Tim Eyman’s Monorail

The odd thought occurred to me that if the Seattle Monorail gets bonded and built, and we end up paying the 1.4% Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) for the next five decades or so, one of the people we’ll most have to thank (or blame) is none other than… Tim Eyman.

Think about it. Timmy’s career-making initiative, I-695, eliminated the state’s 2.2% MVET… clearly an unpopular tax. The Monorail initiative barely passed as it was; if the state MVET had been left in place, it seems highly unlikely that enough voters would have approved such a large increase in their already spendy tabs.

My own car tabs are illustrative. The state apparently values my car at about $12,666 (though Edmunds.com tells me I’d get only $9,383 in a private sale.) If I-695 had never passed, my car tabs would be as follows:

$  0.75 Licensing Service and Technology Fee
$  3.00 County Filing Fee
$ 38.00 RTA/Sound Transit Fee
$ 23.75 State registration renewal fee
$279.00 State MVET
$344.50 Total

That’s a pretty steep car tab for what I’m guessing is a pretty average car. At my car’s current (supposed) value, the Monorail tax would add another $177.00 — a hefty 51% increase — for a grand total of $521.50. That would be like paying 5.6% of the value of my car… every year!

In that context, I just can’t imagine Seattle voters approving the Monorail’s 1.4% MVET. I’m not saying voters definitely wouldn’t have approved a Monorail proposal… just that the Monorail’s backers could not have relied so heavily on the MVET if Eyman had not first zeroed it out with I-695. If the old state MVET had still been in place, backers would have been forced to propose a more reliable tax base, and the Monorail’s budget shortfalls may never have occurred.

So whether your main concern is the Monorail’s shaky financing… or the Monorail itself… one thing we can agree on is that really, it’s all Tim’s fault.


  1. 1

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I thought that 2.2% was too high. I also thought that it was wrong for the GOP to back making it worse, and getting the voters to approve it, and next year, riding popular sentiment to a tax they made unbearable, repeal it with I-695. Refferendum 49 was a big program of road improvements.

  2. 2

    Chuck spews:

    Thank you Tim Eyeman! (kneel and bow out of respect!) The state thanks you! The state will throw out the 10 cent gas tax in your honor!

  3. 3

    Richard Pope spews:

    Goldy, actually I am having a little bit of a laugh. Hopefully not at your expense. The poor, poor pitiful masochist (rich) liberals of Seattle. If only their BMW’s, Lexus’es and Mercedes’ had still been burdened down with the prior 2.2% state MVET that Eyman got repealed, then they never would have been stupid enough to vote for the 1.4% MVET for the monorail boondoggle???

    I have a better solution. Call a special session of the legislature. Triple the MVET in the City of Seattle from 1.7% (which also includes 0.3% for Sound Transit) to 5.1%. Use 1.4% of this MVET increase to double the monorail revenues, and allow this relatively useless project to be paid off in 25 years for less than $4 billion without junk bond financing. Use the other 2.0% of the MVET increase to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct with an expensive tunnel — since the gas tax increase will be repealed in November.

    This plan only needs a simple majority of the legislature to be adopted. Not a single member from Seattle needs to vote for it. Every GOP member can support it without fear of political backlash, since none of them are from Seattle. The people of Seattle have no right to vote on this proposal. It can only be reversed by a statewide vote.

    Have the legislature put in an emergency clause, so that a referendum cannot be held on the matter. It will take an initiative to reverse it, which requires 250,000 signatures — nearly every single registered voter in Seattle.

    Make the initiative impossible in any event. Make the new law effective immediately, and sell bonds for the monorail and viaduct the same day the new 5.1% MVET takes effect in Seattle. That way, even if enough signatures to qualify an initiative are gathered, and even if the statewide electorate decides to give Seattle a reprieve from its liberal masochism — the initiative will still be void, since the bonds will have already been sold, and repealing the 5.1% MVET would impair contractual obligations :)

    I would really love to see the rich liberal Democrats of Seattle paying over $4,000 per year in MVET on their Mercedes and BMW’s at the new 5.1% rate …

    Sorry for being extremely sarcastic this evening. I took Goldy’s suggestion of “drinking liberally” a bit literally. But at least I don’t have to drive anywhere tonight to get back home …

  4. 4

    Chuck spews:

    That is of coarse the real state, not the false governor we presently have….I now have 428 signatures….

  5. 6

    Chuck spews:

    If Tim were to improve the Monorail, he would have introduced a final cost for the people to vote upon, at that point heads may have rolled at the very idea of studying all of the (read pissing) money away so far…..

  6. 8

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    State Sen. Ken Jacobson(D-Seattle) has asked that the Transportation Performance Audit Board look over the Monorail Project.

  7. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:


    Geez, Richard, what a prescription for freeloading by non-Seattleites — but that’s what Repubs are good at.

    If your proposal is adopted, people who don’t pay this tax should either be banned from using the rebuilt Alaska Way Viaduct — with stiff fines for violaters, say $2,500 — or they should be charged a toll — say $25 per trip — with toll revenues rebated to those paying the 5.1% MVET.

