Editorial: The Times recommends to reject Citizens Petition No. 1 to expand monorail
New expansion of the city’s beloved old monorail is an idea that should be left in the past.
Seattle Times Editorial
Expansion of Seattle’s iconic monorail line is an idea whose time has come — and gone.
Voters should reject Citizens Petition No. 1, which would create a citywide transportation authority to plan, construct, operate and maintain public monorail transportation facilities.
When first conceived as part of the 1962 World’s Fair, the monorail was a futuristic vision of mass transit. But that vision stalled, became mired in voter indecision and ultimately cost the city $124 million in squandered tax dollars.
Even though the ballot measure is not affiliated with the Seattle Center Monorail, monorail expansion still has strong advocates who think it can help address the city’s congestion problems. But they are now on the fringe.
In this fifth attempt at a monorail ballot measure, proponents are asking to create a new taxing authority to study a public-works project that voters rejected in 2005.
The ballot measure would annually impose a $5 tax on each car registered in the city, funneling about $2 million into yet another transportation bureaucracy to address the very narrow transit needs of the Ballard-downtown corridor — something already being explored by existing agencies.
The region has developed a somewhat disjointed array of mass-transit options over the years. Regional Sound Transit buses, trains and light rail, King County Metro buses, city streetcars, and state ferries now make up the disjointed hydra of mass transit choices.
Of those, Sound Transit is undergoing the most ambitious expansion, a $13.5 billion, 50-mile light rail network enlargement that will add new lines running from Westlake to the University of Washington, and from Sea-Tac International Airport to Angle Lake, both slated to open in 2016.
Monorail proponents note that Sound Transit and Metro have checkered track records for meeting expansion promises. But both authorities have taken steps to improve their fiscal and system management.
As the Seattle area’s population explodes, a new monorail authority would only add an unnecessary tax, complicate Puget Sound’s disparate transportation system, and do little to address the urgent need for affordable, effective, coordinated regional mass transit.
Voters should reject Seattle Citizen Petition No. 1.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).
Information in this editorial, originally published Sept. 5, 2014, was corrected Sept. 6, 2014. It has been updated to point out that the ballot measure has no affiliation with the Seattle Center Monorail.