Monday, September 6, 2010

The Years the Locusts Ate

It's strange to think that just two years ago Seattle seemed to have a bright future well in hand. It seemed then that the viaduct would come down, a new park would be built on the waterfront, a streetcar would be built from Seattle Center and down 1st Avenue to the International District, and the Museum of History and Industry would move to a new park at the south end of Lake Union. And, while a recession or depression would affect container traffic to the port, Seattle did not seem particularly vulnerable to economic failure. Boeing, we are so over you.

Since then, a new mayor has been elected- a mayor who has no apparent interest in a 1st Avenue streetcar line, a park on the Central Waterfront, or the long-cherished community goals for a park at the south end of Lake Union. Rather than appealing to the highest aspirations of urban citizenry, McGinn appeals to the lowest. Given a microphone, he trumpets his opposition to the tunnel on any occasion, no matter how inappropriate, like some bewildered pachyderm lost in our Packwood Forest.

Currently, a central element of McGinn-o-mania is the Pedestrian-Bike-Traffic Master Plan, expanded to encompass transit- a huge study due "soon" to guide us in planning bicycle and pedestrian paths and future transit needs. Clearly, McGinn hopes this document (or process) will provide a plan to build paths and possibly propose a light-rail line to the voters.

The insanity here is that you can't really build a new street grid for bikes and walkers in addition to the street grid we already own. Not to mention the fact that the existing streets already occupy all the best places. Duh. The "advanced thinking" of Seattle is still riding on the sidewalk with training wheels. As for slyly piggy-backing a light-rail proposal onto an effort initially directed towards paths, well, good luck with that one.

Any long-term resident of Seattle is, of course, inured to the urban gadfly and the nattering nabobs of negativity. It is, to some extent, what passes for wit. Garnish with heaping scoops of holier-than-thou and you have a concoction that will kill or cure any proposal- and, quite possibly, the body politic in which the proposal has hatched.

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