    Fairness requires nothing less.

  8. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Say Goldy I wonder if someone driving a $50,000 car pays 5 times as much MVET as you do? You should look into that. I’ll bet you’ll find out they aren’t.

  9. 11

    Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf spews:

    Tim Eyeman, this man is a war criminal, and we will see that he is brought to trial.

  10. 12

    Bad Bob spews:

    I see…..

    It’s all ( insert name here ) fault.

    a) Newt’s

    b) George W’s

    c) Timmy’s

    d) Dino’s

    Eyeman is the blame-du-jour. You guys needed another reason to hate him?

  11. 13

    righton spews:

    Goldy; Blame Sound Transit (and current cheerleader Ron Sims). They had a mandate about 5 or 10 years ago, and blew it. Decent Sound Transit would have negated any uprising for Monorail.

    Now you dummies (you pro big govt, no accountability dummies) may well get nothing. High spending for Sound Transit, that touches few people, then Monorail crashes and burns, then also Red states block funding of the wet dream Viaduct.

  12. 14


    Hey Righton, your dream of living in a third world country where transportation infrastructure never improves will come true if you wish hard enough.

    Actually, there’s one gaping hole in the logic here. If we had never eliminated the MVET in the first place, we would likely still have enough money to build the projects that this city needs and now can’t pay for. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

    Richard @ 3, even though your proposal would likely be struck down by a lawsuit within minutes, I personally wouldn’t be opposed. I share a car with my fiance and will continue to do so for years. I’m very willing to pay much more money now to build both Sound Transit and the Monorail, which will make my already very valuable house in North Seattle even more valuable in the future as “Righton and the Retard Brigades” do everything they can to destroy the state’s infrastructure and make suburban living less valuable.

    You see, we Seattle liberals are rich for a reason. We understand economics.

  13. 15

    scott spews:

    I’ve always looked at the MVET as being the state’s loss and Seattle’s gain. Back before I695 the city would export millions of dollars a year in state MVET revenue to build roads in middle-of-nowhere eastern Washington. For the monorail we get a 30% discount on the original tax, and keep all of the revenue for a high-speed transit project in the city.

    Get the truth on the monorail at buildthemonorail.com

  14. 16


    Scott @ 15,

    Exactly. For years, Seattle taxpayers were investing in raising the property values outside of Seattle. Most of us are happy now to actually get to invest towards our own property values.

  15. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    NOw if only we could stop the export of King County gas tax revenues to the hick counties.

  16. 19

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    The South Lake Union Streetcar Line, especially when it connects with an expanded Waterfront Line, makes better sense. In Portland, they are expanding their line a couple blocks at a time. The city owns it, TriMet operates it under contract. Tacoma and Sound Transit should extend Tacoma Link. Although to TCC and Federal Way sounds like a good start, The western terminus of an expanded Tacoma system should be Pt. Defiance.

    If the monorail was axed, the money could be better spent on re-establishing the Seattle Municipal Street Railway, with a mix of Streetcar and Trackless Trolley routes connecting the city.

  17. 21

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I was thinking, $11 Billion over 50 years, there are a whole bunch of things the money could be better spent on. I have posted variations of this on other forums, includiing NWCN, KING5, and SP.

    Here is something I posted on other forums where the $11 Billion over 50 years could be better spent. The money is raised and collected in Seattle Only, so it can only be spent in Seattle.

    Some or all of the $11 Billion could be better spent on these projects:
    1)Fixing up the Backlog of street maintenance that the city has only been able to do $30 million of a year. The Backlog is $500 million. Then set some aside in a road maintenance trust fund for future use.
    -Re-widen SR 167(Ranier Ave between Ranier Beach and Renton
    -Put streetlights on Lake Washington Boulevard and a few other safety improvements on tight curves(keep the curves, put in a small concrete block about 3 feet tall, and surrounded by bushes.)
    -A new bridge connection to Delridge to be a backup route in case of a collapse of the West Seattle Bridge(It may never happen, but imagine if it does).

    2)Light Rail:
    -A Starter segment from International District Station to Ranier Ave and I-90 Freeway Station.
    -From Northgate to NE 145th
    -From the Central Link line to Lake City(laying the foundation of a line in the SR522 corridor).
    -A Light Rail line from Downtown Seattle to Ballard and North Seattle(Green Line Corridor), as orginally proposed in Sound Transit Long Range Planning.
    -First Leg of a SR520 Light Rail line.
    (All of these stop at the Seattle City Limits, because the Monorail is a Seattle Only Project)

    – Extending South Lake Union Line from Fred Hutch to U-District.
    – A Line along 45th St to connect Ballard LRT with U-District.
    -Streetcar Circulators in areas all along Central Link, such as Lake City, Downtown Seattle.
    -Connecting South Lake Union Streetcar with Waterfront Streetcar.

