Nobody likes it when someone looks a gift horse in the mouth.
That’s exactly what is happening in West Seattle. In 2016, West Seattle was given a multi billion dollar gift — a light rail expansion line. Most people would be gushing over the opportunity of connectivity, to buzz into downtown, uptown, Bellevue and everything in between. Especially when the rest of us are paying for it and especially when your community is already a hard to reach, isolated section of the urban core.
West Seattle neighbors have put together a proposal of an urban gondola in its place. The reasoning is chalk full of all the whiney ass NIMBY gripes people have when any change is proposed to their neighborhood. They say it’s “too expensive”, that the track is “too ugly”, that they’ll “lose too much parking”. I don’t really care to give any effort to refuting this — mostly because it has been done before. So, my advice? Have at it. Go price it out and propose it yourselves with the new West Seattle Transit Authority and we can give your rail line to someone else.
That’s right, take away their light rail. They don’t want it, they don’t like it, so they don’t have to have it. Seattle voters didn’t meet the threshold to obtain the subsidized subway program in the late 1960s and the US Senate gave it to Atlanta. Let’s do the same thing with West Seattle.
You know who could use a light rail line? Aurora Avenue. Aurora is home to the RapidRide E Line — a bus with the highest ridership in our entire state. It has urban villages all along the corridor of north Seattle, they’re building 1,000 homes there now (either under construction or permitted), and the area really could use a refresh. Aurora is a direct access north & south that won’t be in competition with the other lines, and, if anything, redundancy is good for transit (take a look at New York City).
Aurora would love to have your light rail line. It’s a no brainer to get one if we vote for a 4th expansion for Sound Transit. It will flip the most dangerous corridor into a thriving one. It will connect the city west of I-5 to the rest of the urban metro. And, most importantly, it will be celebrated and welcomed while West Seattle’s tiny neighborhood can sit there alone on their island. Aurora is a straight shot from Shoreline to Downtown, touching dense neighborhoods like Fremont, Wallingford, and Queen Anne along the way. It will also make a better use of that $4 billion dollar tunnel we built — which is delivering only 20% of it’s promises when it levied a $1 billion dollar tolling program…
Nobody on Aurora will complain about the elevated track either. If anything, it will give the city & state the excuse to narrow the roadway for vehicles and widen it for people walking, biking and rolling. And we can add trees! Everyone loves trees. It will also make this area desirable. The empty lots can finally capture the housing growth the city has slated for it, and we can continue building out our housing stock while making our problematic roadways something far more pleasant.
So I say to those in West Seattle, go ahead and build your gondola and let’s give that gift of light rail mobility to someone more grateful.