Morning Roundup: All Nickels, All the Time

Weeks at a time go by without a peep from Greg Nickels on anything. Then, on the eve of his hosting a U.S. Conference of Mayors “Climate Summit”, he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!

Down at South Lake Union, symbolically test driving a new red streetcar. “It’s kind of like back to the future,” Hizzoner said. We could forgive him the cliche if it were actually true, but not even the most publicity-whoring fatcat of Seattle yore would have built a 1.3-mile glorified amusement-park ride for the equivalent of $47.5 million inflation-adjusted dollars. Back in the day, streetcars were for transportation. They ran across town, they ran to Fremont, to Phinney Ridge.

As for the SoLa streetcar, I’d rather walk a few blocks and burn the calories. Or ride my bike and get there a lot quicker, with zero! carbon footprint!

Speaking of which…no sooner had the Mayor relinquished the photo-op wheel of the streetcar than it was off to City Hall for the big Progress Report on Climate Change. The short take: Seattle is down 8 percent in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990, putting us within the Kyoto Protocol target of 7 percent reduction by 2012, as long as we don’t blow it in the coming four-plus years. The summary of the report does not give much actual data on how the figures were arrived at, and I’m skeptical that there isn’t some book-cooking going on here. But even if we accept the summary’s conclusions, it’s just plain crass for the Mayor to time this thing so close to the national hoo-hah. After this weekend I doubt we’ll hear a peep about the Kyoto Protocol till Nickels announces his candidacy for re-election in 2009.

Meanwhile, there was Mayor Nickels again yesterday, patting himself on the back for the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, another brick in the reduced greenhouse-gas wall. On Monday, the plan goes before the City Council, and let’s hope the Council can find a way to reconcile its worthy goals with its lousy (so far) implementation, starting with the mess at Stone Way. Originally slated for full bike lanes, this crucial north-south bike commuter route was pared back to the confusing, mixed-signal “sharrow” markings after Fremont mogul Suzie Burke complained the bikes would interfere with truck traffic. As a result, cars and bikes have to criss-cross each other’s right-of-way on Stone Way, creating a certifiable death trap that helps neither side and endangers both. From Erica’s report it seems light bulbs are going on in Council chambers, albeit dimly. The good folks at Cascade Bicycle Club, who led two protest/solidarity rides around Fremont this summer, are on the case as well.

To sum up: Is an ego made of carbon, and if so, does it have a footprint? I would love to give Mayor Nickels the benefit of the doubt in all things green, because I support what he supports and believe in what he says he believes in. On the other hand, I don’t promote a mammoth parking garage in Woodland Park Zoo while talking about the need to discourage car culture in Seattle. I don’t extol greenhouse-gas reductions while pimping a waterfront tunnel, a gargantuan SR-520 Interchange and a Trojan Horse highway expansion levy (Prop 1) in the guise of rapid transit. And I don’t talk about more liveable and lively neighborhoods while seeking to cram “69,000 new jobs and 56,000 new residents” into them.

“Trends indicate that Seattle will become even denser, and that’s good news for our climate,” the report states. Hold on: It’s only good news if the density in Seattle reduces suburban sprawl, halts highway expansion, diminishes reliance on the automobile and curbs wasteful growth. So far, the tradeoffs just aren’t there, and all the mayor’s press releases and all the mayor’s men can’t put that Humpty together again.


  1. 1

    Adam spews:


    Non gasoline autos? Rapid advances in solar power?

    No roads? No mobility? Sure, back to the 16th century. Need to get a horse and a cow for the back yard, oh, forgot, no back yard.

    You are somewhat nuts. Seems a current fad.

    Beam me to NYC.

  2. 2


    Give it a rest…You bent over backwards to avoid calling it what it already is increasingly and indelibly known as: SLUT…

    It’s the SLUT, and don’t forget it! Anyone who rides it must answer to the name, “John,” and Mayor Quarters is its official pimp. “Hi ya, Seattle, new in town?”

    I’m not the first to make the comparison, but humanity’s division into two species, the Eloi and the Morlock, isn’t supposed to really take place until the year 802,701, per H.G. Wells’, “The Time Machine.”

    Looks like Seattle wants to give Wells a run for his money.