    4)Enhanced Bus/Bus Rapid Transit
    -Extending Seattle’s Trackless Trolley Network, with more buses to add frequencies to heavily used routes such as the 2,3,4, and 7.
    -Using Fuel Cell Stacks to power the grid, at least partially.
    -Priority Lanes for heavily traveled bus routes.
    -Enhancing Heavily Used Bus Stops into Super Stops.
    -Bus Rapid Transit on key lines that feed into High Capacity Transit Lines.

    5)Commuter Rail
    -Sounder Station at Pier 70, connecting Streetcars with Sounder, and North Downtown Seattle.
    -Sounder Station at Interbay.
    -Sounder Station at Ballard.
    -Sounder Station near Shoreline.
    -Sounder Station at Georgetown.
    -Sounder Station at King County International Airport/Boeing Field.

    6)Water Taxi
    -Making the Elliot Bay Water Taxi Year round. Have it be a redundant link in case a repeat of June 11, 1978 happens again, that could be worse.

    This is just one possibility of what the money could be better spent on than the Monorail, assuming what the P-I is saying is right.

  18. 22

    righton spews:

    buy a right of way worth $11bb and give it to some private company; let them build and milk the profits….

    wouldn’t you love it if Costco provide rapid transit? would work, be cheap, democratic, etc

  19. 23


    Righton, exactly what kind of fantasy world do you live in where you think that people who are liberal and live in Seattle are somehow financially irresponsible? Maintaining a big city involves sacrifice among its citizens which in turn can lead to tremendous payoffs in quality of life. Look at New York, and the value of property there. Those who lived in New York throughout the 20th century paid taxes to people who were 1000x more corrupt than the people who run Seattle (we’re talking organized crime figures in city hall), and they STILL built up a city where Manhattan apartments are worth $1 million minimum.

    Even in Brooklyn, where my family is from, the house my dad grew up in went from being a few thousand dollars in the 20s to being worth $750K today (even though it needs to be completely redone). The point is that investing in your city’s infrastructure is smart. Now that doesn’t mean that we should build things that will never work (and that’s what I’m most worried about with the monorail, although as an engineer by training, I trust other engineers to work out the issues), but it does mean that whining about taxes is fiscal responsibility, it’s just whining, and it makes the Tim Eyman flock around here sound like little kids who don’t understand why it’s so important to go to school every day. Sometimes you invest for the future, and that’s a smart thing to do.

  20. 24

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I have been hearing people like CETA and Dori Monson promote Rapid Bus and Bus Rapid Transit as an alternative to Light Rail and Monorail, but not mentioning how three cities in the world that had BRT as a showcase are going to Light Rail. Curitiba, Brazil, the showcase city for BRT making a sustainable city at a fraction of the cost of Light Rail, is converting a few of their Rapid Busways to Light Rail. Adelaide, Austrailia, which kept an Interurban Tramline as an example of a bygone era while pointing to their O-Bahn, which is a guided BRT line, is extending the Tramline into Downtown, and buying new, modern, low-floor cars to replace the ancient rolling stock. Ottawa, Canada is going to Light Rail, but not yet converting the busway to LRT.


  21. 25

    jsa on beacon hill spews:

    buy a right of way worth $11bb and give it to some private company; let them build and milk the profits….

    wouldn’t you love it if Costco provide rapid transit? would work, be cheap, democratic, etc

    righton, we call that BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer). It works, to a point. Matra did a BOT monorail in Taipei (they got into contract disputes and the city kicked them out, but the monorail is still fine). Hopewell Holdings did a BOT system in Bangkok which is wonderful.

    At the same time, the England-France Chunnel was also done as a BOT. Ticket costs are high, the project cost overruns were vast, there have been several restructurings of the corporate debt, and the private-sector investors and lenders in the Chunnel have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that they have lost their collective asses on the project to the tune of about 15 billion dollars.

    There is no organizational magic in making something “private sector”. Costco and Microsoft are private sector companies. So were the twenty thousand silly dot-bombs that ate up so much VC money in the late ’90s. For an organization, public or private to succeed, you need a group of skilled people who understand the business you’re in, the risks involved, and how to make an organization profitable.

    Having wasted my youth bumming all over Asia (world’s largest construction zone!), I will tell you big-time civil engineering projects have a very small cadre of companies that posess these competencies. Moreover, no matter how skilled their geologists and engineering staff, you always run into problems. If you run into rock where they swore there was soft soil, you have to work around that. Soft soil projects (Seattle is full of the stuff), are the worst, because you have to build very long, self-supporting tunnels that have hundreds of thousands of tons of dirt on top of them.

    I’m pragmatic at heart. I don’t care if Seattle’s future transit system is built by a public sector concern, a private sector concern, or Another TJ’s invisible gnomes. The thing is that you keep saying “private sector! private sector!” as if this is a magic wand to solve all problems. Let me tell you, the track record just does not support that assertion.

  22. 26


    jsa, one of the silly things I’ve done on my blog is to compare the Seattle Monorail project to the Jakarta Monorail project. A lot of the issues you talk about (public vs. private development) are coming into play there. Jakarta was relying entirely on private enterprise to build it, and about 6 months ago, the work just stopped because they ran out of funds and were told that public funds would be needed. There are no shortcuts to building things like this, but it does require someone to be accountable for it getting done.

