Effective mass transit: our obligation to the future

Change is coming to Seattle, like it or not. The state's Growth Management Act and the required comprehensive plan for the city will inevitably put much of the regional population growth into our city; increasing density throughout the city in urban centers and reducing the pace of sprawl.

Part of the our responsibility is to provide good public transit to citizens that will live in this coming denser city. If we don't, the whole plan won't work and we will be forced to pay the price for sprawling all across the region.

I believe we must face the future honestly and realize that our surface streets, already reaching capacity, will be overwhelmed in 20, 30 or 50 years. We must also realize that effective transit systems take years to build-just as our forefathers decided in 1889 to provide water from the Cedar River Watershed at a cost of almost $1 million instead of drilling existing wells a little deeper. Those visionaries secured enough water for 1.5 million people, even though Seattle had a population of only 40,000 at the time.

Foresight is better than hindsight.

Our community is growing. We need to provide transit. That will take years to build. We need to start now-but why monorail?

Seattle's future transit, to be time-certain and effective, must be independent of street congestion, which leaves two choices: elevated or tunneled. As monorail advocates have been saying for years, tunneling will cost at least three times as much as monorail.

King County Councilman and Sound Transit board member Dwight Pelz recently provided the estimate that tunneling would cost around $360 million per mile.

Monorail will cost us much less and is less disruptive, faster to construct, provides more stops per mile, gives the rider a superior experience, and has significantly lower (or no) subsidy costs for operations while providing our coming denser city with the transit infrastructure needed.

Worldwide and in Seattle, monorail has the best safety record of any form of transportation. In over 100 years of operations and countless millions of passenger miles there have been fewer than 10 fatalities attributed to monorails-both to riders and pedestrians.

Since 1997 Seattle has voted three times on monorail. As in every election there are winners and losers. The monorail supporters have won each and every election, yet the losers will not accept the results. The losers are back again with all of the same arguments they used in their losing efforts, once again trying to derail transit in Seattle.

The losers argue that too many people will use the monorail and park in their neighborhoods, yet they also argue that very few people will ride monorail. They argue monorail will do nothing for the regional transit situation, yet they complain that people from the suburbs and the rest of the region will ride frequently while only paying their fare and not for monorail construction.

Before the 2002 monorail vote, the naysayers insisted that the monorail project would come in way over budget, yet now that it appears that monorail is coming in at or under budget, the losers grumble that not enough is being spent. They objected that monorail could never stay on schedule for completion, yet now that monorail is moving ahead, on time, the losers utilize every delaying tactic and complain that the process must slow down. The obstructionists go so far as to try to equate monorail supporters with a cult, by their derogatory references to "drinking the (monorail) Kool-Aid."

It's time for all Seattleites, South, North and Central, to show the kind of vision they did in 1889 and our ability to get projects done. It is time to stop letting the obstructionists win the day. It is time to build the monorail-now.

It's time for those that lost three elections to let the majority move forward. I would rather drink a little Kool-Aid than be restricted to a diet of sour grapes.

Peter Sherwin is a spokesman for Monorail Now, an independent, pro-monorail lobby.[[In-content Ad]]