Seoul's transit system

1. While poring over a stack of emails from Bellevue city council member Kevin Wallace, obtained through a PubliCola records request, we came across a couple of angry missives aimed at Wallace's council nemesis, council member Claudia Balducci. (Wallace, also a Bellevue developer, is under pressure to resign from the council because he failed to disclose a potential deal with GNP Railway to run freight rail along his preferred light rail route through Bellevue that could have benefited him financially. Balducci prefers a different light rail route, proposed by Sound Transit.)

In one email, Wallace calls the assertion that Sound Transit can mitigate noise impacts on the agency's preferred route through Bellevue "just crap," adding that Sound Transit's route will cause "horrible noise problems."

In another, Wallace says life in the Surrey Downs neighborhood of Bellevue, which Sound Transit's preferred route would cross through, will be "absolute hell" if the agency chooses its route over Wallace's, adding that if light rail is built there, residents will "never [be able to] go outside."

Wallace wants to run light rail to the east of I-405, bypassing most Bellevue residences and jobs, crossing over a protected wetland, and requiring the construction of a new park-and-ride. As we reported last year, his family's company, Wallace Properties, owns numerous properties along his preferred route.

[pullquote]For another thing, Seoul has one of the largest urban rail networks in the world---with 22 subway lines and nearly 300 subway stations---and that's not even counting buses. "Seoul has spent the last 40 years building infrastructure that has made it possible to tear out highways, Seattle hasn’t."[/pullquote]

2. Surface/transit proponents can't stop talking lately about Seoul, Korea, which tore down a 14-lane freeway with no major traffic consequences in 2005. In that city, the urban street grid, along with transit, absorbed the freeway's 160,000 car capacity. Surface/transit proponents (and tunnel opponents) have pointed to this as clear evidence that Seattle can do the same.

Reality check, courtesy of the Seattle Transit Blog (tunnel opponents themselves, by the way): As cities go, Seoul has about as much in common with Seattle as Seattle has with, I dunno, Amarillo, Texas. For one thing, Seoul is one of the three largest cities in the world, whereas Seattle barely cracks the top 100. "The size of the cities is so vastly different that a road that would be very major here is minor there." Seoul's demolished Cheonggyecheon freeway carried just 0.8 percent of all trips through the city, STB says. In Seattle, the viaduct carries more than 6 percent of all trips.

For another thing, Seoul has one of the largest urban rail networks in the world---with 22 subway lines and nearly 300 subway stations---and that's not even counting buses. "Seoul has spent the last 40 years building infrastructure that has made it possible to tear out highways, Seattle hasn’t," STB writes.

3. This morning, the Seattle Times published a guest editorial by state Sens. Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue) and Joseph Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield) promoting their new bill—we wrote about it here—which prioritizes high-performing teachers over seniority and masters degrees.

The Washington Education Association, the teachers' union, which frowned on an earlier incarnation of this bill (sponsored by Seattle Democratic Rep. Eric Pettigrew and also Tom, but which went nowhere), got back to us yesterday afternoon about the new bill.

They don't like this one either. At all. Here are the greatest hits from WEA spokesman Rich Wood's emphatic email, which begins by saying "teachers are shocked and insulted" by the bill:
"[The bill] overrides local decisions about school staffing, stomping all over the locally elected school boards"

"[It] actually discourages teachers from achieving advanced degrees, and it discourages them from making education a profession. That makes no sense."

"For school reform to work, teachers need to be involved in the process and respected. They’re the professionals in the classroom who work with our students every day. Teachers were NOT consulted on this bill."

"It ignores the real problem we’re facing in public education: $2 billion in additional state budget cuts. Teachers are focused on protecting kids in the classroom. We’re fighting to protect our students from overcrowded classes. This bill doesn’t do that."

Wood also said the bill "undermines" the current four-tiered teacher evaluation pilot project, which he says the WEA supports and is "actively involved in creating."

Sen. Tom did tell us yesterday that he's excited about the pilot program too, and says his bill sets aside $735 million annually for teachers who get high marks in the four-tier system in 2013-14 when the pilot becomes the state standard. Tom said high-performing teachers could get as much as $20,000 in bonuses.