    The creation of a class of high-rise-dwelling urbanites crammed densely into as little amount of space possible all dependent upon a very grizzly underclass who ostensibly serves it seems pretty close to reality.

    The true sheep-like nature of the Eloi and the sheep-like nature of those content to be crammed into SLUT’s version of a livestock car as their mode of transport between homecubicle to workcubicle and back again is just a bit too close for comfort.

    Where’s Rod Taylor when you need him?

    This rush to sameness evidences itself in many ways: the increasingly narrow range of acceptable public thought and opinion, a tasteless and bland sameness in those considered acceptable enough to run for public office, a desparate search for “different” in all the wrong places and by all the wrong means (it’s not how people or buildings look on the outside that matters, but who they are or what goes on inside them that’s important), and an increasing enforced conformity to an artificial stereotype.

    Ivar Haglund would hate this town today.

    On the surface the Eloi’s looked as though they had it made…until the whistle blew. What then? Will tomorrow’s Eloi’s ride SLUT to a Morlock-hosted banquet? With themselves as the main course?


    What was once interesting and unique is now bland and no different than anywhere else.

    The Piper

  3. 3

    RTID Sucks Donkey Dicks spews:

    I heard Nickels supports the Prop. 1, but I can’t find any actual statements from him explaining why it is the best possible deal for Seattle’s voters.

    Anyone got a link to this one letter that supposedly shows Nickels’ “support?”

  4. 4

    please pay attention spews:

    You mention putting Humpty back together again. That is exactly why the Mayor favors Prop. 1. He knows the immense amount of work and compromise that went into this package. What you call a Trojan Horse is a package that spends twice as much on rail as roads. It builds 50 miles of light rail to match the almost twenty miles we will soon have. It gives us a chance to build over 25 new, dense, walkable communities near station areas–a place to accomodate a lot of the expected one million people moving here soon.

    And look at the roads–the Seattle projects at Mercer, Lander, Spokane Street, the Industrial Way busramp, and the Shoreline/Aurora BRT line all benefit transit and make the surface/transit option conceivable in the time frame we have. The South Park Bridge replaces a critical link between Georgetown and South Park that carries tons of freight and is a lifeline to those communities. So far, not so bad…

    Then you mention 520. All that Prop 1 does is contribute a regional contribution to a state problem. It does not dictate your “gargantuan 520 interchange”. This is a thoughtless sound bite from someone who should know better. There is currently a 520 mediation process that will help determine what is built. One must remember also that the extra lane in each direction is being built to accommodate transit and carpools, not GP traffic. Hwy 167 improvements in the Valley similarly complete the HOV/transit network including a HOV/HOV ramp from 167 to 405.

    I am by no means a huge fan of 405 expansion or some other roads in the plan. But I am enough of a political realist to realize that these roads will be built one way or another by the legislature or local jurisdictions. We built a car culture in this region in the last 50 years. Over 100 new cars are registered each day in the Puget Sound region. There is a demand for roads improvements as well. Do you drive, Paul? Does your wife? Do you have kids to schlepp around? You may be lucky enough to telecommute, but the real world still mandates some auto uses. Indeed, a poll on the Sierra Club’s own website listed the auto as the primary mode of transportation for OVER HALF of their members. And these folks are the supposed creme-de-la-creme of green society.

    As for the streetcar, you should really visit Portland. What you will find is that developers love to locate density near rail lines. The Pearl District has been transformed by new developments along the route. The same effect will happen in the Denny Regrade.

    Paul, you should heed the words of Walt Crowley, who before his death hit the nail on the head when he stated that this opportunity to build rail is a tipping point in moving away from a car culture. For you and the Sierra Club board, this measure is not perfect enough. Just like Al Gore wasn’t perfect enough for many Nader voters in 2000. Look how that turned out. The fact is you don’t have a road map for what we should do, you simply want to go back to the drawing board. It would be nice to know that you would get something better, but chances are we won’t. I vote to build rail and transform this region NOW–not in five years.

  5. 5

    SeattleMike spews:

    So Seattle finally has added a little piece of transit that actually *does* connect into the Metro fare system. Will wonders never cease? Have they finally looked north to Vancouver, BC to see how a transit system CAN tie together? The last time we were there we were staying with friends in North Vancouver. We took the SeaBus to Vancouver, then hopped onto the SkyTrain to get where we needed… and it was all done on a single fare. If we had needed to ride a bus, that would have been included, too.

