Bring it on, rapidly
I would highly recommend "How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken" by Alex Marshall, who basically comes up with the same theory that you have so far. I applaud Washington on taking a stand on sprawl and passing the Growth Management Act. But I think Seattle should do more.
I think a rapid transportation system is important for the city. We can't survive by buses alone. Buses get stuck in the same traffic that cars do, plus they are pretty unreliable and don't come often enough. The monorail or the light rail (or heavy rail such as a subway, which will never happen in this stingy city) is needed to connect Seattle neighborhoods and the airport to allow for rapid movement. Personally, I would love for the state to pass a moratorium on road building in Pierce and King counties and only explore mass-transit solutions for both of those areas. Rapid mass-transit solutions preferably.
I also believe that we need more affordable housing for the middle class and more schools. For some reason we only build either low-income housing or luxury apartments. I haven't seen anything in between unfortunately.
We should also stop subsidizing the roads with public money. The price of gas should be raised to accommodate road upkeep instead of using property and other sale taxes to support the road infrastructure.
Cities are for living
So much of the historic Seattle style of journalism is pure criticism and cynicism; it's great to see a forward looking critical piece on the state of the city. Especially that it appears as pro-density argument, which is a tough stand to take. For some reason, Seattle needs to be periodically reminded that people do live in cities. Cities aren't just postcards for driving through to get back and forth from business parks to single-family-residence neighborhoods. They aren't just a purgatory of office buildings and parking garages that empty out every day at six o'clock and lie staring silently over the water and hills into commuter's rear-view mirrors until morning. Cities are great and lively places full of people who choose to live, work and play in them.
With the exception of a proportionately small number of individuals dedicated to living in the city's core neighborhoods, this region has always been decidedly anti-urban. It's preferred downtown be a place for tourists and shoppers, rather than living. And Seattle has suffered for it through decaying infrastructure and shrinking political voice.
It's great to see some revitalizing attitudes leaning toward more density and steering the city toward a better urban future and less of a Lost Angeles dystopia. I've lived on Capitol Hill off and on for a decade, working downtown, without a car, and I can walk or bus everywhere I conceivably need to get to. It's great, even if it's only a tiny couple square miles of the city. I won't be trading in my fire escape and noisy neighbors for a lawnmower and a commute anytime soon.
Power to the masses
Personally, I am not in favor of getting rid of the Viaduct altogether and letting nature take its course, by having people move closer to downtown. I am, though, a big proponent of mass transit. So let's build the monorail, light rail and commuter rail. They will help traffic a lot in Seattle, especially in the downtown area, with so many stops from the monorail plan.
I find this "urban village" concept quite trendy and useful. If it cannot go horizontally, have it go vertically. And more efficiently. Other cities are doing the same things. Recently I was in Vancouver, B.C., and there, too, they are building skyward structures with fewer parking options.
Families are struggling
I'm not college educated. I've lived in Spokane where housing is more affordable, but where there's not high-paying jobs. I've lived on the Long Beach Peninsula, where there's affordable housing, but not high-paying jobs, either.
Now I live in Auburn where there's more affordable housing. I'm married and we have a 3½-year-old son and two 1-year-old daughters. We live in a manufactured home in a park, which is better than living in an apartment that we could afford. I work in Issaquah where I have a job that pays $14.75 an hour. Good for a single person bad for a family of five. No cost of living for me or pay raise in the near future.
My wife is a homemaker. If she worked, she wouldn't be able to make enough to pay for daycare for three children. Thank heavens that the children are covered with health insurance through DSHS. I pay for insurance coverage for my wife $65 every two weeks. We also are on WIC. We go through a lot of milk, eggs and cheese. We have two cars, an S-10 Blazer with 137,000 miles on it and the family van $202 a month for 4 more years. We could use a lot bigger house. I don't foresee it in the very near future. A quarter of a million dollars plus for a house. I'm not sure how people do it. I'm not sure how I do it, either.
Share costs, keep single-family option
Unless we hit the Delete Button on "New Urbanism" and the associated Growth Management Act, Seattle will look like Hong Kong by the end of this century. About four years ago, Bruce Babbitt and Al Gore proposed a compromise scheme called the Livability Agenda in which 20 percent of newly developing areas was purchased by the government for parks, playgrounds, small farms, and game preserves. The idea is to accommodate growth with the preferred single-family dwelling but without the carpet sprawl, typified by Atlanta. Rhode Island has a pilot project showing how it is done.
If you read the opinion piece published on The Seattle Times Op-Ed Page Nov. 29 on how to improve Urban Mobility, you can see how to prevent the catastrophe now underway due to the Growth Management Act. The damage already done, alluded to in your article, is irreversible.
Petrie Transit Consultants
Put us in skinny cars
Read your piece in the magazine with interest. So, concerning the fourth alternative, congestion and high density:
I think that we need some truly imaginative solutions. We do not need the public-transportation solutions of the 18th century and we cannot have the behemoth-car society of the 20th century. We need high-density living and high-density roads and high-density parking. As best as I can tell, Americans want to go from A to B by getting into their vehicle and driving there, and parking. Besides that, they seem to be mightily disinterested in car-pooling/sharing. They seem to want to drive alone.
In general, they don't want to walk in the rain to a transit station and wait for a public transport vehicle that goes to some destination different from their plan and take several transfers and walk, etc. So, give folks what they want. Driving from A to B alone and parking! But, it has to fit the urban landscape.
SO. . .
We need our urban environment to RESTRICT ALL VEHICLES (except for delivery trucks and service vehicles during off hours) to SMALL, SKINNY VEHICLES. The maximum width of an urban vehicle shall be 3 feet or less. If two people occupy the vehicle, they can sit front to back. The length of the vehicle can be no longer than 8 feet. The vehicle footprint would be about 25 square feet or so. Many current single-commuter SUVs have a width greater than 6 feet and a length greater than 15 feet, resulting in a footprint of 100 square feet or so. Restricting sizes to these smaller footprints would gain a factor of 4 in parking space. Skinny cars could use driving lanes that are only half the width of current lanes. Thus, arterials could handle at least twice the traffic.
Of course, people want to use big vehicles to get out of the city and to do chores that require more capacity than the skinny commuting car. Fine, own a big vehicle, but keep it at the periphery of "urban villages" for shopping, hauling and trips to the countryside. They can use the designated large-vehicle lanes (normally used by trucks, etc.) for necessary trips that involve hauling/delivery.
Of course, this small-skinny car solution would save massive amounts of fuel and work toward adopting new technologies like fuel cells. The air quality would markedly improve, too.
Now, the problem is to get these small-skinny cars produced. We should start on this by converting components of Boeing to the task. This way we also solve the unemployment problem as an additional benefit.
University of Washington