Council Member O'Brien Will Try to Restore Funding for Eastlake Transit
City Council member Mike O'Brien, a frequent ally of Mayor Mike McGinn, hopes to restore some funding for planning a streetcar on Eastlake in next year's city budget.
The council has proposed delaying McGinn proposed $2 million 2013 spend on Eastlake streetcar planning for one year and spreading it out between 2014 and 2015, redirecting $1 million to help improve bus service on "priority corridors" citywide.
O'Brien's proposal would restore $1 million in 2013 by pulling it from the priority corridors funding, leaving $1 million in funding for bus service improvements on those corridors. (That doesn't sound like a lot of money, but the city typically uses its own funding to leverage additional funds from the state and county.) The city would spend the remaining $1 million in 2014.
"My hope is to get the process started in 2013 to do something that commits us to studying that corridor," O'Brien says. "For those that want to see it happen eventually, the sooner we get started, the better. And it means once we get to 2014 we won’t get to delay it another year, or at least it's unlikely."
Council member Richard Conlin, who has signed on to O'Brien's proposal, says, "Personally, I think a streetcar on Eastlake makes a lot of sense."
O'Brien doesn't have a third vote yet for his amendment (budget amendments, or green sheets, require three council votes.) "If there isn't a third vote, then it's dead on arrival," Conlin says.
However, both council members say they'd ultimately be fine with Rasmussen's proposal. "At the end of the day, we're talking about $5, $6, $7 million in transit money, and $3.5 million in bike infrastructure improvements, and another $5 million in pothole repairs that no one's even talking about," O'Brien says. We have some good money for transit and we're arguing about things that, frankly, I like them all."
My take on the Eastlake proposal (I argue—with the Seattle Transit Blog's Ben Schiendelman—that at-grade streetcar on Eastlake, which costs much more and performs little better than bus-rapid transit, might be a lower priority than other transit improvements in the city right now) is here.