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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Monday, June 30, 2003


Home of More Transit Links Than You can Possibly Check(tm), Unless you have no life other than websurfing

"Truth passes through three phases: 1) It is ridiculed. 2) It is violently opposed. 3) It is accepted as self-evident." Albert Schopenhouer. In the United States, rail is currently passing through Phase Two.

From the Cabalmaster:

Before beginning our latest post, Your Favorite Transit Pundits will reiterate our "monorail skeptics' disclaimer."

IF monorails could do half of what supporters claim, we'd be the staunchest of supporters. We are, after all, a TRANSIT cabal. But, in Seattle, the technology was chosen first, then the route was selected.

In other words:
--"Say, let's build a Monorail!"
--"OK, so where we gonna put it?"

Sorta like buying a train set from the local "big-box" retailer, then deciding where to set it up. Except that this particular train set will cost roughly $2 billion, or more.

The planned Crown Hill - Ballard -downtown - West Seattle monorail was not outlined to serve any of the "priority" travel corridors identified by more than two decades of planning. Instead, it was outlined explicitly to avoid conflict with the Sound Transit "Central Link" light-rail project -- which does serve one of the priority corridors (two, once funding is secured).

In short, the Seattle monorail proposal is totally divorced from anything resembling good planning. And, so long as planning is required as a condition to receive federal transportation funding -- it might as well be good.

The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal has received word of a rumor, floating around the Internet, that some monorail fana . . . er, enthusiasts . . . have going ballistic over someone's prediction that the Seattle monorail project will collapse because voters will rescind financing once they learn the true cost. Well . . .

We Opinionated Ones avoid trafficking in unsubstantiated rumors, and we could not find any reference to this one. Intrepid websurfers know, of course, that 1.) there are such things as "private" message boards and discussion groups, 2.) not everything that appears online gets cached or archived, and 3.) not everything that gets published on paper appears online.

However, the "big picture" conveyed by the several versions we've received and heard about is simply that somebody wrote an op-ed, published, either in French or German, in some newspaper, magazine, or online source. The key word here is "op-ed." We may be opinionated, but we respect the right of others to hold their own, too.

And, to be honest, we're not sure what the fuss is about. All the op-ed writer said (evidently) is that the price tag will escalate as design work proceeds, owing to factors such as land-acquisition cost, utility-relocation cost, additional expenses to place power lines underground, station costs and so forth.

(That's not rocket science -- this sort of thing happens all the time with large-scale construction projects.)

The writer also predicted that, in response to higher-than-anticipated costs, somebody will start circulating petitions for an initiative to rescind funding for the project, which voters will approve.

(That's also not rocket science -- it is very easy to qualify an initiative for the municipal ballot in Seattle.)

We've received a transcript of a hysterically funny excerpt from a "flame war" between a mono-phobe who described the op-ed in some detail -- and a mono-phile who said that he, his wife and another relative thought this was "gibberish." (Rather alarming, actually -- no one in the family can follow a logical train of thought . . . oh, of course not, it's a TRAIN of thought). Unfortunately, the original no longer appears on the message board, and the napalm exchange, however entertaining, is not much more than a distraction. So we've decided not to reproduce it here.

The key question has nothing to do with where this op-ed was published, or by whom. It's whether the scenario is plausible. We think so, and we're not the only ones with this opinion. However, we also think that collapse of the Seattle monorail project would not be a positive development for transit overall (we are, after all, a TRANSIT cabal), and so we don't plan to celebrate should this occur.

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