City of Seattle continues assault on drivers

Mar 23, 2015, 12:41 PM | Updated: 1:04 pm

The real reason no one uses the trolley is that it doesn't go anywhere, says KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz. (MyNorthwest photo)

(MyNorthwest photo)

When a well-intentioned project fails, most of us go back to the drawing board to come up with a different solution to a problem. If you’re the Seattle Department of Transportation, you double down on the bad idea, pushing through an additional bad idea knowing it’ll fail. And by the way: I told you so.

On March 19, 2015, I explained that SDOT would be “studying” whether or not going to trolley- and bus-only transit lanes was appropriate in the South Lake Union neighborhood.

Related: Seattle considers closing stretch of South Lake Union for streetcars

Ethan Melone, rail transit manager for SDOT, told KING 5, “We’re going to take a good look at whether transit priority lanes will work to make transit faster and, most importantly, more reliable.”

That study was supposed to be completed some time in June, but I blogged last week that they had already made up their mind; they’re wasting money and time pretending to be looking into whether or not trolley- and transit-only lines is a good idea. I wrote:

On my show (weeknights from 7pm-10pm) I do a segment called “Jason tells the future.” Here’s what I predict: when this study comes out, it’ll support the belief of the city leaders. When we get the results of this study, I guarantee you it’ll say South Lake Union should get transit-only or trolley-only lanes.

I was right; though my timeline was off. The Seattle Times reports today that they’re moving forward with plans to take away two lanes of the busy stretch of Westlake Avenue in South Lake Union to create dedicated lanes to a trolley no one uses. For their part, without any actual evidence, they say the traffic in the area is due to people taking the trolley less (presumably because the trolley is stuck in traffic).

According to the Times, Melone “blames gridlock for a drop in passengers from 2,686 per weekday in 2012-2013 to just 2,486 in 2014.” (I’ve asked SDOT to back up this claim.)

The real reason no one uses the trolley is that it doesn’t go anywhere.

The trolley travels a very, very short distance that is only worthwhile if you’re already someone who commutes by foot and want to avoid the rain. No one is driving to the city, then using the trolley to get around. It’s virtually useless. Giving it dedicated lanes so it moves faster is not worth the hassle to drivers because the trolley is still incredibly unappealing. That’s why it’s always so empty on weekends when the car congestion is significantly lower.

In the process of forcing a bad idea down the throats of Seattleites, SDOT, under the leadership of bike activist Scott Kubly, pretends that Seattle isn’t anti-driver and that they’re just offering up “choices” for different forms of transportation. But they’re not offering up choices – they’re purposefully degrading options in favor of others, trying to force you onto bikes and buses. Then they have the nerve to lie to you about what they’re doing.

In what world does taking out two lanes on a highly congested stretch of land make traffic for drivers better? Not only does it force the congestion normally on four lanes onto two lanes, you kill parking and, ironically, you make it even more dangerous for bicyclists.

This only lessens congestion, especially with the trolley, under the asinine assumption that people will ditch their car to take the trolley. No one is doing that unless you live on the few blocks the trolley actually covers. “Oh, well, this is about the future,” they’ll tell us. But if everyone who moves to Seattle from March 24 forward decides to be car-less, the traffic still won’t improve.

A nice little nugget of information in the Times has to do with what you and I knew from the start: this whole idea would fail because it doesn’t actually take you anywhere and rather than creating a third lane just for the trolley (or at least going through side streets, where the congestion is significantly less), they put it on a lane with a ton of traffic.

Mixed-traffic trolleys do not work in this city (we’re not Amsterdam or Paris, two cities the area leadership is obsessed with transforming Seattle into). Yet, according to the Times, “city officials say it’s too late to alter the $135 million First Hill streetcar route scheduled to open this summer, mixed with cars on Broadway. The city estimates an average trip from Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square will take 18 minutes.” This means they’re moving forward with something that will fail. After the failure comes to fruition, they’ll transform Broadway in Capitol Hill to be even more unfriendly to cars.

Kubly disingenuously told me last week that “I think what I would prefer, is people to take the mode of transportation that works best for them.”

If that’s true, he’d be doing something – anything – to help ease congestion for the mode of transportation the city and region overwhelmingly prefers to take: cars. But right now, he’s forcing four congested lanes of traffic to occupy two lanes, he takes away parking for parklets (that no one uses, but the city makes money off of after taxing you and I for the parking spot to begin with), he commits hundreds of millions of dollars for bike lanes (when, at the same time, he admits when it rains he takes the bus), and so much more. Then lies about degrading the driving option.

This trolley makes sense if you live in South Lake Union (working for Amazon.com or Facebook, etc; read: rich). For everyone else? Well, you’ll be stuck in that car for even longer bits of time. Maybe you’ll have a view, in traffic, of an empty parklet the city constructed for the three months a year it doesn’t rain.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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