  23. 27

    righton spews:

    JSA you sound like you a a transit worker.

    I’m talking choosing routes, operating for max customers, max reduction of congestion.

    No idiot in the private sector, say trying to sell hot dogs or life insurance, would look at bumper to bumper on all the major freeways and say, ‘gee, i think the best place to sell hotdogs is the less used “rainier avenue corridor”

    I can more or less prove by anecdtotal example what is wrong w/ the transit system here. I don’t think you can do same to show its good or great. Bus tunnel? Sunken bridges?, S-curves, Traffic on the plateau?,

  24. 28

    righton spews:

    thehim; go study economics; unless you take it at the brookings institute you’ll find most prefer the $$ to go into individual pockets, who then spend according to their own self interests. Result, southwest air and amazon and microsoft do well

    You guys prefer to tax, take, and call it “investment”

    I’m not for turning off the tax spigot, but rather reducing taxes and gov’t funded programs to only streets and police/fire and a few other things. Not to do things private sector is capable of (e.g. artwork).

    Socialism is bad.

  25. 29

    EvergreenRailfan spews:


    I have heard of another city in that region, Putrajaya, Malaysia, that has halted construction of a monorail, just after Kuala Lampur opened their new line, whose cars look a lot like a modernized version of the monorail we already have.

  26. 31

    jsa on beacon hill spews:


    I’ll answer back when I’m done from work. You need remedial instruction, and I don’t have time to school you now.

    You’re not the first person on the planet to think that letting the private sector build infrastructure is a good idea. I know you’ll find this crushing, but someone named Margaret Thatcher (nice lady, you would have liked her), was proposing this 20 years ago, and the canal projects in the Northeastern United States were done this way 200 years ago.

    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Please put the pipe down, do a little research on real systems that were really built this way, rather than “Well, in libertarian la-la-land it’ll be so cool, because the markets are perfect and…”, and come back when you’ve done this.

  27. 32

    righton spews:

    jsa; ok, then why are our gov’t one so screwed up

    I mention this more as a model of what if the transportation spending followed what consumer want.

    We can’t even get our votes to count (e.g. what orig sound transit was for)

    At least w/ private, we vote w/ our $$ every day.

    witness the best air system in the world (us comm’l aviation)

  28. 33

    jsa on beacon hill spews:

    You’re really rather annoying, you know that?

    Screwed up as compared to what? Where is there a government is is NOT screwed up in the World According to Righton?

    We have one of the smallest public sectors in the OECD, so if you mean “getting the functions of government done with less money”, we do a damn good job of that here.

    The heavily indebted, half of the major carriers either in bankruptcy or teetering close to it? That commercial air transport system? What does that have to do with building urban infrastructure anyhow? You can’t take a jet plane to work.

    It’s really pretty boring to have you say how badly everything here stinks. I hate to sound like a love-it-or-leave-it type, but I believe the free market applies to migration of labor, and that travel is good for a body. If freeboot capitalism suits you so well, do a year or two someplace like Hongkong or Taipei. You’ll probably really like it, at least at first (I know I did!). If nothing else, you’ll come back a much broader person than you are now.

  29. 34

    Righton spews:

    I’d love to come meet you, lemme see how I’d do that with our terrible wasted money on transportation around here…

    Metro; wow, gotta make 4 transfers. Wait, there’s a sound transit, but is that the same as Metro.

    Ok, let me start in Everett, take the sounder; cool .. $400mm and only 100 others on the train. But it drops me a King Station, and I want to go to Beacon Hill; ok, guess I gotta look up some buses

    Ok, found the bus, but heck, I guess its late; i can’t tell. Unlike Paris or Germany or Switz they neither run on time nor do they have electronic schedules. yeah, i can get info on my cell phone via SMS but its realy hard.

    Ok, change of plans, i need to fly to Tokyo. Tokyo is easy, train right into Narita that goes to 2 major train stations in Tokyo. Now Seattle, hmm let see. I could drive to downtown bellevue and take a Sound transit bus, but wait, no parking…Ok, heck I’ll drive.

    Darn, missed my flight. Traffic was bumper to bumper for 50 minutes down to Sea Tac. Sure wish I’d been able to take a train with no street crossing.

    OK, i’ll wait and move to columbia city, then I can still get to sea tac in an hour if I take ST down to 188th, then take a shuttle to the airport. I’ll be it drops me at one end, while I want to catch a United flight. So i’ll have to hoof it from the Shuttle dropoff, go to united, then still take the airport subway.

    I think its darn easy to point out how bad US mass transit is.

    a) they are built to mollify the urban “diverse” population, not get me to sEa tac any faster.
    b) You waste $400mm or so on environmental studies. Basically white collar payoffs to all the design agencies
    c) They aren’t run by people who get fired if they run slow; witness elections dept for analogous gov’tt “don’t get fired”.

    I don’t know why Switz or Japan is better; heavy subsidies, but also private rail lines….hmmmm..

