Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Monorail gets slashdotted

There were a few important stories about the monorail today, but instead I'll subject you to this Slashdot article, filled with a billion Simpsons jokes and self-righteous bickering about what's quieter: rubber on concrete, or steel on steel.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

More details on the November ballot

The proposed monorail line is a bit shorter. The article includes what I assume is an informative graphic in .pdf format which crashed my browser, so I don't really know more about it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Liveblogging the City Council Meeting

Brian Schuss liveblogged today's City Council meeting and things don't look good for the monorail
# brian Says (12:08 pm): Jean Godden, speaking of a dream that failed, cutting our losses. She was choked up, on the verge of tears.

# brian Says (12:16 pm): resolution to withdraw support for the SMP passed unanimously.
So there you have it. The Seattle City Council just voted to "not authorize the issuance of any construction permits for the Green Line now or in the future." Not sure what that means for SMP and the monorail, or what the next step is. Probably another public vote on the November ballot.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

City Council to Nickels: Oh no you di'n't, girlfriend

Scooped by seattle metblog, who points readers to City Council's procedural slap across Mayor "Gridlock" Nickels' face
Seattle City Council members decided this morning they will not put a monorail advisory measure before voters in November.

Instead, a proposed resolution gives the Seattle Monorail Project until Dec. 23 to write its own new plan for the Feb. 7 ballot, or the council would refuse cooperation, and urge the 2006 Legislature to dissolve the SMP. The council plans to vote on the resolution tomorrow.

Last Friday, Mayor Greg Nickels said he would cancel city street-use agreements for monorail construction, and demanded either a new SMP plan for the Nov. 8 ballot, or the city would write an advisory measure. Neither seems likely right now.
City Council's move really makes Nickels look like he's incapable of running this city. How can he make future ultimatums to anyone if he can't even get City Council to go along with his temper tantrums?

The PI covers the story as well.

Majority of SMP board will be elected

As 2045seattle reports
Last night, the board agreed that the majority of the board should be democratically elected. Right now, two of the nine board members are elected while the rest are appointed. It will be increased from two to five. Well done.
Also in that post is a run-down of election results. In each of the SMP board positions, the pro-monorail vote was split among 2 candidates, giving the appearance of an anti-monorail sentiment in Seattle. However, combining the percentages of the pro-monorail candidates shows that our city still supports electing pro-monorail politicians.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What happens to my car tax?

Short answer: you still pay taxes even if the monorail dies.
If the monorail is killed, Seattleites won't get their money back. In fact the tax would likely continue for two years to pay off debts. If the monorail is ultimately built, the tax will be levied for at least 25 years, likely longer.
The article also has a chart to estimate the cumulative taxes you might pay over the course of 30 years.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Mayor abandons monorail"

As the PI puts it a bit less diplomatically.

Mayor Nickels revokes SMP's right of way

In an email from the mayor. This is important so I'm posting all of it. I've added bold around the key sections for your perusal. The monorail will be on the ballot for a 5th time this November. The only question is who will be writing the measure, SMP or the City Council.
As you know, I have been a strong supporter of building a modern monorail system from the beginning. Like so many others in this city, I voted in favor of this project four times. As mayor, I worked closely with the monorail to move the Green Line toward construction. And I personally looked forward to boarding the monorail train on its inaugural trip.

But as mayor, it is my job to act in the best interests of the city.

By now, most are aware of the monorail's problems. The monorail staff earlier this year proposed a risky $11 billion dollar financing plan that the board rightly rejected. In the wake of that decision, I said it was necessary to give the monorail board time to restore public confidence in the project and develop a new plan for moving forward. But, as that time wore on, it became clear that the board had to present a new plan to voters this November to either shorten the line or ask for more money. And that is why I set a Sept. 15th deadline.

For me, the pivotal issue is whether the monorail has sufficient revenue to support the project. To that end, I asked four questions to be answered before a spade of dirt is turned.
  • Can the monorail finish building what it starts?
  • Is the project financially viable now and in the future?
  • Is the estimated $7 billion financing cost an acceptable price to pay?
  • And does this protect the tax payers of Seattle from undue risk?
I appreciate the efforts the agency has made in recent weeks to meet my request. Unfortunately, the recommendation approved by the Monorail Board on Wednesday, and presented to me yesterday, does not meet those tests.
My staff, including Chief Financial Officer Dwight Dively, sat down with agency representatives yesterday to go over the financial plan in detail. Put simply: the monorail does not have enough money to pay for the project. The financing plan presented to me is not prudent. It relies on a risky assumption that money from car tabs will grow faster than expert economists consider reasonable or prudent. You can't solve a real revenue problem with rosy projections.

