Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bussing It

On Sunday, both the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had stories about the changes that Seattle city government would like to make to reduce the number of cars in the city, and improve the utilization rates for public transportation.

The general plan seems to go something like this: reduce the city's overall "carrying capacity" for cars. Allow for more housing to be constructed without dedicated parking, make paid street parking 24-7, extend the reach of the zones where only local residents may use street parking, and similar measures. While not explicitly part of this plan, the idea of removing highway 99 where it travels along the downtown waterfront, and integrating into the present surface street (which would dramatically reduce capacity), seems to be a good fit with the rest of the ideas.

The formulation appears to be simple enough. Make driving into, in, and perhaps through Seattle more painful than using mass transit, thus making mass transit the better option by comparison. Assumed is the idea that greater ridership would mean increased revenues that would then be re-invested in the transit system. Supporters of this plan are fairly convinced that people we realize that they're better off in the long run. There will be less pollution, people will be healthier (since many of them will take up walking or bicycling to get around), and the situation will be better for those people who must still drive on occasion, et cetera.

I wonder about this logic. The goal here seems to be precisely creating a very specific pain point with limited resources. Pushing people to drive less, rather than drive elsewhere, seems like a very fine line to walk. If people don't drive less, there will simply be a general dissatisfaction with the whole thing. Life in Seattle will have become less convenient and more expensive, with no real benefit realized. If people simply drive elsewhere, it makes the suburbs better suited to both live and do business. This would come at the expense of the city and those businesses and people who can't afford to move. And, more importantly, without the increased revenue (and maybe with a decreased tax base), there won't be any money to improve transit services. I'd like to see the risk analysis that went into this.

1 comment:

ben said...

This will just shut down Seattle (invest in east side real estate!).

This place is so infuriating - transportation and urban planning have been very well solved by many, many cities (mostly outside the US or New England).

Try meeting me at Cap Hill or Queen Ann or anywhere not-downtown for a quick meeting from Bothell or Kirkland on a rainy day. It's absurd. It takes forever, costs a fair amount, you get to sit in the same traffic but packed into a crowded bus and you still get to walk 10-20 blocks.

The solution is a comprehensive subway (or monorail) plan... it'd cost billions and will never pass the "we vote on every petty issue" political system these idiots have setup out here.

Seattle needs major work politically if it ever wants to reach Podunk-ville escape velocity.