    I don’t see all private as the answer, but man it sure would liberate and force transit to perform. Go check innovation in mail handling; Fed ex, vs old USPS (now imitating w/ express, though few businesses rely on it). Yeah, and I know fedex cherry picks and I propose same for transit

    Give Costco or STarbucks an exclusive on 20 feet of right of way, let them make me a transit offer. you know they would fight for customers.

    Are you seriously using 5 years of an internet bubble to suggest private enterprise is no better than gov’t run programs? You mean there is no difference, gov’t policy and govt run just as good as guys scrapping for their livelihood, some even super greedy and willing to kill themselves so you and I can steer business their way (e.g. starbucks or guys at msft)

    Gotta love having to defend Wash state public transit…oh that hurts, tickle me again…

  30. 35


    Actually, Righton, I’ve been carless for 2 years and I have no trouble getting around. And I’ve lived in Europe as well (Helsinki) and I agree that the system is better, but they sure as hell didn’t get that system by waiting for there to be a corporate incentive to build it either. However, once they had a good system, Nokia went to town and became the first company anywhere to program bus schedules into cell phones. There are a lot of ways that government-driven development can spur business.

    The Finns take a lot of pride in things that they decide as a society to build. So do the Swiss and the Japanese and other places. Americans look at working on a government project with a lot more cynicism. That’s why less gets done. It’s a cultural thing, and where it’s really hurting us right now is broadband access. We trail most other industrialized countries in the percentage of our citizens who have access to broadband internet.

  31. 36

    dj spews:

    righton @ 32

    best air system in the world (us comm’l aviation) “

    You mean, except for the very heavily subsidized infrastructure: air-traffic control, airport improvement grants, navigational systems (VOR, GPS) and information (charts, etc.), and weather information collection and dissemination systems? And, except for the incredibly intensive training, licensing, and regulation of almost every component and procedure in the industry? (I believe the government spends something on the order of $25 billion on aviation each year).

    That’s the commercial system you were referring to?

  32. 37

    Righton spews:

    dj; yeah, gov’t should do stuff that would not work well privately (e.g. food inspection, or GPS signals etc.). Yes the airports sort of are heavily subsidzed (used to think fully but i guess when SeaTac charges airliens $23 per passenger its not that subsidized (?)

    But yeah, think of a system where the Gov’t built the infrastructure AND operated it and picked schedules. Wow, about like Metro… you’d have the very worst of US airlines (in your best case). Imagine air travel w/ out Alaska or SWAir…just surly United agents or worse USPS clerks working the flights.

    I rode Metro 25 times last year; never once within a minute of on time. Yeah, i know we have traffic, that’s why say in Paris they post the bus location (we have the technology already, usiing in on Metro online.

    Ever try Amtrak? whoa, what a pile of horse manure that is, (sort of private, but i’d argue mostly public).

    You should check out the new private tollway down in LA; takes cars off public freeways, people pay a hefty price, but it works.

    Would you rather have coffee from the STate commissary, or allow private enterprise to concoct this amazing thing called $3 coffe that people love, employs people, gets some rich, helps everyone. Or I guess 50 cent coffee forever, no innovation or customer service is the ideal of the Party…

  33. 38

    Righton spews:

    thehim; no argument on Broadband. Gov’t monopolies to cable and dsl guys tossed that in our laps. Love to engage in partisan debate on that; got good dirt of Reed Hundt and dems from last time, sure ya’ll have good stuff on Powell.

    Best path for more broadband here isn’t public policy, its enabling more wi-max, cdma for modems, etc.

  34. 39

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Railroads do their own traffic control, and it has led to, as I have said before, passenger and commuter trains up here being at the whim of a bunch of people in Fort Worth, as evidenced by the wildcat strike a few months ago at BNSF. If Amtrak’s Pioneer was still running, it would have been at the Mercy of Harriman Center in Omaha(UNION PACIFIC HQ).

  35. 40

    Richard Pope spews:

    This monorail fiasco will help Eyman quite a bit. We need effective performance audits, not only at the state level, but for local government agencies as well. Looks like I-900 is going to qualify for the ballot:


    The $11 billion monorail fiasco will ensure that even the voters of Seattle will support Eyman’s initiative for once.

  36. 41

    dj spews:

    Righton @ 37

    “Yes the airports sort of are heavily subsidzed (used to think fully but i guess when SeaTac charges airliens $23 per passenger its not that subsidized (?)

    You are correct. In the 1990s, aviation subsidies moved away from general taxes and toward user-fees and user-taxes (Until I move here, I was an active private pilot and watched this occur). But, my point still stands that the aviation industry is heavily regulated and funded by the government (even if the government is using non-tax revenue for some of the funding).

    Believe it or not, I have plenty of gripes about government and government programs, but I must say I felt that the air traffic control system and pilot information systems are impressive examples of highly useful and successful government programs.

