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On Other Blogs Today: Streetcars, Postmarks, the Arena, and Drones

Our daily roundup.

By Erica C. Barnett February 7, 2013



1. The city is holding open houses to give the public a chance to look at various transit options to connect the under-construction First Hill streetcar to the South Lake Union streetcar, including, potentially, a couplet of streetcars along one-way Fourth and Fifth Avenues or a two-way streetcar on First Ave. 

Mike Lindblom at the Seattle Times reports on last night's open house at City Hall, where the debate focused largely on whether buses or streetcar was the right technology. Streetcar proponents say dedicated right-of-way provides permanence and reduces confusion (an especially important factor if the connector goes on First, where many users would be tourists); bus proponents say buses are more flexible, don't squeeze other traffic onto fewer lanes, and cost less. 

Yesterday, at a separate press briefing on the options, I asked about an issue Metro general manager Kevin Desmond raised earlier this week: Between tunnel construction, the addition of more buses on Third Avenue (as tunnel buses make way for light rail), a potential downtown cycletrack, and a new streetcar, Metro buses will be more squeezed for space than ever.

Mayor Mike McGinn, an avowed streetcar fan, acknowledged, "The issues that Kevin raised are serious. ... There is a priority issue that we will have to work with Metro on." But "the real constraint," he said, is "more funding" for both Metro and the streetcar. 

Seattle Transit Blog offers its own take on last night's open house. 

2. Secretary of state Kim Wyman says Washington's vote-by-mail system will be impacted by the US Post Service's decision to eliminate Saturday mail service, the AP reports. Wyman suggests voters mail ballots before election day to make sure they're postmarked on time. Republicans in the state legislature have proposed requiring ballots to be received by election day—a prospect that seems likely to disenfranchise even more voters if and when Saturday service is eliminated. 

3. One day after state Sen. Mike Padden's Law and Justice committee held a packed hearing on a Padden-sponsored bill to require minors to tell their parents before terminating a pregnancy (here's the Olympian's report), Padden removed the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require insurers that pay for maternity care to also cover abortions, from his committee's agenda, the News Tribune (subscription required) reports. 

The news is a blow to moderate senate Democrat Steve Hobbs, who reintroduced the bill with the intention of sending it to Padden's committee, where he expected it would get a hearing. 

4. After activists loudly protested the Seattle Police Department's purchase of two unmanned drones for use in police investigations, Mayor Mike McGinn announced this afternoon that he and police chief John Diaz have agreed to suspend the program. Slog has the story.

5. ESPN Magazine has a solid blow-by-blow account of the city's efforts to bring the Sonics back to Seattle that identifies San Francisco hedge-fund manager and prospective arena investor Chris Hansen as a "45-year-old mogul"—a phrase we're definitely going to steal. 

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