In a May 26 guest column in the Magnolia News ('Is Monorail's Green Line the best traffic solution?'), Dick Nelson selectively combined a number of statistics and recommendations from various transit capacity studies done for the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC) and the city of Seattle to question whether the Seattle Monorail Project will really improve traffic and mobility in our region.
Unfortunately, the statistics and quotes he chose were presented out of context and did not reflect the conclusions reached in the actual studies. His selections also don't tell the whole story of the many benefits the monorail will provide for Seattle thanks to the collaborative process behind it.
While it is true that the Intermediate Capacity Transit Study (ICT) completed by the city in 200l did find that bus travel times in some corridors could be improved with modest expenditures, the report concluded by recommending elevated improvements to connect Downtown, Ballard and Northgate. To quote verbatim from the city's report:
"An elevated system provides the greatest expected travel-time savings; hence, the ridership forecasts for an elevated system in this corridor are much higher relative to the other technologies. Due to these projected ridership levels on elevated routes, the cost effectiveness measures produce favorable results as well."
The report also found that while no one technology appears more feasible than the others for the West Seattle area, "Intermediate Capacity Transit Study improvements should be made between Downtown and West Seattle Junction or Morgan Junction." In November 2002, Seattle voters decided the monorail was the appropriate technology to address these transit improvements.
Finally, the report recommended that the city "work with ETC, Council and staff to develop a viable Seattle Popular Transit Plan." This is a very different conclusion than the one arrived at in Nelson's commentary.
In the transportation industry, the real benefits of a new transit system are measured in travel-time savings. Using this criteria, everyone will benefit from the monorail: 1) bus and light rail riders who will travel more quickly and reliably on a system that connects with the Monorail; 2) car drivers who will switch to the new Monorail because of easy access, service improvements and key station locations along the 14-mile Green Line; 3) car drivers who will find their commute improved thanks to the 5 million fewer car trips per year from people getting out of their cars to ride on the new monorail; and 4) bicyclists, pedestrians and those with disabilities who will have terrific access on the monorail.
The monorail has been approved by voters - three times. For the last year and a half, the monorail has remained true to its grassroots heritage with an unprecedented level of community involvement. That's why a coalition of environmental groups held a press conference last week asking the city to get going on approving the monorail's use of the streets so that we can all benefit from the traffic and the environmental improvements.
"Seattle's traffic second worst in nation," read a 2001 headline, behind only Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland according to the Texas Transportation Institute which studied the 68 largest metropolitan areas. Seattle has been asking for real transportation solutions for far too long. The monorail will not only serve 20 million riders per year, but all Seattleites will benefit by reducing car trips by 5 million with an integrated system that will protect our environment for generations to come.
By 2010, our region will have a combined 28 miles of monorail and light rail working together with buses, commuter rail, streetcars and ferries to provide inter-agency transportation options that finally provide a real transit system for our region. With your help and support, we are making rapid progress towards a better future for Seattle.
Denna Cline is director of Second Phase Planning for the Seattle Monorail Project.[[In-content Ad]]