    “But yeah, think of a system where the Gov’t built the infrastructure AND operated it and picked schedules. Wow, about like Metro… you’d have the very worst of US airlines (in your best case). Imagine air travel w/ out Alaska or SWAir…just surly United agents or worse USPS clerks working the flights. “

    Hmmm. . . I fly a fair amount on commercial airlines, and I have too many horror stories to really feel your pain here. :-( I will note that government-run railroads in Europe (esp. Germany) have greatly impressed me with their scheduling and service.

    “I rode Metro 25 times last year; never once within a minute of on time. Yeah, i know we have traffic, that’s why say in Paris they post the bus location (we have the technology already, usiing in on Metro online.”

    Have you ever rode the metro (light rail) in D.C.? I have to go there about once a year, and I never take cabs anymore. I catch the metro at Reagan National Airport and go from there. They are on time, clean, and always seem to have a stop close enought to where I need them. I wish the King County region had started developed such an infrastructure years ago.

  37. 42

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I have rode Light Rail in San Diego, Tacoma, and Portland. All three get good ridership. San Diego continually expands, and they were the first modern Light Rail system built from scratch in the US. DC Metro is a good system, but it is more of a Heavy Rail Subway, based on what NYC, Chicago, and Atlanta have. Portland definately should build a subway, so they can run the LRT MAX trains in 4 car trains. I rode a one car train at midday once, and it was full. Took me 5 blocks by Bus to reach it(had just got off the Greyhound at Union Station).

  38. 43

    zip spews:


    Great post! (I always appreciate cynical sarcasm). The inflated valuation formula that both the monorail MVET and the old state MVET were based on is the achilles heel of this tax. Everybody who takes a look at the value used for taxation of their 4 year old high mileage car knows they’re getting ripped off.

  39. 44

    righton spews:

    dj; totally agree on DC; and I’m a huge fan of rail, likely 1/2 cuz it is just fun (dumb reason) but also because it should move faster (putting a bus on a public roadway only works if you fill the bus and remove cars, which seems never to happen).

    I really do think Seattle has something in the water or the politics or the WSDOT that makes this so bad here. OK, Bart and Bay ARea has good elements, but also wastes gobs of money. I used to work there and take CalTRain (train up/down the peninsula) and that was crummy, not motivating. Elsewhere I could point to a few US cities w/ decent/good, a lot with pockets of “fair” and of course many that are bad. But I think Seattle might be the worst (??)

    How come I go to Paris (speak no french) and get around w/ zero trouble on their buses, and prefer to taxi? Or to Tokyo and suburbs where its worse; text is in kanjii and that’s like guessing at pictures on where you are going, also doable, great, etc.

    Metro can’t tell me which buses to look for at say Montlake, to get to Bellevue at say 7am time frame. If i know the bus route number they can, but for dummies wanting to try the bus, its hard.

    Hwy guys are inept, we all know that.

    Rail? Ok, try seattle, streetcar that is a novelty, then coming is the Paul allen line, then the monorail(?), then ST rail,then also sounder and then also amtrak. Almost all of these are disconnected…..put them all in and 2nd avenue is still a mess. Oh yeah, 10 yrs ago the bus tunnel was supposed to take the buses off 2nd….and guess what, it hasnt..!!

  40. 45

    jsa on beacon hill spews:

    Wow! I go away for a few hours and some intelligent responses come back. Way to go!

    If you want to frame it as defending how transit is done in Puget Sound as opposed to Tokyo, no. That’s pretty hard to do, and I won’t do it.

    But there’s a point about “Let Costco or Starbucks build the light rail and it’ll be better, faster, and cheaper”.

    Costco and Starbucks (companies I both admire greatly) have figured out how to do a few things really well, and they copy that like cookie cutters. A new development is coming in? How many people are moving in? What are the houses selling for? Yep, sounds like we can sell them coffee, industrial-sized blocks of toilet paper, etc. Six months later, Costco and Starbucks open up a new store and money rolls in.

    Along the way, they’ve also done some missteps. Missteps (like Costco trying to figure out the furniture business, or Starbucks opening up cafes that focused on food rather than coffee) didn’t hurt that bad. You open up a few stores, try out your ideas. They don’t make money? No problem. Pull the plug, we’ll forget about it, and try again next time.

    Big infrastructure projects are the opposite of all that. You get one shot, it costs billions, it takes years just to get property right-of-way negotiated (Starbucks needs a few thousand square feet. Costco less than a hundred thousand square feet. Rail needs miles of unbroken right-of-way), and you need to amortize the results over 30 years. Did development pop up someplace else? God Herself isn’t going to get a rail line put in within six months.

  41. 46

    righton spews:

    jsa, you mean like how private r.e. developers build office bldgs, condos, warehouses? Yeah Texas had some busts, but largely these “capital items” get filled, used, and typically seem to mee the market demand. I’m betting warehouse guys in kent are largely happy w/ big boxes in the valley, yuppies in Belltown are happy w/ condos there.

    You gotta know your or I armed w/ money and some emminent domain powers wouldn’t have picked Rainier avenue as our most pressing transportation need. Lets see, 1-5 jammed, 520 jammed, I90 jammed. What about putting rail and parking lots up along the freeway, even tunneling or acquiring land when needed.

