The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Our Mission: Monkeywrench the Anti-Transit Forces

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Friday, October 25, 2002


"It is the unfortunate destiny of the ridiculous to be subject to ridicule."
James Howard Kunstler

From the Cabalmaster:

(* from a 1970s Olympia Beer TV jingle)

Having brought you some of the more . . . singular . . . details of Seattle's monorail plan, we TransitCabalists now turn to the $1.75 billion question: Does this thing stand a chance at the polls?

An October 23 newspaper article was titled "Doubts grow on monorail, but its lead remains substantial" .

Yeah, right. In fact, the "race" (between "reason" and "foam", as it were) is too close to call at this point, but things don't look good for monorail supporters.

Seattle newspapers tend to be mediocre on a good day, and sometimes, they're just plain weak. (Remember: "The 'Seattle Post-Intelligencer' is neither!) If you think we're being needlessly picky, read on:

The poll question read as follows: "If you were voting today to finance, build and operate a city monorail, how would you vote"?

Responses were:

Yes: 48 percent
No: 34 percent
Undecided: 18 percent

Anyone who believes that these results indicate a "substantial lead" is also a true believer in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. This close to an election, "undecided" voters are those who tend to vote "no" -- about 7 out of 10, according to the research firm.

(The poll, taken by Research 2000 of Rockville, MD, between October 19 and October 21, has a stated 4 percent margin of error. However, we Opinionated Ones believe that the poll is much less accurate owing to inadequate sample size.)

A poll published late in September 2002 found the following results

Strongly support: 28 percent
Inclined to support: 27 percent
Subtotal: 55 percent

Strongly oppose: 21 percent
Inclined to oppose: 18 percent
Subtotal: 39 percent.

Don't know / didn't answer: 6 percent

(The poll was conducted by Elway Research of Seattle for the "Seattle Times," and had a 4.5 percent margin of error.)

The two polls suggest that a significant share of "yea" and "nay" voters are now undecided. The most recent poll shows a race too close to call, but the trend does not augur well for monorail supporters. The former convincing lead (55 percent) has evaporated. Previous experience with many tax measures demonstrates that up to 90 percent of the "undecideds" turn into "nos" at the one poll that counts -- the election. If the erosion of "solid" support continues over the next two weeks -- and we have no reason to expect otherwise -- the monorail will lose. The rate of erosion suggests an eventual "yes" vote between 40 and 45 percent -- although we caution monorail opponents not to break out the champagne just yet.

Monorail phobes not familiar with Seattle are also cautioned that this project has a life of its own. Monorail supporters are not about to go away even if their cause celebre receives a large "no" vote. Another petition drive would certainly follow. Dick Falkenbury proved that all one has to do to get an initiative onto the ballot in Seattle is set up card tables or easles at strategic locations with petitions affixed.

A controversial aspect in some quarters is ETC's plan to remove the current monorail and replace it with new construction. Supporters of the CURRENT monorail want the state Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to nominate the line for the National Register of Historic Places. ETC's "Seattle Popular Mononrail Plan" contains a commitment that the two 1962-vintage ALWEG trains would be preserved, either in service or on display. However, the existing structure would be "upgraded" (tidy euphemism for "demolished, removed and rebuilt," isnt it?).

One more thing. Sixty percent of those responding to the Elway (September) poll said they would use the monorail less than once a week. Did somebody say "civic toy?"

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