The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Minneapolis Light Rail Does Not Generate Enough Ridership

Minnesota is a state much like Washington. I found opinion among politically active people there to be much the same as here. That is, Democrats are excited by Obama's candidacy. Yet, with less excitement, most would accept Clinton's nomination if it came to that. Both Obama and Clinton must tread carefully until Ohio and Texas — and in the weeks thereafter, if Clinton remains in the race after March 4 — to maintain the sense in their party that either would be an acceptable standard bearer. Toughening rhetoric, charges and counter-charges, and edgy media campaigns now emanating from both camps could polarize opinion among Democrats and make it harder to come out of their Denver convention united.

Infrastructure politics

While in Minneapolis, I visited the site of the Interstate 35W bridge across the Mississippi River, which collapsed last summer. Sub-zero temperatures, biting winds, and weeks-old piles of snow on the ground had not deterred construction workers building its replacement. Huge covered, heated tents protected them as they made daily progress.

Neither our Alaskan Way Viaduct nor Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington has collapsed, requiring such immediate replacement. However, I could not help but think, as I watched the construction crews in Minneapolis, that the job was being done start-to-finish there in a few months, whereas more than seven years after the Nisqually Quake called attention to the vulnerability of the aging viaduct and 520 bridge, state and local officials here had not yet arrived at final plans for their replacement or repair. Plans under discussion are provisional and subject to substantial change.

Minnesota is a progressive state which expects high performance by its public officials. Minnesotans would not tolerate for a moment the delay and fumbling existing around our viaduct/520 bridge issues. One particular thought crossed my mind: Does Gov. Chris Gregoire not recognize that she took office pledging fixes in both places and, in 2008, is still light years away from getting it done? Her Republican challenger, presumably Dino Rossi, no doubt will remind voters of that fact on a regular basis in the gubernatorial campaign. Both the viaduct and bridge are state highways. Any governor has it in her/his power to bring fix proposals to the Legislature and to drive them to conclusion, either with or without full support of local officials.

Minneapolis has a light rail system which is a convenient link to the airport but which does not make enough stops in the right places to generate ridership and revenue to sustain itself. A cautionary story for folk here. Federal money appears on the way to extend our Seattle light rail system beneath hills and across water to Husky Stadium, although local money also will be required. The University of Washington regents agreed long ago to cooperate in getting light rail to the University District. However, if you talk with officers of the university, you will find that most believe present bus service to the campus area is excellent and, moreover, that they anticipate the huge hole-in-ground and street disruptions attending light-rail extension to Husky Stadium with fear and loathing. Regents may wish to revisit the light rail station issue as they simultaneously examine how and with what money they propose to renovate Husky Stadium. Light rail also has become wrapped up in the debate about costs and configurations of the Montlake-adjacent 520 redo.

If all these decisions remain in limbo entering the gubernatorial and legislative campaigns, those in charge — and presumed to be not effectively dealing with them — will be on the defensive.

Minneapolis and Seattle are not alone in confronting the need to spend immediate billions on transportation and infrastructure upgrades. The questions here, as everywhere, have to do with priority, practicality, and affordability.

The articles are posted solely for educational purposes to raise awareness of transportation issues. I claim no authorship, nor do I profit from this website. Where known, all original authors and/or source publisher have been noted in the post. As this is a knowledge base, rather than a blog, I have reproduced the articles in full to allow for complete reader understanding and allow for comprehensive text searching...see custom google search engine at the top of the page. If you have concerns about the inclusion of a specific article, please email for a speedy resolution.