Should Seattle Wait To Plan Its Light Rail Expansion?

<p>Instead of asking residents to consider a timid plan this November, the region's transit agency should wait until its first light rail line opens, and gas prices rise even higher. Voters will then be ready for a grander plan, argues a recent column.</p>
May 17, 2008, 7am PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"If the Sound Transit board puts a light-rail package on the November ballot, it means the Barack Obama faction prevailed.

Oh, this has nothing to do with the presidential election directly, but it absolutely is connected to expectations of a huge turnout and the candidate's appeal to younger voters and independents: demographics as regional transit destiny.

Sound Transit first got traction in 1996, another presidential-election year. Turnout matters. After voters slapped down a package of roads and transit this past fall, there is a strong pull to try again, sans roads with a transit-friendly cohort.

The other view - one I tend to share - counsels a pause until 2010. By then, mobs with pitchforks and torches will be demanding more transit. Gas prices will resemble those in Europe, without Europe's plentiful alternatives to a car. Taking the bus or riding Sounder commuter rail will move from being mocked as a personal virtue to unvarnished economic necessity.

Most important, the 16-mile line from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac International Airport is scheduled to open in 2009. After years of talking about how great it is going to be, light rail finally will be a visible, tangible and popular reality."

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Published on Friday, May 16, 2008 in The Seattle Times
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