As we reported last week, $5 million of high capacity transit planning money in the mayor’s proposed budget is facing potential cuts as the City Council deliberates the 2013-14 budget. That money—which would be used to study and design high capacity transit routes to the U District, Fremont/Ballard and along Madison St among other projects—could shift to other transportation issues like the biking and walking master plans and filling the funding gap for the Broadway streetcar extension on Capitol Hill.
The Council also noted that boosts to biking and walking projects and neighborhood greenways could come in part from the unanticipated revenue from the sale of South Lake Union properties to Amazon.
Cascade’s Craig Benjamin is right on the money in his letter to Council supporting the high capacity transit funding. Seattle has a strong coalition of people who support transit as well as biking and walking as parts of a better transportation future for Seattle. We should support the mayor’s plan to expedite the major transit projects our city needs rather than see it as an opportunity to compete for additional bike/walk funds.
After all, I’m sure I’m not the only person who bikes who would also like to see a Seattle Subway before we get robot butlers (at the current rate, we won’t).
With bike share on the horizon (potentially by 2014), the synergy between cycling and transit is going to completely change. Express routes combined with bike share for the “last mile” will become a part of daily life in Seattle. But without more fast transit to more places, this vision won’t be fully realized.
Here’s an excerpt from Benjamin’s letter to the Coucnil:
High capacity transit allows people on bikes to extend their trips and quickly navigate our city. More importantly, in planning these corridors we will also have the opportunity to plan for world-class bikeways that complement the transit lines in these corridors – for example, planning a cycle track alongside high-capacity transit on Eastlake or providing people on bikes another way to cross the ship canal near Ballard. When designed correctly, high-capacity transit and bicycling are complementary pieces of our overall transportation network and should work hand in hand to provide people with the freedom to safely and conveniently get around Seattle.
UPDATE: Erica Barnett at Publicola argues that the $2.5 million earmarked for Eastlake/U District planning should be cut and spent on other needed projects:
“There is skepticism on the part of the council whether we want to begin a study for yet another line along Eastlake, when it may be many years before it could be constructed and when we have many other irons in the fire,” council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen says.
The truth is, given finite resources, rail on Eastlake shouldn’t be a top priority. The University District is already extraordinarily well served by frequent bus service on the 70 series of lines (70-77), and it’s about to get light rail service as well (University Link, running from downtown to the UW campus, is scheduled to open in 2016.) A third mode, streetcar, would be nice if taxpayers’ money wasn’t an object, but it is, and there are many higher priorities, including bus service on Madison, increased transit frequency in West Seattle, and sidewalks in Northeast Seattle.