1. Arguing against “massive and additional freeways,” former (as in 50 years ago) Seattle mayor James Braman (Seattle's last Republican mayor) made the case for “a rapid transit system…a coordinated system…where it is intended that the transit system would purchase its own right of way” for “express buses without any conflict whatever with general traffic.”
And the key component: “a subway would run up third avenue.”
In a timely speech unearthed this week by the city clerk, the former mayor made the pitch back in 1967 to pass a subway ballot measure so Seattle— “[where] we can say with some pride that we here…have taken a rather leading position in this concept of coordinated transportation throughout the country”—could tap into the federal “Forward Thrust” program for “massive general obligations bond issue.” Braman's idea was to build a rapid transportation system with underground concourses “along the side of the subway…serving all the major retail establishments…with easy access of under the street methods of reaching virtually every major building in the area.”
Braman noted: “The federal government is interested in this trial to demonstrate at what extent we can serve the needs of moving people in groups rather than in single cars on freeways and on the existing streets.”
Mind you, Braman wasn’t entirely in sync with transit urbanists circa 2016. He applauded the decision Seattle made to build I-5 right through the heart of the city. (“I like the freeway, I think it’s a very fine freeway.” He just didn't want to build a second one. "They do take a lot of area.")
And he had this 20th Century POV: “We’re still going to want our automobiles; I do, believe me. I want to drive my automobile when I can. But they’re not in competition. This is a different type of thing entirely.”
And he certainly didn’t get the race and social justice angle that dominates the discourse today. He goes to great lengths to assure people that riding transit is “socially acceptable,” and he juxtaposes New York City’s old subway where “passengers have the appearance of being a low-income group of people” versus the modern post-war systems in Montreal and Toronto (which he used as slideshow templates during his presentation) “where there were more white-collar people than anyone else riding rapid transit.”
He’s also not quite a progressive on gender issues. “When it does rain, the ladies can stay out of the weather.”
He takes a dig at the Vietnam war, though, citing “the drain” on federal money.
All for naught, though. Voters rejected the measure in 1970.
2. Braman was certainly right about one thing, mass transit evidently isn’t in competition with the automobile.
Building major parking infrastructure at transit stations is a big component of the $20 billion in capital costs (in 2014 dollars) of the pending ST3 proposal. I recently reported that planned parking expenditures in the proposal may not be as high as I’d initially thought; the $1 billion in parking money laid out in initial documents had been scaled back to about $500 million. There was a footnote to that downsize, though: three of the parking projects in the new summary documents didn’t come with specified dollar amounts.
ST has since provided me with an update that bumps up the parking expenditure to $661 million by adding in the dollar amount for one of the specific parking projects—$34 million for 540 North Sounder parking spaces in Edmonds and Mukilteo—and adding in $157 million for taking over right of way for ST parking. That money was not identified in the station summary documents. And with two more parking projects still not accounted for—including South Sounder capital improvements—the parking expenditure will continue to climb.
3. Speaking of cars. BMW is holding a press conference this morning to announce the specifics of its plans to jump into the car sharing market in Seattle.
Last year, the Seattle Department of Transportation lifted the cap on the number of cars that companies such as Car2Go (currently the only car sharing company in the market) could put on the streets. SDOT, which controls access to parking spaces and makes Car2Go reimburse them for giving car share members free parking, also opened up the market to other companies. BMW will roll out its plan today.