We talk to many people as part of our "outreach" program aimed at informing the public about the Eastside railroad situation. The most frequently asked questions are about what has been accomplished so far and whether the railroad's future is secure.
The answer is that it is a long, tough battle, and that it is still too early to become complacent. However, but there are continuing reasons for guarded optimism regarding our main goals of (1) stopping the plan by some King County officials to rip out the tracks and (2) launching a transit service on the railroad.
Among such signs is an apparent growing awareness among the general public of both the plan and the fact that it is really dumb and reeks of incompetence (or worse) at some of the highest levels. This is indicated in several ways, including in direct discussions with people, from the number of visits to our web site (www.eastsiderailnow.org), and from e-mails received. Many people who like bicycles are also opposed to the plan (see below). Interestingly, a few people have recently started characterizing the plan as "bizarre" (because virtually everyone loses from the deal).
Also, an increasing number of local political leaders have become more aware of the railroad situation, including its tremendous potential and the folly of dismantling it. In fact, well-informed sources have indicated that Ron Sims' plan as it stands now is virtually dead -- that is, it would not be able to attain the required votes by the King County Council and the Port of Seattle. Moreover, there is little reason to believe that its prospects for passage will improve in the future.
Thanks again to everyone who has helped get the word out (e.g., handing out fliers, work on the web site, neighborhood meetings, conversations with political leaders, etc.). But remember, this is just the beginning, and much remains to be done.
A special thanks is owed to the several people in the Issaquah area for their kind words of support (and possibly additional forms of assistance as well). Many people there clearly have not forgotten King County's inexplicable rush to rip out their tracks as quickly as possible despite intense opposition. True, that railroad line was no longer being used for freight, but it had potential for a trolley or other transit service that could have run from Issaquah to Redmond and beyond.
In case you have not already seen it, be sure to read the excellent article by King County Councilmember Larry Phillips in the May 25 issue of the Seattle Times about acquiring the Eastside railroad. Larry is someone who really understands transportation issues, is genuinely concerned about the future of region as a whole, and is not afraid to speak out. Thanks, Larry! (And thanks to Marty Evons for bringing this article to our attention.)
The main reason given by King County for its plan to rip out the railroad is to benefit bicycle riders. However, many people who ride bicycles that we have talked to are strongly opposed to the plan. Several of our members are also enthusiastic bicycle riders. The reason is that bicycles and railroads go together very nicely. One only has to visit Europe to see how easy it is for people to bring their bicycles aboard trains for part of their journeys.
Sure, bicycle riders want nice places to ride, but not at the expense of public transportation and the environment. There is much that could be done to make this region more bicycle friendly (and more pedestrian friendly), but cannibalizing our public transportation infrastructure is certainly not the way to do it.
It still appears that the $17.6 billion (or roughly $37 billion counting inflation and financing costs) "Roads & Transit" measure scheduled for the November election is likely to go down in defeat. As the plan stands now, it contains something to anger just about everyone, including fiscal conservatives, people who want to protect the environment, and even people who are interested in doing something constructive about our transportation problems. Many of us fall into all three of these categories.
Obviously, such a defeat could be good news for the region as a whole (as well as for the Eastside railroad), not only because it could save us from a vast amount of wasteful expenditure but also because it could influence our "leaders" to come up with a more sensible plan. $37 billion is a lot of money, especially when some of the projects may be of dubious value. By the way, this figure does not include possible cost overruns (which seem to be the rule rather than the exception for transportation projects).
Also, defeat might not slow down construction of the most useful portions of Sound Transit's light rail system anyway. This is because that agency already has sufficient funds to complete the "Central Link" to Sea-Tac and apparently the north line as far as the UW. There is still plenty of time to arrange for funding for a further extension to Northgate and beyond before the scheduled completion to the UW in 2016. The north line is the most useful part of the entire system, as it is designed as more of a rapid transit system than the than the streetcar-like Central Link with its circuitous route, extensive street running and long trip time. What a shame that the Central Link could not also have been designed with a more direct route, higher speed, and lower cost, instead of as a glorified streetcar line apparently to promote real estate development in the Rainier Valley.
One of the better recent articles about the "Roads & Transit" proposal is in the May 23 issue of the Stranger.