    Costco or STarbucks is the “hypothetical”….example of customer led business vs a top down or planner led business. Would starbucks, even armed w/ the money, ever have committed to Sounder rail, when it knew it could run limited trains, they would always be super slow, and they terminated about 1 mile south of where the people work?

    Tell you what, give me the ron sims trail (bn right of way i think), and i’ll provide transit that works. Duh, instead he’s going to turn it into a bike path, then separately keep digging up Rainier ave.

    You mispelled God, its God Himself.

  42. 47

    jsa on beacon hill spews:


    OK. Tell you what. If you find a company that cranks out transit systems like Costco cranks out box stores and Starbucks cranks out coffee shops, I strongly suggest we hire that company to operate and manage mass transit in Puget Sound. I mean it.

    Unfortunately, that company does not exist.

    There might be a business opportunity here for you young’un. Crank out a few transit systems, and you’ll probably get pretty good at it. Lots of people want better mass transit systems, and I’ll be the first to admit that most of them are not done very well.

    The expertise Costco and Starbucks have in logistics and retail management are industrial treasures. People go to B-school for years to study how it’s done and try to copy it. If it was easy to do, you and I would be running Fortune 500 companies and livin’ large, rather than arguing with each other on this blog.

    I also think you SEVERELY underestimate how hard it is to use ED to take over right-of-ways. Finishing I-90 was delayed for 20 years and the cost was bumped up by several billion dollars. Why? Well, the good (and wealthy, and well-connected) citizens of Mercer Island just didn’t feel comfortable having a 10-lane freeway going through their nice community. The wishes of Eastside commuters and the Federal Highway Administration notwithstanding, they refused to sign off on it.

    Likewise, the city of Seattle fought bitterly with Mt. Baker landowners over what “just compensation” was for homes that sat on top of the tunnel.

    It would be really nice if we had government-friendly courts that had zero respect for property rights and told landowners who were in a right-of-way: “The State set a price for your land, now suck it,” Unfortunately, real courts try to balance out the interests of landowners with the interests of the public good.


    They were finally “bought” by burying the highway (at great expense) and putting that fabulous park and bicycle trail on top (also at great expense).

    Yes, in an ideal world with unlimited funds for “just compensation”, it would probably have been better to run the light rail along I-5. In an ideal world, we can also ignore the very wealthy and well-connected airplane company whose private property would need to be ED’d in order to make that right-of-way work. (Sims has the power of Eminent Domain. Boeing has the power to spend unlimited money to fund his opponent if he does that).

    The ST line was built largely with land that the municipality already owned, cutting down on time and expense in acquiring property from private landholders. Yes, again, in an ideal world, you probably wouldn’t run a line that way. We don’t live in an ideal world. We live here.

  43. 48

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Most of the SODO segment of Central Link, is on a right of way that was never a public road. The current E-3 Busway between Royal Brougham and Spokane Street was not a road befor Metro took it over, but the track Union Pacific used to access Union Station. Also, construnction on that segment continues at a good pace.

  44. 49

    jsa on beacon hill spews:

    EvergreenRailfan @ 48:

    Most of the SODO segment of Central Link, is on a right of way that was never a public road. The current E-3 Busway between Royal Brougham and Spokane Street was not a road befor Metro took it over, but the track Union Pacific used to access Union Station.

    Your wording is ambiguous. You mean it was municipal property that was unutilized, or that it was purchased? Beacon Station (a few blocks from my house) was private property that was purchased. The East exit from Beacon Hill was definitely city property before rail came in. The SODO section of the link I’m not as familiar with.

  45. 50

    righton spews:

    Ah, so we should only build where gov’t already owns the land? Ok, then same question, why’d the bozo’s build a train down a street nobody outside of that neighborhood uses? Why not run it down I-5?

    Paying dearly for a lightly used product is worse than not doing it…you steal money from other latter causes, plus you forever spend to maintain and run that line.

    I agree Costco isn’t a perfect analogy, but imagine transit where they cared about what end users care about? Quick, affordable, on time, no guy slobbering on you, no druggies, good messaging, etc etc. (i don’t know all of what the “user” wants) but I do know Metro is engineer or system driven, not driven by what people need. Certainly not by what car ddrivers need (meaning they are incredibly bad in your first try; veterans know all the little tricks, 1st timers, man, all you wanna do is go back to your car.

    Why are they so dumb as to have HOV lanes on opposite sides of the local freeways?

    Why does Redmond need both Metro to Seattle, and also Sound Transit?

  46. 51

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I know the Beacon Station area, that is where the South China Resteraunt used to be, across the street from the Red Apple. I was talking about the segment from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to the begining of the Trestle that will access the Beacon Hill Tunnel.

  47. 52

    jsa on beacon hill spews:

    Ah, so we should only build where gov’t already owns the land?

    No. I didn’t say that. If you even thought I implied that, I’m sorry.

