My Opinions about a Proposal from Century Transportation Authority

by Bob Fleming

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The Century Transportation Authority (CTA or CenTran) has proposed construction of a monorail line from West Seattle to Ballard.

The proposed CTA line is somewhat similar to the Green Line of the failed Seattle Monorail Project, but differs in a number of ways.

I was very much in favor of the Green Line project, although I disagreed with some parts of the project, and I was extremely disappointed when it was finally voted down. But I can not support the CTA project because of what I consider to be some major problems with the project. I very much want a monorail, roughly similar to the failed Green Line project, but I want that monorail to be a success that will convince people of the advantages of monorails and that they can be a viable alternative to light rail and other forms of mass transit, and will convince people to vote for future extensions and new monorails. I have deep concerns that the CTA project will fall short — have insufficient ridership, will fail, and turn people away from building more monorails.

My primary concerns about the CTA project are portions of the route and the use of a draw bridge.

Routing along the Waterfront

Regarding the route, portions of the route are the same as or near to the Green Line route, but the CTA route totally misses Downtown Seattle, perhaps the most important area for ridership and convenience. Instead, the CTA route is along the waterfront, a few blocks downhill from the main business and shopping area which would be where most riders would want to go. The CTA proposes some sort of personal rapid transit connector to connect the monorail line with part of the Downtown area, so riders wanting to go to and from Downtown would have to take the connector to and from the monorail line, an inconvenience that would likely discourage most riders from using the monorail. And since the connector only serves a few blocks of Downtown, many riders would have to take a bus to reach the connector to get to the monorail. I am sorry, but I can not support a monorail that does not travel through the heart of Downtown Seattle. My plan would be Second Avenue (where the Green Line would have gone), but I can be a bit flexible about the street, but no way the Waterfront!

Ballard Canal (Salmon Bay) Crossing

This part of the Proposal is for a low level bridge, probably about the same height as the adjacent Ballard Bridge, and it is a draw bridge. My comments: Yuk! A drawbridge? So the “rapid transit” monorail trains have to wait every time a boat needs to go through? My strong preference is for a high level bridge that will meet Coast Guard and Corps of Engineering requirements for clear ship passage. The downside of a high level bridge is that it will probably cost more and the ends of the bridge will need to be further away from the water to allow for the increased length of the approaches to reach a greater height. This means that the proposed Shilshole Ave. route will not work. The route would have to be further north. I would recommend that it could be along Market Street instead, with a station near 15th Ave. N.W. (Or use 15th Ave. N.W. like the Green Line would have used.) The southern end of the bridge would have to be further south, but this will have little impact on the route.

But I have an even bigger idea, and more costly. That would be to work with the City of Seattle to finance a new high-level bridge for 15th Ave. N.W./15th Ave. W. with the monorail down the center. The Ballard Bridge, a draw bridge, is an impediment to traffic flow and disrupts bus schedules. We need a high level bridge at this point and sharing the bridge between auto traffic and monorail would reduce the cost to each.

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©2014 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 30 July 2014

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