Transportation planning for the Puget Sound region has a long history of bright promise and ultimate failure. Even if all the funds expended on plans for regional transit schemes over the last 40 years had instead been invested in Enron and WorldComm stock, today's transit needs would still be fully funded.
The culmination of this sequence of failed attempts at policy-making is the current Sound Transit debacle and Seattle's toy Monorail which is soon to grow into a full transit system for, uh, 2% of Puget Sound residents. These projects simply write in rails and concrete the foul die cast by nature on the geography of the region. Water to the left, water to the right... and all those freeways and light rail trains crammed in between. Absurd!
Focusing on geography -- not on busses, monorails, and trains -- is the answer. If tens of thousands of commuters must squeeze into a handful of lanes on two bridges and narrow corridors ringing the lake, the problem isn't the bridges or a few trains. The problem is the Lake itself.
Draining Lake Washington is the only true, far-sighted solution to region's problems. Now that the sea lions have killed the fish runs, prior environmental barriers to the destruction of the Ballard Locks and draining of Lake Washington are moot.
To quote Nike: just do it! Centuries of experience in the Netherlands have shown that reclaiming land from water is practical and a proven technology. Once drained, the former lakebed is a blank canvas for urban planning. Suddenly, a world of possibilities is opened. Streets and rail routes can be laid solely on the basis of need and not the whims of nature. Large open areas are available for parks, low income housing, commerce, and other uses. Resources such as round, flat stones can be recovered from the former lake bed and sold. Heck, if you have enough money left over from all the sales tax generated by the new lake-bottom Super-Sized SUV lanes, you could even put in a couple of monorail routes.
The current proposals are flawed compromises, serving a patchwork of neighborhoods through a "network" of disjointed "systems." Think of a body where the nervous and circulatory systems only reach the nose and toes, but not the ankles and kidneys. For this, they want another boatload of taxpayer funding through gas tax, license tabs, and property tax increases..
The Citizen's Alternative Regional Plan has a massive overall budget, too. But because of the production of valuable urban real estate and the recovery of resources such as skipping stones from the former lakebed, the fiscal impact the Citizens' Regional Alternative Plan will be much more favorable for taxpayers... and for communities!
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