    Buying land is not free. If you’ve ever bought property in Seattle, it is a LONG ways from free. ED-ing land is not quick or efficient. It takes years and years, dozens or hundreds of separate negotiations with property holders, and several lawsuits with really intransigent landholders until everyone is happy. It is a cost, it is a major time-burner, and the whole thing you are harping on is how expensive and slow big infrastructure projects are. If you want a recipe for slow and expensive, you pretty much stepped into it.

    So let’s do a cost-benefit analysis. Where are you getting people from? Where are they going to? How many riders are you going to pick up by running the throughway along I-5 (where very few people live until you’re way past Tukwilla). How many companies are not being serviced down in Georgetown and Boeing vs running the line down the Rainier valley? How many riders will you pick up this way that will otherwise take their cars? And most importantly, how much will all this cost?

    Just from my gut, I don’t think it would work out very well. Yeah, you’re bypassing Boeing. That’s major. How many real live, living breathing Boeing employees would show up by rail rather than take the train? 1,000 a day? 2,000?

    Now, at the same time, by going down into Beacon Hill or Rainier Valley, you’re running the train by a LOT of houses. I’m here, Goldy is here, and so are about 40,000 of our closest friends in the Beacon Hill/Mt. Baker, Rainier Valley, etc. area.

    (if you’ve never been down here to look at how many houses there are, I don’t blame you. It’s not someplace like Pioneer Square or Belltown where people voluntarily go to play on the weekends. I never went into South Seattle until I moved here).

    At the same time, look into the future and see where people are going to be. Housing is going up along the line in Rainier Valley like crazy. Big developments of townhouses and what have you. Beacon Hill is a little slower, bacause there’s not a lot of land to develop on, but one-story places are going down and three and four-story ones are going up in their place.

    At the same time, if you think more people will be employed at Boeing Plant 2 and down in Georgetown over the next 30 years, I’ll make a cash money bet with you against that any day. It’s tough to develop housing down there because of the Boeing Field. Boeing has made it very clear they’re not planning on adding large numbers of employees in Seattle, and while other businesses will come in down there, you’re facing some complicated issues as to how that land will be used which will put a damper on development for at least the next 10 years.

    I just don’t think it’s as dumb a decision as you do. Of course, the other point is my properties all sit within a mile of the new line. Can you say cha-ching? I knew you could!

  48. 53

    jsa on beacon hill spews:

    By the way, you also bring up some other good points in your message, but I’ve burned up my egg timer. Back to the salt mines for me.

  49. 54

    Goldylocks spews:

    Actually, I think you’re on to something, Goldy. From 2001:

    In filing his new measure, Eyman begins an unusual convergence with monorail advocate Peter Sherwin, who shares Eyman’s zeal for the initiative process although he holds radically different views about mass transit. Sherwin sponsored last year’s successful measure to plan a new monorail and seek voter approval of the next phase.

    The presence of both light rail and monorail on next year’s ballot could play to the advantage of both Eyman’s and Sherwin’s causes.

    “People could perceive that they could stop their money from going to one project that they are skeptical about (light rail) and direct money into a program that they see as a better value,” Sherwin said.

    He asked Eyman to leave room in his initiative for voters to approve new vehicle taxes for transit. Eyman said he didn’t write the initiative to satisfy Sherwin, “but he got the result he wanted.” He added: “The model for us is the monorail people. This puts money back in their pockets to spend on whatever they want.”


  50. 55

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Something that critics should do, is quit being the hurry-up and get the whole system built up front type. They show this by highlighting the fact that the lines are so short, or do not go where they need to. It took 40 years to complete the entire DC Metro network, and look at the Interstate Highway System, the ultimate social engineering project, took 40-50 years to complete.
    A Starter line will eventually have branches.

  51. 56

    righton spews:

    what’s the point evergreen? Alaska hwy took 1 year.

    That’s your best argument to defend stupid route decsions, that we can fix it later by building more lines? Kind of like how i fix my kids train set by buying some more curves to correct his bad layout..?

  52. 57

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I have been watching on the Internet Mass Transit Projects in Portland, Dallas, and Denver. What Dallas did, was use Texas Law to build the project, by doing what they could without incurring debt, they built a small line, and when they put the expansion to a a vote, they got 77% approval. Denver is in a red-state, and the next phase, 110+ miles of Light Rail, got a massive approval for the nearly $5 Billion project.

    Anyway, I cannot stand critics that are the hurry-up generation. It takes time to buil-out the whole system. I am for the idea of the Monorail going to West Seattle, and extended to Fauntleroy, and Burien. The Northern Alignment is where I have a problem. It should use Aurora, and then cut over to Northgat and Lake City. Aurora needs it, Ballard don’t. Ballard, I would say, could be better served by re-electrifying the 15 and 18, or running the Waterfront Streetcar to it. I know the Bridges across the Ship Canal used to accomodate Streetcars, I have seen pictures of that, especially the Fremont and University Bridges.

    I would like to see transportation and transit planning be put under one multi-county agency, if possible. Some ideas I have heard would exempt the Monorail from this, as long as it stays within Seattle City Limits.

    Also, Team Monorail wants a re-bid, and they say their plan is better(maybe one of the reasons the monorail authority would not let them submit their revised bid).