the mayor's streetcar idea and pause a minute to see if this is a trip we really want to take ("Nickels names desire: streetcar to S. Lake Union," News, Jan. 13).
This region is famous for building trains that go nowhere.
Right now we have an antique streetcar and a spur monorail that serve only tourists, a heavy-rail system not funded to reach either of its initially planned terminuses, a planned light-rail system that can't yet reach the University District or the airport, and a planned monorail line, not yet off the drawing board, that is supposed to be the starter for a citywide network, if the money can be found.
Add new streetcars into this mix and we'll have six separate systems with incompatible technologies each requiring their own maintenance yards, parts inventories, and maintenance and operations crews.
As your article notes, Portland's system doesn't even come close to covering its costs. Won't this pet project of Mayor Greg Nickels and Paul Allen just draw resources that might otherwise go to complete the monorail or finish Sound Transit's rail line?
And the proposed streetcar line does not connect any residential areas with the proposed new Lake Union employment center, nor does it connect well with any existing or proposed transit lines.
Who is going to ride this line?
Let's make sure we can get what we've already started up and running, with proper funding, before starting yet another line to nowhere.
Mark Gardner, Seattle
Follow Paris, not Portland
Wow, 50 acres of downtown being developed into office buildings for biotech companies with Starbucks and Subway restaurants on the ground floor. And with a streetcar system just like Portland.
Instead of looking for Portland for inspiration, why don't we look to London or Paris. Think Paris. ... Turn Westlake Avenue into a copy of Champs Elysées. Put a large arch where the 76 Union station is now located. Build a subway that connects to the bus tunnel. Build something to be proud of — something on the cutting edge.
Visualize watching the Lake Union fireworks show from a new park and walking up a 10-lane boulevard past stores displaying art or high-tech electronics, or new Mercedes or Porsches. Or maybe a new theater district. But not sterile office buildings with tacky retail shops on all 50 acres.
Richard Fawthrop, Seattle
Keeping heritage intact
About a century ago, Seattle had a system of streetcars. They proved to be efficient and inexpensive. In the late '30s, the streetcar system was deemed too inflexible, so the tracks were ripped up — at great expense — and trackless trolleys (electric buses) were established as our major means of public transportation.
A few years ago, the electric buses were deemed too inflexible and most were replaced with a fleet of diesel buses — at great expense. More recently, a bus tunnel was dug under the downtown area — at great expense.
Now the mayor wants to establish a streetcar line from downtown to Lake Union — at great expense. Apparently no thought has been given to using buses on the proposed route.
It's comforting to know that our heritage of absurdity is alive and well in Seattle.
Jack May, Seattle
Mayor Greg Nickels' South Lake Union streetcar proposal is the most ludicrous transportation nonsolution I have heard in quite some time. The streetcar record in city after city is clear: high construction costs, high subsidies and no significant effect on congestion. How can streetcars be part of an intelligently designed new biotech district, when streetcars guarantee its streets will be congested?
I find it hard to believe that the best our civic leaders can offer us is this antebellum transit technology. Why is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) not on the table for exploration? PRT is a "horizontal elevator" system that offers automated, on-demand, mass transit service.
For the same amount Seattle is planning to invest in trains, a grid of lightweight, unobtrusive, elevated PRT rail can be built covering the entire city.
PRT could even be deployed in South Lake Union, serving both as an efficient local circulator and to feed people to and from future train stations. And it could be done at a fraction of the cost of a streetcar line.
So why aren't Seattle's leaders looking at PRT?
Is it because the transit consultants giving them advice make an excellent living going around the country recommending trains?
David Gow, Seattle
This is an excellent idea: Serve South Lake Union and the biotech district with transit. However, I have a better idea. Take the existing Alweg monorail forward, turn left and head down to South Lake Union.
No parking is lost, no traffic congestion from the streetcar, no need to synchronize the signals, no pedestrian interference.
Plus with a little more money it could continue on up to Pill Hill for future expansion. Now we're talking: rapid transit from Seattle Center to South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, or the University District.
Gary Powell, Renton
Let judge settle things
Reading "View to a kill: There's more than meets the eye," the Jan. 15 guest commentary by Cassandra Tate, I think I may have come up with a solution in settling this problem.
Let Judge Judy judge Judge Farris and tar and feather Norm Maleng and run him out of town on light rail.
Joseph W. Hazen, Bellevue
Economic policies may keep cars off the road
So the economy has done what the politicians couldn't do: find a way to reduce freeway traffic volumes. This presents a solution to our region's traffic woes.
Instead of spending billions of dollars we don't have on mass transit and freeways, let's continue our regressive tax system, impose high taxes on business, underfund education, reduce health care for the working poor and keep electing lawmakers who won't make decisions or lead.
Washington will become so unpopular a place that no business will locate or start up here, more people will leave and none will immigrate.
The net result will be continued drops in traffic volumes to the point that those left will be able to go where they please with no hassles! Traffic reporters will begin asking, "Where did everyone go?" Ask your local lawmaker for the answer.
Dean Forbes, Shoreline
I predict the next bit of shrill bombast from North Korea's lunadictator Kim Jong Il will be as follows: "Give me what I want, or we'll blow ourselves up."
To which I offer the Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry response Kim so richly deserves: "Go ahead, make my day."
W.L. Valenti, Seattle