At least that’s the message I’m hearing from light rail opponents with Sierra Club.
“I think it’s not the most efficient use of tax dollars,” local club Chairman Mike O’Brien said during a campaign debate over this fall’s multibillion-dollar Proposition 1.
He called the Tacoma line a “political decision” made to satisfy elected officials in Pierce County. “If transportation planners were in charge, they would come up with a more efficient solution,” he said.
Mike is right about one thing. It’s not as efficient to build light rail in the poor part of town. Or the racially diverse part of town.
This arguement reminds me of how white liberals form the north end are still miffed that blacks, Asians, hispanics in the south end are getting light rail before they will. Truth is, light rail could have skipped SE Seattle and headed north sooner to Mike’s neighborhood of Fremont, and the U-District, and to whiter, more affluent neighborhoods further north. But they didn’t. A decision was made to put light rail through a part of town they usually gets the shaft. Instead of ignoring the south end, we invested in it.
After the debate, O’Brien said South End trains would take too long to reach Seattle, because of the system’s slow surface segment currently under construction through South Seattle’s Rainier Valley. He suggests building separate lines outward from downtown Everett and Tacoma, serving local riders into those urban centers.
O’Brien (and Sierra Club) are ill served by their Seattle-centric view. Folks in Fife are just as likely to be taking the train to Tacoma, Federal Way, or Sea-Tac, as they are to Seattle. The city leaders of Fife are getting really excited about light rail, even if urban Seattle liberals aren’t. Besides, where was the Sierra Club on the issue of route alignment? What studies have they done? Where are their ridership statistics?