What that means is there is a much higher risk that the monorail will be forced to ask for higher taxes in the future, or extend the length of the debt to an unacceptable 40, 50 or even 60 years. It means we are back to the original flawed financial plan the board rejected.

Two other areas also concerned me. First, the financial plan sets aside no money for monorail operations after 2020. It assumes 100 percent revenue recovery from operations, which is something no other public transit agency in the country has achieved. Second, cost cuts forced by the monorail's revenue problem have significantly compromised the design and functionality of the system. It is no longer the Green Line promised to voters.

In light of these concerns, I'm taking several steps that I feel are necessary to protect city taxpayers.

First, I am canceling the agreement that grants permission for the monorail to use city streets. Exercising my authority to cancel the Transit Way Agreement is the most direct method for preventing this flawed plan from going forward.

Second, I believe it is fundamentally important that the voters of Seattle have the final say in this project. The people of Seattle know I'm a mayor willing to make tough decisions. In this case, the people have a decision to make, too. The people created the monorail authority and I respect the people's right to have the final say in its fate. It should not be decided in City Hall and it certainly should not be decided in Olympia.

So I have asked the City Council to meet in emergency session on Thursday for the purpose of putting an advisory measure on November's ballot. The measure will ask whether or not the public still believes the monorail should be built in light of the risks now known.

That gives the Monorail board one more opportunity at its Wednesday meeting to do the right thing and put its own measure on the ballot for voters to decide this November. If they are unwilling to do that, then the city will do it for them.

The question before all of us now is where do we go from here?

On my direction, the Seattle Department of Transportation is developing transit alternatives to serve the Ballard and West Seattle corridors. If the monorail is not in Seattle's future, we must find new ways to move people around the city.

But we must do more. It is time for the region to face the fact that the way we fund, prioritize and build transportation projects no longer works.

We have seen successes lately. Sound Transit has turned the corner and the Link light rail line is nearly one-third complete. Earlier this year, the state passed the largest transportation funding plan in its history. That money will pay for half the cost of replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel. It also provides $500 million to replace the 520 floating bridge.

But for too long cities, counties, the state and other agencies have competed against each other for money, priority and access to the ballot. Indeed the creation of the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority as an independent new government was a result of Seattle voters' frustration with transportation decision-making gridlock. We need to use this moment to reexamine how we as a region meet our transportation needs.

I believe it is our responsibility as elected officials to come together and make the hard decisions necessary to ensure we build the best transportation system possible for the region.

To that end, I will be calling on my fellow elected leaders in the area to put aside the turf battles and the historic vested interests that led to this flawed approach. We must examine the options for a more efficient and more accountable regional structure to prioritize, fund and build a transportation network that works for all of us.

Thank you again for your time and your concern on this issue.


Mayor of Seattle

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Attend the SMP public meeting tonight!

No matter what your position, if you feel passionate about the Seattle Monorail, tonight's public SMP meeting is a can't-miss event.

A number of weeks ago, Mayor Nickels set a deadline for the SMP to devise a new plan, or he will revoke SMP's permits. That deadline is tomorrow. Tonight, new Interim Executive Director John Haley is going to present SMP's path forward. If the press shows the project as not having public support, tonight's meeting could be the last.

Meeting Date:Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Time:5:30 PM
Location:Seattle Monorail Project Community Room
The Securities Building, 4th Ave entrance
1913 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Election Season

2045 posts its Primary Election Endorsements. Good cheat-sheet if you are pro-monorail and anti-rebid (just like 2045).

In a creative move, the PI endorses the monorail itself (outside any specific position, measure, or initiative), and Cleve Stockmeyer for Monorail Board by extention.

Regardless of how you feel about the monorail, MVET taxes, and contracts, please don't forget to vote in the Primary Election on September 20th.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cutting $4 - 6 billion from the price tag

2045seattle brings us some good news this evening
Independent consultant Kevin Phelps has some good news: he's figured out how to save at least 4 billion dollars and possibly as much as 6 billion dollars and we still get all 14 miles of our monorail. In his own words, "An acceptable, defensible finance plan is within reach".

For the sake of comparison, here’s a look at the cost difference.

Dead Nightmare Plan: $11 Billion over 53 years
Kevin's Current Plan: $7 Billion over 39 years
Kevin's Possible Plan: $5.3 Billion over 35 years

Mr. Phelps has more work to do to get the cost of the project down, but between him and our new director John Haley, it looks like we may have a deal worth signing in the near future.
Sorry for the lack of posting, we're in crunch mode at work and I've been out of town, but there's a lot of monorail news to be had. You can keep up on the latest with a subscription to monorail google news alerts.