    Seattle needs to finish tying ALL of the pieces back together – bus, SLUT, waterfront trolley, water taxi (once it gets moved OUT OF A CITY PARK, where it has operated illegally since it started) and the monorail. If we integrate it all it becomes much more useful and people can actually USE it to get where they need to, instead of paying separate fares for varying portions of their trip.

  6. 6

    mr. rcguy spews:

    1st) You are just now figuring out that Nickels is using his faux “greenness” as a popularity ploy? Goodness. He’s a politician. Just like Simms who sees the upcoming tax hike as a serious downer on his career and bailed. It’s a popularity contest, not “what’s best for the city.” Nickels is hoping that his staunch support of rail will overcome the sticker shock of taxes and keep him in office. Simms will surely come back and say “see? i saw the light and got out of that plan.”

    2nd) With the housing price disparity between rural and urban dwellings we will always have people that have to commute. Certainly more than can afford to live in Seattle and partake of the glory of light rail.

    The second point brings to light somthing else though, the fact that alternative power/fuel vehicles have made it past the “Fad” stage and are actually sought out. So we will (not could) in the fairly near future have a more than substantial amount of clean cars on the road. The huge push to generate light rail miles at the expense of pavement will cause a gigantic nightmare, and rural backlash. Remember that by Sound Move’s / Rturd’s (or whatever) own estimate this will have a max trip amount of 74,000 commuters a day. They have been wildly off since their inception so you can figure much, much less. Make no bones about it ,,, the only reason roads are included in the package is the fact that neither rail only nor road only packages had enough interest to be able to pass. Only the combination generated enough interest to warrant a ballot.

    So what do you do with all those gridlocked green car drivers? Well if you are the local tri-county area leadership you just give them the middle finger.

    There is another aspect to the road miles in the plan. How many of those projects do you all think that money will actually complete????

    So cheers to the great boondoggled masses that can’t see past both road and rail supporter to look into the future and see what is going to happen. Don’t get me wrong. I love metro-rail type systems. But the Puget Sound’s system is like somebodies under the Christmas Tree model railroad. Much loved but not very useful and even then rarely. No. Our area needs and deserves a very comprehensive rail system that links I-5 and I-405 reaches from at least Lakewood to Everett and has multiple connectors to tie in even smaller communities along the way. Additionally it needs to be off the surface streets. But our leaders have now so polarized AND mismanaged current implementations that people don’t trust them anymore in the area of transportation.

  7. 9


    “Trends indicate that Seattle will become even denser”

    seattle-ites could BE denser??? is this possible? i thought that if they became any denser they would turn into black holes…….
    couldn’t resist.

  8. 10

    justdrivingby spews:

    I lived in Phoenix in the 80’s and 90’s, when they were frantically trying to catch up on building a freeway network that had been delayed for decades, to the point that there was constant gridlock on the surface streets in rush hour. Why the delay? Because some geniuses back in the day had proclaimed the equivalent of “if we don’t build it, they won’t come.” Well, that bit of social engineering, like so many, was a complete bust. And that little bit of misguided wisdom really put the region behind the eight ball to get things done.
    Delaying new roads that traffic studies say are needed are going to accomplish two things: greater gridlock, and a bigger bill when cooler heads eventually prevail (which they will).
    Yeah, you guys opposing this measure are the Naderites of traffic. Way to go, guys.

  9. 11

    frank logan spews:

    Come on, Goldie.

    “I don’t extol greenhouse-gas reductions while pimping a waterfront tunnel, a gargantuan SR-520 Interchange and a Trojan Horse highway expansion levy (Prop 1) in the guise of rapid transit.”

    Since when do miles of backed up traffic struggling to get across Lake Washington or through town make for better greenhouse policy that getting the traffic moving along with wider, safer roads and new rail lines? I-5, I-90, I-405 are all parking lots at rush hour and the atmosphere is poisonous. Alaska Way may fall down and the 405 bridge may sink. How would that be better than renewing and maintaining our infrastructure? Let’s get the best use of the gas we have to burn and discourage POV travel by taxing gasoline and diesel appropriately (highly).