This report has been used as justification for efforts to scrap the railroad and replace it with a bicycle trail. Although it looks very nice superficially, a careful reading reveals that it is poorly done, including the use of faulty assumptions and weak logic. For example, it almost completely ignores the greatest potential use of the railroad, which is, of course, for an environmentally-friendly transit service that could be started at an extremely low cost (about what it costs for Sound Transit to construct one mile of its light rail line!) and in as little as 18 months. It also makes some strange statements about the freight potential for the line and pays little attention to major environmental issues (such as the effects of continued expansion of I-405).
It looks like the report was merely slapped together to justify ripping out the railroad rather than as a serious study of what would be best for the region. No attempt was made at providing an objective benefit-cost analysis, something which is of fundamental importance to any major project. As usual, we taxpayers are the ones who have to pay both for this shoddy piece of work and for any of the dumb decisions that might be made based on it.
Someone asked again why there hasn't been much activity on the web site (www.eastsiderailnow.org) recently, in contrast to the rapid pace of addition of new and improved pages in previous months. The answer is that the site is now largely complete and it is doing its intended job very well. This job is, of course, to inform the public about the importance of the railroad and the plan by some King County officials to rip it out and replace it with a bicycle trail. As usual, please be sure to let us know if you have more suggestions for the site. The near completion of the site is allowing more effort to be devoted to other activities aimed at helping achieve our goals.
All Aboard Washington (www.allaboardwashington.org), a statewide passenger rail advocacy organization and ally in the Eastside railroad effort, is inviting Eastside Rail Now! supporters to a meeting and Luncheon in Chehalis on Saturday, June 9.
Everyone is encouraged to come by train. Simply contact Amtrak either online at www.amtrak.com or call 1-800-872-7245, and book seats on Train 11 Coast Starlight southbound to Centralia (CTL), returning on Cascades Train 508 departing CTL at 7:42 p.m. Note that the Coast Starlight will be operating a shortened coach-only service to Portland that day, so reservations should still be available.
Once there, car shuttles will take you to the Lewis County Museum housed in the historic Chehalis Depot, where we will briefly break for lunch among a number of cafes, pizzerias, and delis all within a block's walk. We will then reconvene at the depot at 12:45 p.m. for a tour of the Museum ($2.00 cover charge), a presentation on historic railways of India, as well as U.S. and State rail updates. Then we will have the opportunity to ride either (or both!) of two trips on the nearby Chehalis Steam Train. The 1.5-hour 3:00 p.m. trip will be $10 adult, $9 seniors, $7 kids (3 to 15) and free for toddlers; the longer two-hour 5:00 p.m. trip will be $13, $12, $10 and free, respectively. There will also be opportunities to explore Chehalis' new Veterans Museum and the surrounding area. Finally, car shuttles will return everyone in time to board Amtrak Train 508 at 7:42 p.m. to Seattle.
If you have any questions, e-mail Lloyd Flem at All Aboard Washington at email@example.com or call 1-360-943-8333. Meeting RSVPs are not required. This information was provided by Loren Herrigstad of All Aboard Washington.
Eastside Rail Now's next public meeting will be held on June 5 at 7:00 p.m. at the Bellevue Regional Library. The library is located near at 1111 110th Avenue NE, west of the I-405 freeway in downtown Bellevue. It is also just a few blocks north of the Bellevue Transit Center, should you prefer to use public transportation.
We will be making some changes in how the meeting is conducted in order to make it more efficient and also deal with any overflow crowd, such as we had at the last meeting. (We will also have a slightly larger room.) As usual, be sure to bring your suggestions and questions.
Eastside Rail Now! regular public meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The meeting date is shown on the home page of the web site (www.eastsiderailnow.org).
This newsletter is intended mainly for Eastside Rail Now! members. However, as usual, please feel free to send copies to members of other groups with which you are involved, such as neighborhood associations, as well as to friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. Such retransmission apparently accounts for most of our readership.
Please do not hesitate to send us corrections as well as suggestions for future issues. And be sure to let us know if you want to be removed from the mailing list, or if you are not a regular recipient but would like to be added to it. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This page created June 6, 2007.
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