June 13, 2008 · Updated 4:24 PM
Transit is one of the most difficult problems to solve in the Northwest. We often look at the subways and trolley systems that operate elsewhere and say that they can be the answer. Most existing subway and trolley systems were installed when construction costs were substantially lower than today. Forget inflation; today we have the added cost of all the added safety measures. We have the cost of the environmental impact statements. Then there is the fact that today we have to pay for the land that once was simply taken.
Ridership was not much of a problem in decades past, as the love-affair with the automobile had not yet begun. Mass transit had a greater appeal than today, as we simply hop into our cars and drive anywhere our hearts desire.
Speed and convenience are essential components in the success of mass transit. Building systems that must slow as they cross existing roads, also slowing automobile traffic, is self-defeating. It is time to consider the alternatives that would allow higher speeds without crossing existing traffic conduits.
Underground or overhead are the only common-sense approach, except for the consideration of cost. But since we are hell-bent on spending the money, we move slowly on. Underground is much too costly, as Seattles bus tunnels have taught. The only approach that avoids conflicts while achieving higher speeds is the monorail proposals.
We must consider all possibilities without ignoring others if we are to achieve any success in the improvement of our traffic woes.
Roger W. Hancock