Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Finance Plan: Costs cut by 64%

Yesterday, SMP released a finance plan that brings the $11 billion price tag down to $3.9 billion.
The plan to build a 10-mile elevated line includes four scenarios that call for financing $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion of the project's $1.7 billion cost, which would be paid back in 31 to 38 years, depending on how much motor vehicle license tax [MVET] revenue the monorail authority brings in.
The growth rate of MVET revenue will make or break this plan. I was at the SMP meeting on Monday where this budget was voted on, and experts on both sides of the debate spoke about their projections for MVET growth.

While there was definitely no consensus on what to expect from MVET, the general feeling from the meeting is that SMP's 6.1% is highballing slightly (by assuming the value of new car purchases will grow, even after controlling for inflation), but the 4.5% rate put out by ECONorthwest is seriously flawed because their model is unrealistic. For instance, it makes an assumption that nobody over 64 drives a car. While that might be nice, it doesn't match the reality we live in.

Monday, October 24, 2005

"No good reason to vote against monorail"

From a headline that sounds like the weakest endorsement ever, comes a really thoughtful look at the current ballot mesure, the state of SMP, and the monorail opposition.
The opposition's problem is that, in the eight years since Dick Falkenbury's original initiative, no other agency or group has produced any transit plan at all for the west side of the city -- even in the face of an impending transportation disaster. Far from competing with critical repairs on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a vast upgrade in transit is an essential part of them...

The opposition has sufficient expertise at its disposal to present its own detailed plan by Election Day. Any vote of mine against the monorail will depend on it.

Considering the situation, I won't vote to keep doing nothing.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

SMP can condemn "Sinking Ship" parking garage

Not sure how I feel about this. That garage is about as much of a landmark as a parking garage can be.
The state Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the Seattle Monorail Project may use eminent domain to condemn the "Sinking Ship" parking garage in Pioneer Square, even though a new train station would take up only a third of the land.

The monorail project would use the rest of the property to store equipment during construction. Then it would sell or lease it to developers to offset the cost of the project.
But John Fujii, the garage's owner, gets the last laugh
"It appears the monorail will not be built anyway, so it remains to be seen whether we lose our land."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mayor Gridlock's new webpage

2045 Seattle created a parody website for the Mayor, mocking his lack of leadership on the monorail. Did you know that the mayor's weekly schedule is available upon request? Turns out he skipped all those important monorail meetings to attend a bunch of grip & grin events.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I made a small in-kind donation to 2045 Seattle.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More details on the new line

From an informative sidebar in yesterday's Times article
Twelve stations: A 13th stop at Madison Street would be added if SMP can acquire federally owned land there.

A $1.7 billion price: With almost four miles of track removed, including a bridge to Ballard, the project is cheaper than the earlier $2.1 billion to $2.2 billion for 14 miles and 16 stations.

Car-tab taxes for 31 to 38 years: SMP defends an earlier prediction that collections from its car-tab tax will grow 6.1 percent per year, which would pay for the shorter line in 31 years. Outside economists and the city favor a more cautious rate of 5 percent, which SMP says would mean a 38-year payoff. A June plan for the longer line required 50 years or longer.

More-frequent service: Trains would arrive every six minutes apart downtown — two minutes faster than under the plan released in June.

Single-tracked West Seattle Bridge: SMP is still proposing to have trains coming and going from downtown take turns on one rail. The agency and prospective builders have discussed a redesign that would allow a second track to be added someday if the bridge becomes a bottleneck. Dual tracks would cost about twice the current $32 million for planting a single track on the existing high-level bridge.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Details emerge for the shortened line

As reported in the PI yesterday
A shorter new Seattle monorail line could cost $7.2 billion less overall and require a supportive car-license tax for 16 years less than initially thought, the monorail agency's director said today.

John Haley said continuing to assume an average 6 percent average annual growth in the tax revenue the revised, 10-mile-long line from West Seattle to Interbay will cost $3.9 billion, including $1.7 billion in construction and initial operation costs plus interest on bonds repaid over 31 years.
However, the accuracy of the 6% growth rate is still being debated.
Haley said the model used by Seattle economist Dick Conway to calculate his 4.4 percent annual estimate hasn't been made available for testing. "We've not found a reason to change" the 6.1 percent figure, he said.

Conway said he hasn't been asked to supply his model, though he could...Conway believes the inflation factor should be based on historic trends, while [Randall] Pozdena [of ECONorthwest] believes it can based on influences such as the age of the overall vehicle fleet and consumer tastes in cars.

Monday, October 03, 2005


The first round of endorsements are coming out for the November election. Doing a 180, the Seattle Times has pulled their endorsement of Cleve Stockmeyer and given it to anti-monorail candidate Jim Nobles.